Sandwiched between India and China, two of the biggest countries in the world, lies Nepal. Located in the Himalayas, Nepal is home to 8 of the world’s tallest mountains, one of which is the renowned Mount Everest. Because of this, it has long been a prime tourist destination, especially for adventurers looking to get a taste of the excitement Nepal has to offer. Adrenaline-junkies from all over the world flock here, seeking a thrilling experience that cannot be offered anywhere else in the world. With the following top 15 things to do in Nepal, your trip here will undeniably be nothing short of amazing!
1. Paraglide over Nepal's stunning landscapes at Pokhara
As the second-largest city in Nepal, Pokhara has been recognized as the tourism capital of the country, serving as a good base for those visiting Annapurna. Next to this charming city is one of the largest lakes in Nepal, Phewa Lake. Known for its outdoorsy nature, Pokhara is perfect for the adventurous traveler. Paragliding, boating, trekking, and bungee jumping are among some of the fun activities offered here.
You would not want to miss out on paragliding at one of the top 5 commercial paragliding locations in the world. With stable thermals (an important factor in safe paragliding), convenient take-off and landing zones, and incredible views, Pokhara is the ideal place to explore from the sky. Even though it is a relatively expensive activity, flying over Nepal’s incredible landscapes will be worth every penny.
If that wasn’t exhilarating enough, you can try bungee jumping as well. With breathtaking views of the Himalayas, Pokhara is home to Nepal’s first and only tower bungee site. Scream your lungs out as you dive down a 70-meter (229.7-foot) free fall in 3 seconds. It will undoubtedly get your blood pumping and fill your veins with adrenaline.
For some tamer activities, rent a boat or go for a dip out in the lake. They are great ways to relax and truly admire the stunning sights of the Himalayas surrounding you. Trekking tours are also available. Hike up to World Peace Pagoda or Sarangkot, the two biggest hilltops in the area, for panoramic views of the surreal mountain range.
High Ground Adventures
Address: Teku, Kathmandu, Nepal
Price: 87 USD (paragliding), 68 USD (bungee jumping)
Website: High Ground Adventures
2. Trek across the formidable route to Everest Base Camp
Climbing to the top of Mount Everest is a fairly impossible feat for most. It requires years of physical training and lots of money to pull off such a journey. The next best trek you could make is to Everest Base Camp.
Sitting at an altitude of 5,363 meters (17,598 feet), Everest Base Camp still demands a high level of fitness. It is a challenging route, not for the faint-hearted. But if you have trained and prepared for such a journey, this hike will be worth your while. For your own safety, it is recommended that you join a certified expedition with a tour guide to show you the way.
The route features a range of landscapes that will amaze you and make your jaw drop. From dense forests and stone-walled traditional villages to wintery mountain peaks, you will get a taste of everything along the way. And nothing is ever going to come close to the satisfaction you’ll get from reaching your endpoint at Everest Base Camp.
National Geographic Expeditions: Nepal Everest Base Camp Trek
Address: Pick-up at Shangri-La Hotel Kathmandu
Duration: 19 days
Price: 5,795 USD per person (if traveling in a pair) *Additional 900 USD for solo travelers
Unlike the Everest Base Camp route, the Annapurna Circuit does not require years of training, and is thus a popular trek among visitors. Offering just as amazing scenery, this 128-mile (206-kilometer) route is highly venerated by tourists for its accessibility. However, despite its less challenging nature, expect this journey to take around 15 - 20 days.
While you’re there, make a diversion off to the Ghorepani Poon Hill trek. A nearby peak with unimaginable views of the Himalayan Mountain range, this route is one you wouldn’t want to miss. What you see from the top will be unlike anything you have ever seen before.
If hiking does not appeal to you, perhaps zip lining is the way to go. Home to the world’s tallest, longest, steepest, and fastest zip line, High Ground Adventures in Pokhara (see #1) provides the rush of extreme zip lining. Whizzing through the Annapurna mountains at 140 kilometers / hour (87 miles / hour) at 600 meters (1,969 feet) above ground, this will be the ultimate adventure of your life.
