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what are the best hotel booking websites?

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Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel conteststipsseries, or news.

Today (November 23, 2018): Travel tip: what are the best hotel booking websites?

We all want a bargain, but which are the best hotel booking sites online? The ones where you really will get cheaper room rates so that you can book the same hotel for less or with extra benefits such as free breakfasts, room upgrades and so forth? I have selected the eleven best hotel booking websites to ensure you get a great deal on your next trip away.


Club1Hotels

Club1Hotels are a relatively unknown Luxury Hotel Club based in Chicago. They tend to offer the very cheapest way to book 4, 4.5 and 5-star hotels. You should certainly join Club1Hotels for free and always check rates with them before finally making your booking. Here are some examples of the savings that you can make with Club1Hotels over other travel websites:

  • 6 nights 23-29 Dec at Rafayel On Left Bank London is $808.04 USD on Club1Hotels. The same stay on the same rates for the same room and rate is $1,039 USD on Booking.com.
  • 6 nights 23-29 Dec at Bellagio Las Vegas is $1105.51 USD on Club1Hotels. The same stay on the same rates for the same room and rate is $1,597.19 USD on Booking.com.

They also have an interesting Best Rate Guarantee. They say they will guarantee you’ll get the best price per night, by a margin of at least $20 USD on four-star hotels and $25 USD per night on five-star hotels, if you find a better refundable or non-refundable rate before booking. Simply send it to memberservices@club1hotels.com and they’ll beat it by $20 or $25 USD per night.

Pros: Their inventory includes pretty much every 4 and 5-star hotel in the world and particularly for refundable rates, they tend to be significantly cheaper.

Cons: Fees are added on the last page which can make searching for rates confusing. For non-refundable rates they are sometimes the cheapest and but sometimes not, so do shop around and take advantage of their Best Rate Guarantee to ensure that you get the very best price.


Virtuoso

Virtuoso is not your classic hotel booking website. It’s the industry’s leading network of luxury travel advisors, spanning over 26 countries and 9,000 travel advisors. When you book your holiday with Virtuoso, most of the time, you will be in touch with a Virtuoso travel agent and not make the booking online yourself. But there are some Virtuoso travel agencies though that offer an online booking tool, and my preferred one is New York based Classic Travel, which has an excellent website and offers terrific service. Here’s why I like Virtuoso so much:

  • The single best reason to book a stay through a Virtuoso travel agent is that it means value for money as it will get you access to special, complimentary VIP amenities and perks, such as room upgrade, free dinners, spa treatments and/or unique luxury travel experiences. You pay the same as you would by booking directly on the hotel website, but you have the added advantage of all these extra perks.
  • Virtuoso networks with the world’s most luxurious hotels & resorts, most of them belonging to the portfolio of the world’s most exclusive hotel brands, such as Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, Rosewood, and Soneva to name a few.
  • The advantage of booking through Virtuoso is particularly evident when staying at an Aman property, the world’s top hotel chain. In line with Aman’s hyper-exclusive and ultra-luxurious reputation, you will never find a lower rate than the one published on the official Aman website. But booking through a Virtuoso travel agent rather than on the Aman website itself will get you some free, extra perks (often worth hundreds of dollars). So if you are an Aman junkie, like me, then Virtuoso is the way to go.

Pros: Virtuoso agents offer great value for money with hundreds of dollars worth of free benefits & perks.

Cons: Virtuoso does not have a loyalty program, nor does it offer the cheapest room rates in the industry or match a lower price found somewhere else. 


Amex Finest Hotels & Resorts

When you own an American Express credit card, you can book almost any luxury hotel via Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts. This will offer you the same benefits as when you book via a Virtuoso travel agent. The difference being, if you book via a Virtuoso you don’t need the relevant credit card.

Pros: All bookings get hundreds of dollars worth of free benefits & perks.

Cons: Amex Finest Hotels & Resorts does not have a loyalty program, nor does it offer the cheapest room rates in the industry or match a lower price found somewhere else. 


Luxury Travel Diary Travel Auctions

You simply will not beat the prices of the Luxury Travel Diary Travel auctions. Usually stays sell for 30-60% of their actual price. If you bag a stay at the 30% end you will have one of the best bargains on the internet! The concept for these auctions is pretty simple. The website, Luxury Travel Diary, has a close relationship with each of the hotels that they feature and they auction rooms at these hotels with no reserve! This means that you can pick up an absolute steal. With 100 items to choose from, there is plenty of choice.

The only issue with these auctions is that there is not always a stay in the destination you are planning to travel to, so whilst they are undoubtedly a bargain, you will need to keep a constant eye on them to spot the stays in your planned destination of travel, as and when they get loaded in. One way to keep on top of what is available with minimal effort is to sign up for their email newsletter which will keep you up to date with their latest auctions just before they end.

Pros: They call themselves the best-kept secret in luxury travel and you won’t beat the prices that these auction stays sell for.

Cons: There are only around 100 items live at any one time, so there will not always be a stay in the destination that you want to travel to. If you join their newsletter at the bottom of their auction pages, you will be kept up to date with the latest auction items just before they end.


Booking.Com

Booking.com is one of the best and most well-known sites to search for properties. It’s easy interface means that searching for a property is quick and effortless. From cosy cottages to downtown studios, and from Santorini to New York, the choices are endless and Booking.com will have you covered. Booking.com often comes in cheaper than other hotel websites so should always be checked, but this is not always the case, so once again, maybe sure you check booking.com, trivago and Club1hotels before you finally make your booking, just to be sure that you are getting the best price. One nice thing about booking.com is that their search engine displays rooms and properties that include taxes, which means an honest booking and no hidden costs.

Pros: Loads of properties, plenty of filters to choose from to narrow down your search, and the website offers some of the lowest rates making it an essential to check before finally booking.

Cons: Booking.com has no ‘near by’ filter, no best rate guarantee and no loyalty program.


Trivago

Trivago is a hotel aggregator with an easy to use interface comparing hotel prices from lots of different websites. The problem with Trivago is that the array of websites that it selects hotel prices from does not include every hotel website on the internet. It also does not take into account offers such as extra loyalty points or cash back, even though it claims draw prices from 250 websites.

Bottom line, it is not always cheaper. Yes, a lot of people use Trivago as it is so heavily advertised, but their algorithms do not always bring up the cheapest hotel price. Perhaps they should spend less on their (rather annoying) adverts and more on the tech behind their engine to ensure that their prices actually are the best. That said, they are good to use as a comparison and to get a general idea of what price you should be paying. It is then wise to shop around on the websites above to be sure to get the best price.

Pros: Easy to use.

Cons: Often the prices are not the best.


