23 Jan 2018
3 min read
If you're looking to escape not just the Kathmandu cold, but also the crowds that cluster at Nepal's well-known tourist hotspots around this time of the year, we have in mind one destination that's still off of most people's radars and bucket lists: Nawalparasi. Located in western Nepal, Nawalparasi is a budding industrial zone (with companies such as Chaudhary Group basing their factories here), as well as an up-and-coming holiday destination. To get to Nawalparasi, you can either catch a short flight to Bharatpur (after which you'll need to drive for around one-and-a-half hours) or take a bus (a six-and-a-half-hour drive). Here are a few activities you may want to include in your itinerary.
Visit Shashwat Dham
Shashwat Dham is a Hindu temple located in Devchuli of Nawalparasi District. Established by the Chaudhary Group, the dham (which means 'abode') is spread over a 12-acre plot of land, and is home to Ekambareshwar, a Shiva temple; the temple is surrounded by a pond that contains water from famous religious sites such as Pashupatinath Temple, Muktinath and Haridwar. The dham has been drawing tourists and pilgrims from the world over, so it's definitely worth a visit if you happen to be in, or even near, Nawalparasi district. And even if you aren't a particularly religious person, there's a lot to check out at the dham. What's particularly interesting about the temple is its Khajuraho-style architecture, which features extremely intricate details that you can spend hours observing; it's worth noting here that the dham took 16 years to complete. The premises of the dham also house the Sri Sri Centre for Meditation and Yogic Sciences, the Vaidik Karmakanda Gurukul, a souvenir store, a museum, a manuscript resource centre, and a pure-vegetarian restaurant.
Go for a jungle safari
A jungle safari might sound like a rather overdone activity. But a jungle safari in the Nawalparasi side of the Chitwan National Park is nothing like its highly commercialised counterpart in Sauraha, which sees so many tourists that during the safari, you're more likely to come across other tourists than wild animals--for even the animals have, over the years, learned to steer clear from the safari path. The Nawalparasi side, however, is not as crowded with people, and your chances of spotting some animals are much higher. In fact, you don't have to be too lucky to spot some antelopes, rhinos and peacocks. There are also multiple viewpoints that give you a bird's-eye view of the jungle, which makes for an awesome sight. Moreover, the jungle safari in Nawalparasi offers much more adventure and there's a lot more variety in the environments you'll be immersed in; you will be traversing vast open grasslands, venturing deep into the jungle and even crossing rivers.
Visit Amaltari and stay in a homestay
When in Nawalparasi, you can't afford to not visit Amaltari, a Tharu village on the rim of the Chitwan National Park. To think of Amaltari means to bring to mind vast and seemingly unending mustard fields. Here, you'll experience true Tharu life (over the years, it has become a popular practice among tourists visiting Nawalparasi to spend a few nights in Amaltari's homestays to experience Tharu life). Note that these homestays aren't run by out-of-town homeowners who just decided to open their doors to visitors. They're all run under a union, and all of them meet minimum living standards. They're also very reasonably priced (around Rs 650 per night). Nawalparasi also has a nascent resort industry, and you can always spend some time at one of the luxury or budget resorts located near the homestays.
Watch the sunset from the banks of the Narayani
This one's especially for the people who hardly venture beyond the Valley rim. In Kathmandu--or any other hilly area, for that matter--watching the sun disappear behind the hills is such a common occurrence that one tends to forget--at least I'd forgotten--how beautiful can be the view of the sun sinking below the earth's horizon. This visual spectacle, taken in while sitting on the banks of the Narayani River, whose waters are painted orange by the final rays of the sinking sun, makes for a sublime experience. Many resorts in Nawalparasi offer this experience as a part of their package, wherein you cycle or drive to the banks of the Narayani River and watch the sunset, while sipping on some tea.