If you’re planning your first trip to this East African country, this article is packed with recommendations on what to do in Rwanda.
When we visited Rwanda in July 2023, our main goal was to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery this country is known for. However, Rwanda ended up surprising us with plenty to do during our stay.
Whether you love history, great coffee, books, or outdoor adventure, there’s something for you in Rwanda! We’ve included 7 things we did and 3 things we really wanted to do but couldn’t get around to on this trip.
What to Do in Rwanda: 7 Things We Did
Here are seven things we did and highly recommend:
Visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial
If you only do one thing in Rwanda, let it be a visit to the Genocide Memorial. I’m not a huge history buff, but this is the most impactful and memorable museum I’ve ever been to.
This memorial documents the Rwandan genocide starting from life before to life after the genocide in Rwanda. It also includes mass graves and a wall of names of those lost during the genocide.
You can’t take pictures inside the museum itself, but it includes incredibly moving interviews with the Genocide survivors, and we couldn’t stop thinking about it weeks after we’d left.
✈️ Hot Tip: The museum includes graphic imagery, and I wouldn’t recommend it for kids. I consider myself highly sensitive, and I could get through the whole thing, albeit with some tears at the end.
Still, it’s 100% worth doing because it changed my view of the country–my respect for the people grew a thousand-fold. Entry is free, but the self-guided audio players cost $20 per person to use.
Take a Road Trip to Lake Kivu
One thing that surprised me during our trip to Rwanda was how far everything was. We’d read that the country was pretty small, so I expected everything to be nearby? Alas, I was wrong.
Lake Kivu is a huge lake in Gisenyi–about 4 hours by car from Kigali, where we stayed.
✈️ Hindsight Tip: In hindsight, it would have been smarter to stay for a night in Gisenyi. We hung out for a bit at Hotel Serena, which I recommend if you decide to sleep over. There are less expensive places like the Hill View Hotel, though.
The lake was such a nice experience. We did a tour of Gisenyi with my friend Deborah (happy to share her contact details).
The tour cost 30,000 RWF ($25), and we also paid for a boat trip across Lake Kivu for another 30,000 RWF. We did a shorter tour which lasted just over an hour. The full tour is over two hours long and costs 50,000 RWF ($42).
We stopped by a small village during the tour and saw a small natural hot spring (the water was boiling!). We also grabbed lunch at Migano cafe, which had some of the best food we ate in Rwanda.
Get Coffee at Shokola Cafe
Shokola Cafe is a buzzy coffee shop in Kigali. It’s in the same building as the Kigali Public Library. We went for breakfast, and the coffee there was excellent! The food there was not great, but it’s totally worth stopping over for a quick to-go coffee.
Buy Souvenirs at Caplaki Crafts Market
We’re big souvenir people, so naturally, we headed to the Caplaki Crafts Market in Kigali to buy some locally-made items.
We found a few cute things, like these earrings, but like many craft markets, there were a lot of similar items. Thankfully, the vendors are less aggressive than those in some other countries we’ve visited.
✈️ Tip: Whenever you’re visiting a crafts market (or any market) in Africa, be sure to haggle!
Go Book Shopping at Charisma Bookstore
If you didn’t know, I’m a big-time bookish gal (I run an entire website all about books and reading). So in Kigali, I was determined to visit a bookstore. We found our way to Charisma Bookstore at the Kigali Heights Mall right opposite our hotel.
It’s a Christian bookstore, but we found a ton of great books for kids and adults in English and French. I made a whole Instagram Reel about the experience.
Eat Nigerian Food at Jollof Kigali
I’m NOT that person who goes to another country only to eat Nigerian food, but we were literally five minutes away from Jollof Kigali, and my curiosity won out. We ate jollof rice, peppered gizzard, and watermelon juice here.
The food was tasty (and spicy, for us), but the vibes were even better. They were playing Nigerian music, and it felt like the perfect slice of home. The food was fairly inexpensive. We both spent under 50,000 RWF ($42).
Take note, however, that they open at noon.
Grab Great Italian Food at Filini
Filini restaurant was the Italian place at our hotel (Kigali Convention Center) and it was FANTASTIC. The service was wonderful, and the food was absolutely delicious. They have an impressive selection of pasta and pizza.
The food is always on time, cocktails are lovely, and you get warm towels and a bread basket when you arrive. They have outdoor seating, it’s family-friendly, and you don’t need to make reservations. Plus the ambiance is romantic in the evenings.
3 Other Things to Do in Rwanda
If we had more time (and energy), we would’ve done these three activities:
Do a Safari in Akagera
Since we already planned to visit Kenya for our first African Safari, we weren’t too interested in doing the safari here. If you don’t have safari plans, it’s worth checking out Akagera National Park.
Rwanda is also known for gorilla trekking, so if that’s on your bucket list, it’s worth it. We didn’t care for the gorilla trekking.
Go Ziplining in Fazenda Sengha
Now, this we really wanted to do, but we were wiped after our trip to Gisenyi. Fazenda Sengha is a recreational park where you can do a variety of activities like horseback riding, quad bike riding, and ziplining.
Go to Nyungwe Forest National Park
At the last minute, we ended up backing out of this one because it was just so far. Nyungwe is about 5 hours by road from Kigali. We recommend making accommodation plans so you can recover before making the trip back.
Alternatively, you could fly from Kigali to Kamembe airport, which costs about $100 for a round trip. Rwandair also flies this route.
An Exciting 7-Day Itinerary for Visiting Rwanda
You’re almost set for your visit to Rwanda! Before we wrap up, I recommend reading our post on Rwanda travel tips. I’ve also created a dreamy 7-day itinerary for you.
Of course, you can tweak it as needed.
Day 1 – Arrive in Kigali and relax. Have a nice welcome dinner at Filini.
Day 2 – Visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial and buy some souvenirs at Caplaki Craft Market
Day 3 – Take a road trip to Gisenyi to see Lake Kivu (3 hrs+)
Day 4 – Travel from Gisenyi to Nungwe National Park (4 hrs+ by road)
Day 5 – Explore Nungwe National Park
Day 6 – Travel back to Kigali and relax
Day 7 – Time to head home
There’s plenty to do in Rwanda, especially if you love beautiful scenery and outdoor activities. We look forward to returning for more adventure!