After having spent almost a full week in Pokhara, Nepal’s most visited city, I felt a sudden urge to get off the tourist trail for a little bit.
Anyone who has travelled solo as extensively as I have can tell you that, even though the road alone can get lonely at times, it is sometimes a necessity.
After seeing hordes of tourists in Pokhara, and Kathmandu before that, I searched and searched for a place I could stop for a few days before reaching the town of Lumbini (which was the worst and most overrated “destination” in all of Nepal, but more on that in a later article).
It took me a while to find out about it, but once I looked into it, I convinced myself to head to a small town named Tansen, located in central Nepal.
The journey that would take me to Tansen was far from straightforward. First, I was told there weren’t any direct buses from Pokhara to Tansen, and that I’d have to check at the old bus station out of town. I managed to snatch a spot in a minivan, crammed to capacity with another 25 individuals.
After a four hour ride in yet another dusty and road filled with crevices along some of the most beautiful natural landscapes, the driver signalled me to get off at a town called Bartung.
I looked at the map and saw that I was only a somewhat short 2 km walk from my guesthouse in Tansen. I figured I would walk the distance since I wasn’t even sure when the next bus to Tansen would pass.
As I started to walk, I began to realize that the road leading to Tansen, located only 1 km from Bartung, was all uphill. I began to hike with all my belongings under the scorching sun of the middle afternoon on the tiniest of all dusty trails leading me up a gigantic hill to the entrance to the town of Tansen. My face turned to horror when I saw streets going up on a 45° angle, especially once I realized that my guesthouse was almost at the very top of the city.
Overall, that small 2 km walk took me about an hour and a half.
What happened to you???
Those were the actual first words the owner of the guesthouse said to me upon seeing me drenched in my own sweat, seemingly tired and thirsty.
Tansen is a small town sitting on top the many mountains surrounding the region in a very calm setting. Despite being in between Pokhara and Lumbini, two destinations well known in Nepal’s tourist trail, it is seldom visited by tourists.
On the other hand, there is a fair number of guesthouses in Tansen, many of which are family run. The people in this town are also overly friendly, and many interactions go well beyond the usual selling of services as it was often the case in more touristy spots like Pokhara and Chitwan. The people of Tansen are also getting to know the potential of their town and the municipality is working hard at promoting Tansen to become another major attraction in Nepal.
I had breakfast on the rooftop the next morning, and I was treated to some of the most amazing views which quickly solidified my decision to come to Tansen. A sea of clouds had formed well below the mountains right on top of the valley, forming a seemingly soft white ground right below my view. It was such an incredible sight that I made sure I woke up early every day during my stay just to witness the same scene every morning.
Exploring the streets of Tansen can be slow and repetitive, and often going up and down the hilly streets amounts to a tiring exercise when all you want is to see the town. I found a few charming spots just by looking around, including some colorful streets and well kept temples. While sitting down at one of the restaurants I befriended a local girl who happened to work there, she later offered to become my unofficial guide for a day.
One of the best things to do in Tansen is to go all the way to the top of the mountain and up Shreenagar Tower. I took the long way and started walking east on the road on the highway. About 20 minutes or so I saw a trail of stairs going up the mountain, so I took it. Little did I know that this trail would lead me to some unexpected views of the Himalayan mountain range.
I continued walking my way up the mountain, often passing through the odd statue. There seemed to be quite a few on the way to the tower, many of them in an old and unpreserved state not particularly attractive to get off the trail to go check.
The weather was particularly warm and not windy on this day, which made my hike the more gratifying. It’s safe to say that I didn’t totally fall in love with Tansen until that moment I made it all the way up to the top of the tower, where clear views of the Himalayan range greeted me in all their glory.
Before I had made it to Tansen, all I knew and had read about it was that it was a small but charming town where to spend a few days. So being able to see the Himalayas again (after having seen them in Pokhara) was an absolute delight.
The views to the south of the tower were equally beautiful, with the town of Tansen on one side and the valley with other small towns like Bartung visible amidst the mountains.
The decision to leave Tansen wasn’t an easy one. I felt quite at home there and I kinda felt like staying a few more days, but at the same time I knew that I would just get bored even after another day of having nothing to do in town. So I took my last breakfast on top of the clouds, packed my bags, said goodbye to my hosts and after saying a quick goodbye to my friend and one-day guide, I started to make my way to my next destination: Lumbini.