6 reasons to travel to Rwanda
A tiny country located in the African Great Lakes region, Rwanda has unfortunately gained a certain notoriety due to events in its recent history. However, the country today presents an optimistic vision of Africa and has wonderfully preserved natural landscapes and environments to offer the visitor.
Appreciate the traditional authenticity of East Africa
Rwanda continues to attract tourists in very low numbers: it is not the kind of place to come to buy souvenirs but rather a destination where you can observe the kind of rapid development currently taking place in certain parts of Africa. Away from the capital, Rwanda has managed to preserve and protect its natural heritage and is a land endowed with numerous lakes, amongst which Lake Kivu, with its relaxing, peaceful shoreline. Despite a slight lack of infrastructure, there are no reasons to fear for your safety or security in this country.
A friendly, welcoming people
You can guarantee that a European complexion will see you referred to by the term "muzungu" (the white one). Respond with a simple "amahoro" (hello) and a smile, and you should find those who address you will try to engage you in conversation. The inhabitants of Kigali, many of whom speak English or French, are very open and willing to talk to strangers. If you visit one of the villages in the interior of the country, you will very likely find yourself being followed by a procession of young Rwandans eager to get to know you!
Hike through unique landscapes
This land of a thousand hills has breathtaking views to offer and a palette of colours ranging from the intense red of the earth to the bright greens of the tea plantations: these are utterly photogenic landscapes. With its highest point lying at an altitude of over 13,000 feet, the superb Volcanoes National Park extends over an area in the north of Rwanda and borders Virunga National Park in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo ('virunga' means 'volcano' in Swahili). Hiking enthusiasts and animal lovers are guaranteed to enjoy it here.
It's in this very same park that a large proportion of the entire world population of mountain gorillas is to be found. It is easy (through somewhat expensive) to find a guide to take you to meet the families of these primates that populate the slopes of the mountains. In addition to the great apes, Rwanda is also home to numerous other animals, with Akagera National Park in the east of the country a veritable paradise for bird watchers.
Explore the real history of Rwanda
One thing you absolutely must see when in Kigali is the memorial to the 1994 genocide. The information on display presents the Rwandan perspective on this tragic episode in the country's history, and this differs from the European perspective. A much more emotional approach is adopted at the nearby visitor centre: be sure to follow this up with a lighter, less emotionally demanding activity. Visiting the memorial enables you to appreciate the efficient manner in which the country is rebuilding itself and the extent to which Kigali has now become a modern capital city. A word of warning however: the genocide is still largely a taboo subject and it is best not to try to discuss it with the locals.
Treat your tastebuds to a flavour of the exotic
Rwanda's plantations are nourished by daily sunshine and the water that falls in the rainy season, which results in the products produced here being of incredibly high quality: you simply cannot find bananas that taste like these back home (small, very sweet, and sold by the bunch), nor the countless varieties of avocados or maracujas (otherwise know as passion fruits). Rwanda is also famous for its excellent arabica coffee, and there are several fair trade channels established in the country.