Anybody coming to Rwanda will and should spend some time in Kigali. The city has so much to do and see and is a perfect place to spend a couple of days soaking in the atmosphere and learning more about the country. If you want to read more about all the things to do in Kigali check out my post here. In this article I want to look more in-depth at the best hotels in Kigali to stay, so you can pick the best one for you. I will also tell you more about the hotels in Rwanda, from the best lodges near the gorillas to the lodges in the national parks of Rwanda.
- Best hotels in Kigali
- Best Hotels in Rwanda
- Bisate Lodge, Volcanoes National Park
- Virunga Lodge Hotel, Volcanoes National Park
- One&Only Gorilla’s Nest, Volcanoes National Park
- Singita Kwitodan Lodge, Volcanoes National Park
- Ruzizi Tented Lodge, Akagera National Park
- Akagera Game Lodge, Akagera National Park
- Magashi, Akagera National Park
- One&Only Nyungwe House, Nyungwe Forest
- Lake Kivu Serena, Lake Kivu
Best hotels in Kigali
Kigali Serena Hotel
Anywhere you travel in East Africa you will find a reliable and consistent Serena Hotel. This legendary East African hotel brand owned by the The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) and is a staple of most East African cities and safari locations with its range of 23 hotels, resorts, lodges and safari camps.
As soon as I walked in the Kigali Serena Hotel I knew I was at one of the brand’s hotels. Their emblematic decor, their deep African roots, the safari colors used in the fabrics and the furnishings, it was all 100% Serena.
At a Serena Hotel you can rely on great service standards, comfortable, practical and sizeable rooms designed with the business traveler in mind, and all the facilities for a pleasant trip.
The food is usually exceptional, and I found the breakfast particularly impressive with one of the greatest spreads I have seen in a while including a wide selection of fresh cut fruits, at least 7 freshly squeezed juices, more than 20 different types of pastries and Danishes including gluten-free options, and all sorts of savory items, from chapati and curries to local staples, eggs to order, pancakes and crepes. There was also a huge choice of salads, vegetables, cheeses and cold cuts. Needless to say, breakfast was a great reason to wake up every morning. The same restaurant serves lunch and dinner buffet style. There is also a lounge, a bar and plenty of room service options. For a more refined option, there is also another restaurant.
The rooms at Kigali Serena Hotel are spacious, with nice bathrooms and bathtubs, a balcony and a large desk that should be used, not just as a decorative piece. The balcony in my room had views over the courtyard pool, two chairs and a table with an umbrella which I used to do some work until the mosquitoes started to attack me.
The pool is large and is surrounded by trees and lush foliage making you feel a bit like being on holiday. There is a waterfall which you can hear from all the rooms, and the restaurant also faces the pool. There is also a gym on the premises.
Prices start from $160
Heaven Boutique Hotel and The Retreat
Heaven Boutique Hotel and Heaven Retreat are two properties run by an American-expat couple. They are next to each other in the same complex but are different in their offer.
Heaven is a unique social enterprise in Kigali combining art, crafts, great food, a boutique hotel and a retreat. The founders started Heaven to help train and nurture Rwandans to grow the hospitality industry. Within the complex, there is a restaurant called Heaven that is open to the public and is a favorite for lunch and dinner, and a fine dining restaurant, Fusion, located within The Retreat.
The Boutique Hotel is a four star 22 room hotel spread across three adjoining properties. Here the atmosphere is clean and rustic with lots of colour from the fabrics and textiles used.
The five-star Retreat has only 11 rustic chic rooms built with Tanzania sustainable teak wood. Aside from the main bedroom they also have patios with sofas and indoor/outdoor showers all decorated with local art. The complex is eco-friendly and runs on solar power.
The premises, although small, has a pool, a well-equipped gym, a sauna and a hot tub shared by both the Boutique Hotel and The Retreat.
The Retreat has nothing to envy the larger chains or hotels and is a great place to stay, despite its location in a residential area, not as central to tourist spots as the other larger chains – a great excuse to jump on a boda-boda.
