[Nepal] Tourists are returning to historic Chitlang as Covid-19 fears wane
Most tourists visit Chitlang Valley and surrounding areas to hike; many also love to cycle along green paddy terraces.
Resorts and homestays in Chitlang, Makwanpur, that were severely battered by the Covid-19 pandemic, are slowly making a comeback after 17 months, as domestic and international visitors are showing up at the historic tourism destination.
Located approximately 27 km southwest of Kathmandu, Chitlang straddles an ancient trade route which was the main link between the capital and the rest of the country before Tribhuvan Highway, popularly known as Byroad, was built.
Before Tribhuvan Highway was carved out of the hills surrounding Kathmandu Valley, providing it with the first motorable road to the outside world in 1956, travellers walked over the trade route through Chitlang to reach the capital.
The foot trail starts at Thankot and climbs over the valley rim at Chandragiri Pass, before descending to Chitlang and proceeding to Kulekhani and on to the Indian border in the south.
Chitlang saw the last of its heyday when trucks and buses began rolling over Tribhuvan Highway which bypassed it, and the ancient route lost its shine.
The historic village reinvented itself as a weekend getaway, and before Covid-19, was gaining traction as one of the key tourism destinations.
As the government has lifted the lockdown and Covid-19 infections are decreasing, domestic and international tourists have started returning to Chitlang.
"The number of domestic and foreign tourists has been increasing for the past few weeks," said Devendra Nepal, director of Chitlang Resort. “Resorts and homestays are again filled with tourists,” he said.
"Tourists are coming from Hetauda, ??Birgunj and Chitwan, including Kathmandu," said Buddha Ratna Manandhar, director of Gurjudhara Homestay. “With the temperature rising, we are expecting more visitors to come to relax in Chitlang on the lap of Chandragiri, which has pleasant weather and fresh air.”
Tourists from Kathmandu normally hike from Thankot over Chandragiri to reach Chitlang.
Hoteliers said they had started recalling their staff who were furloughed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
As the Thankot, Chandragiri and Chitlang roads are under construction now, vehicles are coming through Markhu and Kulekhani. Locals have been working for a long time to upgrade the route.
“The number of tourists has been expected to increase immensely, after the construction of the Thankot, Chandragiri to Chitlang roads,” said Nepal.
There are 25 homestays and five tourist standard resorts in Chitlang. Most tourists visit Chitlang Valley and surrounding areas to hike; many also love to cycle along green paddy terraces.
Boating is the main attraction of the village located along the shores of the Kulekhani reservoir. Most Nepalis reach Markhu to enjoy motorboat rides. Markhu is also gaining popularity for its fish. Another attraction of Chitlang is goat cheese.
There is an Ashoka Stupa built by Indian emperor Ashoka in Chitlang, which is a confluence of different castes, languages ??and cultures. Buddhists from Tibet, China and other countries come to visit the chaitya.
Homestay and resort owners say they are usually packed with guests on Fridays and Saturdays. Most homestays and resorts here offer only organic food to their guests.
Besides the historic Ashoka Stupa, Chitlang offers temples, stone stupas, Malla-era inscriptions and the first police post outside Kathmandu Valley. Chitlang, which gained popularity for radish farming in the past, is now famous for olive farming.
Chitlang is a satellite settlement of Kirtipur that is inhabited by the Newar community.
As the main gateway to the capital, Chitlang contains heritage rest houses which once provided accommodation to travellers. The artistic structures are now in a dilapidated condition and some are in ruins.
Since 2020, the tourist spot of Chitlang wore a deserted look after the pandemic struck. “But resorts and homestays are happy to get visitors back now,” said Nepal.
On Thursday, Nepal removed the mandatory quarantine for fully vaccinated tourists and resumed on-arrival visas which tourism entrepreneurs said would boost arrivals.