Musanze district in northern Rwanda has many claims to fame: the amazing primates that reside in the Volcanoes National Park, the wealth of its heritage, its friendly inhabitants, its five looming volcanoes and the magic of its panoramas, among others.
Indeed, in all its diversity, Musanze offers a wide variety of experiences that are increasingly wowing visitors to this part of Rwanda. If you are in need of escape and an opportunity to enrich your life and discover new horizons, here are just a few ‘snippets’ of what this place has to offer…
Buhanga Eco Park
Sure, there are mountain gorillas and golden monkeys in the Volcanoes National Park, but Musanze is also a must-visit destination for Rwandan history enthusiasts looking for a city break.
Musanze is home to Buhanga, a sacred forest that is of immense cultural and historical importance to the country. A visit to this place is an essential primer to understanding the history and culture of Rwanda.
According to local folklore, the origin of Rwanda can be traced from this small forest that is perched about seven kilometres west of Musanze town. It is said that the first king of Rwanda was known as Gihanga (Kinyarwanda for the creator) because he founded the kingdom of Rwanda from this place.
According to popular belief, all Rwandan kings but Kigeli Ndahindurwa, who was deposed in 1959 following the uprising that ended the rule of the enduring Nyiginya Dynasty, performed rituals in this magnificent forest that is dominated by ficus and drago trees, which connive to create canopies under which visitors walk.
Red Rocks Intercultural Exchange Centre
Red Rocks Intercultural Centre, also situated in Nyakinama village, offers locally-guided packages combining camping, hostel accommodation and activities with cultural aspects such as basket weaving, story telling and banana beer making.
Visitors can also meet locals, spend a night or two in their homes, and learn how to cook Rwandan style. When you step into this free-spirited campsite, you find a place like no other: it’s peaceful and oozes a casual and relaxing atmosphere.
One of the oldest caves in the country, Musanze Cave is a bizarre natural wonder formed over 65 million years ago. Located just about two kilometres north-west of Musanze town, the cave has one of its many entrances near the Innes University grounds – just a one-minute downhill bush walk. Among the 52 surveyed caves in the Northern Province, Musanze Cave remains the most visited. It is about two kilometres long and has 31 entrances – most of them roof collapses.
The twin lakes of Burera and Ruhundo are situated about 25 kilometres east of Musanze town, and they are called twin lakes because of their interconnection. Ruhondo is fed by Burera while the latter is fed by Rusumo Falls in southern Uganda. Separated by a one kilometre-wide strip of land, it’s a breathtaking scenery here, with the lakes surrounded by steep hills and tall waterfalls. While here, visitors can also take a walk through the lush Sunzu Hill, which is nestled between the Burera and Ruhondo twin lakes and Mount Muhabura.
At the tip of this hill one gets a clear view of numerous, magnificent hills – gentle peaks unfolding into infinity – as well as the volcanoes that brood ominously in a distance. Sunzu Hill itself radiates silence, beauty and clear, windless air. In the early hours of the day, a transparent fog perfuses the lakes, through which islands where people working in the fields are visible.
Volcanoes National Park
The Volcanos National Park can be something of a tourist magnet, for obvious reasons. Rwanda’s most visited national park is home to several primates, but most tourists come here for mountain gorilla and golden monkey trekking. Tourists spend an hour with the gorillas at a cost of $750 per person for foreign visitors and tickets must be booked in advance through tour companies or the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
Mount Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke
The other classic Musanze shot: Karisimbi and Bisoke, the imposing mountains that define Musanze’s skyline. Mount Karisimbi is a two-day trek with overnight camping at an altitude of 3,800 metres, while Mount Bisoke is a 4-7 hour round trip that costs $75 per person for foreign visitors. Don’t leave Musanze without hiking either of the two mountains.
The tomb of Dian Fossey
You can also visit the tomb of mountain gorilla conservation legend, Dian Fossey, which is located near the Volcanoes National Park headquarters. Fossey was an American zoologist, primatologist and anthropologist who undertook an extensive study of gorilla groups over a period of 18 years. She was murdered in 1985.
Fossey was an American zoologist, primatologist and anthropologist.