Want to avoid the crowds? Head to a city or country on the State Department watch list. Want to avoid crowds and stay safe? Head to a city that used to be.
History moves faster than the travel industry and the best places to visit are often yesterday's war zones. The main reason the pendulum swings so far so fast is that tourists are a tremendous boon to struggling economies and are generally welcomed with open arms in places where unrest has led to instability. That makes traveling to formerly dangerous places smart for both selfish and humanitarian reasons.
Why You Didn't Want to Go: Twenty percent of the Rwandan population was killed during the Rwandan Genocide. In the city of Kibuye by the shores of Lake Kivu, 21,00 people were slaughtered in two days in 1994.
Why You Want to Go Now: Kibuye is one of the most beautiful towns in Africa and the views of Lake Kivu from the foothills are breathtaking. Largely because the city has become a weekend retreat for Kigali-based NGO workers and Rwanda's small middle class, there are also lovely hotels, including the welcoming Cormoran Lodge. Bike trails lead around the lake and locals are welcoming to foreigners. It's hard to imagine that so much horror took place here. Meanwhile, Goma, located on the northern shore of Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, remains hyper-violent and serves as a reminder of how horrible things can be – and for how long.
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