It is the great kingdom of the Himalayas, a land of sherpas, yaks, yetis, monasteries, mantras and the highest peaks in the world. Nepal is the nirvana for mountaineers and hikers, but even if we are not so athletic, this small country is one of those destinations that you must put on the list. After the earthquake that it suffered in 2015, which left the country very affected, it is time to travel again (and help) to Nepal. Following are some must-experience places in Nepal.
1. Durbar Square (Kathmandu)
The old centre of old Kathmandu is an open-air architectural museum, with splendid medieval temples, pagodas, pavilions and chapels. The Durbar Square is the sacred heart of the city, like a living goddess of the Nepalese capital; spectacular festivals are celebrated here. Formerly, the royal family of Nepal resided in it, and at the moment it continues being the home of Kumari, the chosen girl like the living incarnation of the Taleju goddess.
The experience our friends share of these places was enough for us to visit & see this beautiful place.
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2. To the feet of Everest
The experience that many travellers who come to Nepal dream of is to take a two-week excursion to the foot of the highest mountain in the world: Everest (8,848 meters). From the base camp, located around at the altitude of 5,300 meters, the views of such a famous mountain are partial, but some surrounding peaks, such as Kala Pattar (5,545 meters), offer spectacular panoramas and a relatively affordable ascent for the less experienced in mountaineering.
If you want to know more about mountains, read – Are You aware of other Iconic Peaks in Nepal Besides Mount Everest?
3. Surrounding the Annapurnas
The crossing that surrounds the Annapurnas chain, including its 8,091-meter main peak, one of the famous 14 eight-thousanders, is Nepal’s most popular trekking route. The accommodations are comfortable, and mountain landscapes are wonderful. Crossing the Thorung La pass (5,416 meters) is a personal challenge for many travellers and the journey to the Transhimalaya plateau is always fantastic. It is best to explore the surroundings, especially the surroundings of Manang.
Due to the construction of roads, it is possible that some of the western sections of the trekking (around 20 days) may have disappeared around Jomsom, but there are alternative paths.
4. Bhaktapur, a medieval village
The Kathmandu Valley has the highest density of world heritage sites in the world. Of the three historical cities of the valley, the best preserved is the medieval village of Bhaktapur, with temples, pagodas and ornamented ponds. The winding alleys between traditional red brick buildings lead to squares that locals use to dry grain and shape pottery. The streets without traffic are fabulous to explore on foot, but for a complete experience, it is essential to stay overnight or go to one of the local festivals. The city suffered some damage due to the earthquake, but in general the whole retains almost all its splendour.
5. Chitwan National Park
It is one of the best places in all of Asia to observe wildlife. You only need to climb an elephant and go into the mist at dawn in search of rhinoceroses and tigers. There is much to do, from bathing among elephants to visit Tharu villages, a local ethnic group, or, for the bravest, to make an excursion through the interiors surrounded by the roars and whistles of nature.
6. Stupa of Bodhnath
The village of Bodhnath, the epicentre of the Tibetan community in Nepal, houses the largest stupa in Asia: a spectacular white dome topped by a needle that was seriously affected by the earthquake of 2015 (it is in the reconstruction phase). The pilgrims travel hundreds of kilometres to go there. Equally fascinating are the surrounding streets, filled with shaven-headed monks and garnet togas, Tibetan monasteries and shops selling prayer rolls and incense. At nightfall, Tibetan pilgrims can be seen lighting candles and walking the stupa in their daily kora (ritual circumambulation).
7. Views from Pokhara
The second-largest tourist city in Nepal may not have the historical charm of Kathmandu, but it more than makes up for it with a very seductive relaxed atmosphere and one of the most spectacular locations in the country. View the Machapuchare and the Annapurna at dawn from the elevated points of the city or see its reflection in the calm waters of the Phewa Tal is unforgettable. Besides, you can explore the nearby mountains on foot, by mountain bike or, even better, by paragliding over the valley.
8. Birthplace of Buddha
The pilgrimage to Lumbini, birthplace of Buddha, is one of the great spiritual journeys of the Asian subcontinent. You can visit the exact place where Siddhartha Gautama was born 2,500 years ago (rediscovered only a century ago) and tour the group of temples built by the neighbouring Buddhist nations. But perhaps the most allusive plan is to find a quiet place, open a book about Buddhism and meditate on the nature of existence. There are few travel experiences deeper than this.
9. Walkthrough Langtang
If the traveller has a few days but does not want to miss the possibility of hiking in Nepal, a great option is the Langtang region, bordering Tibet. The landscapes vary from steep hills covered by bamboo to extensive pastures for yaks and alpine valleys surrounded by peaks that exceed 7,000 meters. On the way, you can get fresh yak cheese sandwiches. There are also abundant complimentary excursions, such as routes to the sacred lakes of Gosainkund or the enchanting traditional villages of the Tamang Heritage Trail.
10. White-water rafting
Nepal is one of the main destinations in the world for rafting and kayaking. The Bhote Kosi River, fed by the melting of the Himalayan peaks, allows making descents in white water coming directly from Tibet. Even better are the navigation proposals of several days in rivers such as Karnali, Tamur and Sun Kosi, which travel through some of the most remote corners of Nepal. There are journeys of all kinds: from waters so brave that they seem like roller coasters to more serene routes through the jungle. At night you camp on pristine sandy beaches.
11. The fantastic festivals of Nepal
Nepal has so many spectacular traditional festivals that any visit will coincide, at least, with one. The celebrations range from masked dances to exorcise demons to epic rope competitions among rival neighbourhoods of a town. For a complete medieval experience, try to make the trip coincide with a unique procession of floats in which hundreds of devotees devour wobbly structures 20 meters high through the crowded streets of Kathmandu and Patan.
12. Pilgrimage to Swayambhunath
The impressive whitewashed dome of Swayambhunath, a world heritage site, is one of the most sacred Buddhist sanctuaries in Nepal. Under the eyes that see everything from the stupa – also affected by the earthquake of 2015 and in the process of reconstruction – there is an eclectic hodgepodge of prayer flags, Buddha statues and Tibetan chapels. Pilgrims roam the chapels, rolling prayer rolls and muttering mantras as nearby astrologers read the palm of their hand and shopkeepers sell magic charms and sacred beads. At dusk, there are spectacular views of the lights of Kathmandu.
The sister city of Kathmandu does not receive the attention it deserves. The best way to explore its interconnected Buddhist places and its hidden temples are on foot. It has fascinating alleyways for walking, as well as the magnificent and central Durbar square, as well as the Patan Museum, the best in the country. Also, there are four old stupas and the best selection of international restaurants throughout the Kathmandu Valley. It takes a couple of trips to see everything, but if the traveller stays overnight, he will have the whole city to himself.
These small dumplings stuffed with meat or vegetables are the national (unofficial) dish of Nepal. They can be savoured in one of the grandiose traditional Nepalese restaurants in Kathmandu, sharing a table with monks in discreet Tibetan cuisine or a mountain retreat overlooking the Annapurna. They are the most characteristic flavour of the Himalayas. There are cooking courses to learn how to prepare these seemingly simple bites, which are savoured from China to Central Asia. In some restaurants in Kathmandu, they are also stuffed with apple and cinnamon, and they are even served with ice cream.
15. The people of Nepal
It is often said that although Nepal is visited for its mountains, it is remembered for its people. From the silent and protective Sherpas to the welcoming owners of Tibetan hotels and the shopkeepers, all Nepalese welcome guests with respect and cordial Namaste. They smile easily in the most adverse circumstances, and a discordant or angry voice is rarely heard. It is one of the greatest experiences of visiting the country.