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Looking for a Rwandan adventure a bit more off the beaten path? Let’s get into it.
While the country might be well known for its gorilla trekking, Kigali’s thriving coffee-shop scene and as a sponsor of Arsenal football shirts, there are plenty of alternative things to do here that will allow you to experience the country in your own unique way.
In this guide, I’ve cultivated a list of alternative things to do across the country.
This is Rwanda off the beaten path.
Experiencing Rwanda’s Coffee Culture
If you’re a coffee lover, Rwanda is the perfect destination. The country is known for its high-quality coffee, which is grown on the hillsides of the country’s central and western regions.
Here are a few unique ways to experience Rwanda’s coffee culture:
Coffee Plantation Tours
One of the best ways to experience Rwanda’s coffee culture is by taking a tour of a coffee plantation.
During the tour, you’ll learn about the coffee growing process, from planting to harvesting. You’ll also get to see how the coffee is processed and roasted.
Some of the most popular coffee plantations to visit in Rwanda include the Kinunu Coffee Washing Station and the Huye Mountain Coffee Station.
These tours are a great way to learn about the history and culture of coffee in Rwanda.
Coffee Tasting Sessions
Another way to experience Rwanda’s coffee culture is by attending a coffee tasting session.
During these sessions, you’ll get to sample some of the best coffee in the country. You’ll learn about the different types of coffee grown in Rwanda and the unique flavors and aromas of each variety.
Some of the best places to attend a coffee tasting session in Rwanda include Question Coffee, Bourbon Coffee, and Shokola Cafe.
Hiking in Lesser Known Trails
Rwanda is a hiker’s paradise, with numerous trails that offer breathtaking views of the country’s stunning landscapes.
While many tourists flock to the popular hiking destinations, such as Mount Bisoke and Volcanoes National Park, there are also several lesser-known trails that are worth exploring.
Here are two hiking trails that more are off the beaten path:
Congo Nile Trail
The Congo Nile Trail is a scenic hiking trail that spans the length of Lake Kivu, one of the largest lakes in Africa.
The trail takes hikers through lush green tea fields, terraced farms, and small towns, offering stunning views of the lake and the surrounding hills.
The trail can be hiked, biked, or even kayaked, and takes about eight days to complete by kayak, three days by bike, and 11 days by foot.
JORD’S NOTE: We opted to cycle one section of the Congo Nile trail, along Lake Kivu. We were able to spend about 8 hours cycling along the lake and taking in the epic scenery, but had to arrange for bikes to be dropped of and picked up again.
While Mount Bisoke is a popular hiking destination in Rwanda, the Bisoke Volcano trail is a lesser-known hiking trail that offers equally stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
The trail takes hikers through dense forests, bamboo groves, and alpine meadows, before reaching the summit of the volcano.
From the top, hikers can enjoy panoramic views of the Virunga Mountains and the nearby lakes. The hike takes about six hours round-trip and is moderately difficult, with steep inclines and rocky terrain.
Wildlife Watching Beyond Gorillas
If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, Rwanda offers plenty of opportunities beyond gorilla trekking.
Here are some of the best places to visit for wildlife watching:
Akagera National Park
Located in eastern Rwanda, Akagera National Park is a special destination for anyone interested in wildlife.
The park is home to a wide range of animals, including elephants, lions, giraffes, zebras, and many species of antelope.
You can take a game drive through the park to see these animals in their natural habitat, or even go on a boat safari to see hippos and crocodiles in the park’s lakes and wetlands.
Nyungwe Forest is a vast, ancient rainforest located in southwestern Rwanda.
The forest is home to a variety of primates, including chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, and mangabeys.
You can take a guided trek through the forest to see these animals up close, or even go on the Nyungwe canopy walkway to get a bird’s eye view of the forest.
You can check out our full guide to Nyungwe Forest National Park here.
If you’re interested in seeing some of Rwanda’s rarer scenery, consider visiting Bigogwe.
This small village is located in the northwest of the country, and is home to rolling green hills that will blow you away.
Make sure to stop in on the local Bigogwe cowboys, who live in the hills and survive almost entirely off milk au natural – i.e. milk straight from their cows!
