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Rwanda 5 Hike to the crater lake of Bisoke Volcano

Updated: Mar 20, 2023


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View of the crater lake of Bisoke volcano

Start & End: Parking for the hike to the gravesite of Dian Fossey

Length: 6 km

Approx Walking Time: 4h

Altitude metres: 750 hoch und runter

Requirement: Hard

Advice: In the rainy season, the hike is like a mud fight. My guide wore rubber boots.

If you are afraid of slipping and falling, you should not do this hike.

Best Time: In the dry season: December-February and June to September


I have saved the map in Komoot . You can see it as soon as you have logged in.


There is a small café at the starting point of the hike.

Hiking Guide:

At the website there is a selection of hikes. In national parks, these are only possible with a guide.

Felicien is "Head-Guide" in the Volcano NP

This hike is within the Volcanoes National Park and therefore only possible with a guide. At the moment you need a current PCR test.

The tour can actually be organised through any lodge. For example also via Red Rocks

Everyone who travels to Rwanda wants to see gorillas. Unfortunately, this is not an inexpensive pleasure, as a one-hour kinship visit costs a whopping 1,500€. In principle, that's OK, because it's good for conservation and, in the case of the Volcanoes National Park, even for expansion. However, not everyone has such a bulging travel wallet. A gamble option is a hike in the park. This requires a permit (and currently a current PCR test), but at 75€ it is affordable and in the dry season, with a bit of luck, you can catch a glimpse of the highly endangered primates. Photos and lingering are not allowed then.

In the Volcanoes National Park - i.e. on the Rwandan side - are five of the eight Virunga volcanoes: Bisoke 3,711, Gahinga 3,474, Karisimbi 4,507, Muhabura and Sabinyo 3,645. In corona-free times, you can also climb the mountains in Uganda from here, and those of the Democratic Republic of Congo in peaceful times.

The destination of my hike is the volcano Bisoke 3,711m.

The 6 km are a real adventure in the mud, on the steep mountain slope in the rainy season. The professional wears rubber boots ... I looked like a breaded schnitzel afterwards ...

By the way, the nice gentleman in uniform Felicien was my guide, who is no less than the "head guide" in the Volcano NP. He was in constant contact - via walkie-talkie - with all the groups travelling through the park - at least someone who knows where all the gorillas are 😉!

Click on the first picture to start the photo gallery:

The start of my hike is a car park opposite a small café at 2,800 metres.

This can only be reached via a bumpy road with a jeep. Already on the approach I see picturesque chrysanthemum fields blooming white in front of the silhouettes of the volcanoes. The flowers are later used as insect spray. The first kilometre is moderately uphill towards the steep volcanic flank of Bisoke. The same path leads to the Karisoke Research Centre and the grave of Dian Fossey.

At a fork in the road, six soldiers armed to the teeth are waiting for us.

"What are they supposed to protect us from?"

I ask Felicien, somewhat astonished. He answers me, unconvincingly, that they are to defend us from water buffalo. It seems more likely to me that they are protecting us from rebels from the Congo near the border, but since I don't feel unsafe, I don't really care. However, I find it a bit strange to be the only tourist with such a large entourage, because another man, also in army uniform, is walking very close behind me. His job is obviously to support me every step of the way. After a short while I have to ask him to give me a bit more space. As soon as I slip a little, which happens all the time on the muddy ground, he tries to support me. ... which makes me lose my footing rather than helps me. However, I read in a blog of another traveller that he would not have made the ascent without this helper ...

After the conditions and our protection have been clarified 😉 we keep to the right and climb up the increasingly steep volcano. The farmland gives way to a dense deep jungle with ancient, tall and ferny trees. Unfortunately, the path also becomes increasingly muddy. While Felicien trudges easily through the prabbel with his rubber boots, I can

I can no longer recognise my former white jogging shoes under all the mud.
Hike to Bisoke Volcano

The ascent to the 3711 m high crater rim is - due to the trail conditions - not unstrenuous.

I often take one step and slide back half a step. Although the climb is only about 3 km long, it covers 750 metres in altitude and is correspondingly demanding.

After a short while, my face turns the colour of my shirt: Pink!

On the last kilometre, the vegetation changes once again: the tall trees disappear and giant man-sized lobelias stretch up into the sky. We are lucky: although the weather looks rainy, the sky opens up when we arrive at the volcano crater and gives us a view of the lake below. The highest point of the summit is exactly on the opposite side and thus already in the neighbouring country of Congo. When I ask Felicien if I can walk across, he says a definite "no". With a glance at the soldiers, I understand that this is probably something like an unwritten law here.

The descent leads back along the same path and is only much more demanding - I slide down more on the seat of my trousers than I walk on my feet.


Only do this hike if you are not afraid of falling down. Even in the dry season, the trails can be muddy.

Gorillas in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda


As most visitors are keen to see gorillas, it is advisable to apply for the permit well in advance. If you haven't booked a package tour, you can do so via the IREMBO website, which, to be honest, is a bit confusing.

Here you can also book different hikes to the volcanoes, the grave of Dian Fossey and a visit to the golden monkeys - with 100$ a bargain so to speak ...

Even today, there are still strict rules when visiting: every visitor needs a current PCR test, there is a strict minimum distance of 2 metres and the masks may not be taken off for a second - not even for the quickest selfie.


General information is available at:


The best connection from Frankfurt is currently offered by Brussels Airlines with a stopover in Brussels. Prices start at 420 euros, depending on the season. Rwanda is a safe country to travel and most major roads are in good condition. If you are a bit adventurous, I would recommend exploring the country with a rental car. These are available for example from Europcar.


The passport must be valid for at least six months at the time of entry. The visa can be purchased directly on arrival at Kigali airport for $50.

All vaccinated travellers arriving in Rwanda must still present a negative PCR test result that is not older than 72 hours at the time of departure. A second PCR test will be conducted upon arrival, with results delivered after 24 hours at the latest. During this time, travellers must be in self-isolation at the booked hotel. As most flights arrive in the evening, the test results are usually available the next morning.

On the way to the Vulcano National Park


Due to the stable weather, the months of June to September and the shorter dry season from December to February are the best time to visit Rwanda. There are fewer rain showers during these months and conditions are perfect for seeing the gorillas. The heaviest rainfall is between March to May, which can make visiting some areas a challenge.


Colibri Travel offers an 11-day package tour. More info at

On the website of Enchanting Travel, you can put together your dream trip from various blocks.


Directly in Musanze, the starting point for the gorilla visit, there is a cheap option for adventurers: the safari tents from Red Rocks cost 25€ per person including breakfast. Here you can also book other tours to the nearby Vulcanos National Park.

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