Things to do in Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo is not the most popular holiday destination, but its natural splendour continues to seduce adventurous travellers who seek excitement off the grid.

The destination has the potential to be a top African tourist spot, thanks to its virgin rainforest, active volcanoes, the mighty Congo River, Lake Kivu and wealth of wildlife, which includes the sought after mountain gorillas.

Travellers tend to fly into Kinshasa to enjoy the city's nightlife and explore the Congo River and surrounds, or to duck across the Rwandan border into Goma, which is the gateway to the wonders of Lake Kivu, Mount Nyiragongo, and Virunga National Park.

Much of the country remains inaccessible to tourists and in such a state of disrepair and turmoil that it is best avoided. The transport networks are notoriously unreliable and dangerous and most visitors arrange their trips through tour operators. However, signs are hopeful that the country will become more stable, accessible, and safer for visitors in the not too distant future.

Virunga National Park photo

Virunga National Park

The Virunga National Park is a magnificent area of protected land stretching from the Virunga Mountains in the south to the Rwenzori Mountains in the north. It was Africa's first n…

Virunga National Park

The Virunga National Park is a magnificent area of protected land stretching from the Virunga Mountains in the south to the Rwenzori Mountains in the north. It was Africa's first national park, established in 1925, and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979. The main attraction of Virunga is the population of mountain gorillas residing in the rainforest in the south, and guides can get visitors close to the critically endangered species. The mountain gorillas are heavily protected and recent evidence suggests that the population is actually growing, which is promising. Apart from the gorillas, Virunga is still said to contain more bird, mammal and reptile species than any other protected area in Africa, and its landscapes are equally diverse.

Kinshasa photo

Kinshasa

Gateway to the mighty Congo River and home to about 10 million people, the sprawling capital of Kinshasa is never boring. Its several wealthy commercial enclaves and upmarket resid…

Kinshasa

Gateway to the mighty Congo River and home to about 10 million people, the sprawling capital of Kinshasa is never boring. Its several wealthy commercial enclaves and upmarket residential areas lie alongside sprawling slums, making for a jarring tourist experience. However, intrepid travellers who tackle this famously challenging city will find that it can be very rewarding. Aside from the Matonge quarter's rollicking nightlife, there are some worthwhile attractions to be sought out. These include Lola ya Bonobo, which is a sanctuary for orphaned bonobo monkeys, and the Congo River, one of the great watery arteries of the world. Visitors can enjoy boat rides, river safaris, fishing trips and even white-water rafting.

Mount Nyiragongo photo

Mount Nyiragongo

Mount Nyiragongo is an active volcano in the Virunga National Park, about 12 miles (20km) north of Goma. The main crater contains a boiling lava lake that is one of the Congo's mos…

Mount Nyiragongo

Mount Nyiragongo is an active volcano in the Virunga National Park, about 12 miles (20km) north of Goma. The main crater contains a boiling lava lake that is one of the Congo's most mesmerising attractions. The hike up Mount Nyiragongo begins in Goma and is guided by armed park rangers, with porters to carry provisions. Most people prefer to stay overnight on the mountain, in the newly built cabins just beyond the crater rim. Staying overnight allows visitors to see the dramatic red glow of the lava in the darkness, which is a magical experience. Visitors should remember that Nyiragongo is an extremely dangerous volcano.

Goma and Lake Kivu photo

Goma and Lake Kivu

Situated on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, close to the Rwandan border, the eastern city of Goma is not particularly safe or prosperous, but does offer some dramatic landscapes. …

Goma and Lake Kivu

Situated on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, close to the Rwandan border, the eastern city of Goma is not particularly safe or prosperous, but does offer some dramatic landscapes. Nature lovers who visit the destination will find themselves on the doorstep of the active Nyiragongo Volcano and the Virunga National Park, which is home to the endangered mountain gorillas. The city is also close to Lake Kivu, where there are some lovely beaches and plenty of lakeside accommodation, particularly near Gisenyi. Sailing and fishing on Lake Kivu are priceless experiences.

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