The Ultimate Guide to Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
A Complete Guide to Volcanoes National Park Rwanda, the famed world’s premier gorilla trekking destination. This free guide aims at offering all the inspirational information you need to plan an amazing journey into the Volcanoes National Park, northern Rwanda and the Virunga Region. Listed here are different places of interest to visit including the Musanze Town, Lake Kivu, the Twin Lakes of Bulera and Rubondo, Buhanga Ecopark and more .
From this travel resource, check out inspiring tours, amazing attractions to see, adventure activities to do and everything you need to plan your dream expedition into Rwanda’s Virunga Region. Easily plan your safari with exclusive information on how to book your visit, make reservations for gorilla permits, hotels or safari lodging, or even guided gorilla tours into Rwanda. Our extensive information will help you plan your visit, whether it is your first time visiting or your fiftieth.
Our activity guides highlight information on gorilla trekking, golden monkey tracking, volcano hiking, tourist maps and much more. You are now one-step closer to enjoying great adventures in the most accessible national park for gorilla trekking in Africa. Read expert tips to guide you plan for a gorilla trek, advice on etiquette for gorilla watching, what to pack, best time to see gorillas and much more.
So what can you expect to gain from this travel resource?
- Find the best attractions (things to see) in the Rwandan Volcanoes National Park.
- Find the best adventure activities to undertake during your visit in the Virunga Volcanoes.
- Get help in researching and planning your ultimate adventure holiday let it be a gorilla safari, hiking adventure, golden monkey watching trip etc.
- Find out the best places to stay during your holiday. Check our exclusive accommodation listings including budget lodges, deluxe lodges, luxury safari lodges as well as high end safari lodges.
- Source the directory of the top tourism service providers including tour operators, restaurants, travel companies and more.
- Gain valuable tips to help you plan a perfect safari into Rwanda.
- Advice on how to get there including travel by public transport or by private means such as Car Rental.
Go Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
Experience an unforgettable gorilla trekking in Rwanda and meet the great apes the wild. Take use of these discounted safaris into Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills, the best place to see the endangered mountain gorillas in the world. From day hikes to week long safaris that are tailored to include nearby destinations, we have carefully crafted itineraries that offer lifetime experiences into the Virunga Volcanoes and nearby destinations.
What to See in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
There are lots of amazing attractions in the Volcanoes National Park Rwanda. From the rare mountain gorillas to unique birds that are endemic to the Virunga Region, a lot awaits you to see during your safari in Rwanda. Here are the most popular attractions not to miss during your visit;
The Rwandan Volcanoes are famous for its thriving population mountain gorillas, rare apes endemic to Africa. The park hosts almost a third of the remaining population of the mountain gorillas in the world. The park is part of the larger Virunga Massif. Seeing the mountain gorillas in Wild Rwanda is a privilege and meeting them is a lifetime experience! Read More
The golden monkey is an old world order monkey that is endemic to the Virunga Region. It is characterized with a bright orange- gold body thus its name! You can see this rare monkey during a hike through within only the Volcanoes National Park and the nearby Mgahinga National Park (of Uganda). Golden monkeys are only found in the Virunga. Read More
Near the Park are Musanze Caves that were created about 65 million years as a result of vulcanization within the Virunga Mountains. The caves are some of the popular attractions and can be visited all year round. See the brilliant views of cascading lights from the surface, interesting rock formations, and bats that colonized the cave walls. Read More
The Muhanga Ecopark is of great biological and cultural significance within the Rwanda. There are well developed trails that lead you through park! The forest is a habitat for a variety of birds and butterfly species. The forest is an ancient sacred site that was used by the past Rwandan kings (Omuami) for coronation rituals and thus a great cultural site. Read More
Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park hosts an amazing array of flora and fauna. From large mammals to incredible birdlife there is a lot to see in the park. On this guide, check out the amazing checklist different wildlife including mammals, reptiles and amphibians. The checklist of birdlife of the Virunga is also outstanding and listed on this travel guide. Read More
What to Do in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Though tracking the mountain gorillas is the most popular tourist activity that attracts tourists to the Volcanoes National Park, there are several adventure activities that you can engage in during your trip. There are quite interesting hikes and activities that you can consider including golden monkey tracking, hike to Dian Fossey’s former camp (Karisoke Research Centre), day hikes to the peaks of the Virunga Mountains etc.
