1966 was a watershed year in the history of Nepal tourism, it being the year when both Hotel Association Nepal (HAN) and Nepal Association of Travel Agents (NATA) were born. It was also the year when the country’s second 5-star hotel, Hotel Soaltee, opened its doors. All this signified that Nepal tourism was taking off in a big way, and the future looked rosy.
A year earlier, in 1965, another 5-star property, Hotel de l’Annapurna, had already started welcoming guests, a few of the ever growing number of tourists visiting this erstwhile Shangri-La. But, much before these two 5-star hotels came into being, an enterprising Newar businessman, Dwarika Das Shrestha, and an intrepid Russian émigré, Boris Lisanevich, had already lay their claim to fame as the first to open Western style hotels in the country, Paras Hotel (1952) and Hotel Royal (1953), respectively. Snow View Hotel (1954) and Coronation Hotel (1956) followed. Today, there are a large number of star and tourist standard hotels across the length and breadth of the country, including eight 5-star hotels in Kathmandu and two in Pokhara.
Established in 1965, Hotel Annapurna (then Hotel de l’Annapurna) has the singular distinction of being the first 5-star hotel in Nepal. Another aspect that makes it stand out is its location on Durbar Marg, Kathmandu, an upscale commercial center, and just a stone’s throw from the old royal palace. This hotel has had its fair share of the rich and the famous as its guests, and still does, in fact. And, like most other establishments, it has also gone through changes since the time it first opened its doors, including its name, from Hotel de l’Annapurna to simply, Hotel Annapurna.
Today, the hotel has a total of 151 guestrooms that have been recently refurbished. These include two Executive, one Regency, and one Deluxe suites, along with 64 Heritage, 30 Deluxe, 23 Corporate Deluxe, and 28 Club rooms. The hotel’s Ghar-e-Kabab restaurant is reputed for its Mughlai Indian cuisine, while its Coffee Shop is a regular hangout for many urbanites. Similarly, the Araniko Room offers delicious oriental fare and the Juneli Bar a nice place to relax. The Arch Room, Banquet Hall, and Kumari Hall, are popular venues for events, banquets, and such, while the Meeting Room I and the Meeting Room II offers excellent conference facilities. The 11,000 sq ft Poolside Garden is also a wonderful venue for holding events and banquets.
Soaltee Crowne Plaza Kathmandu
Among the 5-star hotels of Kathmandu, Hotel Soaltee Crowne Plaza Kathmandu has undoubtedly, the most distinguished history. Recalling the initial years, its Chairman Emeritus, Mr. Prabhakar SJB Rana, reminisces, “The second part of the first five years of Hotel Soaltee’s establishment were very good years for business. We used to receive a lot of excellent tourists from the U.S. and Europe, and our rooms were priced at $70 then, which is more or less similar to what it is now, even after all these years!”
Soaltee is set upon 12 acres of landscaped grounds in a convenient location close to the capital’s city center. Through the years, it has become the preferred hotel for visiting heads of state and international celebrities, and has hosted numerous international events. In fact, a separate section was built during the time of the SAARC summit in Kathmandu to house the heads of state of the member countries. The hotel has 16 luxurious suites, and 131 Deluxe, 102 Executive, and 33 Club rooms, along with four restaurants and a bar, Alfresco (Italian cuisine), Kakori (Indian cuisine), Garden Terrace (all day long restaurant), China Garden (Chinese cuisine), and Rodi Bar. Conferences, banquets, and so on are regular features of the hotel due to its excellent venues, namely, Rose Garden, Megha Malhar, Malshree, Marva, and Himalchuli, with capacity ranging from 40 to 2,500 guests.
Hotel Yak & Yeti
This hotel, too, has quite a history. Its origins lie in The Chimney restaurant that Boris Lissanevich established in Lal Durbar near Durbnar Marg in Kathmandu. An outstanding example of Rana period architecture, this durbar was built in A.D. 1885 by Maharaja Bir Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana. The Chimney soon became a favorite watering hole for people of substance, and encouraged by its success, a 120-room hotel with 5-star amenities was completed in the year 1977. About 2 years later, an extension of 150 deluxe rooms and suites were built. Along with the construction of the new wing, a brand new porte-cochere, lobby, a new lobby bar, shopping arcade, an atrium, a second swimming pool, and two tennis courts were also constructed.
The hotel combines modern day sophistication with cultural heritage, and although it offers all modern facilities, efforts were made to preserve some of the traditional Nepali architectural features, such as carved windows that are more than 200 years old. The meticulously restored durbar now houses two historic restaurants, banquet rooms, and a grand ballroom. The hotel has 19 suites, and 100 Deluxe, 105 Standard, and 21 Club rooms, along with two restaurants, Sunrise Café (international cuisine) and Chimney Restaurant (Russian and Continental). Conference, banquet and other facilities are available at eight venues, Regal, Durbar, Dynasty, Regency, Crysta, Viceroy, Senate, and Balcony, ranging capacity from 15 to 800 guests.
