DHULIKHEL is justly famous as a well-preserved Newari town, mountain viewpoint, and hiking and biking hub, though its popularity is waning as modernization takes its toll. Located 5km east of Banepa, just beyond the Kathmandu Valley rim, it sits at the relatively low elevation of 1550m, and is now something of a boomtown. It’s home to Kathmandu University and one of Nepal’s best public hospitals; meanwhile, its location on the new 158km route to Sindhulimadi and the eastern Terai seems likely to turn the place into one of Nepal’s principal transport junctions.
Old Dhulikhel starts immediately to the west of Mahendra Chowk, the main square at the newer, east end of town. A traditional Newari settlement, this area is comprised almost exclusively of four- and five-storey brick mansions, many with ornate wooden lattices in place of glass windows, some affecting Neoclassical detailing imported from Europe during the Rana regime. The older buildings, held together only by mud mortar, show some serious cracks from the infamous 1934 earthquake; Dhulikhel also experienced damage during a 1988 quake centred near Dharan in the Terai.
Highlights include the central square of Narayanthan, containing a temple to Narayan and a smaller one to Harisiddhi (both emanations of Vishnu), and the Bhagwati Mandir, set at the high point of the village with partial mountain views.
The sunrise walk
The most popular activity in Dhulikhel is hiking to the high point southeast of town in time for a sunrise over the peaks. To get to the top, take the road leading east from Mahendra Chowk for about 1km, passing a big recreation area on the left, and then go right at the next fork. Cyclists will have to stay on this graded road, but hikers can climb the more direct flights of steps. On foot, allow about 45 minutes from Dhulikhel to the top, as well as plenty of time for gawking at the numerous birds and butterflies – look out for the racquet-tailed drongos and turtle doves. The summit (1715m) is marked by a small Kali shrine and, unfortunately, a small military base and a microwave tower; a viewing platform was being built at the time of writing, and there is a café close by. The peaks from Ganesh Himal to Everest are visible from here, and the sight of Dhulikhel’s old town is pretty wonderful, too.
On the way back down you can call in at a small, mossy temple complex, hidden down a flagstone path that angles off to the left just past the Snow View Guest House. The main temple, known as the Gokureshwar Mahadev Mandir, contains a large bronze linga.