Sustainable tourism is tourism that is committed to making a low impact on the environment and local cultures, while helping to generate future employment for local people. It aims to ensure that development is positive for local people, tourism operators and tourists.
While Nepal has great potential as a sustainable tourism destination, there are some hotels and forms of accommodation that are already doing good work in this area. Whether providing jobs for local women or generating extra work for traditional artisans, the following sustainable hotels in Nepal are ideal places to stay on your next trip if you’re committed to responsible tourism.
As lovely as many of Nepal’s hotels are, many visitors want to get a bit closer to ordinary Nepali people and to learn about how they live. A visit to one of Nepal’s several Community Homestays is the perfect way to experience Nepali hospitality while visiting places that aren’t yet on the busy tourist trail.
Community Homestays are located in Panauti and Nuwakot (near Kathmandu) and Chitwan. The homestay initiative was established a few years ago to empower local women. Rooms in local homes are opened up to tourists, who can get to know about typical Nepali life, and enjoy activities such as cooking classes, sightseeing around the town and now, this new hiking route. Rooms are all different but they are uniformly comfortable, with attached bathrooms and privacy.
Red House Lodge, Kagbeni
This newly opened lodge in Kagbeni, Lower Mustang, is a far cry from the common trekking lodges found around the Annapurna Circuit. The Red House Lodge is set in a mid-nineteenth century building that has been used as all kinds of things in its long history, most notably a nunnery. The new proprietor, Tripple Gurung, has made every effort to ensure that the local aesthetics, crafts and skills of the Lower Mustang region are reflected in the Red House Lodge, and that the renovation of the building into a lodge was done with respect to its cultural heritage. Old Buddhist murals are still on display in the new yoga room, and the original, intricately carved wooden beams are still prominent throughout the property.
There are plans to turn the Lodge into a museum, too, displaying cultural and natural artefacts from around the region, such as ancient fossils and local kitchenware. The view of the medieval Kagbeni Palace from the upper floor rooms is impressive, too. A stay at the Red House Lodge is the best way to be immersed in local culture—while staying comfortable.
Tiger Tops, Chitwan and Bardia National Parks
Tiger Tops is a pioneer of tourism in Nepal, first setting up their lodge in 1964. There are now two branches of Tiger Tops, located in (or near) Chitwan and Bardia National Parks. They are intimately involved in conservation efforts in their local communities, including the innovative Jayatyu Vulture Restaurant (designed to increase vulture populations) and the Elephant Camp. Guests can stay close to the amazing animals and help with their care. It is one of the more ethically sound ways of interacting with elephants in Asia.
Accommodation is in luxury tents, or in the permanent buildings made according to local aesthetics and with local materials.
Dwarika’s Hotel, Kathmandu
Dwarika’s Hotel is possibly the most luxurious accommodation in Nepal (with prices to match!). But it’s more than just a boutique luxury hotel—Dwarika’s is practically a museum. The founder, Dwarika Das Shrestha, made it his mission in the 1960s to collect and preserve traditional Nepali arts and crafts. Since then, local artisans have been supported by the hotel and its related organisations. It’s fair to say that the preservation of traditional Nepali crafts and heritage would not be the same today without the efforts of Dwarika’s Hotel. Each room is different, with priceless antiques and hand-crafted furniture and artefacts in each.
There is also a Dwarika’s Hotel in Dhulikhel, just outside the Kathmandu Valley.
Hotel Traditional Comfort, Kathmandu
Kathmandu has a very rich tradition of handicrafts, particularly among the Newari community in Patan and Bhaktapur. Workshops can be found throughout the backstreets of these towns, but it takes large, modern projects such as the building of the new hotel Traditional Comfort to ensure that these craft traditions continue to thrive in the twenty-first century.
Traditional Comfort has invested in not just sustainable tourism, but sustainable cultural preservation. Generations of artistic and cultural knowledge are embodied in the artisans still active today, and this knowledge can continue to be passed down to the younger generations when contemporary projects embrace the richness of Nepali tradition.
Traditional Comfort sets itself apart from many boutique hotels in Kathmandu—and indeed, the world over—for its amazing attention to detail. On close inspection, every item in the hotel—from the bricks, to the carved wooden beds, to the paintings and statues within alcoves in the corridors, to the printed bedspreads and cushions, to the intricate jhyal (windows)—are individual and hand-made. Visitors eager to learn about the traditional crafts and culture of the Kathmandu Valley can do so before even leaving the hotel.
Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge
Despite the name, Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge is not in the town of Pokhara itself, but about half an hour away, on a hill overlooking the Pokhara Valley. Individual cottages are made of hand-cut stone, reminiscent of the rustic traditional Nepali homes of the region, and come with spectacular Himalayan views.
The lodge is a member of several international responsible tourism associations, and the owners and operators believe in ‘tourism with a conscience’. They support a number of local initiatives, such as community forest groups, locals schools, health posts, local and international charities and environmental work.
Gorkha Gaun, Gorkha
On a hilltop surrounded by community forests near the town of Gorkha, roughly half way between Kathmandu and Pokhara, is the Gorkha Gaun. Local materials, skills and resources have been used to the best possible ability—80% of power is generated from solar panels, attempts at recycling waste water are underway, local stones were used to construct the cottages, and traditional mud mortar techniques were used in the building.
While the town of Gorkha is a short detour off the main tourist circuit in Nepal, it is a pretty town ringed with hills and mountains, with a peaceful and impressive Durbar Square. A stay at Gorkha Gaun makes it a destination worthy of a detour.
These sustainable hotels in Nepal prove that style, luxury and authentic travel experiences blend perfectly with responsible tourism, so be sure to check them out in 2017.