Sundarijal is the starting point for the
80-kilometer and 5-day trek, which takes travelers
through some of the best natural and cultural
tourist destinations of Kathmandu valley. The trail
is not very well known, but with the help of
villagers’ advices and a decent map, it’s easily
managed without a guide. Although a good guide can
give your trip some added value. Whether you choose
to take a guided trek or not, the most important
thing is that you should never trek alone.
What is nice about the Kathmandu Valley Cultural
Trail is that you don’t need to take all your
trekking gears with you, because along the trail
there are lots of cheap lodges and restaurants. Good
pair of shoes, extra clothes, first aid kit,
sleeping pack, flashlight and your personal staff,
like mobile phone, medicines and money, are only
Stone steps lead trekkers from Sundarijal to
Shivapuri National Park. Shivapuri is one of the
nine national parks in Nepal founded in 2002 to
protect valley’s water resources. Park is also home
for 177 species of birds, orchids, and even leopards
and bears. The entrance fee for foreigners is 250
Rupees and 10 Rupees for Nepalese.
One of the biggest difference between Nepalese
national parks and their equivalents, let’s say, in
most of the Western countries, is that in Nepal you
will find more life from the parks – and it is not
only wildlife. From Nepalese national park you’ll
find villages, businesses, restaurants and lodges.
People living in a conservation area are not
necessary a bad think, although the damages are
easily seen: littering and illegal forestry. First
of all, it is fascinating to see the life of
villagers. Chickens are running around,
traditionally dressed women are washing laundry and
young girls are carrying water jars or sticks on
their back. It feels like someone has turned the
clock hundred years back; then suddenly a porter
shows up with a big television on his back. The
basic facilities of modern era are slowly finding
their way to the rural Nepal.
Secondly, when trekking in a dwelled national park,
one doesn’t need to carry a huge backpack with tent
and everything. Inexpensive lodges and restaurants
will keep the trekker on the trail.
The first village on the trail is Mulkharka. The
village spreads alongside the trail and it is build
traditionally: The walls are made of stones and mud,
and roofs are thatched; quite idyllic actually. Some
of the houses have a small attached kiosk, where you
can buy soft drinks and snacks – also hard drinks
are available, which is one of those special
features of Nepalese national parks.
There is also one restaurant in Mulkharka. Menu is
somewhat small – similar with other village
restaurants in rural Nepal – you can choose between
daal baath (rice, lentils, fried veggies and egg)
and chew mein (fried noodles). These dishes are
vegetarian. If you are a meat-lover you can get a
whole chicken for only 400 Rupees, but prepare to
wait for an hour or so, because the chef has to
fleece the chicken first.
The food served in village restaurants is usually
fresh, since there are no refrigerators. It still
wise to remember the old colonial saying: If you can
boil it, peal it or fry it, it is safe to eat.
The highest spot on the trail, Borlang Bhangjang
(2420 m), is also in the Shivapuri National Park.
The starting point in Sundarijal is in the 1460 m,
so during the first hours of the trek one has to
climb almost one kilometer. The first trekking day
ends in Chisapani after 16-kilometer walk. The trail
branches out from here to Helambu trekking area and
Nagarkot. On a clear day the landscape is awesome:
on the left hand side you’ll see the Annapurna
massive, on the right hand side dozens of other
Chisapani is also a great place for mountain
watching even outside the season (the best time to
see the mountains is from October to November),
because it rains a lot there. Usually the rain, on
its way to Kathmandu, comes down in Chisapani, and
next morning the snow-caps are visible from your
hotel room’s window. It’s an incredible vow-effect.
Chisapani offers few small lodges, which are all
similar, clean, simple and inexpensive. You can get
a room for 300 Rupees and down stair restaurants
have amazingly vast menu – Including pizzas, pastas
and burgers – especially when you take into
consideration that kitchens are not equipped with
ovens and refrigerators and the nearest supermarket
is kilometers away.
During the last few years many rural paths have been
remodeled into motorable dirt roads. The most famous
case is from the Annapurna Circuit, where the final
5-day part of the trail, from Jomson back to Pokhara,
was turned into a motorable road. Because of that
many trekkers have chosen to flight from Jomson back
to Kathmandu: Trekking with vehicles, although only
little in number is not what nature lovers are
However, motorable dirt roads bring rest of the
world closer to villagers. Visitor should place
themselves in the position of villagers: Would you
be ready to walk for hours and hours to visit your
relatives in the city?
