Segment 1, Topic 5
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Road System & Itineraries

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Tarmac highways crisscross the Gorilla Highlands region, while feeder roads are mostly made of murram — a clayey material commonly used in Africa. Epic traffic jams form in and around Uganda’s capital Kampala and Rwanda’s Kigali is also on the way to having far too many vehicles for its infrastructure — but the rest of the region can be a pure driving pleasure: undulating landscapes with very little traffic.

Rwanda and Uganda both have standard road loops that see most tourism business.

A typical Rwandan circle goes from Kigali to Musanze (old name: Ruhengeri), Rubavu (Gisenyi) and Karongi (Kibuye), taking you through the gorillas’ Virunga volcanoes zone, eventually turning inland to Nyungwe Forest for chimp viewing. Due to the heliocentric nature of African paved road systems, you will go through Kigali again before you set foot in the savannah of Akagera National Park. A decent Rwandan road tour takes about a week.

Uganda is nine times bigger than Rwanda, so two weeks are the very minimum for a quick loop there — a loop that doesn’t stick to the confines of the Gorilla Highlands region but incorporates the eastern side of Uganda as well. If you are content with western Uganda, you may add the chimps of Kibale and the safari experience of Queen Elizabeth National Parks to the home of the gorillas, totalling roughly a week.

Because of the size of Uganda, a full car day is required to travel from the airport to where gorillas thrive. Rwanda’s Kigali airport, only three hours away from Uganda’s park gates, is therefore a well-established alternative.


You can make an extremely attractive two-country circle if you visit the wildlife of Akagera (2 on the map) and Queen Elizabeth National Parks (4) before your mountain gorilla tracking in Uganda. The fact that the northern gate of Akagera is exit-only — a limitation established for nature conservation reasons — makes this route automatically counter-clockwise.

Two additional points of interest are Kitagata Hot Springs, a cultural site with obvious health benefits (3), and Ishasha (5) with rare tree-climbing lions. South of Ishasha is Buhoma (6), the most popular gorilla destination. The dotted line that goes down from it towards southern Bwindi (8) indicates a Gorilla Highlands Trails walking route but that part of the national park can also be accessed by car. (7) is Lake Bunyonyi. (9) is our preferred gorilla tracking and volcano climbing destination, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. If you feel like some white sandy beaches at the end of your tour, Rwanda’s Rubavu (10) is your place.

Numbered places roughly correspond to suggested overnights. The yellow line shows the shortcut excluding Akagera/Queen Elizabth NP.

Due to Rwanda’s security and closeness to Congo, we finally need to emphasise that Kigali represents the most obvious springboard to the Congolese national parks.


To limit its exposure to Covid-19, Rwanda has closed its land borders. Please see our Covid Update page for the details.


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  1. Did hear much about DRC roads. May help in decisions and expectations to show and mention. DRC is beautiful

    1. Very valid question… The Lake Kivu part of Congo that we are mostly interested in is a place where highways tend to be insecure and in bad condition, so we focus on boat options instead.