Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal. But for true admirers of natural and cultural beauty, it is a majestic spellbinding heaven. Once believed to be a large lake surrounded by hills on all sides, Kathmandu was turned into a habitable land by Bodhisattva Manjushree. According to the legend, he cut a deep gorge in Chovar hill with one stroke of his sword. All the water rushed out and the habitable land that remained was the most fertile land in the country. This place is now a famous tourist destination and a heaven for hikers wishing to experience a mixture of nature, culture and history. A number of places in and around Kathmandu are reachable within a few hours of hiking.
One of the places to go hiking in Kathmandu is Kirtipur, a comparatively traditional Newari town, 5km southwest of Kathmandu. It is a culturally rich city with temples, monasteries and churches and one of the largest universities of the country- Tribhuvan University. This was the city that took a third try and deceit to be defeated by the now world renowned Gurkhas. The most famous attractions of Kirtipur are Bag Bhairav Mandir and Chilancho Vihar. Dakshinkali Temple, one of the most revered temples of Goddess Durga, is 15km from Kirtipur which can be reached via a pleasant walk through Tribhuvan University premises. The temple is famous for various tantric rituals including animal sacrifice on Saturdays and festivals like Dashain.
Khokana and Bungmati
Bungmati is an hour’s drive away from Kathmandu. Once there, you can explore this old traditional village on foot. Bungmati is a Newari village that dates back to the 16th century and is popularly known as the winter abode of Rato Matsyendranath, one of the most celebrated Gods with a month long Jatra dedicated to him. The wood carvers are the second attraction of the village as they are believed to be the best in the country and their creations on display are a sight to behold. The houses, temples, monasteries and other structures of Bungmati and Khokana are more traditional and different from that of Kirtipur. Khokana is more famous for its traditional mustard oil making practices. In the path from Bungmati to Khokana lies the temple of Karya Binayak, a form of Lord Ganesh. It is also a museum that reminds us of the medieval times.
The hike offers a perfect mixture of Newari architecture and their distinct culture and customs being followed in these quaint little villages. From the hilltop, one can enjoy a bird eye view of Kathmandu Valley, a breathtaking scenery. This slow and easy hike provides a break from the hectic city life of the capital and allows for a serene, spiritual experience.
Shivapuri is the most popular destination for hikers looking to hike in or around Kathmandu. This takes you to the second highest hilltop (2732m) of the valley. First, ride to Budhanilkantha, a sacred Hindu temple that houses a sleeping statue of Lord Vishnu. After that, a short walk will take you into the protected area. Then, moving through steep and rough but easy trail, past some Tamang villages and beautiful sceneries, you will arrive at the top. Here, you can visit the stupas or enjoy bird watching.
To reach Changunarayan Temple, ride a bus or a private vehicle to Bhaktapur. Hiking starts from Bhaktapur. Changunarayan was built during Lichhavi period. It is believed to be one of the oldest monuments. It is one of the examples of fine woodwork and architecture. A short walk from here will take you to the vantage point from where you can get an amazing view of Kathmandu Valley. You could explore the most fascinating old art pieces and architecture in Bhaktapur Durbar Square as well.
Phulchowki is the highest point in the valley and can be reached via many gravel covered trails that start at Godavari Botanical Garden. It is a short drive to Godavari. The entire trails are decorated by rhododendrons and orchids, especially during spring. It makes the hike a very pleasant one. The stupas and colorful prayer flags provide a serene ambience at the top. The hike is also famous for bird watching and a good view of mountains like Everest and Annapurna. The descent is about 3 hours walk to Godavari where you can enjoy the beautiful garden.
Many people see the overwhelming crowds of the bustling city and think poorly of Kathmandu, the valley desired by all the surrounding kingdoms at the time. But it is still a great city, rich in both natural and cultural beauty. A little of leg work is required and the valley will reveal its treasures to all the enthusiastic hikers.