Prices start from $100
Radisson Blu Hotel & Convention Center Kigali
The Radisson Blu in Kigali is one of the latest hotels to open in the Rwandan capital. It is attached to the Kigali Convention Center, a building which has changed the Kigali skyline forever, and brings much bling and flash to the city with a progressive design that tries to blend some of Rwanda’s heritage with 21st century modernity by taking inspiration from the Royal Palace.
The hotel is impressive and it is impossible to miss as you can see it from anywhere in the city. Standing tall at the top of one of the hills in Kigali, the Radisson Blu and the beehive-shaped Convention Center are one of the expressions of Rwanda’s focus on MICE, Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions, to bring the corporate clientele to Rwanda.
The buildings are lit at night, the convention center with flowing lights that change in colour, from the Rwandan flag to other color combinations, the hotel with just the regular room lights, against the colourful netting on the facade. The complex is mesmerising.
The hotel has almost 300 rooms and a small shopping mall with restaurants and shops, should you want to get out of the expensive hotel food and beverage options. It has all the usual conveniences of a modern business hotel and lots of the quirks that make Radisson Blu what it is. Guests complain of too-fancy room features that are impractical but adore the gym and the friendly and helpful staff.
The convention center can accommodate 5,000 people and is accessible from the hotel, not before going through various airport-level security checks which are also necessary when coming into the hotel.
Prices start from $230
The Hotel des Milles Collines
This is Rwanda’s most famous hotel. The 115 room Hotel des Milles Collines was founded by the now defunct Belgian airline Sabena and sold to MIKCOR Hotel Holding in 2004 who had it managed by Kempinski briefly.
Hotel Rwanda, as most people know the Hotel des Milles Collines by, is the first grand and luxury hotel to open in Kigali in 1973 and still is an icon in the city for glamour and sophistication, even if it is now almost 50 years old.
The hotel was the real life shelter to almost 1,300 Rwandans who sought refuge during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide and became the center stage to the movie Hotel Rwanda released on 2004 which was actually filmed in South Africa. The hotel’s cellars provided bribery material to the General Manager who single handedly managed to fend off the militiamen with cognac and wine every time they tried to attack those sheltered inside.
The hotel is located on one of Kigali’s hills (aren’t they all in Kigali?) and has expansive views over the city. The rooms also have similar fantastic city views, especially from their balconies and a decor that resembles the Kigali Serena. The rooms are a bit dated, but charming and you really feel like you are somewhere traditionally Rwandan and this is one of the few luxury hotels in Kigali which are locally owned.
As it is a large property with lush and well-kept gardens, there are a lot of facilities. There is a conference center, several gardens with a pool, three restaurants and a bar. The main fine dining restaurant Panorama, only open for dinner, has one of the nicest views in the city and is one of the best places to see in Kigali. The pool restaurant is a nice place for lunch or a drink and even the buffet restaurant in the main building, La Terrasse, has great city views.
This is an emblematic building and staying here makes you feel as if you are partaking in history.
Prices start from $110
Marriott Hotel Kigali
The Marriott Hotel in Kigali is another modern international chain hotel located in the same area as the Kigali Serena and the Hotel des Milles Collines. The hotel looks just like any other international hotel anywhere else from the outside but from the rooms you have excellent city views (if you are on the right side of the building) and floor to ceiling windows which makes for an impactful welcome when you walk in.
There is a large pool, a gym, a spa and a few restaurants including a pool bar that is a pleasant place to relax and an Italian restaurant, not very Rwandan if you ask me. So the Marriott Kigali is definitely going for the international flair. As the hotel only opened in 2016 everything is new and well kept.
Most guests highlight the fact that the Marriott Hotel Kigali is a very expensive option in the city, similar to the Courtyard by Marriott Seoul Botanic Park hotel in Seoul. It is targeting business travelers for whom price might be less important than location and modern amenities but you will be charged international prices.
