Rwanda is a landlocked country in east-central Africa that lies south of the Equator. Rwanda is known as le pays des mille collines (French: “land of a thousand hills”) because of its breathtaking scenery. Kigali, the country’s capital, is situated on the Ruganwa River in the country’s center. Where is Rwanda on the map? And what are the main districts and cities in the country?
Rwanda, like its southern neighbor Burundi, is a small country with one of the highest population densities in Sub-Saharan Africa. Burundi and Rwanda both have a long history of monarchical rule. Unlike what happened in Burundi; however, the Rwandan kingship was overthrown by a Hutu-led uprising that took place before the country’s independence in 1962.
In 1994, ethnic tensions between the majority Hutu and minority Tutsi factions reached an all-time high. Rwanda’s economy and social fabric were in shambles at the time due to civil war and genocide. Reconstruction and ethnic reconciliation characterized the years that followed.
Rwanda, with its majestic mountains, undulating hills, enthralling customs, and some of the world’s rarest animal species, is shaking off the memories of its tumultuous past and quickly becoming one of Africa’s must-visit nations.
Rwanda on the Map with Districts
Rwanda’s five provinces are grouped into 30 districts. Each district is divided into sectors, which are further subdivided into cells, which are then further subdivided into villages. Rwanda was divided into prefectures, subprefectures (also known as “districts”), and 154 communes before 2002. Communes were phased out in 2002 in favor of two types of divisions: districts and municipalities. The number of municipalities was cut from 106 to 30 in 2006.
Top Populus Districts in Rwanda
Rwanda on the Map: Gasabo District
Gasabo is a neighborhood in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. Gasabo’s headquarters are in the kimironko Sector. Large swaths of the city, including Kacyiru, Remera, Nyarutarama, and Kimihurura, are included in the district. It is the site of the Gisozi Genocide Memorial Site, which holds the graves of nearly 300,000 Rwandan genocide victims. Aside from the cemetery, the memorial has a genocide exhibition area and library, as well as plans to build a teaching center on the genocide’s history.
#Rwanda on the Map: Gasabo District
Rwanda on the Map: Nyagatare District
Nyagatare is Rwanda’s second-largest and most populous district. It is situated in Rwanda’s Eastern Province, in the country’s northeastern corner. Nyagatare City, the former capital of the now-defunct Umutara province, serves as the country’s capital. Nyagatare District is bordered on the north by Uganda, on the east by Tanzania, on the south by Gatsibo District of the Eastern Province, and on the west by the Gicumbi District of the Northern Province.
Nyagatare is Rwanda’s largest district, covering 1741 square kilometers. Nyagatare, with a population of 466,944 people in 2012, is Rwanda’s second most populous district, trailing only Kigali City’s Gasabo District, which has 530,907 people. This represents an increase of 83 percent since 2002 when the population was only 255,104. The population explosion is due to a large-scale migration of people from other parts of the country in search of land.
#Rwanda on the Map: Nyagatare District
Rwanda on the Map: Gatsibo District
Gatsibo is a municipality in Rwanda’s Eastern Province. Kabarore is the capital. It is located in the Gatsibo and Kageyo sectors. It takes about 1 hour and 50 minutes to get there from Kigali. Between Kayonza and Nyagatare, the district encompasses areas in Rwanda’s north-east. The German post of Gatsibo, as well as the present-day Gabiro military camp, were both located here. The district’s eastern half is in Akagera National Park, with the Kagera River forming the district’s Tanzanian boundary.
#Rwanda on the Map: Gatsibo District
Rwanda on the Map: Rusizi District
Rusizi is a district in Rwanda’s Western Province. Its capital is Cyangugu, Rwanda’s largest city in the south-west, and the district encompasses much of the former Cyangugu Province. The district is located near Lake Kivu’s southern end, where it empties into the Rusizi River (after which the district is named).
Cyangugu, Rusizi’s capital, is one of Lake Kivu’s three major Rwandan lake ports (along with Kibuye and Gisenyi), and it is adjacent to the much bigger Congolese city of Bukavu. The district also includes the western half of Nyungwe Forest, a popular tourist destination that is one of Rwanda’s last surviving forest areas, home to chimps and a variety of other primates.
#Rwanda on the Map: Rusizi District
Rwanda on the Map: Rubavu District
Rubavu District is one of the country district’s seven districts in Rwanda’s Western Province. Gisenyi, the capital, is a large beach resort and border city. It covers a total area of 388.3 km2. The district is located along the shores of Lake Kivu, near the city of Gisenyi, and just across the Congolese border from Goma.
It is bordered on the east by Nyabihu District, on the west and north by the Democratic Republic of Congo, and on the south by Rutsiro District. It is 154.7 kilometers from Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, and takes 2 hours and 53 minutes to drive there.
The district’s geographic location, as well as associated features such as Lake Kivu, contribute to its status as a business and tourism hub (especially through cross-border trade with DRC). The Rubavu District is divided into 12 administrative areas, 80 Cells, and 525 villages. Rainfall in Rubavu District varies between 1200 and 1500 mm per year, depending on the geography of the district.
