Where should you stay in Rwanda?
Rwanda is a captivating destination. Often described as the Land of a Thousand Hills, its spectacular landscapes include open plains, tea and coffee plantations and forested volcanoes that are home to more than a third of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas and now the Big Five. Rwanda also has some amazing places to stay, particularly in recent times, with a number of our favourite brands opening their ‘Rwandan’ doors to the world, including Singita, One&Only and Wilderness Safaris.
Excitingly, these properties have not only sprung up in gorilla-tracking hotspots but also in lesser-known regions. While spending time with the extraordinary mountain gorilla is life-changing, there is more to Rwanda than some may know. Take Akagera National Park, for example. Very few people have even heard of this significant wilderness area, but it has become one of Rwanda’s greatest success stories. In the past, lions and rhinos were hunted to extinction and the park was taken over by cattle. However, through the hard work and collaborative efforts of conservation NGO, African Parks, these animals have been reintroduced. Akagera is now Central Africa’s largest protected wetland and the last remaining refuge for savannah-adapted species in Rwanda, home again to a healthy pride of lions, a significant number of black rhino and plentiful plains game.
Here are five fantastic primate-spotting retreats in Rwanda:
1. Virunga Lodge
Virunga was once a winner of Africa’s Most Romantic Hotel at the World Boutique Hotel Awards, and it’s easy to see why. There are 10 charming and comfortable stone bandas, each one with a fireplace and a private terrace overlooking a glorious, undulating landscape of mountains and lakes. Perched high on a ridge, it has breathtaking views of the Virunga Volcanoes and the Musanze Valley to the west and Lake Bulera and Ruhondo to the east. For those that like to feel on top of the world, this jungle escape makes an idyllic base for your gorilla-tracking adventures.
2. One&Only Nyungwe House
Nyungwe House lies alongside age-old jungle of the Nyungwe Forest Reserve on a working tea plantation, allowing guests to learn more about one of Rwanda’s greatest exports. However, staying here is not all about the tea. This wonderful place is also about the food, open-air spa treatments and wildlife experiences. The rainforest that surrounds the property is home to an impressive chimpanzee population, which you can track, and many colobus monkeys. The rooms and two-bedroom suites here are chic and elegant havens with state-of-the-art technology. Nyungwe is an incredibly romantic retreat, so perfect for honeymooners or couples alike.
3. Bisate Lodge
Of all the lodges in Rwanda, Bisate wins hands down in terms of design. There is no easy way to describe the six opulent and eco-friendly forest villas, but they have been constructed using traditional Rwandan building methods, each intricately woven using natural materials. Each one clings to an eroded volcanic cone, with dramatic vistas of the peaks of the Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanoes towering through alpine jungle. This extraordinary setting makes Bisate perhaps the most unique option if you’re looking for luxury in the wilderness before and after your gorilla-tracking expedition in Volcanoes National Park.
4. Magashi Camp
This five-star camp, situated in the north-eastern corner of Akagera National Park, overlooks the beautiful Lake Rwanyakazinga. Akagera’s landscapes are diverse and spectacular, including open plains, woodlands, swamps and mountains. Since its regeneration, thanks to African Parks, it now harbours the Big Five – including lions and black rhino – one of Africa’s densest populations of hippo and more than 520 bird species. In our opinion, Magashi is the place to stay if you are visiting this scenic park, offering clients the chance to enjoy daily game drives, walks and boating experiences in Rwanda’s last protected wetland ecosystem. Staying here also directly supports the work that African Parks continues to do to conserve the park, its animals and the local community.
5. Singita Kwitonda Lodge + Kataza House
These new Rwandan hideaways, on the border of Volcanoes National Park, provide an opulent and relaxing base for your expedition into the forest to meet the gorillas. In true Singita tradition, a great emphasis has been placed on creating a luxury lodge using only regional materials, and local artisans have been commissioned to make the wares that you will see around the lodge and house. Singita is known for its phenomenal properties, and these two are just as magical as the others.
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