Bandipur is an ancient trading town of quaint streets and charming atmosphere. It is situated on a ridgetop south of Dumre which lies 135 km out on the Kathmandu -Pokhara highway. Bandipur can be reached after a two hour climb from Dumre. While the other trading posts of the Nepali hills have modernised, Bandipur retains its age old cultural attributes. It still has its temples, shrines, holy caves and a newari architecture that harks back to the Kathmandu Valley of old.
For a view of the breathtaking grandeur of the world’s highest peaks from the far west of Dhaulagiri to the east of Mt. Everest, there is no better place than Daman. It lies eighty kilometers south-west of Kathmandu on the mountain highway known as Tribhuvan Rajpath and has a view tower fitted with a long range telescope.
Although Dhankuta is only 75km by excellent road from the Terai, it seems more like a million miles. This hill town is being developed as a regional center of eastern Nepal. It is quite a large town with good views, mild climate and plenty of interesting walks in the surrounding areas. The town owes prosperity to the fact that it was a major recruiting center for Gurkha regiments of the British Army. Quite a bit of British aid money has been spent in the viciuity.
Dharan lies right at the foot of hills, but the transformation when coming from Terai is dramatic. It is a hill town with hill people. Dharan is also the gateway to such towns in eastern hills as Dhankuta which are being developed as regional center for the whole area. Until 1989 there used to be a British Gurkha Camp in Dharan which was used to recruit Gurkha soldiers from the eastern hills. Rais and Limbus from eastern Nepal used to constitute the major portion of Gurkha soldiers. Dharan is now a bustling bazaar town that has grown rapidly. Temples of Dhantakali, Buda Subba and Singha Bahini in Dharan are unique and famous,
This is another important temple site located at the confluence of the Koka and Koshi rivers. The site is known to belong to the period of later Guptas, who had issued a copper grant for the two Varaha images found there. There are also many miniature Gupta period temple replicas, which suggest that many such temples and idols were made during the sixth and seventh centuries A. D.
Dolpo (sometimes written Doplpa) is the most remote and least developed district in Nepal. The western half of the area has been set aside as SHE- PHOKSUNDO National Park. Although a few anthropologists and geographers had explored the region, the entire district was closed to trekkers until 1989 when the southern part of Dolpa was opened to organized trekking groups. Peter Matthieseu’s “The Snow Leopard” and Snellgrove’s “Himalayan Pilgrimage” have contributed in revealing the mystery and attraction of Dolpo. Dolpo lies between Dhorpatan and Rara and two of those treks could be combined into a single tour from Pokhara to Jumla. A stunningly blue lake called Phossundo Tal is situated in Dolpo.
Gorkha is a scenic hill- town with great historical significance. King Prithvi Narayan Shah, who unified the Kingdom of Nepal during eighteenth century, was born in the township of Gorkha. Situated on a small hillock at an attitude of about 1000 m, Gorkha offers panoramic view of snow-fed mountains.
The then small kingdom of Gorkha, founded by king Drabya Shah in 1560 A. D. became famous during the dynasty of Ram Shah (1604-1641 A.D.), who earned the reputation of being just to his people. There was a famous proverb in those days which said that one should go to Gorkha if he were looking for justice.
In the middle of eighteenth century there were hundreds of small kingdoms and principalities in what is today’s Nepal. The great Prithvi Narayan Shah took the mammoth task of unifying Nepal in the eighteenth century. The Gorkha soldiers under his dynamic leadership eventually succeeded in conquering the Kathmandu valley. The capital of greater Nepal was shifted to Kathmandu since then. But this beautiful township has always remained as the center of attraction for many Nepalese as well as foreign visitors.
