ABOUT THIS JOURNEY
You are invited to join us on a thrilling mountain bike challenge through some of Africa’s most beguiling landscapes. After 36 hours acclimatisation at 1,500 metres above sea level in Rwanda’s fascinating capital Kigali, you will ride towards the mountainous north of the country through tea plantations, lush green hills and
along the Virunga Mountains - a chain of volcanoes that are home to some of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas - all the way to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Nicknamed the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills,’ Rwanda doesn’t do ‘flat’ meaning this challenge will offer not only incredible
views around every corner, but a serious test of fitness and endurance with daily
climbs in excess of 1,000 metres.
We believe that travel is at its best when flexible and so we ask that you treat the itinerary described below as a guide to how you will spend your time with us rather than as a rigid framework. You will have experiences, see places and meet people that we haven’t listed here. Equally, there may be occasions when we cannot, for good reason, fulfill every detail in this itinerary. Finally, please treat distances as estimates because we will sometimes make route changes in the hope of giving you the best experience possible.
Saturday 17 November - Arrival
We recommend you land in Kigali this evening. We will be there to greet you and drive you the short distance to your hotel in the heart of the old Belgian quarter, where you will spend two nights. We haven’t included dinner as you will have just been fed in the air, but you’re welcome to head for a late bite.
Sunday 18 November - Day in Kigali
A day in the capital to acclimatise and all activities are optional. After breakfast we will visit the Genocide
Memorial Museum, a harrowing but must-do experience for any visitor to Rwanda. Lunch and an
afternoon spent exploring Nyamirambo, the city’s vibrant Muslim quarter, is a great way to experience
the real Kigali. In the evening we will have drinks and a briefing on the adventure ahead, before dinner at one
of Kigali’s most popular Sunday night restaurants.
Monday 19 November - Kigali to Kinihira
Cycling Distance - 50 or 65 kms (6 or 8 hours)
Ascent 1,450 metres; Descent 1,330 metres
Our adventure really begins today, and you can either start from the hotel in the city or be transferred to the
top of Kigali’s highest peak, Mount Jali. Up high it’s often shrouded in mist in the morning and it makes for
a magical start to the challenge with views around every bend. We will have a barbecue lunch in a village
en-route before a long descent. Then it’s one final climb up to Sorwathe, one of Rwanda’s most charming
tea estates, and our home for the night.
Tuesday 20 November - Kinihira to Lake Ruhondo
Cycling Distance - 50 or 60 kms (6 or 8 hours)
Ascent 1,060 metres; Descent 1,000 metres
After breakfast we will have a chance to witness what goes on behind the scenes at Sorwathe tea plantation. Then it’s back in the saddle for a fantastic descent into tea fields before a steady ascent to the shores of
the Twin Lakes, Burera and Ruhondo. It’s a day packed with breath-taking views but we will have to work hard in the saddle to achieve them. Our overnight stay is at a lakeside guest house with great views of the volcanoes across the lake, and if it’s a clear evening we’ll be able to see the smoking, active Nyiragongo volcano in Congo.
Wednesday 21 November - Lake Ruhondo to Ruhengeri
Cycling Distance - 40 kms (5 to 7 hours)
Ascent 1,000 metres; Descent 900 metres
After a short boat journey, today’s ride will begin on the northern shore of Lake Ruhondo and it’s a tough morning as we climb steadily, pausing only to visit a couple of interesting local projects. Lunch is at Virunga Lodge. In the afternoon we will ride towards Kinigi, where we will visit the home of the Rwandan national cycling team. From Kinigi it is downhill to the frontier town of Ruhengeri, where we will spend the night with our friends Elaine and Kavos, an English-Congolese couple who have made northern Rwanda their home.
Thursday 22 November - Gorilla Trekking
Today is our chance to trek into the jungle to spend time with some of the last remaining mountain gorillas on the planet. Alternatively, you can visit golden monkeys or our guides are available to show you some of their favourite things around Ruhengeri (see Optional Extras page of the brochure).
Friday 23 November - Ruhengeri to Rubavu
Cycling Distance - 95 kms (8 to 10 hours)
Ascent 1,500 metres; Descent 1,900 metres
It’s our last day on bikes and it’s a big one. Our final destination is Lake Kivu, one of the deepest lakes in the world and a so called Great Lake of Africa. To get there we will cycle along the base of the chain of volcanoes, through bamboo forests, remote villages and banana plantations before pausing for lunch at the beautifully situated home of American former humanitarian and author Rosamund Carr. From there it’s a thrilling 35 kilometre descent on dirt roads through bustling villages towards Kivu, where we will spend the night after a celebration dinner overlooking the lake.
Saturday 24 November - Return to Kigali
After a morning recuperating and relaxing by Lake Kivu you will be transferred 3 hours by minibus to Kigali for your onward journey. For those catching an evening flight out of Rwanda we will drive you to Kigali International Airport.
SUPPORT, GUIDES & HOST
The challenge is fully-supported, meaning not only that your bags will be driven to your next overnight stay each day, but also that a vehicle will often be nearby to give you a lift if you really need one.
We know that guides can make or break a trip like this, which is why we are so pleased to work with Michael Newhouse, our regular tour host in Rwanda. Michael is an engineer and bicycle mechanic from the UK. He has made East Africa his home since 2012, currently living in Kigali, and has recently supported Team Rwanda as a mechanic. He will be supported by a fantastic team of local cyclists, guides and drivers - including at least one member of Team Rwanda, the national cycling set-up - with a broad range of skills from cultural knowledge of Rwanda to technical support and a sense of fun and adventure.
