Virtuoso

5 Reasons Rwanda is the Luxury Destination to visit in 2019

Rwanda, The Land of a Thousand Hills is a lush green landscape nestled in the middle of Africa. The respectful and hospitable nature of the Rwandese people makes it a warm place for visitors. Rwanda has also become a central hub for meetings and innovation with the new convention center built in partnership with the Gates Foundation.   Named the 9th safest country in the world, Rwanda has become Africa’s best kept secret!  

Here are 5 Reasons to Visit Rwanda in 2019; 

#1: Gorilla Trekking at Volcanoes National Park 

Many know Rwanda for the work Dian Fossey started with the silverback gorillas. New recognition was garnered thanks to Ellen DeGeneres’ new foundation celebrating the work and continuing major conservation efforts.  The Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund will provide diverse offerings and contributions to community and most importantly protecting the gorillas.  There are roughly only 1000 Silverback Gorillas left in the world.  

Volcanoes National Park is located in a small town called Musanze and less than 3 hours from Kigali (the Capital City of Rwanda).  To experience Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda, the permits are $1500 per person.  You will hike up a hill and enter into the forest with a team of trackers.  It could take you 5-7 hours to find a gorilla family, which just depends on the gorilla families and where they choose to go.  Short treks of 30 minutes to 1 hour are available for those desiring a less strenuous endeavor.  To experience the gorillas in their natural habitat and in their element is a truly surreal feeling and a must visit!   

Where to stay: 

Singita Kwitonda Lodge– Opening in August 2019 (taking reservations).  Located at the base of the Volcanoes National Park.  The Singita brand is expanding their footprint in Africa with their continued efforts in thoughtful conservation.  This lodge is going to be gorgeous!  Having met with representatives from this hotel and seeing the renderings, it will be a highlight in Rwanda luxury.  

Bisate Lodge– Located at the base of the Volcanoes National Park, this luxury lodge is taking Rwanda to the next level in the luxury market.  Locally sources materials and design create a welcome warm experience for decerning travelers.  

Photo: Bisate Lodge, courtesy of Wilderness Safari

Photo: Bisate Lodge, courtesy of Wilderness Safari

#2: Lake Kivu 

Lake Kivu is the world’s eighteenth deepest lake that sits on the border between Rwanda and the Republic of Congo.  The waterfront towns offer a serene backdrop while visiting Rwanda.  This destination is the perfect stop when on your way to Volcano National Park and Nyungwe National Park.  The quiet environment welcomes meditation and yoga.  

 Where to stay: 

Lake Kivu Serena– Relax while overlooking Lake Kivu, take a bike ride around the town of Gisenyi or enjoy a yoga session in their fitness facilities.   Simple accommodations while experiencing Lake Kivu.  

Photo: Exterior Lake Kivu Serena, Courtesy of Lake Kivu Serena

Photo: Exterior Lake Kivu Serena, Courtesy of Lake Kivu Serena

#3: Akagera National Park 

 

It may surprise most people to hear that you can experience the Big Five in Rwanda and that there are a reported 18 Black Rhinos living in the park.  While Akagera doesn’t compare to safaris in Masai Mara, South Africa or Botswana (yet) it is truly something to experience while in Rwanda.  

Just a two-hour drive from Kigali, it offers a beautiful and convenient savannah and marsh landscape. There are over 482 bird species nestled within the park. Some of the activities to enjoy at the park include fishing, behind the scenes tour that includes conservation efforts and night drive experience with guide.  The best part is you can visit the park for only $50 per day.  

Where to stay:

Magashi Camp– With six spacious tented guest rooms with private access to a portion of Akagera, this luxury accommodation doesn’t compromise on luxury.  This brand-new camp, opened in December 2018, will be sure to set a new standard for guests visiting Akagera.  


Photo: Magashi Camp tent rendering, courtesy of Wilderness Safaris.

Photo: Magashi Camp tent rendering, courtesy of Wilderness Safaris.

#4: Nyungwe National Park 

One of the unique things about Rwanda is the diversity of the landscape.  This national park is set within lush rainforests, tea fields and waterfalls.  There are 13 hiking trails that cover the terrain and vary in distance.  A unique experience involves chimpanzee and monkey treking in the forest within their natural habitat.  Scale the Nyungwe Forest Canopy and traverse the forest beneath you.  You may also see one of the 300 bird species local to that area.  

 Where to stay: 

One & Only Nyungwe House– In the mountains, surrounded by rainforest and tea plantations, this resort is a treat for your senses.  The intimate 22 luxury rooms and suites integrate nicely with the local landscape.  This sanctuary will rejuvenate your soul with its spa and fitness sanctuary.  Dine in the wilderness.  You will leave with piece of Africa left in your heart after this experience.  

