When people think about Nepal they think of Mount Everest, trekking in snowcapped mountains, walking through steamy jungles and whitewater rafting. Which is all very well if you have the time and energy to spend.
For those with less time or not quite as much energy as a mountaineer or hardcore trekker, there are many exotic places within easy reach of Kathmandu and which won’t be too hard on your pocket.
Within the Kathmandu Valley, and only 30 minutes drives from Thamel, you will find the beautiful medieval city of Bhaktapur.
In the past the Kathmandu Valley was made up of three Kingdoms, Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. In fact, during the Malla period, until the second half of the 15th century, Bhaktapur was the capital of Nepal.
This ancient Newari city was renowned as a city of culture, temples and craftwork. The same is still true today.
In recent times Lalitpur and Kathmandu have blended into each other although they each have their own Durbar Squares where the original Kings would have lived. And just like its sister cities, Bhaktapur also has its own Durbar Square with its ancient temples and monuments.
Here are some facts about Bhaktapur:
- Pre-earthquake there were 116 heritage monuments
- During the earthquake 67 were completely damaged or destroyed
- During the earthquake 49 suffered partial damage
When you look at your guide book, these are the temples which are now missing:
Taleju Temple, Rameshow Temple, Biswaroopa Temple, Sweet Bhairav Temple, Siddi Ganesh Temple, Siva Mahadev Temple, Degaina Temple and their adjoining sattals.
But there is still much to see in Bhaktapur today!
Unlike Kathmandu Durbar Square, in Bhaktapur the square and surrounding narrow streets are totally closed off to traffic. So taking a walk around this area like stepping back in time.
Aside from ancient monuments, here you can see potters at work, see women doing their washing at water spouts and sip tea in a tiny teashop and watch the world go by.
How to reach Bhaktapur from Thamel
Grab a taxi: If you’re lucky you might manage to bargain around $10 to $15 for a one-way trip, which is fine if there is 3 or 4 of you.
Private car: This is the most convenient option. It will cost you around $30 for the return trip. Your hotel or any travel agent should be able to arrange this for you.
Public bus: If you are a little more adventurous go to the old bus park (5 minutes’ walk from Durbar Marg, or 15 minutes from Thamel). There are no numbers on the buses but the conductor will shout out the destination or ask any bus staff who will send you to the right place.
Trolley bus: Oh sorry, this has long been discontinued! It used to run between Kathmandu and Bhaktapur and provided an easy and scenic journey. Too bad!
Accommodation: Where to stay in Bhaktapur
There are two reasons for staying overnight in Bhaktapur:
- The entrance fee is a bit on the high side ($15) and covers two days
- Since the old city is closed to traffic it is an experience in itself to walk around in both the evening and in the early morning, the best times to witness people going about their normal lives.
Accommodation prices range from the less expensive to the more luxurious. A couple of examples are, Hotel Heritage and, in the midrange the boutique hotel of Thagu Chhen.
If you don’t have time to go very far from Kathmandu, Nagarkot can (depending on the season) provide you with breathtaking views of the mountains and it’s famous for its sunrise views over the mountains. You can even see the very tip of Everest, way over there on the right.
Nagarkot, situated 32 km east of Kathmandu at an elevation of 2,185ms, is the site of an ancient fort built to monitor the external activities of the Kingdoms. Today you don’t need to watch for invading troops while you’re there, but you can taking in eight (out of 13) of the Himalayan ranges as listed below:
How to reach Nagarkot from Thamel
Hike: Take a taxi or car to Changunarayan Temple and after visiting the temple walk around 3.5 hours to Nagarkot. Or start your hike at Chisapani. See other short hikes around Kathmandu valley
Taxi: It will cost you around $20 to $25 one way to Nagarkot.
Private car: It will cost around $35 to $40 for the return trip. More if you wish to hold the car overnight or if you wish it to return for you the next day. Your hotel or any travel agent can arrange this for you.
Public bus: Go to the Old Bus Park, take the bus to Bhaktapur and at Bhaktapur change bus for one going to Nagarkot. This is will be long journey time-wise but make it a fun experience by talking with locals and chilling.
Hotel car: If you are staying overnight in one of the larger hotels in Nagarkot, the hotel will arrange your transport.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Nagarkot
There are plenty of small and inexpensive hotels as well as some old time originals! Some of the larger hotels include, Club Himalaya, Hotel Country Villa and the Fort Resort. For something a bit more off the beaten trail and homely try The Farmhouse, set in a valley at the end of the road, past the Hotel Country Villa.
This hill-station offers the perfect little trek which takes in flora and fauna, spectacular panoramas of the mountains and takes you through Shivapuri National Park.
Drive to Sundarijal (about 45 to 60 minutes by car) and walk up for a couple of hours passing the main water resource for Kathmandu and through Shivapuri National Park with its sub-tropical forests until you reach MalKharka.
Here you can have lunch then hike about two hours to Borlang Bhanjyang. Another 1.5 hours on and you will reach Chisapani (2,215m). The views on the way are spectacular. You can see the Langtang Himal, JugalHimal, Ganesh Himal and Gaurishankar Himal ranges.
