Mount Nyiragongo stands at an elevation of 3,470 meters above sea level and is one of the famous Virunga ranges found along the Albertine Rift.
The crater at the top is about 2 kilometers wide and contains a lava lake with two lava lakes within the crater lakes.
The lava lake is believed to be the most voluminous lava lake in history, with its maximum elevation recorded at 3,250 meters and a depth of 600 meters.
The volcano is also surrounded by small volcanic cinder cones from flank eruptions.
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The mountain is said to have erupted at least 32 times since 1982, and its exact history of activity is not well-known due to political instability in Congo in the past.
The mountain is known for containing the most fluid lava in the world.
When Mount Nyiragongo erupts, residents are always at risk because they cannot outrun the fast-flowing lava, which moves at speeds of up to 97 kilometers per hour.
During the 1977 eruptions, about 300 people were killed within 20 minutes as the lava lake drained rapidly.
The last eruption of Mount Nyiragongo occurred on the 17th of January 2002, when lava spewed in three directions and ejected smoke and ash high into the sky.
Mount Nyiragongo boasts the world’s largest lava lake and is also one of the most active volcanoes.
Hiking Mount Nyiragongo offers one of the most thrilling life experiences.
Photos alone cannot fully capture the beauty of the mountain’s summit.
The starting point for hikers is just a 30-minute drive from Goma town.
Tourists will be led by ranger guides on the hike to the top of the volcano.
Other Activities in Virunga National Park:
Mountain Gorilla Trekking
Virunga National Park offers gorilla trekking as one of its highlights.
The park has eight habituated gorilla groups, and tourists can choose to track any of them for an unforgettable experience in Africa, with permits priced at $400.
Hike Mount Nyamuragira
Mount Nyamuragira, also found within Virunga National Park in Congo, is another option for volcanic climbing enthusiasts.
The mountain is similar to Mauna Loa in Hawaii and has erupted numerous times since 1885.
The last eruption occurred in 2011-2012.
Visit Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage
Tourists can visit the Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage, where gorillas orphaned after the 2007 gorilla genocide are cared for.
In addition, visitors can learn about the canine anti-poaching unit, which uses trained dogs to combat poaching in Virunga National Park.
Temperatures on Mount Nyiragongo can drop to as low as 0°C at night or during the rainy season.
Tourists are advised to bring warm clothing, jackets, garden gloves, insect repellents, waterproof hiking boots, sunscreen, energy snacks, and more.
Climbing Mount Nyiragongo takes about 3-4 hours, depending on the weather and the physical fitness of the group.
Porters are available for hire at $15-$25 per porter to assist tourists in carrying their backpacks.
At the summit of Mount Nyiragongo, there are summit huts where tourists can spend the night and observe the natural wonder.
There are also lodges available for tourists to stay in the night before hiking to Mount Nyiragongo, such as Mikeno Lodge.
The best time to visit Mount Nyiragongo is during the dry season, as the wet season may disrupt the experience with rain and cloud cover, making it difficult to see clearly.
Tourists visiting Virunga National Park can stay at accommodations like Bukima Tented Camp, Mikeno Lodge, Kibumba Tented Camp, Nyiragongo Summit Shelter, and Tchegera Tented Camp, among others.
Getting to Virunga National Park to hike Mount Nyiragongo is easier by flying into Rwanda and then taking a four-hour drive to the Congo border, followed by about one hour to reach Virunga National Park.
Detailed Guide for Hiking Nyiragongo Mountain
Mount Nyiragongo is one of the eight Virunga mountain volcanoes found in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda.
It is an active stratovolcano with an elevation of 3,470 meters above sea level.
Mount Nyiragongo partly overlaps with two other volcanoes, Shaheru and Baratu.
Mount Nyiragongo’s lava lake is known to be the most voluminous lava lake in recent history.
Prior to the 1977 eruption, the lava lake’s maximum elevation was recorded at 3,250 meters, and after the 2002 eruptions, the lake’s depth reached 600 meters.
The mountain boasts the world’s largest lava lake.
The mountain is surrounded by small volcanic cinder cones resulting from flank eruptions.
The mountain is continuously monitored at Goma Volcanic Observatory by a team of scientists.
Seismic data is produced every four minutes, and temperature data is produced every ten minutes.
Unfortunately, the World Bank decided to terminate its contributions to funding the Goma Volcanic Observatory in 2020.
Volcanic eruption activities can continue for up to a year, with a churning lava lake at the crater.
Mount Nyiragongo’s strategic location on a highly active segment of the African rift facilitates the ascent of magma from beneath the Earth’s surface.
Ongoing seismic activity and ground deformation after recent eruptions indicate the presence of magma under the areas surrounding the mountain and even under Lake Kivu.
About 100 parasitic cones are located along the south of Shaheru radial fissures, along the northeast and southwest, extending to Lake Kivu and east of the summit.
Nyiragongo Entry Fees
Entry fees are required before visitors can access or enter a place they are visiting.
Tourists planning to visit Mount Nyiragongo will need to pay an entry fee of $300 for an overnight hike, excluding meals and porters.
An additional $100 fee at the park provides a backpack with meals, water, a sleeping bag, a blanket, fleece, and a jacket.
Porters charge $25 per 15 kilograms of luggage.
The availability of Mount Nyiragongo hiking permits depends on the availability of accommodation at the summit.
Tourists must acquire their permits in advance through a local travel company or Virunga National Park.
Hiking permits cost $300 per person, including overnight accommodation at the summit and park entry fees.
The hiking permit fee excludes porter fees.
