Friday, 15 September 2017
RWANDA: Visit Kigali, Don't Talk Politics And Police Take No Bribes Unlike Other African Countries
The centre of political and commercial life, Kigali dominates Rwanda and few visit the country without passing through. The city is developing fast, and is very much a showpiece capital designed to impress visitors, from the humble tourist, to foreign investors and visiting dignitaries.
With a population topping 1 million, the city spreads out over several hills and valleys, with many of the better restaurants and hotels at a distance from the traditional downtown area. The Kigali City Masterplan outlines the future for this burgeoning metropolis with plans for a new city to be built south of the current city centre.
Kigali, with a population of more than 1 million, is the capital and largest city of Rwanda. It is near the nation's geographic centre. The city has been Rwanda's economic, cultural, and transport hub since it became capital at independence in 1962. The city hosts the main residence and offices of the President of Rwanda and government ministries.
The city is with the province of Kigali City, which was enlarged in January 2006, as part of local government reorganisation in the country. Kigali's city limits covers the whole province, it is consolidated. The city's urban area covers about 70% of the municipal boundaries.
As a clean, comfortable and ordered city, Kigali is very popular with long term expats, and the city is teeming with westerners, from young church or NGO volunteers having their first experience of Africa to career development workers enjoying a relaxed lifestyle where it is safe to bring up young children.
This in turn means the city supports numerous restaurants, coffee shops and supermarkets that cater to this demographic. The downside of Kigali’s modern design and popularity with foreigners is that it is easy to forget you are in Africa.
Kigali was founded in 1907 by Dr. Richard Kandt under German colonial rule, but did not become the capital until Rwandan independence in 1962.
The traditional capital was the seat of the mwami, Kings Yuhi V, Mutara III and Kigeli IV in Nyanza, while the colonial seat of power was in Butare, then known as Astrida. Butare was initially the leading contender to be the capital of the new independent nation, but Kigali was chosen because of its more central location.
Since then the city has grown very quickly and is now the major political, economic and cultural centre of Rwanda.
Beginning on April 6, 1994, Kigali was the scene of the Rwandan Genocide,the slaughter of approximately one million Tutsi by Hutu militias (Interahamwe), and some members of the Rwandan army. There was fierce fighting between the army who were mostly Hutu and Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front. Although damaged, the city's structure has recovered.
The city is built in hilly country, sprawling across about four ridges and the valleys in between. The city centre is on one of these ridges, with the main government area on another. The tops of the ridges have an average elevation of 1,600 metres or 5,250 feet, while the valleys are around 1,300 metres or 4,270 feet.
The bigger houses and office buildings tend to be on the tops of the ridges, while the poorer people live in the valleys. The city is ringed most of the way round by higher hills, with some suburban sprawl rising up these. The highest of these is Mt. Kigali, with an elevation of 1,850 m (6,070 ft).
Kigali possesses a tropical savanna climate with a pronounced dry season, the Köppen Climate Classification subtype being Aw.Kigali is cooler throughout the year than in most other cities around the Equator due to its elevation, which tempers the heat and results in warm rather than hot days and mild rather than uncomfortably warm nights.
Kigali houses several memorials, museums, and centers dedicated to the Rwandan Genocide, including the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. Other museums include the Kandt House Museum of Natural History.
Urugwiro is the official residence of the President of Rwanda. It constitutes an entire village within the Kacyiru district of Kigali.
The city has international class hotels, some played a role in history:
The Mille Collines in the Kiyovu area. This hotel became a refugee centre during the genocide, as famously depicted in the film Hotel Rwanda. It is also the setting for the famous novel Un dimanche à la piscine à Kigali, by Quebecer Gil Courtemanche, and its movie adaptation Un dimanche à Kigali.
The Kigali Serena Hotel, formerly known as the InterContinental Kigali. Formerly a Belgian-owned hotel known as Hotel Diplomates, the hotel was briefly portrayed in the second half of Hotel Rwanda. It was later bought by the InterContinental Hotels group and remodeled in 2003.
Kigali Convention Centre, which was launched on July 8, 2016.
