See Kigali like a Nat Geo Explorer

From verdant hillsides to bustling boulevards, explore the capital of Rwanda like a local.

By Providence Akayezu
Published 9 Apr 2019, 00:37 BST
The Kigali Genocide Memorial commemorates the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The Kigali Genocide Memorial commemorates the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Photograph by Sven Torfinn, Panos Pictures, Redux Pictures

Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali has been attracting travelers in recent years because it is clean, green, and residents speak both English and French. Tourists are met with friendly locals and its central location makes Kigali an excellent starting point for adventures around Rwanda.

I am conducting research to evaluate the contribution of tourism-funded projects to the local communities’ livelihoods around Nyungwe National Park. The results will be used to provide insight about how tourism could positively impact these communities.

Travel for good

In Kigali, you can visit the Nyamirambo Women’s Center, which provides education and vocational training for women. Outside Kigali, the Urugo Women’s Opportunity Center offers capacity building for women, with priority to widows and genocide survivors. Urugo also operates an eco-lodge for travelers on-site.

What's in my bag

I always have a camera or mobile phone for taking pictures and videos.

Traditional crafts

Azizi Life in Kiyovu is a fair-trade artisan enterprise where you can also take classes to create your own crafts. The Ikaze Showroom, also in Kiyovu, is another great place to find locally made products.

Local etiquette

People wander Nyamirambo, a popular and colourful district of Kigali.

Photograph by Thierry Falise, LightRocket/Getty Images

Do not take pictures of the military camps or of soldiers when they are walking around. Please do not cross such group of soldiers when they are walking (usually during the evening) on a queue.

Must-read book

Left to Tell by Immaculée Ilibagiza is a memoir about one woman’s experience during the 1994 genocide. Remaking Rwanda, edited by Scott Straus and Lars Waldorf, examines post-genocide Rwanda from an academic perspective.

Take a class

You can learn about embroidery at Ibaba Rwanda or how to cook traditional Rwandan food at the Nyamirambo Women’s Center.

A mountain gorilla sits in Volcanoes National Park in northern Rwanda, where jungle hills are shrouded in mist.

Photograph by Stephanie Aglietti, AFP/Getty Images

Savor the flavor

In Kimihurura, try Sundowner and Repub Lounge for ugali (made from maize flour), ibirayi (made from potatoes), matoke (made from bananas), and other local foods. In Kacyiru, try Casa Keza, CityBlue Hotel, and Brachetto for tapas. In Remera, go to Come Again for brochettes and akabenzi (fried pork).

Get off the beaten path

Try to attend one of the events the Impact Hub in Kiyovu organizes each month. Outside of Kigali, you can head east to the beach at Lake Muhazi or drive to the north, south, or west to see beautiful landscapes with tea plantations. Find other places by using the Rwanda Destinations app or following Visit Rwanda on Twitter.

Travel back in time

The Institute of National Museums of Rwanda has history and culture museums around the country, including the King’s Palace in Nyanza. The Kigali Genocide Memorial is a place for remembrance and learning about what happened in Rwanda in 1994.

Photograph by Jad Davenport, National Geographic Creative

Explore the outdoors

Outside of Kigali, visit the Volcanoes National Park to see mountain gorillas; Nyungwe National Park, one of the largest central African tropical rain forests and home to chimpanzees and monkeys; Akagera National Park for elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, and buffalo; and Gishwati-Mukura National Park, an area for landscape restoration initiatives.

Providence Akayezu is a National Geographic grantee working on local community involvement, education, and biodiversity. Follow her on Twitter.
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