Nepal is a culturally diverse country from it’s people, religion to it’s landscapes from Terai plains to valleys, mountains and the high Himalayas. No wonder with this amalgamation of culture and landscapes Nepal has been attracting travelers from all over. Some are under a spell by it’s Himalayas for trekking or climbing the mighty peaks, others are absorbed by it’s culture and traditions. Nepal can be a center of adventure, a new cultural discovery, a lifetime experience or all of them. Travelers spend time in Kathmandu visiting cultural and heritage places where most of them are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Later they head out to other cities like Pokhara, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Nepal and a lakeside city. Many prefer to go for jungle safari Chitwan national park for wildlife viewing. Trekking enthusiasts will go trekking in the Himalayas in several popular trekking regions like Everest, Annapurna, Langtang or other remote trek areas.
What are the best places to visit in Nepal?
Regardless of travel choices or places of interest below is the list of major tourist attractions in Nepal and best places to visit while in Nepal. It solely depends upon how you are planning your holiday if it’s just visiting the cultural places or hiking up in the Himalayas.
Kathmandu is the capital and the largest city of Nepal. It’s like no other city in the world where modernity and traditional building, ancient temples stand side by side. Kathmandu is in fact a valley and consists of three major cities Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. The main attractions of Kathmandu are the age-old temples, historic palaces and Buddhist stupas and monasteries. You won’t believe seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites are inside the Kathmandu Valley. They are Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar Square which all are ancient royal palaces of kings with several temples, palaces, squares. Other heritage sites are Swayambhunath ‘Monkey Temple’ located atop a hill and a Buddhist Stupa. Then comes Boudhanath again a Buddhist Stupa and the largest stupa inside the Kathmandu Valley. The temple of Pashupatinath, the most sacred Hindu temple of Lord Shiva, located at the banks of the holy Bagmati River is another heritage site that is closer to Boudhanath. The last one is the Changunaryan temple closer to the city of Bhaktapur. Kathmandu city tour takes you to these cultural and heritage sites witnessing Nepali culture and traditions, architecture and heritage capturing it all in your camera.
Pokhara is the popular tourist destination of Nepal and the most beautiful lakeside city. The city of Pokhara is surrounded by high mountains of the world like Dhaulagiri, Manaslu, Annapurna I and the beautiful Mt. Machhapuchhare ‘Mt. Fishtail’. Pokhara is also the gateway to trekking in Annapurna region Nepal for popular treks like Annapurna Base Camp trek, Ghorepani Trekking etc. It’s the most scenic city and by population the second largest city of Nepal but still it doesn’t feel like a big city. Lake Fewa is at the center of Pokhara and it’s lakeside area has many pubs, restaurants, hotels, bars etc. Pokhara is in fact the natural wonder of Nepal with many lakes, caves, Himalayan viewpoints. Sightseeing places in Pokhara include Davis fall, Gupteshwor cave, Mahendra cave, Bindabasini temple, mountaineering museum, Sarangkot, Tibetan refugee camp, World peace stupa and of course boating at Fewa Lake. Sightseeing at Pokhara is to visit all these places. Adventure things to do in Pokhara are paragliding in Pokhara Sarangkot, bungee jumping in Pokhara, zip flyer Pokhara, river rafting in Pokhara at Seti River. Pokhara is located around 200 km from Kathmandu where you can fly or drive to Pokhara. Flight is just about 20 minutes whereas overland drive takes 5-6 hours along the scenic highway. Hotels in Pokhara Nepal are plenty from tourist-class to 4 star hotels in Pokhara Nepal and 5 star hotels in Pokhara Nepal.
3. Trekking in the Annapurna region
Trekking in the Annapurna region Nepal is the most beautiful hiking experience since Annapurna is one of the most popular trekking destinations. Treks in the Annapurna region range from a few days to a few weeks. Best treks in the Annapurna region includes Annapurna Base Camp trek, Ghorepani Poon Hill trek, Annapurna Circuit trek, Mardi Himal trek etc. Annapurna circuit trek is a great Himalayan trek of about 21 days that goes around Annapurna mountain. The trek is popular among people who have enough time. Another popular trek is the trek to Poon Hill from Pokhara. Poon hill at 3,210 meters altitude is the most popular Himalayan viewpoint in Annapurna which provides a majestic panorama of the peaks like Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri and Machhapuchhre Mountain ranges. Early sunrise over the Himalayas from Poon hill is spectacular to watch so most hikers start early in the morning. Another stunning trek in the Annapurna region is the Annapurna Base camp trek. Upon reaching the base camp of Annapurna you will be surrounded by the Himalayas all over and get a 360-degree view of the dazzling peaks. For those who are not into trekking then Sarangkot (1,600m) is the ideal spot to witness the amazing Himalayas. Sarangkot is another Himalayan viewpoint closer to Pokhara city where Himalayan sunrise is the best to witness. One can drive to Sarangkot from Pokhara which is a 12 km distance and about half an hour drive. Sarangkot is also the happening location and the take-off point for paragliding in
4. Chitwan National Park
Coming to Chitwan National Park is to experience a different side of Nepal i.e. jungle safari. Chitwan Jungle Safari is to watch wildlife in it’s natural habitat including many birds and mammals. The park is UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the finest wildlife reserves in South Asia. It covers an area of 932 sq. km with deciduous forests overlooking the floodplains of Narayani, Rapti and Reu rivers. The park has a rich ecosystem that includes mammals, birds, reptiles and water animals of several kinds. Chitwan is only at an altitude of 100 meters so has a tropical monsoon climate. The park has rhinos, Bengal tigers, leopards, sloth bears, gaur (buffalo), deer, and many other critters. Freshwater dolphins and crocodiles occupy the rivers but are rarely seen. There are more than 500 species of birds in Chitwan National Park. Chitwan jungle safari package takes you deep into the jungle looking for Royal Bengal Tiger, Asian one-horned rhinoceros and many other animals. Chitwan jungle safari itinerary includes elephant safari, jeep safari, jungle walk, bird watching, village tour, cultural show, elephant breeding center visit, crocodile farm visit, canoeing. Best time to visit Chitwan national park is from October to February. Chitwan temperature on average is around 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit), with high humidity though mornings can be quite cool. Monsoon is during June to September with frequent and heavy rain.
