Located high above the Kali Gandaki River, Tansen is a beautiful hill station in western Nepal. This historic town is the district headquarters of Palpa, one of the major districts in the Lumbini zone. Lying close to Lumbini and the Indo – Nepal border, Tansen is a popular summer getaway for locals as well as Indian tourists living close to the border. It's cool climate and beautiful heritage sites are a big draw for tourists.
Tansen has a glorious past and a rich cultural heritage. In the bygone days, Tansen was the capital of a powerful Magar kingdom. Later it became one of the major territories of the Gorkhali kingdom. This small town is home to traditional weavers and artisans who create the traditional Dhaka fabric and 'karuwa' (a brass jug with a spout). The Newari traders and craftsmen who migrated from the Kathmandu Valley to Tansen brought with them the arts and crafts of the valley. Beautiful houses built in the Newari style of architecture adorn the streets of Tansen.
Tansen is also a great destination for those interested in military history. The Palpa Durbar Museum showcases many of the original weapons and military artifacts used by the Gorkhali army during the Anglo-Nepalese war. The fierce fighting spirit of the Nepalese was first noticed by the Britishers during this war.
- Quiet, peaceful, less crowded and non-touristy
- Explore the Palpa Durbar Square
- Hike to Shreenagar Hill and enjoy a panoramic view of the Himalayas
- Enjoy an excursion to Rani Mahal, the Taj Mahal of Nepal
- Visit the workshops of Dhaka weavers and 'karuwa' metalsmiths
- Stroll down the cobbled streets and admire the traditional buildings
Tansen lies in central Nepal in the Lumbini Zone. It sits on the crest of the Mahabharat Range high above the Kali Gandaki River valley. Its geographical coordinates are 27°52′0″N and 83°33′0″E. Tansen is situated at an altitude of 1350 meters and has a pleasant climate. Lumbini, a major tourist destination and a UNESCO World Heritage Site is located only 45 kilometers from Tansen.
How to reach Tansen?
By Road: Tansen is connected to the rest of Nepal by the Siddharth Highway. The total distance between Tansen and Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, is 300 kilometers. There's no direct public transport service to Tansen Palpa from Kathmandu. One has to catch a bus to Butwal and later get a shared jeep or bus to Tansen. From Butwal it takes about an hour and a half to reach Tansen. Private taxis are also available for hire to drive one all the way to Tansen.
From Pokhara, the distance is 122 kilometers. It takes around four hours to reach the hill station via Syangja. Tansen is only 45 kilometers away from Lumbini.
By Air: The nearest airport is the Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahwa. It takes around two hours’ drive from the airport to reach Tansen, There are regular flights to Bhairahwa from Kathmandu and Pokhara. From Kathmandu, it takes around 25 minutes to fly to Bhairahwa, and from Pokhara, the flight time is 20 minutes.
Palpa used to be a Magar kingdom and Tansen was its capital. The name Tansen is derived from the Magar word 'tamra sen' which means 'northern settlement'. The Magar kings of the Sen dynasty ruled over Palpa for more than three hundred years. They begin their reign in the 15th century when Rudra Sen established the Palpa kingdom in 1493 AD. Palpa was part of a confederation of 24 kingdoms known as Chaubisya Rajya, The Magar kings lost their power after forces of the Shah dynasty defeated the Magar forces and killed their king.
As the Tibet Salt Trade route went through Palpa, it became a major trading hub. Merchants with their caravans from India, Tibet, and China used to stop by this town while traveling through the salt trade route. During this time, some of the Newars from Kathmandu migrated to Palpa and set up their businesses. They brought with them the rich art and crafts of Kathmandu Valley. We can still see the Newari style of architecture in the old houses lining the streets of Tansen,
Attractions in Tansen
The major attractions of Tansen Palpa include :
Palpa Durbar Square: Included in the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the majestic Palpa Durbar Square used to be the royal seat of the Palpa kingdom. The square is decorated by the grand Palpa Durbar or palace and temples. The palace was built during the Rana era in 1927 by one of the Rana governors. Most of the government buildings, including the Palpa Durbar, were destroyed by Maoist revolutionaries during the decade-long Civil war in Nepal. The palace square was later rebuilt and renovated. The Palpa Durbar currently houses a museum.
Sital Pati: Close to Durbar Square is Sital Pati, a beautiful octagonal pavilion or rest house built by the erstwhile governor of Palpa, Khadga Shamshere Rana.
