Looking for an adventure holiday? Plan a fun-packed trip with One&Only hotels
The exceptional state of the roads allows visitors to see Rwanda in a short amount of time. Kigali, the Genocide Memorial, Nyungwe National Park, and the iconic Volcanoes National Park are all must-sees for every visitor to Rwanda. These places should not be missed on your journey through the Land of a Thousand Hills. Travelling by car around Rwanda is an excellent method to see all the country’s greatest attractions, but plan a trip with One&Only, and your excursions will include helicopter rides across the beautiful landscape. So, what can you do in Rwanda? Continue reading for a 10-day detailed itinerary with the One&Only hotels.
Rwanda is a place for adventure, hiking and safari. For family travellers, advice is that children should be 15 or over to really enjoy the full experience. Your hotel can provide permits for gorilla trekking and seeing the other animals in the national parks.
Weather in Rwanda: When should you go?
Rwanda has a tropical highland climate, with plenty of rain. Temperatures vary considerably between locations depending on their altitude, but very little from month to month in the same place. In the capital, Kigali, the average daily temperature is about 21°C/70°F:
– Rainy season: March to May and October to November
– Hottest months: June to September
If you are thinking of what to pack: casual is best, perhaps pack a few more dressy outfits for dinners. For all outdoor activities, we recommend suitable outdoor clothing, appropriate to the season and weather (sweatpants, leggings, trainers, etc).
The weather in the rainforest and mountains can change quickly, ranging from warm sunny days to rainy spells and very cool conditions during winter evenings. We therefore recommend that you pack a range of clothing suitable for all conditions, particularly warm gloves, scarves, and head wear during winter, as well as waterproof outerwear, closed shoes for hikes, gaiters, plus a hat and sun protection.
DAY 1: WELCOME TO KIGALI
Start your adventure with a helicopter ride
Once you arrive in Kigali, you’ll be welcomed by a One&Only representative outside the customs and immigration hall. Pack your bags in the van which will eventually take you on a helicopter to the hotel, and prepare for a bit of culture. An illuminating city tour with highlights including the Kigali Genocide Memorial is a must-see experience.
Rwanda’s painful past has haunted the country for years, yet their impressive recovery story has turned them into an inspiration. The Interahamwe army slaughtered an estimated one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus over the course of 100 days. This monument pays tribute to the estimated 250,000 victims who were buried, as well as having an outstanding museum that seeks to explain the atrocities. This is a very poignant and powerful monument to which you should absolutely devote some time during your visit to Rwanda.
The comprehensive audio tour gives history on Rwanda’s tumultuous colonial past. As you learn more about the horrors that occurred here, you will be shown riveting video testimonies from survivors. Upstairs is a touching area devoted to educating tourists about other genocides across the globe – putting Rwanda’s past into historical perspective. After you’ve had your fill of the museum exhibits, drop a rose (donated by the memorial service) on one of the concrete slabs which cover the graves outdoors.
The Genocide Memorial acts as a humbling reminder to those present and honours those who have been lost. Audio visual equipment will be provided in Dutch, English, and other languages.
After the city tour, it’s time to climb aboard the helicopter for an unforgettable scenic flight to Nyungwe National Park, where the largest mountain forest in East and Central Africa can be found.
The heart of Nyungwe National Park is like a scene from a fairy tale. Ancient mahoganies, ebonies, and giant tree ferns tower over you, whilst orchids and other epiphytes cling to every branch. Brightly coloured birds flit around, butterflies hum in the air, with the appearance of a variety of playful primates for which Nyungwe National Park is renowned.
The helicopter flight takes about 35 minutes to One&Only Nyungwe House. Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by our guide. Once checked-in, it’s time to enjoy a delectable dinner.
DAY 2: NYUNGWE NATIONAL PARK CHIMPANZEE TREK
After a good night’s rest, the day begins bright and early
Breakfast is packed and you’ll drive to the park headquarters before sunrise. After an insightful chimpanzee trek briefing, you’ll be escorted to the Evergreen Forest where the adventure truly begins. Alongside the famous chimps, you are likely to spot a wide variety of wildlife, including the vast quantity of birds. Among the resident species are 29 Albertine Rift Endemics and several Lake Victoria Basin Endemics, which should be on any birder’s wish list!
The playfulness and human–like characteristics of the chimps make this journey so rewarding. You may even be welcomed by chimp morning calls deep in the forest. Upon encountering them, you can stay in their presence for one hour as you enjoy their acrobatics, feeding, and day-to-day behaviours.
You’ll make your return to the resort and a welcome lunch will be served. Enjoy lunch in The Dining Room; the executive chef and the team will curate every menu daily, based on your preferences and the best of the season’s ingredients. Savour the natural flavours of Rwanda prepared with rustic tradition and served with contemporary flair in the comfortable restaurant with idyllic plantation views.
The afternoon is then at your leisure, for relaxation or experiencing a new activity of your choice. A traditional tea tasting will be a highlight of the evening, before another delightful dinner and overnight stay.
