Gorkha is a town located halfway between Pokhara and Kathmandu. It is the home of the unifier of Nepal, King Prithvi Narayan Shah. Gorkha is only a half-day ride from Kathmandu or Pokhara, thanks to the Prithvi Highway and a 20 kilometer road that runs from Khaireni. In the last few years, more and more efforts have been staged to increase tourism in Gorkha.
Gorkha’s main attraction is Prithvi Narayan's Palace. This fortress still stands high above a steep ridge and is a good 20 minute climb from the bazaar. The palace is surrounded on all sides by some amazing views of Himalchuli, Baudha, and Manaslu. Nearby is a shrine where Nepali families come tow worship on Saturdays, bringing with them goats and chickens for sacrificial offering.
The Tallo Durbar or lower palace was once the administrative headquarters for Prithvi Narayan. It is an impressive and imposing structure that now houses a museum devoted to Gorkha’s history. The upper Durbar was where the king and his court resided. Narayan, in fact, was born in this 300 meter high room. In the upstairs room in the east wing, there is a throne as well as a flame that has been kept lit since Narayan unifed the country. Today, the castle remains a religious site. The holy Kalika Mandir inside is off limited to everyone but the King and priests. In the alcove in the front entrance, sacrifices are offered by the public. This is same site where processions and bloodletting take place in late March during he Chaitra Dasain Festival. The holy Cave of Gorakhnath nearby is a shrine to th protector deity of the Shah Kings. The old brick building in the bazaar is occupied by government offices and features some impressive woodcarving.
Gorkha’s claim to fame in the history books was that it was used as the base from which Prithvi Narayan Shah launched many of his campaigns. Truthfully, though, Gorkha only enjoyed a flash of glory in the country’s history and was mostly a petty hill-state. Historians believe Prithvi Narayan’s ancestors came to Gorkha some time in the mid-1500s in order to flee their original home in Rajasthan where Muslims invaded. Prithvi’s father led an unsuccessful raid on Kathmandu Valley. Today, Gorkha is a modest village and it’s hard to imagine it once supported an active army for three decades, vying to supplant Kathmandu as capital.
Burbank, Jon, Rosha Bajracharya, and Kesang Tseten. Nepal. New York: Prentice Hall Travel, 1993. ISBN: 0671879138.
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