Kigali, the capital city, is a real treat not only to first-time visitors to Africa but also to a well-seasoned Africa traveller. The immediate notable aspect of the city being its overwhelming hospitality, organisation and cleanliness.
Kigali is a truly vibrant place and conveniently, as the starting point to 99% of trips, it is located in the geographic centre of the country making access to most areas of Rwanda within a maximum half a day drive. Akagera National Park is around 2.5-3 hours drive away, Volcanoes National Park and Lake Kivu a similar time away, with Nyungwe National Park around 5 hours away.
The city is very safe and clean, with extremely welcoming people. Most trips here should include at least one night or maybe even 2 or 3 and we recommend exploring the cultural activities on offer including several museums, its burgeoning music scene, and some of East Africa's most exciting and fun restaurants.
Tailormade Africa feels a trip to the Genocide Museum in Kigali is essential to understand the past, present and the future of this remarkable country. The people of Rwanda embrace reconciliation and peace and on the whole are very open about the 1994 Genocide. The Museum was inaugurated on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide and the Kigali Genocide Memorial at Gisozi is where 259,000 victims have been buried.
This memorial also serves to educate about how the 1994 Genocide took shape and examines genocide in the 20th century. There are memorials found throughout the country and these are moving testimonies in memory of the people who died. We feel it is important to understand the history before exploring the country and seeing how far Rwanda has come in the past two decades.
Arrive at Kigali International Airport puts you quite central, from which most hotels in the city are only a short drive away. Access into Rwanda is easy and all points are easily accessible due to the fact that Rwanda is a small country. Agakera National Park is roughly a 2-hour drive being 100 km from Kigali, Nyungwe National Park is a 5 to 6-hour drive at just over 200 km and Volcanoes National Park is a 2.5 to 3-hour drive at just over 100 km. Lake Kivu is just over 100 km from Kigali, a 2.5 to 3-hour drive.
On a city tour, visit the Kandt Museum of Natural History learning about the interdependency between living beings and their environment; tour old Kigali where the colonial buildings now form the heart of Rwanda’s small businesses as well as visit the Kalpaki crafts centre with her many little stalls displaying a wide range of Rwandan curios, crafts and artefacts.
Time permitting, visit the Nyabugogo second-hand clothes market. On a visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre , learn about Rwanda’s history (pre-colonial to 1994 genocide); learn about other genocides in the world and how this country has dealt with her past. See the new developments in Rwanda; the central business district with her high-rise buildings, drive past the parliament buildings and the beautiful residential areas now popularly referred to as Kigali’s Beverly Hills.
Richard Kandt, a German doctor, soldier, explorer, scholar and poet, as well as an avid naturalist was a colonial Governor of Rwanda-Urundi in the early 20th Century and founded Kigali as a German settlement, in 1907. The Kandt Museum of Natural History in his honour was established in one of his former homes and it studies and teaches the interdependency between living beings and their environment.
45 Minutes south of Kigali is Nyamata and Ntarama where you can visit two local churches where scenes of serious atrocities were committed during the 1994 genocide. At its peak, people took refuge in churches like these believing no one would attack holy ground; thousands perished in places they considered safe.
Visit the Kigali Memorial Centre at Gisozi. In just a hundred days, over a million people were brutally murdered; one life, cruelly taken every 10 seconds. Built on a site where over 250,000 people are buried, the centre was opened in April 2004, on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, as a permanent memorial to those who fell victim to the genocide and as a place for people to grieve those they lost.
The Centre includes three permanent exhibitions, the largest of which documents the genocide in 1994. There is also a children's memorial and an exhibition on the history of genocidal violence around the world. The Education Centre, Memorial Gardens and National Documentation Centre of the Genocide all contribute to a meaningful tribute to those who perished and form a powerful educational tool for the next generation. Learn about Rwanda’s history, other genocides in the world and how this country has dealt with that past.
Gahaya Links is a community development project targeting Rwanda’s rural women, many of whom are survivors and widows of the genocide.
Founded by sisters Joy Ndunguste and Janet Nkubana, Gahaya was incorporated as the first handicrafts export company ten years after the 1994 Tutsi Genocide. From a humble beginning under a tree in the remote village of Gitarama, the sisters organised about twenty women and taught them how to weave or enhance their weaving skills with new designs and techniques. Today the company manages a network of over 4,000 weavers across the country organised in 52 savings cooperatives.
The history of Rwanda dates back centuries, Kigali has been a part of it for a hundred years. Founded in 1907 as a German settlement, Kigali did not become the capital until Rwanda’s independence in 1962 when it replaced the colonial seat of power in Butare. Since then, the city has seen major economic development resulting in what it is today; a vibrant African city of 1 million with wide boulevards, an international airport, world-class hotels and restaurants, crafts & curio shops as well as a lively, cosmopolitan population.
Visit the Kandt Museum, tour old Kigali and the Craft centres, visit the genocide memorial site where you learn about Rwanda’s history pre-colonial to 1994 genocide as well as other genocides around the world. Exploring the town further you'll see many new developments; the recovery has been incredible, a true testament to humankind’s resilience.
Our pick for accommodation in the city would be the Kigali Serena .