“I fell in love with Rwanda the moment I saw those verdant, rolling hills rise up beneath the wings of the plane as we descended toward Kigali airport.”
– Naomi Benaron
Kigali Rwanda Travel Guide – Country Overview and Fun Facts
The first time I visited this beautiful country was to do a site visit for a wedding. Before landing in Kigali, I didn’t know what to expect. The memories I had of Rwanda were of the Tutsi Genocide and I had to watch Hotel Rwanda again before I left.
To say I was blown away and surprised is an understatement. I felt terrible I had held on to assumptions and hadn’t really followed the incredible progress Rwanda has made since 1994.
The people are so incredibly friendly and I received such a warm welcome. The country and city of Kigali is beautiful, clean, and incredibly peaceful.
This has become another “home away from home for me.” They have the absolute best avocados so if you visit Rwanda, you HAVE to try the avocados. I also have such mouth-watering memories of the delicious fruit served with my breakfast every morning during my stays there.
Rwanda is one of the safest African countries, and the capital city of Rwanda is Kigali, which is said to be the cleanest city in all of Africa. The people of Rwanda are very friendly, making it a great tourist spot.
Rwanda is called the “land of a thousand hills” or “Le Pays des Mille Collines” because of its beautiful landscape of rolling hills and deep valleys. It’s known for its stunning national parks, scenic landscapes, and mountains.
Rwanda is home to dormant volcanoes, remarkable inland beaches on the shores of Lake Kivu, and a protected mountain rainforest, Nyungwe Forest National Park, which is home to a large variety of primates, including chimpanzees and owl-faced monkeys.
Here are a few more fun facts:
- Rwanda is in Central Africa and is completely landlocked
- Rwanda is known for its quality of tea and has many tea plantations
- The Virunga Mountains are home to endangered mountain gorillas and tourists are able to go on a gorilla safari to catch a glimpse of them
- Rwanda has the world record for the highest representation of women in parliament with 60% of its members being women
- Every last Saturday of the month, Rwandans, alongside the president, participate in “Umuganda” which stems from the culture of self-help, cooperation, and community support. The people come together each month to participate in National Service activities.
Kigali Rwanda Travel Guide – Languages
Kinyarwanda is the first language of the majority of the population and is an official language alongside French, English, and Swahili.
The Rwandan franc is the official currency in Rwanda, however, US dollars are accepted..
Kigali Rwanda Travel Guide – Best Time to Visit
The weather in Rwanda is mild to warm throughout the year with an average between 25 – 30 degrees celsius during the day and 15 degrees celsius at night. Rwanda has two dry seasons—one shorter and one longer. Many say that during the short dry season from mid-December to early-February is an excellent time to go mountain gorilla tracking, which Rwanda is known for. The other dry season which is a great time to visit is from mid-May to mid-October and that’s a good time for tracking chimpanzees.
I visited Rwanda in both November and February and it was perfect during these months. There was some rain in February but it was nothing disruptive.
Kigali Rwanda Travel Guide – City Overview
Kigali (the capital city of Rwanda) has a population of 1.2 million. One of the safest and cleanest cities in Africa, it has luxurious and trendy hotels and restaurants, delicious fusion cuisine, lively art, beautiful architecture, museums, and lots of shopping opportunities. It’s also bursting with a creative hub and many start-ups.
The New York Times said it “pluses with African charm” and that sums it up. It’s an amazing city with so much to do and see. It’s right in the midst of the rolling hills so you have a beautiful scenic backdrop along with the bustle of the city.
As of this writing, it’s been more than 26 years since the horrific genocide in Rwanda in which 800,000 Tutsi were murdered by Hutu over the span of 100 days, which the Kigali Genocide Memorial pays tribute to. With exhibits inside and a memorial garden outside, it details the events that took place and provides a tranquil atmosphere to honor the victims.
Kigali Rwanda Travel Guide – What to Do
Learn About the 1994 Rwandan Genocide and Pay Tribute to the 800,000 Tutsi Victims at the Kigali Genocide Memorial
This tour is incredibly moving. To be honest, I couldn’t finish it. I feel really deeply and I was so emotional. If you are like me, make sure you bring tissues. We had such a lovely driver, Emmy, who was also our tour guide and our “everything” guy. His story is so remarkable. You can see him walking towards the memorial center in this picture. He survived the Genocide and hearing his story made me so grateful for the life and peace I grew up with.
Support Community-Based Tourism by booking a Tour at the Nyamirambo Women’s Centre to Get a First-Hand Glimpse into the History, Culture, and Daily Life of the Community.
Founded by 18 women, the center promotes community-based tourism to address gender-based violence, provide educational and vocational training, end gender inequality, and more. The women are SO inspiring and it’s a really educating experience. It’s definitely a must-visit, especially to support subsistence entrepreneurship and sustainable tourism.
