Scenic Hill Towns
Due to a quickly expanding networking of roads and STOL airstrips, it
is now possible to visit many scenic hill towns in just a few days’
time. Some of these towns are suitable for one-day excursions, while
others require a few days more, yet all of them will bring you into
Nepal’s hilly heartland and give you a chance to experience the
natural and human diversity up close.
One Day Excursions
Trishuli is a small town on the beautiful banks of the Trishuli River,
75 kilometers north of Kathmandu on the way to the Langtang National
Park. The ride to Trishuli takes you through many different eco-systems,
as well as ethnic areas. The Western Himalaya hover above in all their
glory while you stop at local tea-shops to chat with villagers and soak
in the warm mountain sun.
Daman was one of the first hill towns to be developed as a mountain-viewing
resort, and it maintains its splendor to this day. 80 kilometers north
of Kathmandu, there is no better place to view the peaks as they extend
in a snowy arc from Dhaulagiri in the west to Everest in the east.
A trip to Kodari takes you up to the Sino-Nepali border, and cruises
through diverse eco-systems including the Bhote Koshi river valley and
scenic hillside villages. You can stop at a hot springs along the way,
or visit villages just off the road. If you don’t have time to
visit Tibet itself, reaching the border lets you see the mountains on
the other side!
Manakamana is one of the more important Hindu pilgrimage sites in
the country, and recently the first high-tech cable car in Nepal has
been built to access it. This makes the trip possible in one day, and
floating over the hilltops in your cable car is a unique experience
unavailable anywhere else in the country.
Tansen and Gorkha are both hill towns west of Kathmandu, reached by
following the Prithivi Highway towards Pokhara and then turning off
south or north respectively. Tansen is an old trading town on the banks
of the lower Kali Gandaki river. Its beautiful surroundings and bustling
bazaar are worth a few days of exploration. Gorkha is the historic seat
of the Shah kings who united Nepal, beginning with Prithivi Narayan
Shah in 1769. Their palace still stands fortified high on a hillside,
and recalls the majesty of Nepal’s past.
To the east, one can visit Dolakha and Charikot in a few days time.
A historic Newar trading town, Dolakha boasts the impressive Bhimsenthan
and Devikot temples. Its charming alleyways stretch out on a hilly spur,
granting wide views of lush green valleys on all sides. Charikot, the
Dolakha district headquarters, offers fantastic views of the double-peaked
Gauri Shankar massif, as well as the lesser-known stretch of central-eastern
mountains surrounding it. From here, day hikes can be made to Kalinchowk,
a sacred peak at 3690 meters that offers magnificent Himalayan views
and hosts thousands of local pilgrims every year.
With a short plane ride, one can visit towns nestled high in the mountains
like Jomsom and Phaphlu. In the shadow of Dhaulagiri and Nilgiri peaks
in the Annapurna range, Jomsom lies on the grand Kali Gandaki river
and is the staging point for trips to the forbidden kingdom of Lo Monthang.
But in just a few days, you can fly in and out of Jomsom, stay in one
of its luxury lodges, and explore the high altitude desert plains and
traditional Tibetan-style villages surrounding Jomsom in day trips by
foot or horse. Phaphlu is in the eastern district of Solu-Khumbu, famous
for its Sherpas. From here, you can hike into little known corners of
Sherpa territory, and bask in the mountains’ glow, yet return
at night to the warmth of the Sherpa Lodge in Phaphlu bazaar.
Nestled in a fertile valley below the Annapurna massif, Pokhara is known
for its stunning mountain views and its relaxed lifestyle. A perfect
point to begin and end any trek in the Annapurna area, Pokhara boasts
one of Nepal’s largest lakes, the Phewa Tal. All along the lakeside
are resorts, hotels, and tourist amenities that make this a wonderful
place to relax at any time of the year. From the lakeside area, the
panorama of Annapurna, Machapuchare (Fish Tail), and Dhaulagiri is truly
breath-taking, especially as you can enjoy it and bask in Pokhara’s
sub-tropical warmth at the same time! A sunrise or sunset boat trip
out on the lake lets you enjoy the mountains and their reflections in
the lake’s calm waters. You can also visit the island temple of
Tal Barahi and explore the far shores of the lake, or simply drift aimlessly
soaking in the sun as you view the icy Himalayan peaks. Other attractions
in Pokhara include scenic natural formations like Mahendra Caves and
Devi’s Falls. Temples such as Binde Basini abound, and surrounding
Pokhara are many traditional Gurung villages well worth a day’s