Urban Walks in Rwanda and Uganda

Kigali

Half-Day Kigali Walking Tour 🇷🇼

Amputee footballer greeting; photo by Miha Logar

Experience all the fascinating levels of Rwanda’s capital city, from the cleanest streets and Africa’s most modern buildings to the simple yet pleasant everyday spaces of a common Kigalian.

Highlights

  • sweeping views of Kigali City
  • main market with stuff from everywhere
  • Kandt House trip into Rwanda’s history
  • session with the coolest sportsmen, amputee footballers
  • city ferry that few know about
  • extraordinary Genocide Memorial

Description

duration: 5-6 hours; difficulty: easy
area: central Kigali – Genocide Memorial
departures: daily at 9am

Price: USD 40 per person (2 people minimum)
Includes professional guidance, vegetarian snack, museum entry, amputee footballers contribution and ferry crossing.

Itinerary

Kigali from Ubumwe Grande; photo by Miha Logar

Our meeting place will be Ubumwe Grande Hotel, fantastically positioned to provide 360 degree vistas of Kigali City and help us mentally prepare for the walk during the guide’s briefing. (Don’t worry: the main direction is down-down-down).

Kigali skyscrapers; photo by Janez Hocevar

Once you take the city in visually, we will walk past Hotel des Mille Collines, made famous as “Hotel Rwanda” in the Don Cheadle movie (recorded in South Africa, not in Kigali). It was a sanctuary for 700 middle- and upper- class Tutsis during the genocide in 1994; from here people drank swimming pool water and faxed pleas to foreign powers. Nowadays the hotel is refurbished and not that interesting; we have so much more to see!

Kigali’s future; photo by Miha Logar

The City Hall features an exhibition of the government’s vision for Kigali: an African Singapore with a lake replacing the swamp and skyscrapers everywhere, presented with a small-scale model. 

The following stop is the only purely vegetarian restaurant in Kigali, where its Indian owner will have packed us some snacks for the way. We will learn how Asians migrated to East Africa in the first half of the 20th century, and how they live now.

Making a living on the streets of Kigali; photo by Anika Utke

Following the foreign exchange street we will slope into the commercial heart of the city. The hustle and bustle will replace the fancy buildings and empty walkways you experienced at the top of the Kiyovu hill. Such is Kigali’s general economic geography: the rich on hilltops, the poor close to the marshes.

But this is not the kind of poverty you might picture in an African city – just look at the City Market! The multi-storey structure will allow us to check on the variety of foods and items available to Kigalians, from Rwanda and abroad, from temperate and tropical environs. 

Mr Kandt’s statue; photo David Esteban

There’s only a short walk left to the Kandt House where the city started. Richard Kandt was an explorer and doctor from Germany who built the first brick house in 1907; Kigali became the capital of Rwanda only half a century later. Today the house is a museum full of excellent historical photography. It will take you back to the pre-colonial times, explore the era under Germans and Belgians, and continue past Rwanda’s independence in 1962.

Group photo with amputee footballers; photo by Miha Logar

After you spend about an hour in the Kandt House, the amputee footballers will be ready and calling your guide… These are the true stars of your day! Devoted sportsmen who have found purpose and community playing football (or do you call it “soccer”?) will impress you with their skills on crutches.

Guide explanations; photo by Miha Logar

Our final site of interest on the southern side of the Nyabugogo swamp is the bus park. Punctual and clean vehicles embark on their national and international journeys from here, and the area is bursting with life.

Nyabugogo bus park; photo by Anika Utke

You will reach the other side of the swamp with a short ferry ride that eases townsfolk’s commute and will help you check on Kigali’s absolute must-visit site: the Genocide Memorial. It is the central national monument, a green place of reflection and a museum of genocides around the world. Entry is free but a donation is part of the tour fee that you have paid.

This should be a personal experience that a group cannot rush. You will do it in peace and meet your guide and fellow travellers at the memorial’s coffee shop to reflect on the hours spent with us.

View back towards the start of the tour; photo by Miha Logar

More info: tours@gorillahighlands.com+250 783 118 421+256 776 558 123

Kampala

3-Hour Kampala Walking Tour 🇺🇬

At the Old Taxi Park; photo by Zulaika Birungi

Zulaika Birungi shares with you the wild heartbeat of her city, shows you the landmarks and helps you discover the hidden gems. This walking tour takes you to local monuments celebrating different eras, the craft shops, the most prominent markets, the Old Taxi Park, the oldest Hindu temple in Uganda, and the most famous mosque. Exploration on foot is the best you can do in Kampala which isn’t easy to manoeuvre through in any other way because of its hectic traffic jams.

