It’s that time of year in Nepal when the mountains appear on a daily basis – as if sketched from a palette of clouds in the distance. Down in Kathmandu it is easy to miss the beauty surrounding the valley: it hides just out of eyesight as a layer of dust shrouds the city in yellow and brown. Don’t let that fool you! If you climb high enough, you’ll find a heavenly view of white peaks set against the azure-blue sky.
Last week, a friend and I decided to give our lungs a breath of fresh air and venture out of the pollution of the Kathmandu Valley. The easiest way to get above the dust layer is via the Chandragiri Cable Car. Relaxing and admiring the view while slowly climbing a hill sounded like a dream!
We caught a public bus to Thankot and then hiked what felt like a vertical climb to the bottom of Chandragiri Cable Car. If you’re not up for the hike, it is possible to take a taxi all the way from Kathmandu to the bottom of the cable car.
As we slowly drifted upwards, we sat and watched as the views of the concrete jungle faded into a panorama of mountain peaks. Below us was a velvety green of forests, to the left were the smoggy structures of Kathmandu city, and in front were mountains peeking out from behind the hills. I had thought the experience might be a little nerve-wracking (as I’m not fond of heights) but the ride was smooth and the views took our mind off the distance between us and the treetops below. Our little red cable car pod moved smoothly, aside from a couple of bumps next to the suspension towers. The cable car was built by a Swiss/Austrian company and has the well-designed sleek feel of good-quality European manufacturing.
Admittedly, the tickets were a little expensive relative to other things in Nepal, but it is possible to really make a day of it. You can purchase a return ticket or choose to walk in one direction and pay a lower fare. There are also discounts for students, those over 60 years old, expats, differently-abled, and kids – but ID is required to claim a concession.
At the top of the cable car we tried to identify the different peaks – spotting Manaslu, Ganesh, Langtang, the Gaurishankar Rolwaling Range, and even some glaciers just below the peaks! Then we set out on the short climb to the very top of the hill. Here, there are places to eat and a viewing tower (which costs an extra 50 NPR). It feels very Westernised, with fast food, clean concrete, rubbish bins, and English signs everywhere.
After a snack in the sun, we had a look around the Bhaleshwor Mahadev (temple). This beautiful temple is one of several around Nepal where it is believed that a piece of Seti Devi’s body fell as Lord Shiva carried his beloved’s body through the air. In his grief he did not notice the slow decomposition of her lifeless body. At the site of this temple, it is thought her forehead fell. Other temples related to the same tale include Guhyeshwari Temple in Kathmandu (Sati Devi’s knees) and Bageshwori in Nepalgunj (Sati Devi’s tongue).
Next to the temple there are also various statues to commemorate historical figures, such as King Prithivi Narayan Shah who was the first to unify Nepal into one kingdom. Nearby is a modern children’s playground – an unusual find in Nepal!
As we had purchased one-way tickets, we started our walk back down after we’d drunk our fill of the views. The first part of the descent was rather steep and slippery, paved in a traditional Nepali cobblestone style and layered with frost where the trees created shadows. The rest of the descent was down the road that leads from the Kathmandu Valley over the hill to Chitlang. That was quite dusty as it’s being rebuilt, but easier on the knees. The walk down took perhaps two hours, and was easy enough to navigate.
Less strenuous than a hike, but with some great views, we returned back into Kathmandu’s dust cloud feeling relaxed: there is something special about spending time gazing at mountain peaks!
• The bottom of the cable care is located in Thankot, Kathmandu
• Get there via taxi or take a public bus from Kalanki (the stop where the Pokhara buses also stop), get off at Thankot and walk up the hill towards the cable car (it’s easy to find)
• The ride is 2.4km long and takes around 10 minutes, depending on wind speed
• The cable car goes up to an elevation of 2520m, and a five minute walk to the top of Chandragiri Hill sees you at 2551m.
• Walking down/up takes around 2-3 hours
• Food and drinks can be bought both at the top and bottom