Tourism people in Rwanda seem to have been making an effort over the past several years in an attempt to keep tourists in Kigali just a little longer before they drift away to visit the mountain gorillas. There are lots of wonderful things to do in the rest of Rwanda, sure! But Kigali is a lovely place and there’s definitely no reason to rush off.
It helps that Kigali seems to be getting a lot of great press lately including a coveted profile in the New York Times ‘36 Hours in…‘ series (though we’re partial to Leah’s 76 Hours in Kigali article, of course) along with a more recent writeup in Conde Naste Traveler (using a very old photo of the city’s skyline which just seems lazy). Plus Kigali regularly features at the top of many ‘safest’ and ‘cleanest’ city lists and it really is a very beautiful place with its rolling hills and perfect weather.
But if the government wants people to hang around our wonderful little city for awhile longer, it’s important that there are fun things to do that go beyond eating at fancy restaurants and staying in fancy hotels. Happily, a few enterprising folks have filled the gap in the market with some excellent day tours, aimed at showing guests (and even Kigali residents) several interesting sides of the city. Read on for some great ideas for how to spend a full or half day exploring Kigali!
The 1000 Hills Distillery is such an interesting place to me. I love that someone had the idea to set up such a thing in Kigali and thanks to Daniel and his team, we now have locally made spirits and a tour that goes along with them. The tour is confined mostly to one room where the entire process is explained from start to finish. It’s cool to see all of the gear involved and to get a rundown of how it’s all made. At the end you get to taste a sampling of their liquor and you can also choose to have a meal at their beautiful bar/restaurant. It’s got a wonderful view of Kigali and it’s really just an awesome place to hang out drinking cocktails.
Go Kigali Tours sprung up several years ago after some amazing success in Addis Ababa with food tours. The team has selected Kigali as their next destination for city tours and they’ve really created something special that gets people off the beaten path in the city. Small group tours are led by highly trained guide who take guests to lots of interesting parts of the city you’d never have thought to go on your own. A lot of thought and care has gone into these tours and it shows. If you’re visiting Kigali (or even if you’re moving here) it should be one of the first things you do.
Kigali Bus City Tour
Kigali now has its very own open-top double-decker tour bus! This initiative seems heavily supported by the Rwandan government and the modern bus will shuttle up to 200 tourists per day around the city’s sights. You have a choice between a morning (9 am), afternoon (2 pm), or evening tour (7 pm), each with a different collection of stops. The tours cost $40 ($20 for residents of East Africa) and run every day except for Sundays.
Nyamirambo Walking Tour
This is one of Kigali’s original tours, set up many years ago by the ladies at the Nyamirambo Women’s Centre with the help of some volunteers. The tour starts at their shop in Biryogo (where you can buy lots of beautiful things including a map of Kigali) and then takes you on a walk around Nyamirambo. This is one of Kigali’s most interesting neighbourhoods but it can seem a bit overwhelming at first, so it’s amazing to have these ladies to guide you around and give a glimpse to what life is like here.
Phone: 0782 111 860
Question Coffee Tour
If you’re into coffee and want to learn more about what happens from crop to cup, Question Coffee‘s tour is an essential stop. The tour is run at their cafe near RDB where they start with a look at some coffee plants right there in their yard. After a short lesson in coffee agronomy, a roast master will take you through the roasting process, explaining roasting profiles, and ending in a cupping (tasting). Then learn a bit about the technicalities of the brewing process so you can consistently make the perfect cup at home. Rwanda truly does have wonderful coffee and Question is the perfect place to learn all about it. If you feel like going a bit further afield, they also offer full day tours out to their farms to meet the farmers and see coffee production first-hand.
Rwandan Adventures Cycling Tours
Rwandan Adventures are the bike tour experts with several tours running all around the country from half a day to six days. For those who are a bit intimidated by Rwanda’s hills (I hear there’s around 1,000 of them…), they have e-bikes to give you an extra boost. They run two tours in Kigali – one that takes in Kigali’s main sites and another that takes in the beautiful hills surrounding the city.
Talking Through Art Walking Tour of Gikondo
Talking Through Art is a wonderful organisation focused on giving vocational training, English classes, and employment to people with physical impairments. They run an art gallery and shop along with basket weaving classes and now also walking tours of Gikondo in Kigali. I’ve always loved this area for it’s bustling main streets and some of Kigali’s most beautiful views that nobody seems to know about. Let Talking Through Art show you their neighbourhood on one of their fun walking tours. You’ve got a choice between a morning or afternoon tour without lunch, a morning tour with lunch, or a full day tour with lunch and basket weaving. They’ve got you covered for the full Gikondo experience and you get to support an amazing cause at the same time!
Phone: 0788 532 056 / 0783 770 324
ViaVia Fashion Tour
Kigali’s home grown fashion scene has has a bit of a mini explosion over the past few years and there are all sorts of new designers and shops to check out. ViaVia has you covered with their fashion tour around the city where they take you to visit several of Kigali’s best fashion designers including footwear, handbags, jewellery, and other accessories! Get in touch for all of the details and to book a trip.