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Mount Karisimbi Hike – Facts, Costs, When To Go

Mount Karisimbi is an inactive volcano that is part of the Virunga Mountains Chain that are shared between three countries of Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo

At a height of 4,507 meters, Mount Karisimbi is the highest among the Virunga Volcanoes and is the 11th highest on the entire African continent.

This inactive volcano is found in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and is situated along the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, surrounded by other volcanoes like Mikeno, Nyirangongo and Bisoke.

Mount Karisimbi gets its name from a Kinyarwanda local word meaning “White Shell” from the snow that covers the top of the volcano during the dry season, Karisimbi has a caldera Branca and two craters on its summit with the largest being Mutango.

Hiking Mount Karisimbi is one of the highlight activities to do on a Rwanda Safari, a hike on Mount Karisimbi is commonly combined with a gorilla trekking safari in Volcanoes National Park offering the most memorable adventure in Rwanda.

On this adventure you will be able to encounter various types of wildlife along the way including various species of birds, different monkey species like the golden monkey and mountain gorillas if you are lucky. Also, you will get a chance to see the Dian Fossey Grave (an American primatologist who was a well-known researcher that dedicated her life to carrying out research on mountain gorillas in this area, her research laid a base for the conservation of mountain gorillas as well as saving them from extinction).

The hike up to the summit of Mount Karisimbi is generally considered a bit challenging and it requires all participants to be in a very good physical shape with proper stamina to be able to take on the challenging slopes of the mountain.

As you climb up, you will be led by a professional park guide and as you ascend or descend, you will follow the pace of the slowest hiker in the group. Also, there are several porters available for hire at the park headquarters who will assist you in carrying your personal luggage, camping equipment and bags at a reasonable price. 

The hike begins in the early morning and by 07:00 am, all hikers have started the actual climb. After a briefing by the park guide, it takes two (2) days to complete the hike including the ascent and descent with the starting point being at the bottom of Mount Bisoke. During the approximately 7-hour ascent, you will have a stopover at an altitude of about 3,500m which is almost mid-way and there you will pitch a tent for dinner and overnight. 

The rest of the climb will be completed early morning the next day when you are strong enough, have an early hot cup of coffee/tea in the morning which will be very deserving having spent a cold night up on the mountain. On the second day, you will proceed to the final ascent to the peak as you traverse the challenging section that is covered with fog which hinders good visibility, steeper terrain that experience stronger winds and not to forget muddy trails.

After enjoying quality time at the peak immersed in the scenic views, you will later begin the approximately 6-hour descent bank to the starting point 

Here is a list of some of the essentials for visitors interested in taking on an adventurous hike to the peak of Mount Karisimbi. 

  • A rain jacket
  • Warm sweaters
  • Trousers or long pants
  • Gardening gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Hiking shoes preferably with good support on the ankle
  • Stockings
  • A hat
  • A tent, sleeping bag and warm bedding for the overnight
  • Insect repellent
  • A first aid kit
  • Walking stick
  • Enough bottled drinking water
  • Enough snacks

Every tourist interested in hiking Mount Karisimbi is required to obtain a hiking permit and the cost of hiking permits on Mount Karisimbi is $ 400 per person per hike, these permits can be obtained on the day of hiking however you are advised to book them in advance either from Rwanda Development Board or through a trusted registered tour operator. 

Mount Karisimbi can be hiked all year round; however, it can be best hiked during the dry season which begins in the month of June to August as well as in December. Hiking the volcano during this time of the year will offer you an opportunity to see the snow that covers the peak of the volcano which on the contrary cannot be seen during the wet rainy season. 

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