Photo: Nyungwe House, courtesy of One&Only Nyungwe House

Photo: Nyungwe House, courtesy of One&Only Nyungwe House

#5: Kigali

 As the Capital City of Rwanda, Kigali is the energy that breathes life into the rest of the country. All trips begin and end through Kigali where the international airport is located.  You’ll find the city to be very clean and well maintained.  The residents of Rwanda take pride in their country and even have a unified day of service called Umuganda on the morning of the last Saturday every month.  During Umuganda, the entire population (12 million) devote some time to their local community including cleaning the streets, cutting grass, repairing roads and much more.  

 Visit the many museums and art galleries, shopping centers to get some locally woven baskets or fresh Rwandese coffee or tea to take home.  

Rwanda’s history is one of healing and forgiveness.  A visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial helps to educate and honor the memory of the one million Rwandans killed in 1994.  Reflection on the past but acknowledgement of how far the country has advanced will make you appreciate the resilience of the people and country by the time you leave.  

Where to stay: 

 Kigali Serena Hotel– Located in the heart of Kigali, the 148 rooms and suites are nicely appointed private and peaceful retreat.  Enjoy a treatment in their spa, workout in their fitness facilities after a long flight or just people watch in the lobby while drinking local Rwandese tea.   It is where the elite Rwandese business meetings are conducted and affluent locals hang out.  Simple accommodations to start your adventure in Rwanda.  

Photo: Kigali Serena Hotel, courtesy of Kigali Serena Hotel

Photo: Kigali Serena Hotel, courtesy of Kigali Serena Hotel

Rwanda is positioning itself as the luxury destination for travelers who are looking for unique experiences.  Whether you’re including the destination as a pre-post Kenya, Botswana or South Africa safari or visiting the destination exclusively there is plenty to see and do during your visit.  

For more information on any of the hotels and Rwanda as a destination, or to schedule a complimentary planning consultation, email me at janelle@lilacsandchai.com.  

Getaway: 48 Hours at the Montage Los Cabos

Montage Los Cabos - Front Drive with Desert Landscaping

Montage Los Cabos - Front Drive with Desert Landscaping

Wiping sweat off my forehead from the warm August temperature, I'm welcomed with a lovely cold eucalyptus scented towel as I walk into the contemporary and open lobby of the brand new Montage Los Cabos.  The drive in reflected the local terrain with lots of succulent plants, cacti and beautiful trees native to Baja California.  This 39 acre property sits on a larger development that includes the resort, private residences and soon-to-be golf course.  

View from the lobby - Montage Los Cabos

The sense of brand new is evident throughout the resort.  It's immaculately maintained and feels almost like a new car.  With 122 expansive guest rooms and suites coupled with the 52 Montage Residences there is something for everyone.  

I was escorted to my room by Beatrice who was so friendly and worked several years with Disney.  Her pride for Montage Los Cabos is evident as her warm hospitality started my stay off great!  

Guestrooms at the Montage Los Cabos

Guestrooms at the Montage Los Cabos

Right when you walk into the rooms you get a sense of Los Cabos.  The room is minimalistic but warm while letting the textures of the stone, wood and views take over your senses.  I loved the outdoor shower, it was such a great feature.  

The Spa at the Montage Los Cabos is so relaxing!  The resort describes it as; 

"Inspired by the traditional Mexican folklore surrounding the Tree of Life, as well as the historic Torote tree that graces the entrance to the resort, this nurturing refuge offers a unique experience steeped in the beauty and healing powers of its incredible surroundings. It is here that a wonderful array of sensuous spa treatments, many inspired by the rhythms of the ocean, desert and local traditions, will soothe and renew." 

I enjoyed the spa facilities before my Baja Relax 60 minute massage.  My massage therapist was Sandra and she was fantastic.  There are 12 treatment rooms, a large spa pool for adults only and jacuzzis, steam and cold baths available.  

One of the most unique parts about the Montage Los Cabos is that it is located right on a swimmable beach.  Santa Maria Beach is perfect for morning yoga, paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling and more.  It's the perfect combination of chill by the beach and then head up to the pool!  

There are pool cabanas and beach beds available for reserving. We were lucky enough to enjoy one of the private cabanas where we received full service by the pool.  The guacamole is the perfect combination with a margarita and their sliders are delicious as well.  Marea restaurant services the pool and is a really great option for lounging by the pool all day!  

Salud! Such a great Margarita at the Montage Pool!

Salud! Such a great Margarita at the Montage Pool!

If you're looking for exclusive options while at the Montage Los Cabos, they've definitely got you covered!  The Beachfront Presidential Suite is ideal for a couples retreat or family looking for their own pool.  This two-bedroom suite is 2695 square feet, features two master bedrooms, expansive great room and it's own private pool.  