The land in the district’s northwest has very rich soil, but it is shallow due to volcanic ash and lava decomposition, while the land in the district’s southeast has deep soils, but it is poor, often acidic, sandy clay, and leached by high erosion, and it is also close to Mount Nyiragongo, an active volcano.
#Rwanda on the Map: Rubavu District
Cities of Rwanda on the Map
1- Rwanda on the Map: Kigali
Kigali is centrally located in Rwanda, extending across several hills and valleys with excellent road connections to the rest of the country. With just over one million residents, the verdant capital city is pleasantly low-key but dynamic and progressive. First-time visitors to the bustling and vibrant center often comment on how clean the streets are, which is something that every community in the country takes pride in.
Kigali is a city that is just a few years old. It was established as an administrative outpost in 1907, and when the country gained independence in 1962, it became the country’s capital, drawing attention away from Huye. Outsiders are usually left to their own devices unless they need help, in which case they will be welcomed with warm hospitality. The city’s broad tree-lined boulevards and immaculate squares are safe to walk.
There’s a burgeoning art scene here, as well as a growing number of places to eat and drink, many of which have lovely panoramic views. Local artisans and food vendors have a dedicated space to display and trade their wares at the Kigali Cultural Village. Kigali is rapidly expanding, with new shopping malls, office buildings, and a world-class convention center built in the style of an old-fashioned King’s Palace atop one of the many hills, which lights up the night sky.
- The Country of Rwanda
- 15 Local Food in Rwanda and Useful Tips
- A Guide to Beautiful Rwanda Cities, Maps and Tips
Nyarugenge Hill is home to the central business district, while Kacyiru Hill is home to the ministries and administrative quarter. In one of the major valleys, Nyarutarama Lake, also known as Lover’s Lake, borders an 18-hole golf course. The path around the lake is surprisingly quiet, and it makes for a great urban nature walk, with the bonus of seeing some of Rwanda’s amazing birds.
A trip to Rwanda would be incomplete without a stop at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, which honors the memory of the more than one million Rwandans killed in the 1994 genocide through education and peacebuilding. The three permanent exhibitions and burial gardens serve as a strong educational tool for visitors as well as a significant tribute to those who have died.
#Rwanda on the Map: Kigali
2- Rwanda on the Map: Rubavu
Rubavu, a waterfront village on Lake Kivu’s shores, is an hour from the Volcanoes National Park and makes a wonderful stopover on the way to or from Nyungwe, or a relaxing stop after gorilla tracking. Rubavu, like other Lake Kivu destinations, has red sand beaches, warm, clear water, and a laid-back tropical vibe. It’s a wonderful place to relax, take in the peaceful atmosphere, watch the birds, and participate in a variety of watersports.
In the interior, old colonial buildings stand alongside palm-lined avenues, surrounded by banks, hotels, and offices. The Congo Nile Trail begins in the city and runs 227 kilometers south to Rusizi. With endless lake views, friendly hamlets, fishermen at work, and women dressed in striking prints going about their daily lives, the trail can be enjoyed on foot or by mountain bike. The area around Rubavu has something for everyone, with many tea and coffee plantations, as well as bird and primates to see in the new Gishwati-Mukura National Park.
#Rwanda on the Map: Rubavu
3- Rwanda on the Map: Karongi
Karongi is perhaps Rwanda’s most popular beach getaway for families who live elsewhere in the country. With its majestic vistas, tranquil climate, and easy access from Kigali, it’s easy to see why. The sparkling lake is framed by pine and eucalyptus-covered hillsides, with accommodations to suit all budgets. The sound of local fishermen singing carries across the water at dawn and dusk as they paddle in unison.
This is a place where busy minds can fully unwind, occasionally lifting their heads from a good book to notice the birds or the shifting colors on the lake as the sun sets over the horizon. Kayaks are available for rent at many hotels for those who want to stay active. Small groups are transported by boat to Napoleon’s Island, which is home to a colony of fruit bats, or to one of Amahoro Island’s restaurants. Head out night fishing with the locals or go sunset kayaking with them for an authentic taste of Rwandan life.
The Mukura Forest, located northwest of Karongi, is a haven for birdwatchers, with over 150 species recorded, including 17 endemics to the Albertine Rift. Mukura is a true montane rainforest, with an average altitude of 2,600m. It is a term used to describe forests in mountainous areas of the tropical belt. In 2015, the area was designated as a National Park.
#Rwanda on the Map: Karongi
4- Rwanda on the Map: Musanze
Musanze’s strategic location in the Virunga Massif’s foothills is attractive to tourism, industry, and agriculture, with particularly fertile land in the surrounding area. It is poised to become one of Rwanda’s major cities.
The city, which sits at an elevation of 1,850 meters, is an ideal location for gorilla monitoring, as the Kinigi headquarters are only 13 kilometers away. There are several boutique lodges on the outskirts of the Volcanoes National Park that offer spectacular views and a more rural setting for those who want to stay closer to the park’s edge.
