Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park, which runs along the border with the DRC and Uganda, is home to the Rwandan section of the Virungas. Comprising five volcanoes, the Virungas are utterly spellbinding and few would argue that this is not one of the most exciting national parks in Africa. We probably needn’t remind you, but of all the extraordinary sights and attractions around the Virungas, the one that really draws people here are the famous mountain gorillas.
While most tourists to the park are understandably driven by the desire to have a face-to-face encounter with real gorillas in the mist, there is good reason to stay in the area once you’ve finished tracking: the gorillas share the park with rare golden monkeys, a troop of which has also been habituated to human contact. The Virungas, which tower over Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC, also present a variety of rewarding climbing and trekking options. To get the most from the Virungas give yourself as much time as you possibly can as this is absolutely a park that rewards those who linger.
Akagera National Park
Akagera is Rwanda’s answer to the savannah parks of Kenya and Tanzania and is utterly different in the landscape from anywhere else in the country. Prior to the genocide, when much of the wildlife was slaughtered or driven over the border, this was considered one of the better parks in East Africa. Today, thanks to outside investment, wildlife numbers are increasing and most people get to see zebras, impalas, topis, giraffes, masses of hippos and crocodiles, and even elephants, lions, and rhinos.
There are three distinct environments in the park: standard savannah as seen in much of the region; an immense swampy area along the border with Tanzania that contains six lakes and numerous islands, some of which are covered with forest; and a chain of low mountains on the flanks of the park with variable vegetation, ranging from short grasses on the summits to wooded savannah and dense thickets of forest.
Note that park fees are valid for one night – in other words, if you arrive when the park opens at 6 am and leave the next day at 6 pm, you’ll still pay US$40 (and not US$80).
Kigali Genocide Memorial
A permanent National genocide memorial in remembrance of more than one million victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. The memorial is a place of remembrance and learning where more than 250,000 victims of the Genocide have been laid to rest. Many people who lost loved ones in the Genocide visit to remember and grieve. There is no entrance fee and donations are gratefully accepted.
Be prepared to fall on your knees in awe: spread across a series of tongues jutting into Lake Kivu, Kibuye (Karongi) is one of the most scenic cities in Rwanda. The steep hills that fall into the deep green waters and the indented shoreline with a smattering of islands nearby make it extremely picturesque. It’s a green little town where nothing much seems to happen in a hurry. In short, if you’re after a mellow place to decompress, Kibuye is your answer.