As a destination snuggled between the big name favourites of India and China, Nepal is often overlooked. But this destination is capable of stealing your heart, you just need to give it the chance! For a small country, Nepal is full of treasures just waiting to be discovered. It has a rich culture, impressive history, unspoiled scenery, and fascinating cities which make it an incredible destination for travellers.
First and foremost, one of the nation’s top draws are the Himalayas. This famous mountain range is home to Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain! You can meet local villagers and visit sacred temples and religious sites throughout your trip. Moreover, it is essential to learn about authentic Nepalese traditions, cultures and cuisines to fully understand and appreciate this country. Additionally, you can marvel at the birthplace of Buddha and get lost in Kathmandu, the country’s captivating capital city. Read on to learn more about the five best things to see and do in Nepal!
1. Trekking through the Foothills of Annapurna
The Himalayas have been attracting trekkers to Nepal since the 1950s. If you’re a beginner, there are plenty of easier trails to enjoy. You obviously don’t have to hike all the way to the Everest Base Camp (although it is pretty cool!). A particularly great option is the three-day hike through the Annapurna foothills from Nayapul to Dhampus. The hike is around 45km in total and reaches 2100m in altitude. It’s a relatively short and easy walk, but this route gives you the perfect taste of trekking in the Himalayas. Soak in the breathtaking scenery and mountain panoramas by day and recharge your batteries at local lodges during the night.
2. Animal Spotting in Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park is one of the largest remaining tall grassland habitats of Asia! It was established as the first national park in Nepal and the reserve is now a highly protected UNESCO World Heritage Site too! Here you can discover a diversity of ecosystems including the Churia hills, ox-bow lakes and the flood plains of the Rapti river. Amazingly, the southern Terai lowlands are home to the last remaining Asian rhinoceros populations in the world. If you’re a fan of wildlife you will love Chitwan – besides the rhinos, be sure to keep an eye out for tigers, elephants and crocodiles too!
3. A Boat Ride on Fewa Lake, Pokhara
Pokhara town itself is a backpacker base, but the lake and stupas surrounding it are a whole different world. At an elevation lower than Kathmandu and generally a few degrees warmer, Pokhara has a tropical feel to it and has the diversity of beautiful subtropical flora. One of the best temples to visit in the area is Pokhara Shanti Stupa (“World Peace Pagoda”), poised high up on a hilltop overlooking the picturesque Fewa Lake. Take a boat ride on the lake and absorb the views from the water to observe the valley from a more unique angle.
4. Admiring the Temples, Pagodas, and Stupas of Kathmandu
Start and finish your adventure in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. Your first impression will probably be that this city is chaotic, dusty and loud. Nevertheless, you will soon recognise its charm by heading into the backstreets. Subsequently, you will find a world of ancient artistry, hidden temples, and atmospheric marketplaces scattered throughout the city. The Kathmandu Valley also has some terrific temples to discover. The most famous of these is in Swayambhunath, where an ancient religious architecture sits atop the hill.
The vast and spherical 14th-century Buddhist Stupa is said to be more than 2000 years old. It is the largest in Nepal, and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. The whitewashed dome and all-seeing eye of Buddha is festooned with colourful flags and is an impressive sight when viewed at ground level. On the other hand, you can observe it from above, which transforms the complex into the shape of a Mandala.
After the 2015 earthquake, the main part of the stupa collapsed. Since then, there have been significant restoration efforts to reinforce the structure. Visit in the late afternoon when the thousands of daily pilgrims have dispersed and been replaced by local people. At this time the Buddha is at its most beautiful, as the sun envelopes the structure in a heavenly golden glow.
5. Eating Dal Bhat, Nepal’s national dish
The experience of Nepalese culture and traditions is enhanced by enjoying the country’s cuisine. Nepal’s national dish, dal bhat (lentils with rice), can be found everywhere from teahouses in the mountains to lavish restaurants in downtown Kathmandu. This dish is simple but offers a rich, delicious flavour. Usually, it’s eaten in a thali (a meal made of a selection of dishes served in small bowls and placed on a round tray). Along with this, you can also try a variety of local snacks. Start with momos, the Nepali answer to dumplings! You can also find tasty savoury treats with obvious Indian influences. Indeed, pakora and samosas can be bought on any street corner!
Keen to experience the vibrant sites and culture of Nepal? Check out our Nepal tours. You can even choose to visit both Nepal and neighbouring India all in one trip!