Nepal may be relatively small in size but it is a land of diverse variety. From tropical forests to snow-capped mountains, this beautiful country is as famed for its welcoming people and friendly hospitality as it is for its incredible scenery and wildlife. Some of the key places to visit in Nepal are very well known but others are a little bit off the beaten track and perfect for those wanting something a little different.
The most famous place to visit in Nepal is of course Mount Everest (known locally as Sagarmatha). Countless Nepal travel guides have been written just about this one mountain though there are of course so many other trekking and mountaineering options in Nepal. Climbing Mount Everest has become increasingly popular but most visitors choose to trek to base camp rather than attempting the whole mountain! Many people prefer the beauty of the Annapurna Circuit, considered to be one of the best treks in the world. Breath-taking scenery surrounds you at every turn as you pass through small villages in the green foothills and admire the intricate step farming that takes place on the steep slopes before climbing further into the snowy mountain tops and appreciating the views from key points such as Poon Hill. Watching the local children easily scamper up and down, as nimble as mountain goats and often carrying heavy loads at the same time, is a sight to behold!
Pokhara is a great base from which to start your trekking. Officially Nepal’s second city, it is a short flight from Kathmandu, or approximately 6 hours on a bus. Laying on the banks of Lake Pokhara (Phewa Tal) it is a beautiful spot offering tranquil boat trips on the lake and hearty food for tired hungry trekkers. There are a wide variety of activities and lots of treks, both long and short you can start from this point. Yoga and meditation centres are also available, reflecting the local Buddhist culture, and you can take a lovely walk up to the Pokhara Shanti Stupa (also known as the World Peace Stupa), a pagoda style monument on the top of a hill with far reaching views. The best time to visit Nepal if trekking is your aim is in the dry warm seasons of March-June and September-November. By mid-October the weather is generally settled and you have the best chance of clear skies and therefore the best views.
Kathmandu, the capital city, is of course one of the most famous and essential places to visit in Nepal. Compared to other Asian capital cities it is relatively calm though will still seem chaotic to westerners unfamiliar with the region. It’s an exhilarating place full of colourful prayer flags, rickshaws, temples and courtyards and offers increasingly good food and drink options, particularly renowned for the steakhouses that serve the trekkers and climbers who visit the country, and the delicious local yak cheese. The tourist area of Thamel is safe and fun and is where most visitors gravitate to but the old city is full of beautiful architecture and tiny streets filled with music, spices and incense. The historic district of Patan is also well worth exploring. One of the best places to visit in Nepal that is highlighted in any good Nepal travel guide is the 17th century Swayambhunath Temple where monkeys roam free and prayer flags flutter in the breeze.
Chitwan National Park is home to elephants, tigers and rhinos and is a must for any nature lover. This jungle reserve is over 930 sq km and comprises of grasslands, marshes, jungles and forests and is filled with countless species of birds as well as monkeys, deer and sloth bears. To fully experience everything Chitwan has to offer, we recommend you stay for at least a couple of days. Night-time guided jungle walks can be taken as well as wildlife spotting safaris and elephant treks. The best time to visit Nepal if your trip is focused around the wildlife reserves is probably springtime which is a little warmer although you can visit Chitwan anytime from October to May. Bird watching is especially good from December to March. Bardia National Park is another haven for wildlife lovers, quieter and less visited than Chitwan but still home to birds, deer, rhinos, elephants and the occasional tiger.
The UNESCO World Heritage site of Lumbini is a very popular place to visit in Nepal thanks to its huge significance to the Buddhist religion. The birthplace of Buddha himself (or Siddhartha Gautama), it is an important pilgrimage site and filled with fascinating temples, maintained in part by the huge number of Japanese tourists who visit the area. As it is a holy site there are no restaurants or hotels – the Maya Devi Temple is the most significant spot and the sacred garden next to it contains the Ashoka Pillar. The peaceful temples and ancient ruins sit side by side with the sacred Bodhi tree and it is easily possible to spend a couple of days soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the serenity.
Whatever your reason for visiting Nepal, you are sure to be enchanted by the wonderful people, the diverse culture, the extensive wildlife and the breath-taking scenery.