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  • 13 January, 2024

The Beauty of Dhankuta

The Beauty of Dhankuta

Discovering the Forces Behind Tourism in Dhankuta

It was a pleasure for me to be invited to experience Community Homestay Network’s latest exposure trip to Dhankuta. This trip was part of a larger project organized by International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Community Homestay Network (CHN), Dhankuta Municipality, Chhathar Jorpati Rural Municipality, SmartPaani and Human Rights Social Awareness and Development Center (HUSADEC). I was one of the many people invited to explore the charming town in Eastern Nepal, and identify its unique attractions. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the collaboration of these institutions has effectively brought Dhankuta towards the path of sustainable, climate resilient tourism. This trip was part of the harmonious collaboration between the institutions, and it was spearheaded by CHN. Before I divulge into the attractions that stuck with me the most, I would like to tell you something about Dhankuta. 

About Dhankuta

Just 415 kilometers from Kathmandu and easily accessible by road, Dhankuta is a promising town for tourism and various activities that are rooted in the ethos of sustainability, responsibility, and, of course, enjoyment. Once a trade hub of eastern Nepal, Dhankuta is now the district’s headquarters, still holding on to its history in such a graceful way that visitors feel as though they were transported back in time. While the vernacular architecture is still intact, one revels at the sight of its untouched nature, a sight that is increasingly challenging to find.

The beauty of Eastern Nepal has an ecstatic soul and ancient spirit. While all of Nepal is known for its unmatched hospitality, Dhankuta really sets itself apart. It embodies all the virtues that characterize Nepal as the welcoming and warm nation it is. Unlike Bandipur, Darjeeling, and Ilam, Dhankuta’s beauty leaves a mark on all its visitors even though it is not a well-known destination.

Born from the lap of Mt.Kanchenjunga, the Tamor river flows through the giant hills and blesses the historic city of Dhankuta. Behind the hills are the Kumbakarna, Makalu and Kanchenjunga mountain ranges. Observing the first rays of Sun pouring out of these mountain ranges early in the morning is redefines the idea of beauty you carry within yourselves. Hiking trails bring you to rhododendron forests and allow you to immerse yourself in their peaceful beauty all the while the traditional architecture lulls you in its comfort.

While the intentions and desire behind traveling vary from person to person, Dhankuta has the potential to satisfy a broad range of wishes. This is especially true for people who do not wish to follow the masses all the time and enjoy the thrill of exploring Nepal’s budding hub of alternative and responsible tourism. 

Mountain range view from Dhankuta
The view of the mountain ranges from Dhankuta

Activities in Dhankuta

Sun Chase

Thanks to its easternmost location, Dhankuta receives the first rays of sun that hit Nepali soil. Beautiful hills like Dhoje Danda can be visited for the sunrise and panoramic view of the mountain ranges. Another recommendable hill station, Hile, must be visited for Sekwa (Nepali barbeque) and Tongba (a homemade alcoholic drink made from millet). Hile is enjoyable throughout the day, but especially for the sunrise and sunset. A few miles off of Dhankuta, on the Basantapur-Gupha-Dovan Road, there is a Hindu temple. Situated on a hilltop, Pathivara temple is shrouded with a mystical calm that suits the panorama.

the sun rise from Dhoje, dhankuta
Sunrise from Dhoje 

Aathpahariya Culture

While many indigenous peoples are spread across Nepal, the Aathpahariya people can only be found in their native land of Dhankuta.  They are the living, breathing bearers of a culture that exists only among them, and is different from their neighboring peoples.  

Aathpahariya in their cultural dress
Aathpahariya in their cultural dress 

One of their festivals is the month-long Wadangmei or Mangire festival celebrated in the month of Mangsir in the Nepali Calendar (November-December). The festival marks the end of the funerary rituals for the people who have passed away in the last year. Bhego Lagaune, sacrificing a male buffalo and distributing the meat, is one of the climaxes of the month. So is the Maruni Nach, a cultural dance where boys dance wearing girls’ costumes. At the end of every Maruni Nach, the dancer is worshiped with garlands of money. Local dishes like Tite (a dish made with rice and chicken) are served to the people to celebrate this festival of happiness.

Two festivals Baishake (Bisu) and Bhadaure (Chamanwagi) of equal importance are celebrated during April-May and August-September respectively. Baishake (Bisu) celebrations mark the arrival of the month of cultivation and Bhadaure (Chamanwagi) celebrates the end of the harvesting month. Nowhere in Nepal except Dhankuta can one experience this unique culture from the Aathpahariya community.

Dhol nach, traditional dance of dhankuta
Locals performing Dhol Nach

Short Hikes and City Walks

Short hikes in Dhankuta have the potential to meet any hiker’s needs. Historical city walks, nature strolls, heritage sites, everything can be reached by foot. The Orange City at Kopche with traditional Nepali architecture, the hike from Chuliban that passes through the forest and brings you to the Aathpahariya people in Khambela, the Bibihare Hatiya (Thursday Farmers market), temples like Ganesh and Nishan Mandir are only some of the locations that await you and are easily accessible.

a traditional house in orange city, dhankuta
Traditional house in Orange City.

Community Homestays

Community homestays are not just an option for where to sleep at night while you travel. They are a chance to get to know the destination on a more personal level, all the while giving you the opportunity to engage with sustainable tourism practices.  Residing in homestays allows for the hosts and the visitors to experience each other’s cultures with an intimacy that takes much more effort to achieve in other scenarios. Sipting Community homestay, Athpahariya Community Homestay, and Nunthala Community Homestay can provide visitors a comfortable stay and home-like experience during their stay in Dhankuta. The type of welcoming and homely feeling these homestays give is very far from the impersonal experience of franchise and luxury hotels. Whatever they may lack in sophistication and modernity, these homestays make up for it with the everlasting love and care they put into each visit. 

nunthala community homestay
Nunthala Community Homestay

Museum and Parks

Established in 1982 and opened to the general public in 1995, the provincial museum in Dhankuta gives visitors an opportunity to study the cultural, historical as well as archaeological heritage of East Nepal. The museum showcases cultural dresses, ornaments, photographs, weapons and household equipment of indigenous cultures belonging to the Limbu, Sherpa, Dhimal, Tharu, Tajpuriya, Aathpahariya and Danuwar people.

photo exhibited in the province museum of Dhankuta
Province Museum Dhankuta

Chotlung Park is a location that calls for pictures, even from those who are not in the habit of taking many. Located in Terhathum District, just a few miles away from Dhankuta, it is an ideal excursion when you’re feeling like doing something strikingly different from the rest of your stay in Nepal. Made entirely of stone and wood, two houses stand strong and represent the landscape of a bygone era of Nepal. Their familiar simplicity evokes feelings of nostalgia in any Nepali heart, as these Limbu homes allow visitors to peek into what the domestic and religious sphere of these indigenous people looks like.

Chotlung Park, Therathum
Chotlung Park Terhathum

Namaste Jharana (Waterfall)

Named after the greeting Namaste, this waterfall is one of the main natural attractions of Dhankuta. Around twenty minutes of hike from where you leave your car will take you to the waterfall.  Falling from the height of eighty meters down a cliff, the cool splashes and awe inspiring view makes any summer day complete.

Namaste Jharana in Dhankuta
Namaste Jharana 

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