Measuring 227 km (141 miles) in length, the Congo Nile Trail is a beautiful low-impact way to explore the plantations and traditional village life of Lake Kivu in western Rwanda.
This versatile trail is cleverly broken down into different stages. You may walk, cycle or kayak the whole trail that crisscrosses rivers, beaches, waterfalls and rice fields, through farmland and villages. Another option is to cycle one stage and hike another. Choose the stages that you find most appealing, or that connect best with your personal itinerary.
The trail passes through plantations of tea, coffee and bananas, busy local markets and fishing villages where your guides will introduce you to local customs.
Each part of the trail offers something different to explore: beekeeping, traditional healing, music, night fishing, traditional pottery, coffee and tea experiences or sorghum beer-making.
Those interested in history can visit Richard Kandt House to the south of the lake. The German explorer Kandt was the first colonial governor of Rwanda.
The trail is perfect for undisturbed birdwatching and boat rides to islands – not forgetting endless views of the lake itself too.
Most trail visitors start their Congo Nile Trail exploration from Rubavu (previously known as Gisenyi), a pretty, relaxed town on the edge of Lake Kivu.
Well-known tourist destinations that can be accessed before or after the trail include Nyungwe Forest National Park to the southwest and Mukura Forest (part of Gishwati-Mukura, Rwanda’s newest National Park) to the northeast of Lake Kivu.
Serious walkers should allow 10 days to hike the full Congo Nile Trail, but most visitors opt for a one or two day experience.
For cyclists, eight days is the optimal time for the chance to immerse in Kinyarwanda culture (although keen cyclists may manage the full trail in five days).
Few travellers visit the Congo Nile Trail meaning it is a truly unspoiled experience. The route through the villages provides the perfect opportunity for authentic community interactions.
Not only is this a cool adventure in its own right, it’s the perfect way to stretch your legs after a few days in a safari vehicle too.
Photos by Destination Kivu Belt