Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park

Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park
Photo by Chandan Chaurasia / Unsplash

Location

Introduction

Established in 2002, Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park is Nepal's ninth national park, spanning an area of 159 km² (61 sq mi). It offers scenic vistas of the Kathmandu, Nuwakot, Sindhupalchowk, and Dhading districts. As a crucial water catchment area, it supplies several hundred thousand cubic liters of water daily to the Kathmandu Valley and plays a significant role in hydro-electricity production through the Sundarijal water source. Situated to the north of the Kathmandu Valley, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park is the only national park adjacent to the nation's capital. It preserves one of the last remnants of primary woodland in the valley, home to various wildlife, including monkeys, and potentially leopards and bears. The park is one of Nepal's most popular, located on the northern fringe of Kathmandu Valley. Major attractions include the breathtaking views from Shivapuri Peak at 2,732 meters and the culturally significant Nagi Gumba, a monastery for nuns. The hike to Shivapuri summit offers stunning views of the Kathmandu Valley and the towering Himalayan peaks. Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park is a renowned destination for escaping the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu Valley.

How to get there?

The national park is accessible from various locations, with the most popular entry point being Budhanilkantha, the nearest access to the valley. Other routes include Sundarijal, Tokha-Jhor, Balaju-Nagarjun, and Balaju-Kakani.

  1. By Local Bus

Numerous local buses run to Budhanilkantha from various locations, but there is no direct route, requiring passengers to change buses two to three times. This can result in additional time and cost, with base bus fares starting at $0.50.

  1. By Taxi

Taxis are available everywhere and it will take about half an hour to an hour depending on the traffic from Thamel to Budhanilkantha. The reasonable fare is $8.40 so make sure to bargain.

  1. Hiking/ Cycling

The hike can commence from the main gate of the National Park or by driving up to Nagi Gompa and beginning the journey from there. From Nagi Gompa, it takes about 3 to 4 hours to reach the summit at an elevation of 2732 meters. The primary route to the peak follows this path: Muhan Pokhari to Nagi Gompa, then to Baghdwar, and finally to Shivapuri Peak. While there are numerous signboards along the way, it is still recommended to bring a guide. The hike is challenging due to its steep ascents, descents, and the many stairs encountered en route. There are no shops along the trail, so hikers should pack snacks and drinks. Upon entering the national park, the first few hours of the hike involve navigating dusty roads before ascending the steep stone steps to Nagi Gompa. Here, hikers can enjoy a stunning view of the valley, have tea and snacks at a tea shop, and then continue with a vertical incline to Baghdwar and onward to Shivapuri Peak. A stone decorated with prayer flags marks the summit, indicating the end of the climb.

Climate

Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park showcases the mid-hill landscape of Nepal, serving as a transition zone between subtropical and temperate climates.The temperatures in the park can vary significantly, ranging from as low as 2°C to as high as 30°C.

When to visit?

Visiting Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park is best between October and February when the skies are clearest during the fall and winter months. Foreign visitors are required to pay approximately $3.75 for an entry permit at the entrance gate, which must be presented at each checkpoint within the park.

Main Attractions

  1. Flora and Fauna: Shivapuri lies in a transition zone between subtropical and temperate climates, featuring a diverse array of natural forest types such as pine, oak, and rhododendron, varying with altitude and aspect. The area is home to 129 species of mushrooms and hosts 19 recorded species of wildlife, including the Himalayan black bear, leopard, barking deer, wild boar, wild cat, rhesus monkey, and langur monkey. Additionally, the park is a habitat for 177 bird species, including at least nine threatened species, and 102 species of butterflies, some of which are rare and endangered.
  2. Water Resources: Shivapuri serves as a crucial source of drinking water for the Kathmandu Valley. Approximately 30 million liters of water are collected daily from rivers like the Bagmati and Bishnumati, along with several smaller streams.
  3. Scenic view: The location and elevation of the hill provide excellent vantage points for viewing the Langtang Himalayan range. On a clear day, numerous peaks such as Ganesh Himal, Langtang-Lirung, Dorji Lhakpa, Mt. Langtang Ri, Ganjala Peak, and Mt. Gaurishankar, among others, are prominently visible.

Places to visit

  1. Nagarjun Hill

Nagarjun Hill, also known as Raniban, is part of the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park and serves as a habitat for pheasants, deer, and monkeys. Trekking in this area requires a guide. The summit is accessible via a two-hour hike on an unpaved road leading directly up the hill, which is a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site. The viewing tower at the summit offers one of the most extensive mountain panoramas of the Kathmandu Valley, spanning from the Annapurna Range to Langtang Lirung peak.

  1. Budhanilkantha Temple

Budhanilkantha is located just south of the main entrance to Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park and is renowned for its large reclining Vishnu statue at the Budhanilkantha Temple. This 16-foot (5-meter) stone statue, believed to have been created in the fifth century, is the largest stone statue in Nepal and is unique due to the god's reclining position. Visiting this site is highly recommended before beginning the trek.

  1. Baghdwar

Baghdwar, where "Bagh" means Tiger and "Dwar'' means gateway, is the main source of the Bagmati River. The area features stone streams with the mainstream shaped like a tiger's head. There is also a small square pond with a Shiva Lingam placed at its center. A few yogis and sadhus reside in the monastery area at Baghdwar, offering visitors the opportunity to interact with them and learn about their customs.

  1. Bishnudwar

Bishnudwar is the source of the Bishnumati River and features a cave and a waterfall surrounded by rocks and boulders. The cave holds religious significance, while the pristine waterfall serves as the major attraction of the hike and a popular selfie spot for hikers.

  1. Nagi Gompa monastery

Nagi Gompa Monastery is a tranquil institution housing over 100 Buddhist nuns amidst the hills of Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park. These nuns dedicate themselves to daily study and meditation, focusing on developing wisdom, love, and compassion. The monastery provides training in classical Buddhist philosophy, ritual arts, and meditation practices. Particularly renowned for their mastery of "chod," a Tibetan meditation dance, the nuns of Nagi Gompa have performed this ritual around the globe. The monastery also welcomes serious lay practitioners for short and long-term retreats, ensuring a supportive and enriching experience for all. Beyond its spiritual offerings, Nagi Gompa provides breathtaking views of the Kathmandu Valley, with its panoramic vistas serving as a backdrop for deep contemplation. The tranquil setting of the monastery enhances the meditative experience, allowing for a profound connection with oneself and the universe. In essence, a visit to Nagi Gompa is a spiritual journey that offers peace, insight, and a deeper understanding of one's place in the world.

Conclusion

This trek offers a memorable adventure, allowing you to explore the famous Shivapuri Peak with its panoramic views of various Himalayan ranges and the entire Kathmandu Valley in the distance. It provides an exciting and moderately challenging trek lasting approximately 6 to 7 hours, meandering through lush jungles, cascading waterfalls, and charming locations. This unique journey offers a chance to immerse yourself in Nepal's natural beauty and rich cultural heritage.