If the Beachfront Presidential Suite isn't enough space, I'd highly recommend one of the Casas.  Casa Calderon and Casa Santa Maria are 5 bedroom homes that are available for guests to enjoy full services of the resort.  They are built like traditional Mexican homes with rooms facing a large courtyard area.  They feel much more traditional in comparison to the rest of the resort, but are nicely appointed for ultimate luxury.  I toured Casa Santa Maria as Casa Calderon was occupied.  

To cool off from the warm desert weather, you have to check out their little shop Paletas for some cool treats!  

 

Paletas (popsicles)

Paletas (popsicles)

The culinary experience at the Montage Los Cabos doesn't disappoint.  

Mezcal is their signature restaurant, described by the hotel as; 

"Mezcal, our signature restaurant by Chef Alexis Palacios is a modern Mexican kitchen featuring reimagined interpretations of ancestral culinary traditions. Experience a gastronomic journey through a menu that is creative, fresh and authentic. Indulge yourself in a lively and sophisticated space that pays homage to Mexico’s history." 

I had the luxury of enjoying dinner at Mezcal and was impressed by the mix of flavors and use of traditional Mexican ingredients.  

For dinner the next day, check out Marea at night.  They have a completely different menu from the lunch menu.  With the gorgeous location near the pool and beach it's a nice change of pace.  With live music a few nights during the week, it's a romantic fun setting.  

 

Swim up bar - Montage Los Cabos

Swim up bar - Montage Los Cabos

Two to Four days at the new Montage Los Cabos is the recommended minimum time to experience the resort. If coming from the West Coast (San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco are big markets) it is a quick flight.  The ease of getting to the hotel from these destinations makes it the perfect weekend getaway.  

When are you planning your trip to Los Cabos?  

Contact me today for VIP perks like upgrades if available, complimentary breakfast, resort credits and more.  

Travel More with Lilacs & Chai, contact Janelle@lilacsandchai.com or follow on Instagram @lilacsandchai.  

Getaway: Iconic San Diego Hotels

America’s Finest City is known for its beautiful beaches, fish tacos and laidback vibe.  Over the last decade San Diego has evolved immensely and grown to become a fantastic foodie haven and innovative smart city.  There are a few hotels that scream San Diego and top my recommendation list for a truly “San Diego” experience. 

Hotel Del Coronado

Hotel Del Coronado – Truly an iconic hotel and one of the top destinations in San Diego.  Built in 1888 and now a designated National Historic Landmark.  There is so much history within these walls!  Most notably, the ghost of Kate Morgan still occupies the resort after she passed from self-inflicted gunshot in 1892.  Some have expressed feeling her presence mainly in her old guestroom, but others have said they felt her presence in other areas of the hotel. 

The resort has had the pleasure of welcoming celebrities and historic figures.  Presidents Benjamin Harrison, President William Taft, President Franklin Roosevelt, President Jimmy Carter and President Gerald Ford were guests at the Hotel Del.  Celebrities like Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe also resided at the iconic property. 

To this day, the Hotel Del Coronado provides guests with personalized service, amazing culinary experiences, activities for children and wellness activities.  Definitely would recommend to anyone looking for a quintessential San Diego experience! 

La Valencia Hotel

La Valencia Hotel – Known as the Pink Lady, she is located on Prospect Street in downtown La Jolla.  This property is full of old Hollywood glam and the energy is invigorating.  As soon as you walk in the door you’ll notice La Sala’s beautiful architecture and picture window overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  With only 114 rooms, this boutique Preferred Hotels & Resort property is one of a kind.  The location is perfect for walking down to the La Jolla Cove, exploring the local art galleries or some of the amazing restaurants in La Jolla Village.  Also, they will be adding Spa La V in 2018 which will add a wellness component that will make the hotel that much more enticing. 

us-grant-exterior.jpg

The US Grant Hotel – This historic hotel is located in the Gaslamp District in San Diego.  It opened in 1910 to honor the memory of Ulyssys S. Grant shortly after Alonzo Horton designed downtown San Diego.  There are stories of speak easies, ghosts and military bunkers.  Such rich history now wrapped up in luxurious accommodations.  One interesting fact is that the land that the hotel sits on used to belong to the Kumeyaay Native American tribe.   The current owners of the hotel are the Sycuan tribe, a tribe of the Kumeyaay Native American tribe.  I get chills every time I think of that full circle story!  One thing to look for is the custom drip paintings in each of the guestrooms.   Each one is different and adds a unique flavor to the décor. 

What are some of your favorite historic properties?  

Travel More with Lilacs & Chai, contact Janelle@lilacsandchai.com or follow on Instagram @lilacsandchai.