For more info, get in touch with Ngabo from IBERE RYA BIGOGWE, a Twitter account dedicated to promoting tourism in Bigogwe.
Cultural and Historical Sites
Genocide Memorial Sites
The Genocide Memorial Sites are essential for anyone interested in learning about Rwanda’s history.
These sites commemorate the victims of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed the lives of over 1 million people.
The Kigali Genocide Memorial is the most well-known of these sites and offers a comprehensive look at the events leading up to and during the genocide.
Other notable sites include the Murambi Genocide Memorial and the Nyamata Genocide Memorial.
Nyamirambo Women’s Centre
The Nyamirambo Women’s Centre is a community-based organization that offers tours of the Nyamirambo neighborhood in Kigali.
The tours are led by local women and offer a unique perspective on life in Rwanda. During the tour, you will visit local markets, sample traditional Rwandan food, and learn about the history and culture of the area.
The Nyamirambo Women’s Centre also offers a variety of workshops, including cooking classes and traditional dance lessons.
Dian Fossey’s Grave
Dian Fossey was a renowned primatologist who dedicated her life to the study and conservation of mountain gorillas in Rwanda.
She was tragically killed in 1985, and her grave is located in the Volcanoes National Park.
Visiting her grave is a moving experience and offers a chance to pay tribute to her legacy.
The Ethnographic Museum in Huye is one of the oldest and most important museums in Rwanda.
The museum offers a comprehensive look at the country’s history and culture, with exhibits on traditional Rwandan art, music, and dance. The museum also has a collection of artifacts from the colonial period, as well as exhibits on the country’s pre-colonial history.
In my opinion, these cultural and historical sites offer a unique perspective on Rwanda’s past and present.
Discovering Local Cuisine
When it comes to food in Rwanda, most people think of staples like beans, plantains, and cassava.
However, there’s a whole world of unique and delicious cuisine waiting to be discovered in the country.
From street food to high-end restaurants, here are some off-the-beaten-path options for exploring Rwanda’s food scene.
Kuruhimbi Milk Bar
Kuruhimbi Milk Bar is a must-visit for anyone interested in trying local Rwandan milk products.
Located in Kigali, this small shop serves up a variety of milk-based treats, including yogurt, cheese, and ice cream. The milk used in these products is sourced from local farmers, and the shop is committed to supporting the local community.
One popular item on the menu is the “milkshake,” which is made with fresh milk and fruit. You can also try the “umunyu” cheese, which is similar to feta but with a unique Rwandan twist.
JORD’s TIP: If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even try the “ikivuguto,” a traditional Rwandan drink made from fermented milk.
Experiencing Traditional Music and Dance
When visiting Rwanda, experiencing the country’s traditional music and dance is a must.
The most popular traditional dance in Rwanda is Ikinimba, which tells stories of heroes and kings.
It’s a warlike dance that displays movements similar to actual fighting and is often referred to as the Imyiyereko parade. During this dance, the performers imitate warfare movements, charging at each other or many enemies.
Another popular dance is Imishayayo, which is a soft dance that showcases the dancers’ grace and fluidity.
This dance is typically performed by women and is accompanied by instruments like ingoma, ikembe, iningiri, umuduri, and inanga.
|A unique cultural experience||Can be difficult to find authentic performances|
|Excellent way to immerse yourself in the local culture||Can be crowded and touristy|
|Witness incredible energy and skill||Can be expensive|
|Try locally brewed banana beer||Not suitable for those who don’t enjoy dancing or loud music|
Rwanda Off The Beaten Path
Rwanda has a lot to offer beyond the typical tourist destinations & the famous Gorilla trekking.
By venturing off the beaten path, you can discover hidden gems that will leave you with unforgettable experiences. From exploring Nyungwe Forest National Park to visiting the Murambi Genocide Memorial Center, there are plenty of alternative things to do in Rwanda.
If you’re an adventurous traveler, you can go beyond the typical tourist trail and discover the beauty of Rwanda’s natural landscapes.
As always, some of the best experiences in life, and travel, are when you go off the beaten path.