Sponsored by

Rwanda in 2023 has played host to a slew of high-profile international events in Kigali and beyond, including star-studded landmarks like the 73rd FIFA Congress, Women Deliver, the Giants of Africa Festival, the Time 100 Summit, and the Trace Awards. But the country’s annual and semi-annual events are just as glamorous and exciting. Let’s take a look at what Rwanda has to celebrate all year long.

Rwanda’s famous rolling hills are the perfect terrain to balance difficulty and beauty for cyclists in the Tour Du Rwanda © Courtesy of Visit Rwanda

Tour Du Rwanda

Calling all biking buffs! The Tour Du Rwanda is one of Africa’s most recognized cycling events, and each year it gets bigger and better. Rwanda’s famous rolling hills are the perfect terrain to balance difficulty and beauty for cyclists, nurturing a talented local cycling culture while drawing competitors from near and far.

The Tour du Rwanda started in 1988, but hit its stride 20 years later when it brought on international partners to take the local event global. Spanning 8 days, 4 stunning provinces, 20 teams and 100 cyclists from around the world, the Tour du Rwanda delivers an exciting spectator opportunity as much as it does hope to cyclists vying for the top spot. In 2023, the competition took place in February.

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame (C) walks with his wife Jeanette (next L), Ethiopia's President Abiy Ahamed (L) and Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel (2nd L) during the "Walk to Remember" © Getty Images

The Walk to Remember

Each year on the 7th of April, Rwanda observes ‘Cyunamo,’ a one-week memorial period commemorating the victims of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi. During that week, celebrations and loud gatherings are discouraged and restaurants and bars restrict their hours to pay respect to the mourning period.

One event that has been an annual mainstay since 2009 is ‘The Walk to Remember,’ a community march from the Rwanda Parliament building to the Amahoro National Stadium. The walk initially began as a youth initiative to educate young people about genocide and the importance of taking a stand against genocide ideology, but it quickly grew to include thousands of citizens, diplomats, visitors and, usually, the President and First Lady of the Republic.

Perhaps surprisingly given the purpose and timing of the event, the walk has an uplifting atmosphere, and 2024 will mark 30 years of peace since the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.

Rwandans love to celebrate the arts © Courtesy of Visit Rwanda

Ubumuntu Arts Festival

The Ubumuntu Arts Festival brings together performers across disciplines from around the world to the Rwandan stage to celebrate humanity (the meaning of the word Ubumuntu) through art. Each year, the festival consists of stunning, thought-provoking, dance, drama and musical pieces intended to highlight that which cuts across different races, cultures and creeds and makes us all the same.

The after parties never disappoint either! For the festival’s 10th anniversary in 2024, the theme will be ‘Integrity: Resilience in the Face of Adversity,’ a theme which, according to the event’s founder, Hope Azeda, ‘is a reminder to remain steadfast in our values and to embrace resilience when faced with obstacles.’

The Basketball Africa League holds its finals in Kigali with teams from around the continent – and fans from around the world © Armand Lenoir / Getty Images

The Basketball Africa League Finals

May in Kigali belongs to the Basketball Africa League. For the past 3 years running, the BAL has held its finals in Kigali with teams from around the continent and fans from around the world descending upon the BK Arena where the games play out.

But you don’t have to be a fan of ball to enjoy the electrifying energy surrounding the week of competition and side events. Kigali comes alive during the finals, with restaurants, bars and lobbies crawling with athletes, celebrities, NBA legends, influencers, entrepreneurs and thought leaders. They come not only to celebrate the moment, but to revel in the culture.

Each year, anticipation grows. And this year, the Rwanda Development Board and the BAL announced they’ve signed a deal to have Rwanda remain host for the event for the next 5 years. Score!

Diner En Blanc is an international creative pop-up dining franchise. It came to Rwanda in 2012 and has been a biennial event ever since © Fatih Aktas / Getty Images

Diner En Blanc Kigali

What do you get when you mix a strict dress code, a secret location, live music and DJs, and a mandate to bring your own food and drinks? You get hundreds of people eating, dancing and being fabulous at an epic pop-up picnic against the backdrop of the undulating hills of Kigali.

The original Diner En Blanc concept was created by a group of friends in Paris. Inspired by the concept another group of friends, Illume Creative Studio, brought it to the people of Rwanda. Kigali became the first African city to host the global franchise in 2012. Since then, the event has only grown and become more popular among Rwandan visitors and residents. This is a biennial event, held on even-numbered years.

The Ironman 70.3 Triathlon will be returning to the welcoming terrains and waters of Rwanda’s Rubavu district for the third time © Courtesy of Visit Rwanda

IronMan 70.3 Rubavu Triathlon

In August 2024, the Ironman 70.3 Triathlon will be returning to the welcoming terrains and waters of Rwanda’s Rubavu district for the third time. It brings some of the world’s most athletic competitors together in an exhilarating (and exhausting!) one-day triathlon. The race consists of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile cycle ride and a grueling 13.1 mile run.

Whether you’re an athlete or one of the many spectators, there’s no denying Rwanda’s famously clean, green hills and still, blue waters serves as the perfect backdrop. And the energy of the competitors is contagious.

Kwita Izina is a Rwandan ceremony of giving a name to a newborn baby gorilla. It is named after the ancestral baby naming ceremony that happened after the birth of a newborn © Jean Bizimana / Getty Images

Kwita Izina

Every September, Rwanda celebrates its efforts to protect the country’s majestic mountain gorillas with a special naming ceremony for all the new baby gorillas born in that year. Nearly 400 have been named since 2005.

This adorable tradition comes from, and is named after, a cultural ceremony – Kwita Izina – practiced for centuries by Rwandans, in which the family and friends of new parents take part in naming a baby. The tradition has taken on a new life since 2005 when the first gorilla naming ceremony took place and has since become a highly anticipated global celebration among members of the conservation community and the local communities surrounding the mountains that the gorillas call home.

Each year the event chooses namers – from researchers, to gorilla trackers and doctors, to celebrities and friends of Rwanda. Next year, for the 20th anniversary, the Rwanda Development Board plans to bring back as many former namers as possible, alongside new and exciting namers, to celebrate bringing a species that was critically endangered back to thriving.

This only scratches the surface. No matter when you come, there’s something exciting going on in Rwanda.

Sponsored by Visit Rwanda

As a travel entertainment and inspirational media outlet, we sometimes incorporate brand sponsors into our efforts. This activity is clearly labeled across our platforms.

This story was crafted collaboratively between Visit Rwanda and Lonely Planet. Both parties provided research and curated content to produce this story. We disclose when information isn’t ours.

With sponsored content, both Lonely Planet and our brand partners have specific responsibilities:

  • Brand partner

    Determines the concept, provides briefing, research material, and may provide feedback.

  • Lonely Planet

    We provide expertise, firsthand insights, and verify with third-party sources when needed.

Explore related stories


Art and Culture

Rwanda’s culture is one of a resilient people

Nov 30, 2023 • 5 min read