DAY 3: SPA DAY & ACTIVITIES
Break a sweat then unwind
The afternoon is free for you to unwind amongst the elements or take part in one of the complimentary activities on offer, such as boot camp, spear throwing, conservation walks, tea tasting, or exploring the grounds by bicycle. If you want to try something a little different try Nyungwe’s nocturnal walk.
The resort’s Fitness Centre, which features the latest Technogym equipment with customised cardio, movement, and stretching training, is a great place for guests to keep up their fitness regimen. For those seeking a unique workout, the resort offers ‘Nature’s Bootcamp,’ a moderate to hard outdoor jungle exercise in the pure mountain air. After breaking a sweat, guests should visit the spa and unwind for extraordinary treatments and self-care.
The One&Only Spa, hanging above the forest and providing amazing jungle views, is a wonderful hideaway for travellers searching for a moment of tranquillity to complement their adventures in the Nyungwe Forest. Guests should unwind with treatments set against the beautiful landscapes and natural sounds of the forest in the privacy of their big treatment room. Spa treatments are also available on the villa decks for guests who do not wish to leave their suites. We commend you to try two of the following signature treatments:
One of the hotel’s signature treatments, Intoga Amasatchi, is a 60-minute deep-tissue, full-body signature therapy that uses hands and various-sized wooden sticks. The sticks traditionally represent the healer’s expertise and ability to stretch tight muscles and eliminate toxicity from the body.
Alternatively, for a complete health experience, try the African Imana Facial, which begins with a back massage infused with shea butter and continues with a wonderful ritual that involves cleansing, massage, and sound therapy.
The resort’s distinctive infinity-edge swimming pool and pool deck, which juts out over the edge of the forest, offers breath-taking jungle vistas. Visitors may relax on the spa deck, swing on one of the giant hanging swings, or soak in the heated pool next to the spa after their treatments.
In the evening, a beautifully prepared dinner is served.
DAY 4: NYUNGWE NATIONAL PARK’S CANOPY WALK
Break a sweat then unwind
After breakfast at the resort, you’ll go to the park headquarters for the canopy walk briefing bright and early. The canopy walkway consists of three bridges and three towers, with a total length of 200m. The walkway is embedded in a guided tour along the breath-taking Bushigishigi Trail. On this journey, your expert park guide will not only reveal the forest canopy, but also explain why it is an integral part of the tropical rainforest ecosystem. You will learn what the major characteristics of a rainforest and its canopy are, and the importance Nyungwe National Park has for Rwanda as a whole.
After this insightful tour, you’ll return to the resort for lunch. Savour the natural flavours of Rwanda prepared with rustic tradition and served with contemporary flair in the comfortable restaurant with idyllic plantation views.
The afternoon is again free, to indulge, relax, or get active around the resort. Alternatively, visit the One&Only spa for yet another treatment of your choice. We know that the body has a memory of all emotional experiences and unwinding may be just the thing you need to boost your energy in preparation for the days ahead.
In the early evening, meet at the bar for pre-dinner drinks. Raise a glass to the adventures of the day as you look out over spectacular vistas. The bar serves a curated selection of rare and small-batch gins perfectly matched to selected botanicals and herbs, alongside a curated wine list highlighting vineyards from South Africa’s Western Cape. In the evening, dinner is served, and you can enjoy your final overnight stay, surrounded by the jungle elements.
DAY 5: TEA LEAF PICKING & SHOPPING
Did you know that tea leaves are repellents for mosquitoes?
After trekking in Nyungwe Forest National Park, you might be eager to relax with a cup of tea. Fortunately, tea plantations blanket the area around the park, offering not only dreamy scenery, but the chance to learn the art of cultivating the caffeine-laced leaves.
Gisakura Tea Estate invites tourists to experience a couple of hours in the life of a tea leaf picker. The pickers will let you wear their backpack-basket and show you the delicate technique of plucking tea leaves with just three fingers. It’s harder than it looks! Then, you’ll watch as their impressive hauls are weighed and trucked to the factory for processing. Tours can be arranged with the Rwanda Development Board.
If you fancy a spot of shopping after tea tasting, there are plenty of small local markets or shops to discover. Local artisans have made a plethora of designs for your home. When you purchase anything, you are in fact supporting the local community. Just ask the concierge to arrange it all.
DAY 6: SAFARI ADVENTURES IN AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK
Get your cameras ready!
Hop on board a helicopter and be prepared for a long journey by road to Akagera National Park, Central Africa’s largest protected wetland. The park’s 440 square miles of preserved land brim with wildlife, including a plethora of birds, antelope, zebra, hippos, elephants, and giraffe. You may even see some of the other Big Five animals—if you’re lucky. Increase your chances of spotting rare wildlife by hiring a local guide, which can be arranged ahead of your safari by calling the visitor’s centre.
DAY 7: TAKE A BREAK
Transfer to Gorilla’s Nest by helicopter!
A short 40-min journey by helicopter and you’ll arrive at One&Only Gorilla’s Nest resort helipad, where you will be warmly welcomed into the resort. Your afternoon in the jungle is at leisure. Enjoy lunch at Nest. Like at Nyungwe, Executive Chef Bryan English and his team of chefs will create dishes that tell the story of Rwanda’s land and culture as they make use of the regional produce sourced from local farmers and from the Chef’s Garden, with a focus on freshness and quality.
