Approximately 25km to the East of Kathmandu, in Bhaktapur District, you can capture Nepal at it’s essence. Nestled in the hills and crevices of the Kathmandu Valley, beyond the famous heritage site of Bhaktapur itself, a beautiful selection of villages, temples and nature await.
I spent 8 days in this gorgeous nook of the world in November 2016. I found the climate in Nepal to be comfortable this time of the year. Daytimes were warm (in the mid 20’s) and nights were cold- a result of the altitude. Telkot was my base point- a tiny village in the hills, 10km below Nagarkot. Nagarkot is renown for it’s spectacular views of the Himalayas and Kathmandu Valley. I made my way here via a local bus from Kathmandu via Bhaktapur- an adventure in itself! Weaving through the dusty backroads with the locals, you feel you could be on the Knight Bus from Harry Potter, (Nepal, after all, isn’t known for having quality roads.) Having caught the bus too far, I was lucky to capture the view from Nagarkot when stopping by the luxurious KavyaEpikurean Resort for Nepalese tea and directions. A week here in the hills enabled an oasis of serenity, with a selection of must-see sites within reachable distance. Here are my top 3 excursions:
Changu is located on a high hilltop surrounded by forest, a panorama of the Himalayas completing it’s landscape. You can walk here from Telkot (the next nearest village), passing by the huts and farms of the locals along the way. The beauty is in the contrast between snowy mountainsand a landscape below that in not unalike desert villages I’d expect to see in Africa.
The village of Changu houses the ancient Hindu temple of Changu Narayan, one of the oldest in Nepal. This temple miraculously survived the 2015 earthquakes while the village around it near- shattered. The locals are gentle, many of them selling quality, inexpensive home-made goods on the lane leading up to the temple. They have been working together to rebuild their village, and it’s fulfilling to be able to support them. Should you wish to stay longer, homestay with a local family is also an option. (Regrettably, I wasn’t able to do so due to my schedule.) With a 3 hour return walk- if you’re coming from Telkot- the combination of stunning views, history and shopping make for a lovely day.
Sankhu Village and Bajroyogini Temple
Stand in the right place and you’ll see the vast village of Sankhu sprawled in the valley below Telkot/ Nagarkot. Surrounded by crop fields, and with a river that weaves its way around the outskirts, Sankhu provides a classic example of Nepalese daily life. Take a walk down the hill from Telkot to capture the valley in it’s entirety (the nearest buses go to Telkot, or to Sankhu itself if you’re coming from the direction of Kathmandu.) Greet the locals as you pass through- you’ll find they are as interested in learning about your culture as you are about theirs.
Across the valley and halfway up the opposing hill lies Bajrayogini Temple, celebrating a Hindu Goddess by the same name. Getting there requires a walk up over 1000 steps through the jungle (a challenge- I won’t deny it) though the view is worth it. The main temple is 3 stories high and beautifully constructed. Monkeys, goats and cows can be seen along the way. Go there on the right day and you’ll be able to sit and listen as Nepalese play music and sing in celebration of their God. As you return through Sankhu, stop for some lunch at a local restaurant- after all that walking, you’ll need it
Sunrise at Nagarkot Heights
At 2,195 meters, Nagarkot Heights offers panoramic views of the Himalayas (including Everest) and Kathmandu Valley, making it one of the most scenic places in the District. Coming here at sunrise is probably the best way to see it. This will require an early start- but do ensure you get up there in time to source a prime location for the spectacle. To watch this everyday occurrence in such grand surroundings is truly powerful. The Himalayas sure have a way of capturing your full and undivided attention. If possible, take some masala tea up there with you. Not only will it keep you warm until the sun rears it’s head, but it will add to the experience of capturing Nepal’s finest.