Rwanda is one of the smallest countries in Africa. It has a dark past stemming from the genocide 20 years ago that killed nearly one million people. However, with foreign aid, strong leadership, and a national resolve for unity and progress, Rwanda is now one of the most forward-looking countries in not only East Africa, but the continent in general. The country is clean, safe, and modern by African standards, and President Kagame’s “Vision 2020″ aims to transform the country into the first middle-income African nation. For now, check out these 15 photos and start dreaming about how you’ll make it here by the end of the year.
1) Nyungwe National Forest
Nyungwe National Forest in Rwanda’s Southwest is one of three national parks. A real rainforest, you can track chimps, golden monkeys, do a canopy walk, or hike to waterfalls.
2) Neighborhood in Kigali
While skyscrapers and construction projects boom downtown, most of the city sprawls out through Kigali’s hills and valleys in this bustling city of one million people.
3) Corn Field in Eastern Province
A woman pauses from checking her maize (corn) field in Eastern Rwanda to pose for the camera.
4) Morning Fog
A man walks down a deserted road through a morning fog. Because most of Rwanda is covered in mountains and hills, fog is common in higher elevations.
5) Rural Road In Southern Rwanda
A rural road in Southern Rwanda winds its way through villages and valleys.
6) Genocide Memorial
A close up and stark reminder of Rwanda’s past. Besides the national memorial site in Kigali, there are dozens of mass graves, churches, and memorials scattered throughout the country.
7) Genocide Art Mural
Rwanda’s burgeoning art scene focuses on many things. Here, the artist paid tribute to the genocide.
8) Silverback Gorilla In Volcanoes National Park
Rwanda is one of the last refuges for the critically endangered mountain gorilla, one of the main draws for tourists.
9) Rwandan Defense Forces Prepare to Deploy To Central African Republic
With one of the best trained armies in Africa, troops here are deploying to CAR to help still the unrest there.
10) Rural Girl
No matter where you go, you will encounter smiles. Rwandans may be more reserved than other Africans, but they delight in foreigners visiting their country and will go out of their way to greet you.
11) Sunset On Lake Muhazi
Lake Muhazi in Eastern Rwanda is a source of water, fish, and recreation for the thousands who live on or near its shores.
12) National Museum In Butare
A gift from Belgium 25 years ago, the National Museum in the college town of Butare has exhibits on Rwanda’s people as well as many historical artifacts and photos.
13) Giraffes In Akagera National Park
Another one of Rwanda’s three national parks, Akagera has almost all the animals you would expect to see on a safari–elephants, rhinos, giraffes, buffalo, zebras, leopards, and more.
14) Lake Kivu
Split between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lake Kivu is a paradise for visitors. It’s also the backyard for thousands who live along its banks.
15) Volcano in Northwestern Rwanda
One of several dormant volcanoes frame a group of women walking just outside the national park.