Trip Participants with Aathpahariya community in Dhankuta

Discovering Dhankuta: A Journey into Nepal’s Hidden Gem

Nestled in the picturesque landscapes of the Nibuwa Tankhwa Watershed Area (NTWA) in the Lower Koshi River Basin (LKRB), Dhankuta stands out as a hidden gem for responsible tourism in Eastern Nepal. Adorned with natural splendor and steeped in a rich historical legacy shaped by indigenous communities, ancient trades, settlements, and traditions, the region presents unparalleled charm, captivating the heart of every visitor.

Hulak Tole, Dhankut
Traditional houses along the Hulak Tole (Thadobazaar) in Dhankuta

Unlocking the Potential of Dhankuta

Despite its allure, Dhankuta faces vulnerability to climate change, particularly grappling with the challenges of ‘too little’ water conditions. In response to these environmental concerns, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) initiated a groundbreaking pilot intervention. This intervention is rooted in integrated watershed management, respecting the delicate balance of the NTWA, its springs and ponds. It also considers the community and the rich culture of the Aathpahariya community.

In this context various relevant partners including Dhankuta Municipality, Chhathar Jorpati Rural Municipality, Community Homestay Network (CHN), Smart Paani, Human Rights Social Awareness and Development Center (HUSADEC), and local communities are brought together to meet the overarching goal to transform Dhankuta into a climate-resilient destination, by promoting water smart responsible tourism as alternative livelihood options for community – particularly women and indigenous peoples, as safeguarded against too little water condition. 

For the past two years, our (CHN’s) focus has been on implementing impactful initiatives. These included Sensitization and Intensive Homestay Training, Trail Assessment, and organizing Familiarization Trip. The initiatives focused on building Dhankuta as a responsible travel destination.

The familiarization trip has been instrumental in showcasing the cultural richness of the indigenous Aathpahariya, particularly during/through the Mangshire Festival.

Collaboration for Change

CHN, with its extensive experience in community tourism, understands the importance of marketing products and services, along with sensitization and intensive homestay operation training. In the second year of collaboration, CHN in conjunction with key stakeholders, organized a familiarization trip from November 28 to December 3, 2023. This trip targeted relevant content creators and tour operators to further develop gender-responsive, climate-smart, and water-conscious responsible tourism in Dhankuta and the Lower Koshi Basin.

Nissan Bhagwati Temple, Dhankuta
The Nissan Temple in Dhankuta

Thirteen carefully selected participants from Kathmandu, comprising experienced tour operators and socially responsible content creators and writers, joined this journey. The purpose was to leverage their expertise to promote responsible and community-based tourism to international agents. The trip aimed to provide firsthand experiences of the Aathpahariya community’s rich culture. It also focused on showcasing their unique Mangishire festival through the community homestay model. Furthermore, it highlighted the ongoing efforts by local government, ICIMOD, and Smart Paani to regenerate and utilize existing water resources.

Through multiple local stakeholder meetings, participants had the opportunity to grasp the importance of natural resources management and environmental protection. They also learned about the adverse impacts of climate change and regeneration efforts. We believe this experience will enable them to share their insights with a broader audience, raising awareness and interest in GEDSI-responsive, climate-smart, and water-conscious responsible tourism.

Collaborating with experienced and socially responsible tour operators, content creators, and writers, we aim to promote responsible tourism practices while fostering a thriving tourism sector in Dhankuta. The successful completion of this familiarization trip was a collaborative effort involving key local stakeholders, including Dhankuta Municipality, Chhathar Jorpati Rural Municipality, CHN, Smart Paani, and HUSADEC. Together, we work to enhance the capabilities of local tourism stakeholders, with a focus on aspiring community homestay hosts.

Aathpahariya Rais in their traditional Attire
The indigenous Aathpahariya in their traditional attire, Khambela, Dhankuta

The Familiarization Trip: Discover Dhankuta and Aathpahariya Mangshire Festival

The meticulously curated six-day itinerary commenced with a road transfer from Kathmandu to Dhankuta. Upon arriving to Dhankuta a warm welcome ceremony was organized by Dhankuta Municipality. The Subsequent days introduced visitors to the wonders of Dhankuta. These included natural and cultural wonders like the heritage walks and visits to the Cholung and Guranse park. The visitors were also introduced to the springshed management area in Sukhepokhari. Accomodation included a mixture of hotels, homestay and farm stays around Dhankuta. The highlight was the Mangsire Festival, adding cultural depth to the experience and raising awareness about the integrated watershed management initiative.

The journey concluded with a Chuliban Khambela hike, emphasizing water-smart solutions and responsible tourism practices. Throughout the trip, collaborative efforts successfully unveiled Dhankuta’s hidden gems and showcased its potential for sustainable tourism.

Throughout the trip, the collaborative efforts of stakeholders successfully unveiled Dhankuta’s hidden gems and showcased its potential for responsible tourism.

Maruni during the Mangishire festival
Posing with the “Maruni” during the Manghishire festival in Dhankuta

A Call to Action

Reflecting on this journey is very important for all of us as it holds the transformative power of responsible tourism. Dhankuta, with its natural allure and cultural richness, serves as an example of collaborative efforts in creating a climate-resilient destination. This familiarization trip not only unveiled Dhankuta’s potential but also served as a call to action, urging us to explore and support destinations prioritizing environmental conservation, community empowerment, and cultural preservation. In discovering Dhankuta, we strengthen our commitment and the promise of responsible tourism for the future.