HotelsCombined

HotelsCombined offers many filters specified on property type, for example, the hotel features, theme and whether you would prefer a boutique or a chain. The site lacks any sort of filters that define the location you would like to stay in, with the main focus of the filters suited toward a property. This is great if you know the type of hotel you want to stay in, but a disadvantage if you want to clarify a location. The layout of the website is easy to use, however prices from the third-party site tend to be higher than what is displayed on HotelsCombined, which can be misleading and sometimes a time waste, especially if you want to get the best deal and are in the rush.

Pros: Occasionally finds lower prices direct from the hotel, competing prices are displayed for each property.

Cons: Costs of hotels can be misleading, the ability to eliminate hotels from a search has gone, lacks some specific location filters.


Priceline

Similar to Hotwire, Priceline gives you the ability to proceed with a ‘blind booking’, meaning that you can save anywhere between 18-60% – you do not get the name of the hotel until after you have paid, only the knowledge of the location you’re staying in, and the star rating of the hotel. This can be a spontaneous way of saving money, and also traveling. Up against Expedia, Hotwire and Hotels.com, Priceline is one the best in terms of finding the most accommodation in city centres. Priceline also offers the ability to search for cruises, whereas other sites only offer hotel and flight bundles.

Pros: Save between 18-60% with a blind booking, plenty of options to choose from if you are planning to stay in a city centre, cruise search available.

Cons: No specified ‘accommodation’ type filters, average on the finding the lowest price. Often, you don’t know which hotel you are staying in!


Hotwire

Prices on the Hotwire are neither the best of the worst, and overall the search engine can be quite mediocre in terms of the use of filters. However, you can save up to a huge 60% with Hotwire’s ‘Hot Rate’ service. You can specify either a neighbourhood or star rating when booking, but do not receive the name of the hotel that has been chosen for you until after you have paid. In comparison to Expedia, both sites have almost the same search results, but can occasionally differ. Hotwire mainly caters toward city stays in the USA, so you may find some difficulty trying to search for a property internationally.

Pros: Blind bookings means that you are able to save up to 60%.

Cons: Restricted filters, which means less specified search.


Expedia

Mirroring the same search results as Travelocity.com and Orbtiz.com. Results remain average and Expedia doesn’t really find the best or the worst prices. Expedia offers a loyalty scheme, which, for those of you who enjoying earning points may seem like something worthwhile. You get 1 point for every £1 spent on hotels, for flight and hotel packages you receive 2 points, which can be exchanged for cashback. However, their rate is low which means you wouldn’t get much back. For example, 700 points would mean receiving £5 back, so £700 spent on a hotel gets just £5 cashback which is hardly worth it. Their reward scheme is split into tiers of being blue, silver and gold, and you move through the status level depending on how much money you spend, and not the points that you’ve earned. Initially, you would have to spend more to receive more money off.

Pros: Rarely found the worst prices. Combined flight and hotel deals are sometimes better than other sites.

Cons: Loyalty scheme not worthwhile, can fail to find the lowest rate in comparison to other sites, you can only select one filter at a time.


Hotels.com

Hotels.com – part of Expedia – is my overall preferred hotel engine booking website, mainly because of the following reasons:

  • Hotels.com allows payment in your own currency (the choice of currency can be adjusted at the top of the website). As such, you avoid paying the sometimes heavy foreign currency taxes (up to 3%) that come with most credit cards (a hidden cost that many are not aware of).
  • Hotels.com has almost permanently discount coupons available (subscribe to their newsletter or simply search for them on google). Discounts on hotel bookings vary from 10% (most of the time) to a rare 15%. Unfortunately, almost all of the world’s most luxurious hotel brands are excluded from the list of hotels for which you can use a discount coupon. However, surprisingly, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts is the only ultra-luxurious hotel brand that is most of the time eligible for discount coupons on Hotels.com (almost guaranteeing you a 10% discount on every Four Seasons booking).
  • They have a simple but excellent loyalty program, called “Welcome Rewards”. When you book and stay 10 nights at eligible hotels, you’ll get 1 night free to redeem at another. Hotels.com works out the average value of all the 10 nights you’ve collected and gives it back to you as a free night. Unfortunately, hotels stays that are booked using a discount coupon do not count towards the Welcome Rewards program.
  • At first, you may think it does not matter to participate to the Welcome Rewards program: one night free for every 10 hotel stays is identical as applying a 10% discount for every hotel booking (since coupons are widely available anyway). But, contrary to the ordinary 10% discount coupons, the coupon(s) you receive through the Welcome Rewards program (after accomplishing 10 eligible nights) can be used for big discounts at almost all hotel chains, including the world’s most exclusive hotel brands. This is especially a lucrative business when you use Hotels.com for both company & leisure travel: you collect Welcome Rewards coupons through business stays, while you spend them on personal travel.
  • Hotels.com also has an excellent Best Rate Guarantee  program: If you find a cheaper price, Hotels.com will match that rate (and refund you the difference). And finding that cheaper price is not difficult nor time-consuming at all: just use the aggregator websites Hotelscombined and Trivago, which both verify hotel prices at hundreds of other sites (e.g. Expedia, Bookers, Otel.comHotels.comHotelopia.com, Booking.com, etc…) and show where you can book the cheapest rate. So basically, you always book the lowest price, but have the added advantage of collecting points via the excellent Welcome Rewards program.

Pros: Rarely found the worst prices. Combined flight and hotel deals are sometimes better than other sites. Excellent loyalty program.

Cons: Can fail to find the lowest rate in comparison to other sites, you can only select one filter at a time.


*** Follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook for a daily moment of travel inspiration ***


 





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this month (February 2019) in luxury travel

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Friday newsletters always feature travel conteststipsseries, or news.

Today (February 22, 2019): February 2019 luxury travel news.

Every last Friday of the month, you can read my news round-up of what’s happening in the world of luxury travel. In this issue:

  1. InterContinental Hotels takes over the Six Senses brand
  2. British Airways unveils stunning retro livery
  3. Mandarin Oriental opens an ultraluxe Dubai resort
  4. Air France unveils new A330 Business Class product
  5. Aman announces a new property in Japan
  6. Grand Hyatt New York to be torn down and redeveloped
  7. Boeing is developing a supersonic plane
  8. A Virgin Atlantic plane breaks the speed record (faster than the speed of sound!)
  9. Rosewood announces a resort on the Island of Hawaii
  10. Rosewood Bangkok will open in March 2019
  11. Airbus puts super jumbo A380 out of production
  12. A new ultraluxe resort opens in the Maldives
  13. Air Senegal’s unveils its new A330-900neo Business Class

1. InterContinental Hotels takes over Six Senses

Six Senses – one of my favorite hotel brands in the world – has become part of the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). IHG is one of the world’s leading global hotel companies with a growing number of luxury brands including InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Regent Hotels & Resorts and Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. IHG purchased the award-winning hospitality and wellness company from private equity fund Pegasus Capital Advisors for $300 USD million. The sale includes the management of 16 hotels and resorts, 37 spas and sister companies Evason and Raison d’Etre. Following the acquisition, Six Senses is now expected to grow to 60 hotels within the next 10 year, including a desert hideaway in Israel’s Negev Desert, the transformation of a series of 19th-century mansions in Istanbul and the group’s first project in North America, a contemporary duo of twisting towers designed by Bjarke Ingles located in Manhattan’s West Chelsea neighborhood and along the High Line. Additional projects are currently under way in Austria, Brazil, Mainland China, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan and Thailand. “This is an exciting new era for Six Senses,” said Six Senses Chief Executive Officer Neil Jacobs. “IHG believes in our purpose to merge the two platforms of wellness and sustainability to promote personal health, and the health of the planet. Joining forces with IHG means we can use a wealth of systems and operational excellence to grow our brand and reach new markets without losing our quirky personality and playful touch.”


