Hiking Virunga Volcano Mountains
Mountains Sabinyo, Muhavura, Gahinga, Mikeno, Nyiragongo, Nyamuragira, Visoke and Karisimbi
Hiking The Virunga Mountains Chain
Trekking The Volcanoes Via Rwanda or Uganda
The Virunga Mountains are a chain of volcanoes in Central & Eastern Africa, along the northern border of Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda’s southwestern border. The Virunga range of eight volcanoes runs from east to central Africa, perpendicular to the Rift Valley in which Lakes Kivu (Rwanda) and Edward (Uganda) lie. The Virunga Volcano Mountains include Mount Sabinyo 3,669 m (12,037 ft), Muhavura 4,127 m (13,540 ft), Gahinga 3,473 m (11,394 ft), Mikeno 4,437 m (14,557 ft), the active Mount Nyiragongo 3,470 m (11,380 ft), Nyamuragira 3,058 m (10,033 ft), Visoke 3,711 m (12,175 ft), and Mount Karisimbi 4,507 m (14,787 ft).
Uganda shares 3 of the Volcanoes offering excellent volcanoes hiking with lots of unique and rare wildlife that inhabit the slopes, for example, Mountain Gorillas, Golden Monkeys, endemic birds, and mountain vegetation. Trekkers can access the western volcanoes from Goma and Rutshuru in DRC, Kisoro in Uganda, and Ruhengeri and Gisenyi in Rwanda. Rwanda hosts 5 of the 8 Virunga mountain volcanoes. The hiking Virunga volcano mountains adventures are accessible on each of the volcanoes apart from Mt Sabinyo, which has got so many craters proving difficult and dangerous to hike. However, it easy to climb the Uganda side of Sabinyo since the terrain is accessible.
It is best to climb Muhavura, Sabinyo, and Gahinga from Uganda. Then trek Visoke and Karisimbi from Musanze in Rwanda. Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira are the youngest formed volcanoes and still active. Mikeno, Nyiragongo, and Nyamuragira are entirely in DRC, though it’s best to reach them through Kigali. Apart from Karisimbi and Mikeno, you can hike the other Virunga mountains on a day excursion. On Karisimbi, be sure to bring a tent and sleeping bag as the camping spot is at 3660m. On Mikeno, the Kabara hut at 3250m is no longer usable, so a tent is needed here. There are no reliable sources of drinking water despite all the rain.
- Hiking trail across mountain communities, villages, and cultivated mountain slopes meeting native peoples spotting rare bird species and photographing scenic landscapes of Africa
- Become the attraction when African village children follow and welcome you to their land chanting “Mzungu” (white person).
- Trek mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, see rare bird species that occupy the slopes of the Virunga mountains like Karisimbi, Visoke, and Mgahinga.
- Learn how communities, people, and animals have lived together in and around the Bwindi jungles.
- Support local communities when you hire a guide, porter, or ranger on your walking safari adventure.
- Transportation and 4×4 vehicle transfers
- Accommodation and Meals as per itinerary
- English Speaking Guide and Rangers
We will process the park permits on your behalf from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
Please carry a pack of N95 Facemask and hand sanitizer with you. You’ll be required to have a negative PCR COVID-19 test certificate issued within 72 hours of your arrival in the country, and keep your mask on when with animals and people crowds. You’re requested to adhere to COVID Operating procedures to keep you safe during your trip.
The Virunga Mountains
Mount Muhavura, 4,127 m (13,540 ft)
Mt. Muhavura and its enormous conical shape loom high into the darkness with a small crater lake at the summit. It is the third highest peak, which starts the chain of the Virungas, situated on the Rwanda – Uganda border.
Reaching the peak of Muhavura requires good weather. The youngest of the chain of volcanoes, but it is still dormant. The surrounding area shows volcanic activity, with giant volcanic vents visible after the land was cleared of vegetation for agriculture.
Muhavura peak is a tough climb with a 1200m steep ascend taking 7 hours, but you will be rewarded with stunning views through the cloud and mist as it rolls in and out. A high level of physical fitness is a necessity for this climb.
Mount Gahinga 3,473 m (11,394 ft)
Mt. Gahinga is a perfectly formed volcano with the route passing through formerly cultivated land, reclaimed and reincorporated back into the national park.
This trek is usually completed in 6 hours, up and down. However, a good level of physical fitness is a necessity for this climb. It sits between Muhavura and Sabinyo, which is shorter and easier to hike.
