Rwanda’s western side is bounded by Lake Kivu, one of a string of huge freshwater lakes which lie along Africa’s Great Rift Valley. Dominating the border between Rwanda and the DR Congo; Lake Kivu is Rwanda’s largest lake, and the sixth largest lake in Africa.
Lake Kivu’s three main towns are roughly 3-4 hours apart from each other. However, on our last visit, extensive road construction works were making the journeys longer.
Rubavu (Gisenyi): Gisenyi (Rubavu) is a large town spread over several hills on the northern edge of Lake Kivu. Once a colonial beach resort of note; Gisenyi’s waterfront is lined with fading old mansions, hotels, and trendy bars on the lakeshore, ideal for a sundowner cocktail. Nearby Rubona is also home to some pretty lakeside hotels
Karongi (Kibuye): Kibuye is probably the prettiest of Lake Kivu’s towns. It’s a verdant, tropical spot surrounded by hills covered in eucalyptus and pine. Most of Kibuye’s hotels are in beautiful locations overlooking the lake and facing the sunset.
From Kibuye (Karongi) you can take boat trips on Lake Kivu to nearby islands: Napoleon Island with its colony of fruit bats and Amahoro Island (aptly known as “One bar island” because all it has on it is one bar). It’s also possible to visit Kibuye’s genocide memorial church, with brightly coloured stained-glass windows, in a quiet location on a hill above Lake Kivu. Despite a tragic history, it’s a place for peaceful contemplation.
Rusizi (Cyangugu): is an old border town whose fading façades tell of its past as a vital trading gateway. It makes for a convenient base if you want to combine a stay on Lake Kivu with Nyungwe Forest National Park, which is only 45 minutes away.