Dripping in jungle ferns and lush forests, set amongst the low lying clouds above and terraced farmlands below, the Kathmandu Valley not only offers a gentle introduction to high altitude hiking, but is also a beautiful and accessible place to hike for anyone visiting Nepal’s capital. And on a clear day? Views spanning out to the Langtang area with Mount Everest in view can be expected. Dreamy right?
Not to mention the friendly locals you’ll meet on the way and the few other hikers or tourists on the trails. All of this lies less than one hour outside of central Kathmandu. So whether you’re in between hikes or warming up for your next trip into the almighty Himalaya, get your dose of adventure stoke and head into the Kathmandu Valley for a few days of respite from the city.
In this post I’ll go through the day by day account, including maps to help you plan your trip for a 4 day, 3 night hike from Sundarijal to Bhaktapur via Chisapani and Nagarkot.
Day 1 – Sundarijal to Chisapani
Start point: Sundarijal (1350m)
Finish point: Chisapani (2300m)
Km walked: 15km
Where to stay: Dorje Lakpa or Sunrise.
The trail conditions: Expect a lot of uphill! You’ll be climbing mostly steps and rocky paths to reach the highest point on this hike. As you near Chisapani, you’ll experience a little bit of downhill. The route is easy to follow, but not marked particularly well at time of writing so be sure to follow the route on google maps too. Highlights include ferns, monkey tails and walking through dug out trails with huge trees and mosses; it’s a lush area to walk through which makes a difference from the arid high Himalayas on the Annapurna Circuit and Everest Base Camp hikes.
- Leave early from Kathmandu (8am latest) to ensure a space at one of the tea houses and avoid Friday night when the locals head up from Sundarijal and accommodation is likely to be packed out.
- Be sure to turn LEFT up a set of steps and follow the signs for Mulkharka as opposed to the sign for Chisapani road early in the hike after entering Shivapuri National Park.
Day 2 – Chisapani to Nagarkot
Start point: Chisapani (2300m)
Finish point: Nagarkot (2,175m)
Km walked: 22km
Where to stay: Lots of options – check booking.com (we stayed at Langtang View Nagarkot Bed & Breakfast which was the right end of town for setting off to Bhaktapur the following day).
The trail conditions: You’ll need to use your intuition a bit on this day by following the jeep track dirt road much of morning through Shivapuri National Park. It’s only when you reach a sign marked Jhule Post which you need to turn off and head down through Jhule Village and further on down into Lapsephedi. Be sure to follow the map below as closely as possible and you’ll get to Nagarkot. It’s a steep climb into Nagarkot and there is a short cut which will allow you to bypass going through the winding roads of Nagarkot (marked on the map below) if you are staying centrally where we stayed.
- This day is no mean feat and expect it to take you 8 hours. It’s a long day so be sure to stop for lunch (we stopped at Hotel Lama in Lapsephedi but there’s also an Organic Farm restaurant about 30 minutes before you reach Lapsephedi).
- Bring high energy snacks like muesli bars and sweets for a quick sugar hit if needed.
- Book your accommodation beforehand on booking.com especially in the high season.
Day 3 – Nagarkot to Bhaktapur
Start point: Nagarkot (2,175m)
Finish point: Bhaktapur (1,400m)
Km walked: 10km
Where to stay: Tulaja Boutique Hotel (we stayed here – it’s close to Durbar Square which was perfect for our sunrise photography session) Peacock Guest House (about 15 minutes walk from Durbar Square). There are lots of options available and you can find somewhere that you’re stoked for on booking.com.
The trail conditions: A really easy hike today which will take you through villages, along roads and even into a forest. Pipeline road – deceivingly but wonderfully – is just a dirt track. And at one point even turns into a narrow path wide enough only for one person or one motorbike at a time. It’s perfect, away from the noisy main road, you’re sure to encounter local suburban Kathmandu life aplenty here.
- Be sure to stop off at the Buddha Peace Park – if you set off early (around 7:30am – 8am) you might even be the first visitors.
- Keep your wits about you as you walk on the main road where buses and trucks take corners at some serious speed.
- Take Pipeline road as indicated in the map below to escape the large, noisy trucks which constantly head up and down the main road.
- Recommend keeping Google Maps on to follow your journey, especially through the forest where you’ll need to improvise a little bit and use your sense of direction with Google to tell you roughly the direction to go.
Day 4 – Bhaktapur
There’s no hiking on day 4. Which is great because you’ll probably have pretty sore calves by this point…
Bhaktapur is CHARMING. Translated, the word ‘Bhaktapur’ literally means ‘place of devotees’ and it’s apparent as soon as you enter the city with temples and shrines around every corner, you might even experience parades of weddings and funerals alike.
- Forfeit a lie-in and get up for sunrise (YOLO). Head into Durbar Square to take photos while few other tourists are around.
- Have a smoothie and lunch at Cafe Mayur. Set in a beautiful little courtyard, it’s great for just taking some serious time out after all that hiking and that early morning sunrise sesh in Durbar Square.
- Take a taxi or local bus back to Thamel.
- Switch your location settings on and download the offline map of the region you’ll be hiking in
Transport & Entry Fees
- Taxi from Thamel to Sundarijal: Rs 2500
- Entry to Shivapuri NP for day 1 and day 2: Rs 565 pp/day (be sure to check in at the counter as you leave Chisapani on Day 2).
- Entry to Bhaktapur: Rs 1500 pp (if you’re staying overnight it’s the same price, NOT a per day price like Shivapuri NP).
- Taxi from Bhaktapur to Thamel: expect to pay around Rs 1000 one way.
What clothes to pack
You don’t need much at ALL for this trip in terms of clothing; just the bare necessities. It doesn’t get cold enough (or high altitude enough) to warrant fleece lined trousers and thick down jackets but it does still get chilly in the evening, especially when the cloud rolls in. Here’s a checklist of the essential clothing you’ll need.
- Active shorts x 1
- Active leggings x 1
- Active t-shirt x 1
- Sports bra x 1
- Undies x 3 (treat yourself to one pair of clean undies a day for this trip)
- Thermal leggings or long johns x 1
- Thermal top x 1
- Merino or fleece-lined jersey x 1
- Rain / windproof jacket x 1
- Socks x 2 (one merino pair for hiking, one regular pair for downtime)
- Lightweight shoes or sandals to change into x 1
- Beanie x 1
- Sun hat x 1
- Sunglasses x 1
- Hiking boots x 1 (obvs but had to say it)
- Snood / Buff x 1
- Long skirt or trousers and clean tee to for exploring Bhaktapur
Guides and Porters
If you’ve already hiked in the Himalayas, you should be well equipped to do this trail yourself. It’s an easy route to follow and shouldn’t require a guide. Needless to say it’s not recommended to take on a hike totally solo as parts of this trail are still very remote. And if you packed as recommended above you shouldn’t need a porter for this one either. I’m in full support of boosting the local economy but you’ll be doing that while staying locally and eating locally each night and you can save your dollar for Annapurna and Everest Base Camp hikes. However, if you are totally new to hiking in the Himalayas or travelling solo I’d recommend a guide for this hike.
Not hiked in the Himalayas before? Check out this helpful introductory guide:
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