Highlights

  • energy of the city that never sleeps
  • organised chaos of the Old Taxi Park
  • endless wares of the biggest market in East Africa 
  • Colonel Gadaffi’s gift to Kampala

Description

duration: 3 hours; difficulty: easy
area: central Kampala
departures: daily

Price: USD 20 per person (2 people minimum)
Includes professional guidance and street vendor snacks.

Itinerary

Fine art on sale; photo by Miha Logar

Zulaika’s team will collect you from the Post Office and walk you to a couple of monuments first: of the founding president of Uganda, of independence and of the world wars. They serve as a great kickoff to talk about Uganda’s dramatic history and complex present.

Kampala Road; photo by Miha Logar

You will continue towards one of the city’s numerous craft markets, introducing you to the cultural spectrum of the country — and affordable fine art. Next: the variety of edible vegetation of the equatorial tropical paradise! At Nakasero Market one can find so much; even fruits of vegetables you have never tasted before….

Market fruits; photo by Miha Logar

At the SSDM Hindu Temple you will be blessed with the opportunity to encounter the belief systems Asians have brought to East Africa; Ugandan Catholics, Protestants and Muslims may be more in numbers but the Hindus have more gods. Many more gods. 

Oldest Hindu temple; photo by Miha Logar

That is already tantalisingly close to the Old Taxi Park… What to say… It’s something you have to see with your own eyes. If you ever wondered how many people Ugandans can squeeze into a car, be amazed at how many cars they can squeeze into a parking lot!

We are now deep in the shopping hub of Kampala, the perfect place for some fabric browsing before we venture into Owino, East Africa’s biggest market. Is there anything one can’t buy here?!

Snack on the way

So far the walk has been mostly downwards but now you will be leaving the central Nakasero Hill behind to climb into Old Kampala. As the name implies, this is where the city began its explosive growth; prevalent Indian architecture testifies to who the first merchants were.

Final stop; photo by Miha Logar

Our final stop will be the Kampala Central Mosque. Not only did Libya’s dictator and eager African leader Colonel Gadaffi pay for its construction, his country even paid electricity bills for a number of years! It is majestic. Enjoying the views of where you came from you will surely complete your three hours of Kampala with a smile.

More info: tours@gorillahighlands.com+250 783 118 421+256 776 558 123

Musanze

Half-Day Musanze Walking Tour 🇷🇼

Volcano vista from GOICO Plaza; photo by Miha Logar

Get an insider’s introduction to Musanze, a booming African town whose appearance is like nothing you might have assumed… Overlooked by a string of volcanoes you will get it all: from a fascinating rural shopping mall to friendly cassava beaters and awesome gorilla defenders.

Highlights

  • the story of Dian Fossey, the most famous gorilla protector
  • introduction to the remarkable work of Gorilla Doctors
  • chat with a tailor and a second-hand sock seller  
  • African hairstyles, wigs and other embellishments 
  • high quality fine art with topnotch creative solutions
Pre-owned sock seller; photo by David Esteban

Description

duration: 5-6 hours; difficulty: easy
area: central Musanze
departures: daily at 8am and 1pm

Price: USD 30 per person (2 people minimum)
Includes professional guidance, all activities, museum donation, a pastry snack and a soft drink.

Itinerary

Walking from GOICO Plaza; photo by David Esteban

A shopping mall as a start of a tour? It might sound boring but this is not your typical buying spree… GOICO Plaza is the microcosm of Musanze, a world by itself. Your guide will arrange a date with a young tailor (and mother), a chat with a seller of second-hand socks (!) and a chance to get great views from the roof, but that’s just scratching the surface. You might get lost in GOICO’s wonders for hours… Like, do you know the purpose of big decorated metallic boxes and what they are made of? And do you have enough warm clothes for this cool area?

Mama at work; photo by Enya Logar

Across the street works a welcoming hairdresser who might blow your mind. Are you aware of the fact that very few female hairstyles you have noticed around are made of natural hair?

