A Hike Around Kathmandu: The Ridge Trail
When most people think of hiking in Nepal, they tend to think of the high mountains and trails surrounded by snowcapped peaks. But there are many options around Kathmandu as well, which do not require a 10-hour bus ride or a flight to the trailhead. These trips are perfect for travelers short on time, or those who do not want to get too far from civilization, such as families or people with health issues. Last week we did a four-day hike on the ridge trail around Kathmandu and had an amazing time.
To start our adventure, my daughter and I took a bus from the Old Bus Park at Ratna Park in Kathmandu to reach the town of Banepa, close to Bhaktapur. After a bit more than an hour on the bus, we got off and started our hike. We left the busy road and started walking towards the village of Nala, around four kilometers from Banepa. Here, the small road turned into a dirt track and the cars passing us by became fewer and fewer.Through fields and villages we walked towards Nagarkot, where we wanted to spend the first night. The village of Ghimire Gaun was especially beautiful and still had some of the traditional architecture that was destroyed in so many other places by the earthquake.
The last bit of the trail following the ridge was long and left us tired, but we arrived in Nagarkot with the fall of night. We quickly found a perfect guesthouse among the huge selection and enjoyed a delicious dal bhat before we went to bed – the next morning we would have to get up very early to see the sunrise.
I had been to Nagarkot before but I’d never been lucky with the weather. Every time I’d been it was either totally hazy or rainy, so I started to think the people raging about the amazing view from up there had been lying to me. But I was going to learn the truth that morning – the views were amazing, and watching the sun making its way slowly up behind the mountain range was just magical.
After this great morning we started our walk towards Jhule and the Shivapuri National Park. When leaving Nagarkot we found the start of the nature trail through the forest, but it is a bit hidden behind some small shops in huts. The small path led us through the forest down towards the village of Kattike Bhanjyang, and it was a really calm walk under the trees. Here, we got the first glimpse of the panorama that would accompany us all day. The mountains were clearer than I had ever seen them, and they seemed to be never-ending. We could not get enough of taking pictures and spent much more time on the way than we had planned – it was just too beautiful.
Unfortunately, for the rest of the day we had to follow the newly made road, but the views made up for that. After a long lunch break in Chauki Bhanjyang, we started the last ascent for the day to Jhule. We reached here in the early afternoon, so we still had a lot of time to relax on the terrace and take in the sun and the view. It was a great end to a day outside.
The next morning, we started early to make it all the way to Chisapani on the other side of the National Park. From Jhule we climbed for another 30 minutes before we reached the army checkpoint, where we had to pay the entry fee of Rs1050. From there, the path led us through the forest of the Shivapuri National Park. Again, the former path had been converted into a dirt road, but there was almost no traffic and it was still beautiful to walk through the trees and ferns. With many breaks to take photos it took us almost five hours to reach Chisapani.
We chose to stay in one of the hotels a little bit further down the road. From our window we had a perfect view towards the Langtang range. After afternoon tea on the rooftop, the mountains started to glow all shades of pink, which was a breathtaking scene.
On the last day of our short trek on the ridge trail we had to make our way back to Kathmandu – or at least close enough to be able to catch a bus. We decided to go down from Sundarijal, because that would still leave us with a beautiful walk through the middle of the Shivapuri National Park. From Chisapani we had to cross another checkpoint again, before ascending stairs towards a viewpoint. One last look at the breathtaking mountains, and we started walking towards the Kathmandu Valley again.
During rhododendron season this hike is especially amazing, and although we missed this we experienced something else that was very special. At first I noticed only a very faint scent, which soon became stronger. The jasmine bushes were in bloom, and after a while we were surrounded by the sweet-smelling plants with small white flowers. It felt like walking in another world, and made our day super special.
After two hours of walking in the forest, the trees opened up and we reached some villages. From there, it took around two more hours to the bus station at Sundarijal, where we hopped on a bus back to the city. Even though we did not venture far from the city, we really got away from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu.