Travel Rwanda: One week itinerary for a holiday in Rwanda

Last Updated on by Charlotte van de Sande

In this Rwanda blog, you read all about the perfect itinerary and holiday for a week in Rwanda. We tell you the top things to do and how long you need for a road trip through this African country. This one-week itinerary makes it easy to travel and visit Rwanda by yourself. Have fun planning your holiday in Rwanda.

Rwanda blog: A great holiday to travel Rwanda!

Rwanda is slightly larger than half of the Netherlands and has more than 12 million inhabitants. It is, therefore, one of the most populous countries in Africa. For many people, the first association with Rwanda is still the horrific genocide of 1994. In this year, nearly a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered in 100 days. Although this sad event has left deep marks in society, Rwanda has found a way to rebuilt and develop herself.

Today Rwanda is known as a modern country with a very good infrastructure. Rwanda is called the country of thousand hills and is sometimes referred to as the Switzerland of Africa. Great things to do during a holiday in Rwanda are visiting mountain gorillas, tea plantations, Lake Kivu and hiking through the oldest rainforest of Africa.

We travelled through Rwanda by backpack. We rented a car and made a beautiful road trip through the country in less than a week. In this Rwanda blog, we provide tips for a similar holiday!

Tea Estate Rwanda


Visit Rwanda: An itinerary for covering all the hotspots

The good quality of the roads makes it possible to discover Rwanda in a short time. No visit to Rwanda is complete without a visit to Kigali, Nyungwe National Park, Lake Kivu and the famous Volcanoes National Park. You should not miss these destinations on your itinerary through the land of thousand hills. Travelling Rwanda by car is a perfect way to experience all the top attractions of this small African country. So, what can you do and see during a holiday in Rwanda?

Map of Rwanda | Top things to do in Rwanda

For this Rwanda blog, we created a map of Rwanda with what we think are the highlights and top attractions. These destinations on the map below form a wonderful holiday through Rwanda. Scroll down this Rwanda blog to see the top things to do for backpacking through Rwanda within an itinerary for one week.

Rwanda Map top attractions and national parks


Visiting Rwanda on a budget: How much does backpacking Rwanda cost?


Travel Rwanda | Best things to do for a holiday in Rwanda

What are the top attractions of Rwanda? Rwanda has many hotspots and sights that are worth visiting during a road trip. If you love spotting wildlife, Rwanda is a great holiday destination. Rwanda is also diverse when it comes to landscape and nature. You have volcanic mountains, savanna plains, rainforests, a modern city and large lakes. In short, an interesting country to travel to with many things to do. Besides, Rwanda is a safe country to visit, making it a perfect destination for backpackers too!

Kigali | Things to do in Kigali, Rwanda

Kigali Rwanda

Kigali has been the capital since 1962 when Rwanda gained independence from Belgium. Nowadays, Rwanda is the cleanest city in Africa. The fight against pollution and (plastic) waste is a top priority for the government. Kigali is a vibrant African city and has an impressive skyline with office buildings, shopping malls and luxury hotels. What are the best things to do in Kigali? Those who want to dive into Rwandan history should definitely visit the Genocide Museum. Prepare yourself for heavy photos, videos and stories. For stocking up on souvenirs you have to go to the Caplaki Craft Market.

Hotel tip: Ubumwe Grande Hotel 

Nyungwe Forest National Park | Activities: chimpanzee trekking, canopy walk and bird watching

Chimpanzee trekking Rwanda Things to do in Rwanda

The Nyungwe Forest is the oldest and one of the largest rainforests in Africa. This tropical mountain rainforest is ideal for hiking. For example, hiking the Isumo Trail. A beautiful 5-hour hike where you pass tea plantations, waterfalls and local villages. Nyungwe Forest is also the place for a chimpanzee trekking and a canopy walk. This bright green park has more than 275 bird species, 13 different monkey species and more than 100 different orchids. In short, Nyungwe Forest National Park is a hotspot for lovers of primates, bird species, flora and fauna.

Camping tip: Nyungwe Nziza Ecolodge


Visit Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda: Read here our blog about a chimpanzee trekking


Lake Kivu | Things to do: Congo Nile Trail, Napoleon Island and relaxing

Lake Kivu Rwanda

Lake Kivu is the largest freshwater lake in Rwanda. Unlike other lakes in East Africa, you can swim here in Lac Kivu because it does not have hippos and crocodiles. Lake Kivu (also called Lake Kivu or Lac Kivu) is part of the Albertine Rift Valley that runs from Zambia to Sudan. The best thing to do in Lake Kivu is just relaxing and enjoying the view. On the coastal strip of the lake, there are two places where you can spend the night: Kibuye and Gisenyi. Pick Kibuye if you want peace and quietness. Gisenyi is more of a lively city with many hotels, bars and restaurants.

Things to do around Lake Kivu: visit Napoleons Island by boat, take a tour at the Pfunda Tea Estate or walk a part of the well-known Congo Nile Trail. The Congo Nile Trail is a hiking itinerary of 227 km long. This hiking trail can be walked in 10 days or cycled in 5 days. Hikers and backpackers usually sleep in a guesthouse or with locals among the way.

Hotel tip: Inzu Lodge

Volcanoes National Park | Gorilla trekking in Rwanda, Dianne Fossey and volcanoes hikes

Volcano Park Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park is the oldest national park in all of Africa and is dominated by the 8 Virunga volcanoes. This is the habitat of the endangered mountain gorillas and the golden monkeys. You can also hike here to the grave of Diane Fossey. Diane Fossey studied and protected gorillas for 18 years. The 160 square km park has many different bird species and is the place to visit a family of mountain gorillas. Read all about a gorilla trekking here.