Musanze is a bustling city with a diverse dining scene, ATMs for cash withdrawals, a lively nightlife, markets, and artisanal trades. A guided tour of the underground caves, bicycle tours, and the opportunity to meet the Rwandan cycling team at the Africa Rising Cycling Centre, the Buhanga Eco-Park, and the lesser-known lakes of Karago, Burera, and Ruhondo are all available from Musanze.
#Rwanda on the Map: Musanze
5- Rwanda on the Map: Nyanza
Nyanza is Rwanda’s eighth-largest city and the administrative capital of the Southern Province. The region’s major draw is its cultural heritage, which is well worth a stopover on the way to Nyungwe National Park.
The King’s Palace, a beautifully-crafted thatched dwelling shaped like a beehive and a rebuilding of the traditional royal residence, is well worth a visit. A few long-horned Ankole cattle, descended from the king’s herd, live in the back, where their keepers carefully tend to them and sing to them.
Rwandan kings used to be very mobile, moving between several different residences all over the country. However, by the late nineteenth century, the increasing colonial presence threatened to undermine the crown’s authority. To combat this, Mwami (King) Musinga Yuhi V established Nyanza as Rwanda’s first permanent royal capital in 1899, and it remained so until the country became a republic in 1962.
The Belgians were so impressed by the royal court that they decided to exert control through the existing power structure rather than intruding on the city. Nyanza is firmly on the map of cultural heritage, thanks to Western accounts full of color, pomp, and ceremony that mix with Rwandan oral tradition.
While the royal court has long since dispersed and the hillsides of Nyanza are no longer covered in roundhouses, the area remains an important cultural center. The Ethnographic Museum in neighboring Huye is another attraction.
#Rwanda on the Map: Nyanza
6- Rwanda on the Map: Rusizi
A small village on the Congolese border with views of Bukavu, the Congolese capital. Nyungwe National Park is about an hour’s drive away, and Rusizi is the nearest village. Self-drive visitors to the National Park will appreciate the low-cost accommodations available here.
#Rwanda on the Map: Rusizi
7- Rwanda on the Map: Huye
Huye, which is peaceful and compact, was founded in the early colonial period, as evidenced by the city’s architecture. For a time, it was known as Astrida, after King Leopold III of Belgium’s late wife. The area has long been a power center, although much of its history has been passed down through the generations solely through oral tradition. Huye is now a hub of academic activity, with the National University of Rwanda, the National Institute of Scientific Research, and several training schools and universities.
It is also notable for its religious significance, with colossal cathedrals and churches where congregations sing with fervent vigor and passion. The outstanding Ethnographic Museum, also known as the National Museum, houses what is arguably Africa’s best ethnographic collection. Traditional artifacts and antique monochrome photos on display provide insight into Rwanda’s pre-colonial period as well as the country’s transition to modernity.
In 1933, an arboretum on Ruhande Hill was created, with a mix of exotic and indigenous species. The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy project recently dedicated the 200-hectare forest, which was selected because it is a research forest and a “gene bank” of Rwandan forests, which are vital to the country’s conservation. Nearby, the King’s Palace in Nyanza, with its replica royal hut and holy Inyambo (Ankole) cows in the field behind it, brings the old ways to life.
#Rwanda on the Map: Huye
8- Rwanda on the Map: Kibeho
Since the Virgin Mary appeared on November 28, 1981, Kibeho Parish has been a worldwide pilgrimage destination for Roman Catholics. Kibeho Church is the focal point, where the faithful receive Holy Communion. Today, pilgrims visit the site throughout the year, with two main dates dominating the calendar: Assumption Day (15 August) and the anniversary of the Virgin Mary’s appearance on November 28th.
Kibeho Church receives between 25,000 and 30,000 visitors during peak season. Pilgrims and religious visitors come from all over the world, including the United States, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Italy, and India. Kibeho receives about 100 religious’ visitors per week during the low season, mainly from Rwanda, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Tanzania.
#Rwanda on the Map: Kibeho
9- Rwanda on the Map: Ngororero
Even though Ngororero does not appear in many guidebooks, this small Rwandan village exudes a lovely charm and has historical importance that should not be overlooked. Ngororero is conveniently located on the road from Musanze to Muhanga, at an altitude of 1760km.
The small district is surrounded by picturesque hills and has become a cultural and historical site; 14,500 Tutsis were burned alive in the former MRND palace here in 1994, making it one of the most important genocide memorials outside of Kigali. Furthermore, the hilltop of Umukore, located about 12 kilometers from the town’s marketplace, was once the royal residence of Mwami Kigeli IV, one of Rwanda’s most powerful kings.
The explorer Gustav Adolf von Götzen, who would later become the German governor of East Africa, was hosted by the King here, and this was the first official meeting between a European and a Rwandan king. Today, the town is best known for its massive and bustling multi-level market, which is open most days of the week.
#Rwanda on the Map: Ngororero
Reference: Political Map of Rwanda