2 day Mount Bisoke hiking tour in Rwanda

bisoke crater lake

Book this 2 day Mount Bisoke hiking tour if you are looking for a short hiking trip in Rwanda. Mt. Bisoke volcano (3711m) is the most popular mountain for day hiking tours in Volcanoes National Park and Rwanda because it is situated almost in the middle of the Virunga Mountains (a chain of 7 volcanoes that cut across the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and D.R. Congo) hence offering incredible views of the Virungas and the adjacent rolling landscape. You also stand a chance of finding gorillas along the hiking trail (no guarantee) as well as the endangered golden monkeys. But above all Mt. Bisoke has a large beautiful crater lake at the summit which is the ultimate prize after the tough trek.

The hike is about 6 hours long with 4 hours going up and 2 hours coming back, but that is depending on your fitness and pace.

Tour itinerary:

Day 1 – transfer to Musanze, afternoon Mukungwa canoe trip

Your tour driver shall pick you up from Kigali at 8am and drive north to Musanze/Volcanoes National Park. This is a 2 hour trip.

Check into your lodge and have lunch

At 2pm you shall go for the half day canoe trip on Mukungwa river (about 3 hours) and explore the beautiful countryside, enjoy views of the rolling hills and also have an insight into the lives of the local people in the countryside as you will ride past farmlands and locals going about their lives. For the keen birder the ride offers good birding opportunities as you can see a lot of water birds.

canoe ride on River Mukungwa in Musanze

Optional activity:

Instead of the Mukungwa canoe trip you can do the following activity

  • Twin lakes tour: you can visit the twin lakes (Burera &  Ruhondo) which are situated in the foothills of the Virungas and do a boat ride to explore the amazing landscape and enjoying the incredible views of the Virunga in the backdrop

Accommodation to choose from:

Budget –> La Locanda

Midrange –> Le Bamboo Gorilla Lodge

Upmarket –> Five Volcanoes Lodge/TheBishop’s House

Day 2 – Hiking to Mt. Bisoke crater lake, transfer back to Kigali

Early rise and have breakfast at 6am and transfer to the park office in Kinigi at 7am. You will carry a lunch box. Meet the park guides for briefing about the park rules and then drive near to the base of the Mt. Bisoke where you start hiking.

The Mount Bisoke hike

volcano hikingAt the starting point you shall find the porters you can hire for USD 10 to carry your backpack. We absolutely do recommend you hire a porter however light your items may feel because from some point during the trek they will become heavier and heavier for every step u shall take, you tire very fast due to the lessening oxygen. The porters also offer assistance during the trek in form of a push or pull at some of the challenging spots of the trail. You are given a trekking stick and you are good to go! There are also armed soldiers that join you for protection from wild animals in the park such as the Forest Elephants, and Buffaloes, but there is little chance of the encountering these, so it is just-in-case. The starting point is at an elevation of 2700 meters above sea level, walk through the local communities and the farmlands at the edge of the park for about 15 minutes before crossing the stone wall into the park.

Take on the hiking trail and trek through the different vegetation zones along the volcano ranging from a little bamboo that ends at 2800m, through Hagenia Hypericum from 2800 – 3200, to Sub-alpine at the top. During the earlier ascend you may observe some Mountain Gorillas and Golden Monkeys. At least two groups of habituated Mountain Gorillas live in this volcano. However when you find a group you shall be allowed only a minute to watch them minus taking any pictures so as to keep it fair for those that paid for the hefty fee of USD 750 for the Gorilla trek. You shall observe a range of different of unique plants as you cross from one vegetation zone to another. The lower zones possess thick vegetation and softer grounds which pose the bigger challenge due to the mud. There is also an abundance of stinging nettles, plants which itch so much at the slightest contact with your skin. You shall watch out for these! Towards the top the volcano grows naked with less vegetation and terrain is also rocky, which makes the trek less tough. Throughout the trek you shall make occasional stops to rest a bit and take in the magnificent scenery all around. You start to get above the clouds as you approach the summit and move through fog. Finally you get to summit which is flat with a big Crater Lake measuring about 400 meters of diameter and estimated depth of about 100 meters.

mt bisoke crater lakemountain-bisoke-trekThough the volcano is shared between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic Congo, the entire Bisoke summit lies within Rwanda. Due to the large diameter you may not afford enough time to rim the entire Crater Lake to view the other areas of the Virungas, so you can only see the peak of Mt Mikeno Volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo piercing through the clouds and Mt. Karisimbi on the Rwanda – DR Congo boarder.mt-mikeno-congo

The temperatures can drop to 10 degrees Celsius and below, so you only stay a few minutes, say 30. You also get to eat your lunch/snack. Sometimes the weather is bad with a lot of fog and rain during which you may not see the Crater Lake clearly and you cannot stay long.

Embark on the trek back down, a faster one but more slippery. The porters will come in handy. It will take about 2 hours, touch base, meet your driver and leave for Kigali, expecting to arrive in the evening.

* Meal plan: Breakfast, Lunch

Trip includes

  • Transport (driver, car, fuel)
  • Accommodation for one night
  • All meals
  • Hiking permit
  • Bottled water

Trip excludes

  • Porter fees
  • Tips
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Luxury drinks eg beers, soda, wines
  • Souvenirs
  • Laundry, phone bill and other personal expenditures

What you need to carry?

  • Hiking boots
  • A rain coat
  • Hiking trousers and long sleeved shirt to protect from the stinging nettles
  • Warm sweater
  • Protective cover for your camera, there are high chances of rain.


At the end of the hiking tour to Mt Bisoke, if you wish to extend your stay in Volcanoes National Park, other exciting activities you can do include Mountain Gorilla Trekking, Golden Monkey Trekking, hike other trails in the park, visit the local communities or tour the Musanze Caves.

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