Hiking to Rani Mahal
Tansen, Palpa district of Nepal
If you're looking to escape Kathmandu you have come to the right place! Why not go hiking in the jungle to look for an abandoned palace? This is a quick account of our hike to the abandoned palace of Rani Mahal; located in the Palpa District of Nepal near Tansen. Getting to Tansen (the nearby hill station by the border to India and Nepal) is not as easy as jumping on a bus to Pokhara. Tansen doesn't see many foreign tourists and isn't particularly a destination for Nepali either. The hill station is popular with northern Indians escaping the summer heat. Jordan and I spent ten days in the remote hill station. One of the first things we did was to hike to the abandoned palace of Rani Mahal.
Getting to Tansen is our first challenge. We wait in Pokhara for a bus for a few hours. Then spend another seven or so hours crammed into the bus listening to joyful Nepali pop music. We are ejected into the night at the bottom of the steep hill below Tansen. A young army fellow walks with us and we all catch a lift in a big decorated truck. I climb up the ladder and am hauled into the cab by several aunties. When we get to the hill station our army friend takes us to the nicest hotel in town, he hasn't understood what we mean by 'homestay'. The hotel is nice but has blown our budget for the week, and the next day we set out to find a cheaper hotel and the local legend of Man Mohan.
Jordan has walked this trek out to Rani Mahal when he first visited Nepal over seven years ago. We want to do the walk together, carrying a tent and staying one night at the abandoned palace. It is the end of the road camping and for that, we need a map.
Man Mohan lives high on the hills of Tansen with his daughter Jenny in a tall, blue and pink townhouse. On the roof, there is an enclosed room, a picnic table, a bathroom, and an incredible view. We rent his guest room and sit at the table to ask him about the hike. Jordan has recognized Man Mohan immediately. The map is one that he has made himself. He doesn't have many copies left. A red line on grey paper, showing the hills behind us and the jungle beyond. He has included several legends like 'noteworthy tree' and included information about the abandoned palace of Rani Mahal on the map.
We leave the next day to hike to Rani Mahal and it is a hot day walking through rice paddies, along dirt roads, and over the hills. Luckily the track is in good condition and easy to follow. We pace ourselves in the heat, knowing that there is no hurry (I love walking with a tent). By 3 pm we have come around the final corner and are looking down to the river, and the palace.
We leave our packs at the entrance and climb the whitewashed stairs up to the palace. One guard says hello. There isn't much for him to do. The rooms are bare, but with the afternoon sun streaming in I can imagine this place furnished and lively with ladies in the garden.
There is a swing bridge across the huge grey-brown river beside the palace. It can carry a motorbike rider or a person on a horse. It also provides a nice view of the palace, whitewashed and set against the mountains.
The next day we head back up the road, taking a different, but more straightforward track back to Tansen. Tenting was uneventful, we stay close to the river bed, right beside the palace. We ate Dahl Bat for dinner at one restaurant tucked close by the river, within a stone's throw of our camp. The next day we head back taking a different, but more straightforward track back to Tansen. The hike is a steady climb back out of the river valley. We walk spotting monkeys and picking up quartz.
By 5 pm we are back at Man Mohans feeling sunburnt and very lucky for the jungle trek. Hiking to the less-traveled places can feel like a real adventure.
Staying a few more days Tansen I explore the city. There are some seriously amazing bakeries to be found. Beautiful temples including one decorated in very sexy carvings (ooh aah). There is a market in town which sells all sorts. Silversmiths, incredible samosas, and the hills to walk on, which are so pretty.
To hike to the abandoned palace of Rani Mahal I would recommend doing what we did, seeking out Man Mohan on the top of the hill to ask for directions. Consider staying a night out there if you have tenting equipment.
To learn more about Rani Mahal in Tansen Nepal see the wikipedia page or this post by Subodh Rana which is all about the history of the building. You can also read about our adventures camping on Annapurna. Or if you're reading this from Kathmandu check out this post!
Share this Post