Perched on a hilltop some 142 km from Kathmandu is the grand fortress like palace of King Prithvi Narayan Shah who conquered the surrounding kingdoms and began the unification of Nepal as a nation in 1769.
The palace sits high above Gorkha town or Gorkha bazaar as it is known locally and can be reached by either a set of 1500 steps from the town or by a road to the rear. Gorkha was badly hit by the 2015 earthquake which also damaged Gorkha Durbar. However today you'd be hard pressed to see damage in the town itself. As for Gorkha Durbar while the main palace building was completely destroyed the rest of the fortress complex still stands.
Gorkha Durbar itself is not only famous as being the birthplace of Prithvi Narayan Shah but also as where the annual Dashain festival begins. Newari people also regard the area sacred as they view the Shah's an living embodiments of Vishnu. Gorkha is also where the famous British Gurkha Battalion were established.
Today Gorkha Durbar sees few international tourists. Those that come are mainly Nepali tourists curious to see the place their first king was born. For those that do visit Gorkha Durbar they are usually surprised with how much there is to see. While the palace is gone it was a relatively small section. The Kalika temple still stands as does the Gorakhnath cave shrine, the ramparts, fortress walls, more historic buildings around the palace along with a very pleasant forest walk. Moreover Gorkha Durbar still contains majestic views across the valley's beneath it which the King strategized to control and unite them into Nepal.
Quick look to see if you would like Gorkha Durbar
Interests: Forts, History, Forest Walks, Less Tourists
Time Needed: Half-day
Gorkha Durbar is located on a hill above Gorkha town in Gorkha district, Gandaki province in Nepal. It's 142km west of Kathmandu and 106.5km east of Pokhara. In terms of geography Gorkha is close to both Bandipur (53.3km) and Riepe village via Dumre.
While Gorkha Durbar only has an elevation of 1380 meters it's perched on top of a tree lined hill which gives it an excellent view of the surrounding valleys on all sides.
There's a short hike up to old ruins above Gorkha Durbar which has an elevation of 1500 metes and is thickly forested.
Reaching Gorkha is relatively easy despite its isolated location.
Gongabu (New Bus Park) in Kathmandu has frequent buses to Gorkha (6 hours). Alternatively you could take a morning tourist bus and get off at Anbu Khaireni (3.5 hours) and then take a frequent local bus up to Gorkha (1 hour).
From Pokhara's old bus park it's 4 hours to Gorkha. Taking a tourist bus to Anbu Khaireni would take you much longer.
In Gorkha there is a single bus park just south of the museum. Buses here go to Kathmandu, Pokhara, Anbu Khaireni. A single bus goes to Bhairahawa (near Lumbini and Sonauli). There is also a single daily bus in the morning to Narayangarh, Bharatpur (near Chitwan National Park).
There's no need for a jeep to visit Gorkha or indeed Gorkha Durbar as the roads are relatively good. Despite this, many "tour" agents will tell you a jeep is better - it's not - a car or mini-van will do.
Tours to Gorkha are usually overpriced and don't spend much time at Gorkha Durbar. Making your way to Gorkha is relatively easy with no pressure if you spend the night there or arrive early.
This map shows you the main area of Gorkha Durbar, bus stops and Gorkha town.
Gorkha Durbar's history dates back to when it was a feudal kingdom in the mid 16th century CE under the first king of Gorkha Dravya Shah. The Gorkha Museum is said to be the first palace constructed in Gorkha.
A new kingdom
Prithvipati Shah reigned as king of Gorkha from 1673 to 1716. He had a good relationship with the nearby Malla Kingdoms in the Kathmandu Valley. The king had many children but had a bad relationship with the heir apparent in turn his grandson became the next king. King Nara Bhupal Shah (1697–1743), was the first Gorkha king with eyes on conquering all of Nepal. He married on four occasions with great difficulty in having a child. He launched a failed attempt at conquering Nuwakot from the Mallas. Queen Kausalyavati Devi gave birth to Prithivi Narayan Shah in 1723.
