Volcanoes Overview

Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans) lies in northwestern Rwanda and is part of the Virunga Conservation Area, which also stretches into the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda. This park covers approximately 160 square kilometers (about 62 square miles) of rainforest and encompasses five of the eight volcanoes in the Virunga Mountains: Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga, and Sabyinyo. Established in 1925 to protect the mountain gorillas from poachers, it became the first national park in Africa, highlighting its long-standing commitment to conservation.

The park’s rugged terrain, blanketed with rich, dense rainforests and bamboo forests, offers a dramatic natural setting that is not only breathtakingly beautiful but also critically important for biodiversity conservation. Volcanoes National Park is most famous for being one of the last refuges of the endangered mountain gorilla. The opportunity to trek through the park’s forests to encounter these majestic primates in their natural habitat is a profound and unforgettable experience, drawing visitors from around the world.

Beyond gorilla trekking, the park offers other remarkable wildlife experiences, including the chance to see golden monkeys, a variety of bird species, spotted hyenas, and buffaloes. The diverse ecosystems within the park’s boundaries support a rich array of flora and fauna, contributing to its status as a biodiversity hotspot.

Volcanoes National Park also holds significant cultural importance for the local communities. The park’s management works closely with the surrounding communities to ensure that the benefits of tourism and conservation efforts extend beyond the park’s borders, promoting sustainable development and conservation-friendly livelihoods.

For adventure enthusiasts, the park provides challenging hikes to the summits of the Virunga Volcanoes, offering stunning panoramic views. The scenic beauty, combined with the rich biodiversity and the opportunity to come face-to-face with mountain gorillas, makes Volcanoes National Park a jewel in Rwanda’s crown and a cornerstone of conservation in Africa.

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Volcanoes National Park Highlights

Mountain Gorillas

Home to a significant population of critically endangered mountain gorillas, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda offers a rare opportunity to encounter these magnificent primates in their natural habitat.


With around 10 habituated gorilla families residing within the park, visitors can witness their social interactions, foraging behavior, and familial bonds during guided gorilla trekking experiences.

These gorillas, known for their gentle demeanor and impressive strength, play a vital role in ecotourism efforts aimed at conservation and community development.

Through sustainable tourism initiatives, efforts are made to protect and preserve the fragile habitat of these iconic apes while providing immersive and educational experiences for visitors


The mountain gorilla is certainly the highlight species within the national park, but there is more wildlife to potentially experience.  Here is a glimpse into other species you might see:

Golden Monkey: Endemic to the Virunga Mountains, golden monkeys captivate with their striking golden coats and playful behavior, offering a unique wildlife encounter in Volcanoes National Park.

Buffalo: Formidable and resilient, Cape buffalo graze the park’s grasslands in large herds, their imposing presence and powerful horns a symbol of Africa’s untamed wilderness.

African Elephant: Towering and iconic, African elephants roam the park’s savannas and forests, their impressive size and social dynamics reflecting the wild beauty of Volcanoes.

Leopard: Stealthy and elusive, leopards prowl the park’s forests and grasslands, their spotted coats and nocturnal habits adding an air of mystery to Volcanoes’ ecosystem.

Lion: Majestic and powerful, lions reign over the savannas of Volcanoes, their iconic roars echoing through the plains as they hunt and protect their prides.

Chimpanzee: Intelligent and social, chimpanzees swing through the park’s forests, captivating visitors with their complex behaviors and familial bonds in their natural habitat.

Giraffe: Graceful and unique, giraffes roam the park’s savannas, their towering stature and distinctive patterns adding charm to the African landscape.

Hippopotamus: Semi-aquatic and territorial, hippos inhabit the park’s rivers and lakes, emerging at dusk to graze on land, their presence a symbol of Volcanoes’ diverse ecosystem.

Warthog: Hardy and adaptable, warthogs forage in the park’s grasslands, their distinctive appearance and humorous antics adding character to the African wilderness.

Vervet Monkey: Agile and social, vervet monkeys thrive in the park’s forests, entertaining visitors with their playful antics and vocal communication within their tight-knit troops.

Volcanoes National Park Pictures

Engaging Volcanoes National Park

Embark on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure to track and observe endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Led by experienced guides, treks take visitors through lush forests, offering intimate encounters with these majestic primates.

This is an experience that will leave you in true awe and wonder.  These majestic creatures are strong yet so gentle.

Delve into the forests of Volcanoes National Park to track golden monkeys, a unique primate species known for their striking golden coats and playful antics. Guided treks provide opportunities to observe these captivating creatures up close.

