Pokhara is the second largest city in Nepal after its capital Kathmandu. Situated 200 kms west from Kathmandu, the Pokhara valley is as low as a 1000 m and yet only 20 km from the mountains that reach an elevation of over 8000 m. The result is that the Pokhara valley has one of the highest rainfalls in the country, making the valley lush. The southern part of the city borders the Phewa Lake (827 m) while the northern end touches the base of the Annapurna mountain ranges. This affords the valley spectacular views of Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Manaslu and the Macchapuchhre (Fishtail). Pokhara’s proximity to Annapurna ranges makes it an ideal base for trekkers as well a perfect vacation place for those interested in easy walks along ridges and rivers, visit various caves and waterfalls in the valley or just to retreat to the quiet of the mountains.
Like every destination, Pokhara too is on the inevitable path of growth, slowly though yet one cannot miss what is happening to Nepal and this beautiful valley. More flights, internet, mobile connectivity, Starbucks like café and an expanding city. But what gets to you and you stay enchanted is when manual luggage handling is less hassle and quicker than it is at New Delhi’s swank new airport. Simple check-in procedures manually stamped boarding slips you are tempted to pin to your tack board back home and a hurried call for boarding just minutes before take- off, that’s destination Pokhara for you. A 20 minutes flight by Buddha Air or Yeti Airlines from the Kathmandu Domestic airport, Pokhara is an easy connect even if you drive the 5 hours from Kathmandu.
Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge: For many in the travel trade Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge (TMPL) needs no introduction. Begun in 1998 under Tiger Tops Mountain Travel Group, TMPL has set lofty standards in sustainable hospitality and community-inclusive tourism. The awards and accolades over the years speak as eloquently as the way the lodge is run today to continue forth as an independent nature based mountain lodge with the same ideals under Marcus’s private entrepreneurship which he drives with energy and passion.
A short drive up from Pokhara town and you quickly leave behind a rather linear real estate development up a hill that clearly shows signs of having been preserved from irresponsible grazing and mindless usurping of forests. TMPL is spread on a spur ridge that runs north to south and overlooks the mountains and the Pokhara Valley. The southern part of the ridge is dotted with quiet, sparsely populated hamlets and tiny villages while the northern part is well wooded and includes a community forest. These villages date back to some 200 years and depend on agriculture growing crops like millets, maize, rice, mustard and vegetables.
Reaching TMPL is through a slopping wooded path ideally covered on foot or a four-by-four. The short pebbled drive way which doubles up as parking space as well as landing for vehicles for arrivals and departures, leads up a few steps past a few cottages which are ideal for older guests, easy to access without compromising on the views. Further up the incline, gentler for the carefully placed stepping stones, you arrive within view of the main lodge.
The Lodge, Dining and Bar : A flight of stairs opens to a brief open hallway that opens out to a courtyard which looks out to the valley below and the Himalayan skyline yonder. The hallway connect two similar buildings made of stone and slate, a local architectural style that is sustainable as well as suitable for local weather conditions. The building to the right includes spacious seating areas, bar and library while the second building to the left is the dining room with a smaller covered area for buffet lunch that is easy to access from the courtyard. Both rooms open out through large French windows to a sit-out right under the roof and leads to an outdoor lawn. This is a convivial space for alfresco meals, cocktails and conversation. When the mountains are out there won’t be many takers for the indoors seating unless it is a cold winter night and the fire place in the center is crackling!
Winter afternoons in TMPL are about sitting out in the sun, drink at hand and enjoying Chef Lalu Mahato’s gently spiced Nepalese delicacies served exactly like it is done in Nepalese homes - an offering of lentils, vegetables, curries, rice and bread on a traditional bronze platter. Dinner usually served in the dining room is an immaculately planned table d’hote multi-course meal comprising of seasonal soups, farm fresh salads, various European-inspired meat dishes and delectable puddings. Alternately, guests may opt for a Nepali Thali. Special dietary requests and children’s favorites are welcomed.
