If you want to witness some of the most beautiful scenery on Earth, then Rwanda is the place to be. Rwanda is a landlocked country in East Africa, bordered by Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south-east, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. Rwanda is also known as “The Land of a Thousand Hills” due to its hilly topography. The country has over 12 million people, and its capital is Kigali.

Rwanda is perhaps best known for its tragic history as the site of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. However, Rwanda is now one of the safest African countries as it has emerged as peaceful and prosperous. Tourism is a vital part of the Rwandan economy, and many great things to see and do in this beautiful country.

This small Central African country is home to one of the densest populations of primates in the world, as well as some of the last remaining mountain gorillas. This place offers travellers the chance to get up close and personal with some of the most amazing animals on the planet.

If you’re looking for an unforgettable travel experience, then be sure to add Rwanda to your list.

Here are the best things to do in Rwanda:

1. Visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre

The Genocide Memorial Centre is a moving and sobering reminder of the horrors of the Rwandan Genocide. The centre honours the memory of the victims and provides a space for education and reconciliation. Here you can learn about what happened during the genocide and how Rwanda is working to move forward.

Stories about Rwanda's troubled history at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre - The 12 Best Things To Do in Rwanda
Learning about Rwanda’s history at Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre | @apinyaong

The Genocide Memorial Centre is located in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city. You can reach the centre by taxi or by using the public bus system. It opens at 8:00 am and closes at 5:00 pm. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. It is recommended to book a guided tour in advance.

To enjoy your visit to the fullest, take a guided tour. Tours are available in English and French and last about 1.5 hours, where you’ll learn about the history of Rwanda and the events leading up to and during the genocide. You’ll also see artefacts from that period. The tour ends with a visit to the memorial garden, where you can pay your respects to the victims.

2. Take a walk through Nyamata Church

It is a place of worship and remembrance. It is the site of a mass grave from the Rwandan genocide. In 1994, over 10,000 people were killed here. It happens to be one of the largest mass graves in Rwanda. Today, the church is a memorial to the victims. It houses exhibits of clothing and other personal items that belonged to those who were killed.

Located in the village of Nyamata, about 30 kilometres from Kigali, this church is a must-see for anyone interested in learning about the Rwandan genocide and anyone interested in learning about Rwanda’s history. You can ride a moto-taxi from the central city or take a bus. The church is open every day from 8 am to 5 pm and is free to visit.

Human skulls and bones at Nyamata Church - The 12 Best Things To Do in Rwanda
Human remains at Nyamata Church | @somophoto

3. Delve into Kimironko Market

If you want to see the beauty of Rwandan culture, you need to head to Kimironko Market. It is one of the most popular and busiest markets in Rwanda. It’s a great place to people-watch and soaks up the city’s atmosphere.

Here you can find the finest locally-grown fruits and vegetables, handicrafts, fabrics, and other items. It’s a great place to buy souvenirs, try local foods, and get a feel for Rwandan daily life. Bargaining is expected, so don’t be afraid to haggle for a reasonable price. The market is open every day from 6 am to 6 pm.

Brightly coloured fabrics for sale at Kimironko Market
Textile Stalls at Kimironko Market | @zacharycutler

4. Enjoy Kigali’s art galleries

Kigali has a flourishing art scene with many talented painters, sculptors, and other artists. Several art galleries showcase local talent as well as international artists. You must visit at least one art gallery during your stay in Kigali.

Colourful chimpanzee painting at Niyo Art Gallery
Chimpanzee painting at Niyo Art Gallery | @lodiakiw

One of the most popular is Inzuki Gallery, which showcases Rwandan and East African art. The gallery also has a good selection of local art and culture books. Another great option is the Kwetu Art Studio, which offers painting classes and a gallery space. The Inema Art Center is one of the most popular galleries featuring local and international artists. The gallery also offers painting and sculpture classes, so it’s a great place to learn more about the local art scene.

Other notable galleries include the Rwanda Art Museum, which has an extensive collection of Rwandan art, and the Kigali City Museum, which focuses on the history and culture of Rwanda.

5. Visit the Gorillas at Volcanoes National Park

The Volcanoes National Park is one of Rwanda’s most popular tourist destinations. The park is home to various wildlife, including gorillas and chimpanzees. It is a great experience to see these animals in their natural habitat.

Several different gorilla trekking companies offer guided tours of the park. These companies will provide you with all the necessary equipment and help you find the best viewing spots. However, note that the gorilla trekking experience can be pretty strenuous and is not recommended for young children. It is essential to book your tour in advance, as spaces are limited.

Gorilla and hiker posing for a photograph in the forest - The 12 Best Things To Do in Rwanda
Isabukuru the silverback gorilla posing for a photo at Volcanoes National Park | @vevecellio

6. Learn more at the Karisoke Research Centre

The Karisoke Research Centre is a world-renowned centre for gorilla research. The centre is located in the Volcanoes National Park, and visitors can learn about the work being done to protect these endangered animals.

While visiting, you can also take a hike to see the gorillas in their natural habitat – an experience that is sure to be unforgettable. Learning can be fun – and there’s no better way to do it than at the Karisoke Research Centre! Remember to book your tour in advance. The researcher centre only allows a limited number of visitors each day to minimize the impact on the gorillas.

