The Virunga Mountains are a series of eight fascinating volcanic mountains shared by the two East African countries – Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. These series of volcanoes is an extension of the Albertine Rift Mountains that run along Great East African rift valley. The Virunga mountains derive this name from “ibirunga” a native Kinyarwanda term for volcanoes.
With the exception of Mount. Nyamuragira and Mount. Nyiragongo both located in the democratic republic of Congo, the rest of Virunga volcanoes are dormant with no volcanic activity recorded in the recent years. Mount. Sabyinyo is the oldest while mount. Karisimbi has the highest elevation at 14,787 ft. above sea level. The ranges run from Lake Kivu in Rwanda to Lake Edward in Uganda.
The Virunga volcanoes are not just any ordinary range of mountains. Most of them act as the only precious home to the endangered mountain gorillas. The other only place outside Virunga is the Bwindi impenetrable forest which is also in close proximity with the Virunga massif.
List of the Virunga volcanoes.
This stands as the highest volcano in the Virunga mastiff with an elevation of 4,507 meters and found in the republic of Rwanda and Democratic republic of Congo. Dian Fossey’s Karisoke Research center is established near this mountain whose peak is snowcapped throughout the year even in the driest periods.
Karisimbi is closely followed by Mikeno in elevation at 4,437 meters. The volcano is arguably the 13th highest mountain on African continent, in addition to being one of the oldest mountains in Africa. Mikeno is also home to the mountain gorillas which you can encounter on a trip to Virunga national park in DR Congo.
- Muhabura / Muhavura.
This is the third highest at 4,127 meters. Its name changes on which side of the mountain you on. In Rwanda locals call it Muhabura while the Ugandan neighbors know it as Muhavura. Muhabura is an brilliant alternative for moderate hiking in the Virunga mountains.
- Bisoke / Visoke.
Mount Bisoke is shared by the two countries of Rwanda and DR Congo with some fascinating rewards for hikers who hike it. The volcano is endowed with beautiful montane forests with arguably the most beautiful craters at its summit. A hike of this mountain usually takes a full day and volcanic activity was last recorded in 1957 when it last erupted. Bisoke stands at elevation of making it the
- Mount Sabyinyo.
Mount. Sabyinyo is the only volcano in the Virunga ranges which is shared by all the 3 bordering countries. This creates a unique experience where visitors can view and decipher the differences in each country at one point of observation. Mount Sabyinyo can only be hiked from the Ugandan side as the other sides are extremely hard to hike.
Mount Gahinga is another haven to the endangered mountain gorillas that roam its afro montane lower forests and is the shortest of all the eight Virunga Mountains. Gahinga is shared by Uganda and her neighbor Rwanda. The volcano also harbors the rare golden monkey that share its bamboo forests with the gorillas and other wildlife. This small volcano stands at an elevation of 3,474 meters and provides excellent hiking to inexperienced or moderate hikers.
Mount Nyiragongo is among the most active volcanoes on the African continent with the last eruptions happened in May 2021. A hike to the summit of this beautiful volcano presents hikers with an astonishing view of the largest active lava lake found at its top. If you visit the Virunga national park endeavor to include a hike on this mountain to behold one of nature’s amazing never stopping wonders.
Nyamuragira stands at 3,058 meters with lowest elevation just like its counterpart, mount. Nyiragongo, is also an active volcano with last volcanic activity recorded in 2011.
The Virunga mountains are mainly named based on their appearance, features that characterize them for example Sabyinyo is translated as “old man’s tooth” for of its serrated pinnacle that resembles an old man’s teeth, Mgahinga means a pile of stones while Bisoke means cloud due to the cloud that usually hovers on its peak.
Visit the Virunga Mountains to discover more while exploring this amazing mountain range of East Africa.