Here are the top adventure activities to do in the area;
Places of Interest close to PNV Rwanda
Would you like to make the most out your safari in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park? Don’t miss out on the unforgettable things to do in the Rwandan Volcanoes and nearby places.
Musanze is the third largest town in Rwanda. This is the closest town to the Volcanoes National Park. Formerly known as Ruhengeri, Musanze is a convenient base from which tourists track the endangered mountain gorillas. Musanze is of strategic importance since it offers most of the lodging for tourists. It has a selection of lodges and eateries to make your stay comfortable.
After gorilla trekking, tourists can also visit the beautiful twin lakes of Burera and Buhondo. The Lake Bulera is separated by Lake Ruhondo by just a 1km wide strip of land. The erratic shaped body of water follows the contours of tall and steep hills of the Virunga Mountains. The two beautiful lakes offer great scenic views to visitors who travel to the Virunga Mountains. You can take a boat ride along the lake or take a community walk to nearby places for entertainments and cultural studies.
Lake Ruhondo is a good target for an overnight stay and there are several good lodges where you can stay during your trip.
The Volcanoes National Park protects the Rwandan sector of the Virunga Massif! The Virunga region consist of six extinct and three active volcanoes that spread over Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The park is home to four Virunga Volcanoes that are protected in the park; Mount Bisoke, Mount Sabinyo, Mount Mgahinga and Mount Karisimbi. These volcanoes offer unique opportunities of trekking to higher peaks. Hiking the Virunga Volcanoes is one of the adventures that you should not miss during your visit. The trips vary from day hikes to 2 days. You can choose to hike the Ngezi Crater, Mount Bisoke or Mount Karisimbi during your trip.
The unassuming nature park lies 8km from Musanze Town. This small patch of forest is dominated by spectacular dragon trees and criss crossed by lava-block walking trails. The park is a culturally significant site and you can enjoy birding and nature walks.
Situated next to the car park at the trailhead of the Sabinyo and Agashya Group, this award winning local community project was founded in 2004. The project aims at improving the livelihood of the local people who live adjacent to the park. Formerly known as the Ibywacu Cultural Village, the ecotourism project has been successful and it is a must visit during your safari in Rwanda. The village offers an amazing cultural experience that lasts about 2 hours and it is a great place to relax after the morning’s gorilla trek.
Plan Your Trip to Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Here is all the basic information you need to get started with planning your tour within the Volcanoes National Park. From this resource, read everything you need to know to plan an expert trip into the Rwandan Volcanoes including; getting there, getting around, gorilla trekking and much more.
Find answers to the most frequently asked questions such as when to visit the park, the best times to go gorilla tracking, what to pack, guidelines for visiting the park etc. Are you planning a gorilla trekking adventure far in advance? Check our articles to learn more about gorilla trekking, hiking the Virunga Volcanoes, gorilla families to visit, gorilla-watching guidelines, etc.
Where is the Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park?
Located within the protected area of the Virunga Volcanoes, Volcanoes National Park is found in northern Rwanda. It lies 105km from Kigali, the Capital of Rwanda. It takes about 3 hours to drive from Kigali to Kinigi where the park headquarters can be found.
The park straddles the Ugandan and Congolese Borders. The park lies in the Musanze District, a mountainous district in northern Rwanda. The current Musanze District was formerly called Ruhengeri, the most common name in most travel guidebooks. Kigali is linked by a good road, frequented by mid buses.
Why You Should Visit the Volcanoes National Park Rwanda?
The Volcanoes National Park Rwanda protects the Rwandan sector of the Virunga Mountains, a range of six extinct and three active volcanoes that straddle the border of Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. The Virunga Massif protects more than half of the world’s remaining population of the mountain gorillas.
The park is immensely scenic and ecologically diverse thus a must visit destination for travelers looking to ecotours in Africa. The park is popular for gorilla tracking, an activity that involves walking through the bamboo forest in search of the mountain gorillas. Other popular activities are golden monkey tracking, Dian Fossey Hike, as well as climbing to the peaks of Mount Visoke and Karisimbi.
