Mount Mikeno

Hiking in the Virunga Volcano Massif

Hiking in the Virunga Volcano Massif: The Virunga Mountains are a range of volcanoes in Central and Eastern Africa, forming the northern boundary of Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda’s southern border. The Virunga range of eight volcanoes stretches from east to central Africa, perpendicular to the Rift Valley that contains Lakes Kivu in Rwanda) and Edward in Uganda. Mount Sabyinyo (3,669 m), Muhavura (4,127 m), Gahinga (3,473 m), Mikeno (4,437 m), the active Mount Nyiragongo (3,470 m), Nyamuragira (3,058 m), Bisoke (3,711 m), and Mount Karisimbi 4,507 m.

Hiking in the Virunga Volcano Massif.

Uganda shares three volcanoes, which provide superb volcanic trekking opportunities with a variety of unique and uncommon fauna on the slopes, including mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, endemic birds, and mountain greenery. Trekkers can reach the western volcanoes via Goma and Rutshuru in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kisoro in Uganda, and Ruhengeri and Gisenyi in Rwanda.

Rwanda has five of the eight Virunga mountain volcanoes. The trekking Virunga volcanic highlands experiences are available on all of the volcanoes save Mt Sabyinyo, which has several craters that make hiking difficult and risky. The Uganda side of Sabyinyo, on the other hand, is simple to climb due to the accessible terrain.

It is recommended to climb Muhavura, Sabyinyo, and Gahinga from Uganda. Then hike Bisoke and Karisimbi from Musanze, Rwanda. Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira are the youngest volcanoes and remain active.

Mikeno, Nyiragongo, and Nyamuragira are all in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but the best way to get there is through Kigali. Aside from Karisimbi and Mikeno, you may trek the other Virunga mountains on a day trip.

Remember to carry a tent and sleeping bag to Karisimbi because the camping area is at 3660m. On Mikeno, the Kabara hut at 3250m is no longer functional, thus a tent is required here. Despite the abundance of rain, there are no reliable drinking water sources.

Which Volcanic Mountains can I hike in the Virunga Volcano Massif?

Mount Nyiragongo in Congo.

Mount Nyiragongo has the world’s largest lava lake, with the main crater measuring 2 km wide and 250 meters deep and holding a liquid lava pool that is still active to this day.​

Monkeys, chimpanzees, and bushbuck inhabit the volcano’s wooded lower slopes. Visitors to the rim may look down into a swirling lava lake and hear hot gasses blasting through a mosaic of molten lava. Nyiragongo Volcano is feared during eruptions, which are predictable and so safe for travelers.

Treks to the top of the Nyiragongo volcano begin at the Kibati patrol post, located at 1989m, about a 30-minute drive from Goma. The trekking time necessary to reach the peak varies depending on each group’s average fitness level, but it normally takes 4 – 6 hours with an altitude gain of 3470m in a short period. Trekkers should pack raincoats and cold-weather clothes.

Mount Bisoke in Rwanda.

Mt Bisoke, a dormant volcano with a magnificent crater lake, is located on the Rwanda-DRC border. The volcano has a magnificent crater lake. The 6-hour hike begins in Kinigi, Rwanda, and is physically demanding but not challenging.

Experienced hikers may reach the summit in under three hours and return in approximately an hour. The summit offers spectacular views of the crater lake and the top of Mount Mikeno in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Lake Ngezi Trek, a crater lake located between Gahinga and Bisoke, offers a more straightforward and quicker approach.

Mount Karisimbi in Rwanda.

Karisimbi is the tallest of the eight Virunga mountain ranges. Hiking this volcanic mountain would take two days. Karisimbi is surrounded by Mikeno to the north, Bisoke to the east, and Nyiragongo on the other side of the Rift Valley. Karisimbi is Africa’s 11th tallest peak. The name Karisimbi is derived from the Kinyarwanda word ‘amasimbi,’ which means snow. The volcano’s summit is covered with snow throughout the dry season, which lasts from June to August.

The Karisoke Research Center, located between Karisimbi and Bisoke, was founded in the 1960s by Dian Fossey to watch mountain gorillas on the slopes of these two mountains.

Mount Sabyinyo (Uganda, Rwanda and Congo)

Mt. Sabyinyo, the oldest volcano, offers an exciting day hike to the peak of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As you trek up the peak, you may encounter the elusive bushbuck and the Golden Monkey, which are native to Uganda’s Virunga Mountains.

It is an amazing one-day walk to the Sabyinyo summit, with some very steep inclines aided by eucalyptus ladders. From the peak, one can see the entire volcanic range of mountains, including Mt. Karisimbi, Mt. Mikeno, and the frequently snow-capped Mt. Bisoke.

Mount Muhavura/Muhabura (Uganda and Rwanda)

Hiking in the Virunga Volcano Massif
Mount Muhabura

Mt. Muhavura and its massive conical form tower high in the darkness, with a little crater lake at the peak. It is the third highest mountain in the Virunga series, located on the Rwanda-Uganda border.

Getting to the top of Muhavura requires excellent weather. Although it is the youngest volcano in the group, it remains inactive. The surrounding terrain demonstrates volcanic activity, with large volcanic vents evident after the land was cleared of vegetation for cultivation.

Muhavura Peak is a difficult climb with a 1200m hard ascent that takes 7 hours, but you will be rewarded with breathtaking views through the fog and mist as it rolls in and out. A high level of physical fitness is required for this ascent.

Mount Mikeno in Congo.

Mount Mikeno, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is the Virunga Mountains’ second-highest peak after Karisimbi and Africa’s 13th tallest mountain. Mikeno means “poor” and is named from its rough slopes, which prevent human settlement.

Mount Mikeno is totally within Virunga National Park and is famed for the endangered mountain gorillas that live on its foggy slopes. Dian Fossey, the famed mountain gorilla researcher, began her work with them here. Gorilla tour expeditions to study mountain gorilla families around Mount Mikeno usually depart from the adjacent Bukima Patrol Post.

Mount Nyamuragira in Congo

Mount Nyamuragira is an active dome volcano strategically situated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as part of the Virunga mountain range. The name comes from the local native term ‘Kuragira ngavu,’ which means to herd cows. It has been regarded as Africa’s most active volcano, having erupted more than 40 times since 1885.

In addition to summit eruptions, the volcano’s sides have erupted multiple times, resulting in the formation of new minor volcanoes that have only lasted a brief period (for example, Murara from late 1976 to 1977). The most recent eruptions were on January 2, 2010, and November 8, 2011.

It is safe to say that the best country to hike the Virunga Volcanoes of Muhabura, Sabyinyo and Gahinga is from Uganda; and Rwanda is ideal for hikers looking to climb Bisoke and Karisimbi mountains.

Finally, the Democratic Republic of Congo is the perfect destination if you are interested in hiking the Virunga volcanoes of Nyiragongo, Mikeno and Nyamuragira; with hiking tours to Nyiragongo volcano being the most popular hikes in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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