Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park – Travel Guide, Size, Map & More!

Volcanoes National Park, located in Rwanda, is a captivating testament to the raw power and beauty of nature. This park is renowned for its stunning landscape dominated by mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, and a chain of majestic volcanoes, including the iconic Mount Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke. Towering over the surrounding lush greenery, these volcanic peaks offer breathtaking vistas and serve as a haven for a diverse array of flora and fauna. Beyond its scenic allure, Volcanoes National Park holds immense cultural and historical significance as the primary habitat for the critically endangered mountain gorillas. Visitors to the park have the extraordinary opportunity to embark on guided gorilla treks through dense forests, immersing themselves in the awe-inspiring presence of these remarkable creatures in their natural habitat.


Moreover, Volcanoes National Park offers more than just gorilla encounters. It presents a rich tapestry of experiences for adventurous souls, including hiking trails that wind through bamboo forests, crater lakes, and verdant meadows. The park also provides a gateway to explore the cultural heritage of the region, with opportunities to engage with local communities and learn about their traditional way of life. Whether witnessing the dramatic eruption of a volcano or encountering the gentle gaze of a mountain gorilla, a visit to Volcanoes National Park promises an unforgettable journey into the heart of Rwanda’s natural and cultural wonders.

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How Much Is Rwanda Gorilla Permit to Volcanoes National Park?

Category Foreign Non-Residents Residents

 

Rwandan Nationals & East African Citizens
Rate (US$) $1,500pp $500pp $200

History of Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park

Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park, located in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda, has a rich and storied history that intertwines natural wonders with conservation efforts and cultural significance. Established in 1925, it holds the distinction of being Africa’s oldest national park. Initially named Albert National Park, it covered a broader area encompassing parts of present-day Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, in 1969, the park was divided between the three countries, leading to the creation of individual national parks, including Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

One of the most significant chapters in the park’s history is its association with the pioneering work of primatologist Dian Fossey, who dedicated her life to the study and conservation of mountain gorillas. Fossey’s groundbreaking research brought international attention to the plight of these endangered primates, leading to increased conservation efforts and the establishment of programs aimed at protecting their habitat. Fossey’s work and legacy continue to inspire conservationists and researchers worldwide, and her former research center at Karisoke, located within Volcanoes National Park, remains a focal point for gorilla conservation efforts. Today, Volcanoes National Park stands as a beacon of hope for the preservation of biodiversity and serves as a sanctuary for the critically endangered mountain gorillas, drawing visitors from around the globe to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat while contributing to ongoing conservation initiatives.

 

How big is Volcanoes National Park?

Volcanoes National Park

Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park covers an area of approximately 160 square kilometers (62 square miles) in Rwanda. This relatively compact size belies its significance as a crucial habitat for the endangered mountain gorillas, as well as its role in conservation efforts and ecotourism. Despite its relatively small size, the park’s diverse landscape, which includes volcanic peaks, dense forests, and bamboo groves, provides essential habitat for a wide range of flora and fauna, making it a vital biodiversity hotspot in the heart of Africa.

 

Location of Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park is situated in the northwest region of Rwanda, bordering both Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is part of the larger Virunga Massif, a chain of volcanic mountains that spans the three countries. Specifically, the park is located in the Musanze district of Rwanda, approximately 110 kilometers (68 miles) northwest of the capital city, Kigali. The park’s proximity to the borders of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo adds to its significance as a conservation area, as it forms a critical part of the greater Virunga Conservation Area, which encompasses multiple national parks and protected areas across the three countries.

 

How is Volcanoes National Park Like?

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is a captivating blend of awe-inspiring natural beauty, rich biodiversity, and profound cultural significance. The park is dominated by a chain of imposing volcanic peaks, including the iconic Mount Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke, which rise majestically above the surrounding landscape. These volcanic mountains are shrouded in dense forests, bamboo groves, and verdant meadows, creating a stunning mosaic of habitats that support a diverse array of flora and fauna.

