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“On Top of the World in Rwanda!” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Virunga Lodge

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Virunga Lodge
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Lake Bulera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda   |  
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Certificate of Excellence 2014
Toronto, Canada
Top Contributor
52 reviews 52 reviews
23 hotel reviews
Reviews in 25 cities Reviews in 25 cities
52 helpful votes 52 helpful votes
“On Top of the World in Rwanda!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 16, 2013

This is a very unique property! Most people that stay here are going on a gorilla tracking tour, an this is the best place to stay. Priced around $600 a night, it is quite exclusive for Rwanda. The views all around the property are dramatic, with 3 volcanoes on one side and lakes and islands on the other. They have made good use of this fact with numerous places to sit and relax to enjoy the gorgeous scenery.
Everyone gets their own cabin, and each cabin has its own amazing view of one side or the other.
There is no electricity at this property, and guests are supplied with lamps, candles and flashlights. It has some luxurious elements, so this hasn't stopped anyone from staying there! There is a central area in reception for recharging all your stuff.
We had a very early start that was necessary for gorilla tracking, and my favourite part was at 4:30 AM when a fellow came to my door with fresh coffee and cookies as my wake-up call!
It is really quite beautiful here, and the rustic appearance created by the stone and wood make it seem much older than it is. (built around 2002.)
The main reception lodge is a terrific place with comfortable seating to get to know other guests. The dining room is one huge table with meals served family style - so quaint!
VERY unique!

Room Tip: All cabins have incredible views, and they all require a lot of walking up and down slight inclines...
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  • Stayed May 2013, traveled on business
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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165 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (41)
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • German first
  • Portuguese first
  • Any
English first
Cape Town, South Africa
Senior Contributor
24 reviews 24 reviews
9 hotel reviews
Reviews in 17 cities Reviews in 17 cities
14 helpful votes 14 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed April 29, 2013

Let me start by saying that this is a solar powered eco-lodge and it is advertised to top end travellers. However, if you are expecting the lodge to be of standards you are accustomed when travelling in cities and first world countries, you may be slightly disappointed.

The drive from Kigali took us just under 2.5 hours. The scenery all the way is just beautiful and I enjoyed seeing how well the country is run. The last Saturday of every month, everyone in the country (bar hotels and hospitals) have to tidy up for the morning as community service. As a result, the country is spotless. We were also impressed by how up to the gate of the lodge, all land is utilized and farmed. 85% of Rwandas people live off the land and are subsistance farmers.

Check in was done by David and his team, where they offered us juice, briefed us about the lodge and showed us to our room. We had booked a room a while back so were disappointed to see we had been put into a room with two single beds especially since it was my husbands birthday and I had requested the trip be made special for him. After discussing it with the staff, we were told we would be moved the next day once the lodge had emptied.

The rooms are rustic and pretty basic and the views are to die for, I mean truly breathtaking. The view from our room was of the lake and during full moon was magnificent. Downside, the room was very muggy and the towels smelt bad but it's because it is quite damp and I think drying them would be difficult. The beds are great. Extra length which for a tall husband is something quite unexpected all the way in the bush. We also appreciated the hot water bottle in our beds when we retired later that evening.

Once settled we were told to meet for dinner at 7pm. The dinner is served with everyone staying at the lodge at one main table and it was a nice opportunity to meet people from all over the world. The food was enjoyable and more like home cooking. Great portion size and rustic.
I asked the waiter to do something for my husbands birthday and was pleasantly surprised by a cake and all the staff who came in to wish him and another visitor a happy birthday. Nice touch.

We spent two nights at the lodge and trekked the gorillas twice. The lodge packed us a snack box which was great because what was supposed to be an easy walk for us, landed us walking for 5 hours, mostly vertically through stinging nettles etc and by the time we needed a break, we were starving! Spending time with gorillas was worth the walk and will be an experience I will always remember!! It's truly very special. I would suggest to fellow travellers to :
Not only wear trekking gear, wear two pairs. Pants and waterproofs over your pants as stinging nettles still get you with normal pants and top. Gators or Wellington boots are a must, it's muddy and especially in wet season, it's a no brainer to use wellington boots like the trackers. Use a porter, they pull you up that mountain, carry your goods and help you down. My porter was a gem and more than helping me, by using a porter, you help the community. That one porter supports his whole family on the $10 it will cost you. Take cash to tip the trackers as well as your guide. I would also advise packing snack bars and other nibbles to keep you going.