Dian Fossey playing with a pair of young gorillas in Karisoke Research Centre
Dian Fossey playing with a pair of young gorillas in Karisoke Research Centre

7. Explore Musanze Cave

Be mesmerized by the Musanze Cave – a Rwandan wonder that is truly one of a kind. The cave is located in the Volcanoes National Park, and visitors can take a guided tour to explore the inside. You’ll be amazed by the stalactites, stalagmites, and other rock formations inside the cave. Be sure to bring a jacket – the temperature inside the cave is quite extraordinary.

The cave is home to various bats, and visitors can explore the cave’s many chambers and tunnels. A tour guide is required, and tours typically last about an hour. A visit to this cave will leave every visitor in awe – it’s a fantastic place and a must-see when in Rwanda.

Walking through Musanze Cave in Rwanda
Musanze Cave, Rwanda

8. Experience the fun at Nyungwe Forest National Park

The Nyungwe Forest National Park is a large forest reserve home to various wildlife, including chimpanzees and colobus monkeys. It is also an excellent place for bird watching and several hiking trails through the forest. Here you can do the canopy walk, a suspended bridge that gives you a bird’s eye view of the forest or go chimpanzee trekking to see these amazing creatures up close. This canopy walk is popular because it gives you a sense of the size of the forest – it is a fantastic place.

Tourists can also participate in the traditional Rwandan dance, which the local people perform. The best time to visit this park is between June and September. Visiting this park means you can experience the Rwandan jungle – something that is truly unique and unforgettable.

Views over the misty mountain range in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Breathtaking views over Nyungwe Forest National Park | @pedrogvianna

9. See the animals at Akagera National Park

Located at the border of Rwanda and Tanzania, Akagera National Park is home to lions, elephants, leopards, and buffalo. The park also has several scenic lakes and Savannahs, and visitors can go on safari drives or walks to see the animals up close.

A guided park tour is the best way to see all it offers. The tour usually starts early in the morning so that you can see the animals when they are most active. In addition, the park provides a variety of accommodation options, including camping and lodges, making it the perfect place to stay for a few days. If you’re an animal lover, Akagera National Park is a must-visit destination in Rwanda.

White rhino mother and newborn calf in Akagera National Park
White rhino mother and calf in Akagera National Park | @akageragamelodge

10. Have a glimpse of Rwanda’s History at The Ethnographic Museum

The Ethnographic Museum is formerly known as the National Museum of Rwanda and is located in the capital city of Kigali. The museum houses a collection of Rwandan art and artefacts that provide insight into the country’s history and culture. The museum is divided into two sections, one devoted to traditional Rwandan life and the other to the genocide in 1994. The Ethnographic Museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in learning about Rwanda’s past.

Visitors can see traditional Rwandan clothing, ceremonial masks, and other artefacts on display in the museum’s first section. The second section contains exhibits on the 1994 genocide, including personal testimony from survivors and photographs of the victims. The museum also has a garden with native plants and a café.

The Ethnographic Museum is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission is 3,000 RWF for adults and 1,500 RWF for children.

11. Visit the King’s Palace Museum

Like other museums in Rwanda, the King’s Palace Museum provides visitors insight into the country’s past. The museum is in Nyanza, the former capital of Rwanda. The palace was built in 1896 and was home to the last Rwandan King, Kigeli V. After the King died in 2016, the palace was turned into a museum.

The museum has three main sections: the King’s bedroom, the queen’s room, and the throne room. Each room has been carefully restored to look like it did during the King’s reign. Here you can see the King’s bed, the queen’s dresser, and the King’s throne. The museum also has a collection of traditional Rwandan artifacts. Visiting the museum will give you a glance into the country’s past.

Royal cows with giant horns at King's Palace Museum
Royal Cows or, Inyambo, at King’s Palace Museum in Rwanda | @travelwithlynetorwanda

12. Relax at Lake Kivu

The beautiful Lake Kivu is Rwanda’s largest lake. Found in the Western Province, Lake Kivu is a great place to relax and enjoy the stunning scenery. Mountains, forests, and villages surround the lake. There are many activities to enjoy around the lake, such as swimming, fishing, kayaking, and hiking. You can also take a boat ride to one of the nearby islands.

Aerial view over Lake Kivu - The 12 Best Things To Do in Rwanda
Sunset over Lake Kivu, Rwanda | @charlotteplansatrip

It is also a great place to relax and enjoy the scenery. There are many resorts and hotels along the lake where you can stay. You can also take a boat tour of the lake or go swimming. If you are feeling adventurous, you can even try your hand at windsurfing.

The lake is also notable for being one of the primary sources of Rwanda’s electricity.

When you visit the lake, there are things you should keep in mind:

  • The lake is freezing cold, so bring a sweater or jacket.
  • The wind can be strong, so be prepared for that.
  • There are many mosquitoes around the lake, so bring mosquito repellent.

The Bottom line

Rwanda is a beautiful country with a lot to offer. It is one of the most visited countries in Africa and offers a surreal experience. A visit to Rwanda will not only leave you in awe of its natural beauty but also with a greater understanding of its culture and history.

The museums and sites we’ve mentioned are a great place to start, but there’s so much more to explore. We highly recommend taking some time to relax by Lake Kivu or hiking in the mountains.

Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a history buff, or just looking to relax, Rwanda is the perfect place for you. Just make sure to pack your mosquito repellent, as the mosquitoes can be pesky, and watch out for the lake as it could be cold. But trust us, it’s all worth it.