What most people know and hear of Rwanda, the land of a Thousand Hills, is about the Genocide and the ever clean streets. No one is contesting, all these are true. The genocide was a mass slaughter targeting the Tutsi’s in Rwanda back in 1994. The aftermath of this atrocity was thousands of deaths, broken homes, hearts, and country. Rwanda is also known as one of the countries that has succeeded in upholding the no plastic bags rule, and having the cleanest streets. Kigali ranks among the cleanest cities in the world. The cleanliness goes beyond the streets of Kigali and is observed even in the rural areas.
But that’s not why we are here. Today, we will just touch on the sites that are a must go in this Land of a Thousand Hills. From the lakes, to the streets of Kigali, to watching Mountain Gorilla’s and the hilly countryside of the country, there is so much one can experience here. A visit to this beautiful land, excuse my many praises, are nothing but therapeutic.
Kigali Genocide Memorial
First on the list is the Kigali Genocide Memorial. This Memorial was established in the memory of the Tutsi genocide victims who were more than a million in 1994. In here, more than 250,000 victims were laid to rest in mass graves. With pictures of the victims lined up on the walls, and some of the objects used to commit these crimes that were recovered, there is a lot that one can see there.
As much as I said we are not going to talk much about the genocide, I believe this is a must visit place by anyone touring Rwanda. The entrance is free you therefore have no excuse. Additionally, the experience is eye opening, heartbreaking is an understatement, but I can assure you that it will be a learning opportunity. From this place you get to learn the value of being human, loving your neighbor regardless of their tribe, and upholding unity as a human race. Have a packet of tissues with you because you’ll need them.
Volcanoes National Park
Second on the list is the Volcanoes National Park located in the Northern part of the country. Together with Virunga National Park in Congo, and the Ugandan Mgahinga National Park, they all form the Great Virunga Volcano Conservation region.
The conservation region was initially formed as an initiative towards the protection of the Mountain Gorillas from extinction due to poaching. After much struggles for the conservation of the mountain gorillas, and the genocide, the Park has since improved in terms of tourist attraction. There is an annual naming ceremony for the baby gorillas that was introduced in 2005 to boost conservation.
By visiting this place, you will be treated to the sights of mountain gorillas, buffaloes, spotted hyena, golden monkeys, bush bucks, black-fronted duiker, elephants, as well as a number of bird species. Some of the activities to do here include gorilla trekking, you can take a hike on the Karisimbi volcano or a trip to the twin lakes of Bulera and Ruhondo, which will be breathtaking. Apart from these you can also visit the Dian Fossey tomb. Additionally, a tour around Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village will be educating. Boredom here is out of the question!
Our third favorite place in Rwanda is Gisenyi. Personally, I fell in love with this place. From the hilly country side on your way, the ever green sights of farms, the smooth and yet so clean and well preserved roads, and the palm trees! I was in awe! Gisenyi will treat you to so much more like the sight of Lake Kivu and it’s beautiful blue waters. You can watch the fishermen do their thing or take a boat ride. Additionally, you can view the Albertine Mountain that forms part of the Rift Valley. The chances of interacting with Congolese national’s here are very high since Lake Kivu is shared between Rwanda and the Goma of DRC. This way, you get a chance to learn about their culture too and whether it differs with the Rwanda culture. By spending the night here, you will live to tell how you spent a night by the lake side on shacks built from bamboo- if you are into wild things and not five star hotels.
Nyungwe National Park
On to the Southwestern part of the country, you will be met by Nyungwe National Park. Located in Butare, the rain-forest borders Burundi and the Congo, and covers more that 940 square kilometers. Nyungwe National Park will treat you to a sight of the golden monkeys, baboons, the grey-cheeked mangabeys, as well as chimpanzees.
There is a canopy walk over a narrowly suspended platform that is 295 ft long and 164 ft above the ground waiting for you. While taking this walk you are treated to an unmatched, and awesome scenery of the vegetation below you. Apart from this, if you are into hiking like me, you can enjoy a hike along the well maintained trails. This hike will treat you to the beautiful scenes of waterfalls as well as Lake Kiwu. The tranquility experienced here is unmatched!
Kigali City Tour
And finally, a tour through the City of Kigali with its ever clean streets, ever green grass and hilly sides of the country. Take a walk through the City and its residential estates, the roads leading to Hotel Des Mille Collines where Tutsi’s were offered shelter during the genocide, and right to Mt. Kigali for a full view of the city and the countryside.
While at it, visit the market, interact with the locals, try learning their sweet language, enjoy their traditional milk, visit the public art walk, and not to forget, visit the Presidential Palace Museum located in Kanombe. The Presidential Palace Museum takes you back to where their former President, Habyarimana, lived. The well preserved Palace will take you through the life in the palace as well as the history that led to the genocide. Additionally, the plane that finally claimed his life when it was shot down is still preserved there- right at the spot where it crushed.
There is so much to experience in Rwanda, the list is endless. These are just my top picks. If and when you plan a visit, bring your camera with you, and be ready to experience the beauty of the Land of a Thousand Hills.