We weren’t interested in trekking, but I did want to see a little more of the Kathmandu Valley while in Nepal. Research narrowed it down to Nagarkot or Dhulikhel. Nagarkot is popular with tour companies, has more hotels and boasts the possibility of glimpsing Everest in the very far distance on a clear day. Since we planned to (and did) take a plane trip past Everest, that last selling point didn’t mean a lot to me, especially with the well-known vagaries of weather. Everything I read said that having an Everest view from a Nagarkot hotel was a rare thing. Dhulikhel, on the other hand, was the smaller, less touristy option, something that appeals to me. It also reportedly had pretty awesome Himalayan views itself plus a temple or two in walking distance and the very intriguing Namobuddha monastery a short drive away. (See top photo and below.)
We both paid for a flight past Mount Everest and saw it, just as clearly, on our flight from Kathmandu to Bhutan. Seeing Everest as a dot in the distance from Nagarkot just didn’t weigh much in my calculations. I liked that Dhulikhel is smaller and less touristy, and didn’t mind at all the small number of restaurants and hotels available in Dhulikhel. I found a small new boutique hotel with its own restaurant that sounded good and booked it via Agoda.
Getting to Dhulikhel from Kathmandu was another challenge. I debated using a local bus, so we made a trial run by the bus station to gauge just how hard it would be to find the right one. It didn’t take long in the small, but chaotically packed bus “station” lot to rule that out. The buses themselves looked passable if not enthusiasm-inspiring, but there were no signs at all in English on the buses or in the area and asking several people and bus drivers about buses to Dhulikhel got us nowhere. While I’m game to try local options, this was a situation where hiring a local driver seemed like a no-brainer expense (and hardly a budget-buster, in any event). Our hotel in Kathmandu could arrange a driver, but on a hunch, I called the hotel in Dhulikel and they offered an even better price (around $35, I think) and I liked having a driver who knew for sure where he was going.
Although the distance between our Kathmandu hotel and our Dhulikhel hotel was only 19.5 miles, the trip took over an hour. Most of the delay was due simply to traffic in Kathmandu. The road between the two was actually not bad and offered beautiful views of the Himalayas.
The really bad road–the worst of our three month travels–came when we hired a driver the following day to take us from our Dhulikhel hotel to the nearby Namobuddha Monastery. Wow. It’s hard to describe just how teeth-jarringly bad the road is. We felt sorry for our driver and the incredible wear the road must put on his car. The road distance is only 7 miles, but it took us over half an hour, most of that spent on the last stretch of road.
Our driver was friendly and spoke good enough English that we could commiserate about the wear and tear on his car from journeys such as this. The monastery turned out to be beautiful. The main temple area (photos forbidden) was elaborately stunning and the views breathtaking.
The following day, we walked through town past a sports field with the Himalayas looming beyond. We walked up meandering stairs to the hilltop Hindu temple of Kali where more spectacular views awaited. On the way up, we passed small groups of students who stopped us to ask for pens. We had no pens, but still had some colorful pencils we’d bought in Myanmar for just such occasions. The kids were very happy with the pencils, thanking us with big smiles. I wish we’d had more.
I found The Longest Way Home blog to be really useful in researching Nepal, especially my Nagarkot vs. Dhulikel dilemma. Many thanks to its author.
We stayed at Dhulikel Boutique Hotel. The hotel was new and our room spacious, stylish, clean, quiet and well-equipped. But, there wasn’t a view of the himalayas as I’d hoped. The best view was from the hotel’s outside dining, and that was across a valley into lesser mountains. Staff was friendly and great about booking us reasonably-priced drivers both between Kathmandu and Dhulikel and to the Namobuddha Monastery.