Entering the hotel from the busy street outside feels almost like stepping through a door into another world.
Unlike most luxury hotels, the Dwarika's Hotel in Kathmandu was born out of a passion to preserve ancient craftsmanship and culture. In 1952, the late owner of the hotel, Dwarika Das Shrestha began to salvage antiques, which would have otherwise be scrapped or remodelled. His collection became so extensive that he decided rather than leaving it unused and unappreciated, he would incorporate the pieces into a guesthouse where people could stay and explore the remains of an ancient city. Following the same concept, the hotel is now a small complex of burnt-red brick houses, based on Newari royal palaces, and is regarded as Nepal‘s most luxurious and unique place to stay.
Entering the hotel from the busy street outside feels almost like stepping through a door into another world. The enclosed courtyard, around which the buildings sit, overflows with flowers and plants, outdoor tables with umbrellas are laid for alfresco dining and the sunlight dapples across the stonework. It's instantly calming, smelling sweetly of lemongrass and other exotic fragrances. The check-in process is quick and painless, like all the best five-star resorts, the administrative parts are kept hidden from the guests, who sit with silk scarves draped round their necks, sipping cold glasses of juice and admiring the antiques and artworks that surround them.
Still owned, by the original family, the hotel is relaxed and homely with plenty of cosy communal rooms to curl up in playing Bagh-Chal (the traditional Nepalese board game, otherwise known as Tigers and Goats) if the weather outside is stormy. The staff are attentive, but there's no unnecessary fussiness, which means you can freely explore without fear of someone jumping out from behind the door to ask if you'd like another drink. The interiors too are warm and earthy.
Our room was a spacious top floor heritage suite, with Nepalese terracotta-tiled flooring, hand-woven textiles, organic cream linens, bespoke wooden furnishings made by local artisans and a day bed tucked snugly into a corner. The room's amenities were thoughtful and generous; a bowl of handmade soaps, bath salts, linen bags containing emergency toiletries, and a plate of chocolates placed on the bedside table in the evenings. Whilst heritage often translates as dated and stuffy, Dwarika's combines ancient artefacts with modern comforts and contemporary detailing, making it timelessly stylish.
During the day, it's hard to drag yourself away from the poolside. Designed to replicate 12th century royal baths, the pool fits seamlessly with the hotel's aesthetic, surrounded by sun beds and curtained cabanas where you can lie in a heap of cushions, sipping a cocktail from the Fusion bar, pretending that this is your private residence. Beside the pool, the Pancha Kosha Himalayan Spa offers a range of treatments, drawing on Ayurvedic teachings, Buddhist medicine and ancient rituals, such as singing bowl therapy or the three-hour-long Glowing Herbal Powder Therapy which involves Himalayan herbs being sprinkled over the body and a moisturising herbal massage.
The hotel has three excellent restaurants to choose from, which all use produce from Dwarika's organic farms. Breakfast at the Toran is an indulgent buffet spread (you can dine inside or in the courtyard), with pastries, breads, traditional Nepalese dishes and the most delicious cinnamon-flavoured yoghurt. You can also order a la carte – I'd highly recommend the Eggs Benedict with a rich and creamy cappuccino on the side. For lunch, Toran serves a menu of continental dishes, or if you're feeling more adventurous, there's the Japanese restaurant, Mako's which has special set lunch-time meals (the tempura vegetables and prawns, and miso soup are especially good).The hotel's signature restaurant, Krishnarpan is the grandest of the bunch, serving Nepalese feasts (meals range from six to a mammoth twenty-two course affair – get ready to loosen your belts) on beautiful traditional brass and earthenware plates.
There really isn’t anything to dislike about the Dwarika's Hotel. It's effortlessly beautiful and serene, but more importantly than that, it's a museum of Nepal's cultural heritage that's quickly being consumed by the rapid expansion of Kathmandu. The hotel strives to teach and encourage the careful preservation of antique artefacts, and by staying there, you get to be a part of the project. It's luxury at it's most thoughtful and refined
Visit the Dwarika's Hotel online to make a booking.