One of Nepal’s most famous religious places of pilgrimage is Gosainkunda lake situated at an altitude of about 4360 m. Surrounded by high mountains on the north and east, this lake is grand and picturesque. There are other nine famous lakes such as Saraswati, Bhairav, Sourya and Ganesh Kunda. Every year during Janai Purnima in August, thousands of Hindu pilgrims come here to lake holy bathe in the lake. The large rock in the center of the lake is said to be the remains of a Shiva shrine and it is also claimed that channel carries water from the lake directly to the tank at the Kumbheshwar Temple in Patan, 60 km to the south.
Helambu, situated about 72 kilometers north- east of Kathmandu, is famous for its scenic grandeur and pleasant climate. There are many Buddhist monasteries amidst a rich and enchanting landscape. Helambu is great for short treks. Helambu was once considered a hidden, sacred domain and its misty ridges and fertile valleys are still comparatively isolated.The peaks of Langtang Himal are clearly visible from the area.
JUMLA / HUMLA
Jumla, on the banks of the Tila River at 2370 meters, is one of the highest rice growing areas in the world. The entire Tila valley is covered with paddy fields growing a unique red rice that is more tasty than white rice, but is scorned by most local People. The people in this region speak their own version of Nepali. The people throughout the region are Thakuris, and also Chhetris who have the highest social, political and ritual status. Treks to Rara National Park starts and ends at Jumla.
Humla is a high and dry land hemmed by snowcapped peak in three sides that shut out most outside influences, including the monsoon. Trekking facilities are nonexistent , but the local Buddhist highlanders are accomodaing to strangers.
Ilam is the far eastern district of the country, inhabited by people of different colors living in peace and harmony. Neighboring the famous Indian hill town of Darjeeling, it is situated on the foothills of Mount Kanchanjunga, The third highest peak in the world. Ilam is adorned with an almost limitless range of lush-green tea gardens. The rolling hills covered with tea leaves are simply majestic. The thick white fogs alternatively descend to veil the gardens and then suddenly vanish. Greenery prevails all over the hills of Ilam all around the year. Ilam Tea Garden located near Ilam Bazaar and Kanyam Tea Garden located halfway between Terai plain and Ilam Bazaar are the major gardens of Nepal.
Janakpur is the capital of the ancient state of Mithila. The Janaki Temple, located in the center of the city, is well known in the Hindu Kingdom. Sita the wife of the legendary hero Ram was born in Janakpur. Throughout the year, many pilgrims come to pay their respects to Ram and Sita who are the main religious attractions in Janakpur. The city is thronged by worshippers and visitors alike especially during the festival of Bibah Panchami. This annual festival is celebrated on the occasion of Ram and Sita’s marriage and their wedding ceremony is enacted throughout the week.
Situated at the lap of the gigantic Himalaya, Manang is a unique village with a compact collection of 500 flat-roofed houses separated by narrow alley ways. To reach a doorway you must ascend a steep log notched with steps. The setting of the village is most dramatic, with the summits of Annapurna and Gangapurna less than 8 km away, and a huge ice fall rumbling and crashing on the flanks of the peaks. Gompa at Manang and Braga are well worth visiting.
MUKTINATH / JOMSOM
The famous temple of Muktinath lies in the district of Mustang and is situated 48 km north east of Jomsom at an altitude of about 3749 meters. The temple is situated on a high mountain range and is visited during fair weather. During the festival of Janai Purnima, Hindu devotees gather here to pay homage to lord Muktinath. The visitors get lodging facilities at Dharmasala and Maharani Pouwa. Another famous temple of Jwaladevi, the goddess of flame, is situated about hundred meters south of Muktinath.
Jomsom is the district head quarters for the Mustang region of Nepal. To many people, however, Mustang implies the area of Nepal that extends like a thumb into Tibet. This is the region described in Michel Piessel’s book “Mustang”, and includes the walled capital city of Mustang, to Manang.Since 1991 trekkers have been allowed in limited numbers into the high desert region north of Jomsom that still has its own nominal king.
