Volcano Hiking in Rwanda

volcano hiking

Taking a large share of the magnificent Virunga Mountains, Rwanda is a great destination for mountain hiking and trekking trips. The Virunga Mountains are a chain of 8 volcanoes which sprawl along the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 5 out of the 8 volcanoes are shared along Rwanda’s border, and these are; Mount Karisimbi, Mount Bisoke, Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Gahinga and Mount Muhavura. The 5 mountains make up the Volcanoes National Park which is Rwanda’s most popular national park, mostly known for the gorilla trekking adventure, and is the prime destination for hiking tours in Rwanda.

The Virungas are a nature lovers dream, possessing incredible natural beauty; including lush forests and different vegetation zones, beautiful crater lakes, breathtaking scenery and unique mountain life. The mountains posses plenty of wildlife a lot of which is endemic to the Virungas or the Albertine rift valley in which the mountains lie, and such wildlife includes mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, buffaloes, forest elephants and a number of endemic birds which are on many birdwatchers wish lists.

Hiking is done on 4 of the Virunga volcanoes in Rwanda but not on Mt. Sabyinyo because of its enormous craters and sharp ridges. Mt. Sabyinyo was therefore declared dangerous for climbing in Rwanda until a safer trail is identified. At the moment the mountain can only be hiked on its Ugandan side and it offers one of the most rewarding hikes in the Virungas due to its location at the centre of the Virunga chain and at the meeting point of all the three country boundaries.

Apart from the major trails which require hiking to the peaks of the 4 volcanoes, there are other beautiful trails along the mountains and none seasoned hikers may find these less challenging. One may also experience the volcanoes by doing the famous gorilla trekking and golden monkey tracking adventures.

Hiking trails in Volcanoes national park Rwanda

Mount Bisoke Crater Lake hike

Bisoke Crater Lake
Mount Bisoke (3711m/12175ft) is located on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a dormant volcano with a massive crater lake at in the peak measuring about 400m in diameter and fully lies in Rwanda. Mount Bisoke crater lake is the most popular trail for hiking tours in Volcanoes National Park as hikers aim to reach this beautiful crater lake at the peak. Mountain Bisoke is also located closer to the center of the Virungas and thus offers stunning views of the chain. You can even catch sight of the sharp peak of Mt. Mikeno in the Congo. You also stand a good chance of seeing gorillas and golden monkeys along the hike. The difficulty level of this hike can be put at challenging to difficult but can be done even by none experienced hikers, however good fitness is very important for one to enjoy the trek. The round trip is about 6 hours, with 4 hours climbing up and 2 climbing down.

Lake Ngezi trail on Mount Bisoke

Lake Ngezi is a beautiful crater lake on the side of Mt. Bisoke, adjacent to Mount Gahinga. This is a relatively easier hike on Mount Bisoke that one can do instead of trekking to the peak. The round trek is 4 – 5 hours depending on the your fitness levels.

Mount Karisimbi 2 day trail

Mount Karisimbi (4507m/14787ft) is the highest volcano in the Virungas and is the 5th highest mountain in Africa. The mountain receives snow during some months in the year which is a phenomenon because it is located near the equator. For seasoned hikers that may prefer a longer and a more challenging hike in the Virungas this is perhaps the best volcano to climb in Volcanoes National Park. Unlike all the other volcanoes that are for one day hikes, the Mount Karisimbi hike is a 2 day adventure with camping on the mountain for one night at elevation 3700m/12139ft

Mt. Muhavura

Mount Bisoke (4127m/13540ft) is shared between Rwanda and Uganda. It is located on the end/start of the volcano chain. The trek on Mount Muhavura offers wonderful views of the mountainous landscape. One can also view the twin lakes Burera and Ruhondo below. At the peak of the Mt. Muhavura is also beautiful crater lake. The round trip is about 6 – 8 hours. Since it is quite high it requires a good fitness and endurance

Mt. Gahinga

Mount Gahinga (3474m/11398ft) is the shortest mountain in Volcanoes National Park. It is the least hiked in the park. For none seasoned hikers this may be a good one to start with before taking on the more challenging mountains in the chain.

Dian fossey tomb trail

trekking the trail to dian fossey tomb and karisoke research center
The Dian Fossey trail is located in the valley between Mount Bisoke and Mount Karisimbi. It starts from the base of Mt. Bisoke and goes to the burial place and the research station, Karisoke, of famous researcher Dian Fossey who dedicated her life to studying and advocating for the protection of the mountain gorillas and their habitat in Rwanda and the neighboring countries. The Dian Fossey trail offers a beautiful trek with wonderful views of the mountains and special mountain vegetation such as orchids and a chance to encounter the mountain gorillas. The Dian Fossey trail offers a less strenuous hike. The round trip is about 3 – 4 hours.

Best time for volcano hiking in Rwanda

You can hike either during the dry season or the wet season. The dry seasons are when there is less rainfall and more sunshine and this is during the months from June to August and December to February. The dry season is the best time because the trails are dry and climbing is therefore easier. The other months (March, April, May & September, October, November) make up the wet seasons and during this time there are frequent rains which render the trails very muddy and the hike is difficult. However the scenery is best during the wet season and can turn out to be the best time to hike if you are ready for the challenge of a difficult hike.

What to prepare for the hike

  • Hiking shoes
  • Long pants and long sleeved shirt to protect from stinging nettles
  • Rain jacket/poncho
  • Gaiters
  • Garden gloves
  • Camping equipment (tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat) for Mount Karisimbi hike

Volcano hiking tours in Rwanda

2 days Mount Bisoke hiking tour

3 days Mount Karisimbi hiking tour

3 days Mount Sabyinyo hiking tour in Uganda

4 days volcanoes national park Rwanda tour without the gorilla trek

6 days volcano hiking in Rwanda tour

6 days Rwanda volcano hiking and Uganda gorilla tour


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