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Namobuddha Beer Hike

My notion of a Namobuddha beer hike started with a vision of a scenic hike passing through an area of ancient terraced fields. There are many options for that kind of hike in Nepal, I think, but research turned up an intriguing possibility to visit Namobuddha Monastery and the ancient town of Panauti along the way. This is an area and hike of great beauty and history.

Story Map – click anywhere on map image to open an interactive Google map

Our driver, Surya, and our friend and guide, Man picked us up early in Kathmandu, the streets were still quiet by city standards. The drive to where we would start is only about 25 miles southeast of the city, but roads being what they are in Nepal, that translates into about an hour and a half of driving to get there.

Most of the drive was on what passes for highway in Nepal, but we knew we were getting closer when we turned onto a winding, steep dirt road. I had looked into public transit, but I was glad I discarded that idea. A fellow traveler we met later told us of his bus trip to Namobuddha that had taken six hours.


Wandering onto the monastery grounds, we encountered monks in maroon robes, their faces giving away nothing. Namobuddha Monastery, also known as Thrangu Tashi Yangtse Monastery, is a sprawling complex perched on a hilltop. The story of the monastery goes back millennia, when Prince Mahasattva, believed to be a preincarnaton of Buddha, encountered a starving tigress with starving cubs on this hilltop. Overcome with compassion, he offered up his arm as food to save the starving creatures. His remains were later enshrined in a stupa, marking the birthplace of the “Namo Buddha” name, meaning “Homage to the Buddha.” The ancient stupa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, predates the monastery itself.

About 250 monks live and study at the monastery. The temples and halls feature intricate artwork and statues depicting Buddhist teachings. Namobuddha Monastery is significant as a Buddhist pilgrimage destination, a cultural hub for many faiths, a place of learning, and a social welfare organization supporting local communities through medical care, education programs, and environmental projects. We independently wandered through the impressive structures before setting off on our hike

The Hike

Our route descended quickly on a pathway into the forest below. Prayer flags, vibrant and hopeful, fluttered in the breeze, whispering tales of faith carried on the wind. At one point we reached an astounding concentration of colorful prayer flags shooting off in every direction. The panorama unfolds in every direction like a living painting – lush valleys carpeted in emerald green, snow-capped peaks glistening in the distance, and bright yellow mustard fields providing eye-catching contrast.

The route toward Balthali descends along a spine of ridgeline separating two big valleys. The path meanders through dense forests at times, and through small rural hamlets at others. Villages dot the landscape with whitewashed splotches of buildings. Kids playing, a rural school, and the occasional people working in the fields were all part of the scene.

A Beer in Panauti

After the hike we made a short drive to the ancient Newari town of Panauti for a beer and a snack. The old center of Panauti features the pagoda-shaped Indreshwar Mahadev Temple, which many consider the oldest surviving temple in Nepal. The Panauti (Layaku) Durbar Square is a smaller version of the Kathmandu and Bhaktapur Durbar Squares but with free entry and way fewer people packed into it.

Hotel Panauti’s pleasant, small pub was the first stop. It was empty, so Man went across a dirt parking area to the hotel to see if we could be served. The owners, a husband and wife came across and the husband served a big bottle of Gorkha beer while the wife offered to whip up a snack. She made Bara – a lentil pancake with an egg cooked on top. They had never heard of beer hiking, but they nourished us with a smile just the same.

An urban walk from the pub through an ancient neighborhood of Paunuati led to the Durbar and Temple area. This was pleasant, laid back walking compared to the bustling and heavily touristed historic areas of the big city. We walked a loop on narrow, picturesque streets to cap the afternoon before our drive back into the city.

For all of the massed humanity in Nepal, I’m pretty sure that it is safe to say that we were probably the only beer hikers that would be found within the region — maybe even the country. Regardless, it was a glorious day, an unforgettable hike, and a well-deserved beer.

Beer, hiking, and travel stories from Nepal

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