Rwanda is a small country with thousands of rolling hills and several mountains that are available for hiking tours. The most holed mountains in Rwanda are the Virunga volcanoes that are within the volcanoes national park. These mountains include Karisimbi, Gahinga, Bisoke, and Muhabura. There is also Mountain Sabyinyo in volcanoes national park but it’s not available for hiking activities due to its steep slopes.
Hiking safaris and tours in Rwanda give hikers an opportunity to test their fitness and expose them to different vegetation covers, animals such as buffaloes, elephants, duikers, bush pigs, bushbucks, giant forest hogs, monkeys, birds, and much more. Hiking safaris in Rwanda are arranged depending on the days one takes to reach the summit. Hiking these mountains can be done at any time of the year but the best time is the dry season of June to September and December to February when the hiking trails are less slippery.
Best spots for hiking in Rwanda
Mount Karisimbi: Mountain Karisimbi is the most hiked volcano in volcanoes national park. It’s the highest Virunga volcano in this park covering 4507m above sea level. The mountain is shared between Rwanda and DR Congo and derives its name from Amasimbi which means white shell in Kinyarwanda. It was named so because its summit is snow-capped because of the hail and sleet accumulation. Hiking mountain Karisimbi takes 2 days, unlike other mountains that take just a single day. Hiking this mountain gives you an opportunity to see the grave of Dian Fossey who was a great primatologist loving mountain gorillas a reason as to why they never got extinct. Hiking mountain Karisimbi is $400 per person.
Mount Bisoke: Mt. Bisoke also known as Visoke is one of the Virunga mountains available for hiking in Rwanda. The mountain is found within the volcanoes national park in the northwestern part of the country. Mountain Bisoke is 3711m long and it’s the only mountain with a crater lake at the summit in volcanoes national park. Hiking Mountain Bisoke takes 6 hours and the experienced hikers can only take 4 hours which is 3 hours ascending and 1 hour descending. To hike Mountain Bisoke, you need a permit which costs $75 per person per hike.
Mount Gahinga: Mountain Gahinga is the smallest mountain among the Virunga volcanoes with a height of 3474m. The mountain is shared by Uganda in Mgahinga national park and Rwanda in volcanoes national park. Hiking Mount Gahinga to the summit and descending back takes 6 hours or less depending on the speed of hikers. Reaching the summit takes you through different vegetation covers, viewing different park animals, and at the summit, you get to have great views of Mountain Sabyinyo and Muhabura. Hiking Mount Gahinga needs one to have a permit of $75 from the park offices and there is no need for advance booking.
Mount Muhabura: Raised 4127 meters above the ground, Mountain Muhabura is one of the mountains available for hiking activities in Rwanda. The mountain is located on the borders of Uganda and Rwanda. Hiking mountain Muhabura from volcanoes national park takes 5-7 hours and this depends on the speed of hikers. The mountain has the highest peak of all mountains in Rwanda and at the summit of this mountain, you will have a distant view of mountains like Sabyinyo, Gahinga, Bisoke, Karisimbi, and Nyiragongo. Hiking mountain Muhabura is $75 per person per trek.
Hiking experience in Rwanda
The hiking activity in Rwanda starts with a briefing at the park headquarters where all the hikers meet for a briefing for the park wardens. On the day of hiking, tourists will have to wake up early in the morning for breakfast, get their packed lunch, and meet their driver-guide to take them to the park offices where they will have a briefing. During the briefing, the hikers are taught about the rules and regulations of the hiking activity before being assigned armed ranger guides to lead them into the summits of these mountains,
Hiking these mountains takes different hours and the hiking experience is never the same as some are easy to hike while others are difficult. During the hiking, the hikers will be able to meet different wildlife on the slopes such as forest elephants, duikers, buffaloes, giant forest hogs, monkeys, olive baboons, bush pigs, spotted hyenas, bushbucks, different vegetation covers, and much more.
During the hiking, there are different stopovers where hikers relax for some time or have lunch while having great views of the surrounding areas. When the hikers reach the summit of any of the mountains, they have great views of the surrounding national parks, Rwenzori mountains, Virunga mountains, plantations, lakes, and rivers among others. At the summit of mountain Bisoke, you will a beautiful view of the crater lake.
All the mountains are hiked in a single day apart from mountain Karisimbi which takes 2 days. After enjoying the summit of these mountains, the trekkers join and start on their journey back to the starting point which takes a few hours depending on the speed of the hikers. While sloping, you will again meet some of the park primates, mammals, birds, and different vegetation covers. On reaching the starting point, you will meet your driver guide to transfer you to the lode or next destination.
What to pack for hiking tours in Rwanda?
Before flying to Rwanda for hiking activities, you need to ensure that you have packed the right equipment and these include hiking pants, long-sleeved clothes, waterproof hiking shoes, cooling towel, day pack, a rain jacket, windproof umbrella, drinking water bottle, energy-giving snacks, first aid kit, toiletries, face mask, sanitizer, insect repellents, camera and extra batteries, a pair of binoculars, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and a pair of gaiters among others.
What is the best time to visit Rwanda for hiking tours?
Rwanda can be visited at any time of the year for hiking but there are months that are better than the rest. The drier months of June to September and December to February are the best for hiking in Rwanda. These are characterized by little or no rainfall which makes the hiking trails stay dry, the vegetation is short giving clear views of the animals, birds, and surrounding area. The roads leading to the mountains are passable.
Hikers can still visit Rwanda in the rainy season for hiking safaris and the rainy season occurs from March to May and October to November. During the rainy season, there is plenty of rainfall, the hiking trails are muddy and slippery, vegetation is tall giving unclear views of the animals, birds, and vegetation on the slopes of the mountains and the sky is not clear for a great view of the surrounding areas. During the rainy season, the hikers get huge discounts on accommodation facilities.
Where to stay on hiking tours in Rwanda?
Most of the hiking in Rwanda is done on the Virunga ranges in volcanoes national park. Hikers that would want to stay a night or more before or after hiking have several accommodation facilities they can choose to stay depending on their budget. These include Bisate Lodge, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Da Vinci Gorilla Lodge, One $ Only Gorilla’s Nest Lodge, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Singita Kwitonda Lodge, Virunga Lodge, Ruzizi Tented Camp, Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge, Gorilla Volcanoes Hotel, Villa Gorilla, and Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel among others.