Virunga Lodge: Our full report
About a 50 minute drive from the headquarters of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, Virunga Lodge certainly ...... has one of the most spectacular locations of any camp in Africa – high on a ridge overlooking the twin lakes of Lake Burera and Lake Ruhondo.
The lodge has ten spacious stone rooms – eight standard rooms and two ‘deluxe’ rooms – each named after an African lake. They have a rustic design with a neutral colour scheme, and have been finished to a high standard. All have wooden floors, chunky wooden furniture, large verandas and a fireplace to keep you warm in the evening. the spacious en-suite bathrooms have flushing toilets, twin sinks and walk-in showers. The ‘deluxe’ rooms are a little larger than the standard rooms, and each has an adjoining lounge with a number of comfy sofas.
The communal areas of Virunga Lodge are set at the top of the hill. Here you’ll find a cosy lounge with sofas, coffee tables and bookshelves arranged around a central stone fireplace. There’s a bar in one corner, with friendly staff on hand to serve you a drink. The adjacent spacious dining area houses a large wooden dining table with guests coming together in the evenings to share a meal.
One of the newer additions to Virunga Lodge is the Dian Fossey Map Room. This is a light, airy space with lots of windows giving panoramic views of Lake Ruhondo and the volcanoes beyond. The room was built in tribute to Dian Fossey, who was instrumental in establishing the gorilla conservation and research programme in the Virungas. The walls are covered in prints featuring old maps, famous explorers and gorilla conservationists. The map room functions as a second lounge, and is a great place to relax and take in the afternoon sun.
Activities from Virunga Lodge focus on gorilla trekking, although guests should be aware that it’s a good 50 minute drive from the national park headquarters. Typically, you’ll spend your first day acclimatising, and taking a fairly gentle hike to the golden monkeys. On the following day or two, you’ll do a more strenuous hike to see gorillas – you will usually be able to see two different groups of them over two days.
Back at the lodge, there is a small spa, and all guests can enjoy a complimentary 30-minute massage during their stay, which after a full morning in the mountains is a welcome treat. In addition, a local Intore dance troupe performs regularly in the beautiful terraced gardens. It is also possible to arrange a visit to one of the local villages or to go on a guided walk along the shore of Lake Burera.
Virunga Lodge has some good eco-credentials, and aims to minimise its impact on the local environment as much as possible. Much of the electricity comes from solar panels, and rainwater is collected during the heavy rains. The lodge is highly involved in the local community, and supports a number of charitable projects in the area. These include starting up a bee-keeping project, a mushroom growing project, and they also support a local Intore dance troupe.
Note that Virunga Lodge is located up a very steep access road.
Virunga Lodge is an excellent lodge offering a good level of luxury and stunning views. Although it is slightly further away from the park headquarters than most other lodges around the Volcanoes National Park, we feel that its rustic charm and picturesque location helps to sets it apart, and it is more reasonably priced than some of its luxury competitors.
- Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
- Ideal length of stay
- Stay for four nights to have three full days in this area.
- Virunga Lodge is approximately a three-hour drive north from Kigali.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board
- Food quality
- We did not eat at Virunga Lodge on our most recent visit in 2019, but we understand that the menu is fairly international in style.
Dinner is a three-course meal. When we visited they were serving starters of French onion soup or smoked salmon paté. Main courses included marinated pork medallions, marinated paneer and vegetable skewers, and a ‘taste of Rwanda platter’. Dessert was warm chocolate and cashew brownies with homemade ice cream.
- Virunga Lodge is one of the top lodges in the area around Volcanoes National Park and certainly has the most spectacular views. Walks along the lakeshore or in the nearby villages are an interesting activity when you are not hiking to see primates in the park.
- See ideas for Walking
- From Virunga Lodge’s stone terrace with comfortable rattan furniture you’ll get miraculous views towards Lake Burera and Lake Ruhondo. A central fireplace with locally crafted furniture and colourful cushions invite guests to relax and unwind during their luxury holiday.
- See ideas for Luxury
- Attitude towards children
- Virunga Lodge does not accept children in the high season between July and November.
- Property’s age restrictions
- No children under 16
- Special activities & services
- Generally recommended for children
- Virunga Lodge generally has an adult atmosphere, and children are accepted only during the low season, between December and June.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Virunga Lodge
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Virunga Lodge 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.
- There is WiFi in the central area.
- TV & radio
- There is no TV at Virunga Lodge
- Water supply
Equally protecting communities and wildlife
A stay in one of Virunga’s 10 luxury bandas is a unique chance to relax in the first lodge built near the gorilla park after the war in Rwanda. Staying true to its roots, Virunga is deeply involved in protecting the endangered mountain gorilla, and is now the only luxury lodge to offer tourists the opportunity to join in their efforts in tracking these animals. Carefully designed to minimize the possibility of humans passing on diseases to the animals, the lodge only carries out the activity with a maximum of 8 people at once, and requires them to keep a distance of 7m from the gorillas.
Simultaneously, Virunga Lodge is an active supporter of the local community’s wellbeing. Perhaps the most relevant example is the ‘One Sheep per Family’ project with the goal of providing each of the 140 families in the Sunzu community with one sheep. To work effectively, the lodge has divided the locals in 14 groups, and allocated 9 females and one male to each group, which in time led to genetic diversity. The project is beneficial for reaching a self-supporting community, as sheep can be a source of food, and lambs can be sold for an extra income for the family.
The goal of the project was reached in May 2017, and is now being replicated in the nearby village. Tourists have the possibility to support the project by donating $40 – the equivalent of one sheep, and help support the neighboring Bugeyo community.
See more great sustainability projects in Rwanda
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- Staff are first-aid trained, and there is a hospital an hour’s drive away in Ruhengeri.
- Dangerous animals
- Moderate Risk
- Security measures
- There is 24-hour security around the lodge.
- Fire safety
- Fire extinguishers are found in all areas.
- Disabled access
- Not Possible
- Laundry facilities
- Laundry is included.
- There is a safe in the main office.
- Accepted payment on location
- Virunga Lodge accepts US dollars, Rwandan francs, euros and GB pounds. They also accept major credit and debit cards, including American Express, although there is a 3% surcharge on credit cards.
Other lodges in Volcanoes National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.