Mines for tin ore (cassiterite) have operated nearby, and the city built a smelting plant in the 1980s. Business in Rwanda has been growing in the 21st century, and many new buildings have arisen across the city, including the BCDI Tower, Centenary House, Kigali City Tower and Kigali Convention Centre. Tourism provides important input into the economy.
The city is a stronghold for basketball as traditionally, roughly half of the teams of Rwanda's National Basketball League are based there, including 2016 Champion Patriots BBC, record holding Champion Espoir BBC and others, including APR basketball club ,IPRC-Kigali and Cercle Sportif de Kigali (CSK).
Under a master plan for 2040, Kigali will be decentralized, with business, shopping, and leisure districts, and suburbs. The plan calls for skyscrapers, arching pedestrian walkways and green spaces to be built, alongside amenities such as fountains and a wetlands conservation area. In addition, there will be an effective public transportation network.
However, among the most pressing problems is affordable housing for the majority of the city's population, and a number of schemes are under consideration. The city's population of about 1.2 million is expected to triple by that time.
Kigali International Airport is a delightful airport small and organised it is rare to encounter any problems. Be aware that plastic bags are illegal in Rwanda so you'll want to conceal these well in your luggage.
- KLM started flights to Kigali from Amsterdam on 31 October 2010.
- Brussels Airlines flies to Kigali from Brussels in Belgium.
- Kenya Airways also has frequent flights from Nairobi.
- Ethiopian Airlines has daily flights between Addis Ababa and Kigali.
- Rwandair the national carrier, has several flights a day to other African destinations, as well as Dubai, tickets are normally booked through travel agents, or,some online travel sites eg Travelocity.
- South African Airways has flights to Kigali from Johannesburg.
- Air Uganda used to fly six times a week to Kampala, Air Uganda no longer exists.
- Turkish Airlines started flights to Kigali from Istanbul in May 2012.
On flying out of Kigali airport keep in mind the need for a Yellow Fever Certificate at your destination eg South Africa - Airport officials will ask for this. Also be careful of waiting in the cafe for your flight some flights eg Kenya Airways to Nairobi are often overbooked and you won't hear any announcement when they decide to start boarding early, and you could miss your flight.
Be also prepared for at least 2-3 security checks before the departure. Checks are pretty thorough.
Buses arrive and depart to many parts of Rwanda regularly.
There are a couple of daily buses that run directly between Kigali and Kampala in Uganda. The bus is cramped and uncomfortable but is the cheapest choice.
There are a couple of daily buses that run directly between Kigali and Bujumbura in Burundi. Yahoo Car, New Yahoo and Belvedere have buses in the morning.
Bus 104 will get you to the center for Rwf 250. Heading to the airport, catch it in front of the Bank of Kigali/Ernst & Young building downtown.
Motorcyle taxis (motos) are the most popular and fastest way to get around town. The fare for the motorcycle ranges from 200 RFr-1000 RFr depending on distance, but most of the motocyclists will ask for RFr 200-500. A trip to or from the airport should be around 1500-2000 RFr. Keep in mind that on the main road out to the airport they really put their foot down. It is however a good well sealed road, nice views over Kigali City and a thrilling ride.
Matatus (minibuses) provide major routes throughout the city and are the cheapest way to get around. The Minibus in Rwanda is one of the best forms of transport in East Africa. Most of the buses are still new and are maintined well. There are several minibus companies which connect Kigali and the other cities in Rwanda. All of them give the same price depending on the distance.
For short distance, such as to Ntarama, it costs only 600 RFr. The distance to Ruhungeri cost 2500 RFr and to Gisenyi 3000 RFr.
There are several car rental agencies in Kigali.
There are many taxis in Kigali, and in comparison with motos are expensive. A short 1km trip will cost Rwf 2,000 after haggling, going up to Rwf 10,000 for an airport run. Taxis are mainly of two types in Kigali - those operated by individuals usually with some form of yellow stripe on the vehicle and more professonally run services operated by a single large operator.
The Kigali Airport Taxis and Kigali Taxi Service are the two major groups, there are others companies also running taxis , but these are the largest and both operate a number you can call to sumon a taxis. 3122 for Kigali Taxis service and 476586 for Kigali Aiport Taxi service.
The Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre opened in April 2004 on the 10th anniversary of the genocides. Over 250,000 people are buried here, and there is a truly touching museum. Kigali houses several memorials, museums, and centers dedicated to the Rwandan Genocide. Entry is free, but donations are welcomed. A useful audio guide is available with concessions for students or East African Community residents.
Presidential Palace Museum, In Kanombe, 4km east past the airport - under the flightpath. The abode of the former President Habyarimana, who died in that infamous plane crash of 1994. Guided tours are mandatory, where you can get a glimpse of life as an African dictator in the 1970s & 80s.
There is also a display on Rwandan clothing that is quite interesting. Photography is restricted. Rwf 6,000 (Rwf 5,000 for resident foreigners). To get there a moto should cost about Rwf 1,000, and tell him to go to Kanombe - you'll probably end up outside the military hospital at the end of the tarred road, the museum is another 300 meters along the dirt road.
Take a trip to a craft centre, like the Dancing Pots Craft Centre or the Cards for Africa workshop and sales room in Kigali.
Ballet Rwanda. afternoons & evenings. Professional ballet school in Gaculiro - lessons for both children & adults, beginners & experienced dancers. Good mix of Rwandan and expatriate students.
Gisozi circuit,behind Gaculiro. A great 10km running circuit through Kigali's suburbs - flat, very little traffic and some great views over the rice paddies.
Ten pin bowling, Kimihura,a custom-built shed next to the pool at Mamba Club. 12 noon to midnight. Opened in 2012 and proving popular. Six lanes of ball-rolling fury complete with the TV screen keeping score, ball returners, shoe rental, and slidy, polished alleys. Adding a delightful twist to employment creation the pins are reset by hand rather than a machine.
Zenora Wellness Center, KG 28 Avenue N°92, Kimihurura. Zenora Wellness Center is great a place to relax and get beauty treatments. Here you can get massages, manicures and pedicures, facials, make-up, and waxing. The premise is clean and tidy. Staff is friendly and welcoming. They have an online booking system which makes it really easy to book.
Learn a bit of French, maybe even a bit of Swahili and Kinyarwanda, all three are extremely useful here. English is also widely spoken, at least in Kigali.
Your best bet would be with an aid organization or NGO. If you are a resident of the US or EU, keep in mind that you can avoid paying for an expensive residency permit simply by declaring yourself a tourist upon arrival and then traveling outside of Rwanda once every 90 days for the length of your stay.
Your 90-day tourist visa automatically granted upon entry, will be renewed each time you leave and reenter the country,and it's a convenient excuse to go on vacation.
First thing to be aware is that Kigali is expensive. As a cash strapped landlocked country costs of imported goods are high and import duties and VAT considerable. Foreigners often complain that wine, olive oil, breakfast cereals, kettle chips and other mundane foodstuffs cost a fortune, so beware.
Costs can be lowered considerably by buying Rwandan or East African Community goods. Kenya in particular produces a wide range of produce that often cost half the imported European equivalent.
Outside of supermarkets and restaurants most venders are used to a bit of haggling even over fruit and vegs, although as always keep things in perspective but don't let storekeepers charge you double what you think you should be paying.
When changing money at a forex bureau or on the street, be aware that only US dollar bills dated Series 2009 or newer will be accepted.
What to buy Rwandan coffee is generally very good although avoid the cheapest stuff, which will be the sweepings from the grinding factory floor. Expect to pay around Rwf 4,000 per 500g. Rwandan honey is great, especially the Nyungwe Highlands type. Around Rwf 1,750 per 500g. Rwandan tea both black and green is also pretty good.
Rwandan handicrafts and kitenge products can be found almost everywhere, but Tubahumurize Association is a unique spot that uses the profits from their sales to fuel their trauma counselling, vocational training, micro-credit loans, sewing school and cooperative programs. The prices are affordable and you'll find everything from yoga bags and circle scarves to agaseke baskets and gorgeous quilts.