2. British Airways unveils stunning retro livery

Last Monday, large crowds gathered at Heathrow to watch the much-anticipated arrival of a British Airways Boeing 747 painted in the iconic design of its predecessor British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). The aircraft entered the IAC paint bay at Dublin Airport on February 5 where it was stripped of its current British Airways Chatham Dockyard design before being repainted with the BOAC livery which adorned the BOAC fleet between 1964 and 1974. Alex Cruz, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, said: “The enormous interest we’ve had in this project demonstrates the attachment many people have to British Airways’ history. It’s something we are incredibly proud of, so in our centenary year it’s a pleasure to be celebrating our past while also looking to the future. We look forward to many more exciting moments like this as our other aircraft with heritage designs enter service.” The BOAC livery will remain on the Boeing 747 until it retires in 2023, to allow as many customers as possible to have the chance to see it. By this time, British Airways will have retired the majority of its 747 fleet, replacing them with new state-of-the-art long-haul aircraft. This includes taking delivery of 18 A350s and 12 Boeing 787 Dreamliners in the next four years – which feature new cabins and are more environmentally efficient – as well as another 26 short-haul aircraft, all part of the airline’s £6.5bn investment for customers.


3. Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai is now open

Located in the heart of Dubai, and a stone’s throw from the water’s edge, the new Mandarin Oriental Jumeira is set to bring a new wave of chic design and luxury experiences to the shores of the city. Designed by acclaimed international designer Jeffrey Wilkes, the property features spacious and elegant guest rooms and suites, most with private balconies and terraces, offering pristine ocean views or the dynamic city skyline. Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai has six restaurants and bars, all of which are noteworthy additions to Dubai’s dining scene. The two signature restaurants are Tasca by Portuguese celebrity chef José Avillez and Netsu, a Warayaki-style Japanese steakhouse by Australian-born chef Ross Shonhan. The Spa at Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai takes wellness experiences to another level, with its focus on locally inspired experiences. All nine treatment rooms feature individual changing and bathroom facilities, and some have private terraces overlooking the ocean. This welcoming oasis offers exceptional heat and water experiences, and a range of holistic rejuvenation and relaxation treatments. There is also a state-of-the-art fitness center and a Little Nomads kids’ club with a range of fun activities for younger Mandarin fans.


4. Air France unveils new A330 Business Class product

Completely redesigned, Air France‘s new A330 seats are arranged in a 2-2-2 layout and convert into a lie-flat bed that is 2m (6,6 ft) long and 57.1 cm (22 inch) wide for jet lag-free flying across time zones. Passengers can choose to enjoy greater proximity when they’re traveling with someone or total privacy thanks to a sliding panel separating the seats. The ambient lighting emphasizes the details of the new Business cabin’s decor where leather and the Air France brand’s symbolic accent have pride of place. A brand new, extra-wide HD touch-screen measuring over 18.5 inches offers over 1,400 hours of entertainment. Its intuitive interface comes with a new more user-friendly handset. The toilets, inspired from the cosmetics universe, and the self-service bar in a blue and Champagne color scheme have also been redesigned with customers’ well-being and comfort in mind. Until the end of the winter season, the new A330 Business Class product is available on flights to Accra (Ghana), Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) and Houston (USA). As from the 2019 summer season, the new Airbus A330 will progressively serve Accra (Ghana), Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), Cotonou (Benin), Lagos (Nigeria), Niamey (Niger), Bengaluru and Delhi (India) as well as Seattle, Chicago and Dallas (USA).


5. Aman announces a new property in Japan

Nestled in the verdant foothills of the symbolic mountain of Hidari Daimonji, Aman Kyoto will open in November 2019, representing a place of untold beauty, where small jizo statues sit contentedly among the yamamomiji maples. The resort will combine privacy, relaxation and rejuvenation with the vibrancy of Japan’s ancient Imperial capital, home to 17 Unesco World Heritage Sites. The secluded grounds are part of what was an artistic community that gave rise to the revered Rinpa school of painting some 400 years ago, and are within easy reach of Kyoto’s most important sites, including the stunning golden temple, Kinkakuji. Aman Kyoto’s latticed pavilions will be contemporary homage to the traditional Japanese Ryokan inn, strikingly minimalist in their geometry, and each serving as a window onto their spectacular natural surroundings. The interiors will be spacious and light-filled – ingeniously crafted to foster peace, relaxation and contemplation at every turn. Aman Kyoto’s signature Restaurant in the Dining Pavilion will be a landmark addition to one of Japan’s most celebrated gastronomical regions. The convivial Living Pavilion with its central fireplace and glass doors opening onto an ornate garden terrace will serve home-cooked Kyoto obanzai style cuisine throughout the day. The fresh spring water that flows near Aman Kyoto will be central to the philosophy at the resort’s Aman Spa.


6. Grand Hyatt New York to be torn down and redeveloped

According to the Wall Street Journal, a development group has agreed to buy and tear down the Grand Hyatt New York, the famous glass-sheathed hotel by Grand Central Terminal. TF Cornerstone, a Manhattan developer, and MSD Partners, an investment firm whose clients include Dell Technologies founder Michael Dell and his family, said they plan a new development totaling about 2 million square feet, which will include offices, retail and a scaled-down Grand Hyatt. A hotel has stood on the site of the current property since 1919, when The Commodore Hotel opened. The property was redeveloped by (USA president) Donald Trump and opened as The Grand Hyatt New York in 1980, although Trump is no longer connected to the hotel. The current Grand Hyatt New York will remain open until 2020, and the redevelopment is subject to city and state approval. The plans have been made possible following zoning changes in the area around Grand Central station, to allow for the construction of new skyscrapers.


