It may be known as a budget backpacker destination, there are many luxury hotels in Nepal that cater to the luxury end of the market. Many of them have the added benefit of being more affordable than luxury hotels elsewhere in the world. From boutique city hotels to safari lodges, here is our pick of the finest five-star places to stay.
Pokhara is as close to the legendary Shangri-La as you can get. Shangri-La Village Resort sits on an expansive property in the centre of Pokhara, with 61 gracefully furnished rooms. On site, you have a variety of indoor and canopied outdoor dining options, plus manicured gardens to stroll through with views of Machhapuchhre and the Himalayas. This resort is the place to relax before or after a rugged-terrain trek to the Annapurna Sanctuary and base camp, at just over 4,000m (13,000ft).
Just outside Pokhara, Mountain Glory Forest Resort offers a refuge from the city, surrounded by trees. Dark wood panelling and floors bring a touch of intimate warmth to all of the rooms. Private room terraces afford spectacular views of the Annapurna massif, jutting skyward, beyond the forest canopy. Mountain biking, hiking and dips in the outdoor pool (weather permitting) are all popular activities here.
Kathmandu’s luxury Hotel Shanker was converted from an opulent 19th-century Rana dynasty palace. It boasts regal gardens, an outdoor pool and chandelier-decked interiors. The Kailash restaurant serves Nepalese, Indian and Chinese cuisine – try the delicious chicken momo (Nepalese-style dumplings). Even though this hotel feels like a secluded estate, you’re actually in the centre of lively Kathmandu, right next to the Narayanhitiy Palace Museum.
Dwarika’s is one of the most beautiful hotels in Nepal. It’s not in a fancy location, but behind its walls lies an oasis of architectural charm. It was founded by Dwarika Das Shrestha in the 1950s, partly as a project to rescue the traditional Newari crafts. Now, the hotel is practically a museum, designed in the style of traditional Newari palaces. The 80 rooms and suites are full of antiques, paintings and locally made bed linens. There’s a lovely pool in the centre of the courtyard, five restaurants, plus daily yoga classes with a famously eccentric teacher.
Dwarika’s Kathmandu city property is all about design, whereas the newer Dwarika’s Resort focuses on relaxation in a mountain setting. Located in Dhulikhel, about 30km (19mi) from Kathmandu, there are gorgeous views of the snowy Himalayas on clear days. Alternative therapies are a key part of the spa here. Unwind in the Himalayan salt crystal room, indulge in an Ayurvedic massage or try the outdoor meditation maze.
If you want to go on a safari in Chitwan National Park but don’t want to sacrifice comfort, then stay at the Barahi in Meghauli – which you can do as part of Culture Trip’s specially curated 11-day Nepal adventure, led by our Local Insider. The region is home to rhinos, tigers, elephants and bears which can be seen on foot or via 4×4. Back at the hotel, there are 34 deluxe rooms and a family suite, each housed in a thatched chalet with a private balcony overlooking the River Rapti and national park. Head off on a canoe trip, watch a traditional Tharu dance performance or take a dip in the outdoor pool.
Located close to Barahi, Meghauli Serai is also in the Chitwan National Park. This 30-room lodge is part of the luxury Taj hotel chain. It has a more polished feel with a sleek open stone lobby, white-cushioned sofas and local Tharu artwork decorating the walls. Each of the 30 rooms varies from balcony suites overlooking the Terai grasslands to the Rapti Mahal Suite with its own private plunge pool. You might even catch sight of an elephant at the al fresco riverside dining deck.
The Hyatt Regency is a favourite among expats in Kathmandu for its gorgeous swimming pool and epic weekend breakfast buffets (chocolate fountain, anyone?). It’s just a 10-minute walk through back-lanes to Boudha Stupa, the holiest Tibetan Buddhist site outside of Tibet. This hotel is big, but it doesn’t feel impersonal. Downstairs, the spa is arguably the best in the city.
Established in 1964, Tiger Tops is one of the oldest tourist establishments in Nepal and has quite a reputation. It is located just outside Chitwan National Park but not in busy Sauraha, where many park-related accommodations are, so staying here feels more remote and peaceful. Choose between luxury tents or rooms in mud-walled buildings. The gardens are carefully tended, plus there’s a swimming pool and serene views over the river. All park activities (such as walking, jeep safaris and boat rides) can be arranged. Beside the Tharu Lodge is the Elephant Camp, a pioneering endeavour in elephant care and conservation.
In the far west of Nepal is Bardiya National Park, a much lesser-visited jungle park than Chitwan, but popular among those who want a wilderness experience. Tiger Tops has transported its classic safari-style lodging from Chitwan to Bardiya at the Karnali Lodge. There are just nine boutique rooms with delicious organic food served in the restaurant. Although it’s more of a mission to get to Western Nepal from Kathmandu (a flight to Nepalgunj, or a very long bus ride), the rewards are fewer tourists and a greater opportunity for spotting a royal bengal tiger.
If you like the idea of trekking in the Himalayas but don’t fancy the “rugged” accommodation, then book the Yeti Mountain Home. These luxury lodges in the Khumbu (Everest) region are located at strategic points along the Everest Base Camp trekking route. Each is beautifully decorated with a twin or king-sized bed, electric blanket to keep your bed warm and ensuite bathrooms. It’s a whole lot easier to stay energised and motivated to trek when you’ve had a good night’s sleep. Yeti Mountain Home can also arrange your trekking package.
Gokarna Forest Resort’s first distinguishing feature is that it is home to one of only four golf courses in Nepal. The eighteen-hole course is a favourite among well-to-do Nepalis. Just take care that the cheeky monkey inhabitants don’t run away with your balls. Its second distinguishing feature is that the adjacent Gokarna Forest was once a hunting reserve of the Nepali royal family. It’s home to deer, more monkeys and even the odd leopard. Walks through the forest can be arranged at the resort. There’s also a lovely swimming pool, a gym and spa, a stylish bar and floor-to-ceiling windows in some of the rooms, overlooking the forest. Gokarna Forest Resort is very close to Kathmandu but feels far removed from it.
Temple Tree Resort and Spa is considered one of the finest hotels in Pokhara, the popular lakeside city that is a gateway to the Annapurna Himalayas. The hotel is comprised of individual two-storey cottages, made from rough, hand-cut stone. The outdoor infinity pool provides respite from the heat in summer. Lounge in a hammock under frangipani trees (also known as temple trees) or rent a mountain bike from town to explore the area.
Carl Pettit contributed additional reporting to this article.
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