Kathmandu Day Trekking

by etournepal 

(from: Dec 2, 2014 to: Dec 2, 2014)

If there is one easy trek in the Kathmandu Valley, this is it. It combines scenic views, local culture, rich history, and religious culture in one easy trek. This trail is primarily downhill almost all the way. It is not a difficult descent even during the monsoon season. Much of the trail is along a little used road that stretches from Nagarkot to the main road near Changu Narayan.
Nagarkot exists because of its scenic view from on top of the mountain. Sitting at 2194 meters (7200 feet), it offers one of the best views of the Himalayas as well as the Kathmandu Valley. On extremely clear days, you can see Mt. Everest, although that isn’t often. Still, it does offer a 360˚ view of the mountains.
The best way to really experience Nagarkot is to stay overnight so you can see both sunset and sunrise over the Himalayas. The village offers some excellent hotels and resorts with a large variety of menu items to choose from as well as western toilets.
It is possible to trek up to Nagarkot, which is not that difficult of a trail. However, for those who are not used to trekking or looking for an easy trek, definitely take the bus or taxi from Kathmandu. Depending upon traffic, the trip can take anywhere from two to three hours by taxi. Local bus is longer as it makes many stops along the way.
Nights are cooler up in Nagarkot. There is also a tower where you can climb to the top of to get an even better view of the mountains.
The best time to see the mountain views is from mid-September through January. But during the rest of the year, you will have an opportunity to witness great views of the sunrises and sunsets over the Kathmandu Valley to the west and south.
Many of the local hotels at the higher elevations of Nagarkot also offer great views right from your hotel room. From here you can also get a great view of the mountains. Unlike climbing the observation tower, these steps to the top of the resort are much easier to climb.
The hotel does feature in addition to great views from your room, a good breakfast.
The trek begins at the resort by walking downhill through the village of Nagarkot before descending further down a narrow trail. The journey to Changu Narayan is between 3 – 6 hours, depending on how fast you walk, and the number of stops. My guide and I made several stops and visited with people, and it was an easy five hour trek. The trek is approximately 12 km.
It is possible to walk the road to Changu Narayan, but the trail contains no traffic and is very pleasant. Much of the early part of the trail follows an irrigation ditch which gives you a concrete walkway to travel on.
The trail to Talkot Village follows along the side of the hill. Here you overlook great views of the terraced farm land. In the lower elevations, the farmers are growing rice while upper elevations feature millet and corn.
I’m wearing trekking boots, which is not necessary on this trail. They do help with some of the places as it is monsoon season. A few places we walk a little slippery, but nothing bad. Walking shoes are all that’s needed for footgear on this trail.
We come across a Tamang woman making roxy, a local distilled drink that is enjoyed in the mountains. Roxy is what they call local wine. It is clear and unless you get some of that Newari stuff, it is not that strong. The Newari roxy, however, is made from rice and tends to pack quite a punch. Most of the people make roxy from millet which is not as strong.
We sit down and she sells us a bottle. We put it in our backpack and continue down the trail.
The beauty of this trek is that it is primarily downhill most of the way. We walk between fields, waving to farmers who are out working the ground as they have done for hundreds of years. The terraced fields date back as much as 500 years. So does most of the technology. It is still mostly by oxen and by hand. The fields are not usually large enough to support a tractor, and oxen still works well for the farmers. It is back-breaking work, which they happily tend to. It may not be as glamorous as working in the city, but it certainly isn’t as crowded or polluted. Neighbor still knows neighbor, and it is much more peaceful here.
We continue on the trek, moving down toward Changu Narayan. Our trail is primarily a walking trail. We don’t see any vehicles. The most that could travel here is a motorcycle, but the ground is a bit soft for most of that traffic.
We do come to one village where there is bus traffic, but we as quickly leave the paved road and start a short grade up a hill on a dirt track. This is the backway to Changu Narayan, following the ridge road. We skirt along the hillside as we approach this historical city.
Changu Narayan is probably the least known of all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu Valley. There are seven sites, with most of them being very popular with the tourists. Nearby is Bhaktipur which in the Valley is a destination point. Sadly, most visitors, if they would only take the time to go a little farther beyond Bhaktipur, they would be rewarded with one of the most delightful little villages there is.
