The Pavilions Himalayas
A British-owned rural retreat with impressive green credentials
The top-end Pavilions brand offers the most stylish and modern of the resorts on this list. The top of the line design and impeccable service gives a jet-set feel and the rural accommodation consists of individual villas, meaning there's lots of privacy, with huge modern bathrooms equipped with whirlpool tubs and exclusive house-made toiletries.
Particularly impressive are the off-grid environmental credentials. The resort gets all its energy from solar panels, harvests and recycles its own rainwater and even has an onsite biogas plant. The surrounding organic farm even gives guests the opportunity to milk a buffalo or thresh their own rice, but if this sounds too much like work you can just kick back and enjoy views of the surrounding rice paddies from the infinity pool or your own private porch.
Pavilions is a 20-minute drive from Pokhara down an unpaved road, so it makes sense to book at least a two-night stay. Ask also about the new Pavilions lakeshore luxury tented resort on the quiet southwestern corner of Phewa Lake, accessible via a romantic boat ride, and due to open in 2018.
Cost: Double rooms with breakfast from $200 USD
Location, Location, Location
This small resort is perched high on a ridgeline above Pokhara and offers simply fabulous views over Phewa Lake and the Annapurna range. It's particularly good for walkers; the scenic three-day Panchase Trek ends at the hotel gate and there are some great day hikes here, including to the nearby Pumdikot viewing platform, where a huge statue of the Hindu god Shiva is under construction. Hike along the ridgeline and you'll be rewarded with some of the region's most beautiful panoramas.
Rooms are comfortable and modern but Raniban isn't about five-star luxury. You really come here for the views and they are unbeatable, from dawn breaking behind the nearby Peace Pagoda to the sun setting over the Machhapuchhare peak, and even the beautiful nighttime city lights of Pokhara far below you. 'Mountain view' rooms offer the widest views but for the best panoramas grab a seat on the terrace or the restaurant rooftop. Staff can guide you on local walks.
Cost: Double rooms from $130 USD
Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge
Old School Charm
A 22-mile (35km) drive outside Pokhara, on a private hilltop facing the Annapurna range, Tiger Mountain is the crème de la crème of Pokhara's resorts. A dozen secluded stone villas dot the peaceful hilltop gardens, with most rooms offering mountain views from the private balcony. The focal point is the central stone terrace, where you can linger over an al fresco breakfast or a sunset gin and tonic while soaking up the superb Himalayan panorama. Even the swimming pool reflects perfect views of the Machhapuchhare peak.
Tiger Mountain doesn't bother with flashy decor or spa treatments; it's the old-school service that is the charm here. Walk up to the bar for pre-dinner drinks and canapés and by the time you get back to your room a steward will have lit and heated your room and placed a hot water bottle in your turned-down bed. The resident guide leads free early morning birding trips (each room comes with a checklist of local birds), as well as fascinating cultural walks through the local village.
Tiger Mountain was originally part of Mountain Travel, one of Nepal's first travel agencies and the sense of history is palpable here. The bar contains the personal library of Colonel Jimmy Roberts, the ex-army officer who single-handedly kick-started Nepal’s trekking industry, while the charming owner Marcus Cotton is a walking encyclopedia of Nepal, having lived here for close to 30 years.
Cost: Double rooms from $450 USD
Himalayan Front Hotel
Solid comfort with mountain views
The latest offering from the well-run Kathmandu Guest House group is perched partway up Sarangkot ridge, offering unimpeded views towards Annapurna, Machhapuchhare and Larjung peaks. All the rooms are angled towards the mountains, meaning you can watch the dawn break over the Himalaya without actually having to get out of bed (or even the shower - glass walls provide a direct line of sight in many rooms).
The rooftop café and bar offers another good place to enjoy the morning views, while the pool and espresso bar offer a good place to wind down after a trek while savoring the trek-worthy mountain views for one extra day.
The following morning staff can arrange for you to paraglide from the top of nearby Sarangkot ridge down to their second property, the Waterfront Resort on the shores of Phewa Lake, which is about as James Bond as hotel transfers get.
Cost: Double rooms from $80 USD
Ghandruk Himalaya Lodge
Annapurna Trekking in Style
Ker & Downey's chain of six mountain lodges are dotted around the Annapurna foothills, making them ideal if you fancy a taste of teahouse trekking without having to surrender too many of your luxuries. Walkers can link lodges to make a three- to six-day trek, passing Himalayan viewpoints and traditional villages en route, while avoiding the worries of high altitude or hassles of camping.
The heart of the operation is the Himalaya Lodge in the lovely Gurung village of Ghandruk, a day's walk from Pokhara. Rates include pre-dinner drinks and snacks in front of the lodge's roaring fireplace, followed by a set dinner served at one long table, giving you plenty of opportunity to swap trekking tales with the lodge's other guests. Breakfast is served al fresco on the garden terrace, allowing unobstructed views of the dawn light over Annapurna and Machhapuchhare peaks.
Rooms come with ensuite bathrooms and hot showers, plus blankets and down jackets for the stirring dawn and dusk views, but this is a trekking lodge rather than a resort, so expect rustic comfort rather than pampering luxury.
Cost: Included as part of all-inclusive trekking packages
Shangri-La Village Resort
A Green Oasis
The Shangri-La's strength lies squarely in its lush tropical gardens, full of quiet corners and inviting hammocks. The lovely pool is a great place to relax, as is the spa, while kids can feed the giant koy from a bridge above the pond. Rooms are modern, stylish and spacious, and come with a private balcony or terrace opening out onto the gardens.
Shangri-La is more of a hotel than a retreat, so perhaps lacks the exclusivity of the most expensive resorts, but the sense of space is wonderful and a big plus is that it's just a short taxi ride from Pokhara's Lakeside district with its dozens of restaurants and bars. It's also close to the airport if you have an early morning flight back to Kathmandu.
Cost: Double rooms from $95 USD
Temple Tree Resort
Spa Resort in the Town Center
Temple Tree is another great option if you prefer to be based in Pokhara town, and manages to combines a central location with a resort feel. The charming buildings recall Nepali village architecture, lending the resort a rural vibe, and yet the location is right in the center of Lakeside, making it super convenient if you need to get your laundry done, do some last minute shopping or toast your trek at one of the many nearby bars and restaurants.
The spa is also a strong point here and the perfect place to soothe your sore legs with the specially-designed 'trekkers' massage'. Rooms come with balconies and there's a pleasant bar area, as well as a small but charming pool with sun beds, in case you just want to lie back and take it easy.
Cost: Double rooms from $120 USD