7. Boeing is developing a supersonic plane

Boeing announced a partnership with Aerion, a  Nevada-based company pioneering next-generation supersonic aircraft. As part of the agreement, Boeing will provide engineering, manufacturing and flight test resources, as well as strategic vertical content, to bring Aerion’s AS2 supersonic business jet to market. The AS2 is designed to fly at speeds up to Mach 1.4 or approximately 1,000 miles per hour. With the ability to fly up to 70 percent faster than today’s business jets, the AS2 will save approximately three hours on a transatlantic flight while meeting environmental performance requirements. The aircraft is slated for its first flight in 2023. Founded in 2003 to develop new, more efficient aerodynamic technologies for supersonic aircraft, Aerion introduced its AS2 12-passenger business jet design in 2014. The company unveiled the AS2’s GE Affinity engine design in 2018. “Aerion is the industry leader mapping out a successful, sustainable return to supersonic flight,” said Tom Vice, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Aerion. “The AS2 is the launch point for the future of regulatory-compliant and efficient supersonic flight. Together with Boeing, we’re creating a faster, more connected future with tremendous possibilities for enhancing humanity’s productivity and potential.”


8. A Virgin Atlantic plane breaks the speed record (faster than the speed of sound!)

According to CBS, the fastest jet stream on record provided a turbo boost to commercial passenger planes flying in an eastbound direction over the USA. With the help of this rapid tailwind, Virgin Atlantic Flight 8 from Los Angeles to London hit what could be a record high speed for a commercial plane: 801 mph (1230 km/h) over Pennsylvania at 9:20 pm last Monday night. “Wow, that’s fast,” a Boeing spokesman told CBS News via email. But it’s not something the plane manufacturer tracks, so they can’t confirm if 801 mph is a record. For reference, the speed of sound is 760 mph; but the plane did not break the sound barrier. That’s because part of the plane’s speed is attributed to the swiftly moving 200 mph+ air surrounding the plane. So relative to the air around it, the plane’s speed falls far short. Jet streams like the one Monday can have a big impact on flights. “A 100 mph increase in the jet stream above typical can add or remove about an hour from a five to six hour flight,” according to a spokesperson from FlightAware, a global aviation software and data services company based in Houston. While you might be pleasantly surprised by an early arrival going eastbound, you’re likely to face delays westbound battling the powerful headwind. While winds of this magnitude do affect air travel, FlightAware said changes in the upper level winds are accounted for.


9. Rosewood announces a resort on the Island of Hawaii

Kona Village, A Rosewood Resort is set to open in 2022 after a complete renovation of the current property. Located on the Kona Coast of the Big Island of Hawai‘i, the iconic Hawaiian retreat that has laid dormant since 2011 will once again open its doors and welcome back ‘ohana (family) to the historic and culturally rich destination. Spanning 81 acres of stunning geologic landscape and richness, Kona Village, A Rosewood Resort, will draw inspiration from the history of the site, local culture and natural elements to create a unique guest experience that complements the distinctive Hawaiian setting. Conceptualized and developed by intrepid explorer Johnno Jackson in the early 1960’s, the original Kona Village Resort was best known for its free-standing, palm thatch roof hales and tranquil location. Located close to Kona International Airport, Kona Village, A Rosewood Resort, will debut 150 unique, standalone guest hales with locally-inspired décor, spectacular views and a privileged sense of seclusion. Spearheaded by Hawai‘i-raised architect, Greg Warner of Walker Warner Architects, each accommodation will offer a private lānai and outdoor shower. An array of distinct dining venues, including the original resort’s beloved Shipwreck Bar and Talk Story Bar, will offer elevated yet relaxed food and beverage experiences. Guests will have access to new leisure facilities including Sense, A Rosewood Spa, a state-of-the-art fitness center, as well as multiple pools and tennis courts. A diverse outdoor recreational program will include ocean sports and activities designed to inform, inspire and excite travelers of all ages.


10. Rosewood Bangkok will open in March 2019

Rosewood Bangkok, a visually striking, ultra-luxury property in Bangkok’s prime central business and retail district, will open 31 March 2019, marking the second Thailand property for Rosewood Hotels & Resorts after the opening of Rosewood Phuket in 2017. The 30-story standalone property will help reshape the Bangkok skyline by occupying two connecting high-rise structures that create a modern tribute to the Thai spirit. Its contemporary form is inspired by the wai — the graceful Thai gesture of palms pressed together in greeting. The hotel will be conveniently connected to the BTS Station amidst a luxury enclave of embassies, new office towers and upscale malls. The ultra-luxury hotel will embrace a striking, contemporary architectural design and will be home to 159 guestrooms. Featuring the Rosewood brand’s A Sense of Place philosophy, carefully curated interiors, dining and spa experiences will be an amalgam of contemporary sophistication and touchstones of Thailand’s heritage and customs. Four restaurants and lounges will be complemented by recreational facilities including Sense, A Rosewood Spa; a Fitness Studio; and indoor-outdoor saltwater swimming pool.


11. Airbus puts super jumbo A380 out of production

Following a review of its operations, and in light of developments in aircraft and engine technologies, Emirates is reducing its A380 orderbook from 162 to 123 aircraft. Emirates will take delivery of 14 further A380s over the next two years. As a consequence and given the lack of order backlog with other airlines, Airbus will cease deliveries of the A380  in 2021. Emirates has also decided to continue growing with Airbus’ newest generation, flexible widebody aircraft, ordering 40 A330-900 and 30 A350-900 aircraft. “As a result of this decision we have no substantial A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production, despite all our sales efforts with other airlines in recent years. This leads to the end of A380 deliveries in 2021,” said Airbus Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders. “The consequences of this decision are largely embedded in our 2018 full year results”. “The A380 is not only an outstanding engineering and industrial achievement. Passengers all over the world love to fly on this great aircraft. Hence today’s announcement is painful for us and the A380 communities worldwide. But, keep in mind that A380s will still roam the skies for many years to come and Airbus will of course continue to fully support the A380 operators,” Tom Enders added.


12. A new ultraluxe resort opens in the Maldives

With only 26 beach and ocean houses on a tiny coral reef-encircled island, The Nautilus Maldives is a bohemian hideaway located in Baa Atoll, a UNESCO biosphere reserve.  Here, a kaleidoscopic wonderland of incredible marine life awaits discovery: trips to world-renowned Hanifaru Bay to swim amongst manta rays; diving on iridescent coral reefs; exploring remote sandbanks and deserted islands or just cruising the ocean on a custom-built yacht are among the many adventures guests can look forward to. Built by a Maldivian entrepreneur, this is his ultimate project in the country, created to express his personal vision of the best that luxury can be – not just in the Maldives, but worldwide. With its modern bohemian style, and concept of absolute freedom for its guests, who enjoy no rules, no dress codes, no set restaurant hours, no fixed menu choices, its driving philosophy is to make guests feel not only completely at home, but also as if time itself no longer exists.