A prince becomes king
Prithvi Narayan Shah was born on the 7th of January 1723. He was raised with strict rules with the intension he would be a great king.
Today the cave where Gorakhnath stayed and meditated is a shrine beside the palace of Gorkha Durbar.
In 1743 Nara Bhupal Shah died and at the age of 20 Prithvi Narayan Shah became king of Gorkha.
The kingdom expands
Knowing his father had failed at capturing Nuwakot Prithvi Narayan Shah became obsessed with taking it from the Mallas. He ventured to Varanasi where his extended family helped him and he brought back firearms. Later that year he attempted to take Nuwakot and failed.
Forging an alliance with three neighboring states the King once again attacked and captured Nuwakot in 1744 CE. From there the king looked to take all of the Kathmandu Valley using both diplomacy, siege warfare and all out attacks on the kingdoms of the Kathmandu Valley.
The Kingdom of Nepal is formed
By 1768 all the cities of the Kathmandu valley were under the command of Prithvi Narayan Shah. It is with this and great illness that the king set about setting up a strong legacy for the future Kingdom of Nepal. Legislation was created called Divyopadesh to ensure the future kingdom of Nepal would continue with diplomatic relations to the north with China and to the south the British East India Company who controlled India. Prithvi Narayan Shah died in January 1775 CE from an illness in Nuwakot aged 52. His son Pratap Singh Shah continued on his legacy of unifying Nepal.
Today many Nepali look upon Gorkha Durbar as a both a sacred place and the birthplace of the first king of Nepal.
Highlights Gorkha Durbar include:
- Impressive fortress on a hill
- Kalika Mandir
- Cave of Gorakhnath
- View points from the fortress
- Hanuman statue & surrounding inscriptions
- View point from Hanuman Bhanjyang
- Forest walk to the old ruins of Gorkha
- 1500 steps to Gorkha bazaar
- Few tourists
The main fortress palace is the main highlight of Gorkha Durbar. Despite the residential part of the palace being destroyed in the 2015 earthquake it is only a small portion of the many things to see around Gorkha Durbar.
It all starts with the 1500 steps up or taking a short cut up!
1500 steps to Gorkha Durbar
If you arrived in Gorkha bazaar itself then you'll have no problem finding someone to point you the way to the start of the 1500 steps rising up to the main fortress (just north of the museum). It takes about 45 minutes to climb with plenty of rest stops along the way.
Small souvenir stores line parts of the way. They not only sell trinkets but also water and the odd Nepali snack. There's nothing available at the top of Gorkha Durbar so this might be your only chance to grab a drink or snack.
If climbing the 1500 steps is not your things then a taxi can bring you around to the rear of Gorkha Durbar where there's a much shorter 5 minute walk to the fortress.
The Kalika Mandir
If you came up the 1500 steps then to the left (east) is the Kalika Mandir. It's located up a series of stone entrance steps. The first brings you to Sita Pati (a small look out window) and then to the right another set of steps brings you to Kalika Mandir.
The immediate area was damaged in the 2015 earthquake. But Nepali still preform animal sacrifices here. Do be warned that there may well be the odd goat or chicken before or after the event in the area, especially on a Saturday.
The main temple is usually closed and would be closed for non-Hindus. Inside there's a shrine to the goddess Kali, one of the ten mother goddess. Outside you can enjoy the elaborate wood carvings if giant peacocks surrounding windows high above. Do note that shoes should be removed before crossing over to the brick platform in front of the temple. If the temple door is open you may not enter but you can look in from afar.
While visiting another temple in Nepal may not be your thing the surrounding buildings are uniquely decorated in Newari style.
To the right you can't help but notice the scaffolding and metal barriers. This is where the royal palace used to stand before the 2015 earthquake.
Today nobody is sure when the palace will be rebuilt. The damage extends to the temple area and to the rear. The main building itself had to be razed to prevent more damage from occurring.
Locals say they are awaiting funding for the palace to be rebuilt. However Gorkha Durbar was never a main attraction in Nepal for tourists so it's priority level seems to be quite low. The good news is that officials do insist it will be reconstructed as a matter of national pride.
