A lot of people immediately equate Nepal to a backpacker’s paradise. To some extent, they are right. But Nepal is more than this and is really full of surprises, especially in the luxury category. You’ll find that the country and its people are equally effective in lavishing and pampering you with good food, a rich curated cultural experience, and stylish accommodations.
There are accommodations that cater to those longing for the sweet escape of doing nothing. They offer yoga retreats, ayurvedic treatments, organic meals, and relaxing spa sessions. On top of this, the structures are far from generic and usually maximize the identity of the Nepali people by creating architecture that highlights a certain aspect of their identity, from Newar royalty to the ethnic tribes of Pokhara. Whatever the case, the accommodations featured in this list will surely exceed expectations:
The Hotel Heritage is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the first deluxe hotel in Bhaktapur. A good part of the hotel was salvaged from old structures. The parts used in the construction - waste really - was refashioned to make the different parts of the building, including the marble and stone floors of the entrance which came from a royal palace as well as some clay bricks with Newari script which came from another royal residence. Even the furniture is somewhere between 200 to 400 years old. The hotel is the result of the vision of the owner, Prakash Dhaubadel, as part of his advocacy to preserve tradition and heritage, in the country. His ancestors have lived in Bhaktapur since the 12th century. Most of the products and artworks are from Bhaktapur as well. There are 25 large rooms, all decorated in antique furniture and quaint fixtures.
The Pavilions Himalayas promotes itself as “eco-friendly, sustainable luxury.” It has also been named by CNN as one of Nepal’s Top 5 Responsible Boutique Hotels. This hotel is nestled in a valley near Phewa Lake, just 2.6 kilometers (1.6 miles) away from the Peace Pavilion. They have 15 eco-friendly villas from the Pavilions Classic to what they call the Gaun Char or the Farmhouse, all of which have a view of the Himalayas. The Gaun Char is perhaps one of its most unique features of the Pavilions. Good for six to seven people, it’s found near a village just a five-minute walk from the main resort. The Gaun Char has its own garden which you can pick from to cook some Nepalese delicacy, or you can have a private butler do it for you.
So, what makes the resort eco-friendly? For one, 95 percent of the resort depends on solar electricity. They use biogas, rainwater harvesting, and gray water harvesting as well. This is quite amazing for a resort that doesn’t seem to scrimp on luxury.
Dwarika’s takes a lot of its inspiration from the cultural heritage of the Kathmandu Valley, especially Newar architecture. Much of the establishment was inspired by the palaces of Newar Malla Kings. The compound itself is made out of different Newari buildings that are separated by charming brick-lined courtyards. Dwarika’s is more of a museum in the sense that the owner has collected so many artifacts, some as old as the 13th century, and placed them strategically in his hotel which includes an intimate library lounge.
The suites are just gorgeous, and each is uniquely decorated with a living room, a private terrace, and an unbelievable view of the snowcapped Himalayas. You can also dine at their restaurant, Krishnarpan, which specializes in Nepalese cuisine. Dwarika’s Hotel is the winner of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Heritage Award. The Pashupatinath Temple is just a short walk away.
Kasara seems to have a different take on luxury. It blends the best of modern amenities with understated luxury and the rustic wonder of the outdoors. Each room has a water garden courtyard and a sundeck breakfast nook. The best part about it though is its close proximity to Chitwan National Park where it’s easy to find everyday adventure. You can take a cruise on Rapti River in a dugout canoe to spot crocodiles, birds, and other animals living on the riverside. You can also have an encounter with the Tharus, one of the indigenous tribes in Nepal, through an ox cart village tour.
Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge is built on a ridge 1,000 feet (305 meters) above the Pokhara Valley, just a half hour away. Its location makes it perfect for a pre or post trek getaway. It is also one of the secret retreats as it is tucked in a very rural mountain setting with cottages arranged to resemble a Nepalese village. The cottages are made from hand cut stone with handmade wooden furniture and lively Tibetan rugs. The dishes served are from fresh village ingredients, including garden herbs and salads.
For those interested in Ayurvedic therapy, their masseuses are trained in the practice. Daily yoga and meditation sessions are also available for guests. In the late afternoons or early evenings, guests can gather around the bonfire for pre-cocktail conversations as they gaze at the sentinel peak of Machhapuchare. This is the life.
More than just roughing it
Nepal has always been synonymous with roughing it. Backpackers have been content with having the bare minimum, especially when out on the road, traveling to the different parts of this historic country. However, should you want to have a welcome change, at least for a day or two, you’ll find that there are also a myriad of options that will surprise the sensibilities of the modern traveler.
To add to this, luxury in Nepal also seems to be synonymous with having the utmost respect for the environment. Many heritage and boutique hotels adhere to the strictest standards of hospitality for their guests without sacrificing the environment and the well-being of the local community. And really, what could be more luxurious? Here, the traveler is almost elevated to the sacred where his physical, mental, and spiritual well-being can be fully satiated. Now that’s a vacation.
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