13. Air Senegal’s unveils its new A330-900neo Business Class

Air Senegal’s first A330neo has touched down at Blaise-Diagne International Airport in Dakar. The A330neo, painted in the livery of Air Senegal and named “Casamance,” was presented during a ceremony attended by His Excellency Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal, and Philippe Bohn, Chief Executive Officer Air Senegal. After the ceremony, the plane flew back to Toulouse for more testing and is expected to be formally delivered to the airline within the coming weeks. Air Senegal, which started operations in 2018, is set to become the first African airline to receive and operate the newest member of the leading Airbus widebody family. Fitted with a three-class cabin comprising 32 Business class, 21 Premium Plus and 237 Economy class seats, Air Senegal plans to operate its first A330neo on the soon to be opened Dakar-Paris route and develop its medium and long-haul network. The A330neo is a true new generation aircraft building on the A330’s success and leveraging on A350 XWB technology. It incorporates highly efficient new generation Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines, and a new greater span 3D optimised wing with new Sharklets. Together, these advances bring a significant reduction in fuel consumption of 25% compared with older generation competitor aircraft of a similar size. The A330 is one of the most popular widebody families ever, having received over 1,700 orders from 120 customers.


*** Follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook for a daily moment of travel inspiration ***


 





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Review of Bisate Lodge (Rwanda)

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Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.

I recently enjoyed a sublime holiday in the amazingly beautiful country of Rwanda. You can read my trip reports here:

  • Review: KLM A330 (new) Business Class from Amsterdam to Rwanda
  • Review: Kigali Serena Hotel
  • Review: Bisate Lodge by Wilderness Safaris, Volcanoes National Park (today)
  • Review: Encounter with the mountain gorillas (my best travel experience ever!)
  • Review: One&Only Nyungwe House (Nyungwe National Park)
  • Review: Ruzizi Tented Lodge (Akagera National Park)
  • Review: KLM A330 (new) Business Class from Rwanda to Amsterdam (via Uganda)

Today (February 20, 2019): Review of Bisate Lodge (Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda)

Comprising just 6 spacious forest villas, Bisate offers an ultra-luxurious base from where to enjoy an extraordinary gorilla conservation experience and life-changing journey to this beautiful region. Situated within the amphitheater of an eroded volcanic cone, Bisate is surrounded by natural splendor, with sweeping views towards the Karisimbi, Bisoke and Mikeno volcanoes. Bisate’s sophisticated architectural and interior design is rooted in Rwandan building tradition as exemplified in the design of the Royal Palace of the traditional monarch. The spherical, thatched structures echo the thousands of hills that dot the Rwandan landscape, while the richly-detailed interiors exhibit surfaces and screens made from a variety of woven materials with strong resonance in Rwandan culture.

Bisate Lodge features in my lists of the best new hotels of 2017 and the ten best hotels in Rwanda.

Have you ever stayed at Bisate Lodge? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.

In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

*** Get the most out of your (luxury) trip to Rwanda with my Rwanda travel guide ***


PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • Situated within the amphitheater of an eroded volcanic cone, Bisate Lodge occupies a 27-hectare steep hillside site of majestic natural splendor, with phenomenal views towards the Karisimbi, Bisoke and Mikeno peaks of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. The lodge is close enough to Kinigi (the headquarters of Volcanoes National Park) to be convenient for the morning gorilla treks, but far enough away so as to feel remote and even – as a result of the onsite indigenous reforestation project – part of the spectacular Park. Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali (with the nearest airport) is 105 km (65 miles) or a 3 hour drive from the lodge, with most of the scenic journey taking place via a perfectly paved road (except for the last miles, which is on a rocky, volcanic path that requires a 4×4 car).
  • Bisate Lodge features only six ultra-luxurious thatched villas, perched on the hillside. Each villa comprises a generous yet intimate combination of bedroom, reception space and bathroom, all warmed by a central fireplace. The domed living room comes with either a kingsize bed or two twin beds (covered with green geometric pattern cushions), a sofa, a small desk, and two armchairs on a cowhide rug in front of a log-burning fire. The spacious bathroom features a black oval, resin bath tub in the center, two sinks with leather-framed mirrors, a walk-in brick rain shower, a separate toilet, and eco-friendly amenities by Africology, a South African wellness company. Both the living room and bathroom have enormous windows that open to a bamboo balcony with breathtaking views of Mount Bisoke ‘s imposing volcanic cone.
  • Besides the six thatched villas, Bisate Lodge also features one main lodge sphere, with a design rooted in Rwandan building tradition. Styled in the same decor as the villas, the dome’s interior features wooden floors and walls covered in dried woven grass mats – just like the ones found inside Rwandan homes. One side of the main dome houses a chic bar with a cozy sitting area around an open fire, where guests gather in the evening to share their gorilla adventures of the day while enjoying a pre-dinner aperitif. An intimate dining area with only six tables and a bar counter are located on the other side, and it’s here that breakfast, lunch and dinner are served (more on that below). Both the dining and bar area feature enormous windows, with black steel doors leading to a balcony that offer views of the surrounding volcanoes. The main lodge also houses a wine cellar in its basement.
  • Created by Johannesburg-based architect Nick Plewman, the lodge’s unique design is based on the King’s Palace at Nyanza. The spherical, thatched structures echo the thousands of hills that dot the Rwandan landscape, while the richly-detailed interiors exhibit surfaces and screens made from a variety of woven materials with strong resonance in Rwandan culture. The emerald green color in the textiles and chandeliers is reminiscent of the verdant greens of the rainforests and the vibrant markets that dot the villages throughout the country. Many of the furnishings are decorated using “imigongo,” an art form unique to Rwanda that uses cow dung and goes back hundreds of years; the dung is mixed with soils of different colors and then painted in geometric shapes. The use of black and white cow hides also reflect the rural way of life in the villages, and volcanic stone is used in the fireplaces to echo the volcanoes of the adjacent National Park.
  • Bisate Lodge offers an all-inclusive formula, with room rates including all meals, drinks, coctails, and some premium wines. Meals are served in the restaurant or on the adjoining terrace. The set dinner menu changes daily, offering slow-cooked, hearty and healthy dishes served in colorful ceramics. Signature dishes include liboke (chicken cooked and served in banana leaves), sambaza (fried, spicy small fish spiced served with ginger rice), and kachumbari (a traditional tomato and onion salad). Ingredients featuring strongly in Bisate’s menus include wild honey, avocado, climbing beans, mango, kale, papaya, plantain, passion fruit, pineapple, macadamia nuts and chilies. A highlight for many will be their first experience of Rwandan coffee – sourced from the local Kigufi Coffee Estate – called Gato Keza.
  • Bisate Lodge is managed by Africa’s top safari operator, Wilderness Safaris. Founded in Botswana in 1983, Wilderness Safaris is widely acclaimed as the continent’s foremost ecotourism operator, dedicated to conserving and restoring Africa’s wilderness and wildlife. They do this by creating life-changing journeys for guests in some of the most remote and pristine areas in Africa, hereby helping to conserve Africa’s spectacular biodiversity and share ecotourism’s benefits with the communities that live alongside these areas. Wilderness Safaris operates more than 40 camps in seven countries, including several iconic and ultraluxe properties such as Mombo & Little Mombo in Botswana and amazing North Island in the Seychelles.
  • Bisate Lodge is deeply committed to Wilderness Safaris’ 4Cs sustainability ethos of Commerce, Community, Culture and Conservation. Its pioneering reforestation efforts have already seen over 20,000 indigenous trees planted to date. In a country where agriculture has dominated for decades, previous traditional practices have denuded Rwanda of much of its original forest cover, thus leaving indigenous species with very limited habitat. Bisate’s reforestion project has aided in the return of numerous endemic species to the area, such as southern tree hyrax, side-striped jackal and at least one species of genet. Guests are also encouraged to get involved in the reforestation project by planting a tree on the Bisate property during their stay, thus directly contributing to the restoration of the area.
  • With only six villas and twice as many staff as guests, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that service at the lodge is exceptional and personalized. More than 50% of Bisate’s staff comes from the neighboring communities. Because there are so few guests here, there’s plenty of time to interact with the superfriendly staff, whether it’s chatting to the barman before dinner, sharing your love for Africa with the general manager, or exploring the nearby villages with the lodge’s guides. To give you an example of the attentive service: after your gorilla trekking, the staff will clean your hiking boots and return them in no time (with your shoes looking better than new). Also, the staff is there to welcome every guest upon arrival, dancing and singing a song in Kinyarwand.
  • The prime reason why you stay here is gorilla trekkingSpotting a wild gorilla in the African jungle is on many people’s bucket list and ranks among my favorite wildlife experience in the world. Mountain gorillas are the most majestic, and sadly, rarest apes of all non-human primates. Only 1000 of these magnificent creatures remain in the world, all of them found in the border area between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A guided gorilla tracking takes anywhere from 2 to 10 hours, and allows you to spend one hour with the apes once you found them. It’s an awesome adventure, often undertaken by travelers as they are overwhelmed by emotions after seeing the movie Gorillas In The Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey. I will publish a review of my gorilla encounter next week.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

