Places to See in Nepal
Nepal is a land of great persity and immense opportunities. Within a hundred kilometers, the landscape goes through incredible changes from the hot, humid plains in the south to frigid arctic conditions in the north. In much the same way, the persity of the Nepali people is no less remarkable. It is an opportunity to experience extreme contrasts in as little as an hour. A half hour flight from Kathmandu brings you up close to the Himalayas in the north, yet if you fly south, one could be riding on an elephant in Chitwan within an hour. The extreme north is the land of the Snow leopard while the southern jungles are ruled by the Royal Bengal tiger.
The Kathmandu Valley on the other hand is a living museum of ancient relics and religious practices defying change and existing in stark contrast to modern day shopping malls and KFC outlets. Nepal offers infinite opportunities to the discerning traveler in search of adventure, relaxation, meditation, extreme challenges or just a walk through historic monuments and ancient religious sites. Between Everest and Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha, there is room enough for every kind of traveler.
Kathmandu is the vibrant and busy capital of Nepal, located roughly in the middle of the country. Home to over 1 million people of various ethnic groups from all over Nepal, the city is incredibly perse. Kathmandu is also the gateway to Nepal’s tourist attractions, and the starting point for most travelers in Nepal.
Archeological remains of ancient civilizations found in the Kathmandu valley date back as far as 167 B.C. , and Stone Age tools have even been discovered in the valley. Kathmandu was one of the ancient kingdoms established in the Kathmandu valley – and it grew to be one of the most powerful of the medieval period. The ancient kingdoms of the valley competed with one another to display their wealth and power by constructing grand and elaborate temples, palaces and other structures clustered in their central squares – called the Durbar squares. Many of these structures have survived for hundreds of years – and many withstood the massive earthquake and aftershocks of 2015 – in Kathmandu.
Kathmandu’s Durbar Square is beautifully preserved, and a great place to explore Newari architecture and to see Kathmandu’s old and new come together. Ornately carved hundred-year-old temples serve as popular date sites for young couples, and stalls sell fresh fruit juice, bead necklaces and jewelry, and other clothes to both foreigners visiting the square and average Kathmandu residents who live in the area. But the Durbar square is only one of four UNESCO World Heritage Sites located inside the city of Kathmandu (there are seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu valley). Bauddhanath (also often called Boudha) is the largest stupa – a Tibetan-Buddhist religious structure – in all of Nepal. Although it was damaged during the earthquake, the stupa remains a peaceful and beautiful place to visit, with monks chanting in nearby monasteries. Swayambhunath (also known as Swayambhu) is often called the monkey temple, and is a very exciting and interesting place to visit. Swayambhu is a complex carved into a hillside containing several Hindu and Buddhist religious structures, including the oldest Buddhist stupa in the valley. As its nickname says, Swayambhu is full of monkeys that run around the temples and up and down the stairs. Pashupatinath (also called Pashupati) is the final UNESCO World Heritage Site in Kathmandu, and is a well known Hindu temple complex. Pahupati is an important site for Hindus in Nepal as well as abroad – many Hindus from India make a pilgrimage to Pashupati. Pashupati is also an important funeral site for local Nepali Hindus.
Beyond the ancient sites that can be visited in Kathmandu, the city also offers many other ways to take in the various cultures that reside there. Wandering down the various alleyways throughout the city is an excellent way to take in the old and the new in Kathmandu – from stores selling cell phones and Internet cafes to tiny neighborhood temples. Just exploring without a map or a plan can be the most rewarding and interesting way to experience Kathmandu. Kathmandu also has everything foreign travelers need on their way to or from a trek – be it equipment, yummy food (both local and foreign), or luxury and rest. Thamel, Kathmandu’s well known tourist district, is an active and busy area where travelers can buy anything and everything they need on a trek, often for a lot less than they would in their home countries. Nearby, the Sherpa store (a Nepali brand) sells outdoor clothing and gear that rivals the North Face in quality and design. Restaurants abound in Thamel, and most of them sell foreign foods – including pizza, hamburgers, and even steaks. Thamel’s nightlife is also very lively and entertaining, offering anything from a relaxed mountaineer’s bar to pulsing nightclubs for dancing. Outside of Thamel are many of the best options for local food – ranging from Thakali daal bhat kitchens to delicious tiny tea stalls. Shopping for souveniers in the Thamel area, around the Durbar square, Boudha, or even down on New Road (where many locals shop) is an adventure in and of itself when travelers get to bargain. After a long day there is nothing better than returning to a hotel for the spa or searching for a local spa in the Thamel area. The Garden of Dreams, on the outskirts of Thamel, provides an excellent, peaceful, and green space to relax and escape the busy streets of Kathmandu.
Patan is the historical name of the city that is more recently called Lalitpur. Lalitpur is the third-largest city in Nepal, after Kathmandu and Pokhara, and is located in the Kathmandu valley just south of the city of Kathmandu. Only a narrow part of Bagmati River separates the modern cities of Kathmandu and Lalitpur, but in medieval times Kathmandu and Patan were two very different and distinct city-states. The ancient kingdoms of the valley - which also includes Bhaktapur - competed with one another to display their wealth and power by constructing grand and elaborate temples, palaces and other structures clustered in their central squares, called the Durbar squares. Patan’s Durbar Square is one the seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu valley. Many of these structures in Patan’s Durbar Square have survived for hundreds of years and are intricately carved with Hindu and some Buddhist iconography. Patan’s Durbar Square also contains a magnificent Newari palace. The Durbar Square in Patan is beautifully preserved, and a great place to explore Newari architecture and to see Nepal’s old and new come together – from centuries-old temples to vendors selling fresh juice and nearby shoe shops. Patan is also known for unique city planning and urban design. A maze of alleys that lead from courtyard to courtyard in a series of rings around the center characterize the oldest parts of the ancient city, and are unique to Patan. Despite suffering damage during the 2015 earthquakes and aftershocks, many of the various temples and structures in Patan have survived or are being repaired and maintained.
