Nagarkot is a laid-back village that lies just 32km from the capital city of Kathmandu, in Nepal. What makes it special? Its altitude and the proximity to the greatest mountains on the planet – the Himalayas. Located over 7200 meters, people of this quaint village wake up amidst the mountains to call the likes of Mount Everest as their neighbor!
Being an avid mountain lover, this was enough to make me fall for this little town. After getting introduced to the chaotically beautiful Kathmandu, I was hoping for a similar whirlwind of an experience with noisy streets, dust, narrow roads and unkempt buildings.
But my assumptions were tossed out of my window of imaginations in a few minutes, as we rode from Kathmandu. As we moved away from the city, the landscape of Nepal changed dramatically, making me feel close to the mountains. The valleys further from the city opened up to the snow-capped Himalayas, and this sudden transition felt awesome.
We had almost 2 days in Nagarkot, and apart from visiting the prominent places of interest, the main highlight was the sunrise and the trek in the villages of Nagarkot.
When I mention trekking in Nepal, obviously the mega treks of Mount Everest base camp or Mount Annapurna base camp treks come to your mind. But the beauty of enjoying the Himalayas in Nepal lies in the fact that there are many other hikes for everyone including the not-so-interested trekkers or the physically incapable to soak in the best of these snow-clad peaks.
The Ghorepani Poon hill trek, which was scheduled after this, had the promise of a full-fledged encounter with Mount Annapurna. So, I was guaranteed of the splendid views of my favorite mountains already. But when Matt explained us the plan of a small hike in the valley of Nagarkot, I was elated at another prospect of wandering in the Himalayas.
The day we arrived in Nagarkot was much relaxed. I sat on the balcony that overlooked the valley. The serene mountains looked like they embraced each other to form a delusional horizon that never seemed to end.
The warm sun got slowly being ridden away by the chill winds that grew as the sunset approached. So did the mist that blurred the views after a while. However, the hazy view didn’t deter me much. Being here amidst the mountains in the valley of Nagarkot itself was very consoling after spending time in noisy Kathmandu.
We gathered for dinner and chatted about the Himalayas. As Shyam patiently answered all our curious questions about the conquest of Mount Everest, I savored the delicious Thupka listening to him intently. He has a champ himself, who has done the base camp trek of Everest more than 50 times! And he is just 26! This feat itself was enough for us to probe him to listen to his tales of treks, which varied from funny to dangerous to weird experiences.
So after chatting about the Himalayas at length and Sherpas – the heroes of Nepal, we hit bed hoping to catch a glimpse of the sunrise.
Shyam had given his prediction on the sunrise time as after 6 AM. But given the misty weather, none of us was hoping for a great sunrise. I woke up and went to the top around 7 AM to find a blurred view of the valley. The valley basked in the golden morning rays, but the mist masked it enough to hide the best views.
Yes, we were not lucky to witness any gorgeous views of the Himalayas in the clouds. I was obviously disappointed, and so I fast forwarded my thoughts to anticipate for the next thing on the trip, which was the trek in the village of Sanku.
We first headed to the Namo Buddha Monastery, where we witnessed the soulful Buddhist prayers. The valley of Nagarkot dotted with terrace fields, pine trees, and the homes that seemed like sprinkled in between appeared serene from the top of the monastery.
It felt like a perfect location to pray, reflect and watch in the temple as I got down passing through energetic young monks who smiled sheepishly at me and looked eagerly at my camera. I managed to click two boys who flashed their best smile before joining others for lunch.
After savoring Nepali cuisine for lunch, we began our trek. It was a downhill trail in the beginning. A canopy of tall trees was above us and on one side was the steep gorge. The hot sun was cut off by the trees, and hence it was a relief to walk down.
We passed through many wooden houses, curiously looking locals, kids, and yards consisting of many orange trees. Just when I thought the landscape had begun to turn static, we reached the end of the hill and the views changed. We were in front of many hills embedded with terraced fields, lovely yellow flowers of mustard plants, and orange trees sandwiched between pine & oak trees.
Passing through this, we walked through homes, many of them that were locked and looked abandoned. The devastating earthquake of 2015 in Nepal had had its gruesome effect.
People had migrated to other villages or mostly to Kathmandu to rebuild their lives.
The thought of being uprooted by homes forever in the blink of the eyes intimidated and saddened me at the same time. How does it feel to wake up one day to have no home? To let go of the home that you grew up and made the best memories?
As I passed through these buildings that looked elegant despite being shut, I hoped to find some comforting answers in the eyes of the people that remained or that I came across. Those who stayed appeared unaffected – at least when I saw them, after enduring the hardships of the after effects of the quake of course.
Anyway, mother nature’s fury has no mercy, isn’t it?
It was almost evening when we finally arrived to board our cabs after a contentful hike in the afternoon.
Nagarkot showed me the lives of the people very closely and the beauty of the valley that cast its charm in its unique way.
I don’t know about you, but the mountains always soothe my mind and calm my senses, and that feeling of Zen is priceless, to say the least!
Nagarkot is easily reachable from Kathmandu, being an hour ride away. You can take public buses or cabs to arrive.
The ideal time to visit Nagarkot is 2 to 3 days if you wish to keep a day’s buffer to witness the sunrise as the weather can get unpredictable around post-winter.
Where to stay?
Depending on your budget, there are various kinds of accommodation available. The best ones are those that are located overlooking the valley, as the rooms offer the best views of the snow-laden Himalayas to wake up to (if you are not unlucky like me, that is!).
There are many good restaurants if you wish to stick to Nepali or Tibetan cuisine, where you can enjoy tasty Thupkas, Momos or Dal Bhat!