The afternoon calls for a guided yoga session on the outdoor yoga deck surrounded amongst the eucalyptus forest and inspiring backdrop. Then try a 90-minute Forest Coffee and Coconut Treatment at the spa. Inspired by the history of Rwandan coffee, Terres D’Afrique has exclusively created this treatment for One&Only Gorilla’s Nest. This enlightening experience begins with a local coffee and coconut body polish to re-invigorate your skin. This is followed by a full body balancing and detoxing massage using a combination of lymphatic drainage movements and acupressure that detoxifies and activates the body’s natural curative abilities.
DAY 8: VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
Try the Golden Monkey trek
You’ll experience an unforgettable scenic flight to Volcanoes National Park as well. Rwanda is also known as the Land of a Thousand Hills because of the undulating grassy landscape. The Karisimbi Volcano (4,519m high) in the Virunga Mountains is the highest point in Rwanda, and on a clear day, you will be able to see it as you near your destination. An early breakfast sets you up for a full day of discovery. You’ll journey to the park headquarters for the Golden Monkey trek briefing at 7am, before being taken to the head of the trail, ready for your guided walk at 8am. The amazing trekking process usually takes around 4 hours, and once you come to the habituated monkey families, you’ll spend a fascinating hour with them as they go about their daily life. Trekking to see the Golden Monkeys is an absolute highlight of Volcanoes National Park.
The Golden Monkey (Cercopithecus Mitis Kandti) is a local subspecies of the widespread Sykes Monkey, also known as the ‘Blue Monkey’ and is endemic to the high-altitude forests. The monkeys are playful and inquisitive and often spend their time leaping from bamboo branches or frolicking on the forest floor. There are two habituated groups of Golden Monkey, one group comprises around 80 – 100 members, with its home at the foot of Mount Sabyinyo. On the conclusion of your trek, you’ll return to the resort for a well-earned lunch and rest.
In the afternoon, a visit to the inspiring Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village awaits. Iby’Iwacu is changing the traditional perception of tourism by sharing various aspects of their rural culture and livelihoods, creating income-generating activities for people that have reformed from living on poaching for generations.
Returning to the resort in the evening, you’ll be treated to a special outdoor barbecue dinner with an atmospheric bonfire. You will enjoy a luxurious overnight stay.
DAY 9: VOLUNTEER DURING UMUGANDA
Partake in community service
Look around Rwanda and you’ll see hardly any trash. You can credit a couple of things for the country’s cleanliness—a ban on plastic bags, which has been active since 2008, and Umuganda, a community service day that takes place on the last Saturday morning of every month. The tradition, which is mandatory for able-bodied working-age adults, was reintroduced by the government in the late 1990s to “rebuild Rwandan society and nurture a shared national identity” after the genocide. Neighbourhood committees decide what project to focus on each month, whether it’s cleaning up the community, building a road, constructing a school or healthcare centre, or repairing houses.
After the work is done, the community gathers to discuss issues affecting them. It’s an uplifting experience that tourists are welcome to participate in. Get in touch with Visit Rwanda to learn more about helping on the next Umuganda.
DAY 10: GORILLA TREKKING EXPERIENCE
Your trip to Rwanda isn’t complete without this
Another beautiful early breakfast precedes the day, before heading to the park headquarters for the gorilla trek briefing bright and early. We will then transfer you to the starting point of your guided walk, ready to begin this amazing adventure. If you have a cold, flu, or other contagious infection, you shouldn’t go gorilla trekking as the gorillas are very susceptible to catching human infections, particularly respiratory ones.
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is often described as “life changing” and with good reason. With only an estimated 880 gorillas left in the world, to see these gentle creatures in their natural habitat is a truly unique moment. Hikes in the mountains can last anywhere from 30 minutes to four, or more, hours depending on the family allocated to your group and their location. The journey back can take just as long, but you are often carried along by the euphoria you feel after seeing the gorillas. The largest group ever studied is in Rwanda and was led by the Silverback called Cantsbee. He was the oldest known mountain gorilla in the world.
A gorilla family is led by a Silverback and includes several younger males, adult and juvenile females, and infants. In addition to providing protection to group members, Silverbacks maintain order and decide all activities within their troop. They schedule feeding trips, resting time, and travel. They also father the majority of young in the group.
After a most memorable experience encountering these creatures, return to the resort for lunch. The afternoon is at your leisure, with an array of captivating activities on offer, should you wish to keep discovering.
Before the day is done, meet at Nest Bar for pre-dinner drinks and raise a glass to the adventures of the day as you look out over spectacular views. Nest Bar serves traditional cocktails with a modern twist incorporating rose water and eucalyptus which are ingredients found at the resort. Dinner is followed at Nest. Executive Chef Bryan English and his team of chefs will create dishes that tell the story of Rwanda’s land and culture as they make use of the regional produce sourced from local farmers and from the Chef’s Garden.
By Kaya Gehe