“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
Sitting just south of the equator in the African Great Lakes region, Rwanda boasts a stunningly beautiful landscape with infinite opportunities for the adventurous traveler. Known as the land of a thousand hills and a million smiles, Rwanda sits at a high elevation and is dominated by mountains, lakes, and subtropical weather, all of which lend to agriculture and food markets that will make you feel like the star of a travel show on the Food Network. Even without a camera crew following you, you can still plan out a perfect day to experience the heart of the country like the savvy traveler you are.
Breakfast: Find a traditional breakfast of sweet potatoes and porridge from a local street vendor to start your day off like a local. Meat isn’t a big staple in most rural parts of the country, so consider this a chance to carb-load for the day ahead.
Cultural Activity: The first thing many people think of when they think of Rwanda is the 1994 genocide, and a visit to the Kigali Genocide Museum is a must-see for anyone wanting to understand this tragedy and its influence on the country.
Lunch: If you’re feeling a little solemn after your museum visit, a poolside lunch at Hotel des Mille Collines should help you shift your perspective back to all the beauty of Rwanda and the joys of traveling. As you dine on signature brochettes, raise a glass to the 1,268 people who took refuge inside the hotel during the genocide, an event that was depicted in the movie Hotel Rwanda.
Shopping: Do good with your souvenir shopping by hitting up the Art Gallery inside Heaven Restaurant. The fair trade gallery offers a wide selection of handmade goods including greeting cards, artwork, soap, coffee, essential oils and kitenge fabric wares. Plus, forty percent of the proceeds from art sales go towards putting kids in school.
Dinner: Make it easy and hop right over to the Heaven Restaurant after you stock up on local art. Chefs work closely with local farmers, focus on quality ingredients and have cultivated an onsite organic garden where fresh herbs and lettuce are harvested daily. Want to know more about the restaurant and hotel? There’s a whole book about it and it’s definitely worth checking out.
Special Attraction/Splurge: The first national park to be created in Rwanda, Volcano National Park is home to five volcanoes as well as the rare and endangered mountain gorilla and golden monkeys. Go all-in and book a gorilla trekking tour, a chance to see these gentle beasts in the wild. It might set you back a month’s rent, but might also change your life.
Drinks/Nightlife: The Kigali neighborhood of Kisimenti has a strip of bars tucked away behind the shops, making it a pretty safe bet to find a good time. If the first one is a miss, hop on to the neighboring one as it may just be on fire.
Book To Bring: A Thousand Hills by Stephen Kinzer (author of All The Shah’s Men), which tells the story of Paul Kagame, a refugee who, after a generation of exile, found his way home and strived to make Rwanda the first middle-income country in Africa.
How Do You Say: A few useful phrases in Swahili
Hello: Jambo (Lindsay Lohan is available for translation on this one)
Thank You: Asante sana!