Volcanoes National Park

To the north lies the Volcanoes National Park, which protects the Rwandan portion of the virunga mountains, a trans frontier conservation area that includes protected areas in Uganda and the DRC and forms a complex of mostly dormant volcanoes, it includes Rwanda’s highest point, mount karisimbi (4,507 m), and the two active volcanoes, mount Nyirangongo and mount Nyamuragira.

The Virunga Volcanoes are among the most attractive sights to look out for in East Africa. Dian Fossey wrote an interesting phrase which says that “You are so high up that you shiver more than you sweat”! The series of 8 peaks projects so high to a height of about 15,000 feet in some areas, and 5 of these peaks are located within Rwanda. The bottom of each is covered with dense rain forest, and also gives way to the stunning montane grassland as well as alpine moorland as you move higher.

The entire Volcanoes national park covers an area of about 160 sq km and it shadows the Rwandan part of the Virunga Mountains, 3 active, and 6 extinct volcanoes that overlap the borders of Rwanda with Uganda and also the DRC. The Volcanoes Park is a section of the adjacent 433 sq km Trans border conservation area that comprises of the Virunga National Park, and Mgahinga National Park, which shadows the Ugandan and the DRC fraction of the Virunga ranges respectively.

The Volcanoes National Park has an altitude that ranges from 2400 – 4507 kms. the chain of sheer, all free-standing mountains is connected by fertile lumber that were formed by hardened lava flows, and is among the most interesting and unforgettable sights in East Africa . The Karisimbi is the most elevated mountain on this chain and is situated on Rwanda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. When you travel eastward, you will find Visoke peak on the border of DRC; Sabinyo peak at the meeting of the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda, and the Gahinga as well as Muhabura peaks on the border of Uganda.

The Volcanoes National Park is known internationally as a place where nearly for 20 years Dian Fossey who was an American primatologist conducted her studies about the behavior of the mountain gorillas. 3 years after the death of Dian Fossey, her work was unveiled to a crowd audience with the launch of “Gorilla in the mist”, a cinematic story of her impressive life filmed within the Volcanoes national Park. The “Gorilla in the Mist” attracted international attention to the troubles of the mountain gorillas and brought awareness in the gorilla-tourism programme which had been launched in the park a few years earlier.

Way back in 1990, the Volcanoes national Park was the most organized and most popular mountain gorilla habitats in Africa and so gorilla trekking was perhaps the leading contributor of Rwanda’s tourist revenue. In June 1993, The park was re-opened to tourism although in April 1994 the park was evacuated as a result of the genocide. Towards the end of 1995, it re-opened once again to the tourism industry, and unfortunately close few months afterwards. Gorilla tracking was at last recommenced permanent in the month of July 1999, and since then, the number of visitors traveling to the Virungas had greatly increased.

There are twelve habituated Gorilla groups living in the Volcanoes National Park, each group is so charming and very interesting, as well as unforgettable as the rest of the other groups, although there is a variation in the walks to catch-up with them. As you are trekking through the verdant foothills of the Virunga Mountains, always look out for the uncommon Golden Monkeys, an overabundance of vivid birds, as well as the scent of the Buffalos which are considerably hard to catch, plus Elephants.

Things to See in Volcanoes National Park

The Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda boasts almost 100 bird species but is more famous for being home to world’s last remaining mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Although visited predominantly for the mountain gorillas, there are several other tourism sites and opportunities in the park and surrounding area. There is a chance to climb to the mount Bisoke’s beautiful crater lake or even the hike to the summit of the  Karimbi mountain, the 5th highest mountain of Africa.

The often neglected twin lakes Burera and Ruhondo and the nearby Rugezi swamp are recognized for their excellent water birding opportunities. With in the area there are a number of community based tourism tours on offer, for example: visiting villages, agric-production plants, an ethno botany tour or even a group of local fishermen using traditional methods, or simply sit back and take in the breath taking scenery of the area.

Volcanoes National Park lies in northwestern Rwanda and boarders Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. The volcanoes national park is known as a haven for the mountain gorilla. Its a home to five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains (Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo). It is 160 sq. km covered in rainforest and bamboo. The park wa s the base for the zoologist Dian Fossey. More so the park was gazetted to protect the mountain gorillas which were facing the threat of extinction.

Volcanoes national park is home to;

  • Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei);
  • Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta),
  • Elephants
  • Black-fronted duiker (Cephalophus niger)
  • Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) among others.