The second day’s route, 24-kilometer trail from
Chisapani to Nagarkot, is mostly motorable dirt
road. For the first few hours it doesn’t bother,
because there is no traffic in the national park and
lush jungle and snow capped Himalayas will keep your
senses occupied. Nevertheless, after Shivapuri the
trail takes you to Chauki Bhanjyang, where few
motorbikes and local buses are little bit
There is a good place to have a lunch in the
village. Buddha Hotel has also few rooms, where you
can rest while waiting for your daal baaht to be
Water is a question of conscience when trekking in a
developing country. Bottled water is safe, but after
you have squelched your thirst you will end up with
an empty, environmentally unfriendly piece of
plastic waste. Using purifying tablets to treat your
drinking water is recommended, but at the same time
many will find the use of tablets inconvenient. On
the Kathmandu Valley Cultural Trail you will find
both fountains and kiosks where you can refill.
Nagarkot is a good place to finish the second day.
Nagarkot is a touristy hill station in 2175 m.
Nagarkot is considered to be the best place in
Kathmandu valley for mountain watching. The best
season for that purpose is from October to March.
During the monsoon season, from June to September,
one will need a Christmas miracle to see even a
glimpse of the mountains.
In Nagarkot you can choose your accommodation from
cheap guest houses to affordable 5-star hotel.
Nagarkot is a one-night stand. Near the village
centre there is a military camp, which has resulted
in Nagarkot to never become a traditional town:
Hotels are scattered around the main road. If you
still have urge for hiking after the long day of
walking, around four kilometer from the village lays
a view point, which offers a nice 360° view to the
Himalayas. The view point is easy to find, just
follow the paved main road to the top of the hill.
If you want to stay another night in Nagarkot, there
are nice day-walks to nearby destinations, for
example to the beautiful temple of Changu Narayan.
The next morning offers around 25-kilometer walk
from hill to hill. This day’s destination is
Dhulikhel, an authentic Newari town and the next
best place for mountain watching in the valley.
Newaries are the biggest tribe of Kathmandu valley.
These excellent merchants and farmers form almost
half of the 2-million population of the valley.
Newari language is one of the world’s most difficult
languages. It is tonal language and it varies
totally from Nepalese and Hindi. The valley’s three
UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Kathmandu’s, Patan’s
and Bhaktapur’s durbar squares are all built by
The trail from Nagarkot to Dhulikhel is yet to be
established, so you need to be careful not to choose
the wrong trail and ask help as often you can. From
Nagarkot there are also trails to Nala, Banepa and,
even, Kathmandu. The trail to Dhulikhel starts after
Club Himalaya hotel. For the first 2 kilometers it
is a small path, which joins the main tail in Baluwa
Pati, nearby the village of Rohini Bhanjyang.
In Rohini Bhanjyang you choose the trail on the left
hand side. After one kilometer walk, on the right
hand side, there is a small path, which takes you
through the jungle and the village of Kankre to
Tanchok. Check from all the by-passers that you are
still in direction. The path descends heavily here,
so leaving your best hiking boots home will make you
curse the decision here.
From Tanchok the trail continues to Opi. Alongside
the trail there are several farm houses, which offer
you a change to see how centuries old farming
methods are still in use. From Opi there is still a
5-kilometer walk trough terrace fields and jungles
to Dhulikhel. The path ends near the Himalayan
Horizon hotel, 500 meters from the Dhulikhel bus
There are many hotels and resorts in Dhulikhel – the
price range is wide, from killing cheap to
affordable luxury. One of the most interesting
resorts in the area is Dhulikhel Mountain Resort, 4
kilometers north from the town centre, which has
been a pioneer in sustainable tourism in Nepal since
1981. Traditionally built resort has, for instance,
a cultural show for its visitors, performed by
underprivileged dalit caste youth from nearby
village. The caste is still an issue in Nepal, so
conscience visitor should support businesses that
have a clear policy to develop the position of
If you don’t want to continue on trekking, Dhulikhel
is also a great place for white water rafting. One
of the best rafting rivers in Asia, Bhote Kosi, is
only hour’s drive away. Contact your hotel for more
The fourth day is nice and easy 12-kilometer trek
from Dhulikhel via Namobuddha to Balthali.
Namobuddha is a popular destination for Tibetan
pilgrims, because, according to the legend, Buddha
saw a starving tiger family there and in his
compassion offered himself for them to be consumed.
A stupa, a Buddhist sanctuary, was built to mark the
Around the stupa you can find small shops, which all
are offering the same basic lunch, daal bhaat. A
steep 10-minute walk from the stupa takes you to the
Buddhist monastery of Tangho.
(Here: Something about Phaltali!)
The ending point of the trail is in Panauti. The
town is in short of accommodation, but there is
plenty to see. Panauti has one of the oldest temples
in Nepal, Indreshwor Mahadev from the end of the
13th century. It has been rebuilt twice, on 15th
century and 1990’s after devastating earthquake in
One can overnight in Panauti, but the accommodation
options are few and town itself is dirty and
somewhat dull, so it is recommended to take a public
bus back to Kathmandu. The drive is short unless the
traffic jams nearby the Tribuvan International
Airport. If that happens prepare to wait an hour or
so and stay cool – you are on holiday, remember?