Monday, May 20, 2024

Mount Kabuye

Nobody would argue against the statement that Rwanda is simply one of the most beautiful countries in Africa. With its endless hills and varying landscapes there’s no shortage of stunning scenery and awe inspiring vistas. But let’s face it; you have to shell out a fair amount of money to enjoy any of the great natural landmarks like Nyungwe Forest, Akagera National Park and the like. Even if you just want to climb a volcano you have to pay out for a permit and you must take a guide along. For people like me who enjoy hiking but live on a budget, there aren’t too many Rwandan landmarks available to conquer on the cheap.

But fear not! There is a mountain that is not only free to take hike – it’s also quite easily accessible by car or by bus. Mount Kabuye – not to be confused with the city of Kibuye, which is in a completely different part of Rwanda – is the country’s tallest mountain at around 2,700 meters. Now that may sound impressive but you should know that volcanoes are not classified as mountains, and virtually all of the volcanoes in the Virunga range exceed Mt. Kabuye in height. That being said, Mt. Kabuye still provides hikers with a challenging ascent with its own rewards that include fantastic views of the surrounding countryside as well as the opportunity to experience quaint rural villages and their friendly occupants who make up the 80% of Rwanda’s population.

Getting There

Getting there is pretty simple. Take a car or bus and head toward Ruhengeri (northwest). Your destination is the town of Gakenke, which is about an hour and a half outside of Kigali. If you’re going by bus once you arrive in Gakenke just ask any moto-taxi to take you to Mount Kabuye. They’re quite accustomed to trekkers coming out for a day hike. It’s quite important that you get the moto driver’s name and phone number so you can call him to come and pick you up when you’re finished, unless you want to make the long walk back to Gakenke to catch the bus, which your legs are unlikely to enjoy after hours of traversing steep terrain.

If you’re travelling by car make sure you’re paying attention to the towns you pass as it’s one of those small towns that you could easily drive right through without realizing it. Turn right on what is pretty much the only wide dirt road that intersects the main road. Just look for the sign that directs you to the road to the hospital, or centre de santé, and take it. Continue down this road for about ten minutes. It will begin to narrow, but don’t worry, you’re on the right path. Eventually you will come to the sector office. Here is where you should park your car.

When You Arrive

If you haven’t been spotted already, soon enough some locals will come running out to you hoping to make some money by either watching your car or by guiding you up the mountain. These guys will always try to get “muzungu price” from you, asking for up to 20,000 francs each, but you can usually get both for a total of 5,000. Just make sure you get the name and phone number of the guy watching your car, just in case.

Mount KabuyeFrankly it’s not necessary to use a guide. The dozen or so local children who will undoubtedly accompany you on you climb can show you the way. It’s obviously not necessary that you pay these kids, but I found them to be very helpful and they were very appreciative when I gave a little money to the ones who guided me all the way to the top. Speaking about these children; throughout the hike they will make you feel slow and out of shape. This is their home and they make ascending to the summit seem like a leisurely stroll in the park. Try to not to feel too bad every time they stop and wait for you to catch up, it happens to all of us.

I could tell you all about the hike itself, but that would ruin the fun for you. I’ll just say that it takes about three and a half hours to reach the top if you include stopping a few times to give your legs a rest on the way up. The peak is a great place to rest and enjoy a pack lunch while overlooking the innumerable hills that crowd the horizon in all directions. Just be a good sport and share a little food with your young escorts as in Rwanda it’s rather rude to eat in front of others. Coming back down takes about two hours, but if you don’t mind taking a little longer I suggest taking another path so you can see some different villages and views as you make your descent.

Mount Kabuye may not be as glamorous as other better-known tourist stops, but it certainly offers outdoor enthusiasts a fun, day long activity that’s near Kigali and, best of all, it’s pretty darn cheap.

Other Articles



  1. This was a great trip, and guaranteed to make you sleep soundly the following night!

    A few things I’d add:
    *Think twice, and then maybe a 3rd & 4th time, before going in rainy season. Rain turns trails that were already steep downright treacherous. I’d like to go back when it’s dry & see if I can come back without anything sprained.
    *We didn’t have small bills: trying to get our “little helpers” to share 5000Rwf was a fiasco & nearly started a fight. Next time, we’ll take smaller amounts to dole out individually.
    *Take lots of water!
    *There are people everywhere along the trail. Be prepared to say mwiriwe & muraho & no (to repeated requests for money) a lot.

  2. Did the climb on 14 Sept 2013 and was lucky that there was no rain and no mist at the top of the mountain. Took lots of photos but these don’t do justice to the beautiful scenery you encounter on the way up and at the top. I also loved the fact that I used cheap, safe public transport from Kigali to Gakenke with no trouble whatsoever, and enjoyed the wonderful views en route.

    What I found fascinating was the puzzled looks of the locals when they saw me trekking up the route on my own. They are used to European day hikers but I’m black and the combination of that and my hiking gear didn’t fit into anything they were used to. I got an entourage of 3 kids (1 barefoot) and one “unofficial guide” accompanying me all the way to the top. The rest just couldn’t figure me out. I was quite firm that I wasn’t going to pay anyone because I didn’t need a guide but we shared my food and I bought the group some snacks from local tuckshops on the way down. My advice is to take lots of easily divisible snacks to share with the (incredibly fit) kids who will inevitably accompany you to the top.

    Overall, I loved it. The constant attention and stares on the way up takes some getting used to but the the landscapes, the views and the sense of accomplishment you get when you look back from the road and see what you climbed, is incomparable.

  3. I would like to inform you that Kabuye is a touristic area.Tell the investors to built a hotel.
    It will be loved.

  4. This sounds very interesting and I’m thinking about doing it. Do you also know how to get back to Kigali afterwards? Unfortunately I couldn’t find any bus information for the Gakenke bus stop (i.e. when the last bus leaves, so that I won’t be stuck there ;-)).

  5. Thank you for the Article, this is an amazing area to hike. ve already done it twice am nt sure if I will go back but why not?

  6. Did hiking on this mountain April 15, 2017. With my hike-mate from France, we have already started to miss it on our way down.

  7. I am in Rwanda right now and I would like to do the hike. I am by myself though, anyone who thinks it’s a problem to walk there by myself?

  8. Thank you for this article actually it’s a good idea but why can’t u advise the investors to develop this place like building a hotel near by i did hiking on this mount kabuye it’s really good place to visit.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here