Local markets are stocked with Rwandan handicrafts, clothing, fabulous colourful fabric from West Africa and just about anything else. The large market in Kimironko is a good place for fruit, veg, rice and other basic foodstuffs - and it can be good fun looking through the secondhand clothes section.
Cash machines / ATMs- More and more bank ATMs are starting to accept Visa cards, including the Bank of Kigali and Ecobank. Ecobank's headquarters are located in the center of town next to CNLS and near UTC / Nakumatt. There is a Visa ATM at the airport too.
There are banks in Kigali with counter service for withdrawals and Ecobank can do MasterCard withdrawals at a price.
Jet Home Rwanda, 3rd Floor, UTC building. Pleasant westerner orientated art gallery
By any standards Kigali is an excellent city in which to dine. A combination of Belgian culinary influence, plenty of cows, plenty of freshwater fish, and plenty of fresh vegetables equates to some of the best eating in the region. And its all pretty affordable.
Note that Kigali restaurants and bars go in and out of fashion, not to mention close down, quite frequently. Check for the latest once you are in town and be aware that some places mentioned in some print Guidebooks no longer exist.
Finally note that as with the rest of the region restaurants take their time with a usual 45 minutes to 1 hour wait between ordering and your food arriving, especially for dinner. If you are after a quick eat at lunchtime there are several ‘African buffets’ dotted around where you pile your plate high and are out the door in 30 minutes.
As Kigali is quite a sprawling city eateries are organised by suburb.
Babas Cafe at the Kigali Business Centre slightly out of town. Has great wholesome food. Eat as much as you like for 3 US$.
La Classe, Boulevard de la Revolution. Lunch & dinner. Sometimes excellent, sometimes not, La Classe is oft overlooked by Kigali's expats, but the fillet steak can be sublime. Also does a Rwf3,500 lunchtime buffet Mains from Rwf 4,000.
Bourbon Cafe, Union Trade Center shopping plaza in the centreville and at the MTN Centre in Remera. In 2011 it is getting mixed reviews
Kigali Serena's Milima & Sokoni restaurants have good food, with special themes during the week such as the Wednesday Mongolian BBQ, Friday's African Buffet and Sunday's Buffet at Sokoni, and special themed lunches everyday at Milima.
Chez Robert is about 5 minutes walk from Mille Collines and serves local food in a nice setting. Their dinner buffet is quite good and costs about €7 for more than 20 items. There may be better local food in a hole-in-the wall restaurant for cheaper, but this is wonderful restaurant.
Shanghai, near Milles Collines, is a relatively unknown Chinese restaurant. Not very cozy, but the food is really good.
Heaven, three blocks downhill from the Mille Collines, is a new restaurant serving American and Continental cuisine. A bit pricy, with most entrees costing FRW4000 or above, but the well-prepared food (and fantastic dessert menu) are worth every franc.
Kigali Guestlux – one of the few eateries in Gacuriro – serves up adequate fare in the gardens of the guesthouse.
Republika Great restaurant, great environment.
The New Cactus - Very good pizzas, popular among expats. Nevertheless the served pizzas can't be compared to Italian ones. Try to get a table in the sheltered part of the open air restaurant, it can be quite windy. (Closed between 2pm and 6pm).
Khana Khazana serves fantastic Indian food and is one of the best and most popular restaurants in town with expats, visitors, business travellers and Rwandan citizens too.
"Zaaffran Restaurant" also has great Indian cuisine at slightly more affordable price. Excellent ambiance.
Mimosa – A reliable lunchtime buffet for Rwf 2,500. Just down from Top Tower hotel.
Shokola Great restaurant, great environment. In Kiyovu, close to downtown.
Great Wall Chinese restaurant An excellent place to dine. Good Chinese dishes with great atmosphere and nice views of the city. Is just one minute walk from Discover Rwanda Youth Hostel. Prices are very reasonable for travelers on a low budget
Grill and Bar BBQ Popular with locals. Here is good place to try the local goat brochettes. The bar is also nice if you want just a drink. You may also watch European football here as locals come here to watch football games on projectors. Its a very cheap place and brochettes are 500RWF each.
