Photo Credit: Photo credit: MyBreakingViews
Destination Diaries: Rwanda, the Land of A Thousand Hills
Rwanda is an African country that is often overlooked for more popular destinations on the continent. However, as an incredibly welcoming nation with beautiful cities, Black travelers should definitely consider it when planning a visit to the motherland. Kigali, Rwanda’s capital and largest city, is the cleanest city in Africa. Rwanda also is considered to be the safest country on the continent, making it an ideal destination for solo travelers and families alike.
Adebola, UK native and blogger/travel content creator behind MyBreakingViews, visited Rwanda from April 2023 to May 2023. After watching videos about the country, she knew she had to experience it for herself. Now, having done so, she firmly believes Rwanda should be added to every traveler’s bucket list.
“It’s such a brilliant country for travelers,” Adebola said. “Rwanda isn’t usually at the forefront of people’s minds. When people do travel to the continent it is the popular countries, like Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania (Zanzibar) or South Africa. Rwanda is a smaller country compared to the other African countries. The deep-dark-rooted history of the 1994 genocide still lingers in people’s minds and within the country, so that may scare people.”
A Nation Refusing to be Defined by its Past
Despite Rwanda’s history, Adebola says it is a country full of stunning natural beauty and offering much to see and do.
“The government banned plastics, which you can see has done the country well,” she says. “Rwanda also offers travelers a range of adventurous activities, like Nyungew Park and Volcano Park. It’s a landlocked country from which you can easily travel to other countries. If you are going to Rwanda, it may be ideal to also travel to Uganda, Tanzania or Kenya.”
As for her accommodations, Adebola stayed at an Airbnb for the first few nights, and then moved to the Rwanda Onomo Hotel. Costing £101 a night, which is about $132, the hotel offered an infinity pool and amazing views from the hilltop it sat upon.
Adebola shared her itinerary for 5 days/4 nights in Rwanda and tips to help Travel Noire readers plan an amazing trip to the East African nation.
Day 1 – Chill Day
I spent the first day getting my hair braided. You can get your hair braided by @lacinquieme_rw. In the evening, head over to Repub Lounge for local Rwandan food.
Day 2 – Cooking Class and Kigali City Tour
- Spend the morning enjoying a cooking class at the Nyamirambo Women’s Centre. Here, you will cook local Rwandan food, including matoke, green banana, cassava, sweet potatoes, doda, and cabbage mix. If you are a foodie, like me, this is an absolute must.
- After the cooking class, head to the Belgium Museum, where 10 Belgian UN soldiers were killed while protecting the moderate prime minister before the start of the genocide.
- Finish the day at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, learning about the loss of millions of people. The bodies of over 259,000 Tutsi who were killed in the 1994 genocide are buried here. The genocide was a historical occurrence that changed the dynamics of the country. This was an incredibly emotional memorial as I learned so much about the genocide and how it affected the people. I thought it so powerful how the local people have tried to move on from such tragic events.
Day 3 – Nyungwe National Park with Canopy Walkway
- It’s an early start, around a 5-hour drive to the Nyungwe National Park. I would suggest leaving around 5 or 6 a.m. Be sure to take waterproof hiking/walking shoes and a raincoat. You can stop and pick up a Rolex – not the watch, but the famous East African dish wrapped in a fried egg with chapati.
- The park has a high altitude of up to 2,950 meters and an array of wildlife, including 310 bird species, chimpanzees and baboons.
- You will need to take a COVID test to ensure the wildlife is protected.
Day 4 – Gorilla Garden Village
- Another early start. This is about a 3-hour drive from Kigali. We left around 9 a.m. and stopped for some light snacks/street food–brochettes (fried meat like Nigerian Suya.)
- I learned about the kingdom of the local people and traditional dancing with the local Rwandan people.
- Other activities at the Gorilla Garden Village include learning the history of Rwanda, learning hunting techniques, learning how to make banana beer, and learning the teachings of herbalist healers.
Day 5 – Kigali Market and Transfers to Uganda
- Pack and prepare to go home or head to a nearby country. I suggest Uganda, which is about two hours from central Kigali. You could also consider flying to Kenya or Tanzania.
BONUS – I would have loved to go gorilla trekking, but it is very pricey. Travelers can also do a harvesting tea tour. However, due to the rainy season, it wasn’t ideal to go.
Tips for Visiting Rwanda
- Check visa requirements: British travelers don’t need a visa, but Americans, Nigerians and Canadians need a visa, which can be done online before arrival. You will need to have your flight and hotel accommodations already booked.
- Rwanda doesn’t use Uber. They use an app called YegoRwanda, which isn’t always great, so I suggest sourcing a reliable driver.
- Rwandans don’t usually eat a lot of meat, but you can still buy it.
- Plastic bags are banned and can cost you a hefty fine if caught with them.
- It is worth learning some basic local words in Swahili, but many people speak French or English.
- Take dollars to exchange money.