The Lodge-

The positives: Comfortable lodge, fabulous views, a diverse group of travellers and opportunity to meet other people, good food, spacious rooms and warm and friendly staff.

The negatives: No visible management and service was pretty average. The small things that one expects at a lodge of this calibre were missing : e.g. Us having to ask for drinks on several occasions when there were plenty staff around, having to ask for a fire to be made in a freezing room and for it to be topped up with wood when it burnt down etc Also, staff have no concept of how noisy they can be and several other guests commented on how they were woken with the men leaving late at night and coming in early in the mornings talking really loudly. Not all guests wake up early to trek the gorillas so it's logical to have staff try enter and leave quietly. We asked after the first night for this to be mentioned to the people who walked past our room, but it didn't change and the noise was quite invasive.

Overall, we enjoyed our stay. This lodge could be really amazing, we found it enjoyable. Everyone who works at the lodge are warm and friendly and the finer points which we found lacking would not deter us from returning in the future.

Room Tip: As always, I ask for a quiet room away from the main entrance and main lodge. This usually ensures...
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  • Stayed April 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Moshi, Tanzania
Contributor
13 reviews 13 reviews
11 hotel reviews
Reviews in 10 cities Reviews in 10 cities
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 18, 2013

I stayed here with a couple of friends for what was originally only one night, but we liked it so much we stayed another. The rooms are beautifully done, not over-done, but very tasteful, with everything you'd need and no extra tat. The bed is huge, extremely comfortable, and the staff will get it ready for you before you go to bed, with a couple of hot water bottles in there to keep it warm. A nice touch, as it can be quite cold and, being an eco-lodge, there is no heating.

The main area is very nicely done with a small bar and outstanding staff who are not over-bearing, but easy to ask for things. Every evening a small snack is provided and it is so nice to sit by the fire, either indoors or on the terrace, and chat with others or enjoy a drink. The chef comes round to ask you what you want for lunch and dinner and dinner is served in the dining room, with the other guests, which we quite liked. The food is not pretentious and the portions are generous, which suits perfectly after an afternoon of hiking up a volcano. Breakfast is served with a brilliant view of Lake Bulera.

One of the staff, Dieudonne, a young Rwandan, took us town to the lake to go on a little boat trip. He was excellent, with very good English and interested in where we were from in a genuine way, and eager to discuss his country, his life and his opinions. The lake was beautiful to swim in. Apparently not many people do this, but we'd highly recommend it!

Our favourite part of our stay was sitting on the terrace playing scrabble, with the volcanoes and the plain laid out in front of us. All in all, we loved this place and would happily return.

  • Stayed April 2013, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Santa Barbara, California
Senior Contributor
30 reviews 30 reviews
11 hotel reviews
Reviews in 17 cities Reviews in 17 cities
20 helpful votes 20 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed April 9, 2013

Virunga was the third of the Volcanoes lodges we visited and it's as good as the two in Uganda. The mountain and lake views from the main lodge and the individual accommodations are spectacular. At this solar-powered Eco-lodge, we experienced comfortable, spacious rooms, accommodating and efficient staff, and very good food served family style. After a gorilla trek, it was nice to relax with a massage, enjoy a drink while appreciating the magnificent surroundings, and warm up before dinner in front of the fire in the main lodge. Everything (massage, food, drink, laundry, boot cleaning, local entertainment, Internet) is included and there were no extras. It's a bit difficult to get to on what seemed like a five-mile bumpy dirt road, but once you arrive, it's all relaxation and enjoyment.

Room Tip: All the individual cottage rooms are away from the main lodge/dining area, which is lovely for priva...
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  • Stayed March 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Singapore, Singapore
Top Contributor
67 reviews 67 reviews
53 hotel reviews
Reviews in 54 cities Reviews in 54 cities
113 helpful votes 113 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed April 2, 2013

We stayed here in Feb to see the gorillas. We had no airport pick up when we arrived at 5am in darkness at Kigali airport but we think this was the local agent, not the lodge. When we finally arrived at the lodge, the view was spectacular and the lodge had the potential to be amazing too. The rooms were spacious and rustic, which suited the environment perfectly. The staff were friendly and very relaxed. Food was simple, home style cooking - nothing too elaborate or fancy and absolutely no complaints - delicious and hearty. Overall, we enjoyed our stay - this style of lodge and their service is not super polished compared to other lodges in Africa at a similar price point. The approach here is far more relaxed and the staff are happy to leave you in your own space without being over-bearing yet always happy to help, if asked.

