Planning a trip to Nepal? The country offers much more in the way of accommodation than just hotels. Consider spending a night or two in one of these unique alternatives: a trailside teahouse, traditional homestay, Buddhist monastery, or luxury mountain lodge at 13,000 feet.

Trek to an Authentic Teahouse

Teahouse accommodation at Mohare Danda with a view of the Annapurna Himalaya (photo by Elen Turner)

The teahouse is a quintessentially Nepali form of accommodation, though there's more to it than the name implies. Once upon a time, they would have literally been small local shacks offering tea and snacks to passersby and even a night's lodging for those who needed it. Now, teahouses are essentially trekking lodges in the mountains that provide a bed and meals.

Teahouses are rarely luxurious, but they're an essential part of the experience of trekking in Nepal. Usually, the bed (in a private room or dorm) is very cheap, on the condition that guests buy their meals there, too. Food and drinks become more expensive the higher in altitude you rise, as everything needs to be carried in on foot (either human, donkey, or yak).

Some teahouses are very basic, with thin partitions between rooms, outdoor toilets, and nothing much more than a plank of wood to sleep on. Others are more comfortable, with nice bedding, extensive menus, and hot water. In popular trekking regions such as the Annapurna, Everest, and Langtang areas, travelers have a wide variety of options to suit a range of budgets. In more remote areas, you'll have fewer choices to make. 

Stay in a Luxury Mountain Lodge

Everest Summit Lodge in Pangboche, at 13,000 feet (photo courtesy of Everest Summit Lodges)

Teahouses aren't the only accommodation option when trekking in Nepal. Travelers who prefer a higher degree of comfort (and have a larger budget) can opt to stay in a luxury mountain lodge in the Annapurna or Everest regions. Beautifully designed buildings and interiors, art on the walls, delicious meals, cozy bedding, hot water, and impeccable service make it easier to rest after a long day of hiking.

Yeti Mountain Homes run several lodges throughout the Everest region on a circular trail that provides an enjoyable shorter alternative to the full Everest Base Camp trek. The lodges reflect the culture and environment of the Khumbu region and offer king beds or a twin-share arrangement.

Everest Summit Lodges are located on points along the Everest Base Camp trekking trail. The highest is at Pangboche (13,000 feet), a Sherpa village that's one of the highest permanently inhabited settlements in the area. This chain of lodges is committed to reflecting authentic Sherpa architecture and design and making a comforting place to recharge during your trek.

In the Annapurna region, Ker & Downey Lodges offer beautiful, comfortable accommodations with unbeatable views. They're located a day's walk apart, linking up to make a convenient trail in the Annapurna. Buildings are constructed with natural materials and are reflective of the local culture, a mix of Gurung, Magar, Pun, and other ethnic groups.

Find Peace in a Buddhist Monastery

The Neydo Monastery Hotel at Pharping (photo by Elen Turner)

Despite being a majority Hindu country, Nepal has strong Buddhist traditions. Monasteries all over the country (but particularly in Kathmandu and Pokhara) provide accommodation to travelers. Some monasteries hold meditation retreats or Buddhist philosophy courses, and some places will specially reserve accommodations for students.

Monastery guesthouses that don't require taking a course include the Thrangu Tashi Monastery in Namo Buddha and the Neydo Tashi Choling Monastery Hotel in Pharping. Namo Buddha is about two hours east of Kathmandu and is Nepal's second most important Tibetan Buddhist pilgrimage site (the first being the Boudha stupa in Kathmandu). The guesthouse at the monastery has a new and an old wing; prices are lower in the latter, but both are affordable and include breakfast and dinner in the dining hall with the monks.

Pharping is about an hour south of central Kathmandu, in the hills—an important place because Guru Rinpoche is believed to have meditated in a cave nearby. The Neyo Monastery offers comfortable hotel-style accommodation with mid-range prices that include breakfast. Waking up at dawn to the sounds of monks chanting and pounding their drums is an unforgettable experience. Visitors can check out the aforementioned cave and the nearby Dakshinkali Temple, an important Hindu temple where animal sacrifices occur a couple of times a week. 

For travelers who want to attend a course, the Kopan Monastery near Boudhanath runs well-regarded courses on meditation and Buddhist philosophy, suitable for various experience levels. Dorm rooms to deluxe suites are available, and the very reasonable prices include food.

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Get Local with a Nepali Homestay

Travelers can stay at a homestay in the village of Patlekhet, near Dhulikhel (photo by Elen Turner)

A homestay is a great option to meet local people and experience how they live. Accommodations are basic, but two great homestay programs set minimum quality standards—guests are guaranteed a private room and bathroom, filtered drinking water, and meals from a clean kitchen.

