Rwanda also known as a land of a thousand hills has three moderate altitude volcanoes which form part of the Virunga massifs.
With the help of Rwandan development board or trusted local tour operators, you are guaranteed the best hiking experience while in Rwanda. Hiking permits can be obtained right in Kinigi Rwanda’s main tourist centre located inside the Volcanoes National Park in Musanze district northern province.
Tourists will not need to book hiking permits in advance, except purchasing your own hiking gears in time or optionally hiring them. Other requirements that you need to enter Rwanda include Rwandan tourist visa and a yellow fever vaccination card.
Rwanda’s three distinct volcanic mountains from an integral part of the virunga volcanic province, a chain of 8 volcanoes that make up the verdant virunga mountains region one of the two place to see mountain gorillas in the whole world.
The volcanoes are karisimbi, Bisoke and muhavura. Karisimbi volcano is the 5th highest peak in Africa standing at 4507 meters above sea level and it will take hikers two days to complete it while Bisoke at 3,700 and muhavura at 4,127 meters above sea level can be hiked in one day.
Mount Karisimbi is best for serious hikers because of its high altitude (4,507 meters above sea level) often referred to as the white shell mountain and once you get on top expect to be covered by a mist of white clouds.
To hike karisimbi, you will need your own hiking gears such as camping tents, sleeping bags, porters, rain jackets, warm clothing not forgetting your cameras.
Hiking starts at kinigi the main tourist centre early at 08:00am. As the guides briefs visitors, hikers make final checking of their hiking gears then slowly ascend. For the first day you will traverse the lush mountain base with wild animal encounters, birds, rare vegetation and scenic views. The first day of hiking takes 6 hours to reach the first camping base and enjoy the overnight camping. The second day hikers ascend up to the top summit offering magnificent and breathtaking views of Nyiragongo in DRC and the greater virunga.
Descending takes about 6 hours depending on the pace of the group and guides.
Mount Muhavura is the second highest volcano in Rwanda at 4,127 meters above sea level. Muhavura is shared between Uganda and Rwanda but it’s possible to hike it from kinigi in volcanoes national park Rwanda. It takes a full day and needs average fitness but rewarding with fantastic views of the five virunga volcanoes and twin lakes of Burera and Rubondo and you will refresh by the Crater Lake near the summit.
While hiking the steep slopes, hikers can see rare high altitude plants such as lobelias abd heathers as well as mammals and monkeys. The name muhuvura means the guide when translated from Kinyarwanda because the mountain is used to navigate the borders of Rwanda and the Albertine rift valley.
Permits to hike can be got on arrival at kinigi and there is mid range to luxury accommodation since hiking the volcanoes takes one full day, hikers can stay for other adventures such as golden monkey tracking and biking safaris.
Mount Bisoke is another stunning volcano standing at 3.711 meters above sea level with a largest crater lake on top than any other crater lake within virunga volcanoes. It’s the fourth highest volcano in Rwanda, Hikers start at 08:00 am and it can be hiked in 4-6 hours roundtrip depending on the average fitness of the group.
Hikers escorted by armed rangers traverse through breathtaking bamboo and sub-alpine that are often covered by fog and are a habitat for mountain gorillas and the Dian Fossey’s karisoke research centre. Hence visitors can make a visit to the grave site of Dian Fossey after the hike.
Hikers are likely to encounter buffalos, giant forest hogs, monkeys and see many birds.
Reaching on top at the crater a perfect picnic to have your packed lunch meals as well as enjoy scenic views of the surrounding volcanoes because it marks the borders of Rwanda and DR Congo. There are accommodations within volcanoes national park or visitors may choose to stay in Goma or in Lake Kivu because these are not far from Bisoke just about 35 km.