The gorillas were the highlight of the trip. It is recommended to ask the lodge for gators as the mountains can get quite muddy so this helped to keep the pants dry as well as keep the ants from crawling up your legs and biting you! Also, think about taking gloves for the stinging nettles. We opted for the easy to medium walk and we were able to see the gorillas within 90 mins. We heard stories of more difficult (and painful) walks with loads of stinging nettles and challenging paths. We were happy we opted for the easy / medium walk.

Highly recommend to book two days with the gorillas to see different groups and also our 2nd day sighting was so much better than the first - we saw the baby twin gorillas on our 2nd visit and they are rare so it was more than worth it!

  • Stayed February 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
UK
Top Contributor
128 reviews 128 reviews
48 hotel reviews
Reviews in 62 cities Reviews in 62 cities
132 helpful votes 132 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 13, 2013

I didn't want to go to see the gorillas but I am glad I did even though it was hard work. The icing on the gorilla cake was Virunga Lodge. 3 nights in a nice room with a comfy bed and a hot water bottle. Laundry taken care of - boots cleaned and polished. They very quickly got the hang of a negroni and my cocktail was always ready for me. The food was good and tasty if not 3 Michelin Rosettes. The views from almost anywhere on the property took your breath away and the bird song was wonderful. The staff is well-trained and do an excellent job. The only thing that bothered our female member was the lack of a hair-dryer. A quick polish and my coiffure was finished.
The locals did a traditional dance for us - something i wouldn't normally get excited about but this was such a happy, innocent and exciting event I did. If you get the chance get one of the lads to take you birding around the lodge.
The lodge cat adopted us and came and sat on my bed but it wasn't true love he was off to another couple the next day.

Room Tip: No need - you might just want to sit on your terrace and enjoy the view BUT DON'T there are even...
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  • Stayed February 2013, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Los Angeles
Top Contributor
98 reviews 98 reviews
59 hotel reviews
Reviews in 73 cities Reviews in 73 cities
115 helpful votes 115 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 3, 2013

The lodge is set high up overlooking volcanoes and crater lakes, with wonderful views in all directions. The high elevation makes the uphill walk from the rooms to the dining area a little taxing. The staff must be used to guests being winded because they make an effort to prevent you from having to carry anything at all.

The rooms are comfortable, tending to be on the cool side, but hot water bottles are provided at night. Water is heated with solar energy, so best to take a shower late in the day. There is no electricity from about 11PM to 4 AM, flashlights and lamps are provided for use in the room.

Food was okay, treats (cakes and other nibbles) were very good. A fire keeps the main meeting area warm with enough seating to allow one to be as close or distant from the fire as one would like.

The Intori cultural dance troop can be arrange a show which takes place in a fantastic setting on top of a hill. It's about a 45 minute drive to the briefing area for gorilla and golden monkey treks.

There is a nice, easy walk on the grounds that affords views of the lakes with seating areas, or one can be accompanied by staff on a walk through the village to the local school.

  • Stayed February 2013, traveled solo
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Virunga Lodge

Address: Lake Bulera, Ruhengeri, Rwanda
Phone Number:
Location: Rwanda > Northern Province > Ruhengeri
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast
Hotel Style:
Ranked #3 of 8 Specialty Lodging in Ruhengeri
Number of rooms: 8
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
In a spectacular location overlooking the Virunga volcanoes and shimmering lakes Ruhondo and Bulera.The magnificent Virunga Safari Lodge, set on a stunning hillside, has eight bandas with a panoramic view of the Virunga volcanoes and the lakes Ruhondo and Bulera. The terraced gardens on this high ridge are now well established, with a magical sunken paradise garden as their focal point. Aside from gorilla tracking , clients can climb a volcano, track the golden monkey, visit Dian Fossey's grave or go for gentle strolls around the picturesque villages near the lakes. Three hours' drive from Kigali or a long day's drive from Kampala. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Virunga Hotel Ruhengeri
Virunga Lodge Rwanda/Ruhengeri

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