At 4,507m (14,787 feet) above sea level, Mount Karisimbi stands tall as the highest peak among the 8 volcanoes that make up the Virunga massif. It is a dormant volcano and 11th highest mountain in Africa. Mount Karisimbi trek is a true adventure; hiking through thick tropical forests, presenting scenic camping groups on the slopes of a dormant volcano and conquering the summit with views of the entire Virunga region. One of the facts about Karisimbi is that it is the tallest among the other volcanoes. Hiking permit fees are not so high and the hike begins from Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
The Virunga Mountains, also spelled as Birunga, is a famous mountain range in East and Central Africa that spans across the borders of three sovereign countries, namely Uganda, Rwanda and D.R. Congo. Situated north of Lake Kivu in east-central Africa, the massif extends for about 50 miles (80 km) along the Albertine rift. The mountain range strides east-west, perpendicular to the rift valley in which lie Lakes Kivu and Edward in Congo and Rwanda respectively. Of all its eight individual mountains, Karisimbi stands the highest at 4,507 meters.
The name Karisimbi relates to a local word, “Amasimbi”, a Kinyarwanda phrase that literally refers to “Snow”/ “white shells”. This is due to the snow-capped peak that the mountain is known for. Mount Karisimbi is located in northern Rwanda, on the outskirts of Volcanoes national park – home of the mountain gorillas.
Hiking Mount Karisimbi
Being one of the highest mountain ranges, 5th in Africa, hiking mount Karisimbi takes up to 2 days. The climb costs $300 per person. It can be quite strenuous or even physically demanding but it is surely worth it. The hiking expedition on Mount Karisimbi starts as early as 7am from Kinigi ranger station. After briefing, drive for about 45 minutes, to the base camp of the mountain where the hike begins from.
There are numerous hiking trails that make up Mount Karisimbi hike complete; most of them inter connecting with other destinations within the Virunga region and in Volcanoes national park. The mountain base is characterized with lush bamboo vegetation, hagenia forests, to giant lobelias, caldera up to the summit that is covered by snow rocks and volcanic mud.
While Mount Karisimbi hike is physical demanding, it only requires average mountaineering skills, sophisticated hiking expertise is not needed and even novices can partake this unique adventure. But be sure to trek at high altitudes, probably along one of the highest in Rwanda, traversing steep slopes and over rough terrain.
Strong walking boots, walking sticks (given at the starting point), it’s advisable to carry enough drinking water to keep hydrated during day treks, rain jackets as weather is highly unpredictable, warm jacket / jumper as upper slopes tend to be so cold, porters (can be hired at the mountain base) to help carry personal requirements, such as sleeping bags, camping equipment, snacks and drinks.
It takes only 3 hours to drive from Kigali to this mountain, located in the Northern region of Rwanda, along a well tarmacked road. Accommodation is provided is provided by the many lodges within the neighboring towns of Musanze or Kinigi. However tiresome and strenuous Mount Karisimbi hike seems, it is one of those most rewarding expeditions of all other Virunga volcanoes. The hike is usually a perfect complement to a gorilla trek in Volcanoes National Park or wildlife tour in Akagera National Park.