We often receive feedback from guests who say how much they enjoyed not thinking about money throughout their time with us. That's because we include almost everything in the cost of the trip. Below you will find a detailed breakdown of what is - and is not - included. You will also find information about our bikes as well as any extras we offer.
- Airport transfers (for recommended flights)
- Support vehicle
- Slow Cyclist host
- English-speaking local guides
- 7 nights’ accommodation
- Most meals (see itinerary for details)
- Snacks & soft drinks
- All activities & entrance fees
- Bicycle & helmet hire
- 24 hr emergency helicopter rescue
- 100% financial security through Travel Vault
- Gorilla/golden monkey trek
- Visas (required for UK citizens)
- Alcoholic drinks
- Travel insurance
- Personal costs
The terrain on this journey varies from smooth tarmac to narrow dirt trails. However, the vast majority of the ride will be on wide red dirt roads that can get rutted if there has been a lot of rain. The best bike for the job is a mountain bike. We use excellent Scott hardtail mountain bikes that are perfect for the terrain. A mechanic travels with the team and we carry spares and parts at all times.
Lodging is based on twin sharing. Singles are not required to pay a single supplement although if you would like to ensure your own room for the duration of your stay, you must do so by paying a supplementary fee of £250.
Below are a selection of questions we have been asked about our Rwandan trips over the years. Many are addressed in the trip brochure too, which can be downloaded via the button near the top of this page.
+ Why should I see Rwanda with The Slow Cyclist?
Our Managing Director Oli Broom spent two years living and working in Kigali, Rwanda's capital. He spent his weekends exploring all corners of the country by bike and returned home in 2013 intent on taking others to experience Rwanda, and other beautiful parts of the world, by bicycle. So Rwanda was where it all started! His time there gave him a great sense of what it is that makes for the best Rwandan adventures. And this ride is the best there is, winding its way through parts of the country that very few visitors ever make it to, with extraordinary places and views along the way. Of course, you get to do it with the best guides around too.
+ What is Rwanda like, and is it safe?
Rwanda is a land of sprawling lakes, cultivated green hills and smoking volcanoes. Of course, it’s gorillas that most visitors come here to see - and they do provide a magical experience - but there is so much more to this tiny, lush, land-locked gem. For much of the post-colonial era the country faced relentless social and political upheaval, culminating in the 1994 genocide. But over the past two decades Africa’s most densely populated country has embarked on a remarkable journey, winning global acclaim for tackling ethnic divisions and dragging millions off the poverty line. The population is young and a stable government has helped develop roads, create accessible and affordable broadband, and fed a budding private sector economy that is seeing increasing foreign investment. Crime and corruption levels are some of the lowest on the continent. In various independent surveys in recent years Rwanda has been named the safest country in Africa, and Kigali the cleanest and most liveable city on the continent. You’re likely to notice such traits during your time in Rwanda but in the end we’re confident it’ll be the people, and the extraordinary land they call home, that will live long in the memory.
+ What is the terrain like?
The terrain on this journey varies from smooth tarmac to narrow dirt trails. However, the vast majority of the ride will be on wide red dirt roads that are perfect for cycling.
+ How fit do I need to be?
This challenge does not require advanced technical mountain biking ability, although experience riding on rough surfaces up and downhill will be helpful. Don’t worry if you’re used to riding a road bike. Although the technique is a bit different you will be able to manage. However, far more important is your fitness. You will definitely need to train for this challenge as not only are there plenty of hills but you’ll also be at altitudes ranging from 900 - 2,500 metres above sea level. By the time you join us in Rwanda you should be happy spending long hours in the saddle for three or four days in a row.
+ What is the accommodation like?
We aim to use accommodation that enhances your overall experience, rather than simply providing a roof for the night. This means that often accommodation has been chosen for its charm and location. You will be travelling through a country that is, outside of the capital at least, lacking in tourism infrastructure. It’s one of the reasons we love Rwanda, but it does mean that accommodation tends to be basic so please do not expect 5 service.
+ Is Rwanda food and drink good?
Rwandan fruit and is absolutely incredible - pineapples, passion fruit, tomaties and bananas to die for. Home cooking can be excellent, with good fresh fish as well as beef and goat. But if we're honest, this is not a foodie trip. Many Rwandans tend to drink locally brewed beers such as Mutzig and Primus, although in the villages - if you look hard enough - you'll find plenty of homemade banana beer. Wine is generally imported from South Africa. During the day we provide local fruits as well as delicious energy slices by UK-based GB Chew. Allergies and other food preferences are all taken care of at the time of booking.
+ What will the weather be like?
It's tough to be sure. Although Rwanda is located only two degrees south of the equator, its high elevation makes the climate temperate. The average daily temperature near Lake Kivu, at an altitude of 1,450 metres, is 23 °C and this is relatively typical of temperatures across the country all year round. During the two rainy seasons (March to May and September to December), heavy downpours occur almost daily, alternating with sunny weather. During these months, sunshine is common and the landscape is at its most beautiful. Apart from April, when the country comes together to remember the 1994 atrocities in a month of mourning, there really is no bad time to visit Rwanda. July and August are hotter than other months.