G Adventures: Annapurna Circuit Trek
Address: Pick-up in Kathmandu
Duration: 18 days
Price: From 1349 USD
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4. Make the pilgrimage to Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini
Said to be the birthplace of Siddartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, Lumbini is an important site for Buddhist pilgrims. In recent years, it has become more than a holy site. Every day, tourists from all over the world make their way to visit this important Buddhist landmark.
Featuring ruins of ancient monasteries, a sacred Bodhi tree, the Mayadevi pond where Buddha’s mother supposedly bathed before his birth, and an Ashokan pillar, Lumbini is the place to go for anyone interested in Nepal’s history or the Buddhist religion. However, the most well-known attraction that cannot be missed is the Mayadevi Temple. Recognized as the very structure where Buddha was born, it holds just as much historical significance as it does religious.
In order to preserve its historical significance, Lumbini is secured by a monastic zone, where only monasteries can be built. In other words, there are no shops, hotels, or restaurants in the area. But if you are particularly interested in the religion and would like to explore this site over a few days, there are hotels not far away.
5. Take a day trip to the small town of Bhaktapur
Formerly the largest Newar kingdom, Bhaktapur is home to the best-preserved palace courtyards and old city center from ancient times in Nepal. Although the city was largely destroyed during the 2015 earthquake, walking through the remains and rubble will not only take you back to the past, but also let you witness the effects of the disaster. Every medieval alleyway and intricate wood carving has its own story to tell that you will want to see firsthand.
Directly translating to ‘City of Devotees’, Bhaktapur has 3 major squares, each complete with towering temples that showcase impressive architecture. With its distinct heritage, this little town is also filled with people weaving cloth by the roadside, open kilns out in the squares, and locals gathering in courtyards to socialize. A trip to Nepal would not be complete without experiencing Bhaktapur’s unique culture.
Apart from its distinct history, this town is also famous for a special type of curd known as ju ju dau, or ‘king curd’ in English. Not found anywhere else in Nepal, much less the world, this creamy sweet custard-like yogurt is something you have to try in Bhaktapur.
Tip: a small entrance fee of 15 USD is required to enter Bhaktapur. This is used toward the preservation and maintenance of the town’s temples.
6. Ride an elephant at Chitwan National Park
As the first and most famous park in Nepal, Chitwan National Park has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. The park is accessible via two entrances: the well-known tourist town of Sauraha, and the intimate but modest village of Meghauli.
If you want to explore the park, elephant safaris are the most common way to go. Not only will you get to discover the diverse wildlife of Chitwan National Park, but you will also be able to check ‘ride an elephant’ off your bucket list. There is no better way to see nature than on one of its own creations.
Official government-controlled safaris are offered by the park. But because those are usually more expensive, it is recommended for you to book a private elephant safari instead. You will get the same experience but for a more affordable price, perfect for the budget-travelers out there. Do try and ensure that your operator is as ethical as possible though.
Chitwan National Park
Address: Chitwan Nepal
Duration: Around 1 - 1.5 hours
Price: 1,500 NPR (13.80 USD) *Price above only for entrance into park; additional fees apply for elephant safari
Website: Chitwan National Park
7. Visit the largest temple in Nepal, Boudhanath Stupa
Dominating the skyline of Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu is Boudhanath Temple, one of the biggest Buddhist stupas in the world. An important place of pilgrimage and meditation for Tibetan Buddhists and local Nepalis, this stupa is a must-see in Kathmandu. Whether you are religious or not, the architecture and significance of this structure will not disappoint.
For visitors heading to Kathmandu soon, do note that Boudhanath was severely damaged during the April 2015 earthquake. Even though reconstruction has already begun, the structure is still missing its spherical dome section, one of its prominent features. By no means does this make the temple any less impressive, and it is definitely still worth a visit.