Bisate Lodge is one of the most exclusive accommodation options in Rwanda, comprising just 6 stunning rooms set inside thatched, spherical pavilions containing every conceivable luxury. There’s no much to say against the lodge, but you may want to know the following nonetheless:

  • Bisate Lodge is one of the most exclusive but also most expensive lodges in Africa. But you should know that going in, and rates do include all meals, a 20 min shoulder & back massage, and on-site excursions (excluding gorilla trekking). Most importantly, at Bisate Lodge, you don’t pay for an overnight stay, but you pay for a life-changing experience and a memory that will last a lifetime.
  • Bisate Lodge features a lot of stairs (built with uneven volcanic stone), which makes the property not ideal for mobility challenged guests. There is a lot of climbing up and down the hillside to get to the room, the restaurant or to go on the daily activities. But that’s nothing compared to what awaits you while tracking the gorillas!
  • The location of the lodge is spectacular (with phenomenal views) but the property is not located inside the rainforest but rather in a rural area, just above a local farming community (at the moment, there are no lodges inside the Volcanoes National Park). That may change though in the near future, since the park will be extended and this, combined with reforestation, will practically place Bisate Lodge within the park boundaries.  
  • Facilities at the lodge are rather limited. There are only six villas and one main lodge building, but that’s it. There is no spa, gym or swimming pool. That said, spa treatments can be enjoyed in the privacy of your own villa. Also, it’s rumored that Wilderness Safaris may build an on-site spa in the near future, enhancing the wellness offerings at Bisate Lodge.  

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 10/10
  • Design: 10/10
  • Pool: the property has no pool
  • Rooms: 10/10
  • Food: 9/10
  • Breakfast: 9/10
  • Spa: the property has no spa (treatments are done in the privacy of your villa)
  • Service: 10/10
  • Value for money: 9/10
  • Overall experience: exceptional 9,6/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Bisate Lodge (and/or receive many free perks).
  • Room tip: There are only 6 villas as Bisate Lodge and they all feature the same layout. The higher located villas have the best view (but reaching them involves more stairs).
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

In the heart of Africa, fractionally south of the equator, Rwanda’s relatively high altitude provides it with a remarkably pleasant tropical highland climate, albeit also with plenty of rain. Although it’s regarded as a year-round activity, the best time to visit Rwanda is during the short dry season from December to  February or over the long dry season months of June to September. These periods offer by far the easiest hiking conditions (for gorilla or chimp trekking) and the lowest malaria risk. The dry season does not necessarily means sunny season as there is often a light cloud cover, helping to moderate the temperatures. Rwanda’s long rainy season lasts from about March to May, when the rain is heavy and persistent. October to November is the short rainy season, with occasional light showers in the afternoon.


HOW TO GET THERE

Bisate Lodge can be reached from Kigali by car, a journey of around 2,5 hours on an excellent paved road (only the last miles are on a dirt road). However, it’s also possible to charter a flight to the airport at Ruhengeri, which is just over half an hour’s drive from the property.