Changu Narayan is a Newari Village. It is the least expensive of all the World Heritage Sites to enter (just Rs 100). Yet it’s streets are the traditional stepped streets paved in stone. You can watch traditional Newari woodcarvers doing their trade by hand as they have done for centuries. The Newaris are famous for their woodcarvings, which includes everything from window frames to ceremonial masks. There are music shops, cozy little restaurants with traditional foods, and great views of the Kathmandu Valley.
Changu Narayan is 18 km east of Kathmandu and just north of Bhaktapur on a paved road with local bus service. It sits on top of a hill rising 1541 m (5,055 ft.) While it is 444 meters (1,457 ft) below Nagarkot, the viewpoint from the village offers a great view of the Kathmandu Valley and the surrounding hills.
The highest point in the village is the hilltop temple dedicated to Vishnu. The hilltop has been considered a sacred place, dating back to the 4th Century AD. History points to the Licchavi King Manadeva I presence there in 464 AD. The sacred place has been a pilgrimage spot since at least then.
A shrine was constructed by King Haridutta Verma in the 14th Century AD, who built three other shrines in the Kathmandu Valley. In those days, Changu Narayan was the principal city of the valley, according to the Changu Narayan Village Development Committee brochure. In those days, it was called Champapur Mahanagar, a name still used by the Hindu priests for various religious pujas. In those days, this place contained 700 homes as well as its temples.
A disasterous fire in 1702 destroyed the sacred temple, so a new one was built. It’s temple is considered one of the finest examples of Nepali temple architecture with its two tiered construction. There are four entrances to the temple, guarded by pairs of life-size stone animals: elephants, lions, griffins and sarduls. Sarduls are a mythical creature that combines a man, bird and beast. Beautifully carved wooden brackets help to support the overhangs on the roof.
Surrounding the temple are smaller temples and fabulous stone carvings of deities. Look closely and you will see erotic carvings on some of the temple struts. It’s all part of the Kama Sutra. Take time to slowly circumambulate around the temple, taking in all of the incredible carvings.
There is now a museum that you can visit inside of the courtyard. The people working here are extremely friendly and helpful. They don’t get the visitors that some of the other World Heritage sites get, and they tend to show true Nepali hospitality.
There is also a museum outside of the World Heritage Site for the village. Probably its crowning feature is its rare collection of Nepali money. Some of the money dates back over 1000 years, including even leather coins. The collection is world-class in itself. It alone makes the visit to the museum well worth the price of admission, which itself is quite reasonable.
It started to rain lightly while we were in the village. We sadly had to say goodbye to the village as we headed past the intricately carved stone water tanks, monuments as we walked along the ancient stone steps back to the parking lot.
My guide and I had discussed the idea of walking to Bhaktapur, but instead took the bus as it was raining. The trip would not have been so far, but the road is narrow and winding. This road is busy, and while paved, would have not been all that relaxing. There is a pilgrimage route from the Valley to Changu Narayan that takes Nepalis about 45 minutes to climb from the Sankhu Road. The monsoon season prevented us from even trying that trip. From mid-September through the end of May, is is dry season in Nepal, so a climb up or down would not be so bad. By the way, if it takes a Nepali 45 minutes, you can figure about 1 ½ hours. They walk and climb much faster than most of the foreigners.
Nagarkot to Changu Narayan is a pleasant walk. It is not difficult to say the least, and is probably the easiest of all of the Valley day treks you can take. It is downhill almost all the way, which is nice. It is 12 km, which is not bad considering that it is primarily downhill. There are no steep grades to walk up, and the footing, even in monsoon season, is very good. I wore trekking boots, but they weren’t necessary. Tennis shoes or walking shoes would work just fine. A walking stick is always a nice thing to have, but certainly not necessary. There are even little places to stop for tea along the way.
Nagarkot tour offers great views; Changu Narayan one of the most pleasant little villages to visit in the Valley. But like rest of the Kathmandu Valley, there are many little surprises along the way for anyone willing to take the time to explore.
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