Mount Karisimbi, situated in Rwanda within Volcanoes National Park at the border of Congo and Rwanda, is among the renowned Virunga volcanic ranges.
It stands at an elevation of 4,507 meters above sea level, making it the highest of the eight Virunga massif volcanoes and the 11th highest mountain in Africa.
You can see our Karisimbi climbing tours here.
A Brief about Mount Karisimbi
The name Karisimbi was derived from a local Kinyarwanda word, “Amasimbi,” which means “snow.”
The locals named it that way because of the snow that can be seen at its top even during the dry months of the year.
Mount Karisimbi is also one of the two mountains from which the famous American primatologist derived the name of her institute, called Karisoke Research Institute.
The mountain provides stunning views of most of the other Virunga ranges.
The top has a crater known as “Mutango,” which has over 100 cones connected to Lake Kivu.
The Karisimbi lava is said to date from 0.24 million years ago to 0.010 million years ago, indicating that the volcano is relatively young.
Mount Karisimbi is characterized by dense forests, exotic plants, and volcanic cores at the summit.
Hiking Mount Karisimbi takes two days.
On the first day, tourists will ascend to 3,700 meters above sea level and camp.
Then, they continue hiking the next day to the summit and descend on the same day.
In 1908, an expedition led by Von Egon Krischkstein led to the death of 20 porters as they were coming down from Branca crater due to a hail and snowstorm.
While climbing Mount Karisimbi, tourists can spot golden monkeys, olive baboons, vervet monkeys, and blue monkeys, among other primates, and they might even be lucky enough to see a mountain gorilla, although chances are less.
The best time to visit Karisimbi Mountain is during the dry season from June to September and from February to December.
During this time, tourists can have excellent views and won’t be disrupted by rain.
In the wet season, it can be challenging as the rocks become slippery.
When visiting Mount Karisimbi, tourists will need to wear warm clothing, as temperatures can reach 0°C at the summit early in the morning.
They should also have good hiking boots, insect repellents, jackets, energy snacks, socks, and gloves, among other essentials.
Tourists hiking Mount Karisimbi can also include gorilla trekking as one of their activities.
Trekking mountain gorillas is one of the most sought-after activities in Africa, and gorilla permits cost $1500 in Rwanda per person.
Once tourists find a mountain gorilla family, they are given a period of 1 hour to observe the gorillas.
Volcanoes National Park, where Mount Karisimbi is located, boasts over 100 species of birds, some of which are endemic to the Albertine region.
Some of the birds you may see include the spur-winged lapwing, grey-backed fiscal, African fish eagle, and many more.
Tourists who need porters to help carry their luggage can pay an extra cost of $20 per person for their assistance.
Mount Karisimbi can be climbed from Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda or Virunga National Park in Congo.
A Detailed Guide about Mount Karisimbi
Mount Karisimbi is a strato-volcano found at the border of Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, it’s highest of all the eight Virunga range volcanoes straddling across three countries.
It stands on an elevation of 4,507 meters above sea level.
The mountain is the highest mountain in Rwanda and the 11th highest mountain in Africa.
The word Karisimbi is derived from a local Kinyarwanda word “Amasimbi” translated to mean “ snow” the mountain was called so by the locals because of its ever snowcapped peak even during the dry seasons.
The mountain is famous for it’s exotic plants with four belts of vegetation and being home to the endangered mountain gorillas, golden monkeys and many other primates.
Karisimbi Mountain’s lava dates back to 0.24 to 0.010ma indicating that the volcano is very young.
Dian Fossey derived the name of her institute by combining the first four letters of Mount Karisimbi and last four letters of Mount Bisoke and called it Karisoke Research Institute.
She was responsible for the increasing number of mountain today because of her dedication to protect and study gorillas that even later led to her death in 1985.
The other Virunga volcanoes include Mount Bisoke, Mount Muhabura, Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Mikeno, Mount Gahinga, and the two active volcanoes, Mount Nyamuragira and Mount Nyiragongo. Mount Nyiragongo recently erupted in May 2021.
The entry fee to Volcanoes National Park will depend on the activity the tourist is planning to do while inside the park.
Most of the permits provided for various activities include the entry fee, as outlined below:
Mountain Karisimbi hiking fee is $400 per person for foreign non-residents, $250 for foreign residents, $300 for East African foreign residents, and $200 for Rwanda and East African residents.
The $400 fee includes the guide fee, accommodation at the mountain’s summit, and hiking fee.
For those interested in gorilla trekking, the cost is $1500 per person.
Rwanda also offers discounted gorilla permits at $1050 in May and November, but tourists must have visited one of the other national parks in Rwanda and stayed for at least three days in the country.
Mount Karisimbi Hiking Permit Fee
Mount Karisimbi hiking permits cost $400 per person per hike for foreign non-residents, $250 for foreign residents, $300 for foreign East African residents, and $200 for Rwanda and East African citizens.
The hiking fee includes accommodation overnight at the mountain and the guide fee.
Tourists are advised to bring along their camping gear or hire it at the park headquarters.
You can also hire a porter and a chef at an affordable price.
The actual hike starts very early in the morning at the park headquarters at 7:00 am, with a briefing from your ranger guides.
The starting point for hiking is at the foot of Mount Bisoke.
The hike takes you to an altitude of 3,700 meters above sea level, where you will rest for a night.
You will be served a delicious dinner and breakfast the next morning before ascending to the summit, which takes about an hour but involves a very steep and challenging part of the hike.
