Rwanda is breathtaking beautiful. From a full-day program in bubbly Kigali to overwhelming nature at Volcanoes National Park: local Nathalie shares her tips for the best travel experience.
Rwanda’s star is rising. Revenues from the tourism industry have grown from $202 million in 2010 to over $400 million in 2016. The country attracted around 1.2 million tourists in 2017 and is aiming to increase that number. Hence the choice to sponsor Arsenal. With the text ‘Visit Rwanda’ on player shirts and the country encourages another million people to come by. With desired result, it seems. “We had more Google searches in a week than ever in a year,” told Emmanual Hategeka of the Rwanda Development Agency excitedly to the Dutch broadcast station NOS. “It’s working!”
However, the increasing number of tourists due entirely to smart marketing would do the country a disadvantage. “Rwanda: there is no cleaner and better organized country to discover Africa,” headlines Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant in October 2018. Local Liset previously shared her favorite addresses in Kigali and told us how the Rwandan capital is buzzing.
Kigali: clean, green and safe
The Belgian-Rwandan Nathalie has been living in Rwanda since 2014 and tells how sad she is to see that many people at Rwanda only think about the genocide, Hotel Rwanda and the usual poverty cliché about Africa. That’s why she started blogging at Joli Tropisme two years ago – sharing the most beautiful travel experiences: “With my blog I want to share my daily life and show how beautiful this country and the rest of the continent is.”
Together with her husband John she runs restaurant “Poivre Noir” in the capital Kigali. “I like the fact that the city is constantly evolving,” she says. “I appreciate the fact that there is, most of the time, no traffic jam. I love how clean and beautiful the city is, with a lot of green space. The views here are also stunning, from almost everywhere in the city you can find beautiful scenery. And of course the safety. I feel more safe here than in Brussels, which is a very cool feeling.”
What to do in Kigali?
In short: Kigali is definitely worth a visit. “Go to the Kandt Museum, the beautiful market of Kimironko, the Women Center or enjoy a city tour with Go Kigali.”
To catch your breath during your Tour de Kigali, she recommends Neo Café in the Kigali Business District. “I’m more of a tea person, but my husband is a coffee lover. The coffee at Neo is excellent and they also have very good African tea. Of course you cannot skip Question Coffee. And Rooftop Café Inzora is also recommended. They have a large selection of teas and their chocolate cake is just só good. “
> Neo Cafe, KN 41 Street, Kigali | Question Coffee, KG 8 Ave #8, Kigali, w: questioncoffee.com | Inzora, Inside Ikirezi Bookstore 13, KG 5 Ave, Kigali, www.inzoracafe.com | Or visit the Women’s Bakery in Kigali, #13, KG 176 St
On safari in Akagera National Park
For your journeys outside Kigali, she recommends a safari at Akagera National Park: “Because of the beautiful scenery and wildlife. Akagera is small compared to Tanzania or Kenya, but is much more impressive in terms of variation in landscape. And it has the Big Five! ”
“Visit Kibuye for a retreat near Lake Kivu. The town is very quiet, but personally I think it’s the most beautiful place on Lake Kivu. ”
Tracking gorillas in Rwanda too expensive? Four alternatives!
Musanze, near Volcanoes National Park, is also highly recommended – even if you don’t spot gorillas. (Gorilla tracking is very expensive). You can climb the volcano Bisoke and view the crater lake, take a boat trip on the twin lakes Burera and Ruhondo, or visit the Diane Fossey Museum. Or go on a road trip to Kinigi and admire the Virunga Volcanoes. ”
Travel Advice Rwanda
The best travel advice she can give Western visitors? “Be curious and respectful. Rwanda has made huge steps since 1994 and the country is still evolving. Yes, sometimes you have to wait a long time for your meal in restaurants. But you can also travel safely in this tiny and stunning country. You can access three impressive national parks and see how important conservation is. Also don’t forget to visit the genocide monument to really understand what happened here and discover how resilient the Rwandans are. Finally, don’t just take photos of people without asking. It is rude.”