L'Atelier is tucked away in the residential district of Kimihurura, within walking distance of Papyrus. You may need help to find it but you'll be rewarded with delicious french cuisine in an intimate setting.
Africa Bite – pronounced locally as “Africa Bi-te”. Popular lunchtime African buffet, with excellent rotis, for Rwf3,000.
Thai restaurant at New Cadillac night club was well liked when it first opened. However it is getting mixed reviews after the departure of its Thai chef. This is quite common in Kigali.
Mama Africa,next to New Cadillac, at the bottom of the Kimihurura hill. This place serves excellent food in its thatched surrounds. The beef carpaccio is some of the best in the city, the steaks reliable, and the brochettes as good as they come. The place can be a bit quiet, but worth checking out. It's proprietor is Eugene Habimana, known as Cobra, longstanding Rwandan musician. Mains from Rwf 5,000.
"'Mosaic Restaurant the newest restaurant in town that offer japanese food and a wide choices of asian cuisine, and expect your food to be served in max. 20 mins.
Sakae, down a back road between MTN Centre and RDB. Lunch & dinner. Run by a Korean family, Sakae serves up both Japanese and Korean dishes in spacious and pleasant surroundings. A little pricey, but many prefer Sakae to nearby Zen. Mains from Rwf 7,000.
Zen, north of the MTN Centre. Lunch & dinner. With the dining area nestled under a huge thatched hut, with trickling water and subtle lighting, there are few places in town that can compete atmosphere-wise. The food is usually pretty good, however you can feel a little cheated by the portion sizes, and the extras added to your bill (rice, service, VAT). Accordingly Zen is popular with those with expense accounts. Mains from Rwf 8,000.
Sol e Luna, Boulevard de L’Aéroport,signposted so quite easy to find. A firm favourite in Kigali - decent wood fired pizzas, expensive lunch time buffet, great views from the terrace - popular with locals and expats alike. Monday nights is quiz night, which is mystifyingly popular. Mains from Rwf 5,000.
Tangren Chinese Restaurant, near Rwanda Development Board. lunch and dinner. Set in lush gardens, this is one of the better Chinese places in town, in part as the owner and chef is Chinese. An added plus is that service only takes 15 minutes or so. One of the few restaurants with rabbit on the menu - and very tasty it is too. Mains Rwf 4,000.
Kinyinya Topview – Pleasant local brochette bar near the Deutsche Welle radio masts. Somewhere different to go – great at night time when the masts are lit up like a red Christmas tree. Brochette and chips around Rwf 2,000
Le Glacon A great ice cream store.
La Sierra Serves nearly everything imaginable
Camellia tea house amazing selection of teas, good food. Lunch buffet is very popular
Bottled water is recommended for foreign visitors.
For alcohol try the New Cadillac night club and the Republica. Both are superb. Watch out for pickpockets outside the New Cadillac.
Don't miss Planet Club at the KBC roundabout in Kimihurura, it has 2 sides, a Lounge bar with Housemusic and a Club with African and modern Hip-Hop music.
Accommodation in Kigali is noticeably more expensive than neighboring capitals like Kampala and Nairobi.
Kigali Hotel in the Muslim quarter behind the mosque. This is about as budget as you will get, but still not cheap. Good rooms, breakfast available.
Auberge De Cavern hostel - style accomodation. Room prices - as of 2017 - are $15, $20 and $25 for one person per night, there is an exta $5 charge for second guest, good location near main round in the direction of the post office and just down the hill 5 minutes. Friendly staff, clean rooms and good basic breakfast.
Discover Rwanda Youth Hostel, Kigali. Discover Rwanda Youth Hostel offers clean beds in dorms and private rooms as well as a free breakfast, internet access, and hot showers. It also has space for campers inside its 24-hour guarded gate. Discover Rwanda is an Aegis Trust social enterprise in which all proceeds go towards social programs offered by its parent organization at the Kigali Genocide Memorial.
