Rwanda — Attractions
Rwanda’s main attractions seem to be divided into celebrations of its abundant natural beauty and remembrance of the country’s tragic recent past. Travelers can pay their respects to many genocide memorials including the well set up Genocide Memorial Center. The country’s nature shouldn’t be overlooked though with many national parks offering the most breathtaking sights and wonderful opportunities to interact with wildlife.
Gisozi Genocide Memorial Center
The Rwandan genocide happened as recently as 1994 and is still fresh in the memories of those who were able to survive. Ignored by most of the international community, the genocide spanned 100 days in which almost one million Rwandans were brutally murdered. The museum pays thoughtful respect to the victims of the event and also sheds some light for those unaware of the context during the period. The center is divided into three separate sections, each dealing with a different aspect of the genocide. Travelers should note that a trip to the center is not for the weak and can become quite an emotional experience.
Address: Gisozi, South of Kigali
Nyamata Genocide Memorial
After a visit to the memorial center, most visitors also opt to visit the Nyamata Genocide Memorial. Just south of Kigali, the memorial takes the form of a church in which tens of thousands of Rwandans were killed. The visit is chilling, as visitors are taken on a tour of the area where clear signs of the genocide remain, from bullet holes in the building to the belongings of victims. Open seven days a week, this sobering landmark is an important stop in paying respects to the people who were killed.
Address: Kigali, Rwanda
Located only 20 minutes from the Nyamata Genocide Memorial, the Ntarama Church has a similar story. This church, like many others, was the site of mass killings during the genocide but has since been turned into a wonderful tribute. One of the most touching parts of the memorial is the wall of names of people who were murdered at this very site. It is not the easiest of trips – with the clothing of victims scattered throughout the church – but it is nonetheless an important one. Many of the local people are well-informed guides who are able to give travelers much needed background information to the chilling sights in the church.
Address: Kigali, Rwanda
National Museum of Rwanda
The National Museum of Rwanda is perhaps the finest ethnographic museum in the East African region. Housing fascinating exhibits and extensive collections of traditional artifacts, the museum is a great place to learn more about this amazing country and its people. Spanning centuries, from pre-colonial to Rwanda as a more modern African country, the museum leaves not stone unturned. There is also a great gift shop located nearby from which various souvenirs can be purchased.
Address: PO Box 630, Butare
A’Kagera National Park
Rwanda has an abundance of national parks but one of the most beautiful and indeed, most popular is the A’Kagera National Park. Spanning 1,000 square miles, the park is home to some of the most stunning fauna and flora in the country. Over 500 different species of birds, and many game animals including lions, buffalos, zebras and impalas live here, making this the perfect place for a traditional wildlife safari. There are also many opportunities for hiking and trekking in the park.
Address: Kibungo, Umutara, Kigali
Parc National des Volcans
Famous for being the setting for Dian Fossey’s well-known research work, Gorillas in the Mist, Parc National des Volcans is a gorgeous national park offering a plethora of activities and sites. The park is home to two major tourist attractions – the majestic troupes of gorillas and the stunning Rwandan volcanoes. While many people choose to stay in the park for a few days, either trekking with gorillas or climbing the volcanoes, it is possible to do a day trip and simply experience the natural beauty that the park clearly possesses.
Address: Ruhengeri, northwest Rwanda