The old fortress town of Nuwakot used to be an important strategic outpost. It controlled the ancient trade routes to Tibet and the kings of medieval Nepal maintained large garrisons here. Nuwakot possesses a number of artistic buildings on the hill top which recall the traditional architecture of the Kathmandu Valley. It offers terrific views of the mountains and the surrounding rural villages . The palace of Nuwakot was once the palace of the great King Prithvi Narayan Shah, who conquered Nuwakot before conquering the Kathmandu valley.
Panchamul Sirubari is the first model village designed to experience village based tourism in Nepal. It is a nature gifted place and one of the richest Gurung village in terms of culture. Panchamul Sirubari is a unique example of eco-cultural tourism in Nepal and is a new tourism product originated by local people.
If Kathmandu is the cultural hub of Nepal, Pokhara is its center of adventure. An enchanting city nestled in a tranquil valley, it is the starting point for many of Nepal’s most popular trekking and rafting destinations. The atmosphere on the shore of Phewa Lake is one of excited vitality as hipster backpackers crowd the many bars and restaurants exchanging recommendations on guest houses and viewpoints, both by the lake and above the clouds.
Pokhara is a place of remarkable natural beauty. The serenity of Phewa Lake and the magnificence of the fishtailed summit of Machhapuchhre (6,977 m) rising behind it create an ambience of peace and magic. At an elevation lower than Kathmandu, it has a much more tropical feel to it, a fact well appreciated by the beautiful diversity of flowers which prosper in its environs. Indeed, the valley surrounding Pokhara is home to thick forests, gushing rivers, emerald lakes, and of course, the world famous views of the Himalaya.
The powerful rule of the old kings of Kathmandu, the Lichhavis and the Mallas, held sway over this valley for some time. As these dynasties fell prey to their own troubles, Pokhara Valley and the surrounding hills disintegrated into small kingdoms, frequently at war with each other. These were called the Chaubise Rajya or the Twenty-four Kingdoms. It was among these that Kulmandan Shah established his kingdom. His descendant Drabya Shah was the first to establish Gorkha, home of the legendary Gurkha warriors.
Finally, Pokhara is part of a once vibrant trade route extending between India and Tibet. To this day, mule trains can be seen camped on the outskirts of the town, bringing goods to trade from remote regions of the Himalaya. This is the land of the Magars and Gurungs, hardworking farmers and valorous warriors who have earned world-wide fame as Gurkha soldiers. The Thakalis, another important ethnic group here, are known for their entrepreneurship.
Clearly the most stunning of Pokhara’s sights is the spectacular panorama of the Annapurna range which forms its backdrop. Stretching from east to west, the Annapurna massif includes Annapurna 1 to IV and Annapurna South. Although the highest among them is Annapurna 1 (8,091 m), it is Machhapuchhre which dominates all others in this neighbourhood. Boastfully levitating in the skyline, the fish-tailed pinnacle is the archetypal snow-capped, needle-pointed mountain. If you want to see the mountains from close up, Everest Air offers a mountain flight from Pokhara that takes you on an aerial sightseeing tour of the western Himalaya.
Phewa Lake, the second largest lake in the Kingdom, is the center of all attraction in Pokhara. It is the largest and most enchanting of the three lakes that add to the resplendence of Pokhara. Here, one can sail or row a hired boat across to the water or visit the island temple in its middle. The eastern shore, popularly known as lakeside or Baidam, is the favorite home base for travellers and is where most of the hotels, restaurants and handicraft shops are located.
The Barahi temple is the most important monument in Pokhara. Built almost in the center of Phewa Lake, this two-storyed pagoda is dedicated to the boar manifestation of’ Ajima, the protesters deity representing- the female force Shakti. Devotees can be seen, especially on Saturdays, carrying male animals and fowl across the lake to be sacrificed to the deity.
Another of Pokhara’s natural wonders that unfailingly interests visitors is the Seti Gandaki river. Flowing right through the city, the boisterous river runs completely underground at places. Amazingly, at certain points the river appears hardly two meters wide. But its depth is quite beyond imagination over 20 meters! Mahendra Pul, a small bridge near the old Mission Hospital, provides a perfect view of the river’s dreadful rush and the deep gorge made by its powerful flow.