The park also harbors 178 bird species including at least 29 endemics to Rwenzori Mountains and the Virungas Near the park, the bustling and vibrant markets of Musanze are a place to immerse yourself into everyday Rwandan culture.


Gorilla trekking

 width=Trekking these endangered mountain gorillas on the slopes of virunga volcanoes is a magical and memorable experience. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda experiences is coming close with the peaceful eyes of Mountain Gorillas, as they chew on bamboo shoots, communicate, swing on tree branches, and interact in their natural environment. Actually, this is one of Africa’s undeniable best travel things to see. There are 8 habituated Gorilla groups living in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda, and the uncommon golden monkeys, a variety of bird species, buffaloes and elephants. Gorilla watching is the top tourist activity for anyone interested in Rwanda Safaris.

Expert guides give a pre-trek briefing on specific protocols and rules for visiting the gorillas that live within an altitude of 2500 and 4000m. The main base for gorilla tracking, Ruhengeri is a bustling market town situated 15km from the base of the Virungas. Boasting a wonderful sub-montane setting, and an excellent range of cheap to mid range hotels, Ruhengeri is an agreeable place to spend the night before one goes gorilla tracking, as well as being the obvious base from which to explore the little-known but compellingly beautiful Lakes Burera and Ruhondo. Alternatively, visitors seeking a higher level of comfort can base themselves in Gisenyi or Kigali.

Bird watching

The park holds a rich avifauna which includes many of the Albertine Rift endemics. Three globally threatened species namely; Lagden’s Bush-shrike, African Green Broadbill, and Kivu Ground Thrush. In addition, 17 of the 25 species of the Albertine Rift Mountains Endemic Bird Area and 53 of the 74 species of the Afrotropical Highlands biome that occur in Rwanda have been recorded at the site.

Golden monkey tracking

Golden monkey trekking takes place in Volcanoes national park and at the same time 7:00am just like gorillas. These rare species are also listed as endangered – and Volcanoes national park currently has two habituated golden monkeys’ troops that are available for visiting by tourists in the park, both of which make about 80 members.

Golden monkeys in Rwanda live in the bamboo vegetation towards the base of the volcanoes and habituation has helped them to overcome their initial shyness to accept their daily visit by researchers and tourists. Trekking golden monkeys and gorillas is a similar experience – in a small group of not more than eight people, and you can spend one hour with the monkeys once you find them. They are very active creatures, and jump from tree to tree which is really interesting but a little difficult to photograph! The golden monkey trek is worth going for while in Volcanoes National Park and if you’re interested in wildlife, this is a rare and delightful experience not to be missed!

Musanze caves

These caves date back 65 million years and lie within the volcanic region where lava flow layers long ago created the Albertine rift valley. The caves offer easy hiking and the brilliant views of cascading lights from the surface, unique rock formations and the colony of bats.

Iby’lwacu cultural village

This is a living museum which highlights aspects of traditional Rwanda society. Visitors can expect to be greeted by thunderous drumming and hospitality. The village features hands on activities related to the rituals and ways of life in the ancient Rwandan kingdom.the village also offers extended trips into the country side.

Hike to the Dian fossey grave site

Hiking to the Dian Fossey Tomb is one of the most sought after safari activities carried out while visiting Volcanoes national park for a gorilla trip. The trek involves a 30 minutes’ drive from the park headquarters to the trail head to access the Karisoke research camp where visitors walk for 10 minutes to the park boundary. The walk from the park boundary to the research center where the Dian’s grave is, takes about an hour to one and half hours and gives good views of forest hogs, forest elephants, a variety of primates and bird species.

This hike is an incredible experience physically, emotionally and intellectually. It is so inspiring to learn about someone who was so dedicated and left a legacy that exists even today. The hike involves moving through the forests and hiking up the slopes and therefore requires some relative degree of fitness and patience. At the site is the house from where Dian Fossey was mysteriously murdered in 1985 but the more peaceful is the place where she was buried just next to her favorite gorilla friend, Digit and about 20 other mountain gorillas either killed by poachers or suffered death for other reasons.


The main airport in Rwanda is Kigali International Airport. It is located 10 km East of the centre. Kigali currently receives direct flights from Nairobi, Entebbe, Bujumbura, Addis Ababa, Kilimanjaro, Brazaville, Douala, Libreville, Mombasa, Mwanza, Brussels, Amsterdam, Dar es Salaam, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Juba, Lagos, Lusaka, Doha and Dubai. It is also possible to take a bus from neighboring countries like Uganda Tanzania and Kenya.

For more information about Volcanoes National Park click here to get all the information from the official Rwanda Tourist Board.