Rwanda is a landlocked country in central Africa. Also known as “the land of a thousand hills”. Rwanda has 5 volcanoes, 23 lakes and numerous rivers, some forming the source of the river Nile. The country lies 75 miles south of the equator in the tropic of Capricorn, 880 miles “as the cow flies” west of the Indian Ocean and 1,250 miles east of the Atlantic ocean- literally in the heart of Africa. Rwanda with a land area of 26,338km is bordered by Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west.
Located at Rwanda’s geographical heart, the rapidly growing city of Kigali is not only the national capital, but also the country’s most important business centre and main point of entry into the country. Serviced by an efficient international airport and connected to neighbouring Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi by surfaced roads, Kigali city boasts a range of hotels catering to all tastes and budgets, and an assortment of fine restaurants whose menus reflect a variety of both traditional and international cuisines.
The green city of Kigali, built on Mt Kigali, is the largest city in Rwanda, known for its clean and safe environment. It was chosen over the established cultural city of Butare as the capital in 1962 when Rwanda gained its independence from Belgium.
It has grown very quickly and is now the major political centre of Rwanda as well as the economic and transport hub of the country. Situated centrally within the country it provides a convenient gateway to the country by road or air.
Mt Kigali has an elevation of an impressive 1850m, the highest in the area, with the surrounding mountains averaging just 1600m the Nyarugenge, while the government and administrative centre is further east in Kacyriru.
Kigali offers a healthy concentration of hotels and conference facilities look out for the new conference centre. Thanks to its altitude, Kigali enjoys a moderate climate, despite its tropical location. It is also known to be one of the safest and cleanest African capitals.
Centrally located within Rwanda, the Kigali Hub is convenient locations from which to access all tourism sites and provinces.
To explore the city’s main attractions take the RDB Kigali city tour which makes use of the city guided bus tours and organised through the RDB Tourism Office. This Museum of natural history, Nyamirambo, Caplaki Handicrafts Co-operative, Gisozi Genocide Memorial and the Heroes’ Cemetery, the Parliament Building and Kigali Institute of science and technology.
The fastest and most popular way to get around town is the thrilling Motorcycle taxis, also known as “Moto taxis”. It can be a little scary balance on the back of a motorcycle, but the undeniable advantage is being able to manoeuvre more easily through traffic. Avoid Moto- taxis without valid permits. Riders with permits are easily recognized by the numbers on their green helmets and jackets. Also note that wearing on their green helmets and jackets. Also note that wearing a helmet is compulsory and are provided as part of the service.
Kigali Car Rentals allow you more privacy to see the city at your own pace. They are usually white with an orange strip down the side. Prior negotiation of taxi fares is always advisable.
Matatu (minibuses), provide transport along all major routes and are the cheapest way to get around the city. Minibuses wait to fill up before leaving from the terminus, then pick up and drop off frequently en route.
Handicrafts and shopping
A wide range of handicrafts are produced in rural Rwanda, ranging from ceramics and basketry to traditional woodcarvings and contemporary paintings. Rwanda’s traditional Agaseke baskets have become famous around the world. You will find a good selection of painted and handcrafted artefacts in craft villages, shops and art galleries around Kigali.
Rwanda Nziza was created to allow artists to access the local market and given them exposure on the tourist market. Also known as the Rwanda Fire Trade Artist’s Association (RFTAA), offers a variety of high quality products that are 100% Rwandan. The artisans, from all over Rwanda, have direct access to the store, you will hear local music, and enjoy complimentary coffee and a relax retail experience. Every product comes with a member biography as well as a description of the product and its cultural significance.
Gahaya links gifted hands was founded in 2004 by Joy Ndungutse and Janet Nkubana. This company was the first tradition handcrafts Export Company. It was initially started in the remote village of Gitarama where the sisters recruited about 20 women and taught them to weave or improve their skills with new techniques. Today the company managers a network of over 4,000 weavers across the country, their belief is that women’s economic empowerment provides the foundation for achieving sustainable peace and development in Rwanda.
Ivuka Arts Kigali is a group of established artists trying to introduce Rwanda contemporary art to the international scene by discovering and nurturing young talent.
Dining and entertainment
Dining, the continental city of Kigali offers a variety excellent restaurant to enjoy a good meal. For popular European cuisine head to heaven restaurant or cactus in kiyovu, select in kacyiru or sole Luna in Remera. For great African cuisine, go to the Republika Lounge in Kiyovu, Africa bite in Kimihurura or Lalibela, also in Kimihurura who offers top class Ethiopian food. For delicious Asian cuisine, try Flamingo in Kimihurura for Chinese food, Khana khazana in kiyovu for Indian dishes, sakae in Nyarutarama that caters for Thai, Japanese and Chinese food and flavours.
