Poinsettia Cottage terrace | Courtesy of Shivapuri Heights Cottages
Sitting somewhere between the gorgeous luxury hotels of Nepal and its famous “teahouses” along trekking routes are a host of boutique hotels in Kathmandu. These come with homely touches, an abundance of local arts and crafts, and good service. They won’t break your bank account, but you’re sure to have a memorably good stay. Here are our picks for the best boutique hotels in Kathmandu.
Kathmandu Guest House, Chaksibari Marg
Kathmandu Guest House, Thamel | Photo courtesy of Kathmandu Guest House
The Kathmandu Guest House, in the heart of the Thamel tourist district, is a landmark and a classic. This boutique hotel situated in an old Rana-era building was established in 1968, and was part of the first wave of tourist establishments that kick-started the industry in Nepal. The colorful and well-tended gardens are the communal centerpiece of the hotel, and the quirkily decorated rooms are comfortable. The Kathmandu Guest House group has seven properties throughout Nepal, so if you have a good experience at the original location in Thamel, you can book their sister properties elsewhere in the country.
This new hotel opened in 2016, and does a good job of combining traditional craftsmanship with contemporary attention to detail and the comfort that travelers seek. Situated in the quieter Kamal Pokhari area, away from the noise and hustle of Thamel, it is still only a short (15-20 minute) walk from that area, as well as the upmarket Durbar Marg shopping and dining strip. The 36 rooms all come with handcrafted woodwork and linens, and the artwork in the common areas was commissioned from local artists and artisans, largely from Patan. Efforts have been made to keep the hotel environmentally friendly, as natural light has been used to its full advantage (which is important in Kathmandu, a city with many power cuts). This is a good value hotel with many sophisticated touches.
Tajaa Pha Heritage Home is located in a wonderfully quiet, local Newari neighborhood in Patan. Although many visitors to Patan come over from Kathmandu in the day, few spend the night, meaning that those who do get a very different experience of the city and its local culture. Right outside the guesthouse is the large Pimbahal Pokhari (tank), with a small temple in the middle and an ancient Buddhist stupa to one side. Although the temple was shaken down in the earthquake of 2015, it has recently been rebuilt, and is a lovely, quiet place. Tajaa Pha is about equidistant between Patan Dhoka and the Patan Durbar Square (five-minute walk to each), and has just eight tasteful rooms. The proprietor is a friendly and helpful local man.
Jasmine House Room | courtesy of Shivapuri Heights Cottages
The Shivapuri Heights Cottages are located in the hills above Budhanilkantha and at the foot of the Shivapuri National Park, on the northern edge of Kathmandu. Though a short (20-minute) drive to the central city, the location is peaceful, green, and comes with fabulous night views of Kathmandu. The property is run by a British-Nepali couple, who are full of local tips and are happy to show you around or share a meal with you. There are 18 available beds (in a mixture of rooms, standalone cottages, and luxury tents) and the home-cooked meals are absolutely delicious. There’s an on-site spa, plunge-pool, and excursions to the nearby Shivapuri National Park, monasteries, and temples of Budhanilkantha can be arranged. This place is stylish but very chilled out, just like a family home.
The Swotha Traditional Homes are just around the corner from the must-see Patan Durbar Square, tucked down a quiet back alley. The building is a beautifully restored seventy-year-old Newari building, of the type that you see all over the place while walking around Patan. The rooms and simple but stylish and light, and the small downstairs café does good breakfasts and lunches (and has reasonable Wifi, if you’re looking for a place to work). This is a great place to base yourself if you want to stay away from the tourist clamor of Thamel.
Kantipur Temple House must be one of the few places in the tourist hub of Thamel where you can get a good night’s sleep! Located down a quiet side-street and around a private garden courtyard, the stylish building with traditional Newari influence is reminiscent of the upscale Dwarika’s Hotel, but without the hefty price tag. Kantipur Temple House prides itself on its eco-friendly credentials and has used the age-old expertise of local craftspeople to furnish and decorate the space. If you have to base yourself in Thamel, this is the pick of the bunch.
Another boutique hotel in a great location, Hotel Vajra is a short walk from Swayambhunath Temple, and within walking distance from Thamel and the Kathmandu Durbar Square (although admittedly, the walk over the Bishnumati “River” to the latter isn’t so kind on the eyes or the nose). The Vajra has great outdoor and garden areas, thick with greenery and statuary. There’s also a lovely library for casual reading or business meetings.