7 of the Best Day Trips from Kigali

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Heading to Rwanda and seeking some of the best day trips from Kigali? Add some of these to your itinerary to explore more of this amazing country. 

I spent a long weekend in Kigali while living in Uganda. In five days, I was able to see the best things to do in Kigali and take a few day trips. 

Rwanda is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to. The country is clean, the people are friendly, and the hills and greenery make for a stunning backdrop. 

Rwanda is also famous for Volcanoes National Park, where thousands of visitors come every year for gorilla trekking. If you’re not interested in seeing the gorillas, there are still plenty of day trips from Kigali not to miss. 

kigali rwanda skyline, clear blue skies in the background, skyline on top of the hill

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Top Day Trips While Visiting Kigali 

After spending a few days walking the streets of Kigali, reflecting at the Genocide Memorial Museum, and eating some great local food, you’ll probably be ready for a day trip or two!

Here are the best day trips from Kigali to add to your bucket list:

1. Volcanoes National Park 

This famous national park in Rwanda is known for its big gorilla trekking. If you plan to go gorilla trekking, you ideally should plan for a few days or at least a weekend in the national park. 

However, if you only have one day to see the gorillas, it’s possible to make this a day trip as long as you are willing to get up early. 

Renting a car is also needed if you plan this as a day trip, as it’s the fastest way to get to the park. It will take about 2.5 hours to get here one way. 

You are required to have a guide to get into the national park. You either need to book a guide at the park, or you can book a tour coming from Kigali. All guides and permits need to be booked in advance. 

You can do so here from the official Rwanda tourism site. 

Your tour length will vary depending on how long it takes you and the guides to find the gorillas. Sometimes, finding them can take several hours. You will then be able to observe and study them for about an hour before leaving. 

This is one of the reasons why I recommend doing a weekend trip if possible. If, on your first day, it takes several hours to find the gorillas and you only find one or two, this can damper your visit. 

Adding on a few more days gives you a better chance of seeing more gorillas. You will also get a better chance to see the golden monkeys. 

two gorillas in volcanoes national park, kigali day trips, kigali tourism, day trips from kigali

Getting to Volcanoes National Park 

Your best bet is to rent a car or book a tour from Kigali to get to the park for a day trip. Driving here on your own is super easy. Rwanda has much better infrastructure compared to other East African countries, so most of their roads are paved and easy to access. 

You can drive the major road RN4 to reach Musanze. From there, you will take the road labeled Kinigi, where the national park is located. 

Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to use Google Maps in Kigali and the areas around the city! Unlike in Kenya and Uganda, Google Maps was always accurate everywhere I used it in Rwanda. 

2. Lake Ruhondo 

Ready to leave the city to see some of Rwanda’s stunning nature? Lake Ruhondo is one of the best Kigali day trips for those who want to experience the outdoor beauty of Kigali. 

While visiting Lake Ruhondo, you can also see its twin lake, Lake Burera. They are both huge lakes right at the base of one of Rwanda’s largest volcanoes. 

Landscape photographers especially visit this area as it’s easily one of the most stunning spots in East Africa. 

If you’re not keen on photography, don’t worry. There are plenty of other things to do around Lake Ruhondo. 

It’s a great place for adventure seekers because you can partake in many water sports. You can go on boat tours, canoe tours, and even fishing trips. 

Both the lakes are hotspots for bird watchers. If you want to see kingfishers and storks, bring your binoculars to get the best view. 

lake rudondo, big green hills in the background, small island in the middle of the lake, tourist attractions in rwanda, day trips from kigali, kigali city

Getting to Lake Ruhondo 

Lake Ruhondo is on the way to Volcanoes National Park, so you will drive the same route on RN4. 

Before you reach the principal city of Musanze, you will take a right turn, where many signs point you to Lake Ruhondo. It will take you about 2.5 hours to reach here by car. 

You can also book a tour to get here if you prefer. Taking a bus is also an option, but they make frequent stops and take longer to get there than by car. 

3. Akagera National Park 

For one of the best tourist attractions in Rwanda, Akagera National Park is home to the Big 5. You can spot lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and African buffalos. It’s the only place in Rwanda to see these animals, perfect for a traditional African safari. 

You need a guide and a jeep-style car to enter the park, so it’s best to book a tour to come here. 

The rhinos are extremely special because many of them are rescued. Some even come from European zoos where the Rwandan government brought them back to the park to re-introduce them into the wild. 

Five hundred other species call Akagera National Park home. You can also spot many wetland and lake animals inside the national park on and around Lake Ihema. 

two zebras staring intently at the camera in akagera national park, antelopes in the background, day trips from kigali, kigali day trips

Getting to Akagerna National Park 

It will take about 2 hours and 40 minutes to reach the national park from Kigali. You will either need to rent a car or book a tour. 