PHOTOS
BISATE LODGE: EXTERIOR
BISATE LODGE: EXTERIOR
BISATE LODGE: EXTERIOR
BISATE LODGE: EXTERIOR
BISATE LODGE: EXTERIOR
BISATE LODGE: EXTERIOR
BISATE LODGE: EXTERIOR
BISATE LODGE: EXTERIOR
BISATE LODGE: EXTERIOR
BISATE LODGE: EXTERIOR
BISATE LODGE: EXTERIOR
BISATE LODGE: EXTERIOR
BISATE LODGE: EXTERIOR
BISATE LODGE: EXTERIOR
BISATE LODGE: PATH TO THE PAVILIONS
BISATE LODGE: PATH TO THE PAVILIONS
BISATE LODGE: PATH TO THE PAVILIONS
BISATE LODGE: PATH TO THE PAVILIONS
BISATE LODGE: PATH TO THE PAVILIONS
BISATE LODGE: PATH TO THE PAVILIONS
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - ENTRANCE
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – ENTRANCE
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - ENTRANCE
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – ENTRANCE
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - FOYER
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – FOYER
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - FOYER
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – FOYER
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - FOYER
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – FOYER
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BEDROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BATHROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BATHROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BATHROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BATHROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BATHROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BATHROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BATHROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BATHROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BATHROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BATHROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BATHROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BATHROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BATHROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BATHROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BATHROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BATHROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BATHROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BATHROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BATHROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BATHROOM
BISATE LODGE: VILLA - BALCONY
BISATE LODGE: VILLA – BALCONY
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - EXTERIOR
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – EXTERIOR
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - EXTERIOR
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – EXTERIOR
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - ENTRANCE
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – ENTRANCE
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - ENTRANCE
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – ENTRANCE
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – WELCOME AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - BAR & SITTING AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – BAR & SITTING AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - BAR & SITTING AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – BAR & SITTING AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - BAR & SITTING AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – BAR & SITTING AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - BAR & SITTING AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – BAR & SITTING AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - BAR & SITTING AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – BAR & SITTING AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - BAR & SITTING AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – BAR & SITTING AREA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - DINNER ROOM
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – DINNER ROOM
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - DINNER ROOM
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – DINNER ROOM
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - DINNER ROOM
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – DINNER ROOM
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - DINNER ROOM
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – DINNER ROOM
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - AFTERNOON TEA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – AFTERNOON TEA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - AFTERNOON TEA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – AFTERNOON TEA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - AFTERNOON TEA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – AFTERNOON TEA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - AFTERNOON TEA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – AFTERNOON TEA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - AFTERNOON TEA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – AFTERNOON TEA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - AFTERNOON TEA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – AFTERNOON TEA
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - BALCONY
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – BALCONY
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - BALCONY
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – BALCONY
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - BALCONY
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – BALCONY
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - BALCONY
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – BALCONY
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - BALCONY (VIEW)
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – BALCONY (VIEW)
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - BALCONY (VIEW)
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – BALCONY (VIEW)
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - WINE CELLAR
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – WINE CELLAR
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - WINE CELLAR
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – WINE CELLAR
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - WINE CELLAR
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – WINE CELLAR
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - WINE CELLAR
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – WINE CELLAR
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - WINE CELLAR
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – WINE CELLAR
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - WINE CELLAR
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – WINE CELLAR
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION - WINE CELLAR
BISATE LODGE: MAIN PAVILION – WINE CELLAR
BISATE LODGE: REFORESTATION PROJECT
BISATE LODGE: REFORESTATION PROJECT
BISATE LODGE: REFORESTATION PROJECT
BISATE LODGE: REFORESTATION PROJECT
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE: LUNCH
BISATE LODGE AT NIGHT
BISATE LODGE AT NIGHT
BISATE LODGE AT NIGHT
BISATE LODGE AT NIGHT
BISATE LODGE AT NIGHT
BISATE LODGE AT NIGHT
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BISATE LODGE AT NIGHT
BISATE LODGE AT NIGHT
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: DINNER
BISATE LODGE: BREAKFAST
BISATE LODGE: BREAKFAST
BISATE LODGE: BREAKFAST
BISATE LODGE: BREAKFAST
BISATE LODGE: BREAKFAST
BISATE LODGE: BREAKFAST
BISATE LODGE: BREAKFAST
BISATE LODGE: BREAKFAST
BISATE LODGE: BREAKFAST
BISATE LODGE: BREAKFAST
BISATE LODGE: BREAKFAST
BISATE LODGE: BREAKFAST
BISATE LODGE: BREAKFAST
BISATE LODGE: BREAKFAST
BISATE LODGE: PATH TO HILLTOP
BISATE LODGE: PATH TO HILLTOP
BISATE LODGE: VIEW FROM HILLTOP
BISATE LODGE: VIEW FROM HILLTOP
BISATE LODGE: VIEW FROM HILLTOP
BISATE LODGE: VIEW FROM HILLTOP
BISATE LODGE: VIEW FROM HILLTOP
BISATE LODGE: VIEW FROM HILLTOP
BISATE LODGE: VIEW FROM HILLTOP
BISATE LODGE: VIEW FROM HILLTOP
BISATE LODGE: VIEW FROM HILLTOP
BISATE LODGE: VIEW FROM HILLTOP
BISATE LODGE: VIEW FROM HILLTOP
BISATE LODGE: VIEW FROM HILLTOP
BISATE LODGE: VIEW FROM HILLTOP
BISATE LODGE: VIEW FROM HILLTOP
BISATE LODGE: VIEW FROM HILLTOP
BISATE LODGE: VIEW FROM HILLTOP
BISATE LODGE: VIEW FROM HILLTOP
BISATE LODGE: VIEW FROM HILLTOP

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Top 10 best hotels & lodges in Rwanda

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Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.

Today (February 18, 2019): Top10 best hotels & lodges in Rwanda.

Twenty five years after the devastating genocide, Rwanda has risen from the ashes and has managed to rebuild itself into one of Africa’s safest and most peaceful nations. Breathtakingly beautiful and largely untouched, Rwanda offers towering volcanoes, emerald green rain forests, privileged access to the endangered mountain gorilla, and so much more. Rwanda has long been an off the beaten track destination, far from the ordinary traveler’s itinerary, but things are about to change in a big way with the installation of Ellen DeGeneres’ new gorilla conservation center with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, and the opening of a new string of ultra-luxurious hotels. Emerging as Africa’s newest luxury travel hotspot, here’s my pick of the 10 best hotels & lodges in Rwanda.

There is more information (with reviews & Youtube clips) below the slide show. Think I missed one? Share your favorite hotel in Rwanda in the comments.

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*** Get the most of your (luxury) trip to Rwanda with my Rwanda travel guide ***


10. RADISON BLUE HOTEL & CONVENTION CENTER

Ideally located 5 km (3 mi) from the city center and Kigali International Airport, the stylish Radisson Blu Hotel & Convention Center is a 5-star hotel in Rwanda’s capital Kigali. The hotel offers 292 modern and spacious rooms along with an all-day dining, an exquisite Italian restaurant, a bar, lobby lounge and an outdoor swimming pool designed to provide a memorable experience to business and leisure travelers alike. With the capacity to accommodate up to 5000 delegates in its 18 meeting rooms including an auditorium, meeting and events planners can take advantage of the Convention Centers’ versatile event space and state-of-the-art facilities. The on-site spa is designed to offer a relaxing experience for couples, friends and individuals looking for rejuvenation.

RADISON BLUE HOTEL CONVENTION CENTER KIGALI


9. VIRUNGA LODGE, VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK

Set on a stunning hillside, the magnificent Virunga Lodge boasts panoramic vistas of the Virunga Volcanoes and the beautiful lakes of Ruhondo and Bulera. Each of ten luxurious bandas named after the Rwandan lakes features a spacious bedroom with a cosy fireplace, as well as private terrace with sweeping views of the breathtaking surrounds. Those in need of relaxation can revel in the comfort of the main lodge or spend some time in the Dian Fossey Map Room. Each guest will enjoy the opportunity for a relaxing complementary massage. Adventures include tracking gorillas and golden monkeys, hikes to the top of the volcanoes, scenic walks through the picturesque villages surrounding the lodge, or day trips to the lively towns of Kigali or Kampala.