After enjoying the incredible views from the top, you will start your descent, which takes about 6 hours.
The summit provides spectacular views of Mount Nyamuragira, Mount Nyiragongo, Mount Muhabura, vast rolling vegetation, and settlements.
During the hike, tourists may encounter various wildlife, especially other primates and birds.
Trekkers must pack mountaineering gear, including waterproof hiking shoes, garden gloves, insect repellent, sunglasses, hats, a sleeping bag, a tent, energy-rich snacks, plenty of drinking water, and more.
Porters are always available at the headquarters to help carry your luggage at a very affordable price.
History of Karisimbi Mountain
Mt. Karisimbi was formed later in the Pleistocene, about 900,000 to 130,000 years ago, leaving a crater at the summit.
John Hanning Speke was the first European explorer to see the Virunga mountains in 1861 from a distance.
Sir Henry Morton Stanley obtained a clearer view of the three eastern volcanoes.
A German explorer known as Count Adolf Von Gotzen explored two western volcanoes in 1894.
From 1907 to 1908, Adolf Friedrich, Duke of Mecklenburg, led an expedition that resulted in the first maps of the area.
In 1967, Dian Fossey arrived in the Virunga mountains to research and study mountain gorillas.
She established the Karisoke Research Institute, which still exists today.
She spent 20 years in Rwanda and supported conservation efforts to stop poaching.
Sadly, she was killed by unknown assailants in her cabin on December 27, 1985, but her work greatly contributed to the conservation of mountain gorillas that might have become extinct otherwise.
Other Things to do after your hike
Gorilla trekking is the highlight of visiting Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
This is one of the four national parks where tourists can trek mountain gorillas worldwide.
Mountain gorillas are an endangered species of primates with DNA closely related to humans.
Gorillas live in groups of 5-60 individuals, dominated by a silverback that dictates all group activities and has mating rights with all the group’s females.
There are fewer than 1300 mountain gorillas in the wild.
Although they have no natural predators in the forests, the main threats to mountain gorilla populations are habitat loss, poaching for the bush-meat trade, and the pet trade.
Volcanoes National Park is home to over 10 habituated mountain gorilla families for tourists to visit.
You can book your gorilla permit through the Rwanda Development Board or use a local travel agent.
A permit costs $1500 per person per trek. Tourists are encouraged to book their permits at least three months in advance, especially during the peak season when demand is high.
Mountain gorilla trekking starts early in the morning with a briefing from the park headquarters.
Tourists are then allocated to gorilla families based on age and physical ability.
For example, young and energetic people will be allocated to more remote gorilla families.
You will start your journey in a group of eight healthy travelers with a ranger guide.
Once you find the family you’re trekking, you will have an hour to spend with these great apes.
Golden Monkey Trekking
Golden monkeys are a unique species of monkeys endemic to the Virunga region in Africa.
They live on the mountain slopes of the Virunga range volcanoes, sharing their habitat with mountain gorillas.
They live in troops of 30-100 individuals.
Golden monkey trekking permits cost $100 for foreign nationals, $65 for foreign residents and Rwandan citizens, and $80 for East African foreign residents.
Volcanoes National Park is home to over 180 bird species, with 16 of them being Albertine endemics.
Some examples of birds found in the park that you may encounter while hiking Karisimbi Mountain include Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird, Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, Handsome Francolin, Archer’s Robin Chat, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbird, Dusky Crimsonwing, Rwenzori Batis, Rwenzori Apalis, Dusky Turtle Dove, African Long-eared Owl, Kivu Ground Thrush, African Greenbul, Grey Heron, African Green Broadbill, White-bellied Crested Flycatcher, Pied Kingfisher, Tropical Boubou, Brown-necked Parrot, Doherty’s Bush Shrike, Lagden’s Bush Shrike, and Rwenzori Nightjar, among others.
Location of Mt. Karisimbi
The mountain is located on the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
The mountain is flanked by Mount Bisoke to the east, Mount Mikeno to the north, and Mount Nyiragongo to the west.
The park is situated 130 kilometers north of Kigali, and tourists can fly to the park from Kigali International Airport.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, The mountain is within Virunga National Park, while in Rwanda, it’s part of Volcanoes National Park.
Best Time to Visit Karisimbi Mountain
Both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo experience tropical climates; therefore, the mountain can be visited all year round.
However, the best months are from June to August and December to February when the trekking trails are less muddy and slippery, making it easier for hikers.
The sky is also clearer during these months, with fewer chances of rainfall, providing better views and excellent opportunities for photography.
Accommodation – Where to Stay
There is only one campsite where tourists can stay while hiking to the top of Mount Karisimbi.
Lodges within or near Volcanoes National Park include La Bambou Hotel, Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel, Virunga Lodge, Mountain Gorillas Nest Lodge, Sabinyo Silverback Lodge, Bisate Lodge, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, Best View Hotel, Garden Place Hotel, Da Vinci Gorilla Lodge, Gorillas Volcanoes Hotel, Garr Hotel, La Palme Hotel, Kinigi Guest House, Karenge Bush Camp, Muhabura Hotel, and Ruzizi Tented Camp, to mention a few.
Mount Karisimbi Video
Book your dream safari below.
Featured in: Rwanda Attractions, Rwanda Information
Do you need to visit multiple destinations or need to customize a trip to match your interests? We are very open to this and are willing to help. Kindly click to inquire below to navigate to the detailed booking page.