We believe Rwanda deserves a place on your shortlist of destinations to explore in 2020, offering a stimulating mix of adventure, luxury, history and, best of all, varied and verdant landscapes.
Things are looking up for Rwanda, whose President, Paul Kagame, is making great strides in uniting his people and turning the fortunes of his country around – and in doing so, it’s become a role model for many other African countries. Civil war is a thing of the past, and we found Rwanda to be a forward-looking country that’s paving the way for sophisticated travellers to discover all that this small yet diverse East African nation has to offer.
Surrounded by Uganda, Burundi, The Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania, Rwanda may be tiny, but as we travelled across the country, discovering the diversity of its topography and climates, we were in awe of its fertile landscapes.
You could be forgiven for thinking you were in the Highlands of Scotland.
Tropical trees and verdant hills leading down to huge lakes reminded us of parts of Italy; rich green rice paddies backed by dense forest and for a moment we could have been in Sri Lanka. In the highest parts of Volcanoes National Park, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the Highlands of Scotland.
It is possible to go on safari in Rwanda, albeit only really in one particular area: the sweeping savannah of the Akagera National Park, where we spotted lions, leopard, elephants and lakes full of hippos and crocodiles. However, we believe Rwanda should not be considered as a safari destination, per se. It’s famous, of course, for its enigmatic mountain gorillas, which we recommend seeing on a privately arranged trek through the ancient rainforest of the Volcanoes National Park. Chimpanzees and golden monkeys are among the other primate species you may be lucky enough to glimpse.
…Exceptional design and comfort and offering particularly high levels of service
The question is, where does one stay to immerse oneself in the landscape and culture of Rwanda? There’s no denying it’s an off-the-beaten-track sort of destination, but as the country wakens up to its tourism potential, we’ve seen the opening of world-class lodges, each of exceptional design and comfort and offering particularly high levels of service.
They offer outstanding cuisine and privacy while giving you an immersive taste of the exotic. Private helicopter services are preferable to long journeys on winding, hilly roads, and the lodges make this easy with helipads for straightforward access.
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Finally, we believe that no trip to Rwanda should exclude time spent in capital, Kigali, one of the cleanest and safest cities in Africa. It’s a fascinating place, home to cultural highlights such as the Caplaki Crafts Village, Inema Arts Centre and Kimironko Market, which give the traveller a flavour of local life as well as an insight into the country’s arts and crafts.
But it’s the Genocide Memorial that’s truly unmissable: the resting place of 250,000 victims and a space for both remembrance and learning. It’s a sobering visit, but at the same time this sombre memorial, coming at the end of an authentic African adventure, is a reminder of just how far Rwanda has come.
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