Unspoiled medieval town, Tansen is a breath of fresh air on your trip to Nepal. Located between Pokhara and Lumbini, few tourists spend there, life is authentic and the soul of Nepal resonates in the streets of the city, Discover Tansen A City In The Heart Of Nepal (Palpa)
|Major ethnicity:||Magar & Newar|
|Altitude:||1,659 m ( 5,442 ft)|
|Location:||130 km (80 miles) southwest of Pokhara or 45 km (28 miles) north of Lumbini|
You can take a bus from Pokhara, Lumbini, or Kathmandu. We chose to go from Butwal since we were nearby. From Butwal, you can catch a local bus on the main road and take it straight to the Tansen bus park. It costs about $1.00 USD per person and takes less than 2 hours.
March, April & May offer the best weather and views. You can also visit in the winter but it will be a little cold. Monsoon season may not be safe as the roads there are prone to land and mudslides.
Visiting Tansen (also called Palpa) is to immerse yourself in a deeply true Nepal . From your first steps in the city, you will be able to taste the kindness of the Nepalese, delighted to welcome a foreign visitor. The charm of Tansen will not fail to seduce you: there are many buildings with Newar architecture , the ancestral people of Nepal. Characterized by carved wooden patterns and red bricks, this type of architecture has been preserved in Tansen, unlike the Kathmandu Valley, where only historical monuments and temples still bear the mark of the past.
Built on a mountainside, the city has streets so steep that cars cannot drive through them. For sure, the steepest street in the world is not in New Zealand but in Tansen! Reaching the upper part of the city with a pack on your back is a challenge. The advantage of this topography is that pedestrians can move around freely , avoiding motorcycles and scooters. Free room to stroll, far from the incessant horns, as in Pokhara or Kathmandu.
By making a stopover in Tansen in your itinerary in Nepal, you will take a little distance from the treatment of tourists (tiring, in the long run) that we find elsewhere in Nepal. It is not in Tansen that you will find the same tourist shops, trekking agencies, insistent tuk-tuk . The shops are much more traditional and remain useful to the inhabitants. If you want to buy fabric or one of his hats worn by most men of a certain age, then Tansen is the place to be.
One day is enough to cover Tansen up and down. The city is not very big and you can take all your time to get lost there. However, you can stay there longer if you want to hike or go on a trek. there is no shortage of circuits, for the day or for several days, and the region is so beautiful that it would be a shame to do without.
The easiest way to travel in Nepal is to take the bus, go to the nearest bus station. From Pokhara, take the bus that goes to Lumbini via Tansen via the Siddhartha Highway, a mountain road suspended between vertiginous ravines and steep slopes that will take your breath away. Described as the most beautiful road in Nepal, it is essential to take it if you are traveling by motorbike. However, always pay close attention to weather conditions: if it has rained a lot, landslides can lead to disaster.
It goes without saying that the road is impressive, winding (do you have motion sickness?) And that blind trust in your bus driver is necessary to digest the journey. The reward is there and you just have to look out the window to forget these inconveniences: the landscapes are incredible. Lush forests, rice fields, craggy reliefs, scattered hamlets … You discover a corner of wild Nepal where Man lives in seclusion and soberly.
The bus does not take you to Tansen itself but drops you off at a crossroads, below the city. There, take a taxi to the city center in 15 minutes or go up on foot. Up to you !
Before setting off to explore the city, meet at the GETUP office, the Tourist Information Service Center. You won’t find better service in the whole city (maybe even the whole country). At the counter, Man Mohan, an elderly man who speaks excellent English will be able to inform you and put you at ease with a lot of humor. He will provide you with a map of the city and point out the places to see. It is also with him that you will find accommodation easily, but we will come back to that below.
Visiting Tansen definitely has nothing to do with visiting Kathmandu. In your stroll, you will discover small streets lined with shops, others more residential, but only great finds. So, it’s up to you to follow a marked route or let yourself be carried away by the streets of Tansen. You will meet very few tourists but they will be happy to share their experience with you, to advise you on spots and to discuss Nepal more generally. Very nice encounters at the bend of an alley, difficult to imagine in the great whirlwind that is Kathmandu.
On Nanglo West , you will find the Sitalpati, this white pavilion where the inhabitants of Tansen meet to chat. Strategic crossroads, you will find many small shops there and a large portal, known as mull dhoka (or baggi mul dhoka ) which leads to Durbar Square, the administrative district of the city.
It is also in the public square that you can taste a delicious filled brioche bought from the bakery or eat an excellent meal at the pretty restaurant which is similarly named Nanglo West. A little upscale, however, it is very accessible. The food is delicious and you can eat on the terrace or inside the Newar-style building, above the bakery. Low ceiling, carved black wood decorations, low tables and cushions, you are in a real Nepalese decor. From the first floor, you can observe the Nepalese living and see how their community life habits are different from ours.
Around Taksar, to the west, take a ride to the Ganesh statue and Maha Chaitya before reaching the Karuwa Factory, this traditional copper jar factory, called karuwa in Nepali, Tansen’s specialty. You can freely visit the place, moreover. Admire the colorful houses and enjoy the peace. Nice, isn’t it?
To the east of the city, you will find the Amar Narayan temple, dedicated to the deity Vishnu. At the entrance is the smaller Mahadev temple, which introduces the visitor to the enclosure. You will notice the basins which served as washhouses. The Amar Narayan temple is a superb building topped with a pagoda roof. Pay attention to the ornaments carved in the wood: fine details, animal heads and erotic scenes blend together. In the evening, you will see Nepalese burning small lamps around the temple.
If you find a Nepalese who speak English, don’t hesitate to ask them to explain – even vaguely – the history of the temple. In our case, it was a child of around ten who took our hand and took us around the structure. He spoke surprisingly good English (although he wasn’t at school in the middle of the day) and, for the record, had never seen moles!
We repeat it often, it is in Tansen that we ate the best momo of our trip to Nepal. Difficult to find the name of the tavern, but it was in the small street leading from the Mahadev. If you find the place, a sort of bar where you sit in an interior courtyard, you know what you have to order.
In the city center you will find banks and a post office. Going further down, you will come back to where the taxi dropped you off on arrival. The neighborhood, called Silkhan, is a noisy stopover during the day. This is where the buses leave for leaving Tansen and this is where you will find a bus to continue your trip to Nepal. Consult the person in the small hut for more information or ask for information at the GETUP office if you cannot make yourself understood
After exploring the city up and down, set aside some time in the late afternoon for a stroll up Shrinagar Hill. To do this, simply follow the map and the trails, more or less well-marked, to the statue of Buddha, to the east. The walk is very easy and not very long, ideal to end the day. At the top, a nice view awaits you provided the sky is clear. Walk up the hill past the statue of Hanuman, the monkey god, to the viewpoint, not far from the statue of Buddha. Enjoy the view and take the path in the opposite direction to the View Tower. There you can pay to go up there or enjoy the view from below.
Continue your way to the point of view opposite to the first, if you have time, or go back down to the city following the paths, the statue of Ganesh in your sights. You can find the GETUP office when arriving from the north where you will come across a magnificent mosque and more upscale residences.
From Tansen, we brought back special memories and a unique atmosphere. Although our stay there started rather badly, this stage was a very nice surprise and the desire to return is already there. If you like the peace and quiet of a place like us, you will love Tansen.
Did you go to Tansen on your trip to Nepal? Are you thinking of going there? We are waiting for your reactions.