At the bottom of the stairs you went up to the Kalika Mandir is a small pati or rest house. This is dedicated to Sita who was the wife of the god Ram. There's usually a security guard on duty here with various signs of no sitting dotted about.
If there isn't too much of a crowd of tourists around you could ask the guard, nicely, if it's possible to take a look out of the window. The views are quite impressive on a clear day stretching out in behind the temple and across the valley below.
It's also worth noting the temple wall just before the pati. It's covered in unique wooden framed windows and long wooden serpent carvings.
If you were to go down the stairs and take right you'd come out to a large stone platform with impressive views looking up at the sheer size of Gorkha Durbar.
The cave of Gorakhnath
Taking a left at the bottom of the steps to Kalika Mandir leads you along the walls of Gorkha Durbar until you reach a large jagged looking rock sticking out of the wall. Up ahead are some steps to the right and a taleju bell and Shiva's staff the Trishula.
The first short set of steps end with what looks like a shrine. It is in fact the entrance to the cave where the sage Gorakhnath lived. The sage is said to have been hugely influential on the young prince Prithvi Narayan Shah.
It's not possible to enter the cave but it is possible to peer though the lattice door windows inside. If you climb up the stairs further you can get a better look at how this section of the fortress seems to have been built around the cave.
At the top of the steps is a large shrine to Shiva along with a host of ramparts with stunning views of the valleys below.
Walking along the main Gorkha Durbar platforms you'll reach the eastern end of the old fortress. Here slightly lower down is a lovely Newari styled building. This is Chaughera Durbar or the Palace Guesthouse.
Of note is the Newari style of the Palace Guesthouse. Although Prithvi Narayan Shah conquered the Malla Empire he had great admiration for their architecture and artwork. It's said that he hired many Newari architects to work on his own buildings.
Today Chaughera Durbar is being used as an administration building for officials looking after the area. There's more to see around the rear of the building.
Shree Bidhya Mandir
There's a small temple here which is usually locked. This is dedicated to the Hindu tantric religious system to the goddess Lalitā Tripurasundarī ("Beautiful Goddess of the Three Cities") or Devi.
Of note is the tortoise standing in front of the shrine. This tortoise is missing a tall column which should be on its shell signifying it is carrying the world on its back.
Hanuman Statue & Inscriptions
At the bottom of a flight of steps to the east of Gorkha Durbar is a bright red Hanuman statue which has become rather famous due to the amount of tika (red dye) blessings that cover it. Hanuman in Gorkha has many more reasons to be famous stemming from the legend of Hanuman to the high pass above the statue which you can visit.
It's well worth noting the inscription pillars and various other statues around this area as some of them are very detailed.
Stone foots prints, a cave and lookout point
To the right of the Hanuman statue is a set of steps leading up into the Gorkha forest. Halfway up to the left is a slender cave which many locals like to squeeze into and out the other side. It is a narrow space so take caution.
Continue up the steps and up to a concreted and stone strewn area. There are several "footprints" dotted around the place attributed to Hanuman, Gorakhnath, Ram and Sita.
To the left the rocks continue on and jut out to form an impressive view point known as Hanuman Bhanjyang or Hanuman Pass. On a clear day can see the Gorkha Durbar with a snowy mountain range behind it. Manaslu can be spotted in all it's 8,156 m glory. Dotted around the pass are small statues to Hanuman and Gorakhnath.
Gorkha Forest Walk
If you continue on from Hanuman pass you'll go by a few more statues and footprints. The upward trail goes through some very nice woodlands. Stone steps continue on up until you come to a rest area and an army barracks to the left.
The trail continues up as in twists and turns in the pine forest. At the top there's a junction leading straight ahead, to the left and to the right.
To the right leads you up a little further to an area littered with abandoned ruins. Raised stone circular walls give the impression that they were once part of an armory.
The trail to the left at the junction leads higher still but be warned the area is sadly no more than a mobile telephone network tower. The trail ahead is somewhat never ending with many more twists and turns. Unless you plan a full days hiking around Gorkha it's best to go back the way you came.
