Hill Country of Nepal

Between the grassy lowlands of the southern Terai region and the glaciated peaks of the world’s highest mountains lies a land of rolling topography, temperate climate, and indigenous communities. To appreciate this authentic and historic region, we crested Nepal’s hill country to visit and explore the three settlements of Bandipur, Ramkot, and Gorkha.

Pedestrian-only main street of old town Bandipur

Nicknamed “The Warm Heart of Nepal”, Bandipur is a hilltop Newari town and one-time stop on the India-Tibet trade route. The pedestrian-only main street, paved with slabs of silvery slate, retains its neoclassical facades and exudes a preserved old-time atmosphere.

Himalaya Mountain Range at sunset from Bandipur

The town of Bandipur is perched on a precipitous limestone ridge with panoramic views of the Himalayas. With the monsoon season now concluded, the world’s greatest mountain range basked in bright sunshine during the day, and radiated a snowy alpenglow after sunset.

Esther and Claire in Siddha Cave, below Bandipur

Geologically, wherever there is limestone, there are often caverns. Down a steep and slippery hiking trail from Bandipur, we found Siddha Cave, the largest cavern in Nepal. While underground, we had fun clambering over flowstone formations and repelling with ropes.

Magar man welcoming us to Ramkot (note hat pin, symbol of the Gorkha soldier)

At the end of another rural hike from Bandipur, we visited the authentic Magar caste village of Ramkot. The Magars are one of the oldest of Nepal’s 59 indigenous groups, originally migrating from Mongolia. Known for being hospitable and kind by nature, the Magar people welcomed us to Ramkot with affable dark eyes, big jovial smiles, and unpretentious chuckles of delight.

Community water source in Magar village of Ramkot

Upon entering Ramkot, it was immediately obvious that the Magar residents take great pride in their village. Devoid of motor vehicles, the main streets were no more than wide slate-paved walkways lined with flowering plants. Strolling the impeccably maintained and litter-free village, we were enchanted by Ramkot’s harmonious disposition and charming ambiance.

Traditional round house in Magar village of Ramkot

Architecturally, besides the occasional solar panel and satellite dish, Ramkot is built entirely of traditional buildings. Two-story stone and brightly-painted wood homes featured slate roofs, ground floor kitchens, and upstairs sleeping quarters. Many of the smaller structures had a circular form, were painted with red or ochre mud, and roofed with thatch.

Statue of King Prithyi Nayaran Shah and former royal administration building, Gorkha

After our fascinating visits to Bandipur and Ramkot, we rode up and down hill country roads to the historic town of Gorkha. Gorkha is the birthplace of King Prithvi Nayaran Shah (1723-1775), the first monarch of the Kingdom of Nepal, and the home of the Shah dynasty that ruled a unified Nepal until 2008.

Shah dynasty royal palace, still under renovation after 2015 earthquake

A one-hour stair climb led us to the former imperial palace on a hilltop overlooking Gorkha. Three-foot thick walls of the fortified Newari structure enclosed ornate temples, sacrificial altars, and the royal living quarters. Unfortunately, much of the fortress is still under renovation after the massive 2015 earthquake centered here.

Hill country boys enlisting for military service, Gorkha

Gorkha is also famous as the homeland of the highly decorated Gorkha Battalion military force recruited by British and Indian armies. Over the past two centuries, loyal, strong, and ferocious boys raised in this hill country region have fought fearlessly and with distinction in both world wars and many other international conflicts. 

Magar women and baby outside village of Ramkot

In this undulating land between the southern lowlands and northern mountains of Nepal, we were introduced to historic and authentic places populated with ethic groups maintaining traditional lifestyles and customs. Here, proud and friendly locals welcomed us to Bandipur, Ramkot and Gorkha, three remarkable settlements in the hill country of Nepal.

Traveling with Claire in the hill country of Nepal
Our favorite Nepali beer, Gorkha Strong with label honoring the Gorkha soldier, Cheers!

Blooger’s Notes: This week, our daughter Claire will be leaving us to continue her open-ended around-the-world backpacking trip. She will be flying to Malaysia and plans to spend the winter in southeast Asia. We have shared many cold Gorkha beers and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our time with Claire in Nepal these past six weeks.

On Friday, Esther and I will begin a 12-day hiking trek to Everest Base Camp. While on the trail, our ability to communicate may be hampered, so hopefully we will see you when we get back down the mountain.