The Volcanoes National Park is located a short distance drive from Kigali (just about 2-3 hours drive) and from Bwindi or Mgahinga in Uganda (about 3-5 hours’ drive). A comfortable 4×4 vehicle is more preferable for all your road trips to Rwanda’s Volcanoes Park.
The best time to visit the Volcanoes Park depends on what you would like to see, experience or do there. Though most activities can be done all year round, it is important to know the right time to go gorilla trekking, hiking or birding.
How Long Should I Spend in the Rwandan Volcanoes?
The length of time to spend on safari depends on what you would like to do or experience. Some do day trips to see gorillas from Kigali while still some spend a week within the volcanoes and do several adventures.
What are the Park Fees and Activity Fees?
For all clients who posses a gorilla permit, the park entrance fee is included in the cost. A golden monkey permit costs US$90 per person. There are special fees for gorilla permits up to December 2023.
The annual Kwita Izina (naming) gorilla-naming ceremony is predicated upon a common African practice of infant naming where commonly the grandfather or grandmother gives a name to their grandchild. In Rwanda, the naming ceremony is often attended by family and friends. In the effort to promote gorilla conservation, ORTPN among several other conservation stakeholders took it upon themselves to adopt the human culturally known practice of naming human babies and applied it to naming infant gorillas. This annual festival is held every September and the ceremony is attended by celebrities, tourists, conservationists as well as local people.
Guide to Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
Visiting the mountain gorillas is one of the best rated African safari experiences. Commonly referred to as gorilla trekking, vising the great apes in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park offer an opportunity to hike through the forest and watch the mountain gorillas for up to one hour, face to face within the wild.
Gorilla trekking is the most sought after adventure activity that attracts most visitors to the Rwandan volcanoes. With a total of about 96 gorilla permits being issued every day, you can be among the privileged who go on amazing treks to see the great apes in the wild. Every 8 tourists are assigned to each of the 12 habituated families for tourism within the park. A permit costs US$1500 per person and you can easily book your gorilla safari with a local tour operator listed on this website.
Even though gorillas can be tracked in countries such as the Central African Republic, Gabon, and Congo, it is only in three countries where you can find the endangered mountain gorillas. Of all the gorilla subspecies, it is only the mountain gorillas that until now cannot survive outside their natural habitats. Elsewhere, they are only found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda, the Virunga National Park in DR Congo.
Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park has been specially designed as a luxury eco-tourism activity. Though most of the attention has for a long time been drawn to the $1500 permit, many people miss the highlight of how the population of mountain gorillas in the world has more than doubled due to similar prohibitive yet supportive conservation endeavors.
Preparation for Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
Every successful and memorable African safari starts with preparation. That is psychological, physical, and sometimes educational. Here are a few things that come on top mind when preparing to visit Volcanoes national park in Rwanda.
- When is the Best time to visit volcanoes national park?
- What Gear is to Carry for a Gorilla Trek? Camera, Binoculars, and other safari gadgets
- What are the most important rules to know?
- How to stay Safe while visiting Volcanoes national park?
- What is the Recommended Wear During the Visit?
- What are the essential things to Pack for your Visit?
- Get to Know the Wildlife Etiquette for PNV
- Where Should I Stay During My Visit?
- Where Should I Eat During my Visit?
- How to get to Volcanoes National Park
Don’t Forget Your Permit
If you are looking to gorilla trekking in the park, you will need to obtain a gorilla permit early enough.
A permit for Rwanda costs US$1500 per person and it is advised that you should book your pass at least 3 months in advance if you are looking to go gorilla tracking in the peak months of December to March and June to October.
The cost of the gorilla permit includes park entrance fees, guiding fees and community levy that is given back to the local people who live adjacent to the park.
Gorilla permits can be booked via the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) or through a reliable local tour operator. Please note that every gorilla permit issued is tied to the date of your reservation.
Where is Gorilla Trekking Conducted?
Gorilla Visits are conducted within habituated gorilla families that reside within the Volcanoes National Park. Currently there are twelve habituated gorilla families that can be visited by tourists. Due to ecotourism guidelines, the number of visitors who track a given gorilla family is highly regulated. A maximum of eight visitors are permitted to visit a habituated gorilla family.
How Difficult is Gorilla Trekking?
