Map of The Medieval Town of TansenLoad map
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
When you would have asked me 15-20 years ago what my favorite country was, I certainly would have answered: “Nepal”. I loved its mountainous setting, its chaotic but colorful towns, the sense of adventure in the air. In 2001 I spent a month backpacking all across the country, after having made an inaugural visit in 1993. One of the stops on that one month trip was the town of Tansen: little visited by foreigners at the time and still off the beaten track in 2020. It has been lingering on Nepal’s Tentative List since 2008 under the title of ‘The Medieval Town of Tansen’ and has since been unreviewed.
Tansen was the capital of the medieval kingdom of Palpa, an important place during a period when Nepal was not unified yet and its current territory was covered by separate kingdoms. Later on, in the 18th century, it became an important Newari bazaar town on the trade route between India and Tibet. It was only incorporated into the unified Nepali kingdom in 1806.
It lies in southwestern Nepal and in 2001 I reached it by public bus from Lumbini (via Butwal or Bhairawa?). The bus ride was the best one of that trip. And the one with the worst road conditions. The road slowly gains height, passing steep cliffs: that was a very different view from what I had experienced the week before in the lowlands of the Terai.
The town is built on a slope. I found many more streets than were indicated on the map of my travel guide. From the large field (with a helipad) I had a beautiful view of the village and the valley. Its narrow streets were full of school children in uniform. Walking around Tansen, although quite a climb, was very pleasant. It was a quiet town almost without motorized traffic. And no salesmen or "guides" approaching you, only small children calling out a "Namaste" or "Hello".
The mountain that Tansen faces is called Srinagar Hill. Its summit can be reached via a hike through a pine forest. I sat there talking with a Nepalese boy for a while. He told me that a trip to Ranighat, an old palace, is the best thing to do from here. But that would be a 3-hour walk, and 4 hours for the return because then it is uphill.
There has never been any indication that Nepal seriously considered to nominate Tansen for World Heritage status. It is briefly mentioned in a 2016 report on a prospective serial nomination for the Silk Roads in South Asia, but discarded (“has already lost much of its significant historical fabric”). Nepal seems to have some plans for the archaeological site of Tilaurakot instead, but the problem with Nepal is that it always lacks money and it is struck by disasters (mostly of the natural kind) with a certain regularity so they have to start all over again. Tansen has also not been free of this: in 2006, the main palace complex and adjacent buildings were destroyed by fire during an armed conflict with Maoist insurgents. Reconstruction has restarted immediately and apparently it looks fine again.