Gorgeous vistas, impeccable service, breathtaking scenery, religious value and other factors combine to make Chandragiri Hills an enticing destination.
Chandragiri, the southwestern part of the hills surrounding the Kathmandu Valley, which is known for its inherent religious and historic value, has now become one of the best tourist destinations in Nepal.
At the heart of this development are the initiatives undertaken by Chandragiri Hills Limited which has turned the previously difficult-to-access area into a place where everybody wants to visit.
According to Abhishek Bikram Shah, general manager of Chandragiri Hills Limited, on average, 1,500 to 2,000 people visit the destination during the weekdays, whereas 4,000 to 5,000 visit the hill on weekends. Among them, 80 percent are domestic visitors, and the rest are foreigners, a lot of whom are Chinese. He shares, “Around USD 45 to 50 million is invested in developing this project on the hill which is 2,547 metres above sea level. It is the second-highest hill and the only place from Kathmandu where one can see a 180-degree view of mountains. And there are several ways to spend a day here enjoyably.” In its three-year journey since 2016, the destination has been received well by visitors.
Similarly, the company’s room division manager, Shyam Tandukar says the tourist influx at Chandragiri has soared by 10 to 15 percent this year as compared to 2018. He expects the number to grow further next year as Nepal is gearing up to celebrate Visit Nepal Year 2020 to welcome two million tourists. The company has also been readying itself in terms of infrastructure and services to support the mega tourism campaign. Recently, Chandragiri Hills initiated the soft launch of its new resort to provide quality service to visitors.
The newly constructed resort house, adorned with a classic red-brick Nepali design, has 100 rooms. Additionally, warm hospitality, robust security and friendly ambience ensure that guests will have a luxurious and peaceful stay.
The soothing view of the sunrise in the morning and the sparkling city lights at night can be viewed from its broad stone-paved terrace outside. Likewise, resplendent views of the mountain ranges stretching from Mt Machhapuchchhre on the left to Mt Everest on the right add to the visual appeal of the destination.
Each of the spacious rooms come with an attached bathroom, wardrobe, free Wi-Fi, a large screen LED TV, air conditioner, elegant décor and provide a homely environment to any guests staying there. Further, the rectangular swimming pool at the edge of the northern side of the terrace and a helipad on a green lawn just down the pool are other attractions. Besides, a lobby, boardroom, bar and Cafe Kathmandu restaurant, two large conference halls, namely Phuchowki Hall and Shivapuri Hall of 200 seating capacity offer space for tourists, delegates and business groups. Further, religiously inclined guests can walk for around 10 minutes or drive through the winding blacktopped road to reach the top of the hill to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva at Bhaleshwor temple.
A Multipurpose Destination
People can enjoy themselves for a whole day on the hill, engaging themselves in different activities. The company facilitates a playground, foot trail, trek route and horse riding etc. Shah says, “It is a full package, there is not a single destination where one can get all this in one place. So, it is the first integrated tourist destination in Nepal.” The company comes up with different packages such as conference package, wedding package etc. for MICE tourism, retreat tourism, leisure tourism at different rates.
A statue of late King Prithivi Narayan Shah beside the Bhaleshwor temple recalls the history of Nepal’s unification. According to legend, he performed a very difficult meditation at this hill to amass spiritual powers to start his Nepal unification campaign. It is said that he got the idea to make Kathmandu the capital of the unified kingdom after he first glimpsed the valley from the top of the hill. The Bhaleshwor temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, on top of the hill. It is believed that the temple erected after the head of Sati Devi, the first consort of Shiva, fell down on the site. Unsurprisingly, the site is populated by religious visitors, especially during July and August.
This is a place with astounding scenic beauty, so much so that people visit it because of the astonishing landscape with preserved natural vegetation, biodiversity, different species of birds and animals. A 360-degree view of the surrounding districts of Makwanpur and Kathmandu is possible from the view tower at the temple site.
According to Shah, the hill welcomes a high number of tourists every month and every season. Even during the monsoons, a blow of cold refreshing wind and the greenery can be enjoyed as the rains are usually intermittent. Furthermore, a large number of Nepalis and foreigners visit here to experience snowfall during winter.
For children, a playground with different playing materials is made available just below the temple. Shah claims the playground here is the highest in the Kathmandu valley. Upon descending a few steps below the playground, there is a vast amphitheatre to entertain the guests.
Shah asserts that the hill is the best destination not only in Nepal but also in the whole of South Asia. The fact that Chandragiri Hills has bagged several accolades, both national and international, in just over three years of its operation supports his claim. On November 15, the company was honoured with “Nepal’s Best Tourism Destination” award at 14th Annual International Hospitality & Travel Awards 2018, whereas it was named “Nepal’s Best Resort” at the 15th edition of the award function held on November 15 in New Delhi. Further, the Innovation Award, which was conferred by the National Federation of the Disabled, Nepal, in 2018, is a testament to the company’s dedication towards serving the physically challenged.
