Planning a cycling safari in Rwanda
Planning a cycling safari in Rwanda. Rwanda, also known as the land of a thousand hills, is popularly known as one of the best destinations for gorilla trekking, but it is also known to be a good cycling safari destination. The varied landscape within the country, from hills to the scenic countryside, and other attractions along the way make the cycling safari in Rwanda more entertaining. Rwanda offers numerous off-beaten roads used for cycling, which is one of the main reasons there are several itineraries for cycling safaris in Rwanda.
Most Popular Safaris
Cycling safaris in Rwanda usually occur in the country’s southern and northern parts. They will take you through the different parts of Rwanda, like Kigali and the Nyungwe Forest, to the shores of Lake Kivu, and around Volcanoes National Park. There are several cycling companies that we partner with to ensure that you have the best cycling safari in Rwanda, and these are the Africa Rising Cycling Center, among others. Our cycling itineraries were designed to ensure that travelers enjoy the cycling expedition and the rich culture of the Rwandan people.
Planning a cycling safari in Rwanda is easy if you have the right tour operator to help with the planning. There are steps in planning a stress-free cycling safari; the first thing to do is research and get the right tour operator. After identifying the operator you plan on using, you need to find out what you need to bring for the safari and the payment, and all this needs to be done before your trip to Rwanda.
Cycling routes in Rwanda
Cycling in Rwanda is carried out in various locations, but we have listed our top cycling destinations. When booking a cycling safari in any of the destinations below, ensure that you do it in advance for proper planning.
Cycling through the Congo Nile Trail
The Congo Nile Trail is one of the best and most fantastic cycling trails in Rwanda and East Africa, covering over 227 kilometers. Cycling on the trail takes 5 to 7 days and starts from Rubavu to Rusizi. The trek can be finished in 5 days for all tourists in sections.
The Cycling safari along the Congo Nile trail starts with a drive from Kigali to the cycling starting point in Gisenyi, which takes almost 3 hours. The drive back to Kigali takes longer than 5 hours to Kigali from the finishing point. You can use public means, but if you are carrying your bike, you need to speak and negotiate with the conductor for extra space for your bicycle in case you come alone. Private means booked through a tour operator are better since they care for everything.
The Congo Nile trail is complex, and you need to be physically fit to participate in the exercise. But if you are not fit but still want to participate, cycling in sections along the Congo route is an option.
How to rent a bike: Carrying a bike as a tourist is expensive, and the best option is to hire from different outlets nationwide. Tour operators can help with hiring the bikes from specific shops before you get to Gisenyi, but remember that not all bikes are in good condition, so the first thing you need to check when hiring is whether the bike is good by test cycling it, it should come with a pump, spare parts and should be comfortable.
Getting refreshments like food and water is OK because the trail was designed to go through trading centers, markets, villages, and shops. These have clean bottled water, fresh fruits, and food prepared in the various markets. It would be best if you learned how to bargain and recognize signs in place to guide tourists on where to find the shops. On your trip, a stopover at any of the villages and trading centers is an excellent way to learn more about the locals and taste the Kinyarwanda dishes.
Accommodation: Accommodation along the Congo Nile trail is accessible, depending on your preference. Rwanda Development Board has constructed several campsites with signposts leading you to the camp’s exact location; all tourists have to do is move with their camping gear and bedding for the safari duration. The campsites have tents only, and if you prefer to set up your camp, it is still fine but should be placed in a safe area near schools and villages.
The different accommodation facilities you can choose from along the Congo trail include the Kibogora Guest House, Inzu Lodge (strategically located in Gisenyi), Bethanie Guest House (in Kibuye), Peace Guest House, L’Esparance Guest House, Mariah Hill Hotel, Paradis Malahide, Cormoran Lodge and Lake Kivu Serena Hotel among others.
Besides enjoying the Congo Nile Trail, cycling enthusiasts can participate in the Rwanda Cycling Cup, which the Rwandan Cycling Federation organizes in series throughout the year. In 2025, Rwanda will host the UCI World Road Cycling Championship, which hosts over 5000 cyclists and more than 20,000 dignitaries. It is also important to note that this is the first time the tournament will be held on the African continent.
5 days Congo Nile Trail Cycling safari itinerary
The 5 day cycling itinerary takes you along the Congo Nile trail. The trail is marked with numerous stopovers, and the first part of the cycling is done on rocky dirt roads, winding through villages before getting to the different hills around Gisenyi and Kamembe. The cycling routes are shared with other forms of traffic, including trucks and motorcycles, so you must be careful. You should expect a few climbs and descends. Food and water are available throughout your safari since the route was designed to go through villages.
Day 1: Day one is from Gisenyi to Kinunu, which takes about 5 to 6 hours. This is the steepest cycle at about 41 kilometers.