Feature Photo: Traditional ranch and residence in Magar village of Ramkot

20 thoughts on “Hill Country of Nepal

    • You will marvel at this exotic country, Bahanur. This past week, we experienced another facet of Nepal in the towns and villages of the hill country. We found the pace of life much slower and people more welcoming in this less populated section of Nepal. It was also interesting to learn more about the different ethnic groups and historical contributions of this region. Thanks for your comment, and I hope you have the chance to visit Nepal yourself in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the Netflix recommendation, Neil. I will certainly check it out when I have a good internet connection. On our first trek to Annapurna Base Camp, we did not see any yaks. Maybe they will make an appearance in our upcoming higher-altitude Everest Base Camp trek? We are currently in Kathmandu awaiting our trek departure on Friday. You probably spent some time here back in 1982. It probably hasn’t changed much in these past 40 years. It is a crazy city, frozen in time.

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    • We saved the best for last, Phil & Michaela! Since we finished our first Nepal trek about a month ago, we have had ample time to rest up for our big attempt to reach Everest Base Camp. We are expecting this 12-day high-altitude hike to be our most challenging travel activity to date. To be successful, we will need to watch our steps and keep a positive attitude. A good lick from a yak might also be a big help!

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  1. Good grief, that view of the Himalayas in that photo, Joe. You really captured it, and yet all you apparently had to do was hit “click.” Amazing. The features of the buildings in the towns is fascinating to look it — the roof of the round house in Ramkot for instance. It must have been bittersweet to say goodbye to Claire. Safe travels to all of you! – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is a very photogenic place, Marty. The pictures you can take with a cell phone are amazing. I marvel at travelers who carry large cameras. They must be avid or professional photographers to go to all that trouble. Ramkot was a real hidden gem. The village and its people were truly enchanting. Seeing the Himalayas at sunset from Bandipur and Ramkot was beautiful and impressive. Tonight, we will be leaving for our Everest Base Camp trek, and will see these great mountains up-close. Claire is leaving this morning. We are sad to see her leave, but excited that she will be moving on another interesting part of the world.

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  2. Fascinating! I think most cities could learn a thing or two from Ramkot. And I love the views of the mountains in the distance…I think I would enjoy visiting that area very much. I’m sorry you’re having to say goodbye to Claire, but look forward to reading about your climb when you’re “back on the grid.” Be safe!!!

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    • We are packing for the trek today, Ann. Early tomorrow morning, we will be flying into the small mountain airport at Lukla, where we will begin hiking. Ramkot and its people were so lovely and inviting. They didn’t have many possessions, but valued the things they did have. I wish more of the world took as much pride in their environment and surroundings. Claire had been traveling by herself, staying in hostels, and living on a pretty tight budget. The last six weeks, it has been so nice to share some nice dinners, comfortable accommodations, and exciting adventures. I think she too is sad to be parting ways.

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  3. Your storytelling of your adventures makes it come to life. Amazing to see the many cultures how we are the same but so different. Can’t wait till the next story. Have fun

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    • Hi Marci. Esther and I are so happy that you enjoyed the post, and we really appreciate you taking the time to leave such a lovely comment. As I write this reply, we have just completed our 12-day Everest Base Camp trek where we were introduced to the Sherpa people, another one of Nepal’s fascinating ethnic cultures. In our final week in Nepal, we are taking it easy, so that we are well rested for all the fun when we re-unite with the Chicory Champions. Thanks for your encouraging words and see you soon!


    • I am so pleased that you enjoyed traveling with us to the hill country of Nepal, Janis. After the more exhilarating trekking, whitewater rafting, and animal safari adventures, it was delightful to slow down and explore the small and interesting villages and towns of the hill country. We had a wonderful time traveling with Claire, and hated to see her leave, but she didn’t think she would enjoy another trek, and made other plans to continue her travels. Currently, she is in Thailand and we are getting ready to return home this week. Before we leave Nepal, I have one more blog post to publish. I hope you enjoy it.

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  4. Another entertaining post. Interesting how you can go from the Magars, known for friendliness, to the Gorkhas, known for their distinction in battle in the same post, and probably not all that far from each other.

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    • Interesting observation, Dave. Even though the Magars and Gorkhas have different ethnic histories and personality traits, they are both very proud of their own cultures. The quiet and communal Magars seem to lead diligent, meticulous, and fulfilling lives, while the assertive Gorkhas act more confident and self-reliant. For the Gorkhas, these traits, complemented by their loyalty and bravery, make them some of the world’s fiercest soldiers. It really is amazing that these two wildly differing communities are only separated by about twenty-five miles!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Nice to hear from you too, Hans! Esther and I have enjoyed an intense two-months in Nepal. The culture is exotic and the scenery is spectacular. I hope you had a successful trip to Florida on the auto train. Take care!


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