Nepal is a special place of both religious and geographic significance. The Himalayas, the world’s highest mountain range, and Mount Everest, the highest peak on the planet, can both be found in this small country. If you’re traveling to Nepal, you’ll likely be visiting Kathmandu, the capital and most populous city in the country. Kathmandu is a stunning city where historic temples and religious landmarks sit against a backdrop of the snowy Himalayas. Top spots to see range from Swayambhunath, a huge Buddhist temple and pilgrimage site, to Pashupatinath, a Hindu temple dating to the 1400’s. While there is enough to see in Kathmandu to cover a lifetime, you would be remiss to not take any trips outside of the city, where quiet villages and peaceful parks offer rich cultural experiences and stunning natural beauty. Read on for the best day trips and tours in and from Kathmandu.
If bungee jumping isn’t your thing but you still wish to experience the stunning heights around Kathmandu, check out this scenic excursion to nearby Chandragiri Hill. Just 45 minutes outside of Kathmandu, Chandragiri Hill is a place of stunning natural beauty with hiking trails, a relaxing park, and a new cable car. The cable car takes you to the summit of the hill, where you can take in the sweeping views of the valley and see the snow-capped Himalayas in the distance. There are options for the bus driver to pick you up right at your hotel, making this a convenient day trip out of the city.
Cable Car Ride at Chandragiri Hill with Hotel Pickup from Kathmandu
Duration: 4 to 5 hours
If seeing Nepalese temples is at the top of your itinerary to your trip to Kathmandu, book this half-day tour to the nearby city of Panauti. This city is smaller and quieter than Kathmandu, and has breathtaking sights and architecture with spiritual significance. Panauti’s streets are lined with Newari temples. The city sits on a sacred spot where two rivers, and one invisible river, converge. You’ll also appreciate the guide who will bring you to all of Panauti’s sights and explain the history and culture of the area.
Private Half Day Panauti Tour in Kathmandu Nepal
Duration: 5 hours
This day trip to Patan and Bhaktapur is one of the best ways to experience the area’s history and culture. Patan, also known as Lalitpur, is thought to be one of the oldest Buddhist cities in the world. It is the most historic of the urban areas in the Kathmandu valley. The city is surrounded by four stupas at each corner, and legend has it that they were built by Emperor Ashoka. The other stop on this tour is Bhaktapur, a town rich in antique arts and artifacts. The city is like one big museum, with religious monuments, ancient statues, and religious buildings like sanctuaries and pagodas everywhere you turn.
Bhaktapur and Patan Tour
Duration: 6 hours
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If you’ve traveled from far away to Kathmandu to visit the city, consider adding a couple of days into your itinerary to see Pokhara. This city, about five hours west of Kathmandu, is located in a gorgeous valley with the pristine Phewa lake at its center. This day trip will bring you to all of the highlights of the Pokhara so you can experience the best of its natural and spiritual sights. Stops include Bindhbasini Temple, which is dedicated to Goddess Bhagwati and sits in the center of an old religious bazaar. Next you’ll head to the natural wonders of Pokhara, starting at Davi’s Fall, a waterfall that leaps through potholes as it tumbles into a deep gorge. After that is nearby Gupteshwor Cave, where you’ll walk through spaces both as big as halls and also so small that you have to crawl through them. Fewa Lake is the next sight–a serene lake with a two-storey pagoda at its center. Lastly, you’ll see the Seti River Gorge where you can watch the white water rapids from a high bridge.
Pokhara City Tour: Private and Custom
Duration: 4 to 5 hours
If you’re a mountain biker, you’ve probably always dreamed of riding on the highest mountains in the world. This mountain biking day trip is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the adventurous and for thrill-seekers! You’ll be biking along Nepal’s lower Great Himalayan Trail, traveling from Kathmandu to the village of Chobhar. A private guide will lead you along the trail to Kiritipur, where you have an included lunch at a restaurant with stunning views of the Himalayas. There are opportunities in both towns to see the sights and shop. The tour also includes bike and helmet rentals, so you don’t have to worry about traveling with your gear.
