Meghauli Serai Chitwan | Courtesy of Meghauli Serai
While Nepal is known as a budget backpacker destination, there are many gorgeous hotels that cater to the ‘luxury’ end of the market. Plus, many of them have the added benefit of being more affordable than luxury hotels elsewhere in the world. From boutique hotels in the city that are full of antiques to safari lodges in national parks, here are our picks of the best luxury hotels in Nepal.
The Dwarika's Hotel, Kathmandu
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Dwarika's Hotel, Kathmandu | courtesy of Dwarika's Hotel
Dwarika’s is, quite simply, one of the most beautiful hotels in Nepal. It’s not in a fancy location, just on a busy road a short walk from the Pashupatinath Temple, but behind its walls lie an oasis of architectural charm and traditional luxury. It was founded by Dwarika Das Shrestha in the 1960s, partly as a project to rescue and revitalise the traditional Newari crafts of the Kathmandu Valley, which he saw as being under threat. Now, the brick and carved timber hotel is practically a museum, done in the style of traditional Newari palaces (such as those you’ll find in the Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur Durbar Squares). The 83 spacious rooms and suites are absolutely chock-full of antiques, paintings, locally made bed linens and other fixtures. Each room is different and totally luxurious. There’s also a lovely pool in the centre of the courtyard, a number of restaurants serving some of the finest cuisines in Kathmandu, amazing breakfast buffets and daily yoga classes with a teacher who is famous for his eccentricity. If money is no object, Dwarika’s is your finest choice in the Nepali capital.
Dwarika’s Kathmandu city property is all about design, whereas the focus of the newer Dwarika’s Resort Dhulikhel is relaxation in a mountain setting. Located in Dhulikhel, about 30 kilometres (one and a half to two hours) from Kathmandu, there are gorgeous views of the snowy Himalaya on clear days from the resort. There are plenty of outdoor lounging areas from which to enjoy the views, an excellent spa that offers a wide range of treatments and even an outdoor meditation maze. Packages that combine accommodation, meals and spa treatments are also available.
Barahi Jungle Lodge is located in Meghauli, in the western part of Chitwan, and on the banks of the Rapti River. If you want to go on a safari in Chitwan National Park but don’t want to sacrifice your comfort, then Barahi is a good option. They offer all the activities that attract visitors to Chitwan – nature walks, canoeing, an ‘elephant briefing’, Tharu cultural performances and various types of safari. Each thatched chalet comes with a private balcony, with views over the river and the national park. Also, lots of local bamboo and sustainable wood have been used in their construction. There are 34 deluxe guest rooms and one family suite, an on-site spa that offers Ayurvedic, Thai and other treatments, as well as an outdoor pool.
Meghauli Serai, Chitwan National Park is part of the Taj chain of hotels, a prominent Indian luxury hotel chain. The 30-room lodge is located near the Rapti River and is designed to blend in with the wild nature of the surrounding park and buffer areas. An impressive infinity pool overlooks the river and jungle. Arts and artefacts from the local Tharu people are used throughout the resort and a unique feature is the bead chandelier in the lounge area, made from over 10,000 hand-painted beads. All safari activities are provided here, as is standard for hotels in the vicinity of Chitwan National Park.
The Hyatt Regency is a favourite among expats in Kathmandu for its gorgeous swimming pool and epic weekend breakfast buffets (chocolate fountain, anyone?), but it’s a delight for visitors passing through the Nepali capital as well. Located in Boudhanath, it’s just a 10-minute walk through back-lanes to the stunning Boudhanath Stupa, the holiest Tibetan Buddhist site outside of Tibet. This hotel is big, but it doesn’t feel impersonal thanks to the beautifully designed lobby (with its carved chortens), its numerous dining areas, and its downstairs spa that is probably the best in the city. If it’s true that you get what you pay for, then your money will be well spent at the Hyatt Regency.
Established in 1964, Tiger Tops is one of the oldest tourist establishments in Nepal and has quite the reputation. The Tharu Lodge is located just outside Chitwan National Park, a short distance from the Narayani River, which separates the park from the nearby villages. It’s not located in busy Sauraha, where many park-related accommodations and businesses are, so staying here feels more remote and peaceful. Guests can choose between luxury tents (with the emphasis on luxury!) or rooms in mud-walled buildings – both are lovely. The gardens are carefully tended, there’s a swimming pool, serene views over the river and farmland and 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 Bardia 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 Bardia, at the Karnali Lodge. There are just nine boutique rooms and delicious organic food is served. 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 the king of the jungle, the Royal Bengal Tiger.
If you like the idea of trekking in the mountains but don’t fancy the ‘rugged’ nature portion of the accommodation, then check out Yeti Mountain Home’s lodges. These luxury hotels in the Khumbu (Everest) region are located at strategic points along the Everest Base Camp trekking route and its surrounding areas: Lukla, Phakding, Monjo, Namche Bazaar, Thame and Kongde. Each is beautifully decorated and furnished, has attentive staff, warm and comfortable rooms and bathrooms and superb locations. 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 beautifully maintained and a is favourite among well-to-do Nepalis as well as foreign golf enthusiasts. Just take care that the cheeky monkeys 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, 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 has top-notch service and elegant, comfortable rooms. It’s comprised of individual two-story cottages made from rough, hand-cut stone. Temple Tree Resort is named after the surrounding fragrant frangipani trees, known as temple trees. There are three restaurants and bars on site, with lake and pool views.