One of the most notable inhabitants of Volcanoes National Park is the critically endangered mountain gorilla. The park is renowned for its successful conservation efforts aimed at protecting these majestic primates, offering visitors the rare opportunity to embark on guided treks through lush forests to observe gorillas in their natural habitat. Beyond gorilla trekking, the park offers a wealth of experiences for nature enthusiasts, including hiking trails that wind through bamboo forests, crater lakes, and picturesque viewpoints. Additionally, Volcanoes National Park holds deep cultural significance as the primary habitat for mountain gorillas and as the site of pioneering research by renowned primatologist Dian Fossey. Overall, Volcanoes National Park is a haven for both wildlife and adventurers alike, offering an unforgettable journey into the heart of Rwanda’s natural wonders.

 

Vegetation of Volcanoes National Park

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park boasts a rich and diverse tapestry of vegetation, shaped by its unique altitude, climate, and volcanic landscape. The park encompasses a range of habitats, from lush bamboo forests to open grasslands, each supporting a variety of plant species.

The lower slopes of the park are characterized by dense montane forests, where towering trees such as Hagenia abyssinica, Newtonia buchananii, and Hypericum revolutum thrive. These forests are also home to a lush understory of ferns, mosses, and epiphytic plants, creating a verdant and humid environment. As elevation increases, the forests transition to bamboo stands, dominated by species such as Arundinaria alpina and Yushania alpina. These bamboo forests provide crucial habitat for a range of wildlife, including the endangered mountain gorillas.

 

What to Do in Volcanoes National Park?

Volcanoes National Park offers a range of activities and experiences for visitors, making it a captivating destination for nature lovers, adventure enthusiasts, and wildlife enthusiasts alike. Overall, Volcanoes National Park offers a wealth of experiences for visitors, from thrilling wildlife encounters to immersive nature experiences and cultural insights, ensuring an unforgettable journey into the heart of Rwanda’s natural and cultural wonders.

Here are some of the top things to do in Volcanoes National Park:

  • Gorilla Trekking
  • Golden Monkey Tracking
  • Hiking and Nature Walks
  • Cultural Experiences
  • Birdwatching
  • Visit Dian Fossey’s Grave

 

Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park


Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness the awe-inspiring beauty of mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Guided by experienced trackers and rangers, visitors embark on an immersive journey through dense bamboo forests, ascending the slopes of volcanic mountains to encounter these magnificent creatures. As you approach the gorillas, a sense of anticipation and wonder fills the air, and the moment you come face to face with these gentle giants is truly unforgettable. Watching them interact, play, and forage amidst the lush greenery is a humbling experience, offering a profound connection to the natural world and a renewed appreciation for the importance of conservation efforts in protecting these endangered primates.

 

Golden Monkey Tracking in Volcanoes

Golden Monkey Tracking in Rwanda

Golden Monkey Tracking in Rwanda

Golden monkey tracking in Volcanoes National Park provides an exhilarating opportunity to observe the playful antics of these charismatic primates amidst the stunning backdrop of bamboo forests and volcanic slopes. Led by knowledgeable guides, visitors venture into the lush habitat of the golden monkeys, their vibrant fur shining amidst the verdant foliage. As you trek through the forest, the curious golden monkeys may appear overhead, swinging from branches or frolicking on the forest floor, offering enchanting encounters and captivating photo opportunities. This immersive wildlife experience not only provides insight into the behavior and ecology of these endangered primates but also contributes to conservation efforts aimed at safeguarding their habitat for future generations to enjoy.

 

Hiking and Nature Walks in Volcanoes

Volcanoes National Park

volcano climbing in Volcanoes

Hiking and nature walks in Volcanoes National Park offer an enchanting journey through diverse landscapes, from lush bamboo forests to scenic viewpoints overlooking the majestic volcanic peaks. Guided by experienced rangers, visitors embark on a variety of trails that cater to all levels of fitness and interests. Whether exploring crater lakes, traversing verdant meadows, or meandering through dense forests teeming with life, each step reveals the park’s rich biodiversity and breathtaking natural beauty. Along the way, hikers may encounter endemic flora and fauna, listen to the symphony of birdsong, and soak in panoramic vistas that showcase the park’s dramatic terrain. These immersive experiences foster a deep connection to the natural world and provide a serene escape into the heart of Rwanda’s wilderness.

