Rwanda will always have special place in our hearts. It was there that founder Christina Bryant lived and worked from 2007-2009. It was also there that she met artisans in her community who were working in traditional crafts that became the foundation for the St. Frank concept. While the Rwandan people have suffered tremendously from the 1994 genocide, the country has since become one of the safest places to visit and is truly the heart of East Africa. The land is lush and green, the culture is inviting, and the history-rich crafts created there are beyond inspiring!
GO The best time to visit this beautiful country is anytime between June and September as this is the bulk of their ‘dry season.’ For those willing to brave the rain, we recommend any month except April, as this is the genocide memorial month and a somber time of remembrance.
SEE Learn more about the history of Rwanda with a visit to the Genocide Memorial in Kigali, which was one of the most powerful experiences on our trip. Other churches around the country serve as memorial sites as well and are worth a visit. An absolute must for the adventurous animal lover is hiking to see the silverback gorillas! Rwanda is the best place in the world to view these magnificent primates first-hand, and since you won’t be the only one there in search of this once-in-a-lifetime experience, you will want to get your tickets well in advance. If you’re headed up north, an overnight at Lake Kivu is fun reprieve post-trek, with its refreshing (thankfully hippo and croc free) water, beaches, and hiking options. Those in search of viewing wild African game will want to take a day trip to the Akagera National Park to get a peek at zebras, giraffes, and monkeys, ‘OH MY!’
STAY For those looking for an upscale retreat, we love the Serena Hotel (both in Kigali and on Lake Kivu). These two hotels offer lush accommodations and house nice restaurants, pools, and spas. Looking for a more low-key vibe? Check out the Heaven boutique hotel, which has the best poolside breakfast around and is decked out in traditional African decor. If you need a place to rest your head in the Volcanoes National Park, Le Bambou Gorilla Lodge and its well-appointed cottages (each with a fireplace!) cannot be beat.
EAT Surprising as it may be, Khana Khazana (centrally located in Kigali) is some of the best Indian food we’ve had world-wide. For a delicious dinner with an extra helping of a spectacular view (in abundance in this Land of a Thousand Hills), we recommend the rooftop restaurant at the Ubumwe Grande Hotel.
PACK It’s best to be respectful of their modest culture by covering yourself with a long skirt or flowing pants (showing off your knees or your midriff is a no-no). The breezier the layers, the better, as temps can get pretty warm. We love this feminine floral option from MDS Stripes. If you’re trekking to see the gorillas (and we hope you are!) you’ll want to come overly prepared. Think boots, long thick pants, and long sleeve shirts to help you avoid the stingy nettle that you’re sure to come across on your journey.
SHOP A go-to for crafts is Caplaki, a marketplace that offers traditional African trinkets. Abraham Conga has the best collection of authentic jewelry and beautiful hand-crafted baskets that you’ll undoubtedly want to bring home. We’ve also found goodies at the Go Kigali Boutique in the Marriott Hotel. Finally, all you fashionistas will love scoping out local designers such as rw&a clothing.
READ We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families is an incredibly moving account of what happened during the 1994 Genocide. Also, not to be missed is the beautiful memoir of Aidan Hartley, entitled The Zanzibar Chest, that offers a first-hand account of most of the major events in East Africa in the 80s and 90s including the author’s experience riding into Rwanda with the RPF, ending the genocide.
Traveling around the country by car lends a look into village life. Here, handmade bricks are drying in the front yard.
The shores of the expansive Lake Kivu
A trek to the Silverback Gorillas offers one of the closest experiences to massive and endangered wildlife in the world.
Fishermen on Lake Kivu
We can’t resist a market, this one in Kigali.
Kigali street scenes include crazy balancing act displays.
A sunset a Akagara Park.
Shop our favorite hand-crafted pieces from RwandaShop Peace Coasters