Check out their souvenir shop where local handcrafts and beautiful pieces are sold. The shop is run by Go Kigali who organises one of the nicest tours of Kigali.
Prices start from $225
Best Hotels in Rwanda
Rwanda is more than just Kigali and most tourism to Rwanda is focused on the mountain gorillas with increasing interest in other wildlife, in particular the Big Five in Akagera or the chimpanzees in the south, in Nyungwe Forest.
A lot of luxury hotels have opened in Rwanda in the last few years and more are slated to open soon, so let’s take a look at the best hotels in Rwanda, outside of Kigali.
Bisate Lodge, Volcanoes National Park
This stunning eco-lodge is ones of the most amazing lodges in Africa and the best hotel in Rwanda. A stay here feels almost surreal.
The location is spectacular, high above the slopes of a volcano watching over Volcanoes National Park and the gorilla territory. The design is breathtaking, it cocoons you inside and it leaves you breathless from the outside.
The villas and common areas look like the eyes of the mountain from where guests can observe the rolling mist and clouds over Rwanda’s highest peak. Service is impeccable, friendly, attentive and the food is freshly made, often with ingredients from the local garden. This is Rwanda’s most incredible hotel and you can read my detailed review here.
Prices start from $2,300 for two people per night inclusive of food, drinks and some activities (excl. the cost of the golden monkeys and gorilla permits). Here’s our gorilla packing list so that you go prepared.
Virunga Lodge Hotel, Volcanoes National Park
Before Bisate Lodge opened, Virunga Lodge Hotel was the best hotel in Rwanda. Its location, high on a hill with expansive views of the Volcanoes National Park, and its decidedly local Rwandan flair makes the Virunga Lodge Hotel a nice alternative of the more expensive options.
The lodge has just 10 cottages and is locally owned and ran by Volcanoes Safaris. All the rooms have colourful fabrics and artifacts and the common lounge has a collection of maps and books on primates, the main reason why people come here. The views are definitely the best feature of the lodge and you can see the sunrise over the volcanoes from your bed.
The lodge has been awarded most Romantic Hotel in Africa at the Boutique Hotel Awards and included in Conde Nast 2017 Readers’ Choice Awards.
Prices start from $1,000 for two people per night inclusive of food, drinks and some activities (excl. the cost of the golden monkeys and gorilla permits).
One&Only Gorilla’s Nest, Volcanoes National Park
One&Only new portfolio of Nature Resorts has already started to show its DNA in Nyungwe Forest and will continue to do so in Rwanda in Volcanoes National Park where the brand has acquired and is renovating the emblematic Gorilla’s Nest Lodge and turning into a new hotel icon in Rwanda.
The lodge is slated to re-open in 2018 and will include simple but luxurious accommodations, a spa and African food which will leverage the lodge’s gardens. As you drive to Bisate Lodge, you pass by the site of the One&Only Gorilla’s Nest and can see how close it is to the park. The lodge is set within a eucalyptus forest and will have that Gorillas in the Mist feel to it.
Prices coming soon, check out their website in the meantime.
Singita Kwitodan Lodge, Volcanoes National Park
Taking its name after the silverback at one of the gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park Singita will open its first property in Rwanda in gorilla territory in August 2019 and is already taking bookings.
The lodge will have 9 villas and suites including a two-bedroom suite and a four bedroom villa which comes fully staffed with a chef and a house manager and house staff and can accommodate 8 people.
Honoring Singita’s rare and authentic experiences, the lodge is expected to be one of the most stunning in Rwanda with exclusive experiences and a beautiful design that has come to identify itself with the brand.
Prices start from $2,980 for two people per night inclusive of food and drinks.
Ruzizi Tented Lodge, Akagera National Park
Akagera has two permanent lodges managed by African Parks and the charming Ruzizi Tented Lodge is the best one. This tented lodge sits on the edge of the lake and has lovely morning and evening views as the sun sets. The hippos are never too far and can be heard even from your room and seen from the dining platform. Monkeys jump from the branches above and the feeling is of complete disconnection, especially since there is barely any mobile signal in the lodge.
