Places to Visit in Nepal

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From the high peaks of the Himalayas to the crowded spaces of the Kathmandu Valley and the steamy jungles of the Terai, the places to visit in Nepal are rich and varied.

Nepal is the very watershed of Asia. Squeezed between India and Tibet, the places to visit in Nepal stretch from rich subtropical forests to soaring Himalayan peaks: from jungly tiger habitat to the precipitous hunting grounds of the snow leopard.

Ever since Nepal first opened its borders to outsiders in the 1950s, this tiny mountain nation has had an irresistible mystical allure for travellers. Today, legions of trekkers are drawn to the Himalaya’s most iconic and accessible hiking, some of the world’s best, with rugged trails to Everest, the Annapurnas and beyond.

Other travellers prefer to see Nepal at a more gentle pace, admiring the peaks over a gin and tonic from a Himalayan viewpoint, strolling through the temple-lined medieval city squares of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, and joining Buddhist pilgrims on a spiritual stroll around centuries-old stupas and temples that lie scattered across the Kathmandu Valley.

Whichever way you choose to see this tiny mountain nation, you can follow our list of best places to visit in Nepal for a comprehensive guide to planning your next visit here.

Best Places to Visit in Nepal

11. Swayambhunath

The great Buddhist temple of Swayambhunath, on the top of a hill west of Kathmandu, is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular and instantly recognisable symbols of Nepal. The great stupa – painted with iconic, all-seeing Buddha eyes – survived the 2015 earthquake with only minor damage and it remains a focal point for Buddhist devotion. Pilgrims wander the shrines, spinning prayer wheels and murmuring mantras, while nearby astrologers read palms, and shopkeepers sell magic amulets and sacred beads. The temple is known affectionately as the ‘Monkey Temple’, after the large troop of monkeys that guard the hill and amuse visitors and devotees with tricks. Come at dusk for spectacular views over the city lights of Kathmandu.

If you only have a week but want to get a taste of Nepali-style trekking, it’s hard to beat the Langtang region, which borders Tibet. The scenery ranges from steep hillsides of bamboo and rhododendrons to sprawling yak pastures and finally an alpine cul de sac framed by 7000m peaks. You can even get fresh yak-cheese toasted sandwiches along the way. There are also plenty of trekking add-ons here, including walks to the sacred lakes of Gosainkund and through the charming traditional villages of the Tamang Heritage Trail.

9. Lumbini

As the historical birthplace of Gautama Siddhartha Buddha, Lumbini is one of the most important religious sites in the world. A pilgrimage to the birthplace of the Buddha ranks as one of the subcontinent’s great spiritual journeys. You can visit the exact spot where Siddhartha Gautama was born 2500 years ago, rediscovered only a century or so ago, and then tour the multinational collection of temples built by neighbouring Buddhist nations. But perhaps the most powerful thing to do is simply find a quiet spot, and a book on Buddhism, and meditate on the nature of existence. Travel experiences don’t get much more profound than that.

8. Pokhara

Nepal’s second-biggest tourist town may lack the historical depth of Kathmandu, but it more than makes up for this with a seductively laid-back vibe and one of the country’s most spectacular locations. The dawn views of Machapuchhare and Annapurna, mirrored in the calm waters of Phewa Tal or seen from the town’s hilltop viewpoints, are simply unforgettable. For many travellers, Pokhara represents a last chance to stock up on creature comforts before hitting the mountain trails. For others, it’s a place to enjoy a steak dinner and cold beer after weeks of daal bhaat in the hills. Even if you aren’t a dedicated trekker, there’s plenty here to keep you busy. Pokhara has numerous museums and there are some fascinating caves, waterfalls and Tibetan villages in the surrounding hills. For the adventurous, travel agents in Pokhara offer a slew of adventure activities, from paragliding to microlight flights to river rafting and jungle safaris.