The Community Homestay network operates in many places throughout Nepal: including Bardia National Park in the west, Lower Mustang, Chitwan, Patan in Kathmandu, and a few places near Kathmandu Valley, including Panauti, Patlekhet, and Nagarkot. Women manage the homestays in an effort to provide them with an independent source of income. Visitors can participate in activities, including village walks, bike rides, and cooking classes.

Another initiative is the Aapshawara Community Dalit Homestay in Aapshawara village, about halfway between Kathmandu and Pokhara. Dalits are considered at the bottom of the traditional Hindu caste hierarchy, and even though caste discrimination is technically illegal in Nepal, Dalit people continue to suffer from prejudice and limited opportunities. The Aapshawara Community Dalit Homestay aims to help the local people live with dignity and self-respect, preserve their culture, and educate visitors about this often overlooked group of people.

Sleep on a Sustainable Farm

Farmstay in a rammed earth cottage at Herb Nepal (photo by Elen Turner)

Farmstays are distinct from homestays. The focus here is on environmentally sustainable practices, educating visitors about the land, the workers, and the cultivated produce. Herb Nepal, in the hills near Bhaktapur, offers an intimate, truly relaxing farm stay experience. Guests can be trained in permaculture methods and stay the night in two beautiful rammed-earth cottages.

Visitors need not get their hands dirty, but there are opportunities to learn about the farm and to go hiking in the area. They work with Nepali farmers to bring organic, sustainable land-use and herbal processing back into poor rural communities. There is no WiFi and little cell phone signal here, so you can enjoy being off-grid.

Try Boutique Camping in the Jungle

Tiger Tops Tharu Lodge, Chitwan (photo by Elen Turner)

While the more rugged kind of camping is possible (and necessary) on some of Nepal's remote trekking routes, boutique camping experiences can also be enjoyed throughout the country. These provide the sense of adventure and closeness to nature that travelers love about camping, with a bit more comfort.

The luxurious Pavilions Himalaya resort in Pokhara recently opened a tented camp on the quiet shore of Lake Phewa, which they call tented luxury eco-villas. There are eight tents spread out from each other for peace and privacy. Breakfast and lunch or dinner are included, and all food is prepared from the hotel's own farm. Complimentary boat transfers are provided from Lakeside, as well as a massage, rowing or kayaking, and a nature walk.

For a more active experience, The Last Resort offers comfortable camping after a busy day of rafting, canyoning, bungee jumping, or canyon swinging. Located a couple of hours northeast of Kathmandu toward the Tibetan border, The Last Resort abuts the spectacular Bhote Kosi River canyon. Spacious safari tents are set in beautiful gardens, with comfortable furniture and (well-kept) common bathrooms.

Tiger Tops pioneered jungle tourism in Nepal back in the 1960s and now offers some of the finest camping experiences in Nepal. They have three lodges: Tharu Lodge and Elephant Camp in Chitwan National Park and Karnali Lodge in Bardia National Park. Karnali Lodge only has accommodations in permanent structures, but Tharu Lodge and Elephant Camp offer luxurious tent accommodations (Tharu Lodge also has rooms in the main building).

Tharu Lodge and Elephant Camp are located in Barauli, a quiet village far from the busy tourist center of Sauraha. Elephant Camp is special because it was designed in consultation with elephant welfare experts. Guests sleep in tents in close proximity to elephants and help with their daily routines, such as feeding and bathing.

Book a Former Palace in Kathmandu

The Terrasse Room at 3 Rooms by Pauline (photo courtesy of Pauline Driard)

Nepal was a kingdom until 2008, and visitors can live like royalty in Kathmandu's former royal residences and grand aristocratic mansions. The capital is full of beautiful architecture, from medieval Newari-style brick buildings to Neo-Classical 19th- and early 20th-century palaces that look like they belong in Vienna.

3 Rooms by Pauline is a beautiful little guest house in the Rana-era (late 19th/early 20th century) and Baber Mahal Revisited Complex, a renovated palace building. It's run by a French woman named (you guessed it) Pauline, and there are actually four rooms, despite the name. Each is kitted out with antique furniture, four-poster beds, hand-printed linen, and well-thumbed books (mostly in French).

In a city full of Newari influences, Pauline's rooms stand out for their Indian and Raj-inspired design touches, an aesthetic reflection of the Ranas. The rooms strike the perfect balance between boutique and cozy, and the rest of the Baber Mahal Revisited Complex holds some of the city's best gift shops and restaurants.