The tents are comfortable and truly safari-style and the food is freshly prepared and yummy. There are bonfires set in the evening to the traditional Gin and Tonic, and plenty of geckos to keep you company. If you fear them I would not suggest staying here as there were dozens of them in the tents every day. The tents have proper bathrooms with hot water showers.
As you are in the southern part of Akagera you are near the park’s entrance and the park’s headquarters which are about 15-20min drive away. This makes it convenient to join group excursions and activities in the park or go on the boat ride.
Prices start from $195 pppn sharing in a standard double tent. You can find out more prices and info here.
Akagera Game Lodge, Akagera National Park
The other permanent accommodation in Akagera National Park is Akagera Game Lodge. This lodge is more permanent and built in brick rather than made of tents.
Rooms have a rustic charm and are cozy with stone walls and wooden furniture. There are TVs and internet and probably far less geckos. This is a more traditional hotel so there is a pool, a tennis court and because of its location slightly elevated on a hill, the views over the park are beautiful. Companies can also hold retreats in the meeting rooms.
The lodge is located a bit further north from the park’s entrance than the tented camp but still in the southern end of the park.
With the recent change in management to the Mantis Collection and current refurbishment, we don’t have rates. But we will be sure to provide them as soon as their website is back up.
Magashi, Akagera National Park
Magashi is a new luxury lodge run by Wilderness Safaris opening at the end of 2018 in the northeastern side of the park in an exclusive area overlooking the Lake Rwanyakazinga. This will be Akagera’s most luxurious accommodation.
The lodge promises the same level of service Wilderness Safaris is known for as well as its commitment to conservation. Magashi will operate as a private reserve like the many there are in other African countries and will have exclusive access to the northern part of Akagera National Park which will only be accessible to Magashi guests.
The design of the lodge is similar to other properties in Africa with open tented spaces, beautiful rooms blending in an African foundation with modern touches and Wilderness touches and it looks fantastic.
One&Only Nyungwe House, Nyungwe Forest
Reopening in 2018 after the renovation of a lodge that initially opened in 2010, Nyungwe House is located in the tea plantations of Gisakura, on the edge of the iconic Nyungwe National Park near the border with Burundi.
Although the lodge is quite far from Kigali (5+ hours drive) you can also fly to the nearby domestic airport or take the helicopter to the lodge’s helipad.
One&Only Nyungwe House will have less than 15 rooms set with a tea plantation colonial air all with outdoor decks, views over the forest and wildlife and open fireplaces.
Prices start from $595 for a 1 bedroom room (sleeps 2) or $2,288 for a 2 bedroom Forest Suite (sleeps 4).
Lake Kivu Serena, Lake Kivu
After all the national parks you may want to have some relaxation time by the waters of Lake Kivu and the Serena Hotel might just be the best option available.
Lake Kivu Serena feels and looks as if going back in time. Since Gisenyi, where the hotel is located, is right on the border with the DRC and French is a widely spoken language in the area, the hotel’s signs and menus are all in French.
Look out for the large pool and a not-so-inviting beach with sun loungers. The hotel’s colonial feel reminded me a lot of the Raffles Singapore and everything seems to happen at a slower laid-back pace.
I would rate the Serena as a four star because some parts of the hotel felt very dated and the common areas are a bit old but it is still the best option in Gisenyi.
The rooms are comfortable, with that same Serena look, thick carpets and all the amenities you need and the food offering is quite decent, breakfast being a highlight. Make sure to take a walk on the beach in the weekends when the locals descend for a swim, a game of football and lots of exercise. You can also walk to the border with Goma which takes about 20min along a residential area lined with mansions.
The Lake Kivu Serena has packages to climb Nyiragongo in the DRC and can help you arrange everything in advance.
Prices start from $185 for a Superior or Family Room and $325 for an Executive Suite.
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