VIRUNGA LODGE, VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK


8. KIGALI SERENA HOTEL, KIGALI

The elegant Kigali Serena Hotel is perfectly situated within one of the city’s most vibrant boulevards, and is the best hotel in town for a business stay or to start or end a gorilla safari. Here, guests are welcomed into a gleaming granite atrium, adorned with lovely Rwandan artworks. The property features 148 sophisticated rooms, including 25 lavish suites, that come with air conditioning, Wi-Fi connectivity, a satellite television, and a lovely ensuite bathroom. The hotel offers a wonderful selection of dining options, from the Milima Restaurant that overlooks the sparkling swimming pool to the Sokoni Restaurant that has become a popular meeting place for both locals and travelers alike. In the evenings, you can retreat to the hotel’s convivial lounge where two bar areas await.

KIGALI SERENA HOTEL KIGALI


7. RUZIZI TENTED LODGE, AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK

With a maximum of 20 guests, Ruzizi Tented Lodge is an intimate, charming camp, overlooking Lake Ihema in Rwanda’s Akagera National Park. The camp’s nine tents are spaced widely apart on either side of a thatched reception and dining area, set back from the lake shore and hidden among swaying palms and fruiting fig trees. Each tent has an en-suite bathroom, a dressing area and either comfortable queen or twin beds, with a small patio at the front and accessible by wooden boardwalks. The lodge was designed to blend in with the surrounding environment in order to create a feel of being connected to nature.  Where possible, trees and vegetation were left undisturbed during the construction, and even incorporated into the structure.  The lodge is powered by solar energy and prides itself on being environmentally conscious.

RUZIZI TENTED LODGE, AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK


6. SABYINYO SILVERBACK LODGE, VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK

Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge is Rwanda’s first ever community owned lodge. The lodge was built and is operated by Governors’ Camp Collection, but the ownership rests with a Community Trust, which uses rentals and community fees from the lodge to drive socio-economic and conservation initiatives in the communities adjacent to the National Park. The lodge, situated in the foothills of the mighty Virungas, the chain of 15,000 ft volcanoes stretching through Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, affords wonderful views of the volcanoes and the surrounding countryside. Accommodation at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge comprises six cottages, two suites, one family cottage. All are stone buildings with Rwandese terracotta tile roofs, and feature large sitting areas, fireplaces, stylish en-suite bathrooms finished with Venetian plaster a dressing room and a sheltered veranda.

SABYINYO SILVERBACK LODGE, VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK


5. SINGITA KWITONDA LODGE & KATAZA HOUSE, VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK

Singita Kwitonda Lodge & Kataza House (opening summer 2019) will be located on a breathtaking, isolated but contained 178-acre piece of land right on the edge of Volcanoes National Park. The presence of the lodge on the park border will help to improve the function of the buffer area between agricultural plots and the habitat of the estimated 320 mountain gorillas that find sanctuary here. Set within a landscape of wetlands and lush meadows, there will be eight suites and a four-bedroom villa linked by volcanic rock pathways to a central lodge. Singita Kwitonda will be built to embody the spirit of Rwanda and offer a tribute to the lodge’s namesake – Kwitonda – a great silverback gorilla whose legend lives on in Rwanda and was known for his humility and gentleness.

SINGITA KWITONDA LODGE KATAZA HOUSE, VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK


4. MAGASHI CAMP BY WILDERNESS SAFARIS, AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK

Magashi Camp (opening spring 2019) is situated in the productive and phenomenally diverse north-eastern corner of Akagera National Park, overlooking scenic Lake Rwanyakazinga. Akagera comprises some of the most scenic savannah in East Africa – open plains, woodlands, lakes, swamp, and grassy low mountains – and is home to one of Africa’s highest hippo densities, some very large crocodiles as well as rare sitatunga and inscrutable shoebill. Six spacious and airy tented guest rooms will offer uninterrupted views over Lake Rwanyakazinga while Magashi’s main area will comprise a luxurious lounge, dining and bar area, wine cellar and pool, as well as an expansive viewing deck with convivial fire pit. The architecture and interiors will pay homage to traditional Rwandan culture.

MAGASHI CAMP BY WILDERNESS SAFARIS, AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK


3. ONE&ONLY GORILLA’S NEST, VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK

Nestled amongst a forest of eucalyptus trees, One&Only Gorilla’s Nest (opening later this year) will provide breath-taking views of Rwandan hills and the slopes of the Volcanoes National Park. Guests will be able to discover the magical habitat of critically endangered mountain gorillas, a rare adventure. Bespoke accommodation will honor the location and natural elements will be woven throughout the resort, to inform the design of both the public and private spaces of the resort. Local African cuisine will surround a traditional Boma, providing the perfect location to share adventures from the day and enjoy fruit and vegetables from the resort’s garden. The resort will also offer an indulgent One&Only spa. One&Only also has a second lodge in Rwanda (more on that below), offering guest a journey to the country’s two most spectacular national parks.

ONE&ONLY GORILLA'S NEST, VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK


2. ONE&ONLY NYUNGWE HOUSE, NYUNGWE NATIONAL PARK

Alongside ancient rainforest, within the lush green expanse of a working tea plantation, Nyungwe House offers an exciting window to Africa’s fascinating wildlife and culture. Situated on a working tea plantation on the edge of Nyungwe National Park, One&Only Nyungwe House is the first of two new One&Only resorts to have opened in Rwanda. Exploratory treks and hikes through the forest give guests access to the park’s nearly 250,000 acres, where they can discover black-and-white colobus monkeys, gray-cheeked mangabeys, and more than 275 bird species. After full days out in the park, guests can retire to the resort’s modern suites and villas, each featuring decor accented with traditional African touches and vast private decks equipped with fireplaces.

ONE&ONLY NYUNGWE HOUSE, NYUNGWE NATIONAL PARK


1. BISATE LODGE BY WILDERNESS SAFARIS, VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK

Comprising just 6 spacious forest villas, Bisate offers a luxurious base from where to enjoy an extraordinary gorilla conservation experience and life-changing journey to this beautiful region. Situated within the amphitheater of an eroded volcanic cone, Bisate is surrounded by natural splendor, with sweeping views towards the Karisimbi, Bisoke and Mikeno volcanoes. Bisate’s sophisticated architectural and interior design is rooted in Rwandan building tradition as exemplified in the design of the Royal Palace of the traditional monarch. The spherical, thatched structures echo the thousands of hills that dot the Rwandan landscape, while the richly-detailed interiors exhibit surfaces and screens made from a variety of woven materials with strong resonance in Rwandan culture.


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