Centre National de Pastorale St. Paul is a guesthouse and community center conveniently located near the main shopping center. Single/double rooms with ensuite/shared bathrooms are available. The price, as of August 2012, is 8000 RWF(shared) /12000 RWF(en-suite). The rooms have beds, desks, a sink, mosquito net, bedding, a towel, closet, and an electric socket. The ensuite rooms have cold water, but the shared showers have hot water (most of the time). There is no Wi-fi and breakfast is not included, however, there is a small supermarket and cafeteria within steps of the center. The Centre is gated and has a security guard. Phone: 0252 576371; m 078 8644468. Dorm Bed-9000 Rwf;Camping-6000 Rwf; Private Room-12,000/15,000Rwf.
Hotel Isimbi, Rue Kalisimbi, District Nyarugenge down town. Also has a good bar and restaurant. 30-40USD
Park View Courts Rwanda Enjoy a serene environment in this homey apartment-hotel complex, with a great view and friendly staff. Prices range from USD 150-300. You won't find better!
Gloria Hotel the rooms are acceptable, with your own bathroom and warm water for ~$30.
Hotel Chez Lando. From $60 per night.
Sphinx Belair Located behind Telecom house and not far from Novotel Umubano. Standard room starting at 60 USD.
Iris Guesthouse 75 USD, clean, big rooms, hot water, very good restaurant and free Internet.
Step Town Motel 50 USD, clean, very nice rooms, hot water, and free Internet.
Okapi Hotel Some rooms available for US $35 per night with no view, good location and friendly staff. More expensive rooms have an excellent view over the outskirts of Kigali.
Kay Sun Hotel Located in Kiyovu with nice rooms, friendly staff, good food and they offer airport transportation. Rooms from 100 USD per night.
Kigali Guestlux Hotel Very friendly and attentive staff, beautiful rooms that are clean with a spacious bathroom. Great meal options that take a relatively quick time to be prepared too. Although it's away from the centre of town, it's easy enough to find a moto taxi back in to town or to have transport arranged by the reception desk.
Impala Hotel Kigali,a lovely 2 star hotel located in the center of downtown Kigali. It is a walking distance to all down town malls & Offices and From the international airport it is a convenient 15 minutes drive to Impala hotel
All our rooms have fitted with en suite bathroom and designed with a terrace, making this an ideal place to relax and enjoy your stay.
Impala Hotel houses a restaurant, which serves menu and buffet options, which can be enjoyed outdoors. Guests can also enjoy drinks and coffees at the bar & Coffee shop
The hotel offers free Wi-Fi Internet access, parking and laundry services.
2000 Hotel A 4-star hotel with a friendly staff and reasonable prices. Rates normally include breakfast. Wi-fi is quite reliable. Hotel assists with tour arrangements. Room rates start from approx 90 EUR p n
Kigali has three international class hotels.
Kigali Serena Hotel. Formerly a Belgian-owned hotel known as the Diplomates and briefly portrayed in Hotel Rwanda. Renovated in 2003 and 2011. From $310 per night.
Hotel des Mille Collines, Avenue de l'Armée/Avenue de la République. While the movie Hotel Rwanda was filmed in South Africa, this is where the actual events took place. The hotel has two restaurants, a pool, internet and a gift shop. The hotel underwent extensive renovation in 2010.
Rates are slightly higher for pool view rooms. All rooms have safes but no hair dryer or coffee maker. Free access to Wi-Fi, but coverage is uneven. Wonderful breakfast buffet. Apart from the movie this hotel is also the setting for the novel Un dimanche à la piscine à Kigali. Prices from €151.
Hotel Laico Umubano, Boulevard del Umuganda. Still known by its former name Novotel by almost everyone. Ask for a swimming pool view room on a high floor for a beautiful sunrise to wake you from your slumber. From $150 per night.
Kigali is relatively safe and friendly as far as African capitals go. Keep your eyes open and your wallet out of the reach of pickpockets, especially in crowded areas. Avoid walking after dark if possible, especially alone. Take extra precaution in the area between New Cadilac Nightclub and Carwash bar.
Police officers are generally helpful if you're in a bind, but don't expect speedy results.
