Where is it? Contrary to popular belief, there is no "One-eyed yellow idol to the north of Kathmandu", but anyone heading in that direction will find Shivapuri Heights Cottage, 7km from the city centre as the vimana (a mythological Hindu chariot) flies. Shivapuri, which reopens after the summer break next month, encompasses three low-rise cottages - Poinsettia, Bougainvillea and Jasmine (top) - surrounded by well-tended grounds at about 1,800 metres above sea level on the border of a national park overlooking the Kathmandu valley (below). Owned and run by an Anglo-Nepalese couple, Shivapuri, which escaped damage in April's earthquake, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. A four-wheel drive is the best way to get here, and staff are on call should guests not fancy sherpaing their suitcases for the short walk uphill to the cottage.
Which pretty plant should we choose? Where you choose to lay your head will probably depend on who you're travelling with. Taking over an entire set-up - Poinsettia has three double rooms while Bougainvillea and Jasmine each have two - is a popular option for families or groups of friends. With a spacious private lounge (below), Jasmine is the most luxurious, and each guest room has a private balcony. Throughout the property, expect cosy furnishing, textiles, smooth brick walls and a solidly comfortable home-away-from-home air.
Should we expect to eat dal for every meal? Certainly not, because there is some debate as to which is wider - chef Jas Bahadur Rai's smile or his culinary repertoire. There is no à la carte menu, rather, meals are served family-style, either indoors or out, with an eye as to what's freshest in the cottage's organic garden and what chef thinks will work best. Breakfasts are full English and other meals could be anything from fish pie (the best!) to lasagne or Nepal's signature rice, lentils, veg and home-made pickles. The cellar brims with local beers and spirits - mojitos made with Khukri rum carry a hearty kick - and there is a small selection of wine from the Sula estate, in India. Tea and coffee are on tap throughout the day.
What is there to do? Talk about spoilt for choice. Without leaving the premises, guests can submit to a spa session, join a yoga class or try their hand at Nepalese cookery. The library is stuffed with books, Wi-fi is free and loads of easy chairs and sofas more or less dictate lolling - the views over the capital are stupendous. Children seem to relish banishment to the tree house and trampoline. Dozens of birds (Himalayan bulbul, rose-ringed parakeets, Oriental turtle dove, et al) make this a twitcher's Valhalla. A trip to Shivapuri Monastery is a neat six-hour circular hike and there are many other trekking and mountain biking trails nearby. And there are few more uplifting ways for chaps to pass the time than to sit in the garden and submit to a shave and a haircut from the local barber. A woman's hair stylist (Vidal Sassoon trained) is also available, but usually needs a day or so's notice.
And beyond? The cottage is close enough to Kathmandu to make day trips, whether for sightseeing - still viable, despite the devastation - or shopping in the backpacker mecca of Thamel. Himalayan flightseeing - by helicopter, aircraft, ultralight or paraglider - is a pricier alternative. Jungle safaris near the Indian border and white water rafting on rivers fed by snowmelt from the world's highest mountain range round out the best of Nepal's touristic fare.
What's the bottom line? Depending on accommodation, twin-sharing rates range from US$50 to US$85 per head per night, including dinner and breakfast. Nightly rates for an entire cottage start at US$150. For more information, go to www.shivapuricottage.com.