A hub for the adventure-lovers and home to Mt. Everest, the world’s tallest peak, Nepal is a Himalayan country sandwiched between India and China. The mighty snow-capped mountains here such as Annapurna, Mount Everest, Manaslu, and Kanchenjunga are home to some of the best trekking trails in the world. Nepal is also a major religious hub with its many pilgrimage sites for the followers of Buddhism and Hinduism like the Pashupatinath Temple and the Boudhanath Stupa. Lumbini, a small Buddhist hub in Nepal is the birthplace of Lord Buddha. To make things better, the crime rates are very low, making it a very safe travel destination.
Pokhara, the ‘Tourist Capital of Nepal,’ is the second-largest city in this Himalayan country, after Kathmandu. At an altitude of more than 900m, it is one of the highest cities, making it the base for many world-famous treks. The highlight of the town is its Lakeside, which is a boating paradise flanked with charming shops, dreamy cafés, restaurants and pubs that make up this postcard-perfect town.
For adventure enthusiasts, Pokhara is a popular starting point for many treks in the Annapurna Range as well as many paragliding and river rafting opportunities. You can take solo or tandem rides, depending on your expertise. River rafting and white water rafting are offered on Seti Gandaki and her tributaries.
The city is a beautiful contrast of the bustling Lakeside Pokhara and Old Pokhara, which is home to many beautiful historical temples and is also the city’s commercial hub. Phewa Lake (or Phewa Tal), a spectacular lake that borders Lakeside Pokhara and Old Pokhara, it flawlessly reflects the mountains that border it, making it a breathtaking photo-op. The old city houses shops where you can buy famous handicrafts, woodwork and woolwork. Don’t forget to visit the Tibetan Mini Market for one-of-a-kind souvenirs!
Kathmandu, the city of peace, lives true to this description. The city is charming, busy, bustling, serene, alive and asleep – all at once. The capital of Nepal, Kathmandu is the most accessible city in the country – it is Nepal’s only metropolitan city as well. From buying trekking equipment in Thamel or taking a rickshaw ride through traffic-packed alleys of the old part of the city or simply visiting the fascinating buildings in Durbar Squares, Kathmandu is truly a place filled with warmth.
Kathmandu is home to more than 1.5 million people. The city is at an altitude of a whopping 1400 metres or 4600 feet, which assures a blissful climate, all year long. Kathmandu, which is derived from the Pahari word for ‘wood shelter’, is an abode of serenity and tranquillity, with its monasteries, temples and spiritual melting pots. While the natural beauty of the city is more than enough for travellers to throng Kathmandu year after year, what sets it apart from other tourist destinations is the variety it offers – from spiritual awakening to adventure sports.
The tiny village of Nagarkot burrowed in the lap of towering peaks is a part of Nepal’s Bhaktapur district. Perched at the edge of Kathmandu Valley, Nagarkot gives you one of the widest panoramas of the Himalayan ranges – you can spot 8 out of the 13 Himalayan ranges from the comfort of your hotel. The mighty Annapurna, Manaslu, Langtang, Jugal, Everest, Numbur, Ganesh Himal and the Rolwaling ranges can be seen from Nagarkot on a clear day!
Located at a mere 28-kilometre drive away from Kathmandu, Nagarkot offers one of the best views of the Himalayas in the entire region as it has an altitude of 7000 feet (2000 metres)! An erstwhile summer retreat of Nepali, Indian and British royalty, this village rose to fame after tourists thronged the area in recent years. The idyllic village sits serenely in the midst of nature – the only sounds you can hear are the birds chirping and the breeze whistling through the pines.
One great advantage of this viewpoint is that it is very close to the capital, which means that you can easily access Nagarkot without spending too much time and money on travel. Accommodation is also cheap here, as is the food – Nagarkot clearly wins on all fronts!
Bhaktapur is one of three medieval cities in the Kathmandu Valley, the other two being Kathmandu and Patan. It is often referred to as Bhadgaon and Khwopa and has a mix of Hindu and Buddhist population. This city is located around 12 kilometres from the capital city of Kathmandu and is divided into three squares, each of them filled with temples and other religious structures. Entry to this town, however, is not free and visitors need to pay a town entry fee of NPR 1500. This goes into the maintenance of the temples in Bhaktapur.
A place for devotees, this city is located in the Eastern part of Kathmandu valley. Bhaktapur, “the city of culture” was unfortunately destroyed during the 7.9 magnitude earthquake in April 2015, causing loss of life and terrible devastation of some of the historically important temples. Nevertheless, the city has been getting back on its feet steadily over the past 4 years and as a result, is one of the most valuable historical cities in Nepal.
This city is placed on the trade route between India and Tibet and gives a clear view of the Himalayas. Being the third-largest city in Nepal suggests that Bhaktapur is one of the popular tourist destinations with Bhaktapur Durbar Square being the most common attraction.
Nestled in the Himalayas near the Indian border, the beautiful town of Lumbini is the birthplace of Lord Buddha. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lumbini has a plethora of ancient stupas dating back to 2000 years and monasteries that were built by the past dynasties. People come here from all over the world to this abode of Buddhism to study scriptures, meditate, practise yoga, trek, learn more about Buddhism and find inner peace. ‘Lumbini’ literally means ‘The Lovely’ in Sanskrit, and true to its name it stands!
The entire site is decked up with prayer flags that have blessings and incantations upon them, which have been put up by thousands of tourists. Each of the monasteries here is architecturally distinctive, with beautiful façades and paintings.
The Mayadevi Temple is the most important and sacred site in the area – it houses the actual spot where the Buddha was born, to Queen Mayadevi, the wife of King Suddhodana of Kapilavastu. A stone marker can identify the birth spot. Nearby is the Bodhi Tree in Lumbini Garden, where the Holy Mother is said to have rested a while before giving birth to the Buddha. The tree radiates peace and spiritual serenity and is decked in prayer flags. Significant archaeological remains are placed inside the temple as well. The Lumbini Garden also houses the Pushkarini – Sacred Pond. Little Siddhartha is also said to have swum in this holy pond. Another important archaeological marvel is the Ashoka Stupa (Pillar), which was built in 249 B.C.
Avid trekkers can do the Lumbini Circuit Trek and witness 64 historical and archaeological sites around the area, including visits to villages where one can get an authentic experience of the local culture and hospitality.