 

Cultural Experiences in Volcanoes

Volcanoes National Park

The Azizi Life Experience

Cultural experiences in Volcanoes National Park offer a fascinating glimpse into the rich heritage and traditions of the local communities surrounding the park. Visitors have the opportunity to engage with residents from nearby villages, learning about their traditional way of life, customs, and cultural practices. Whether participating in a traditional dance performance, sampling local cuisine, or visiting a community craft market, these interactions provide a deeper understanding of the region’s cultural diversity and offer a chance to support sustainable tourism initiatives that benefit local communities. Additionally, guided tours to sites of historical significance, such as Dian Fossey’s former research center at Karisoke, offer insights into the park’s conservation legacy and the pioneering efforts to protect its iconic wildlife.

 

Bird Watching in Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park

Bird Watching in Volcanoes

Birdwatching in Volcanoes National Park is a captivating experience, offering enthusiasts the chance to observe a diverse array of avian species amidst the park’s stunning landscapes. With over 180 bird species recorded within its boundaries, the park provides ample opportunities for birdwatchers to spot both resident and migratory birds. From colorful turacos and sunbirds to majestic raptors soaring overhead, every corner of the park holds the potential for exciting bird sightings. Whether exploring dense forests, bamboo groves, or open grasslands, visitors can expect to encounter a variety of avian delights, making Volcanoes National Park a paradise for birdwatching enthusiasts seeking to connect with Rwanda’s vibrant birdlife.

 

Visit Dian Fossey’s Grave in Volcanoes

Visit Dian Fossey's Grave in Volcanoes

Visit Dian Fossey’s Grave in Volcanoes

Visiting Dian Fossey’s grave in Volcanoes National Park is a poignant and reflective experience that pays homage to the pioneering work of one of the world’s most renowned primatologists. Located at the former Karisoke Research Center, Fossey’s final resting place serves as a lasting tribute to her dedication and passion for the conservation of mountain gorillas. As visitors stand before her grave, surrounded by the lush forests that she tirelessly worked to protect, they are reminded of Fossey’s profound impact on wildlife conservation and her enduring legacy in Rwanda’s natural heritage. It is a solemn yet inspiring moment that encourages reflection on the importance of conservation efforts and the ongoing need to protect endangered species and their habitats.

How to Get to Volcanoes National Park?


To reach Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, travelers typically arrive first in the capital city of Kigali. From Kigali, there are several transportation options available:

By Road

The most common way to reach Volcanoes National Park from Kigali is by road. The journey takes approximately 2-3 hours, depending on road conditions and traffic. Visitors can either hire a private vehicle or arrange for a guided tour with a local tour operator. The road trip offers scenic views of Rwanda’s countryside, passing through towns and villages along the way.

By Air

Kigali International Airport serves as the main entry point for international visitors to Rwanda. From the airport, travelers can take a domestic flight to the nearby town of Ruhengeri, which is located near the entrance to Volcanoes National Park. The flight takes approximately 30-45 minutes, providing a convenient and time-saving option for those seeking to minimize travel time.

Regardless of the transportation method chosen, it’s essential to plan ahead and make arrangements in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons when demand for accommodations and permits can be high. Additionally, travelers should ensure they have obtained all necessary permits for activities such as gorilla trekking or golden monkey tracking before arriving at the park.

 

Where to Stay in Volcanoes National Park?

Where to Stay in Volcanoes?

Where to Stay in Volcanoes?

There are various accommodation options available for visitors to Volcanoes National Park, catering to different preferences and budgets. Some popular choices include:

Lodges and Luxury Camps

Several luxury lodges and tented camps are located in and around Volcanoes National Park, offering upscale accommodations with stunning views of the surrounding landscape. These properties typically provide luxurious amenities, gourmet dining options, and personalized service, ensuring a comfortable and memorable stay.

Mid-Range Hotels and Guesthouses

For travelers seeking more affordable accommodation options, there are several mid-range hotels and guesthouses located near the park entrance in the town of Musanze (formerly known as Ruhengeri). These establishments offer comfortable rooms, basic amenities, and convenient access to the park for activities such as gorilla trekking and golden monkey tracking.