Hotel Hyatt Regency Kathmandu
Located near the famous Boudhnath Stupa, a world heritage site monument zone of Kathmandu, Hyatt Regency is set on 37 acres of meticulously landscaped grounds. The architecture of the hotel has been based on traditional Nepali architecture, with its vast lobby embellished with large stone chaityas (stupas) and dhunga dharas (stone spouts) that immediately gives visitors the feeling of Nepal. The hotel has 280 rooms and suites, which include eight suites and seven S-Deluxe, 192 Standard, 38 Stupa View, and 35 Regency Club rooms. Doubtless, one can assume that the Stupa View rooms are much in demand.
As for restaurants, The Café serves international cuisine, Rox is the hotel’s signature outlet and features a show-kitchen with wood-fired oven, and serves southern European cuisine. Rox Bar features an island bar and offers a wide selection of beverages. The Lounge is a convenient and comfortable meeting venue and serves specialty beverages, light meals, and an afternoon tea selection. The Terrace serves light food, healthy meals, salads, juices and refreshing cocktails. The hotel offers over 10,100 sq ft of impressive meeting space, providing unparalleled business services to meet the needs of the individual business traveler, whilst catering to the diverse requirements of the customer. In addition to the meeting space, there are numerous outdoor venues available within the hotel grounds. The hotel’s Club Oasis features a fitness center, health and beauty spa, outdoor swimming pools, whirlpool, tennis courts, and a 1.6 km jogging track.
Shangri-La Hotel was established in 1979-1980 in Lazimpat, Kathmandu, and was more of a boutique hotel than a star-hotel for many years. Its founder chairman Mr. Shyam Bahadur Panday’s vision was to create a sort of ‘promised land’ with a relaxing and welcoming environment. According to him, “The original main entrance was designed to symbolize a pass that travelers have to cross enter to reach enchanting valleys in the high mountains.” In due time, he came in touch with Desmond Doig, an individual well-known for his creative abilities, who wanted to design a garden on the hotel premises.
This garden, named Shambala Garden, became, and still is, one of the hotel’s special features. It has even won a prestigious international award. The hotel has undergone a number of renovations and refurbishments since its establishment, and currently has 24 Executive Club suites, two Deluxe suites, five Jr. suites, and 69 Deluxe rooms. Its two restaurants, Saffron and Shambala Garden Café, offer specialty Indian and multi-cuisine, respectively, while The Lost Horizon offers a wide variety of drinks and snacks. Four venues, Sammelan Hall, Baithak Hall, Desmond Doig Room, and Garden Pavilion, with capacity ranging from 20 to 300, offer excellent settings for conferences, events, and banquets.
Radisson Hotel Kathmandu
Radisson Hotel Kathmandu, which was established in November 1998 in Lazimpat, Kathmandu, had an extremely difficult beginning. “The Maoist insurgency began around the same time that we started,” recalls Executive Chairman Mr. Govind Das Shrestha. ”Tourist arrivals reduced drastically, and it was a most challenging time to keep ourselves afloat.” According to the venerable chairman, his interest in the hospitality industry was aroused because of the great success of another of his ventures, namely, Himalayan Travels, a leading travel agency of the time.
Today the hotel offers 260 spacious, well-facilitated guest rooms, including 15 suites, and 96 Premium, 107 Standard, 20 Deluxe, and 22 Business Class rooms. The eight-storied hotel has six restaurants, namely, The Fun Café, Olive Garden, The Comer Bar, Pastry Shop Shop, Splash Bar & Grill, and The Terrace Garden, offering a wide array of international cuisine, including Mediterranean, a specialty of the Olive Garden. The Nepa Dhuku Hall, Begnas Hall, Rara Hall, and Gosainkund Hall provide well-equipped facilities for holding conferences, banquets, and other events. Its Clark Hatch Fitness Centre is very popular with fitness enthusiasts of the city, as is its rooftop swimming pool.
The Malla Hotel
The Malla Hotel is built in Euro-Nepal architectural style, and is located in between the erstwhile royal palace and the tourist hub of Thamel in Kathmandu. It has 10 suites and 35 Deluxe and 53 Standard rooms, along with four restaurants: Rendezvous, Tara, Imperial Pavilion, and Coffee Shop, serving Continental, Indian, Szechuan and Cantonese, Nepali, French, and Italian cuisine. Its two halls, Malla Plaza and Business Lounge, with capacity ranging from 40 to 300 guests, offer excellent venues for events, banquets, and conferences. The beauty of the hotel is further enhanced by its award-winning garden and shimmering swimming pool.
The Everest Hotel
The Everest Hotel is located in the commercial area of New Baneswor in Kathmandu. It has five suites, one Executive suite, and 60 Deluxe, 84 Standarad, and 10 Club rooms. Its four restaurants, Bugles & Tiger, Mandarin, Far Pavilion, and The Café, offer Chinese, Indian, and multi-cuisine. The Grande Ballroom, the Lotus Hall, and Namche Hall provide well-equipped facilities for holding conferences, banquets, and other events with capacities ranging from 15 to 1,000 guests.