If you book a safari, they can pick you up at your hotel in Kigali and drive you to the national park. 

4. Nyamata Church 

If you have toured Kigali, you probably went to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Museum and learned about the genocide in the 1990s that took place between the Tutsi and Hutu. The genocide began when the Hutu president’s plane was shot down above Kigali. 

During the genocide, about one million people were murdered. Most of them were Tutsi, but some Hutu died as well. The genocide only lasted 100 days, but by the time it was over, everyone had lost a family member and many close friends. 

In the rural parts of Rwanda, Tutsi people often hid in churches. The Hutu still found them and killed almost all of them. Two of the churches where many people were killed are now genocide memorials and museums, including Nyamata Church

There are 45,000 people buried here in mass graves. You can also tour the inside of the church. No renovations or work has been done, so you can even still see the machete marks and bullet holes throughout the walls. 

While here, you can also visit nearby Ntarama Church. Five thousand people were killed here, and you can tour the mass grave and the church. 

It’s a stark reminder of the dark history in this area, but an important one.

nyamata church, trees behind the church, small landscaping in front of the church, kigali day trips, tourist attractions in rwanda

Getting to Nyamata Church 

It takes about 45 minutes to get there by car. You can also take a bus here, but it will take you more than an hour to reach the church. After reaching Nyamata Church, it takes about another 20 minutes or so to get to Ntarama Church. 

You can also book a tour to visit both places. 

5. Ethnographic Museum 

This is one of the best day trips from Kigali city to see the French and Belgian influence on Rwanda. Huye, where the museum is located, has stunning colonial architecture, and many of the buildings are perfectly preserved. 

The museum itself is also stunning. It was a gift from a Belgian king to the city to celebrate 25 years of independence from France. 

Since the museum has seven galleries filled with hundreds of artifacts each, you can easily spend the entire day here. 

Most of the artifacts show the history of Rwanda and include items related to traditional life from different regions of the country. 

After touring the museum, you can go to the craft center, where local artists make many items, from figurines to paintings. They make great souvenirs, whether you want to buy a few for yourself or other people in your life. 

small town of huye, countryside in rwanda, rolling green hills with plots of farmland

Getting to the Ethnographic Museum

It takes almost three hours to reach Huye and the museum. I recommend renting a car or taking an organized tour, as these are the easiest ways to get there. 

6. King’s Palace Museum 

Another great way to experience Kigali tourism is to head to the King’s Palace Museum in Nyanza, about 2.5 hours from Kigali. This city used to be the capital of Kigali before they abolished the monarchy in the 20th century. 

The palace has since been turned into a museum, and now is a great day trip from Kigali. 

On-site, there is cattle descended from the king’s cattle. The people of Rwanda recognize these cows as royal, and they are part of special parades and ceremonies throughout the year. 

You can tour the inside of the palace, which still has some of the original items and artifacts. After seeing it, you can watch a traditional performance by Intore dancers. 

Getting to the King’s Palace Museum 

This museum is very close to the Ethnographic Museum, even though they are in different cities. Visiting both on the same day is a great option, so you don’t waste time going back and forth from Kigali. 

If you want to see both places, I recommend booking a tour to make transportation and scheduling easier. 

7. Lake Kivu Beach 

Still want to see more of Rwanda’s incredible nature? Lake Kivu is an incredible place to visit. 

It’s a top destination for those who enjoy being out on the water, and kayaking and fishing are some of the top activities here. There are also numerous hiking trails around the lake if you prefer to be on your feet and not in the water. 

If you’re interested in birding, book a boat cruise with an experienced guide explaining the different species. Bring along your camera and some binoculars. 

If you love coffee, Lake Kivu is one of the best day trips from Kigali. There are many different islands surrounding the lake. The most notable one is Nyamirundi, and it hosts one of the largest coffee plantations in Rwanda. 

You can tour the island and learn about the coffee-making process, including roasting, drying, and harvesting the beans. 

Of course, at the end of the tour, you get to try some of the amazing coffee, and you get a chance to take some home if you want. 

Check out this tour to Lake Kivu.

lake kivu, mountains in the distance coming from the lake, trees and plans blocking part of the lake, day trips from kigali

Getting to Lake Kivu

I recommend booking a Lake Kivu tour, especially if you want to visit all the different islands. Otherwise, you will need to rent a car. 

Luckily, the drive is easy as it’s all on a paved road. It takes about 3 hours. 

Don’t Miss These Fantastic Day Trips From Kigali! 

Ready to plan your day trips from Kigali? I hope this guide gave you some insight into all the best trips not to miss from the capital city of Rwanda. 

Which of these day trips are you planning to do? 

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