You can continue your trek from Chisapani to Nagarkot. See here for more information.
How to Reach Chisapani from Thamel
Taxi or private car to Sundarijal. Then hike. Cost will be around $10, and $15, respectively.
Bus from Jamal (10 minutes from Thamel) to Chabhil then change for Chabhil to Sundarijal. Then hike. Cost will be around $1.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Chisapani
The best we can say is “there is accommodation in Chisapani”. But let’s face it, you’re going for the thrill of the trek and the view, not the four star accommodation, right?
Related Read : How to get from Airport to city Center (Thamel)
Dhulikhel is one of the most popular places to see the Himalaya panorama. Situated 30 km from Kathmandu at an elevation of 1,550 m you can see the mountain ranges of Langtang, Gauri Shankar, and Numbur.
But more than this, Dhulikhel gives you an insight into a real Newari town, without many of the tourist trappings you will come across in other similar towns.
Other than contemplating the mountains, after you have looked around the little temples and town, there really isn’t very much to do here. But you can use it as a base to travel to Nama Buddha (see below) or to trek to Nagarkot.
How to reach Dhulikhel from Thamel
Taxi: Will cost you around $25 to $30 each way.
Private car: Will cost you around $35 to $40 return trip. You will pay extra to keep the car overnight or have it come back the next day.
Public bus: From the old bus park take a bus to Dhulikhel, or a bus to Banepa then change for Dhulikhel. Will cost you around $2 each way.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Dhulikhel
There are a number of hotels and resorts which all offer wonderful views (when it’s clear) of the mountains. Very often they are booked up in advance for seminars and workshops so do phone ahead.
If you want a bit of luxury, Dwarika’s Hotel has a recently refurbished hotel called Dwarika’s Resort Dhulikhel, situated behind the old town to the left. It has all the amenities you would expect from Dwarika’s, in a holistic, mind and soul style.
5. Nama Buddha
Nama Buddha lies about 40 km from Kathmandu and is a Buddhist pilgrim site. Thrangu Tashi Yangtse Monastery is home to around 250 young monks, who will welcome you to join in their morning or evening prayers. The monastery is open to the general public on Saturdays. If you wish to visit at any other time, please contact them directly.
How to reach Nama Buddha from Thamel
Taxi: Will be quite expensive if you are going one way since he may not get anyone coming back down from the monastery. Maybe around $40.
Private car: Might be more costs effective at around the same price as a taxi. Your hotel or any travel agent can arrange this for you.
Public bus: From the Old Bus Park take a bus to Dhulikhel then hike to Nama Buddha.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Namo Buddha
Please make enquires at the monastery to see whether it is possible to stay at the time you wish to go. Otherwise, there is the Namo Buddha Resort, which is an organic farm resort with a sauna and a floatation tank!
Kakani is an old hill station, home to the Tamang ethnic group, situated 2,073m above sea level. In fact until very recently it housed the summer retreat for diplomats of the British Embassy.
Today it is a peaceful park area where people from Kathmandu comes for a day trip and picnic. The best time to come and enjoy the views of the Ganesh Himal, Annapurna and Dhaulagiri ranges would be any day except Saturday – due to the aforementioned picnickers! The Thai Memorial Park is located here which commemorates the 113 victims of the 1992 Thai Airlines crash.
How to reach Kakani
Public taxi: Around $35 each way.
Private Car: Around $50 return trip.
Public Bus: Mini bus from Thamel to Machapokharai or Baipass – Nrs20. Here change bus to Kakani around Nrs 100. You can also take a Trisuli Bazaar bus to the Kaulithana Police Checkpoint on the Kathmandu to Trisuli Bazaar road. (Rs70 and 1.5 hours). Here you can walk the 4km to Kakani.
Kulekhani is best known for the hydropower damn which provides visitors with a lake like an environment and the opportunity for boating! Its breathtaking scenery, landscape, rivers, waterfalls, and flora are well worth the time it takes to get there from Kathmandu.
Once the ancient trade route with India, you can also see a number of mini Buddhist stupas on the way. Actually, you can combine a trip with visiting the Buddhist town of Pharping with its monastery and sacred cave. There is also the possibility to stop at the Bheda Farm at Chitlang.
How to reach Kulekhani
Private car: around $60. Around a 3 hour journey.
Public bus: Take a local bus from Jamal to Balkhu, then from Balkhu to Pharphing. Change bus here to Kulekhani.
Accommodation in Kulekhani
Limited accommodation, including a private house, is available. Take your own food and drink. Please ask us for information.
8. Lakuri Bhanjyang
This hill area is just 15 km from Kathmandu and is very popular with locals for picnics and just getting out into the fresh air! Offering panoramic views of the valley it’s a great place just to relax. For those who want a bit more adventure, paragliding is also now available. Please ask us for details.
How to reach Lakuri Bhanjyang
Private Car: Around $40
Public Bus: From the Old Bus Park (near Durbar Marg) get a bus to Lagankhel Bus Park where you can then get a bus to Lubu, Lamatar.
Accommodation in Lakuri Bhanjyang
There is no accommodation available here. Camping may be possible. Ask us!
Other Resources of Kathmandu