Football fans on the streets of Musanze; photo by David Esteban

GOICO doesn’t include fresh food items but don’t worry, we have it all covered!  You are already moving towards the older market where ladies pound cassava leaves for sombe, a true Rwandan specialty… If you haven’t experienced the whole collection of fruits and vegetables available in the Gorilla Highlands region, this is the place and the moment!

Cassava pounding; photo by David Esteban

As you stroll past the main hospital, you will hear about Rwanda’s interesting health insurance scheme. People’s contributions are based on their economic prowess, estimated by local leaders (who are sometimes tempted to inflate their area’s progress).

Dian Fossey museum; photo by Enya Logar

The gorilla organisation that has grown out of Dian Fossey’s work has moved everything related to its founder to the safety of their Musanze headquarters. Oh yes, don’t expect to see anything but the grave if you hike to the original site of Fossey’s “Karisoke” base within Volcanoes National Park — but in Musanze Town there is a little museum we are going to check out.

Spoons and forks; photo by David Esteban

Before you take a sharp turn towards the Gorilla Doctors’ office, we will get you a sweet snack at Crema, the coffee shop, and introduce you to the excellent Inshuti Arts Centre. We won’t disturb the doctors for long, however, it’s important to see who is literally saving (hairy) lives!

Night swimming at Fatima Hotel; photo by Miha Logar

Your final drink at Fatima Hotel can easily turn into swimming fun; this may be the best pool of the area, open into the night and nicely lit!

More info: tours@gorillahighlands.com+250 783 118 421+256 776 558 123

Kabale

3-Hour Kabale Walking Tour 🇺🇬

Festo Karwemera in the Bakiga museum; photo by Marcus Westberg

The Kabale Walking Tour uncovers the past and the present of the capital of the Bakiga people. Kabale Town’s top attraction is the cultural museum in which creative solutions of ancient ingenuity may turn your perception of Africa upside down…

Highlights

• an amazing trip into the past at the Bakiga museum
• the main market and central streets for a complete overview of local fruits, clothes, crafts and more
• the ancient amphitheatre where elders solved problems
• refreshment at historical White Horse Inn, a colonial gem with puzzling contemporary additions
• Garage Street that makes Kabale’s wheels go round

Facts

duration: 3 hours; difficulty: easy
area: central Kabale
departures: daily at 9am12pm3pm

Price: USD 20 per person (2 people minimum)
Includes professional guiding, museum entry and a glass of juice.

Kabale Town view; photo by Miha Logar

Itinerary

Beginning in front of the post office, you will slowly climb the hill towards the district headquarters. This is a hilly area, so let us conquer the only climb first! It will offer us a vast panoramic view of the town, allowing us to better orient ourselves.

A natural amphitheatre once served as a place of elders’ discussion here, but now it is part of a demanding golf course. The sport came with the British, as did white horses. We will refresh ourselves at the town’s most famous old hotel, White Horse Inn, with a lawn (and a bat family) to remember.

Juice at White Horse Inn; photo by Anika Utke

From peaceful greenery and gardens we will descend into the bustle of town to check on the main market where local people shop. Kabale is too high in the mountains to produce many tropical fruits but pineapples are abundant and sweet treats come from all over Uganda. The stalls feature a wealth of vegetables, used clothes and other products.

If you are intrigued by Africa’s main medium, the radio, you will be shown the leading regional station, Voice of Kigezi, before we turn back to see the rest of the town.

Kabale supermarkets; photo by Miha Logar

It’s vibrant, it’s loud, and it has surprisingly many banks! In its commercial centre, three Asian supermarkets and two coffee shops fight a war for dominance; reasonable prices and a decent selection of items are great results. 

Nearby, we will turn to the fascinating strip called Garage Street. This is where UN vehicles on the way to Congo were relieved of everything that was of value during “essential repairs” and where most of Kabale’s mechanics still operate.  Mini-busses, passenger motorcycles and cars all find new life here.

Bakiga Museum moment; photo by Marcus Westberg

Finally, the Bakiga Museum … Legendary elder Festo Karwemera built a hut inside of his house to help his people remember their past. It is authentic and ingenious. Today’s Bakiga are so Christian, however, that many fear to pay it a visit because of a witchdoctor’s shrine that it includes! You will just be fascinated, right?

Festo Karwemera wearing a witchdoctor headset; photo by Marcus Westberg

More info: tours@gorillahighlands.com+250 783 118 421+256 776 558 123