Spot The Big 5 And Over 525 Bird Species In Africa’s Largest Protected Wetland, The Akagera National Park
Check Out Kigali Cultural Village For A Traditional Marketplace Where Local Artisans And Food Vendors Sell Their Goods.
Book a Coffee or Tea Plantation Visit As 450,000 Growers Produce Coffee and Tea—one of the country’s largest cash crops—Across Rwanda
Visit a Historical Church Such as Ntarama Church or Saint Famille and Experience a Worship Service with the Locals
Take in Kigali’s Vibrant Nightlife at Popular Bars and Clubs
Immerse Yourself In the Creativity and Art Scene of Kigali with Many Festivals, Events, Art Exhibits and Two Yearly Large Fashion Shows
Where to Eat
Poivre Noir—Belgian/French Cuisine
This is one of the best restaurants in Kigali! With 220 4.4 star reviews at the time of this writing, this quaint bistro is hailed as one of the best restaurants in Kigali. Known for their simple menu done exquisitely well, they offer everything from cocktails to starters to main course meals and dessert. Be sure to make reservations and try something from their reasonably priced wine selection.
Website: Instagram | @poivrenoirkigali
A modern Italian restaurant with a Rwandan twist, this delicious hotspot offers everything from soup-and-salad lunches to spaghetti with fresh mushrooms and basil to prawns with broccoli and ricotta and so much more. The presentation is absolutely beautiful and it’s apparent the chefs take great pride in their creations. Brachetto also feature a diverse wine list with wines from South Africa, France, and Italy.
Website: Facebook | https://www.facebook.com/Brachetto-Restaurant-Tapas-Bar-1410485739227980/
The Hut—International Cuisine Incorporating Local, Organic Ingredients
Winner of the 2019 Best Local Restaurant in Kigali Award, The Hut is With over 500 4.4 star reviews on Google, the Hut is a must-try! They offer delights such as beef moringa with cajun spiced yucca fries and sauteed swiss chard, Caribbean marinated pork with rustic mashed potatoes, lentils and chickpea stew, and more. They offer vegan and vegetarian-friendly meals and a beautiful dining atmosphere beneath a thatch hut with open sides.
Website: Facebook | https://www.facebook.com/thehutrwanda?_rdc=1&_rdr
L’epicurien—Authentic French Cuisine
A classic french restaurant known for their local and international meats, L’epicurien’s chef puts out a different menu every week. With vegan, gluten-free, and vegetarian options, it caters to many dietary requirements. Full of innovation and creativity, the menu offers lunch, dinner, and ala carte options. From goat cheese and basil salads to smoked fish to frog leg delicacies to lasagna to snails to steak tartare, there are a wide variety of remarkably prepared options. Considering the needs of families, the restaurant boasts a kids room with toys where little ones can burn off energy and keep occupied before their meal arrives.
Website: Facebook | https://www.facebook.com/epicurien.kigali/
Pili-Pili—Bar and Restaurant
This is street food and soul food at its finest! A popular bar and restaurant with an open-air terrace, poolside seating, and amazing views, Pili-Pili serves a vast selection of drinks, pizza, salad, burgers, grilled steak and meats, and more. On the weekends, DJs play music and it turns into a vibin’ club atmosphere.
Website: Instagram | @pilipilirwanda
Khana Khazana—Authentic Indian Cuisine
Okay, they have the BEST indian food! I went with my girls and it was a lovely afternoon. We ate SOOOOO much. Located next to a boutique hotel and villas, Khana Khazana has a unique ambiance with the option of open-air dining. From vegetarian tandoori to prawns bukhara to mutton seek kebab to achari chicken tikka, the menu has an incredible selection with more than 225 options for starters, main courses, desserts, and drinks.
The Hotel des Mille Collines—Varied/ Wide Selection
With a terrace restaurant, lounge, pool bar, and romantic restaurant with panoramic views, Hotel des Mille Collines offers all-day dining experiences. From gourmet menus for an ambient date night to pool side drinks and snacks to a glass of wine over a business meeting, there’s a space for everyone. Take in the remarkable views and celebrate the hotels history and social justice efforts when it saved 2,000 people by opening its doors during the 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi.
Meze fresh—Tex Mex and Burrito Bar
A cosy and casual hotspot with vegetarian options, this popular restaurant serves up burritos, burrito bowls, tacos, quesadillas, and salads.With over 570 4.4 star Google Reviews at the time of this writing, guests rave about the guacamole and compare it to the US chain, Chipotle, only with fresher, local ingredients. Grab a beer or cocktail for the perfect cafe lunch or dinner. Website: Facebook | https://www.facebook.com/MezeFresh/
I hope you have enjoyed reading our Kigali Rwanda Travel Guide! For more information contact Exalt Africa Experiences