Volcano Hiking in Rwanda

Volcano hiking in Rwanda falls under those other interesting adventures in Volcanoes National Park after the Gorillas and Golden Monkey treks for which the park is best known. Leaving alone the Gorillas, Volcanoes National Park’s most striking features are its five conical extinct volcanoes. They are part of the spectacular Virunga range that lies along the border regions of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. Rwanda actually takes the largest share of the Virunga ranges and perhaps there could have been no better name for the park than ‘Volcanoes’! These volcanic peaks provide a striking backdrop to the gorgeous scenery that is Volcanoes National Park.

The Virunga Volcanoes in Rwanda

There are five Virunga volcanoes hosted by Volcanoes National Park. They are Mount Bisoke at 3,711M ASL, Gahinga at M ASL and Sabinyo rising as high as M ASL. Others are Mount Karisimbi, the highest at 4,507M ASL and Muhavura at 4,127M ASL. The respective trails for volcano trekking in Rwanda offer everything from short walks in the park, easy day hikes and those somewhat challenging treks. Beginner hikers can attempt trails for like Gahinga, Bisoke’s Lake Ngezi and Dian Fossey Grave site trek. While the challenging summit trails for Karisimbi, Muhavura, Bisoke and Sabinyo could be reserved for seasoned pros. It should be noted that they’re also doable to any moderately fit person. You can choose trail by level of difficulty or the perfect one for your needs.

Whereas all the volcanoes in this park are part of the Virunga Mountain chain that sprawl the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mount Karisimbi and Bisoke do not extend to Uganda. They are only shared by Rwanda and Congo. Also note that hiking Mount Sabinyo is not possible in Rwanda, but only in Uganda. This is because there is no navigable trail yet. The rest of the volcanoes in the park can be hiked in a day except Karisimbi that requires 2 days.

Hiking the Volcanoes in Rwanda not only does it reward the hiker with those stunning views at the respective summits, wildlife encounters too are a possibility. Quite often, Golden Monkey troops and other animals like the bushbucks, forest hogs, the duikers are stumbled upon during hiking. Where birds too are a common sight, big animals like the elephants and buffaloes are however elusive given the rugged terrain and dense vegetation. Much as the chances to spot wildlife exist, animal keen visitors are however advised to sign up for animal trekking activities like for Gorillas, Golden Monkeys, birding, among others.

Best Trails for Volcano hiking in Rwanda

  • Mount Bisoke Crater lake hiking trail

Mount Bisoke or Visoke is the most popular for Volcano hiking in Rwanda. This is perhaps because it is quite doable to even inexperienced hikers. Also, the large spectacular crater lake (the largest in the Virunga ranges) at its summit is a wonder to marvel at. The hike to its summit and the descent takes 6 hours in total. Bisoke is a dormant volcano rising up to 3,711m above sea level. It is shared by Rwanda (Volcanoes National Park) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Virunga National Park). Congo takes the least share of Bisoke as the summit with the crater lake is located in Rwanda. You might want to know Bisoke hike price

  • Lake Ngezi Trail on Mount Bisoke Volcano

This trail is for a much shorter trek to Lake Ngezi located mid-way to the summit of Mount Bisoke. It is good enough for a hiking experience to those finding the 6 hours to the larger crater lake at the top as too many. This short trek is 3 hours (round trip).

  • Mount Karisimbi Trekking Trail

Reaching the highest point in Rwanda is so beautiful an adventure, and is such an experience to behold! At 4,057 meters high, the peak of Mount Karisimbi Volcano is the highest point in Rwanda and the 2nd highest among the Virunga Volcanoes. Like Bisoke, Karisimbi is shared between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Bisoke and the other Virunga volcano hikes are a 1-day experience but it requires 2 days for Mount Karisimbi. The steepness and lush vegetation on its slopes turn the Karisimbi hike into somewhat challenging but a very interesting one to the enthusiastic hiker.

  • Mount Gahinga Trail Hike

Mount Gahinga is the smallest of all and is shared between Uganda and Rwanda. It lies here in Volcanoes National Park on the side of Rwanda and in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park on the Uganda side. It rises to an elevation of 3,474M above Sea level. As the case is with Mount Bisoke/Visoke, Gahinga is also doable to even inexperienced hikers. There are navigable trails to the summit of Gahinga Volcano in either park and where respective hiking tours can be arranged. Gahinga slopes are for the most part covered with bamboo forests, a great habitat for the endangered Golden monkeys.

  • Hike to Mount Muhavura/Muhabura

Mount Muhavura Volcano or Muhabura lies at 4,127m above sea level and is the second highest in Rwanda after Karisimbi. It is the 3rd highest of all the 8 volcanoes in the Virunga Mountain Chain and its steepness presents a very challenging hike. Mount Muhabura hike requires to be done in a day and takes 7 or 8 hours (round trip). On a clear day, views from its summit include those of other volcanoes in the range, a scenic crater lake, the twin lakes of Bulera and Rubondo plus other distant picturesque sceneries in Rwanda and Uganda. Though doable, it shouldn’t be the first choice for inexperienced or first-time hikers when there are other simpler hikes like Gahinga and Bisoke that give an almost similar experience, let alone a ground to test one’s hiking capability.

