12 Top Experiences in Nepal
Nepal is a land of snow peaks and Sherpas, monasteries and mantras. Then there are the shops and cafes of Kathmandu, the temple towns of Patan, Bhaktapur and Bodhnath, wildlife safaris in Chitwan National Park and much more..
1 Durbar Square, Kathmandu
The historic centre of old Kathmandu, Durbar Square is an open-air architectural museum of magnificent medieval temples, pagodas and shrines. Once occupied by Nepal’s cloistered royal family and still home to the Kumari, Kathmandu’s very own living goddess, it is very much the sacred heart of the city and the backdrop to several spectacular festivals.
The iconic whitewashed stupa of Swayambhunath is both a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of Nepal’s most sacred Buddhist shrines. Beneath the iconic, all-seeing eyes of the towering stupa lies and eclectic mishmash of prayer flags, Buddha statues and Tibetan chapels. Pilgrims wander around shrines, spinning prayer wheels and murmuring mantras, while nearby astrologers read palms and shopkeepers sell magic amulets and sacred beads. Come at dusk for spectacular views over the city lights of Kathmandu.
Kathmandu’s sister city Patan doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It is home to the central Durbar Square and the Patan Museum, easily the best in the country. Throw in four ancient stupas and the Valley’s best collection of international restaurants and it’s clear you need a couple of trips to take it all in. Even better, spend the night here and you’ll likely have the backstreets all to yourself.
4 Chitwan National Park
In the humid plains of Nepal lies Chitin National Park, one of Asia’s best wildlife parks. Chitwan is just the place to head into the dawn mist in search of the elusive one-horned rhino. There’s plenty to do here, from joining the elephants at bath time, to canoeing down the river in search of the endangered Gharial Crocodile. The brave can even take a jungle walk through the jungle surrounded by all the hoots and roars of the forest.
Of the Kathmandu’s Valley’s medieval towns, Bhaktapur is easily the most intact and bursting with temples and pagodas. Winding backstreets of traditional red-brick buildings lead onto monumental squares used by locals for drying corn and, most famously, making pottery. The traffic-free streets offer a fabulous scope for exploration on foot. For the full experience stay overnight in a traditional guesthouse or attend one of the city’s spectacular festivals.
6 Everest Mountain Flight
For those who don’t want to trek, the one-hour scenic flight form Kathmandu is the next best option. Get ready for an adrenaline rush as the plane banks steeply out of the Valley and you are soon surrounded by Himalayan giants. The plane flies within five nautical miles of Everest for a jaw-dropping view of the world’s highest mountain. All passengers are guaranteed a window seat.
7 Whitewater Rafting on the Trisuli River
Nepal is one of the world’s best rafting and kayaking destinations. A rafting day-trip or even a Kayak clinic on the warm waters of the Trisuli River is ideal for first timers. Base yourself at one of the several comfortable riverside camps and take a few days to learn about Eskimo rolls and eddies. During the mid-monsoon months (August to early October) the Trisuli changes character completely, as huge runoffs make the river swell like an immense ribbon of churning ocean, especially after int’s confluence with the Bhodi Gandaki. At these flows it provides a classic big-volume Himalayan river, so make sure you book with Third EyeAdventure, to ensure you in safe hands.
8 Bodnath Stupa
Bodnath is the centre of Nepal’s Tibetan community and home to Asia’s largest stupa, a spectacular white dome and spire that draws pilgrims from hundreds of kilometres around. Equally fascinating are the surrounding streets, bustling with monks and lined with Tibetan monasteries and shops, selling prayer wheels and incense. Come at dawn or dusk and join the Tibetan pilgrims as they light a butter lamp and walk around the stupa on their daily kora (ritual circumambulation).
9 Shopping at Thamel
The narrow streets of Thamel, the tourist are of Kathmandu, have an amazing array of shops. From puppets to pashminas, embroidery to jewellery, tea, spices, trekking equipment, Buddhist art, electronics, books, Thamel has it all. The shops are crammed close to each other and the best way to see the wares is to dip in and out of stores as you walk.
10 Pashupatinath Temple
Nepal’s most sacred Hindu temple, Pashupatinath is situated on the banks of the Bagmati River. Only Hindus are allowed to enter this temple, where Shiva is worshipped as Pashupati, Lord of the Beasts. Sadhus and devotees of Shiva flock to Pashupatinath and many Nepalis choose to be cremated on the banks of the holy river. There is a thriving market around the temple selling marigolds, incense, conch shells, rudraksha beads, photos of deities and other religious paraphernalia.
11 Views from Pokhara
Pokhara may lack the historical depth of Kathmandu, but it more than makes up for this with a seductively laid-back vibe and one of the country’s most spectacular locations. The dawn views of Machhapuchhare (Fish Tail) and Annapurna, mirrored in the calm waters of Phewa Lake or from the town’s hilltop viewpoints, particularly Sarangkot, are simply unforgettable!
12 Everest Base Camp Trek
For many people, the two-week everest base camp Trek (Read more here), is the adventure of a lifetime. The trek to the base of the world’s highest mountain does not offer particularly spectacular views of Everest itself, as the mountain is often hidden behind ridges, but the surrounding peaks like Pumori, Ama Dablam, Kangtega and Thamserku piercing the clouds are truly awe-inspiring. The half-hour you spend atop Kala Pattar watching the sunset on a 180-degree arc of peaks is worth the uphill struggle. At the end of the day, you can return at one of the many comfortable lodges along the way and unwind with a cup of tea and a hot dal-bhaat meal.
This is but a small selection from an ever growing list of spectacular sights to be seen in Nepal, Stay tuned for more.