Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel: Our full report
Opened in 2011, Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel is a short drive off the main road, on top of a steep hill.From its hilltop vantage point, Top View has beautiful views across the neighbouring forest and tea plantations, and its proximity to the headquarters of Nyungwe Forest National Park makes it is a good base for trekking to see the chimpanzees and exploring the forest.
The main areas at Nyungwe Top View are housed in a large, two-tiered ‘rondavel’ with a phenomenally high roof. Although a rondavel is usually a traditionally built round house, this building offers a rather more modern take on the theme. The ground floor, where you will find the reception, is sparsely furnished with a few modern angular sofas and walls adorned with traditional Rwandan murals. Circular wicker lights hang from the ceiling and dark tiled stairs lead up to a mezzanine balcony.
It is on this second level that you will find the dining area, with tables and chairs set on a rather out-of-place black-tiled floor, and a sweeping veranda with wooden tables and chairs. The views from here are stunning and on clear days you can even see Lake Kivu and the volcanoes of the Congo beyond. There is also a bar on this level made almost entirely from bottle tops, giving it a bright, very kitsch look. It really was a piece of art – almost Art Deco – and probably our favourite part of the hotel.
Glass doors at the front of the rondavel open onto a beautifully kept lawn. This is surrounded by a low hedge, and when we stayed here in May 2017, we were pleased to see that the plants had matured nicely since our previous visit.
The 12 red-brick cottages at Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel are ranged in two rows, one on each side of the rondavel, along two sides of the lawn. Every cottage houses a bedroom, a small lounge area at the front, with terracotta-tiled floors, a sofa, chair and coffee table, and a fireplace. Although the furniture is different in every cottage, it is angular and modern throughout, and not of great quality. Even the colourful new sofas and curtains felt a bit mismatched and the rooms lacked a cohesive design. It also appeared to us that some cottages had been finished to a higher standard than others.
The bedrooms are quite sparse, furnished only with a double, twin or triple beds, a chest of drawers and hanging space for clothes, but they have plenty of space and were spotlessly clean. African patterned throws cover the beds and there is traditional Rwandan ‘imigorigo’ artwork on the walls. There are no fans or air con but the team here will put hot-water bottles in your beds on cooler nights.
The tiled bathrooms each have a sink, toilet and shower and some also have baths, with towels and toiletries provided. Although the bathrooms looked attractive with their individual colour schemes, cracks were already starting to appear when we last visited and they lacked attention to detail.
As at any other lodge in this area, activities from Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel focus on those offered by Nyungwe Forest National Park, which is home to a high diversity of wildlife, including 13 species of primates and 37 endemic birds. Your private driver (included as part of virtually all our trips here) will be on hand to take you to the park headquarters, just 3km away, to start each activity. These include looking for one of the habituated chimpanzee groups; trekking in search of Ruwenzori colobus monkeys; or going on one of many nature walks the forest has to offer. More adventurous travellers may like to try their hand at the high canopy walk!
At first glance, Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel looks quite smart, but on closer inspection it is a little scruffy. The furniture may be modern but it's a mish-mash of design, and is quite cheaply made. And we were pretty disappointed with the food. Yet regardless of the hotel's imperfections we thought the location was great and it is certainly comfortable enough, offering relatively good value. Indeed, the slight scruffiness and the odd mix of styles is rather endearing. In addition, the staff try really hard and we'd expect the friendly atmosphere and welcoming service to add enormously to the overall experience.
- Nyungwe Forest National Park, Rwanda
- Ideal length of stay
- We would recommend at least two nights at Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel, though three would be better. Then you would have time to sample a number of the activities here, such as trekking to see the colobus monkeys and chimpanzees, birding walks and the high canopy walk.
- Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel is a five-hour drive from Kigali on relatively good tarmac roads, until the final five minutes up a steep track to the hotel.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board
- Food quality
- On our most recent visit to Nyungwe Top View Hotel, in May 2017, the menu was quite simple, and sometimes disappointing. If the food is unlikely to be winning culinary awards any time soon, it would probably be acceptable for a two- to three-night stay.
Breakfast is served throughout the morning with cereals, fruit and toast available along with fruit juice, and a selection of teas and coffee. Guests may also order a full English breakfast with eggs (at extra cost) cooked to their liking. The hotel can provide a packed breakfast if you are leaving early in the morning.
Lunch is three courses, from an à la carte menu. We tucked in to a Greek salad, followed by a creamy chicken curry with saffron rice and green vegetables; dessert was a tropical fruit salad.
Dinner is typically served as a buffet, but if there are only a few guests this may be à la carte. The starter is normally soup, with the buffet featuring a range of hot dishes such as meat stews, vegetarian dishes, fish, rice and a selection of vegetables and potatoes. We had pumpkin soup followed by beef stew accompanied by steamed butternut squash, roast potatoes and green beans. For dessert, our chocolate ‘pudding’ turned out to be just a bowl of chocolate-flavoured custard.
- Close to the Nyungwe Forest, Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel is an excellent spot for walking in Rwanda. Trek to see habituated chimpanzees and colobus monkeys; explore the treetops high up in the canopy walk; or go on nature walks to find hidden waterfalls.
- See ideas for Walking
- Attitude towards children
- Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel is happy to accept children of any age.
- Property’s age restrictions
- The hotel has no age restrictions, but children must be at least 15 years old to take part in most of the primate-focused activities in Nyungwe Forest.
- Special activities & services
- The hotel can offer a triple room on request, but does not have any additional facilities for children.
- Generally recommended for children
- Nyungwe Top View Hill would be fine for older children who are able to make the most of the activities that the area offers.
- There are some quite steep sections of hillside in front of the cottages so parents should keep a close eye on their children at all times.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Nyungwe Top View Hill
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- Power supply notes
- There is a back-up generator in case of emergencies.
It is possible to charge batteries in the rooms. The sockets have two European-style round pins, but the hotel can provide adaptors on request.
- There is WiFi in the central area, although this can be fairly slow. The hotel plans to install phones in all cottages, however this is not yet in place.
- TV & radio
- There is no TV or radio at Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- All water comes from the forest itself. Whilst this is fine for brushing your teeth, bottled water is provided in all rooms.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- The nearest medical service is at Kibogora Hospital, 10km from the hotel. There is a first-aid box at the hotel and we were told that a team member was also trained in first aid.
- Dangerous animals
- Low Risk
- Security measures
- There are security guards dotted around the property day and night, and there are safes in half of the cottages. Guests staying in cottages without safes may leave valuables with the manager who can lock them away.
- Fire safety
- Fire extinguishers are positioned by every cottage and around the main areas. Some members of staff are trained to use them. We would advise travellers against having the log fires lit as there are currently no carbon monoxide detectors in the rooms.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- Not Possible
- Laundry facilities
- Laundry is washed and dried by machine. We felt this service was fairly expensive at around US$4–5 per item.
- The hotel will exchange currency in US dollars, euros and British pounds, using the bank's rate of the day.
- Accepted payment on location
- Nyungwe Top View Hill Hotel will accept cash in Rwandan francs, US dollars, euros and British pounds. They also accept all major debit and credit cards, with the exception of American Express.
Other lodges in Nyungwe Forest National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.