The Virunga Mountains and their rare bamboo forest shelter both active and inactive volcanoes—plus the world’s precious population of 700+ mountain gorillas.

Staring down these magical creatures is transformative, perhaps because, sharing 97% of our genetic makeup, they look eerily familiar as they roam, cavort, and feed on the Virungas’ lush slopes. After the exhilaration of a morning with the cousins, savvy hikers retreat to the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge. This exclusive property hosts guests in private well-appointed cabins, each with a fireplace, while the lodge terrace offers sweeping views towards the six volcanoes.

A visit with the mountain gorillas would be enough, but the Land of a Thousand Hills offers much more. A day or two in Kigali (the centrally located Serena Hotel provides a good base) allows for a visit to the excellent Genocide Memorial. Elsewhere, the beaches of Lake Kivu beckon, while Nyungwe National Park, famous for its waterfalls, features more than 283 bird species, 13 primate species, and a troop of 400 colobus monkeys. Everywhere, the warmth of the locals is the best welcome of all.