5. Trekking in the Langtang region
Langtang region is closer to Kathmandu city and easily accessible trek area in Nepal. Langtang region is protected under Langtang National Park. Langtang trek route is hiking along with high passes, beautiful valleys, old monasteries with majestic mountains views. During spring rhododendrons bloom making hiking a great experience. Despite being closer to Kathmandu the area of Langtang is less developed than other popular trek areas in Nepal so you can expect less busy trails. Sherpa and Tamang are the inhabitants of the Langtang region. Mt. Langtang Lirung (7,245 meters) can be seen on a clear day during Langtang hiking. To start off the trek you can reach the area by jeep within 7-8 hours from Kathmandu. Popular treks in Langtang are Langtang Valley trek, Gosaikunda trek, Ganesh Himal trek. Besides, there are other interesting treks in the Langtang region giving you a good glimpse of Langtang’s local culture, beautiful landscapes and majestic Himalayan panorama.
6. Everest and Everest Base Camp trek
Mt. Everest is the world’s highest peak measuring 8,848 meters and is the highest point on earth. Trekking into the Everest area became after a successful ascent of the mountain back in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa. Since then many have climbed to the mountain, those who can’t love to trek to it’s the base camp to get a glimpse of the peak and at the world’s highest base camp. Everest Base Camp trekking is the most popular trek that goes to the base camp of Mt. Everest from where the ascent to Mt. Everest begins. Everest base camp trek itinerary is first to fly to Lukla from Kathmandu and trek all the way to base camp passing along small mountain town like Namche Bazaar, Tengboche, Dingboche. But from the base camp one can’t see Mt. Everest since the peak hides away from base camp. But you will notice the great Khumbu Glacier from the base camp from where Everest expeditions commence climbing. If you wish to have the perfect view of Mt. Everest then a hike to Kalapathar is recommended. Kalapathar located at (5550m) is the popular Himalayan viewpoint to observe Everest and it’s surrounding peaks.
7. Everest Helicopter tour
Everest Base Camp helicopter tour is a day’s program to witness Mt. Everest and other tallest mountains of the world. It starts/ends in Kathmandu with flying toward the Everest region on a chartered helicopter. Everest helicopter tour in Nepal is popular among travelers who have limited time in Nepal or those who wish to cut the trekking to Everest Base Camp which is 12 days in total. Everest helicopter tour package consists of observing Everest from Kalapathar where the helicopter lands for about 10-15 minutes then flying to Hotel Everest View for breakfast. Hotel Everest View is considered as the hotel at the world’s highest location. Everest helicopter ride is an unforgettable travel experience and a trip of a lifetime. Everest helicopter trip is considered the most scenic mountain flight. But of course, Everest helicopter tour price is a little bit higher since you go on a privately chartered helicopter.
Yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nepal, Lumbini, is the birthplace of Lord Buddha. It is located almost 250 km from Kathmandu and is a worthwhile detour from Pokhara to Chitwan National Park. Lumbini is the holiest pilgrimage site for all Buddhists in the world so most of the tourists are Buddhist pilgrims. Lumbini tourist places are Maya Devi Temple (Buddha’s mother), the exact location of Buddha’s birth where ancient stone relief from the 2nd century AD depicts Buddha’s birth as well as the sacred pond and the ancient ruins of the palace of Lord Buddha as Sidhartha Gautam, the prince. Lumbini Development Trust protects the Lumbini area where many Buddhist countries from around the world like China, Japan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia have erected many temples, shrines and monasteries. Buddhist Cultural Tour in Nepal is just that Lumbini tour package to explore Lumbini and know more about Buddhism.
9. White Water Rafting
White water rafting in Nepal is another popular adventure travel activity. Raging rivers fed by mountain glaciers are the perfect location for white water rafting. There exist many options for rafting from easy graded to serious rapid rivers. The most popular and available round the year is white water rafting Kathmandu at Trishuli river. The river is located near Kathmandu and is a day’s rafting program. After finishing Trishuli River Rafting you can head out to Chitwan or Pokhara, or again come back to Kathmandu too. For more adrenaline experience you can choose Bhote Khosi River with class IV and V rapids. Bhote Koshi river rafting is 2 days program and more intense. Other rafting trips in Nepal are Seti River rafting which is closer to Pokhara including the Tamur, Karnali, Arun, and Bheri rivers.
The most popular Himalayan viewpoint closer to Kathmandu City is Nagarkot located at an altitude of 2,175 meters. The hill station is just an hour’s drive from Kathmandu. From the view tower at Nagarkot, one can observe panoramic Himalayan views including Mt. Everest from far behind on a clear day. The early morning sunrise Himalayan view and the sunset view from Nagarkot are spectacular to watch. Many hotels, lodges, restaurants populate the Nagarkot area. You can either go for a day’s tour and spend the night in Nagarkot to watch the Himalayan sunrise early morning the next day. En-route to Nagarkot is the ancient city of Bhaktapur so you can visit this medieval city connecting with the Nagarkot tour. Nagarkot Sunrise and Dhulikhel Hike is a good program of watching Himalayan sunrise from Nagarkot and hiking to Dhulikhel – another Himalayan viewpoint in Kathmandu Valley.