Rwanda's hills emerge at staggering angles, precipitous slopes of green roaming across the landscape. There's always a fresh panorama in the Land of 1000 Hills, every road curving past vivaciously dressed local women and these peculiar alpine cones.
This is a tiny country with awesome roads and easy light aircraft transfers. It makes everywhere in the country within three hour reach of capital city Kigali. This accessibility is part of the appeal. Land in Kigali and you can be quickly swept away to Volcanoes National Park and the mountain gorillas. Or you could be whisked away to a Lake Kivu retreat. This makes Rwanda a premier choice for those doing gorilla trekking on a tight East African itinerary. In one day you can fly to Rwanda and quickly transfer to the national park, with gorilla trekking done the following morning.
Rwanda's gorillas live in Volcanoes National Park, a mystical and misty mountain forest that borders the Democratic Republic of Congo. As of 2015 there are ten habituated gorilla groups in the park, meaning a maximum of 80 gorilla tracking permits available for each day. These groups are spread over a smaller area than in Uganda and the average trek is shorter. Older travelers tend to prefer this although there is no guarantee of where the gorillas will be and how long it will take to reach them. There's a stunning selection of high-end accommodation options in the park, with exceptional views and quick access to the trekking trailhead.
Like the gorillas, Rwanda's other attractions are easily accessible. Nyungwe Forest National Park to the south is home to various rare species including chimpanzees and 25% of Africa's primate population. Big game has been reintroduced to Akagera National Park, one of Africa's best conservation success stories. And new national parks are opening, supported by superb accommodation and a focus on high-end tourism.
Rwanda is very much the surprise package of African tourism. It was ravaged by ethnic conflict predicated by colonial rule, culminating in the 1994 genocide that left a quarter of the country dead and millions without homes. The transformation since is quite astounding. While memorials ensure the past isn't forgotten, Rwanda very much looks forward, radiating an enthusiasm and optimism. This is Africa's next big destination for luxury travel, so get into a Rwanda safari before the rest of the world finds out.
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Rwanda is exceptionally clean (plastic bags are illegal) and extremely well organized, with its exemplary road network amongst the best on the continent; even potholes seem to be illegal here. This often shocks visitors, who, expecting to find a rural mountain backwater, discover a smoothly running developed nation.
Capital city Kigali is one of Africa's finest, full of wide clean boulevards and without the chaos of many African cities. Regular visitors to Africa consider it to be one of their favourite cities. Yet you don't need to look far to see representations of Rwanda's past, along with an authentic insight into rural Africa.