Mount Sabinyo 3,669 m (12,037 ft)
Mt. Sabinyo, the oldest volcano, provides a fantastic day trek to the summit of the frontier of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As you hike up the summit, you can also see the elusive bushbuck and the Golden Monkey, endemic to the Virunga in Uganda.
It is an exhilarating one-day trek with some very steep inclines assisted by eucalyptus ladders’ assistance to reach the Sabinyo peak. From the summit, you can see the whole volcanic chain of mountains, including Mt. Karisimbi, Mt. Mikeno, and the often snow-capped Mt. Visoke.
Mount Nyiragongo 3,470 m (11,380 ft)
Nyiragongo features the world’s largest lava lake, with the main crater at 2 km wide and 250 meters deep containing a liquid lava pool that remains active to this date.
The volcano’s forested lower slopes are home to various animals, including monkeys, chimpanzees, and bushbuck. From the rim, visitors can peer down into a churning lava lake and hear hot gases exploding up through a mosaic of molten lava. Nyiragongo is greatly feared during eruptions, although predictable and therefore safe for tourists.
Treks to the summit of Nyiragongo volcano begin at the Kibati patrol post, at 1989m (6,525 ft), a 30-minute drive from Goma. The hiking time required to reach the summit depends on each group’s average fitness but usually takes 4 – 6 hours with an altitude that ascends to 3470m (11,382ft) in a short time. Trekkers are advised to bring raincoats and cold-weather clothing.
Mount Nyamuragira 3,058 m (10,033 ft)
Nyamuragira is an active shield volcano found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, part of the Virunga mountains chain. The name from a local native verb, ‘Kuragira ngavu,’ meaning to herd cows. It has been described as Africa’s most active volcano and has erupted over 40 times since 1885. As well as eruptions from the summit, there have been numerous eruptions from the flanks of the volcano, creating new smaller volcanoes that have lasted only for a short time (e.g., Murara from late 1976 to 1977). Its recent eruptions occurred on 2 January 2010 and 8 November 2011.
Mount Mikeno 4,437 m (14,557 ft)
Mount Mikeno, located in DRC, is the second-highest peak in the Virunga Mountains after Karisimbi, and the 13th highest mountain in Africa. Mikeno means “poor” and is so named for its harsh slopes which preclude human habitation.
Mount Mikeno lies completely within Virunga National Park and is known for the endangered mountain gorillas that inhabit its misty slopes. It is on this mountain that legendary Dian Fossy began her work with mountain gorillas. Expeditions to observe Mikeno’s gorillas typically leave from the nearby Bukima Patrol Post.
Mount Karisimbi 4,507 m (14,787 ft)
Karisimbi is the highest of the eight Virunga mountain ranges. Hiking this volcano mountain would take a 2-day trek. Karisimbi is flanked by Mikeno to the north, Bisoke to the east, and Nyiragongo on the other side of the Rift Valley. Karisimbi is the 11th highest mountain in Africa. The name Karisimbi comes from a Kinyarwanda word, ‘amasimbi,’ which means snow. During the dry season in June, July, and August, snow appears on the volcano’s top.
Between Karisimbi and Bisoke is the Karisoke Research Center, started by Dian Fossey in the ’60s to observe mountain gorillas found on the two mountains’ slopes.
Mt. Visoke 3,711 m (12,175 ft)
Mt Visoke, a dormant volcano with a spectacular crater lake, lies on the Rwanda-DRC border. The volcano contains a stunning crater lake. The 6-hour hike is active though not difficult, with the starting point at Kinigi, Rwanda.
Experienced hikers can get to the top in less than 3 hours and return to the base in about an hour. At the summit, you will enjoy scenic views of the crater lake and the peak of Mount Mikeno in DRC. You may trek on a more effortless and shorter route from Lake Ngezi Trek, a crater lake between Gahinga and Visoke.
Virunga Mountains Active Adventures
Explore our collection of walking safaris, hiking trips, and active adventures around Virunga mountains that can be privately tailor-made to suit your travel needs, dates, and budget. These example active trips don’t have to be cut out for everyone; use them as guidance routes.
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Please make sure you have your facemask on when in contact with animals, especially the endangered creatures. Without a negative PCR Covid Test, you’ll not be allowed into the country. You’ll spend most of your time in open spaces away from human crowds, with that there’s minimal to no infections of the COVID virus.
Flexible booking terms
Your booking can be extended up to 12 months ahead with no extra fees, in case of any emergency (based on accommodation availability). Reservations are accepted after we receive a 30% deposit on the trip and the full payment for gorilla tracking and chimp tracking permits for each tour participant. For more details on our booking terms, please read our Terms and Conditions.