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Rwanda Safari

Lake Kivu and Gisenyi - Hotels and Lodges

Western Rwanda

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The swimming pool at Lake Kivu Serena Hotel in Gisenyi

Gisenyi, Rwanda
Gisenyi is the largest port on the shores of Lake Kivu and the only tourist center of note on the lake. The town lies 60km by road southwest of the gorilla tracking region at Volcanoes National Park and is therefore a viable option for those gorilla trekkers wanting to stay somewhere different and further afield. The road between Ruhengeri (near the gorilla tracking headquarters) and Gisenyi is tarred and in decent condition and the drive should take about an hour.  The drive to Gisenyi from Kigali is about 3 hours.

Most of the accommodation in Gisenyi is on the lake front and the accommodation options are generally quite reasonable. The waterfront is quite a pleasant place, with red sands, shad, palm-lined boulevards, and incongruous architecture, all giving it a run-down tropical beach resort feel. However, Gisenyi's relatively high altitude of 1,500 meters gives the town an naturally cool climate in contrast to its appearance. There is little to do in terms of sightseeing and so most international visitors use it as a base for gorilla trekking, making the daily drive to and from Ruhengeri. 

Places to Stay in Gisenyi
The upmarket Lake Kivu Serena Hotel (formerly the Kivu Sun and acquired by Serena Group in 2007) is the only urban hotel in Rwanda outside of Kigali that meets international standards. The hotel is therefore quite popular as a weekend getaway for Kigali-based ex pats and NGO workers. The Serena offers a lovely setting, with a large swimming pool right on the lake shore, AC in all the nicely-appointed rooms, a fitness center, sauna, massage therapy, free WiFi, and a well-trained English-speaking staff. It is our recommendation for guests staying in Gisenyi.

Accommodations for Gisenyi, Lake Kivu, Rwanda
    • Lake Kivu Serena Hotel

Goma, DRC
The town of Goma lies on the lake shore just 3.5 kilometers west of Gisenyi and across the border into the DRC. With a population of a quarter-million people, Goma is three times the size of Gisenyi.

Prior to the genocide in Rwanda, Goma was renowned for its nightlife and music scene, but since July 1994, when it received an influx of about one million Hutu refugees from Rwanda, Goma has been afflicted by a succession of disasters. In January 2002 the nearby Nyiragongo volcano erupted and sent a 1km-wide lava flow through the town destroying 4,500 buildings and causing most of the city's population to evacuate to Gisenyi. Today Goma is mostly rebuilt, although the sea of hardened lava still lies along the road.

Goma has also frequently been the center of the lengthy Congolese civil war that began with a coup in 1997. In March 2009 a peace treaty was signed between the UN-backed Congolese government and the rebels, but Goma still remains a potentially volatile place and it will take years to recover from the violence.

For History and General information about Rwanda, click Rwanda Info
For further information about the National Parks of Rwanda, click Rwanda Parks

Return to Map of Rwanda

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