New Year New Places
The Old Inn, Bandipur
Most people driving from Kathmandu to Pokhara do not realise that 30 minutes off the highway and up a mountain side is the jewel of Central Nepal: Bandipur. The old Newa trading town with its pedestrianised cobblestone main street is a model of how heritage tourism should be done in Nepal.
At the centre of Bandipur bazar is The Old Inn: a restored four-storey Newa townhouse of timber and warm red bricks. The carved beams and staircases add to the charm of this centuries-old structure true to Kathmandu Valley's traditional architecture.
The rooms have low ceilings and doors, and the ambience more than makes up for the absence of the usual accoutrements of a modern hotel room. They are comfortable and decorated with Buddhist and Newa art, and locally made furniture. Food is delicious and prepared entirely from locally-sourced organic ingredients.
Those spending the day here can take a leisurely hike to Ramkot, a Magar village two hours away, and learn first-hand about age-old farming methods. If you like more adventure, you can hike to Siddha Cave (4 hours down and up) and even do a bit of spelunking.
Situated on a ridge at 1,030m elevation, Bandipur is sunny all winter when the Marsyangdi Valley below and Pokhara to the west are shrouded in fog. As the sky clears up, a vast mountain vista opens up, revealing the stunning Annapurnas, Himalchuli and Ganesh Himal.
A Magar kingdom before Prithvi Narayan Shah took over nearly 300 years ago, Bandipur was settled by Newa traders from Kathmandu Valley in later centuries, bringing with them art, culture and architecture that have been preserved intact – even as they slowly disappear in Kathmandu itself.
Easily accessible from Kathmandu (4 hours), Pokhara (2 hours) and Chitwan (1.5 hours), Bandipur will soon be connected to the highway by a scenic cable car. Visitors can opt for lunch on arrival at The Old Inn and take a guided tour of the town, and then savour authentic Nepali cuisine for dinner.
At the end of the day, The Old Inn provides a soothingly tranquil environment to wind down over sundowners on the terrace, making it a place perfect for families and groups of friends for a festival holiday.
For Nepalis (all prices include service charge and VAT)
Single room with bed and breakfast: Rs5,000
Single room with either lunch or
dinner and breakfast: Rs6,000
Single room with breakfast, lunch, and dinner: Rs7,000
+977 1 4522617, 4522618, 9808882270
Soaltee Westend Premier, Nepalganj
Equipped with infrastructure that is both eco-friendly and luxurious, Soaltee Westend Premier is the ideal hangout in Nepaganj for the eco-conscious traveller. It is the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified Silver Category hotel in Nepal with a ground water recharge system, rainwater harvesting, recycling of toilet effluent and measures to save energy. Visitors can sleep soundly at night, not worrying about their carbon footprint.
The hotel is just 10 minutes away from the airport, making it a good choice for those looking for a comfortable stay after treks. It was designed to cater to an influx of Indian pilgrims headed to Mt Kailash, although the pandemic ruined that idea. Still, travellers can relax at the spa and sauna, enjoy snacks in the in-house café, or head down to the Sunset bar.
For those looking for adventure, Bardia National Park is only a few hours away. Pay a visit to the grasscutter’s lane to taste the tradition and life in rural Nepal. At the city centre, indulge in some local delicacies and barbecue street food. Sweat it all out in the in-house gym at the hotel or take a leisurely swim in the first-floor swimming pool.
Single: Rs6,500++ (breakfast included)
Double: Rs7,500++ (breakfast included)
081 - 551145/48/86/87
Charikot Panorama Resort, Dolakha
Designed in collaboration with a Swiss architect and built in the late 90s, Charikot Panorama Resort provides a comfortable stay with a friendly and homely atmosphere.
Perched atop a hillock in Dolakha, the resort is a perfect weekend getaway. The resort offers a full package of accommodation, and can organise trips to Rolwaling, Jiri or Kalinchok, now linked with cable car.
Rolwaling Himal, including majestic Gauri Shankar (7,134m) and Melungtse (7,181m) are directly to the north. The hotel offers traditional Swiss (think fondue) and Nepali cuisine prepared by trained chefs.
