Volcano hiking in the Virunga Conservation Area: The Virunga Conservation Area (VCA) is also most famous as the Virunga Massif, an area shared by 3 countries- Uganda, Rwanda and D.R. Congo. The VCA covers 3 National Parks of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda, Virunga National Park in the D.R. Congo and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
The Virunga Region/Massif is composed of 8 volcanoes and they are distributed in the 3 African states- Uganda, Rwanda and D.R. Congo. Volcano hiking in the Virunga Conservation Area offers enthusiastic hikers a great opportunity to climb through any of the 8 chain volcanoes. Two of the 8 Virunga Volcanoes are still active (Mt. Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira in Congo), while 6 are inactive.
Virunga Conservation Area is famous for its distinct tourist attraction sites and other than a chain of 8 mountains, the area is known for rare golden monkeys and endangered mountain gorillas. There are many reasons why tourists confine to Virunga Conservation Area including gorilla trekking, volcano hiking, golden monkey tracking, birding, and others. Virunga region also features unique Albertine bird species that thrive within the Virunga protected areas such as Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Virunga National Park, and Volcanoes National Park.
The 8 Virunga Mountains include Mount Nyiragongo, Mikeno, Nyamuragira volcanoes all set in the D.R. Congo. Mount Karisimbi, Mount Bisoke is found at the border of D.R. Congo and Rwanda; Mt. Muhabura, Mount Gahinga, Mount Sabyinyo are set at the border of Uganda and Rwanda.
- Mount Nyiragongo (3470m)
- Mount Nyamuragira (3058m)
- Mount Bisoke or Visoke (3711m)
- Mount Mikeno (4427m)
- Mount Gahinga (3474m)
- Mount Sabinyo (3645m)
- Mount Muhabura (4127m)
- Mount Karisimbi (4507m)
- Mount Muhabura (4127m)
Lying at the border between Uganda and Rwanda, Mount Muhabura is the 3rd highest volcano in the Virunga region. The beautiful volcanic mountain features steep slopes and hiking to its summits requires some level of stamina. At the summits 4127m, hikers have an excellent view of other Virunga volcanoes, surrounding Lakes such as the Twin Lakes- Lake Ruhondo and Lake Burera.
- Mount Karisimbi
Mount Karisimbi (4507m) is the tallest of all the 8 Virunga Volcanoes in the Virunga Conservation Area. Rising up to 4507m, Karisimbi Volcano is an amazing spot for hikers on Rwanda safaris and takes hikers about 2 days or more to have full exploration on this scenic volcano. At the summits of Mt. Karisimbi, visitors get to enjoy mesmerizing views of the world’s powerful volcano- Nyiragongo volcano mountain. The best time to enjoy hiking through Mount Karisimbi is during the dry season- June, July, August.
- Mt. Nyiragongo
Found in the D.R. Congo, Mount Nyiragongo (3470m) is notably one of the world’s most active volcanoes. This Virunga volcano mountain has experienced multiple eruptions with the most recent one recorded in May 2021. The volcano boasts of one of the world’s largest Crater/Lava Lake, offering an unforgettable view of it that glows at night with smoky/fire-like fumes.
- Mount Nyamuragira
Mt. Nyamuragira is arguably Africa’s most active volcano with a record of several volcanic actions. Nyamuragira volcano is 3058m and it is set within the D.R. Congo.
- Sabyinyo volcano
Mount Sabyinyo (3645m) straddles within 3 countries- Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo. The word “Sabinyo” is translated as an Old Man’s teeth considering its indented summit. Mt. Sabyinyo features a lush forest in the surroundings and while on a hike, there is also a possibility to keep an eye on distinct Albertine birds.
- Gahinga (3474m)
Mount Gahinga 3474m is one of the amazing hiking spots in the Virunga Conservation Area. The volcano mountain features distinct volcanic caves, unique vegetation cover and it is a dormant volcano. It takes hikers just a day to hike Mount Gahinga.
- Mount Bisoke/Visoke (3711m)
Mount Bisoke also known as Visoke volcano is famous for its beautiful Crater Lake on its summit. The volcano features distinct vegetation zones including bamboo forests and montane vegetation.
- Mount Mikeno
Found within the D.R. Congo, Mount Mikeno is one of the dormant volcanoes in the Virunga Conservation Area. The volcano rises 4427m and it is the 2nd tallest volcano in the Virunga region. It features very steep slopes and offers the most challenging hiking experiences.
When to go for volcano hiking in the Virunga Conservation Area
Volcano hiking in the Virunga Conservation Area is perfectly done during the dry season of the year. The 2 dry seasons experienced in VCA run from June to September/December till February. The two drier seasons are record low rainfall with the ground kept relatively drier making hiking the volcanoes easier.
What to carry for volcano hiking in the Virunga Conservation Area?
The important items to carry for a volcano hiking adventure in the Virunga Area include sturdy hiking boots, a camera, a daypack (waterproof), comfortable clothing, sunscreen, sunglasses, snacks, plenty of drinking water, and more.