Tip: it is customary to walk around the stupa in a clockwise direction, and to spin the prayer wheels in a clockwise direction as well.
Address: Boudhanath (Boudha), Kathmandu 44600, Nepal
8. Catch a glimpse of Tibetan pilgrims at Swayambhunath Stupa
Following Boudhanath (see#7), Swayambhunath Temple is easily one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the world for both Buddhist Newars and Tibetan Buddhists. Also known as the Monkey Temple, it is no surprise that holy monkeys reside in certain parts of the temple.
What makes this temple particularly significant is the symbolism of the building’s structure. With its dome representing the world, and the pair of eyes on all 4 sides of the main stupa representing wisdom and compassion, Swayambhunath is more than just an aesthetically-pleasing structure. This ancient Buddhist shrine has since become a quintessential symbol of Nepal.
Climb 365 steps to get to the main platform of Swayambhunath Temple. It may be slightly physically challenging, but will definitely be worth it once you get to the top. If you’re lucky, you may even find yourself walking alongside Tibetan pilgrims who have made the journey there from miles away. But if walking hundreds of steps sounds impossible to you, the temple is also accessible via a drive around the hill from the south.
Address: Swayambhu, Kathmandu 44600, Nepal
Price: 200 NPR (1.90 USD)
9. Experience Kathmandu’s vibrant food scene at Thamel
Due to its cultural and geographic diversity, Nepal is home to an interesting fusion of cuisines. No matter what kind of food you are looking for, you will definitely find it here in Nepal. If you’re in Kathmandu, Thamel is the place to go for a succinct overview of the city’s restaurant scene. Popular among backpackers, this district is known especially for its abundant food options and booming nightlife.
Of course, get a taste of local cuisine while you’re there too. Because its food has influences from nearby countries, Nepal’s national food, dal bhat tarkari, reflects Indian food. It consists of dal (soup made with lentils), bhat (grains, usually rice), and tarkari (vegetable curry). Head to Bhjoan Griha restaurant at Dilli Bazaar if you’re interested in trying dal bhat tarkari or other Nepalese dishes. Capturing a complete Nepali experience with its food, décor, folk music, and dance performances, this restaurant will make you want to go back for more.
Address: Dilli Bazaar, Kathmandu, Nepal
Website: Bhojan Griha
10. Visit the home of the world’s only living goddess at Kathmandu’s Durbar Square
Located in the heart of the city, Kathmandu’s Durbar Square is one of three in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley. Walk around the square and snap some photos of its exceptional buildings. Once home to the former kingdom’s royal palaces, the square is surrounded by amazing architecture, demonstrating the works of Newar artists from the past.
But the one thing you must see here is Kumari Ghar, the home of the only living goddess (kumari) in the world. A Nepali tradition of worshipping young girls in the Hindu religion, the belief in a kumari has existed for several centuries. Enter the courtyard of the Kumari Ghar to admire the architecture. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to see the living goddess appear at the window. While not guaranteed, visit in the morning or late afternoon for the best chances to spot the kumari herself.
Tip: feel free to take as many photos in the courtyard as you desire. But do note that if the kumari appears, it is strictly forbidden to take a photo of her. Out of respect for the tradition and religion, all visitors should abide by this rule.
Kumari Ghar at Kathmandu's Durbar Square
11. Explore the magnificent temples of Patan
Known as the city of festivals and feasts, Patan has a rich cultural heritage unlike any other city, particularly with regards to arts and crafts. With over 1,200 Buddhist monuments scattered throughout the city, Patan has the most densely populated collection of temples in Nepal.
Stroll along the old brick lanes that define the city. Leading to charming courtyards and beautiful stone carvings, these rustic streets will give you a chance to truly explore every little corner of Patan.
While you’re there, be sure to visit Patan Durbar Square, the city’s most famous landmark. Once housing the palace of Patan’s rulers, the square holds a wealth of historical significance, and features a museum for those who want to learn more about it.
