'Land of a Thousand Hills' (Pays de Mille Collines) as it is popularly known, Rwanda is a small, verdant country in central Africa, the beautiful rolling landscape dotted with tea plantations, rugged mountains and towering volcanoes, with the shimmering Lake Kivu in the west.
Today Rwanda focuses mainly on ecotourism, being a nature lover's paradise and home to the world's largest population of mountain gorillas within the Volcanoes National Park. Gorilla tracking is the number one tourist attraction in the country, the critical nature of the plight of these endangered animals having been brought to international attention by the film Gorillas in the Mist, shot on location in the Virungas. Nyungwe Forest National Park is home to a large number of smaller primates, as well as more than 275 bird species, while Akagera National Park is big game country where herds of elephants and buffalo, lions, hippos and plains animals inhabit the archetypal African savannah landscape set among a web of swamps and lakes. The waters of Lake Kivu are enclosed by green terraced hills that give way to beaches, inlets and the resort towns of Gisenyi, Kibuye and Cyangugu.
Rwanda's past does not paint as an attractive picture, however, the legacy of almost 60 years of sporadic fighting having taken its toll on most of the population. The horrific genocide of about 800,000 Rwandans in the space of just over three months shocked the international media in 1994, sparked by a long-standing ethnic tension between the minority Tutsis and the Hutus. Since then, Rwanda has had to work hard to raise awareness of itself as an unspoilt, scenically stunning destination that is rich in culture and wildlife, boasting fine food and one of the friendliest welcomes in Africa, and is showing rapid signs of development and worldwide interest of a positive nature.
The rapidly growing city of Kigali, situated at Rwanda's geographical heart, is not only the capital but also the country's most important business centre and the main point of entry.
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