Land of a thousand hills…

Why Rwanda?

I visited Rwanda as part of my time in Tanzania. More than a decade after the horrific genocide between Hutu’s and Tutsi’s, the country was a destination with the biggest extremes I have found anywhere in the world. From stunning nature to horrific genocide memorials, all tucked into a relatively small and easily traveled country. It became one of my favorite destinations, and left an impression that is really hard to shake…

Our itinerary

Time of year: June

Time spend: 1 week

Means to travel: Local bus & motortaxi


  • Genocide Memorial in Kigali
  • Volcanoes NP – Gorilla Trekking!
  • Lake Kivu

Nobody hates himself more, then he who hates others”

Rwandan proverb

The journey – Where we went & Stayed the night

Rwanda is relatively small and very easy to travel by local public transport. Due to its development, the capital of Kigali offers all the standard (luxury) hotels, but had many low key options for the travelers on a tight budget. We spend a short week venturing out from the capital to the Volcanoes NP and out to Lake Kivu on the Congolese border.

  • Ruhengeri – La Paillotte Gorilla; Right at the foot of the volcanoes that lead you to your Gorilla Trekking experience you find this low key super friendly accommodation. The farm surroundings are a nice break away from traveling and great to unwind after a morning of scattering up the volcanoe.
  • Lake Kivu – Local church hostel; It is by far the cheapest and most basic stay I have ever had, crammed into a sleeping hall with bunkbeds for 1 dollar per night with all the local traveling women, but what an experience… We realized late at night that the stench in the room came from a lady’s basked filled with dried fish which she was taking to the market the next day and did not want to leave out of her sight…

The highlights

Rwanda is a unique country in the middle of the African continent, where the genocide has almost reset the entire society and forced them to look ahead. No small feat and with more women in power (as the men were killed) it stands out as a country that is progressing quickly. Its location, but more importantly its lush climate, creates a country that is green, clean (plastic bags are banned, they are even confiscated at the airport!) and filled with hills and rivers. Within that, the below are absolute highlights.

  • Kigali Genocide Memorial & Ntarama Genocide Memorial: While gruesome, you can not visit Rwanda and ignore its bloody past. To get some understanding on how things got so out of control so quickly and the massive impact it had in every single corner of the country from one day to the next. Especially Ntarama is heavy on the stomach, with bloody clothes hanging from the ceiling… It will leave you shaken, but is a stark reminder of what people are capable of when pushed to kill or be killed. It also gives context to Rwanda’s determination to do better today.
  • Volcanoes NP Gorilla Trekking: We love searching for local fauna in their natural habitat. Gorilla trekking is a breath taking experience that gets you up close and personal with these magnificent animals. Not cheap, but worth every penny when you are eye to eye with this primate… actually you should avoid eye contact, but you know what I mean ;-).
  • Lake Kivu: Another place of contradictions. The lake is lovely and serene, but across the hills there was a big UN refugee camp, and on the hills across the border in Congo some big villas from warlords while people itself lived in poverty. It was again one of those places that in a mere few km2 shows you the big swings and powers at play on the African continent.
  • Mototaxi: Ok, not the safest means of transportation maybe, but SO MUCH FUN! There is something very freeing about taking a mototaxi through the city and having the wind cool you down.

The watchouts

While Rwanda is absolutely beautiful, some things you need to consider when traveling there. The country is picking itself up quickly, but of course the past is still very fresh and by no means generations away, which means that speaking about it requires tact.

  • Show your respect: Some Rwandans are very open about the genocide and want to educate and explain, others are not at all. You will be shocked by things you see and most probably not understand at all how the country you visit today went through such trauma. Stay respectful, ask if you can ask questions, and if not, back off. You are always a guest!
  • Neighboring countries: While Rwanda is working hard on becoming by far the most developed country on the African continent, the opposite can be said about many of its neighboring countries. From Ebola outbreaks to civil wars, Burundi, Congo and Uganda are really struggling at times and of course Rwanda is considered a safe haven for their citizens as well. Check the situation when you travel and if dangerous, avoid the border areas.

Have a look at other African destinations or check our blog section for more on Rwanda and the adventures we had!