Nuwakot is one of those untouched Nepalese townships that time seems to have forgotten about. Situated about a 2.5 hour drive north of Kathmandu, this tiny village and surrounding valley occupies a central place in Nepalese history as the seat of the great King Prithvi Narayan Shah. It was from his family home here in 1744 that the king launched his successful campaign to unify the country – previously just a collection of individual tiny states – which lead to the birth of modern Nepal. The village also played an important role along the Tibetan trade route and was regarded as the main gate to enter the Kathmandu Valley from the west.
Despite its pivotal role in history however, Nuwakot remains blissfully under the radar and retains much of its rural charms. Here you’ll still catch women harvesting their millet crops and children genuinely excited to greet hikers amidst the traditional mud houses and terraced fields. It’s the perfect spot for those looking for a slice of authentic Nepal without the tourist hordes, or to break journey for a night enroute to Langtang National Park.
Sadly, the Nuwakot area was badly affected by the earthquake of April 2015, with an estimated 51% of the population affected. Many buildings were damaged and repair works will take some time to complete. Your visit helps provide the local community with much-needed funds for reconstruction.
The historic village of Nuwakot is a mini-Shangri La, where visitors can get up close and personal with Nepal’s authentic rural charms.
When to go
Nuwakot has a monsoonal climate with four main seasons. The main climbing season lasts from October until late November, with cool but pleasant temperatures and clear skies that make it perfect for outdoor activities. December till February sees temperatures as low as 0°C (32°F), although treks at lower altitudes are still possible. March to April brings colourful spring blossoms and pleasant weather around 20-30°C (86°F). June to September marks the monsoon season, with high levels of humidity and low visibility.
Things to Do
- Visit the historic Saat Tale Durbar
The village’s iconic centrepiece and one of Nepal’s proudest national monuments, this seven-storey, Malla-style citadel (also known as the Nuwakot Palace or Fortress) was built in 1762 by King Prithvi Narayan Shah as his family home, shortly after he conquered the town. It was from this hilltop command centre that the great king directed his campaign on the Kathmandu Valley from 1744 to 1769, leading to his successful unification of the country, and also where he died. Sadly, the building suffered heavy damage in the April 2015 earthquake, and reconstruction efforts are underway.
- Explore Nuwakot Durbar Square
Nuwakot’s beautiful Durbar Square and the surrounding areas are home to many exquisite temples, although sadly many of these suffered damage from the April 2015 earthquake. At the far end of the village, complete with breathtaking views of the valley, is the golden-roofed Bhairab Temple, said to be one of Nepal’s oldest and still used for animal sacrifices during the annual Sinduri Jatra festival. Just southeast of the Saat Tale Durbar, the Ranga Mahal Palace was built as a recreational spot for the three Malla Kings of Kantipur Valley, while the nearby Garad Ghar frames the courtyard, although both are currently occupied by the police and army. Built in 1564, the 35 metre-high Taleju Temple is Durbar Square’s most magnificent temple, although unfortunately it also remains closed to the public.
- Take a walk
The name Nuwakot was derived from the word ‘Nawakotta’ meaning Nine Forts, in reference to the eight other forts in the surrounding valley area. Many of these occupy spectacular locations and can be accessed via scenic walking trails, including the viewpoint at Kalika Temple as well as the Malika Temple on a nearby hilltop. Unlike many parts of Nepal, the area around here remains blissfully untouched by tourism, and therefore interacting with the friendly locals makes for a genuine and heartfelt experience.
- Attend a Malla festival
Nuwakot is one of those rare townships in Nepal that time seems to have forgotten, and many traditional cultural practices of the Malla period are still celebrated in a big way here. These colourful festivals include the Bhairabi Jatra or Sindure Jatra, Narayan Jatra, Gai Jatra, Shipai Jatra, Devi Jatra, Fulpati and Krishna Janmastami, which make for an unforgettable experience, should you be lucky enough to have your visit dates coincide.
Kathmandu International Airport is Nepal’s only international airport, serving flights from around Asia. Connections include Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, New Delhi, Mumbai, Doha, Dubai and Istanbul.
Nuwakot is a 2.5 hour drive from Kathmandu. Private cars with a driver can be hired in Kathmandu to take you there.
Direct buses operate daily from Kathmandu to Nuwakot, an approximately 4 hour journey for around Rs 100. If you’re feeling adventurous, hop on the bus to Trisuli Bazaar and get off at Bidur for the two hour uphill hike to Nuwakot Durbar Square.
Nuwakot Durbar Square is just a ten minute walk from The Famous Farm, the only hotel in town. The surrounding forts, viewpoints and temples are all accessible on foot via hiking trails, which is one of the area’s key attractions.
Visas on arrival are available on arrival for citizens of most countries at Kathmandu airport. The price ranges from US$25 for a 15-day visa up to US$100 for 90 days. Bring along a passport-sized photo – an expensive photo booth is available before the gates but is usually packed with arriving crowds. To view a list of eligible nationalities, visit Nepal’s Department of Immigration website.
Nepal uses the Nepalese Rupee (NPR), currently exchanging at a convenient 100:1 ratio to the US dollar. Visit xe.com for the latest exchange rates.
US dollars are widely accepted, especially for hotels and larger sums of money. Credit cards are slowly accepted being everywhere in Kathmandu, but beyond the immediate shopping and tourist areas, there are limited banking facilities and ATMs.
The birth country of Buddha has always been very religious, and temples and celebrations are still an important part of the city life. Nepal’s Buddhist-Hindu culture is naturally tolerant, but visitors are expected to show respect in return. Always remove your shoes when entering a temple and remember to circulate clockwise around the stupas. Pay attention to flower or rice offerings in front of doorsteps and avoid stepping on them.
Before hiring a tour guide or porter, do some research and find reputable companies who pay fair wages. Many companies cut costs with the porters who generally earn the least and travel with heavy packs and unsuitable gear. Remember that you are contributing to the livelihoods of people living in one of the poorest nations in the world – tip generously if you can.
Learn the Lingo
Nepali is the official language of Nepal. Most villagers in Nuwakot speak little or no English, therefore learning a few useful phrases will go a long way.
Hello / goodbye – Namaste
How are you – Kasto cha?
Excuse me – Maapha ganus
Thank you – Dhanybhad
What is this? – Yo ke ho?
How much is this? – Yo kati ho?
Please make it a little cheaper – Ali sastoma dinus
Have a nice day – Subha din