The terrain of the Volcanoes National Park is not as steep as Bwindi of Uganda. However it is important to know that the altitude ranges between 2400m to 4507m above sea level. It is important to have a considerable degree of fitness if you are to go gorilla tracking in Rwanda. It is also important to get acclimatized to the environment before the actual hike within the park.
Check out the ecotourism guidelines to follow while tracking the mountain gorillas in the Rwandan Volcanoes.
It is important to have the right gear in order to enjoy your gorilla visit. The essential things every Rwanda traveler should have when visiting the mountain gorillas include long socks, trousers, long sleeved shirts, a daypack with energy giving foods, sturdy walking shoes, a rain jacket and insect repellent.
Remember you should not forget your camea and batteries. It is important to know that flash photography is not allowed while taking photos of the mountain gorillas.
Bottled drinking water is a necessity and a basic first aid kit are also essentials packs that you should not forget. Check out the packing list here
Many travelers ask about the safety of the activity of visiting the gorillas. All gorilla treks are safe and secure for all tourists. All treks to see mountain gorillas are done in gorilla groups that have undergone thorough habituation. The gorilla habituation process takes a period of about 2 years to make these apes get used to human presence before they are fully opened to tourist visits.
Safety hazards in Volcanoes National Park such as animal attacks are not common. The elevation ranges also come with simple sickness such as headache, tiredness, and more but it is important to stay at least a night and get acclimatized.
Rwanda’s gorillas can be tracked any time of the year. However the dry season stands out as the most favorable time for travelers from Europe and America. The dry season falls with the summer months of June, July, August, September. The peak season also occurs within December to March of every year. Visiting the mountain gorillas in the dry season (with low or no rains are recorded) makes hiking easier. Trackers can smoothly navigate via the dry trails rather than muddy floor during the wet season.
What Should I Expect on a Gorilla Trek in Rwanda?
Travelers looking to gorilla trekking have to report at the Kinigi Park headquarters by 7.30AM. Briefing by the ranger guides start at 7.30AM.
Before the briefing session, a group of 8 tourists is assigned to a gorilla family to track.
The actual trek to see the mountain gorillas starts at 8.00AM. Led by the rangers, go on a guided walk through the bamboo forests.
Upon meeting the mountain gorillas, you have up to one hour to watch the great apes.
Regulation and Protocol Guiding Gorilla Trekking
There are strict regulations and guidelines that must be met by tourists looking to gorilla tracking in the Volcanoes National Park. Visitors with communicable diseases or airborne diseases such as flu, cough, Covid 19 and more are not allowed to go gorilla trekking.
Tourists can spend no longer than one hour while with the mountain gorillas.
During the gorilla trek, visitors are not allowed to eat, urinate or defecate in the prescence of the mountain gorillas. The 7 Meter Rule must also be observed and unless the gorillas move closer to you, you must maintain the set distance while in their prescence.
What is the Minimum Age for Gorilla Trekking?
The minimum age for gorilla trekking is strictly 15 years. Children below 15 years cannot be allowed to be go gorilla tracking in the Volcanoes National Park.
What to Eat
Worried about where to eat during your visit? There are several dining options in Musanze Town, the closest town. If you have already booked your pre-planned safari, you already covered.
Where to Stay While on Safari
There is no accommodation within Volcanoes National Park and overnight camping is forbidden. However, there is now a choice of mid range to upmarket lodges situated within a few kilometers of the park headquarters at Kinigi, all listed below.
The most convenient accommodation at this park is staying in Kinigi near the park headquarters. For those with a low budget, Musanze is the only option otherwise there is totally no camping in this Park.
The park has all kinds of accommodation choices- budget, mid-range and luxury. The most popular budget accommodation in and around Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park include La Palme Hotel, Hotel Muhabura, Virunga Hotel, Faraja Hotel, Kinigi Guesthouse, etc Midrange Lodging in the park include Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Villa Gorilla Lodge, etc. Luxury Lodging close to the Volcanoes National Park include Five Volcanoes National Park, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Gorilla Solution Lodge, Bishop’s House, Tiloreza EcoLodge etc
Highend luxury lodges in the Volcanoes National Park include Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, Bisate Lodge, Virunga Volcanoes Lodge, One and Only Gorilla Nest Lodge, Singita Kwitonda Lodge, etc There’s no camping inside the park and overnight camping is not allowed. If not, you can as well consult with ORTPN about camping prospects obtainable.