Currently there is no entrance fee to enter Gorkha Durbar. The entrance fee of 200 rupees was stopped once the palace was destroyed in 2015. However, that's not to say they won't bring back a charge to help with the reconstruction costs.
Gorkha Durbar can be visited at any time of the year. However monsoon season will mean the chances of seeing mountains from Gorkha Durbar will be lessened.
Gorkha Weather by month
|Precipitation / Rainfall (mm)|
There is no weather station in Gorkha. The above weather charts is based on nearby averages. Gorkha shares a very similar weather climate to nearby Bandipur.
Gorkha town or Gorkha Bazaar is a modern Nepali town. The main road is lined with typical concrete buildings with banks, shops and the odd hotel taking up most of the space. The highlight of the town is the museum which used to be the old kings palace. There are several more shrines and a nice pond in Gorkha town worth seeking out as they are all close by.
Gorkha Museum (Tallo Durbar)
An impressive Newari style building that's been kept in good shape over the years. Inside things are so so. There's an indigenous section showing mannequins dressed in ethnic clothing and a few artifacts from the Durbar. There's a two-tiered Bhimsen temple behind it to the north near a junction.
The entrance fee is 100 rupees. The opening hours are strict running Nov-Jan: 10.30am - 3.30pm. Feb-October: 10.30am - 4.30pm. Mondays 10.30am - 2.20pm.
There's a camera fee of 200 rupees otherwise you can leave your camera with the guard.
Shiva temple, Vishnu image, Vishnu temple & Ganesh Temple
To the south west of the museum is the older part of town with a collection of neat temples. The tall white mogul style temple is dedicated to Shiva. There's an intricate stone carving of Vishnu lying on a bed of serpents beside it.
At the center is a two roofed temple to Vishnu with a small community pati in front of it. To the left of this is a narrow set of steps leading up to an unusually short shikhara style temple dedicated to Raj Ganesh.
One of the nicest parts of Gorkha Bazaar is the pond known as Rani Pokhari to the east of the temples. It's set down low and has several shrines dotted around it. The pond is fenced in but you can make your way inside via the set of steps at the front.
There are several seating areas around the pond where you'll find people resting during the day.
There are no restaurants in Gorkha Durbar itself. Most are found in Gorkha town or to the rear of Gorkha Durbar at Hotel Brindaban.
Hotel Brindaban is quiet in the off season. They offer basic Nepali tourist food like chow mien and fried rice. Sizzlers and the like are also available along with Dal Bhat.
Aside from local menu items it's possible to get a plate of spaghetti in Gorkha
Most of the restaurants in Gorkha town will be catering to Nepali customers. Gorakhkali Restaurant (written in Nepali) is an example of a local restaurant behind and to the north of the museum. There are several momo restaurants near the bus park but choose wisely.
A better option for restaurants in Gorkha is to eat in the hotel or guesthouse where you are staying. Alternatively if you are on a day trip these types of accommodation also offer menus. See accommodation below for more.
The nearest accommodation to Gorkha Durbar is Hotel Brindaban +977 985-6040128 to the rear. They offer basic accommodation and meals. There is plenty of parking available here.
The majority of accommodation is in Gorkha town itself but it's based on Nepali overnighters and perhaps not in the best of condition so look before you pay for a room. Other slightly better hotels are dotted over Gorkha so do be careful if booking as some are quite far away.
The best of the bunch in Gorkha is Chhen Bed & Breakfast located quite close to the bus park. Offering fan and air-conditioned rooms in good condition. The restaurant is also worth calling into.
Hotel Gorkha Bisauni is an older establishment further down the road from the bus stop. It's rooms are dated and it can get a little noisy in the early evening but there is a nice garden.
Hotel Gorkha Palace +977 64-421442 is along the main road south of the bus park. It's a modern business hotel aimed at Nepali customers. The rooms are okay but over priced and far from palacial.
Hotel Miracle +977 64-421442 is located near the start of Gorkha's town and offers some simple older style but spacious rooms. It's one of the more established hotels in Gorkha and not a bad bet if you need a bed for the night.
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