Back to the Motherland: Rwanda

Traveler: Siska Lyssens – Arts & Lifestyle Writer

What is your most unforgettable escape? My recent holiday to Rwanda, the country where my mother is from. It had been 22 years since I last visited!  

What was the purpose of your travel? Since my parents have grandchildren now, we hadn’t all traveled to Rwanda together yet. It was both a revisiting of the country and an introduction.


Where did you stay? We stayed at 5 different locations; as we traveled around the country to visit national parks, the rainforest and places with family history. A house in the capital, Kigali; Hotel Virunga, Cormoran Lodge, Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel and Akagera Game Lodge. 

What did you most like about the trip? The fact that I now think of Rwanda as a positive place, full of energy, beauty and potential. 


Could you share an unforgettable memory about the trip? Reaching the top of Mount Bisoke, a non-active volcano of 3711 metres with a crater lake. I think it must have been the hardest physical endeavor I ever undertook and at times I thought I couldn’t make it, but I did! I felt exhausted but very proud that I kept going.

Your most surprising find during the trip? We weren’t expecting to, but we bumped into four gorillas during this hike, they were only at arm’s length from us. Their presence is very palpable, very human. 

Favorite restaurant(s) or food you have tried during your trip? All of the sun-ripened fruits that grow there: avocados, papayas, mangoes, bananas and pineapple – they taste so much better there!

What are the must tries of the city? In the capital Kigali, I would recommend the delicious teas, juices and chocolate desserts at Shokola bar. 


Any hidden gems you could whisper to us? The Cormoran Lodge where we stayed was my favourite hotel of the trip. You have luxurious private cabins perched on the hillside and a magnificent view on the Kivu lake. The amount of guests that can stay here is very limited, so it’s very peaceful and quiet. A perfect place to retreat.

Would you go back? Absolutely, I’d love to go back every few years!

Could you list a few of your favorite finds you came back with? Rwandan coffee from a brand called Gorilla, the typical retro Fanta bottles and the pili-pili hot sauce.

Any tips that might be useful to know before going there? Only use a tiny drop of the pili-pili hot sauce on your entire plate of food! It’s very potent…


Next stop you would like to visit? On my wish list now are other African countries where you can go on safari: Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa…

What does traveling mean to you? It means letting go of your usual routines, habits and expectations and being open to other ways and paces of living. I learned a lot about my own attitudes to life by just looking around and trying to imagine being in a Rwandans’ shoes – they just get on with it, no matter how hard life can be.