Budget Accommodations

Budget-conscious travelers can also find budget-friendly lodging options in Musanze and nearby villages. These may include guesthouses, hostels, and homestays, providing simple yet comfortable accommodations at a lower cost.

Eco-Lodges and Community-Based Tourism Initiatives

For those interested in sustainable tourism practices and supporting local communities, there are eco-lodges and community-based tourism initiatives located near Volcanoes National Park. These establishments offer unique cultural experiences, opportunities to interact with local residents, and a chance to contribute directly to conservation and community development efforts.

Regardless of where you choose to stay, it’s advisable to book accommodations well in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, as availability may be limited. Additionally, many lodges and hotels offer packages that include guided tours, transportation, and permits for activities within the park, making it convenient for visitors to plan their stay.

 

Best Time to Visit Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park

Best Time to Visit Volcanoes National Park

The best time to visit Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is during the dry seasons, which typically occur from mid-December to early February and from June to September. During these months, the weather is generally sunny and dry, making it ideal for outdoor activities such as gorilla trekking, hiking, and birdwatching. The dry season also offers clearer skies and better visibility, enhancing the overall experience of exploring the park and enjoying its breathtaking scenery.

Additionally, visiting during the dry season reduces the likelihood of encountering heavy rainfall, which can make trekking trails muddy and challenging to navigate, particularly in the park’s mountainous terrain. Moreover, wildlife sightings, including mountain gorillas and golden monkeys, tend to be more frequent during the dry season as the animals are more active and easier to spot.

However, it’s essential to keep in mind that Volcanoes National Park is a tropical destination, and rain can occur at any time of year. Therefore, it’s advisable to be prepared for variable weather conditions, regardless of when you plan to visit. Additionally, permits for activities such as gorilla trekking should be secured well in advance, especially during the peak tourist seasons from June to September and December to February, when demand is high. Overall, visiting Volcanoes National Park during the dry seasons offers the best chance for a memorable and rewarding experience amidst Rwanda’s stunning natural beauty.

 

Is Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park Possible

Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

Yes, gorilla trekking is indeed possible in Volcanoes National Park. It is one of the main attractions of the park and offers visitors the extraordinary opportunity to observe mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Volcanoes National Park is renowned for its successful conservation efforts aimed at protecting these endangered primates, and guided gorilla trekking experiences are carefully managed to ensure minimal disturbance to the gorillas and their habitat.

Visitors to Volcanoes National Park can participate in guided treks led by experienced rangers and trackers, who help navigate the dense forests and locate gorilla families. These treks typically last a few hours to a full day, depending on the location of the gorilla groups and the difficulty of the terrain. Once gorillas are found, visitors are allowed a precious hour to observe and photograph them from a safe distance, providing an unforgettable and intimate wildlife encounter.

Gorilla trekking permits are required for all visitors participating in this activity, and it’s essential to book permits well in advance, as they are limited and often in high demand. Additionally, visitors are advised to adhere to park regulations and guidelines to ensure the safety of both the gorillas and themselves, as well as to minimize the impact on the fragile ecosystem. Overall, gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience and is a highlight of any visit to Rwanda.

 

Is Volcanoes National Park Safe for Safari


Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is generally considered safe for safari and other tourist activities. The park is well-managed and monitored by park authorities, and safety measures are in place to ensure the well-being of visitors. However, as with any travel destination, it’s essential for visitors to exercise caution and adhere to park regulations to minimize risks and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

While the park itself is safe, travelers should be mindful of potential hazards such as uneven terrain, wildlife encounters, and changes in weather conditions, particularly in the mountainous regions. It’s advisable to follow the guidance of experienced guides and park rangers, who are familiar with the terrain and wildlife behavior, and to stay on designated trails during activities such as hiking and gorilla trekking.

Additionally, travelers should take standard precautions such as staying hydrated, wearing appropriate clothing and footwear, and protecting against sun exposure and insect bites. It’s also recommended to purchase travel insurance that includes coverage for medical emergencies and evacuation in case of unforeseen circumstances.

Overall, with proper preparation and awareness, visiting Volcanoes National Park can be a safe and rewarding experience for safari and wildlife enthusiasts.

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