The hike to Mount Nyiragongo starts early in the morning at Kibati Ranger Post, where visitors receive a briefing about the volcano’s history and what to expect during the climb.
The hike involves traversing lower altitudes in the first phase, dealing with loose lava rocks in the second phase, and experiencing more challenging conditions at higher altitudes in the third phase.
The fourth part of the climb becomes steeper, and the final part is the steepest, though it is short in duration.
There are 12 cabins at the summit, each with 2 single beds, a mattress, and a pillow.
The next morning, visitors can witness the mesmerizing glow of the world’s largest lava lake before descending, which takes only 3 hours to return to the starting point from the previous day.
Tourists hiking Mount Nyiragongo can hire porters to assist with their luggage at an affordable price.
Tourists interested in hiking Mount Nyiragongo should come prepared with hiking gear, including garden gloves, hiking shoes, a flashlight, plenty of drinking water, snacks, long-sleeved warm clothes, raincoats and jackets, binoculars and a camera, a portable charger, sunscreen, insect repellent, a hat, sunglasses, and more.
Gorilla Trekking in Virunga National Park
Visiting Mount Nyiragongo can be combined with mountain gorilla trekking at Virunga National Park, which offers several habituated mountain gorilla families at a cost of only $400 per person per trekking, making it more affordable compared to Uganda and Rwanda.
Visitors can also explore the world’s only gorilla orphanage within the park’s headquarters, known as Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage.
History of Eruptions
The existence of a lava lake in Mount Nyiragongo had been suspected but not scientifically confirmed until 1948.
The lava lake measured up to 120,000 square meters at the time of confirmation.
Over time, the lava lake fluctuated in depth, size, and temperature.
Mount Nyiragongo wasn’t studied by scientists and researchers earlier due to civil conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
However, since 1882, the volcano is said to have erupted around 34 times.
The mountain contained an active lava lake from 1894 to 1977.
On the 10th of January 1977, the crater walls ruptured, and lava was drained in less than an hour, resulting in the fastest lava flow recorded, with lava flowing at a speed of 60 kilometers per hour.
The lava flowed on almost all sides of the volcano except the eastern side, leading to the death of about 600 people.
The 1977 eruption was so significant that in 1991, the mountain was designated as a decade volcano worth studying.
A new small volcano known as Murara formed after the eruption near Mount Nyamuragira.
From 1982 to 1994, eruptions reformed a lava lake in the crater.
Increased tremor and seismic activity for several months led to another major eruption on the 22nd of January 2002.
A 13-kilometer-long fissure opened at the southern part of the volcano, flowing from an elevation of 2,800 meters to 1,550 meters.
Lava flowed to the north shore of Lake Kivu and parts of Goma town within a few minutes.
At the end of the fissure, lava flowed into three spatter cones, creating streams 2 meters deep and 200-1000 meters wide through Goma.
Fortunately, over 400,000 people had been warned earlier and evacuated to Gisenyi at the Rwandan border.
Lava covered 13% of Goma town.
The flow of lava into Lake Kivu raised concerns because it might release large amounts of methane and carbon dioxide, similar to the issue at Lake Nyos in Cameroon.
Fortunately, this hasn’t happened, but scientists are monitoring the area closely.
The volcano erupted again six months after the 2002 eruptions, resulting in the deaths of over 200 people and the collapse of several buildings due to earthquakes.
About 120,000 people were left homeless, and earthquakes continued to affect Goma and Gisenyi towns, causing further building collapses.
Gas seeps from the ground at high levels in some locations.
In 2016, scientists from the Goma Volcano Observatory discovered a new vent opening at the northeast edge of the crater, potentially leading to a flank eruption in the near future.
Mount Nyiragongo erupted again on the 22nd of May 2021, cutting off a highway to Beni and flowing to the eastern side of Goma town.
Thousands of Goma residents evacuated the town, and the eruption led to the death of about 32 people.
Mount Nyiragongo is located in the Virunga Conservation Area, within Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It is situated 12 kilometers north of Lake Kivu and Goma town.
The best way to access Mount Nyiragongo is by flying into Kigali International Airport in Rwanda and driving to the Rwanda-Congolese border through Gisenyi to reach Virunga National Park.
Nyiragongo Death Toll
The January 10, 1977 eruptions resulted in the death of 600 people.
The 2002 eruptions led to the deaths of 245 people, mainly due to asphyxiation from carbon dioxide.
In the 2021 eruption on May 22nd, 32 people were reported dead, with 24 burnt by lava, 5 asphyxiated by gases, and 13 during the evacuation process.
40 adults and 540 children have been reported missing after the 2021 eruption.
Carbon dioxide toxicity, known locally as Mazuka, has killed several children in recent years.
There could be long-term effects of the 2022 eruptions on the local population.
Best Time to Visit Nyiragongo Mountain
Mount Nyiragongo can be visited all year round, but for the best experience, it is better to visit during the dry months of December to February and June to August.
During these months, climbing is less muddy, and the clear skies provide excellent opportunities for photography and a clearer view of the crater at the peak.
Accommodation – Where to Stay
There is only one accommodation unit at the summit of Mount Nyiragongo, Nyiragongo Shelter Summits, which consists of 12 cabins, each containing 2 single beds with mattresses and pillows.
Accommodation options for tourists the day before or after hiking include Mikeno Lodge, Bukima Tented Camp, Kibumba Tented Camp, Lulimbi Tented Camp, Ngila Lodge, Tchegera Island Tented Camp, and Lac Kivu Hotel, among others.
Mount Nyiragongo Video
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