It's the most eco-friendly property experienced so far - and we've travelled quite a bit. The attention to details and the impeccable service are rivaled only by the scenic location of this boutique resort opened in November 2015 and the philosophy behind it. Far away from home - in Pokhara, Nepal - and far from the madding crowd, The Pavilions Himalayas is our idea of a perfect staycation.
"Namaste, sir! Welcome to The Pavilions Himalayas!" said the security guard in the parking lot after we got out of the car. Although it was dark - arrived at the resort at 4 AM in the morning - I could see him saluting respectfully (like they do in the military) while welcoming us at the resort. It was the first time when the security personnel of a hotel / resort greeted us this way. Later we found out it's common for security guards in Nepal to do this when greeting guests, but we haven't seen it at other hotels in Kathmandu where we stayed in October 2014 and now. It was a different welcome, one which told us the stay at Pavilions Himalayas will be unlike any other. It's worth noting we checked-in at this resort on April 13th, the first day of 2073 (Nepali calendar), after celebrating New Year's Eve in Pokhara together with our local friends and 250 riders who took part in the Enfield Rendezvous and Poker Run from Kathmandu. What a night it was!
Located 6 km outside of Pokhara, the resort is accessible via an unpaved road on which you drive for 3 km through a scenic valley after you've left the asphalt behind. You can also arrive by helicopter from Kathmandu and land on the resort's own natural helipad. The drive to / from the resort reminded me of an off-road experience and I'm sure that petrolheads - people who love cars - will appreciate it just as much. Rajiv, the GM of the resort and a good friend of mine: "I don't want to change this road and turn it into a paved one as it is an important part of the authentic experience we're offering our guests. Right here, in the middle of the untouched nature". Enhancing the arrival experience, there's no Reception at The Pavilions Himalayas. Instead, the check-in is done in-suite. Actually... in-villa, to be more precise. Surrounded by farmland, forested hills and a mountain fed river, The Pavilions Himalayas awaits guests with 15 luxurious, eco-friendly villas blending smoothly in the natural landscape. The security guard kindly escorted us to the villa, a short walk from the main building of the resort. The name of the villa - our home away from home for three days - was "Akasa", which translates into "sky" in Nepalese. I'm sure it was no coincidence as the General Manager knew I'm an aviation enthusiast, writing daily about this industry. Another nice surprise!
If you're not a fan of digital check-in procedures (via a card, smartphone app or using your fingerprint), you'll be happy to find out The Pavilions Himalayas takes a different approach: analogue. After arrival, the key to your villa is handed over. Then, as you reach the doors painted in red, you get to open the meticulously crafted lock and slide the metallic bar holding it with a pure, mechanical sound. A click which sounds even better in the middle of the night, when everyone else is asleep and only the stars are shining bright high up in the "akasa" sky. There are four types of villas at this 5-star Pokhara resort and we've experienced a "Pavilions Grand" villa. Here, contemporary floors and furnishings are met with a stylish traditional touch, bringing a rustic feel topped with modern comforts. Our villa, briefly: 118 square metres, en-suited bathroom and jacuzzi, private terrace, free Wi-Fi and a fireplace which will surely be appreciated by romantic travelers. There are also 300-thread count sheets, a first for any resort in Nepal. Of the five villas located behind the Clubhouse, three are split level units. On the Eastern side of the property we find two interconnected family units, each comprised of three villas (six in total). The first two rooms are identical in layout, however the third room is designed slightly different with a higher roof line to depict the surrounding hills. This room also serves as a living space for the family with their own kitchenette, a dining table and an open fireplace.
Although tired after a 12-hour motorbike ride from Kathmandu on the day before followed by New Year 2073 celebrations, several details caught my eye. The motifs and the colors in the villa blend harmoniously, making this place feel like a second home, a place you've known longer than just a couple of minutes. In a world where every hotel and resort is relying - more or less - on the same technologies to attract clients, the attention to details and the service are two elements (together with a picturesque location) that make a huge difference to discerning travellers. From this point of view, The Pavilions Himalayas ticks all the boxes. Unlike some other 5-star properties I've experienced before, where the build quality was not as expected, here the furnishings are carefully finished and thoughtfully integrated in the philosophy of the resort. Day or night, there's a feeling of spaciousness and familiarity in every villa. Each one comes equipped with flat TV, BOSE sound system and an iPod stuffed with a great selection of music, from rock and disco tracks to chill-out tunes.
