Kathmandu is not just a city of gods and goddesses, it is blessed with green hills and traditional villages in its surroundings. Those traveling to Nepal with a short span of time (the ones who cannot make to the popular trekking destinations) can choose to hike for a day or two. Kathmandu offers diverse options for observing panoramic mountain ranges along the lush green forests. Those trying to escape the hustle of mainstream Kathmandu city life, hiking can be a perfect way to go for.
1. Phulchowki (2782 m)
Phulchowki, situated in the South-East part of Kathmandu, is a popular destination during the winter especially when it snows. This place witnesses hundreds of spectators around the Kathmandu valley. Phulchowki is a perfect destination to watch spectacular landscapes and snow-capped mountains in the distance from the altitude of 2782 m. On a clear sunny day, the travelers can see the panoramic views of mountains such as Mt. Everest, Cho-yu, Mt. Gaurishanker, Mt. Langtang, Mt. Ganesh, Mt. Manaslu and Mt. Annapurna. The vibrantly enriched pathway with green vegetation, flowers such as rhododendrons, magnolia, orchids are something worth watching.
The hike to Phulchowki starts from Godawari botanical (you can get a local bus until Godawari from Lagankhel/Satdobato) and it takes around 3-4 hours walk from there to reach the top of Phulchowki. The major highlights of the trip include; the botanical garden in Godawari, chirping of birds on the way among the beautiful companionship of your friends. Phulchowki is the place with the highest altitude in Kathmandu valley.
2. Dahachowk (Kaji Kalu Pandey Park)
Dahahowk (also known as Kalu Pandey Park) is one of the most beautiful hiking destinations in Kathmandu yet this place is known to very very few people. Dahachowk lies to the North-West of Kathmandu at distance of just around ten kilometers. This place not only offers panoramic views of Kathmandu Valley and mountain ranges but also is significantly important place historically, culturally and religiously as well. Dahachowk is situated at an altitude of 1600 m and is an amazing destination to observe Kathmandu valley and surrounding areas. The hiking trail is moderately easier and passes through the community forest which leads to magnificent Dahachowk danda. The major attractions of this place are Indra Daha (Daha means pond in English), Manakamana temple and Kalu Pandey (one of the chiefs during the unification of Modern Nepal by Prithvi Narayan Shah) cremation spot as well.
Namobudhha situated at distance of around 38KM is at the top of hill Panuati and is an important site for Buddhist pilgrimage. Namobudhha lies in Kavre district, which is to the east of Kathmandu. This hike starts from Dhulikhel which is also a popular destination as a viewpoint for watching mountain ranges and a beautiful sunrise. After a slow and gentle walk along the farmlands, green sceneries and villages for around 3 hours, you can reach to serene and captivating Namobudhha.
The highest altitude one will come across while hiking to Namobudhha is 1800 m from sea level. Holy sites for Buddhists including stupas and shrines, old culture of the ethnic community, Newari people in Panuati, etc. are some of the major highlights of the trip to Namobudhha. On the way to Namobudhha during the uphill walk, one can also witness how local people harvest rice and other major crops as well (if you travel at appropriate season).
Sundarijal is one of the entry points to Shivapuri National Park and is a popular destination for a hike. Sundarijal lies to the northeast part of Kathmandu at the distance of 18 KM. The highest elevation the hikers will come across during the hike to Sundarijal is 1500m. The entrance of Sundarijal welcomes travelers with refreshing waterfalls and further walk towards the hill brings you to the water reservoir site. Not just famous for hiking, Sundarijal is also a popular destination for canyoning.
While hiking to Sundarijal, one can also choose to hike more and reach until Chisapani. Chisapani is an awesome destination for watching mountain ranges. From Sundarijal, it takes around 5 hours to reach Chisapani. The dense forests within Shivapuri Conservation Area offer peaceful walk on the way.
Shivapuri lies inside Shivapuri National Park to the north of Kathmandu at an altitude of 2563m. Shivapuri is the second highest hill around Kathmandu valley after Phulchowki. Baghdwar, the source of river Bagmati which is considered to be a holy river is one of the major attractions of this hike. Hiking to Shivapuri begins from Budhanilkantha which is also the starting point of Shivapuri National Park. It takes around 45 minutes to reach Nagi Gumba at an altitude of 2330m, which is a monastery for Buddhists to practice meditation and teachings.
From Nagi Gumpa, it is a steep uphill walk for more than two and half hours in order to reach Shivapuri. On the way, the tiredness gets dominated and contentment overpowers because of the magnificence of oak, rhododendron and bamboo forests complimented by the chirping of birds playing hide and seek with shadows of the sun. The highlights of hike include a panoramic view of Mt. Langtang, Mt. Ganesh, Mt. Dorji Lakpa, and more than 500 species of vegetation are found in this region. After reaching to Shivapuri, you can either choose to return the same way which takes around 2 hours. Or the second option would be descending from Sundarijal, which is another gateway to Shivapuri National Park. It takes around 3 hours to walk all the way to Sundarijal from the top.
Champadevi lies to the south-west of Kathmandu reaching the highest altitude of 2285m and is a pilgrimage site for Buddhists as well as Hindus. Hike to Champadevi kicks off from Pharping leading to uphill walk towards pine forests for about 3 hours. From the top of Champadevi, the hikers can see the eye-catching view of mountain ranges such as Gaurishankar, Langtang, Mt. Jugal, Dorje Lakpa, Annapurna among many others.
Champadevi area borders with Makawanpur district in the southeastern corner. This place attracts hundreds of Hindus as well as Buddhists pilgrimages on the day of full moon in order to worship the Lord. While descending down, it takes around one and half hours.
Keep in mind: Be careful while walking along the pine forests as its very slippery and during the rainy season, it’s even more challenging.
Among these popular hiking destinations, which one would you like to hike first when you are in Kathmandu?