Day 2: Day 2 is longer than the first day as you have to cycle for 50 kilometers, taking about 5 to 8 hours. The ride is from Kinunu to Kibuye, and you will notice that this stretch has more hills than the rest of the time.
Day 3: Day 3 is from Kibuye to Mugonero, a 35-kilometer stretch. Day 3 has the highest climb at 1887 meters, which will take 3 to 5 hours.
Day 4: We ride from Mugonero to Kibogora on day four riding for 4 to 5 hours on a 35-kilometer ride. After ascending, day four is for descent to Lake Kivu at 1440 meters before climbing again for over 10 kilometers to about 1750 meters.
Day 5: This is the last day of the cycling safari, starting from Kibogora to Kamembe, which is 6 hours long. The stretch is about 54 kilometers, a relaxed ride since it is on a tarmac road with fewer hills.
Note that the days can be more than five days, depending on the location of the guesthouse/lodges chosen.
The Kigali cycling trail
Kigali is Rwanda’s capital city and is considered one of the most beautiful and cleanest cities in the world. Tourists can cycle through the Kigali Metropolis, and this is one of the ways you can explore the city by visiting the different tourist attractions, including the Genocide Centre, local markets, restaurants with well-prepared local dishes, and milk bars, among others.
Twin Lakes cycling trail
The Twin Lakes Trail is Rwanda’s second-best cycling trail, taking you around the famous Volcanoes National Park. The twin lakes are one of the tourist attractions found in Rwanda and are separated by a 1-kilometer strip where you can cycle as you enjoy the lake surroundings and the primates and meet the locals.
What to pack for a cycling safari in Rwanda
In case you are planning on cycling safaris in Rwanda, you need to be packed right, and some of the things that you need to carry with you include the following:
- Gloves for your hands when driving and to keep warm at night.
- A headlamp for the bicycle
- A waterproof sleeping bag. Ensure that it is comfortable and warm.
- Hiking and biking shoes.
- Snacks and bottled drinking water. Remember to carry a refillable water of about 1 liter.
- Extra bike tires in cases where you need changing.
- Bike clothes and extra clothes for changing. Carry a warm sweater and waterproof rain jacket as well.
- A camera, extra lenses, a waterproof camera bag, extra batteries, and a tripod.
- A helmet
- Sunglasses for the dusty bike roads.
- A bike pump
- A mask for the dust
- Knee and elbow pads are to help in case of emergency falls. Note that the routes are dirt roads, and anything can happen.
- A first aid kit in case it is fully packed.
Other tourist activities you can combine with cycling in Rwanda
Apart from cycling, there are other activities that you can combine with your cycling safari, and these include the following:
Game drives in Akagera: Akagera National Park is the largest park in Rwanda, offering a variety of activities, which include game drives, bird watching, and nature walks, among others. Cycling safaris can be joined with a trip to the Akagera, where you can see the different wildlife like lions, Rhinos, and antelopes.
Visiting Volcanoes National Park: Volcanoes National Park is the most visited park in Rwanda because it is home to over 400 Mountain gorillas. There are several activities that you can join with cycling on your safari to the Volcanoes, and these are gorilla trekking, a visit to the Twin Lakes, primate walks, a visit to the Dian Fossey grave, participating in the Kwita Izina ceremony and a cultural trip to the villages.
A visit to the genocide memorial Centres: Rwanda has a tragic past of the 1994 genocide, where millions of people were killed, and several monument centers were set up to remember those who lost their lives and to showcase the negative impact that genocides can have on a country and the world. A visit to one of the genocide memorial centers will show what happened years ago, and you also get to meet survivors and families who converge at the centers to visit their loved ones.
Chimp trekking in Nyungwe National Park: Nyungwe Forest National Park is a top tourist attraction in Rwanda and is best for chimpanzee trekking. During your cycling safari, you can visit Nyungwe, where several activities besides chimpanzee trekking and habituation take place, and these are exploring the canopy walk, primate walks, and birding, among others.
The best time for cycling trips to Rwanda
Rwanda is an all-year-round destination, and cycling can be carried out throughout the year; however, avoid cycling in March to May and October to November, which fall in the wet season. These months are usually characterized by mud, slippery routes, and damp and cold, and in cases where you do not mind the rain, ensure that you carry extra clothes, a warm sweater, and a waterproof raincoat to keep warm. The best time is from June to September and December when cycling trails are dry, less slippery, and muddy.
As you plan your cycling safari to Rwanda, we suggest combining the different cycling safari destinations from cycling along the shores of Lake Kivu while using the Congo Nile Trail through Nyungwe National Park, Volcanoes National Park, and Kigali City. Cycling is not for the faint-hearted, and you need to be physically fit to participate in cycling. Try as much as possible to follow the traffic rules within the country and enjoy the cycling trip in Rwanda.
Contact us to plan your cycling safari to Rwanda.