Ultimate Guide: Preparing for an Epic Adventure – Hiking the Virunga Mountains

Preparing for an Epic Adventure – Hiking the Virunga Mountains

  • Obtain permits
  • Physical Fitness
  • Pack Essentials
  • Attire
  • Acclimatization
  • Hydration and nutrition
  • Local guidelines
  • Leave no trace

Hiking the Virunga Mountains in Rwanda

Preparing for Hikes and Treks in Rwanda

Hiking in Volcanoes National Park, home to magnificent creatures like mountain gorillas, can be an unforgettable adventure. However, it’s essential to be well-prepared to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to prepare for hiking in the Virunga Mountain range:

Obtain Necessary Permits:

  • Gorilla trekking and hiking permits are required for all hikes in Volcanoes National Park. These permits can be in high demand, especially June – August, so you will want to ensure you make your plans well in advance.  Destination Rwanda can arrange all necessary permits for your treks, and will include a park ranger.  The ranger provides valuable insights, ensures your safety, and helps interpret the natural surroundings.

Physical Fitness:

  • Hiking in the Virunga Mountains can be physically demanding. Ensure you’re in good physical shape by incorporating regular cardio and strength training into your routine.  This is a mountain range so you will need to be comfortable hiking steep and uneven terrain.  The trails can be uneven with rocks or muddy after the rains.  You don’t need to be an athlete or mountaineer, but having a good level of cardio fitness will make the hike much more enjoyable. 

Pack the Essentials:

  • Lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing for layering, as weather conditions can change rapidly.
  • Comfortable and sturdy hiking boots with good ankle support.
  • A small daypack to carry essentials like water, snacks, and personal items.  Porters are available to help carry your daypack.
  • Rain gear (jacket and pants) for unexpected showers.  A dry bag or other water-proofing for your pack, binoculars, and/or camera equipment will likely come in handy.
  • A hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for sun protection.
  • Insect repellent to guard against mosquitoes and other insects.
  • Enough water for the duration of the hike.
  • An essentials first-aid kit, including any personal medications you may need (eg an Epi pen).
  • A sturdy and collapsible walking stick for balance and support.  Porters often have walking sticks available for you to use.

Dress Appropriately:

  • Wear moisture-wicking base layers to regulate body temperature and prevent sweat accumulation.
  • Dress in layers so you can adjust to changing weather conditions.
  • Avoid bright colors, as they may disturb wildlife. Earth-toned clothing is recommended.


  • The altitude in the Virunga Mountains can be quite high, so consider arriving a day or two early to acclimatize to the altitude if possible.  We generally recommend starting with an easy hike the first day, such as visiting the Golden Monkeys, before taking on a more challenging hike such as Dian Fossey or Mount Bisoke.

Hydration and Nutrition:

  • Stay well-hydrated by drinking water regularly throughout the hike.  The weather is rarely warm in the mountains, but you still need to ensure you remain hydrated to keep your energy up.
  • Carry energy-rich snacks like nuts, energy bars, and dried fruits to keep your energy levels up.

Follow Local Guidelines:

  • Listen to your ranger guide and follow their instructions diligently. They are experienced in navigating the terrain and interacting with wildlife.
  • Keep a safe distance from wildlife, especially gorillas and other primates. Do not make direct eye contact, and avoid sudden movements or loud noises.

Leave No Trace:

  • Practice responsible tourism by taking all trash and waste with you, including toilet paper. Follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the environment.

Be Flexible:

  • Weather conditions can change rapidly in mountainous regions. Be prepared for schedule adjustments and have a contingency plan.

By thoroughly preparing and respecting the environment and wildlife, you can have a safe and memorable hiking experience in the Virunga Mountains while contributing to the conservation efforts in the region.


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