Akagera National Park, is a nature preserve in the eastern part of Rwanda. It is about a 2.5 hour drive from Kigali and is a great day trip for wildlife viewing: giraffes, elephants, hippos, baboons, zebra, impala, etc. You can rent a car or go through a tour operator, which costs on average, $150 USD.
You can hire a guide, a boat cruise, or stay the night at their lodge. There are three possibilities to stay overnight: camping in the south and in the north camp sites, Akagera Game Lodge (mid-range) and Ruzizi Tented Camp (luxury).
Volcanoes National Park, home of the mountain gorillas, and the setting for Gorillas in the Mist author Dian Fossey's research. If you can afford it, it's an excellent experience, even possible as a day trip from Kigali. You can also take the Dian Fossey Trek or the Golden Monkey Trek for $75-100 USD.
You might be able to see a gorilla group on one of these hikes if you're lucky. Inquire at the Rwandan Office for Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN), Boulevard de la Révolution, Kigali. $750 USD cash or Visa card. 50% discount for residents.
Gisenyi, also called Rubavu, is a city on the shores of Lake Kivu, right at the border of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Gisenyi is as close you can get to a beach destination in Rwanda. The sandy public beach and the many resorts close to Bralirwa give you the seaside feeling you might be craving for.
Kibuye is the other popular destination at Lake Kivu besides Gisenyi, which has a very lake-side feeling. You can rent a boat and visit the nearby islands, including Napoleon Hat Island with its many fruit bats you can see up close. Kibuye also hosts Rwanda's Environmental Museum.
Gishwati Forest National Park is Rwanda's newest park. It comprises pasture lands and many Eucaliptus plantations. If you want to visit a diary farm or factory, this is the place to go.
Foret Naturelle de Mukura is officially part of the Gishwati National Park, but separated from the largest patch in the North. Mukura is a small natural forest boasting a small chimpanzee population. If you do not want to go all the way to Nyungwe for the Chimps, you can visit them at Mukura on your way to Kibuye.
Musanze is the gateway to the Volcanoes National Park and the treks to see the gorillas. However, Musanze also offers several caves for all enthusiasts, from tourist-friendly to specialists. Visits are organised through the RDB and previous booking is required they often organise tours at 2pm, calling them in the morning is usually enough. Tours start at the RDB office at Kinigi,same place where gorilla tours start.
Twin lakes Burera and Ruhondo are between Kigali and Musanze and make for a nice weekend break. There are camp sites and resorts available around the lakes, and even on an island in lake Burera.
Views from lake Ruhondo are very popular as looking towards the lake one has the sun setting behind the volcanoes in the background. You can stay overnight at the Foyer de Charite or Ruhondo Lake Resort, overlooking lake Ruhondo and the volcanoes.
Lake Muhazi is the standard get-away day-trip. Only 45 minutes from Kigali either North on the road to Uganda, or East on the way to Rwamagana.
Muhazi is a bilharzia-full lake so no swimming, but it has several nice resorts on its shore. Near Rwesero you have Rwesero Resort, or cross the lake to Kingfisher resort, boasting a pool with a view mid-way up the hill. Mid-way on the northern short you have Jambo beach and Sisters of Peace resorts.
Nyanza was the capital of the Kingdom of Rwanda from 1958 to 1962. The old Royal Palace of the Rwandan monarchy is located in the town of Nyanza.
Canoeing and kayaking tours can be organised on lake Kivu and on a river near Musanze.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is probably the best preserved montane rainforest in Central Africa. The park contains 13 primate species 25% of Africa's total, 275 bird species, 1068 plant species, 85 mammal species, 32 amphibian and 38 reptile species.
Nyiragongo volcano just across the border in the DRC is potentially one of the most impressive destinations in the Great Lakes region. This 2-day hike (5-6 hours up, 3 hours down) rewards you with a night spent on the edge of an active bubbling magma lake and amazing views over Goma, Gisenyi and Lake Kivu. It is a must-see.
Idjwi Island in the middle of Lake Kivu rewards you with a peaceful weekend in the DRC. Unlike any of the crazy stories elsewhere in the DRC, Idjwi is characterised by its peaceful and calm people. A tour organised by Yves takes you around the island, shows you local businesses and culture, pygmy villages.