The convenient ramp from the temple to the resort and bottom station eases disabled people who visit the hill. On the whole, the infrastructures are designed in a disabled-friendly way.
Service and Security
Providing safe and secure experiences to visitors has been one of the major areas of focus for Chandragiri Hills. “We have been operating the world-class Doppelmayr cable car system which is renowned for safety and security,” informs Shah. The company has established a health post with medical facilities for guests and also a police post to ensure better security.
The nurses and other staff are also well trained for first aid treatment. There are well-trained security personnel and a rescue team for fire evacuation. “There has not been even a single incident while serving so many people so far,” says Shah.
The services provided for disabled people are also admirable. It has arranged a separate queuing system for the disabled, Nepalis and foreigners. It also provides wheelchairs to disabled people with a 50 percent discount on cable car service.
More than 300 people are employed directly while over 1000 are engaged indirectly in Chandragiri Hills, according to Shah.
The company also hires a few forest communities’ members to work together. “We take pride in being here and working with the locals, as well as creating employment opportunities,” says Shah.
“We will customise different packages as per need of our guests for VNY 2020”
How is the resort at Chandragiri Hills different from others? How is the occupancy rate at the resort?
The resort here adheres to the pure definition of a ‘resort,’ which means a place away from the city and away from settlements. We are trying to focus on serving the required market. After three months of operation, we are doing reasonably well. Right now, we have an occupancy rate of around 35 to 40 percent, but our target is more. Once we have the grand opening of the resort, the number of visitors will continue to grow. Normally for a Nepali couple, we charge Rs 12,000 plus taxes including bed and breakfast. For foreigners, the accommodation cost starts at USD 145 (Rs 16,628.56). We have been able to bring a smile to every one of our guests.
How are you preparing for the VNY 2020 campaign? Are you announcing any offers/ packages targeting VNY 2020?
VNY is important for everyone, not only for Chandragiri Hills. If guests visit Nepal, obviously they visit Chandragiri. So, getting tourists to Nepal is our main focus. The government, private sector and tourism entrepreneurs are working hard in this regard. We see positive results. We hope VNY 2020 will be successful here and Chandragiri is always there to contribute towards that success. Nevertheless, local tourists are the primary target segment at Chandragiri Hills.
We are preparing the formal grand opening of the resort. For this, we are just waiting for the completion of yet another restaurant and a Spa centre. We are eager to host tourists coming in 2020. We have been bringing different packages and schemes on different occasions and festivals, and we will be continuing the same every month and quarter to attract guests. That is our marketing plan. We will be coming up with different plans. We don’t take other hotels as our competitors. We will come up with trekking packages. We will customise different packages as per the need of guests for VNY 2020.
As part of our marketing and promotional strategy, we have brought out a TVC, erected hoardings, and we have already tied up with different newspapers and organisations. We are also tying up with various INGOs and NGOs. Moreover, market campaigns are being conducted for our promotion.
What are the major challenges for your company at present? How are you overcoming the problems?
Traffic congestion was the major challenge for us, which is being minimised now. With better transportation, traffic and proper road system, I think we will have more inflow of tourists. There were lots of challenges in the past; the establishment of such a massive project in this area was challenging for the owners. But with great support from the locals and government, it was possible. We want to forget our past and focus on our future. So we want to create history here. We want to create a world-class destination where tourists can spend their quality time, and our main target is to increase the length of the stay of tourists with different tourism activities.
And yes, every day is challenging for us. We get different guests here, and we have to take care of each and every one. It’s not just that we take them on the cable car and leave them; serving them without any incident and complaints is our prime concern. I think we have done pretty well, but we need to improve more to create an enjoyable experience for the guests.
We are very active on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. We can see lots of feedback from guests. When we receive the occasional complaint, we immediately try to solve it. Through these platforms, we are gaining popularity among locals as well as foreign tourists.
Are there any products and services in the pipeline? Do you have any plans to develop other places as a tourist destination like Chandragiri Hills?
Very soon, we will have different activities for children and adults. We will be launching a zipline within 2020. We will create different activities and products for guests to enjoy. We are also planning to add wall climbing. Our Board of Directors (BoD) has envisioned creating other places like Chandragiri Hills.
How is Chandragiri Hills helping in contributing to the surroundings?
We have been contributing to Thankot, Chitlang and Phakhel area. We are doing well in the social aspects of the surrounding area. The financial situation of this area has improved, doing business here has gone up, for example, lots of restaurants are popping up here, we have employed around 80 percent of local people out here. Further, the value of the land here has gone up.
Homestays for Chitlang have been set up for people who are visiting. Our coordination with local communities as well as the local government promotes not only Chandragiri Hills but the area surrounding it as well.
We have been working with four forest communities together here to protect the forest. We have been training them and employing them as well. We have asked them to look after the forest. They are engaged in different activities there. We support their various local activities. We work closely with local communities, local government, and ward office.