Bar – lounges, there are a number of excellent bar lounges to go out for a drink in the evening, head to Republika Lounge in hotel des Mille Collins, in Kiyovu or try the papyrus Lounge in Kimihurura. Other great watering holes are shooters in kacyiru, Sun downer in Kimihurura or the Virunga sports bar in MTN Centre, Nyarutarama. For live performance and DJs head to Whitehorse Pub in Kiyovu.
Coffee shops, grab a cup of coffee at Bourbon café, the trendy coffee shop at the union trade centre, MTN centre or international airport. Shokola and Shokola Lite in kiyovu and kacyiru offer North Africa cuisine and some of the best coffee around. There are many other coffee shops to be found in the city centre like Camilla Tea House in kiyovu and Magda coffee shop in kacyiru.
Clubs, these are few spots in Kigali where it is possible to dance the night away. Enjoy live entertainment and salsa dancing at Pasadena, VIP, the Intercontinental or the Milles Collins, or put on your dancing shoes and head foe New Cadillac in Kimihurura, next in muhima or planet club in kacyiru at Kigali business centre (KBC) which is busy places to spend a Friday or Saturday night.
Enjoy bird watching at Nyarutarama Lake which is an affluent area. “Lover’s lake in the “Nyarutarama” valley, at the border of Kigali Golf course, is most attractive. The lake is surrounded by a track which offers excellent nature walks and bird watching opportunities.
The Nyakalongo wetlands have remained untouched by tourism, but also offer walking paths and good bird watching. This protected area covers 142.62km with two lakes- lake Mirayi and Lake Rumira.
Practice your swing at Nyarutarama Golf Course; this challenging course offers an invigorating golf experience over a topographically rich landscape. Book an afternoon of pampering at one of the many spas the city has to offer including Maisha spa at Serena, country Inn spa, sals spa manor.
Go for a swim at the Mille Collines hotel. This famous hotel was a refuge during the genocide and also the setting for the famous novel.
Go for mountain biking in or out of town. The fine road network, of traffic, offers wonderful opportunities for bicycle trips.
Museums and Memorials
Camp Kigali commemorates the massacre of 10 Belgian UN Blue Berets on the first day of the genocide in 1994. The camp hosts a small museum and a memorial which displays one stone pillar for each soldier with their age marked as a line.
The National History Museum, also known as “Kandt House” is dedicated to Richard Kandt a German doctor and explorer who embarked on an exploration of Rwanda in 1897, searching for the source of the Nile. The museum explains the interdependency between living beings and their environment. This museum showcases his work and many natural wonders of the country.
Nyamata and Ntarama Genocide Memories are the scenes of some of the most brutal massacres in Rwanda. Both are located about 30km south of Kigali, in the Bugesera region. These churches and their contents are a remainder of the violence that took place during Rwanda’s 1944 genocide.
The Gisozi or Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, a joint partnership between the Kigali city council and the Aegis trust, was inaugurated in April 2004, for the 10th anniversary of the beginning of Rwanda’s genocide. Three permanent exhibitions are on exhibit, the largest of which documents the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. There is a children’s memorial and exhibition on the history of genocide violence around the world. The centre is built on site where over 250,000 people are buried.
Presidential Palace Museum, located 40km from Kanombe Airport. The residence of former president of Rwanda, J. Habyarimana (1973- 94) this Museum is mainly known for the flight debris which are the remains of the presidential plane that went down on the 6th of April 1994.
Librarie Ikirezi is the first public library in Rwanda and aims to become the ‘sanctuary for knowledge and a forum for the free exchange of ideas. It also houses the largest selection of books written on the Rwanda genocide.
Remera Heroes’ Cemetery is another site connected to the genocide in Rwanda. Three particularly noteworthy graves populate this cemetery on Kimironko Road, past the Amahoro Stadium: the grave of the co- founder and leader of the RPF, Fred Giza Rwigyema, who was killed on 2 October 1990 trying to invade Rwanda; the grave of Agathe Uwilingiyimana, prime Minister at the time, assassinated on 7 April 1994; and, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier standing as memorial to all victims of genocide.
Nyanza Genocide Memorial commemorates the killing of 10,000 Rwandans that took place at the Ecole Techniqueofficielle.The museum documents the massacre and emphasizes the desertion of the international community.