Kathmandu to Chobhar and Kirtipur Mountain Biking Day Trip
Duration: 6 hours
Shivapuri National Park is certainly one of the must-see sights outside the city limits of Kathmandu. This day trip to Shivapuri and Budhanilkantha is another option to experience the natural beauty and sacred spots of Nepal. The tour departs from the Kathmandu Guest House in Nepal and is just an hour’s drive to the first stop at Budhanilkantha. Though non-Hindus are not permitted inside the temple, you can still appreciate its beautiful architecture and unique Buddha statue that appears to be floating on the pond from the outside. You’ll also go inside Shivapuri National Park for a 15-kilometer (9-mile) round trip hike that takes you past another monastery and to a peaceful Buddhist complex at the summit of the hill.
Kathmandu to Budhanilkantha, Shivapuri National Park Hike Trip
Duration: 6 hours
Who says you can only go on safari on a trip to Africa? This full day jungle safari tour is a great pick if you’re staying in the naturally beautiful area outside of Kathmandu, near Sauraha. Try a safari tour in Chitwan National Park–it takes you inside, where hundreds of species of animals reside. For bird watchers, a guide will lead you along the river to catch glimpses of the more than 450 species of birds in the park. You’ll also be able to ride a dugout canoe on the Rapti River and see the habitats of crocodiles up close. The highlight of the tour for many will be the visit to the Elephant Breeding Center, where a number of these beautiful creatures are cared for and bred. The day ends with a Tharu cultural dance, giving you a much different experience of Kathmandu than if you just stay in the city.
Full Day Jungle Safari Tours in Chitwan National Park Nepal
Duration: 8 hours
Another national park excursion that leaves right from Kathmandu is this day trip to the Shivapuri National Park. This protected forest is about half an hour outside of the city and is home to more than 500 species of animals. Your day tour will mostly consist of a hike up steep trails and stairs to the top of Shivapuri. At the summit you’ll enjoy lunch and vistas of the Langtang mountain range. In addition to natural beauty, you’ll also experience Nepal’s religious culture on this tour. One stop is at Budhanilkantha, a temple famous for its statue of a reclining Buddha in a pond. The other stop is in the middle of the hike when you’ll pass Nagi Gumpa, a monastery where foreigners practice meditation and nuns are allowed to practice Buddhism.
Shivapuri National Park Day Hike
Duration: 1 day
The first day trip on this list is a thrilling bungee jumping excursion! Get the ultimate adrenaline rush by plunging into a 160-meter (524-feet) deep gorge with the rushing Bhote Kosi River below. This is Nepal’s first bungee jumping spot and was designed by one of New Zealand’s leading bungee consultants. You’ll leap off a bridge of Swiss design which was built especially for bungee jumping. The state-of-the-art equipment is safe so all you have to worry about is taking the plunge! The jumping site is located three hours from Kathmandu, near the Tibet border, and round-trip transportation by bus is included with your ticket along with lunch.
Full-Day Bungee Jumping Adventure from Kathmandu
This day trip from Kathmandu to Kakani has it all: picturesque villages, natural beauty, hiking, and even tasting local food and drink. The tour departs from downtown Kathmandu to nearby Kakani, a town that lies on a hilltop ridge about an hour from the city. Your first stop will be in Rani Pauwa, a small village with a local bazaar. Next is a mini-trek of about two hours that will take you up through pine forests to the peak of Kakani. From here you can see stunning vistas of the villages below and the Himalayas in the distance. You will be rewarded at the summit with the opportunity to taste a local delicacy, rainbow trout, at one of several restaurants. The area is also known for its strawberry farming through a unique irrigation system, and locally-made strawberry liquor or rhododendron is a must-try.
Kathmandu Day Hike in Kakani
Duration: 1 day
Experience the top of the world at Kathmandu
In and around Kathmandu, you’ll be close to the top of the world–quite literally, with the planet’s highest mountains always present in the distance. Though this is reason enough to add Nepal to your bucket list, there are many other things to do in the area besides trekking the Himalayas. These convenient day tours from Kathmandu and nearby cities offer you the best that Nepal has to offer, from historic and sacred temples, to picturesque and peaceful villages, to exciting hikes and safaris bringing you up close to natural wonders and local wildlife. Let the tour guides do the planning, and all you’ll have to be concerned with is enjoying these once-in-a-lifetime experiences!
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