Where to stay in Rwanda
Try one of these popular and highly-rated Rwanda hotels
1. RUZIZI TENTED LODGE
This eco-friendly camp opened in 2012, and is the first of its kind in Rwanda. A leisurely three hour drive from Kigali, it is situated in riverine forest on the banks of Rwanda’s second largest lake, Lake Ihema. The tranquil setting attracts a great variety of birds and animals, including hippo and African fish eagles.
There are seven tents, linked by raised wooden boardwalks. During the construction of the lodge the Akagera Management Company tried hard to keep as many of the trees as possible, so the camp has a deep forested feel to it. A large, wooden viewing-platform overlooking the lake benefits from the shade of a huge overhead fig tree and there is a fire pit to keep guests warm on cooler nights. This camp is recommended for family travel with children and carries no age restrictions. Malarial protection is advised, and the lodge is open all year round.
Food & service
Visitors report that the food on offer at Ruzizi is excellent, with varied fruits breakfasts and eggs cooked to order, generous packed lunches provided for wildlife trips and three course meals served in the evenings.
Each tent has an en suite bathroom with hot running water, which is entirely solar powered. In 2014 two additional tents were constructed, a VIP tent and a family tent, taking the maximum number of guests to twenty.
As well as trips for animal and bird viewing, other activities include night drives, sunrise breakfasts, braai (barbecues) and star spotting from the lakeside viewing platform.
An anti-poaching K9 unit, funded by the Rwanda Development Board, joined Akagera’s main anti-poaching unit three years ago in 2015. Used to track and restrain poachers in the park, the dogs and their handlers are helping to keep poaching levels at a record low in the park.
Akagera’s staff numbers have tripled in the last eight years, with almost all new recruits coming from local communities.
The Rwanda Development Board’s revenue sharing programme sees 5% of the total revenue generated by its three national parks (Akagera, Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks) shared with local communities. Those living in the areas surrounding Akagera receive an excellent 30% of these shared revenues.
Environmental educational awareness sessions are regularly held in the park, with over 1,300 students from schools visiting Akagera each year, alongside local leaders and educators.
Furthermore, the Special Guarantee Fund exists to compensate community members that suffer losses because of human-wildlife conflict.
The Retreat is a first-rate boutique hotel in the heart of Kigali and has been called one of the world’s top new hotels by both Town & Country and the New York Times. Notably, it is also the city’s first properly eco-friendly destination.
2. THE RETREAT – KIGALI
Tucked away on a quiet street near Kigali city Centre, The Retreat offers 20 luxury villas of various descriptions attractively arranged among leafy grounds threaded through with marble walkways and centering on a shared saltwater swimming pool. There are two restaurants, a partly open-air gym, a yoga and meditation room, and a spa. The décor throughout is equal parts contemporary style and Rwandan tradition, with much of the furniture sourced from a Tanzanian sustainable teak farm.
Food & service
Food, drinks and service are all excellent at The Retreat. There are two restaurants: Fusion, located within the site itself, features a Swahili-inspired bar and serves an international menu with a farm-to-table emphasis, while Heaven is reached via a short stairway and offers an innovative spin on African culinary tradition. Visitors often comment on the friendliness and commitment of the staff here.
There are 20 suites to choose from at The Retreat, the original 11 nearly doubled in 2018 due to demand. Luxury Pool Villas are the largest and most luxurious option, each with private solar-heated saltwater plunge pools, front and back gardens, living room area and deck; Super King Suites, the smallest option, still have front and rear patios, private back terrace and both indoor and outdoor showers. All accommodations are stylishly decorated with splashes of local colour and feature English handmade organic mattresses and luxury toiletries. Amenities include everything one would expect from a high-end hotel.
Owned and operated by Heaven’s American owners, The Retreat also has a sister company called Heaven Tours that offers a range of activities in and around Kigali, from culinary city tours to gorilla safaris.
The Retreat is Kigali’s first resort with a truly eco-friendly ethos, powered by solar electricity and working hard to ensure the ethical provenance of all materials. It’s also worth noting that the Heaven organisation has made a significant contribution to the development of high-quality hospitality training in Rwanda.
3. ONE & ONLY GORILLA’S NEST
Set in a eucalyptus forest at the base of the Virunga Volcano Range, One&Only Gorilla’s Nest is a strikingly unique accommodation which thrives on adventure-based activities.
4. KIVU SERENA HOTEL
Rwanda‘s only 5 star hotel outside of Kigali, Lake Kivu Serena offers itself up as a first class piece of accommodation. Located in Gisenyi on the shores of Lake Kivu, it possesses, in the nearby Virungu volcanoes and in the lake itself, one of the finest settings any hotel could hope for.
Bisate Lodge, the latest offering from Wilderness Safaris, is located on the southern border of Volcanoes National Park, and perfectly situated for access to the Park’s gorilla and golden monkey population. The word bisate means ‘pieces’ in Kinyarwanda, which refers to the volcano’s natural erosion.