This is a massive day out exploring beyond the Kathmandu Valley. A small village, Markhu sits at the top of the Kulekhani reservoir, a massive hydroelectric. Markhu offers beautiful panoramic landscapes, complete with the tranquil Indra Sarovar Lake, a perfect spot to engage in fishing and boating.
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Route Description for Markhu
This route combines an abundance of mountain biking and hiking trails with fascinating cultural sights. One of the most popular mountain biking routes is the stretch from Kathmandu to Markhu which lies on Dakshinkali Road.
The starting point of this ride is Balkhu, situated south of Kathmandu inside the ring road. From Thamel, head toward Dhalku via Sorahkhutte and cross the Dallu Bridge to continue riding until you get to Kalimati Bazaar where you’ll pass through Kuleshwor to finally reach Balkhu. After riding for close to 2km of urban roads, you’ll arrive at Chobhar Gate. Stick to this road and continue pedaling along the tree-lined trail.
Once in Chobhar, take a small break and enjoy the panoramic view of the Kathmandu Valley where, on a clear day, you can see the stunning Himalayas. Look for the massive rock naturally carved into the shape of Lord Ganesh and seek out a tea shop or local restaurant, and visit Manjushree Park.
After leaving Chobhar, the track takes you on a gradual ascent to Taudaha, a small lake with an important cultural significance and for its rich diversity in flora and fauna. You can easily recognize the lake due to its iconic solitary tree in the middle of the water. The name taudaha is of Newari origin and comes from the Newari words ta, meaning snake and daha, meaning lake. It is believed that numerous nagas live underneath the lake. It is a perfect spot to enjoy the peaceful environs.
After riding for another 1.9 km, you’ll reach a fork in the trail at Chalnakhel Bus Stop. Avoiding the Marijuana Loop biking trail to your left, continue straight along the black-topped road and stay on the main road to Dakshinkali Temple. You might want to have your face mask handy to protect yourself from the dust the vehicles will inevitably kick up.
After covering nearly 15.0 km of paved road and dirt road, you’ll find yourself at the highest point of the ride at the village of Phakhel (1,891 m). Though the ride might be tedious, the views alone more than make up for it. You’ll gain an elevation of 1 m over the course of a gradual climb uphill. Pedal slow, take occasional breaks and keep hydrating to endure the hard climb. You’ll pass through the start point of the Rock Climbing Centre and Dakshinkali temple in between.
The mountain biking route, hereafter changes to a whole off-road track and is a bit easier than the previous stretch with an elevation loss of 1,100 m and a gain of 800 m. After covering almost 11.0 km of this section of trail, you’ll start to see the view of Lake Indra Sarovar, a manmade lake next to the Kulekhani dam where you’ll take a left at the fork to head to Kulekhani village. After riding for 4.0 km northwest, you’ll reach the village of Markhu, an ideal spot to take a rest and fuel up on local fare from any number of restaurants that sit atop the large hill. Rest well and enjoy the food with the beautiful lake scenery that surrounds you.
The return trip follows the same route you rode on before, a total length of 41.0 km. If this is too daunting, you can opt to stay in Markhu and cycle back the following day. Alternatively, another 3.0 km northeast takes you to Chitlang, a popular getaway destination. You might have to contact hotels and lodges at Chitlang before going up as the hotels are frequently booked. The Chitlang Organic Village Resort at Chitlang will be a great choice for your accommodation as they provide an authentic hospitable experience at a reasonable price. Chitlang is also known for its production of goat cheese, special to Nepal.
Although this route is a long one, you’ll get to experience an authentic side of Nepal with unique and striking views of the valleys before you.
Insider Hints for Markhu
- Have a face mask and protective eyewear handy to protect your breathing and eyes from the dusty section of the road between to Phakhel.
- Take a right at the Kulekhani Dam to visit Indra Sarovar, a small, pleasant manmade lake.
- If you plan to break up the ride over two days, book your hotel in advance if you decide to stay in Chitlang.
Getting to the Markhu Trailhead
From Thamel, head toward Dhalku via Sorahkutte and cross the Dallu Bridge and continue riding past the Kalimati Bazzar and through Kuleshwor to get to Balkhu, the route starting point.
Markhu Elevation Graph
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