Kigali

The capital of Rwanda, Kigali is the gateway to the land of a thousand hills. While still recovering from the 1994 genocide and civil war, Rwandans have worked hard to establish peace and rebuild. Today this tiny East African nation is well-known as a safe and stable place to do business.

Many nationalities are able to apply for single-entry visas on arrival. You may need to show proof of yellow fever vaccination to enter Rwanda.

Plastic carrier bags are banned and airport security will scan your bags before you depart the airport. Leave them on the plane or throw them away before you exit the luggage carousel.

If you are deciding whether to go to Rwanda or the Democratic Republic of the Congo to see mountain gorillas, choose Rwanda. It’s safer, and while more expensive, the Rwandans truly treasure their gorillas (so much so that the government hosts a naming ceremony for the babies every September).

If you have only a few hours in Kigali, do visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial. The memorial and museum honor the one million Rwandans murdered in the 1994 genocide and are a powerful reminder of the triumph of the human spirit.

If it is your first time to Rwanda or East Africa, we highly recommend reading Jacqueline Novogratz’s The Blue Sweater to better understand the local context of the country and region. For other great books by African authors, check out Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun, both about Nigeria. We also love Alexandra Fuller’s memoir, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight.

EAT

Heaven Restaurant Open air restaurant known for its Rwandan and international cuisine. It is also a social enterprise with an artisan boutique on site.

DRINK

Cafe Neo Hip, rooftop cafe popular with the ex-pat community. Try delicious, Rwandan coffee and stock up on a few bags to bring home. Other good brands are Gorilla and Maraba.

Hotel des Mille Collines Take in one of the best panoramic views of Kigali with a drink from the pool bar. During the 1994 genocide, the manager of the Mille Collines famously sheltered and saved over one thousand Rwandans.

PLAY

Haute Baso A social enterprise sourcing high-quality apparel, accessories and home decor from local women artisans.

Kimironko Market One of Kigali’s busiest markets, pick up everything from your daily produce, cooking, hardware supplies and beautiful local crafts and baskets.

Volcanoes Safaris Plan a 4-7 day luxury retreat into the hills with the mountain gorillas.

STAY

5 Swiss Hotel Clean and bright boutique guesthouse. Location is close to everything and the staff are lovely.

Kigali Marriott Hotel Palatial and new, its down the street from the 5 Swiss and a bit cheaper than the Serena.

Kigali Serena Hotel Five star glam and celeb spotting, but hard to justify the cost.

LOCATIONS NEARBY