Small towns, big towns. Some with a lot of history, others with an abundance of scenery. Explore, discover and be charmed. Here are a few destinations connected by highways which offer another face of Nepal.
BAGLUNG (population 15,200) is situated 60 km west of Pokhara at an altitude of 1,120 m. It is a trading town of quaint streets and traditional buildings where merchants from the Terai plains in the south and the hills in the north come together to barter. Splendid views of the Dhaulagiri range can be had from here.
BANDIPUR (pop. 10,000) is a hilltop town situated midway on the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway at an altitude of 1,005 m overlooking the Marshyangdi river valley. In the early 1800s, the ordinary mountain village was transformed into a vibrant commercial center on the Tibet-India trade route after Newar traders from Bhaktapur moved here. Bandipur offers mountain views, artistic houses and pagoda temples. It has the largest cavern in the country, the Siddha Gupha, which is full of stalactites and stalagmites.
BANEPA (pop. 20,000) is located 26 km east of Kathmandu on the Arniko Highway, the modern version of the ancient trade route to Tibet. Also known as Bhonta, this quaint Newar town has a glorious history as a flourishing trading post and important political center. Banepa (altitude 1,461 m) offers artistic temples, monasteries, resthouses and a colorful culture marked by vibrant festivals. The most important shrine here is that of the goddess Chandeswari who has both Hindu and Buddhist features.
DHANKUTA (pop. 17,000) is a charming hill town of cobbled streets and whitewashed houses populated by Rais, Limbus and Newars. Situated at an altitude of 1,220 m north of Biratnagar in east Nepal, it is about 50 km from Dharan, formerly a recruitment center for British Gurkha soldiers. The villages north of Dhankuta are the trailheads to the Makalu and Kanchenjunga regions.
DOLKHA is an old settlement known for its shrine of Dolkha Bhimsen, the patron deity of businessmen. It is 4 km from Charikot (133 km) on the Lamosangu-Jiri Highway which branches off to the east from the Arniko Highway at Lamosangu. Dolkha is a chance to visit an historic place and enjoy fantastic near-range views of Mt. Gauri Shanker.
GORKHA is situated 131 km west of Kathmandu at an altitude of 1,135 m at the end of a mountain road that branches north from the Kathmandu-Pokhara Highway at Abu Khaireni. It is the ancestral home of the Shah dynasty and home of the original Gorkha soldiers. Gorkhas centerpiece is the magnificent Gorkha Durbar which is a fort, a palace and a temple with excellent views of the surrounding valleys and the Manaslu range.
JANAKPUR (pop. 54,700) the birthplace of Sita, heroine of the great Hindu epic Ramayan, is situated in the Terai plains. Thousands of pilgrims flock here throughout the year to pay homage at the Janaki Mandir, Ram Sita Bibah Mandap and Hanuman temple. Janakpur is the center of Maithili culture and the magnificent Janaki Mandir is one of Nepals architectural showpieces. It is 375 km southeast of Kathmandu.
KODARI (pop. 3,100) lies on the Nepal-China border 114 km to the northeast of Kathmandu. The village (altitude 1,640 m) has an exotic history as the starting point of the ancient trans-Himalayan caravan route, the Nepalese equivalent of the Silk Road. The Arniko Highway connecting Kathmandu and Kodari takes you through magnificent river gorges and mountain scenery. The famous hot water springs known as Tatopani are situated 3 km before Kodari.
PALUNG (pop. 5,200). This is a settlement of Newars who moved here from Patan some 600 years ago. The valley is situated 65 km from Kathmandu at an altitude of 2,100 m on the Tribhuvan Highway that leads to the Indian border. Palung is set in a beautiful and serene valley surrounded by terraced fields. It lies just below the village of Tistung.
TANSEN (pop. 13,600) is situated 123 km to the south of Pokhara midway down the Sidhhartha Highway in western Nepal. It is a pristine hill town (elevation 1,371 m) yet untouched by mass tourism. The town sprawls over a steep ridge and attractive Newar houses line its cobbled streets. The hilltop of Srinagar is a popular vantage point with Himalayan sight-seers.
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