Embark on exhilarating hikes to the park’s volcanic peaks, such as Mount Bisoke or Mount Karisimbi, for breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. Trained guides lead treks, providing insight into the region’s geological history and volcanic activity.

Volcanoes National Park Trails

Karisimbi Volcano Trail

Rating: Difficult

Distance and Elevation Gain: 10 miles (16 km) with an elevation gain of 8,202 feet (2,500 meters)

Description: The Karisimbi Volcano Trail offers a challenging ascent to the summit of Mount Karisimbi, the highest peak in Volcanoes National Park.

Hikers will navigate through dense forests and alpine meadows, encountering unique flora and fauna along the way.

Enjoy breathtaking views of the Virunga Mountains and surrounding landscapes from the summit, making this trek a memorable adventure for experienced hikers and mountaineers.

Bisoke Volcano Crater Lake Trail

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 6 miles (9.7 km) with an elevation gain of 3,937 feet (1,200 meters)

Description: The Bisoke Volcano Crater Lake Trail leads hikers to the stunning crater lake atop Mount Bisoke, offering panoramic views of Volcanoes National Park.

Trek through bamboo forests and volcanic terrain, observing wildlife such as golden monkeys and various bird species.

Reach the crater rim and descend to the tranquil lake, where you can enjoy a refreshing swim or simply soak in the beauty of the surroundings.

Dian Fossey Tomb Trail

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 5 miles (8 km) with an elevation gain of 1,312 feet (400 meters)

Description: The Dian Fossey Tomb Trail takes hikers on a journey through the lush forests of Volcanoes National Park to the final resting place of renowned primatologist Dian Fossey.

Trek along scenic pathways, encountering mountain gorillas and other wildlife along the way.

Learn about Fossey’s groundbreaking research and conservation efforts as you pay homage to her legacy at her gravesite, nestled amidst the mountains she dedicated her life to protecting.

Sabyinyo Volcano Trail

Rating: Moderate to Difficult

Distance and Elevation Gain: 6 miles (9.7 km) with an elevation gain of 3,281 feet (1,000 meters)

Description: The Sabyinyo Volcano Trail offers a challenging hike to the summit of Mount Sabyinyo, one of the Virunga volcanoes in Volcanoes National Park.

Hikers will ascend steep slopes and rocky terrain, passing through bamboo forests and alpine meadows.

Enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes and encounter unique flora and fauna along the way, making this trail a rewarding adventure for experienced hikers.

Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village Trail

Rating: Easy

Distance and Elevation Gain: 2 miles (3.2 km) with minimal elevation gain

Description: The Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village Trail offers a cultural immersion experience in the heart of Volcanoes National Park.

Hikers will walk through picturesque villages, interacting with local communities and learning about Rwandan traditions and customs. Enjoy traditional dance performances, craft demonstrations, and authentic Rwandan cuisine as you explore the vibrant culture of the region.

This trail provides a unique opportunity to connect with the local community and support sustainable tourism initiatives.


1. What is Volcanoes National Park known for?

Volcanoes National Park is home to approximately half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, making it one of the best places in the world for gorilla trekking. Visitors to the park have the unique opportunity to embark on guided treks through the dense rainforest to observe these magnificent primates in their natural habitat. The experience of encountering a wild mountain gorilla face-to-face is often described as a once-in-a-lifetime and profoundly moving experience.

In addition to mountain gorillas, Volcanoes National Park is home to other primate species, including golden monkeys, as well as a variety of bird species and small mammals. The park’s lush rainforest, scenic volcanoes, and breathtaking views also attract nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts from around the world.

Beyond its wildlife, Volcanoes National Park holds cultural significance as well. It is part of the traditional homeland of the indigenous Batwa people, who have lived in harmony with the forest for generations. Visitors to the park can learn about the Batwa’s rich cultural heritage and their traditional way of life through cultural experiences and community tourism initiatives.

Overall, Volcanoes National Park offers a unique combination of natural beauty, incredible wildlife encounters, and cultural experiences, making it one of Rwanda’s premier tourist destinations and a must-visit for anyone interested in conservation and ecotourism.

Related National Parks

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  • East Africa Trails, Volcano Hiking in Rwanda,, retrieved March 2024.
  • Peakbagger, Muhabura,, retrieved March 2024.
  • Peakbagger, Volcan Karisimbi,, retrieved March 2024.
  • Uganda Wildlife Authority, The Virunga Mountains,, retrieved March 2024.
  • Visit Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park,, retrieved March 2024.
  • Volcanoes National Park Rwanda,, retrieved March 2024.
  • Volcanoes Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park,, retrieved March 2024.