The TMPL Cottages: The Nineteen cottages at Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge are built into the side of the ridge, mountain views being the deciding factor for their location. The architecture here again is similar to the local village’s homes you will pass by on your walks. Mud plastered lime stone bricks and slated tiled roofs look and feel completely a part of the gardens and woodlands that have been left to flourish naturally while keeping intrusive foreign plantation to a minimum. Most of the cottages are a set of two cottages one on the ground level and the second on a floor above. Each cottage has a sit-out and opens into a bedroom cum living area, large windows with net and glass for protection and large glass double-doors to ensure light and air; a brief dressing room and luggage area connects to a modern bathroom. Small details like flip-flops, dressing gowns, umbrellas, torch lights, oil heaters for winter, a bedside flask with purified water ensure thoughtful comfort while rugs by the bed, reading lamps, a tea service, fresh flowers, four poster beds with a net curtain spell warmth and an undeniable charm very signature to the lodge. When you slip into your four poster bed at night, the netting turned in – sleep in bliss and you will wake up early only to see Macchapuchare in her morning glory!
Things to do at TMPL
Unless you are stopping en-route to your trek in the Himalayas or on return, the recommended minimum number of nights that people spend in Pokhara is 3-4 nights to explore around and to enjoy the lodge.
Swimming Pool, Massage & Yoga: As a base for trekkers heading to the higher Himalayas, the Lodge offers a haven of luxury and indulgence after the demands of a trek. At this time a recuperative massage is the ultimate treat. Asian massage techniques are offered in the privacy of your room. Local men and women have been trained in skills that aid in relaxation by working on the body’s meridian points. Private yoga sessions led by a skilled master are available. A swimming pool set high to the views of the mountains is another area to relax and enjoy the views.
The lodge offers various walks that allow you to explore the area with skilled local guides on the lodge staff. With emphasis on the rich local culture, birding, flora, butterflies or just plain exercise, there is a walk as gentle or active as any guest could wish. Short forest and village walks, the Gurung Village hike, Pokhara Valley rim and Nandanda hike, Begnas lake walk , Himalayan trekking and seasonal white water rafting etc are some of the things to do besides visits to Pokhara and the Phewa Lake.
TMPL Responsible Tourism and Community Initiatives:
The lodge has been independently audited by RT Reporting (www.rtreporting.org) and follows self-imposed norms like minimal use of chemicals, reduce waste particularly non-biodegradable waste etc. The lodge also partners actively with the local community and supports various projects including financing local schools, community forestry projects, a forest nursery, training school teachers and forest rangers. Much of the food needs are sourced from the nearby villages, locally grown and purchased at fair prices. TMPL is also a member of various ecotourism and sustainable management forums. More information on this can be downloaded from the website.
Accommodation : 18 Rooms (13 cottages)
Hotel Classification : Himalayan Lodge
Highlights : Views of the Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Manaslu Ranges and Pokhara
Valley /Secluded infinity pool.
Rooms : Twins : 9 (1 double 1 single bed) 1 Twin (2 single beds)
Doubles : 6 all kingsize (3 rooms with 4 poster beds)
Triple: 1 (3 single beds)
Family: 1 (1 double and 2 single beds)
Printed Tariff : Sept 2012 – Mar 2013 : USD 250 per person (APAI)
excluding taxes and service charge
Ideal For : Perfect for Honeymooners, Long Weekend Breaks,
Family and Friends celebrating life events, Birding, forest
and village walks, Customized Retreats like Yoga,
Meditation, Art work-shops, Long stays.
Distances : Kathmandu : 190km (5 hrs drive / 25 minutes flight)
Pokhara City : 14km (30 minutes from airport)
Chitwan : 150km (4.5 hrs drive)
Itinerary Connect : Kathmandu – Pokhara / Perfect as extensions from India and a
pre-Bhutan connect via Nepal Base for Annapurna treks
Season : Closed from 15th June to 15th September
Best Months to visit : Early October, late November, March –May
Festival time : Dushera, Diwali, Christmas