You can also take a stroll down the old trading town of Dolakha Bazar with its old mint house and the Bhimsen Tower. Bring your binoculars to the four-storey high Charikot View Tower to take in the breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape.
The vegetables served are homegrown organically in the hotel’s garden. Don’t miss out on the homemade bread and plum jam during breakfast and opt for dinner by the bonfire during the chilly evenings.
The resort also features a small library and is pet friendly. Rooms are heated, which is welcome during the chilly nights.
Standard Half board (includes set dinner and breakfast)
Room-only starts at: Rs3,800
All rates inclusive of VAT and Service charge.
Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge, Pokhara
People don’t come to Tiger Mountain to see tigers, although tigers have started being sighted higher along the Himalaya lately. An occasional leopard does stroll by at night. But most visitors come here for the mountains after seeing tigers in the hotel's sister properties in Bardia or Chitwan. The surrounding forest is alive with birds, and a 30 minute stroll yields sightings of at least 40 different species. The trees and thick undergrowth of the community forests are a favourite for birds, with 332 of Nepal’s 867 species found here. Two new sightings were recorded last year: White-fronted Goose and Short-eared Owl. There are 350 species of butterflies and dragonflies.
Nestled at 1,200m on a ridge, Tiger Mountain commands an unparalleled vista from Gurja Himal in the west, along a jagged horizon of the Annapurnas, Machapuchre’s skyscraping pyramid, Lamjung Himal, right up to Manaslu and Himalchuli to the east. The place is ideal for those looking for a calm pre- or post-trek stay, for nature lovers, and for exploring local communities in rural setting.
While most will come for the mountain views, Pokhara has a lot more to offer than Machapuchre. The ridge where Tiger Mountain is situated was first located by trekking pioneer Jimmy Roberts while trying to find prominent hilltops to erect radio masts for the 1960 elections. It then became a camping spot for Prince Charles’ trek to Nepal in 1979, and the ‘Royal Trek’ that it popularised: more relaxed scenic day hikes around Pokhara.
Nepalis $140 per night/person (+tax)
Foreigners $195 per night/person (+tax)
Includes accommodation in double or twin sharing basis, all meals, non-bar hot drinks throughout the day, arrival and departure transfers and local guides.
01 472 0580, 98611 17717
Ghale Gaun Homestay, Lamjung
There can be no better way to experience the famed Nepali hospitality from a pre-trekking era than at Ghale Gaun.
This historic village in Lamjung is where for more than two decades Gurung families have opened their homes to guests.
Located 4 hour drive northwest of Kathmandu at an altitude of 2,100m, Ghale Gaun was first developed as a model SAARC village in 2008. Today, it draws trekkers and tourists to the Gurung Heritage Trail, which starts at Besisahar and ends in Thumsikot. The route includes several other villages within the Annapurna Conservation Area, including Ghanpokhara, Bhujung and Pasgaun, which also offer homestay services.
“Out of 120 households in Ghale Gaun, 40 homes currently provide homestay services,” says Dirgha Ghale of the Ghale Gaun Tourism Management Committee. “Homestay operators reopened their doors to tourists in mid-August following a crippling months-long Covid-induced shutdown.”
Visitors can either ride up to Besisahar and make a 6-hour trek to the village, or drive straight up for a relaxed family trip.
Ghale Gaun offers an authentic experience of the Gurung culture and way of life. Stay in Gurung ‘ghumaune’ round-houses, savour local cuisine and beverages, and enjoy the breathtaking view of Manaslu in the east, Lamjung and Annapurna II to the north. Visitors can meander through the bazar, visit the famed Uttarkanya Temple, bird-watch at the Talangyo Lake, or walk through the expansive tea garden. You can also sit in the sun overlooking terraced farmlands and listen to former Gorkhas recount stories of battles in far away lands in days gone by.
Ghale Gaun Tourism Management Committee
Price: Rs1,100-1,200 per day (3 meals included)