Today’s Patan – nowadays known as Lalitpur – is a growing city, and is also where many of the various international and local aid organizations that work in Nepal are based. Lalitpur is known as a nice place to live, and a less busy and hectic alternative to Kathmandu for those that need to live and work in the valley. There are many foreign and upscale restaurants both in the historic Patan area as well as in other parts of Lalitpur, as well as various hotels and guesthouses. Lalitpur is also an excellent place to find local Newari food.
Bhaktapur is an ancient city in the Kathmandu valley, and was one of the most powerful city-states in the valley during the medieval period. The ancient kingdoms of the valley competed with one another to display their wealth and power by constructing grand and elaborate temples, palaces and other structures clustered in their central squares – called the Durbar squares. Many of these structures have survived for hundreds of years and are intricately carved with Hindu and some Buddhist iconography. Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square is beautifully preserved, and a great place to explore Newari architecture and to see Nepal’s old and new come together. Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square is also one the seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu valley.
Despite suffering damage during the 2015 earthquakes and aftershocks, many of the various temples and structures in Bhaktapur have survived or are being repaired and maintained. Bhaktapur is arguably one of the best-preserved sites in Nepal, and definitely one of the most enjoyable places to visit. Many of the streets around the historic areas are closed to or only allow limited traffic, so walking around is easy and peaceful. Wandering around Bhaktapur’s narrow streets feels like going back in time to an ancient Newari city. The various shops scattered around the alleys sell souvenirs and handicrafts, and some neighborhoods in Bhaktapur are well known for their pottery. Visitors can watch as clay pots and vases and then laid out to dry in small squares between buildings. After a long day of walking around, visitors can choose from the many restaurants scattered around the historic parts of the city, and enjoy delicious momos from a rooftop as they look out on the city below.
Pokhara is the second-largest city in Nepal after Kathmandu, and is located in the Nepal’s mid-west. With the Annapurna region only about 25 kilometers away, Pokhara is a key base for trekkers and travelers venturing to and from the region. Pokhara is popular with foreign travelers, with many citing it as the most enjoyable city to stay in while in Nepal. One particular area of the city borders a large lake called Phewa Tal. This part of the city is nicknamed “lakeside,” and it is where most of the hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and shops geared towards tourists are based. Lakeside in particular is very relaxed and calm compared to Kathmandu, and is an enormous contrast from the hustle and bustle of its Kathmandu equivalent, Thamel.
There are fewer cars and motorcycles on the streets, less noise, and the city is much less crowded than Kathmandu. Stunning backdrops in particular make Pokhara a favorite with foreigners: to the north the magnificent Himalaya jut high into the sky, while the large, peaceful Phewa Tal drifts lazily in the opposite direction, just behind a row of restaurants and small buildings. Pokhara is equipped with anything trekkers coming to and from the mountains could need – from last minute supplies and gear to spas and tranquil restaurants offering cold beers and overlooking the lake. But Pokhara has also become an adventure destination in its own right. Travelers can book various activities either in or starting from Pokhara, including: whitewater rafting, paragliding, ultra flights, bungee jumping, zip lining, and local treks in the hills just outside the city. Hotels and guesthouses in the area can accommodate travelers of any budget, and the restaurants offer foreign and Nepali dishes. The nightlife in Pokhara is also lively and enjoyable in the many bars along the lake. So whether its an enjoyable place to relax after a long trek or a base for many adventures that people need, Pokhara can provide it.
Chitwan National Park lies about 150km south from Kathmandu. Nepal’s first national park, is home to roughly 125 Bengal tigers. Rhinoceros, crocodiles, deer and antelope, and over 500 species of birds also call Chitwan home. It is a birding paradise. Listed as the World Heritage site that protects over 932 sq km of forests, marshland and rippling grassland, and is home to sizeable wildlife populations. It’s little wonder this place is so popular among tourist for Jungle Safari, Elephant Ride, Canoe Ride, and Bird Watching.
Chitwan has been home to a very successful one-horned rhinoceros conservation project, and there are now well over 600 rhinos in the park. You are practically guaranteed a rhino sighting on a jungle safari, and you can also see a variety of bird life, elephants and the endangered gharial crocodile, as well as learn about the culture of the local Tharu people. The best option to explore Chitwan National Park is to stay in one of the luxury lodges located on the edge of the park away from the crowds at Sauraha. There are multiple lodges to choose from. However the government has banned the lodges from operating inside the park in 2012. Now most of these lodges operate from outside the national park. However Sauraha, a tourist village on the northern bank of the Rapti River, a border of the park has a buzzing backpacker scene, with plenty of budget hotels and lodges to choose from. The surrounding areas of Sauraha offer an insight into traditional Tharu culture and lifestyle. A Tharu museum displays the traditional tools and artifacts of Tharus, and while many enjoy its social nature – it's a great place to unwind watching the sunset over the river. Apart from that few km away from Sauraha lies the Elephant breeding farm and Gharial (Crocodile) breeding farm.
Ideal to plan a short-term holiday or you can include in your itinerary as part of your trekking holidays. Please note that the standard 3-nights/4-days packages is available either from Kathmandu or Pokhara, which require half a day of driving. Or you can take a short 25 mins flight from Kathmandu to Bharatpur. Consult your travel agent or write to us.
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