Hotel tip: La Locanda

Mount Kabuye | Things to do: Climbing, hiking and visiting local villages in Rwanda

Rwanda tea fields

With a height of 2581 meters, Mount Kabuye is very suitable for a day hike. You can climb this mountain within 7 to 8 hours. During this hike, you pass small villages and you have a view of a beautiful lake. During the hike, local children will follow you and want to become your guide for a small fee.

Hotel tip: Ruhondo Beach Resort

Akagera National Park | Things to do: wildlife spotting and safari in Rwanda

Akagera National Park Rwanda

The Akagera National Park in Rwanda has a great diversity of landscapes: mountain scenery, lakes, golden savannas and many grasslands. This park is situated close to the Tanzania border. During a safari, you can encounter lions, elephants, leopards, hyenas and even rhinos. This is a good place to spot the big 5 on a jeep safari in Rwanda. Things to do at Akagera National Park are jeep safari, boat safari, bird safari and a night safari. The north of the Akagera National park can only be visited in the dry months of the year, June to August and December to February.

Hotel tip: Akagera Rhino Lodge

Hennessy XO Cognac safari drink Rwanda


Itineraries Rwanda: The perfect road trip through East Africa

In this blog, you will find the ultimate itinerary for a road trip through Rwanda. The best tip we can give you is to combine a holiday in Rwanda with Uganda. If you have even more time for your holiday, you can even combine your trip with Kenya or Tanzania. For your inspiration, we created itineraries for backpacking through East-Africa as well.

Rwanda Tea estates things to do in Rwanda

Holiday Rwanda: the ultimate one-week backpacking itinerary Rwanda

Rwanda is a small country with good roads. You should even be careful not to drive too fast because in many places there are speed traps. The hilly landscape is beautiful. This makes a road trip through Rwanda a lot of fun! Along the way, you will encounter many tea estates and cute local villages. Travelling around Rwanda for one week is enough to see most of the highlights of the country. If you have more time, this is only better and you can travel around at a slower pace.

Exploring Rwanda in one week: A description of the itinerary

The itinerary through Rwanda starts in Kigali. Here you spend half a day to get to know the city and visit the genocide museum, for example. Then, you drive towards Nyungwe Forest for a chimpanzee trekking or a canopy walk. Via part of the itinerary of the Congo-Nile Trail, you drive via Lake Kivu to Kibuye.

The next day, you take a boat trip to one of the many small islands in Lake Kivu and cool off. Next, you travel to Volcanoes National Park, a beautiful park surrounded by (active) volcanoes. Here, you can do a gorilla trekking or hike through the breathtaking nature. Mount Kabuye, a short drive further is your next stop. This is a 2581 meter high mountain that you can climb in 7 to 8 hours. The last stop is the Akagera National Park. Ideal for a jeep safari and for spotting the famous big 5.

Itinerary Rwanda one-week:

  • 1st day: Kigali
  • 2nd day: Nyungwe Forest National Park
  • 3rd day: Lac Kivu (Kibuye of Gisenyi)
  • 4th day: Volcanoes National Park
  • 5th day: Mount Kabuye
  • 6th day: Akagera National Park
  • 7th day: Akagera National Park – Kigali

Itinerary Rwanda self drive road trip


Blog gorilla trekking: Why you should do a gorilla safari in East-Africa


Itinerary Uganda and Rwanda: Travel East-Africa in a 3-week road trip

Combine a holiday through Rwanda with neighbouring Uganda. You can start your road trip in both Kampala and Kigali. The advantage of combining these two countries is that you can do a gorilla trekking in Uganda. A gorilla safari in Uganda is much cheaper than a gorilla trekking in Rwanda. Besides, you have more diversity in safari parks in this way. An absolute must is camping overnight inside Murchison National Park. Of course with a ranger who ensures that the wild animals do not get too close to your tent. The travel itinerary looks like this:

3-week itinerary for visiting Uganda and Rwanda:

Kampala – Lake Bunyonyi – Kigali – Nyungwe Forrest National Park – Lake Kivu (Gisenyi or Kibuye) – Volcanoes National Park or Bwindi impenetrable forest – Queen Elisabeth National Park – Fort Portal – Murchison Falls – Rhino Sanctuary – Jinja – Kampala

Do you want to combine a holiday through Uganda and Rwanda but want to travel at a slower pace? Then consider skipping Jina and/or Murchison Falls National Park. You can skip Jinja if you don’t like adrenaline activities such as rafting. You can skip Murchison Falls if you feel you have already visited enough safari parks and wildlife.

Itinerary Uganda and Rwanda road trip

Travel East Africa: A 4-week itinerary for backpacking Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya:

A holiday in Kenya is also easy to combine with a visit to Uganda and Rwanda. The East Africa visa makes this possible. With this visa, you can easily visit all three countries with one visa. You save a lot of money by applying for an East-African visa. Strange enough, Tanzania is not included in this visa. You need to purchase a separate permit to enter Tanzania.

A possible 4-week itinerary for backpacking through East Africa is as follows:

Nairobi – Lamu – Masai Mara – Lake Naivasha / Lake Nakuru – Jinja – Kampala – Lake Bunyonyi – Kigali – Nyungwe Forrest National Park – Lake Kivu – Volcanoes National Park or Bwindi National Park – Queen Elisabeth National Park – Fort Portal – Murchison Falls National Park – Rhino Sanctuary – Kampala

Itinerary East Africa Best road trip of Kenya Uganda and Rwanda


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The perfect itinerary for Rwanda in one week for backpacking


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