  • Dian Fossey Grave site trek

Dian Fossey trail hike is popular for it offers hikers a chance to pay their respects to the renowned primatologist and conservationist that was Dian Fossey. Between Mount Karisimbi and Bisoke is her Grave site and Karisoke Research Centre which she founded in 1967 before she met her death in 1987. The Dian Fossey trail for hikers was established in recognition of her contribution to the survival of Mountain Gorillas that were at the verge of extinction then. Perhaps the park and its volcanoes wouldn’t have been this popular without the Gorillas!

  • Hike to Mount Sabinyo

As earlier mentioned, hiking Sabinyo Volcano is not possible from Rwanda. It has many ridges, rugged slopes and craters that have made it difficult to establish a safe trail on the side of Rwanda and Congo. However, it remains one of those very interesting and rewarding mountain climbing experiences that should on no account be missed. At its summit is an adjoining point for the boundaries of the three countries – Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Also, from the top are rewarding views of six Virunga Volcanoes, Lake Kivu in Rwanda, Congo forests, Rwenzori Mountains and others. A 3-day Sabinyo hiking trip in Uganda from Rwanda can be arranged. The journey to Mgahinga Park from where Sabinyo can be hiked is about 4 hours.

Permit Price/cost for Volcano hiking in Rwanda

Volcano hiking in Rwanda requires a permit and a guide. There is nothing like individual hiking in the park. Please note that each trail/trek requires an own permit despite being located in the same park. The climbing permit price/cost varies among the volcanoes (See table below). Also, the hiking permit price only includes the guide and access to the park to climb a particular volcano. It does not cater for the porter hiring fee, food, accommodation, transport to the park and to the hike starting point(s). Seek help of a trusted tour agent for other arrangements.

Visitor Category Bisoke Karisimbi Muhavura Gahinga Dian Fossey Tomb hike Sabinyo
Foreigner $75 $400 $100 $75 $75 $75
Foreign Resident in Rwanda $60 $250 $75 $60 $60 $60
Rwandan Citizen RWF4000 RWF30000 RWF5000 RWF4000 RWF4000 RWF4000
East African Citizen $55 $200 $60 $55 $55 $55
East African Resident $65 $300 $80 $65 $65 $65

Best time for hiking the Volcanoes in Rwanda

Visit when the trails are drier for a better hiking experience in Rwanda. This is usually in the months of June to August and December to February. The rest of the months are known to be wet rendering more challenging hikes due to muddy and slippery trails. However, both the dry and wet months have their advantages and disadvantages. The wet months are good for the best photos of the scenery, more private hikes with a smaller number of tourists, easy to acquire accommodation plus a higher bargaining power for services like transport. Also note that with this nature of terrain, rains surprise us even in the known dry months.

How to Prepare for Volcano hiking in Rwanda

First of all, you need to be sufficiently fit to attempt any hike. Pack a pair of good trekking boots, rain coat or poncho, long pants/trousers and long-sleeved tops. Woolen gloves and hat for the cold summit, a simple backpack to carry your snacks, drinking water and any gear until its required time. Hiring a porter is not mandatory but highly recommended as a way of giving back to the communities near the park. Check how to prepare for Bisoke hike.

Other activities to do Volcanoes National Park

Hiking the Virungas in Rwanda can be combined with Gorilla Trekking, Golden Monkey trekking, Diane Fossey site tour, bird watching, nature walks and cultural tours at the park. Away from Volcanoes National Park but still in Rwanda, visit other parks like Akagera for game viewing drives, Nyungwe for Chimpanzee trekking and canopy walk, Lake Kivu for a boat ride, Kigali city tour and Genocide Memorial site. These and others can greatly enhance your Volcano hiking experience in Rwanda.

Accommodation during Volcano hiking in Rwanda

Accommodation for Karisimbi overnight hike is obviously in the mountain huts mid-way to the summit. Before or after the trek, accommodation can be secured in lodges and hotels near the park. Budget, mid-range and luxury lodges are available. Le bamboo Gorilla Lodge, La locanda Hotel, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Da Vinci Lodge and Isange Resort are some of the lodges you can opt out for your stay. The most luxurious ones are Sabinyo Silverback Lodge, Heavens Boutique and others.

Accessing Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park is located close to Kigali, the country’s capital and airport city. It is approximately 2 hours of driving on a good road. Flights are also available but guess the two hours are not too many. With this proximity, even 1 day hiking trip from Kigali is possible.

Rwanda Volcano hiking trips

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