Mul or Baggi Dhoka: At the entrance of the Palpa Durbar Square is a huge door or gateway known as Mul Dhoka or Baggi Dhoka. This door is unique and only one of a kind in Nepal.
Shreenagar Hill: Shreenagar Hill, covered by juniper and pine trees, stands above Tansen. This scenic spot is a popular hiking destination. It takes around half an hour to hike to the hill from the town's center. One can enjoy panoramic views of Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Langtang Range, and Machhapuchhre from the top of the hill. There's an observatory tower at the viewpoint from where one can enjoy splendid views of the Himalayan range on a clear day.
Rani Mahal: Rani Mahal, also known as the Taj Mahal of Nepal, is located on the banks of the Kali Gandaki River, below the main town. This beautiful palace was built by Khadga Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana in memory of his wife, Tej Kumari Devi. It takes around 2-3 hours hike to reach the palace from the main town. The hike is strenuous as it involves steep ascents and descents through a forested trail. By vehicle, it takes approximately 25 minutes. There's an asphalt road connecting the town to the
Temples: Tansen is dotted with ancient Hindu shrines and temples. The Amar Narayan Temple complex, established by the commander of the Gorkhali army Amar Singh Thapa, houses the main temple built in the pagoda style and several smaller Hindu shrines, ashrams, ponds, and a Sanskrit School. The Amar Narayan Temple was built by Newari artisans from Patan and is regarded as the most beautiful temple in western Nepal.
Bhagwati Mandir, Bhairavnath Temple, and hilltop Siddha Baba Dham are other sacred Hindu sites in Tansen.
Karuwa Workshop at Toksar Tole: Tansen is famous for the decorative karuwas, a traditional brass jug with a spout. Crafted by Newari metalsmiths, the Palpali 'karuwas' is famous throughout Nepal. At Tansen's Toksar Tole, you will find beautiful traditional buildings housing 'karuwa' workshops and shops.
Dhaka Shops at Makhan Tole: Makhan Tole is Tansen's market for Dhaka items. Dhaka is the traditional textile of Nepal. Palpali Dhaka, with its unique color combinations and designs, is coveted by the locals. Makhan Tole which lies close to the durbar square, has many Dhaka shops lining the street. A wide variety of shawls(kashto), traditional caps(Dhaka topi), bags, blouses, saris, purses, neckties, bags, jackets, etc, made of Dhaka fabric are sold at these shops.
You can also visit a local 'Dhaka' workshop and find out how the traditional textile is produced. At the workshop, you can observe the female weavers weaving on traditional wooden looms.
To attract tourists, some thrilling adventure activities have been introduced in Tansen in recent years. Rafting in the Kali Gandaki River, paragliding, 360-degree cycling, and ziplining are some of the amazing outdoor adventures one can enjoy in Tansen.
Accommodation and Food
Compared to other tourist destinations in Nepal, Tansen has very few hotels and lodges, But those that are in operation offer budget as well as luxury accommodations. As the hill station is getting popular among tourists, new hotels are being built. There are also options for homestays, where one can stay at local homes and enjoy the hospitality of local families.
Most local restaurants offer Indian, Chinese, and Tibetan delicacies. However, tourists visiting Tansen should try out the local flavors. Typical Palpali Newari dishes like jerry swari, haans ko choila, chukauni, batuk, etc., are highly recommended.
Best Time to visit Tansen
Leaving the monsoon or rainy season (June, July, and August), any time is great to travel to Tansen. As the town lies at an altitude of 1350 meters, it can be chilly in the winter months. Monsoon travel is not recommended, as heavy rainfall might disrupt your journey by causing landslides. The views are also not that great during this time.
Does Nepal Hiking Team offer tours to Tansen, Palpa?
Indeed, we have a few trips that cover Tansen, Palpa as well. Please check out the following itineraries.
Peaceful and quiet, Tansen is the right destination for you if you want to escape from the chaos of touristy destinations. The pleasant and cool climate of Tansen Palpa offers a perfect respite from the heat and humidity of the Terai plains. If you are traveling to Lumbini or Pokhara, do make it a point to enjoy a short detour to this charming hill station. While its balmy weather will keep you relaxed, its glorious past and rich culture are guaranteed to keep you intrigued and fascinated.
Image By: DrooNa.Bhusal.