10 Less Known Tourism Attractions in Rwanda
Rwanda is mostly covered by steep hills and deep valleys with its highest point being Karisimbi (14,187 ft. 4,324 m) in the Virunga Mountains. Although well known for the horrible history of the genocide, Rwanda is a nice country, with magnificent people, amazing lakes, mountains, a great climate, good roads, a nice standard of living with cheap things ranging from food to accommodation and lots of other things. Rwanda is a small country and almost all its attractions of nice places are next to each other. Here are 10 less known attractions to see on a safari through Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills.
- Genocide Memorial Sites
The memorials found throughout the country are moving testimonies in memory of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and the people who lost their lives. Inaugurated on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, the Kigali Genocide Memorial at Gisozi is where 259,000 victims have been buried. This memorial also serves to educate about how the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi took shape and examines genocide in the 20th century. There are two genocide memorials outside Kigali. One is Ntarama church that is about 5 km down a right-hand fork that branches off the Nyamata road, roughly 20 km outside Kigali. This church has been left empty just as it was after removing the bodies with scraps of personal items like clothes on the floor. Next to this church is a building where other people seeking safety were massacred. The other church is just is at Nyamata 30 km from Kigali which was a site of horrible massacres. The bodies were also removed although blood stains remain on the walls. A courtyard was dug outside the underground chamber and that’s where the skulls of many victims are being displayed.
- Kabgayi church museum
3 km from Gitarama along Butare road lays the massive cathedral of Kabgayi. This is the oldest in the country dating back in 1925. This was the first settlement area of the Catholic Bishop. With a huge size and peaceful interior the church is worth a visit and there is a small museum beside it.
- Musanze caves
Formed by centuries of geologic activity centered around the Virunga volcanoes next door, the 1.25-mile long Musanze caves are located just outside of the town they share a name with, and are only a 90-minute drive from Kigali. With an enormous opening (and an equally huge number of bats resident inside), the greenery outside spilling over into the twilight within makes for a fantastic photo op. Though today they’re a tourist attraction, the caves were used as a shelter during wartime for many centuries leading right up into the modern era, and as such, it’s an important site to local people. Thus, out of respect for the area’s residents, access is limited to guided visits. Expert guides lead every tour, and they explain the history of the caves from their formation to present day. The tours make an excellent add-on activity for the afternoon after you’ve seen the gorillas. The tours take about 2.5 hours and can be done at any time throughout the year.
- Hotel des Milles Colline
This is a hotel in Kigali that is attracting people’s attention of recent due to the “Hotel Rwanda” movie and its contribution to Rwanda. The Hotel is known to have housed and protected over 1,268 people under the management of Paul Rusesabagina. Paul took over management of this hotel a few days after the start of the genocide and this was as after the European managers had been flown out. Paul and his wife used to bribe the Hutu Interahamwe Militia with money and alcohol to keep them from killing the refugees.
- Rusumo Falls
The falls is located at the Eastern part of Rwanda at the border with Tanzania. It is an amazing and spectacular falls that is a part of the distant headwaters of the river Nile. It’s not worth missing while crossing the border of Rwanda with Tanzania.
- National Museum
This is located in Butare city in Huye and it is known to be the most tourists’ attraction in Butare. The museum is known to have probably the finest ethnographic collection in the whole of East Africa. It has spacious rooms that allow the exhibitions to be appreciated and enjoyed. Exhibitions provide information not only on pre-colonial history but also on the process of development of the country (Rwanda) to her modernity today. At the museum you can organise for the Ntore dancers to entertain you with the traditional dances of Rwanda.
- The source of River Nile
Over the years, many countries and locations have laid claim to having the ‘source of the Nile’! In 2005 – 2006 a team called ‘Ascend the Nile’ set off from Egypt to trace the entire length of the Nile and eventually they found their goal at the head of the Rukarara River in Rwanda, which is a tributary of the Akagera which flows into Lake Victoria. It is now possible to walk to the Source of the Nile, which is actually located in the northern section of Nyungwe Forest National Park. Treks can be booked from Gisovu Tea Factory in advance and a guide will take you there. The trail takes around 45-60 minutes in each direction and is an easy walk.
- Nyange High School
3 years after the genocide in Rwanda, groups of rebels kept infiltrating into Rwanda from Congo to destabilize the new government, and carried out massacres, mostly against Tutsis. On the night of 18th March 1997 they raided Nyange Secondary school in the North West of the country. The rebels surrounded the school dining hall and classes when all students were doing their night studies. Students in class 6 were made to lie down and asked to separate themselves into two groups: Hutu and Tutsi. They refused. This is the story of those students – whose refusal to separate cost many of them their lives, among them, a girl named Marie Chantal who was the first to say those magic words, have later honoured as national heroes.
- Camp Kigali Belgian Monument
A small museum in Kigali City lies at the site of the massacre of 10 Belgian UN Blue Beret. At the onset of Genocide under the command of General Dallaire, they were deployed to guard the house of Prime Minister Agatha Uwilingimana. When the genocide began, Presidential Guard soldiers invaded the home, disarmed the Belgians and transported them to Camp Kigali where they killed them. The ten stone pillars memorialize the ten soldiers killed.
- National Treasures
To have a tryst with the national treasures of all the Rwanda Destinations, you just have to go for a stopover at the Butare National Museum which is considered as one of the best museums in East Africa. The Museum features numerous things belonging to Rwandan histories such as traditional forms of housing, musical instruments, tribal art, and other artifacts. This museum also rewards visitors with a great grounding in Rwandan history and culture.