12. Participate in the worship of dogs at the Kukur Tihar festival
Visit Nepal in late October or early November for the Tihar festival. Celebrated over a course of 5 days in late autumn, Tihar is easily one of the biggest festivals in Nepal. Because the specific dates vary each year, it is important to check exactly when this festival is happening before you book your trip.
Involving the worship of different people, animals, and gods on each day, Tihar is important to the people of Nepal. Its significance lies in the fact that the festival is not just about revering the gods, but also humans and animals.
The most famous is day 2: Kukur Tihar. Dedicated to man’s best friend, this day is about worshipping dogs with tikas, garlands, and food. If you love dogs, this is something you won’t want to miss, a chance to show your appreciation for these fluffy creatures.
13. Surround yourself with lush greenery at Langtang National Park
While Chitwan National Park (see #6) is known for its animal wildlife, Langtang National Park is recognized for its diverse vegetation and eco-systems. As the first Himalayan national park, it is also renowned for its remarkable surrounding landscapes of snowy mountains and deep valleys.
Langtang National Park is also home to the Langtang Trek, relatively unheard of and lesser-known when compared to other world-famous trails in Nepal. Yet, surrounded by rivers, trees, and mountains, the scenery you can get from Langtang is beautiful beyond words. Treks typically require between 6 and 16 days, depending on your preference. If you have time to spare, it is recommended for you to choose a longer expedition in order to gain a full experience of the vast Nepalese landscapes.
Himalayan Glacier: Langtang Valley Trek
Address: Pick up in Kathmandu
Duration: 10 days
Price: 1,150 USD
14. Raft down the exhilarating waters of Marshyangdi River
Literally translating to ‘Raging River’, the Marshyangdi River provides the ideal conditions for white water rafting. Face some of the most exciting rapids in the world, with a backdrop of unimaginable mountains. Approximately 150 kilometers (93.2 miles) in length, this mountain river will challenge you every step of the way for a thrilling ride.
Because of its fast rapids, rafting on the Marshyangdi River is recommended for people who have some previous experience. With tours generally lasting several days (usually between 1 and 4), it can be exhausting for a beginner to battle the waters consistently.
If you are interested in a short exciting adventure away from the city, check out Paddle Nepal’s 2-Day Marshyangdi River Rafting Tour. While its intense rapids are not for the faint-hearted, they are most definitely for the brave souls out there looking for an adventure. It is sure to guarantee the thrill of a lifetime.
Paddle Nepal: Marshyangdi River Rafting
Address: Pick up at Paddle Nepal Lakeside Center, Pokhara
Duration: 2 days
Price: 158 USD
Contact: + 977-0-61-465730
15. Admire magnificent rock formations in the underground cave of Siddha Gufa
At 437 meters (1434 feet) deep, Siddha Gufa is the largest cave in Nepal and the second largest in South Asia. Discover the twisted stalactites and stalagmites, among other elaborate rock formations, deep within the cave. You may even be able to the calls of bats in the cave.
Located midway between Kathmandu and Pokhara, Siddha Cave is a popular half-day destination for tourists in both cities. Getting to the site is also quite difficult, requiring a 1.5-hour trek along stone paths and dirt roads. Despite the strenuous hike, the exquisite ravines of the cave will more than make up for it.
Tip: Tour guides are mandatory for anyone who wishes to explore Siddha Gufa. Not requiring any prior bookings, these guides can be found right outside the cave’s entrance. It is also recommended for you to bring your own flashlight as it can get very dark.
Address: Bimal Nagar, Prithvi Highway, Nepal
Trek your way through Nepal
A trip to Nepal is all about pushing your body to the limits, discovering the most amazing landscapes in the world, and respecting its cultural heritage. A country like no other, Nepal is not a destination for the timid. It takes a certain kind of spirit to conquer the challenging activities offered here. But even if you are not keen on hiking, paragliding, or any other adrenaline-charged activity, Nepal also has lots of history and culture for you to uncover. From the moment you visit Nepal, you will want to go back again; once is not enough!
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