After a good night's sleep, it was time to enjoy breakfast by the infinity pool, where drinks and refreshments are also served. On my way to the Clubhouse / Bhet Ghat, the heart of the resort, I've noticed the gym. Located on the 1st floor of the main building, above the offices, it overlooks the surrounding valley and offers great views at sunrise thanks to its floor-to-ceiling windows. A perfect way to start the day by keeping in shape! Right next to the gym there's Svastha Spa. Employing the best of signature Ayurvedic experiences, the resort's trained therapists provide luxurious treatments using custom-made signature spa products. All you have to do is unwind as the staff takes care of the rest. Speaking about this, 28 open-hearted and smiling locals are employed at the resort, people who make sure - in everything they do - that your stay is memorable. And I've seen this every time I interacted with them. "The staff is multi-skilled, so don't be surprised if you see the same person who served you breakfast organizing a trek for you in the afternoon or assisting with check-out and transfer to the airport when you leave", the GM added. I've said it before and will say it again: Nepal has the most welcoming people I've met anywhere in the world and the happiest children seen so far. It was a real joy to interact with the Nepali people again, one and a half years after my first visit to this tiny, but amazing country.
Coming back to breakfast, I've discovered another element which makes The Pavilions Himalayas unique, at least in Nepal: the chef restaurant cooks with organic farm vegetables and ingredients sourced from the resort's farm nearby to prepare the most delicious Nepali specialties and other international delicacies. "With the aim to avoid imported produce, we farm organically to supply the kitchens" the chef told me. This falls in line with the resort's philosophy: showcasing village life in Nepal, it respects the natural elements, it is sustainable and without detriment to the surrounding area. At Pavilions Himalayas, electricity is provided 100% by ground and roof-mounted solar panels, while harvesting rainwater, creating biogas for use on-site and making biodegradable signature toiletries from natural Nepalese ingredients are other eco-dimensions of this "green" boutique resort.
The Pavilions Himalayas makes a difference not only in the approach towards the environment, but also to the local community. "Our goal is that 50 percent of families in our village can enjoy direct, sustainable employment within the resort, while the other 50 percent of farmers can learn an additional skill and develop their own businesses that can provide us with the quantities of produce we need. We also make donations to the community school and health post, as well as managing our own charitable work under Right4Children and The Pavilions Foundation. We have various other ‘give-back’ goals for the future. Our ultimate objective: Pavilions Himalayas is a social business where we provide a large majority of our net profits to various social activities in which the co-owners Douglas and Insuba have been engaged collectively for the past twenty years." And there's more. Not far away from Pavilions Himalayas, a Hotel Management College that is operated through the resort's NGO Right for Children will open in two years. 70% of the students are going to be from the underprivileged society and the rest are going to be fee-paying students who are necessary for the operation of the College. They shall intern at The Pavilions Himalayas, as well as other partner hotels in Nepal and abroad.
Activities? No shortage of them here, in Pokhara, known amongst tourists as "Nepal’s adventure destination"! Three out of the ten highest mountains in the world, including the renowned Annapurna, are within 30 miles / 48 km of the city, making it Nepal’s top trekking destination. With its clean air, picturesque Phewa lake and wonderful retreats, Pokhara is a welcome break from Kathmandu, a perfect weekend retreat. The Pavilions Himalayas offers a wide range of customised activities. These include classes in yoga and meditation, as well as guided visits to Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples where visitors can enjoy exotic religious ceremonies and hold conversations with monks and spiritual teachers. Soft adventures for the family include handicraft centre visits, bird-watching and forest treks, while the resort’s cooking classes use ingredients grown and raised on its own land to teach unique Himalayan dishes like lentil soup, Tibetan MoMo dumplings and Thali. There is no shortage of challenges for adventure seekers, either. The Pavilions Himalayas can arrange treks into the Himalayan foothills, where guests can test their endurance, picturesque gliding with spectacular views, thrilling white water rafting on rushing rivers and other activities for every level of bravery.
Time flies when you're having fun and our three days spent at the resort went by faster than expected. How do we sum up the experience? Serene location with natural surroundings, far from the daily hustle and bustle of Pokhara, impeccable service, beautiful architecture with attention to details and, last but not least, friendly staff. People we're now considering our second family, not just employees of the resort. However, there's one thing above it all which made us realize The Pavilions Himalayas is a one-of-a-kind property: the thought of returning here for another staycation popped-up long before we checked-out. You know, that "Can I stay here like forever?" feeling. Without doubt, the best boutique resort we've experienced so far, an unforgettable experience. It won't be easy to top this one. Dhanyabad! Teodor Stefan