7. Bodhnath

On the eastern side of Kathmandu is the village of Bodhnath, home to Asia’s largest stupa, a spectacular white dome and spire that draws Buddhist pilgrims from hundreds of kilometres away. The village is the religious centre for Nepal’s considerable population of Tibetan exiles, and the sidestreets are full of maroon-robed Tibetan (and foreign) monks, gleaming monastery roofs and shopfronts full of Tibetan texts and yak butter. This is one of the few places in the world where Tibetan culture is accessible, vibrant and unfettered. Come at dusk and join the Tibetan pilgrims as they light butter lamps and walk around the stupa on the daily kora (ritual circumambulation).

Of the three former city-states – all UNESCO sites – that jostled for power over the Kathmandu Valley, medieval Bhaktapur is the most atmospheric. Traffic free, the traditionally intact town is also in many ways the most timeless. The cobblestone streets link a string of temples, courtyards and monumental squares, and the sidestreets are peppered with shrines, wells and water tanks. The lack of traffic makes walking through Bhaktapur a pleasure and certainly more enjoyable than walking in Kathmandu. The town’s cultural life is also vibrant, with centuries-old traditions of craftsmanship and strong communities of potters, woodcarvers and weavers. Look for rice laid out to dry in the sun, people collecting water or washing under the communal taps, dyed yarns hung out to dry, children’s games, fascinating shops and women pounding grain – there’s plenty to see here.

5. Kathmandu

For many people, stepping off a plane into Kathmandu is an exhilarating shock – the sights, sounds and smells can quickly lead to sensory overload. Whether it be buzzing around the crazy polluted traffic in a taxi, trundling down the narrow winding streets of the old town in a rickshaw, marvelling at Durbar Square or dodging the tiger balm sellers and trekking touts in Thamel, Kathmandu can be an intoxicating, amazing and exhausting place. However, take a walk in the backstreets and the capital’s amazing cultural and artistic heritage reveals itself in hidden temples overflowing with marigolds, courtyards full of drying chillis and rice, and tiny hobbit-sized workshops largely unchanged since the Middle Ages.

4. Chitwan National Park

Royal Chitwan National Park has long been regarded as Nepal’s third biggest attraction after trekking and the Kathmandu Valley. The park is one of the last refuges of the endangered one-horned Indian rhino and there are sizeable populations of tigers, leopards and rare Gangetic dolphins. This is one of the best wildlife-viewing spots in Asia and the place to don your safari togs, clamber atop a lumbering elephant and head into the dawn mist in search of rhinos and tigers. There’s plenty to keep you busy here, from joining the elephants at bath time to visiting local Tharu villages, and the brave can even take a guided walk through the jungle, surrounded by the hoots and roars of the forest.

3. Kathmandu Valley

The fertile, mountain-sheltered Kathmandu Valley is the historic heart of Nepal, where the Himalayas most sophisticated kingdoms rose and fell and where Nepali art and culture were developed and refined. In many ways the Kathmandu Valley is Nepal. There’s more to the Kathmandu Valley than Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. The rolling hills and steep slopes surrounding Kathmandu are studded with ancient temples, Himalayan viewpoints, biking trails and medieval temple towns such as Panauti and Kirtipur where you can step back through the centuries – all within easy striking distance of the capital. Roam around by local bus, or rent a bicycle or motorcycle, and get under the skin of Nepal’s heartland.

2. Annapurna Circuit

This 19-day hike around the 8091m Annapurna massif is Nepal’s most popular trek, and it’s easy to see why. The lodges are comfortable, the mountain scenery is superb, the crossing of the 5416m Thorung La provides a physical challenge and the sense of journey from lowland to Trans-Himalayan plateau is immensely satisfying. Our best tip is to take your time and explore the spectacular side trips, particularly around Manang. Road construction may have eaten away at the western sections around Jomsom, but some spectacular alternative footpaths continue to avoid the road.

1. Everest Base Camp

Topping many people’s travel bucket list is this two-week-long trek to the base of the world’s highest, and most hyped, mountain. Despite some earthquake damage, and only limited views of Mount Everest itself, the surrounding Himalayan peaks are truly awesome, and the half-hour you spend watching the alpenglow ascend beautiful Pumori or Ama Dablam is worth all the altitude headaches you will doubtless suffer. The crowds can be thick in October but the welcome at the Sherpa lodges is as warm as the fresh apple pie that is served.

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