Locally known as the Patale Chhango (Hell’s Fall). Devi’s Fall (also known as Devin’s and David’s) is a lovely waterfall lying about two km south-west of the Pokhara airport on the Siddhartha Highway. Legend has it that a trekker (Devin, David..) was washed away by the Pardi Khola and mysteriously disappeared down into an underground passage beneath the fall.
Another of nature’s wonders in Pokhara is the Mahendra Gupha. This large limestone cave is locally known as the House of Bats, an apt name for it. A two-hour walk to the north of Pokhara, it is best to bring your own torch to see the stalactites and stalagmites, as well as the local winged residents.
The Old Bazaar
Pokhara’s traditional bazaar is colorful and so are its ethnically diverse traders. In its temples and monuments can be seen ties to the Newar architecture of the Kathmandu Valley. Located about four km from Lakeside, the market’s original charm is alive and well. This area strewn with shops selling commodities ranging from edibles and cloth to cosmetics and gold is a pleasant and shady spot to stroll around.
The old bazaar is also home to one of Pokhara’s most important shrines’. Locally called the Bindhyabasini Mandir, this white dome-like structure dominates a spacious stone-paved courtyard built atop a shady hillock. It is dedicated to Goddess Bhagwati, yet another manifestation of Shakti. The park-like grounds offer a fine picnic area, and on Saturdays and Tuesdays when devotees flock there to offer sacrifices, it takes on a festive local flavour.
The Pokhara Museum, located between the bus stop and Mahendra Pul, reflects the ethnic mosaic of western Nepal. The lifestyles and history of ethnic groups such as Gurungs, Thakalis and Tharus are attractively displayed through models, photographs and artefacts. One major attraction is a display highlighting the newly-discovered remains of an 8000-year-old settlement in Mustang. Open daily, except Tuesdays and holidays, from 10 am to 5 pm. Entrance fee is Rs.10 (tel: 20413).
The Annapurna Regional Museum, also known as the Natural History Museum, is another interesting visit in Pokhara. Run by the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), the museum has an exceptional collection of butterflies, insects, birds and models of wildlife found in the area. Located at Prithvi Narayan Campus east of the old bazaar, it is open daily except Saturdays and holidays from 9 am to 5 pm. Entrance is free (tel: 21102).
Pokhara is the starting and/or finishing point for some of the most popular treks including the Annapurna Circuit and the Jomsom Trek. It also offers a number of short treks for those who cannot opt for long, challenging ones. The most popular destination among them is Sarangkot (1592 m), a former Kaski fort lying atop a hill to the west of Pokhara. The panoramic view of the Himalaya seen from this point is superb. Kahundanda, Naudanda, Ghandrung, Ghorepani, and Ghalchok are other favorite destinations around Pokhara.
If visitors are wondering which place in this kingdom would give them a taste of everything, we suggest that they give Tansen a try. Tansen is a small town of approximately twenty thousand people. It is on the way from Pokhara to Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, and it is not too far from the Chitwan National Park. Located 4,300 meters above sea level, on the south flank of Srinagar Hill, the greatest attractions of this town are its ancient culture, friendly people, excellent mountain views, and, above all, its serene atmosphere. The weather remains moderate throughout the year, and it is a pleasant place to visit in any season.
There are potters and metal workers in Tansen too. Earthen pottery is still used in many houses of Tansen. Jugs, basins, and even filters are made from clay for local use. Chang, the local liquor, is wonderfully cool if it has been stored in earthen-ware. Metal workers make deep plates, karuwa water jugs, utensils for worship and hookahs for smoking.
Tansen is charming because it is unspoiled by modernity, pollution and urban bustle. On clear days, mountain views from the town reveal Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Manaslu, Gauri Shankar and other peaks and a walk up to Srinagar Hill provides an even more thrilling Himalayan panorama.