Photo Courtesy: Suraj Prasai
Chandragiri Hill, with its ever-changing weather, proudly stands atop the South West of Kathmandu valley at 2540 meters above sea level, seven kilometers from Thankot. The hill, which is covered in a thick white blanket of mists and a luscious green blanket of flora, makes Chandragiri an inexhaustible and unblemished landscape. On a good day, the breathtaking views of almost all the soaring peaks and the panoramic views of Kathmandu Valley & Himalayan range from Annapurna to Everest makes anyone feel like capturing Nepal in all its beauty and glory from atop this hill.
Chandragiri Hills are famous as an ideal destination for a day’s escape from the busy city life. It is one of the most pristine hiking areas in Kathmandu Valley. The hike usually begins at Hindus Temple at Matatirtha or Hotel Outlook INN. The clean environment creates different sensation and a feeling of relaxation both mentally and physically. Matatirtha – Chandragiri - Chitlang hike is a very popular route which takes you through dense forests, rich in wild and exotic flora and fauna, and offers scenic views of Kathmandu valley, spectacular views of the mountain ranges from west to east including Mt. Api, Saipal to Everest, Makalu, Kanchanjunga Manaslu, Ganesh Himal, Langtang Himal, Dorje Lakpa and Gaurishankar. The hike ends in a beautiful cultural village of Chitlang. It takes over 5-6 hours to conquer this trail. Alternatively, you can take a rough uphill drive from Godam Chaur near Thankot for around 3 hours to reach the top of Chandragiri hill.
As per Hindu Mythology, this is believed to be the place where SatiDevi’s forehead fell off her body when Lord Mahadev carried her dead body. So these hills, where Buddhism is the most prevalent, has a very rich historical background as well.
Chandragiri Bhanjyang, the pass to Kathmandu Valley in the South-West, used to be a common trade and travel route to-and-from Kathmandu during the 1700’s, connecting Chitlang in Makawanpur. When King Prithivi Narayan Shah conquered Nuwakot, Makawanpur, and various other villages including Banepa, Dhulikhel and also the four passes Sanga, Baad, Pati and Chandragiri Bhanjyang, it caused a major blockade in the Kathmandu Valley and made it very vulnerable. It is believed that because of the blessing of Ichhyashwor Mahadev, King Prithvi Narayan Shah was successful in taking the Kathmandu Valley.
The Chandragiri hill is inhabited by auspicious medicinal plants and threatened animals. According to biodiversity survey of Chandragiri hill carried out by Small Mammals Conservation and Research Foundation, Kathmandu, the hill inhabits 14 species of mammals including the globally threatened species like Yellow-throated Marten, Golden jackal etc. A total of 137 species of birds were recorded which included rare birds like Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Pied Thrus, Barn Owl etc., along with 53 species of butterfly, and 9 types of herpetofauna i.e. reptiles and amphibians. Being this rich in bio-diversity, it is a potential site for tourism as the presence of globally and nationally threatened species along with the sighting of majestic mountains will obviously attract a lot of attention. The Chandragiri is mostly renowned for being one of the best places to experience different birds in their natural habitat. Birds like Grey Wagtail, Steppe Eagle, Kingfishers, Common Myna, Indian Pond Heron, Oriental Turtle Dove, Red-vented Bulbul, Great Egret, House Crow, House Sparrow, Little Egret, and Spotted Dove are the most popular ones. With more promotion and ecofriendly trails, The Chandragiri hills have even more potential of attracting visitors for bird watching, hiking, picnic, research activities etc. than ever before.
Viewing this potential, The Chandragiri Hills project had finally been launched. The main objective of the project was to provide with following services after its completion: 1) Cable Car Ride over the beautiful hill overlooking the Kathmandu valley 2) Amusement Park 3) 6D theater 4) Bhaleshwor Mahadev Temple 5) View Tower 6) Boutique Hotel 7) Botanical Garden and 8) Shops. The Cable Car is built by Kathmandu Fun Park Ltd that operates the Kathmandu Fun Park in Sanga.
Chandragiri cable car at Thankot made ‘soft launch’ by providing free cable car service to the locals on August 8. Thousands of locals from Chandragiri, Thankot, Chitlang, Chakhel and Kathmandu came to visit and to worship Bhaleshower (Icchapuresoram). The temple is situated at the height of 2,500 meters and was built with the purpose of promoting the hills as a historical site.
“Without making grand opening, the company provided free cable car service to the locals,” said Ambika Prasad Paudel, Director of Kathmandu Fun Park.
Opened from 9 am in the morning, enthusiastic crowds were seen till 5pm. Though the cable car work has finished, a lot of work still remains to be completed like adding shops and restaurants in the hills. “We are planning for a grand opening in the fourth week of August as some works are still remaining,” informed Paudel. The company has set the price of the entry ticket at Rs. 700 per person.The cable car service was supposed to operate from the last year September. “The earthquake and blockade of last year elongated the time,” said Paudel. Kathmandu Fun Park plans to develop the site into an integrated entertainment place by adding attractions like a boutique hotel, a mini-amusement park, rock-climbing, zip flying, paragliding, a 6D theater and a botanical garden, as well as branded shops.
The five-star level artistic Boutique hotel, reportedly built with an investment of Rs 1 billion, will be operating full time after the launch. Built using technology and expertise from one of the world’s top cable car building companies, Doppelmayr of Austria, Chandragiri cable car was reportedly constructed at the investment of Rs 3.25 billion.
As per Mr. Shrestha, the project manager, the project has also taken bio-engineering techniques into consideration for eco-friendly development. Altogether 300 laborers were involved in the project. The project was financed by a consortium of seven commercial banks of the country. The pre-feasibility study of the project was done six years back and the government had invited many private sectors to assist in the development the project. The developer had signed the agreement with the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation to lease the land at Chandragiri hill three years back. CCCP is the second cable car project in the country after Manakamana Darshan Ltd’s Manakamana Cable Car.
Altogether 11 towers are erected for the 2.5 kilometer-long cable car from Godam (Thankot) to Chandragiri hill. The cable car has a capacity to serve 1,000 people in one hour and will be operated for at least 12 hours a day. More interestingly, the distance between tower seven to eight is about 900 meters, which is one of the longest distances between towers and will be a thrilling experience for cable car riders. Previously, people willing to drive to Chandragiri would have to pass through seven kilometers of rough road to reach the hill top or take a three-hour long trek but now, with the cable car launched, the distance of 2 and a half kilometer is covered from near Godam at Thankot in just 9 minutes.