Mount Nyiragongo is an active stratovolcano with an elevation of 3470 m (11382 ft) in the Virunga Mountains associated with the Albertine Rift. It is located inside Virunga National Park, in DR Congo, about 20 km (12 mi) north of Goma and Lake Kivu and just west of Rwanda’s border.
The main crater is about two kilometers wide and usually contains a lava lake. The crater presently has two distinct cooled lava benches within the crater walls – one at about 3,175 meters (10,417 ft) and a lower one at about 2,975 m (9,760 ft). Nyiragongo’s lava lake has at times been the most voluminous known lava lake in recent history.
The depth of the lava lake varies considerably. Researchers recorded a maximum elevation of the lava lake at about 3,250 m (10,660 ft) before the January 1977 eruption – a lake depth of about 600 m (2,000 ft). Researchers have recently recorded a shallow elevation of the lava lake at about 2,700 m (8,900 ft). Nyiragongo and nearby Nyamuragira are together responsible for 40% of Africa’s historical volcanic eruptions.
The Thrilling Nyiragongo Hike
The hike to Nyiragongo active volcano is divided into five sections, each with an otherworldly experience. As you summit this deadly mountain, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the valley below and the surrounding forest.
The journey begins at the Kibati Ranger Post, where you’ll start the ascent at an altitude of 1870 meters. The 6.5k-meter hike each way takes an average of 4-6 hours, with a 15-minute break at each stop. The slowest person on the trek sets the pace, making it accessible to all fitness levels.
As you enter the dense forest at the base of Nyiragongo, keep a lookout for wildlife, including monkeys and bushbuck. The second section of the trek offers open-skied trails and stunning views of the valley below. You’ll then pass steaming volcanic fissures and cross old lava flows as you make your way to the fourth section, where you’ll traverse a high Montane forest.
The fifth and final ascent is a steep 300m climb to the summit, where exhaustion melts away as the most breathtaking sight welcomes you – the world’s largest lava lake churning away in a mosaic of molten red fire. It’s an exhilarating gift to those who have conquered the slopes of Nyiragongo.
But the best is yet to come. As the sun goes down, the lava lake becomes more magnificent, glowing against the backdrop of a starry sky. It’s a sight that will leave you in awe and remind you of the power of nature.
Hiking the Nyiragongo active volcano is the ultimate adventure for thrill-seekers and nature lovers alike. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that promises to inspire and leave you with a newfound appreciation for the wonders of our planet.
Prepare for an Unforgettable Nyiragongo Hiking Experience
For those seeking a thrilling challenge, climbing the Nyiragongo volcano is an adventure you shouldn’t. While fitter trekkers can ascend and descend in one day, most groups choose to overnight in basic accommodation at the top, included in the permit fee.
To ensure you’re prepared for any weather, it’s important to bring raincoats and cold weather gear, as rain showers are common during the climb, especially in the rainy season. Temperatures at the summit can also dip below 0°C/32°F, so warm clothing is a must.
Guests staying at the Mikeno lodge can arrange a packed meal service for the trip, while those coming with tour groups must bring their own food. It’s important to note that there is no food service available on Nyiragongo.
To make the ascent easier, you can hire porters at the base of the climb to carry loads for $12/day ($24 for the overnight trip)—porters can only carry a maximum weight of 15kg.
As you make your way to the top, you’ll be treated to stunning views and otherworldly landscapes that will take your breath away. It’s an experience that will leave you with a newfound appreciation for the power and beauty of nature.
Prepare for an unforgettable hiking experience and get ready to conquer the mighty Nyiragongo volcano.
The Best Accommodation Options For Hiking Mount Nyiragongo
Bukima Tented Camp
Nestled just outside the Virunga National Park boundary, Bukima Tented Camp is the perfect starting point for hiking Nyiragongo and trekking gorillas in Virunga National Park. Initially built for researchers, the camp is now primarily used by trekkers seeking a unique and immersive experience.
As the name suggests, guests at Bukima sleep in platform tents that are surprisingly plush by camping standards. Each tent features an adjoining bathroom with running water, a nicely appointed bed, and a dresser for your clothes. The views from the tent sites are simply breathtaking.
To the south, the majestic Mt. Mikeno towers over the gorilla sector, with its summit reaching a staggering 4437m (14,560′). Across the valley, the Nyiragongo volcano’s lava lake colors the night sky with a mesmerizing red glow. The Nyamuragira volcano erupts every few years, stealing the nighttime show by spewing hot lava hundreds of feet into the air.
Occasionally, the mountain gorillas wander into the Bukima tented camp, an experience that always impresses guests, although park staff highly frown upon it.
Wake up each morning to the sounds of nature and breathtaking views at Bukima Tented Camp. It’s the perfect place to relax and recharge after an exhilarating day of trekking. Experience the magic of this unique and unforgettable destination for yourself.
Nyiragongo Summit Shelters
On Mount Nyiragongo, there are twelve summit shelters that have two single beds where visitors can sleep in their own sleeping bags. Even though the shelters aren’t luxurious, they provide a comfortable refuge from the weather. It’s good to know that the permit fee includes the cost of staying in a summit shelter.
Nestled within a forest and offering breathtaking views of the rift valley and Nyiragongo and Mikeno volcanoes, the Mikeno Lodge is a true gem. Located just a 90-minute drive from Goma, the lodge offers large bungalows and a fantastic restaurant.
The lodge can arrange for guests nature walks and visits to local places of interest, and there is an abundance of birdlife and resident blue monkeys, colobus monkeys, and baboons. Chimpanzees are also frequent visitors to the area, adding to the lodge’s charm.
On clear nights, guests can see the amber glow of the active volcanoes Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira, creating a stunning display that is sure to leave you in awe. Visitors who stay at the nearby Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge also enjoy the amazing views of the Virunga Volcanoes.
With experienced walking safari guides, various trips to the Virunga Volcanoes have been led, including summiting Mt. Nyiragongo in Congo, and treks up the volcano Mgahinga, Sabinyo and Muhavura in Uganda, and Karisimbi and Visoke in Rwanda.
The Mikeno Lodge is the perfect place to relax and unwind after a day of adventure, offering a serene and tranquil setting that is sure to rejuvenate the senses.