The Top 30 Things to Do in Nepal
Whether you are a foreigner living and working in Nepal or have a Nepali visa and want to travel the country, here are the top 30 things to do in this nascent republic.
1. Sightsee in Kathmandu
There are numerous places of religious, cultural and historical importance in Kathmandu. Most of the monuments, temples, monasteries and palaces in Kathmandu are from the 14th through the 18th century; however, some are more than 2,000 years old. Kathmandu Durbar Square, the medieval royal palace plaza, is the main tourist attraction in Kathmandu.
2. Sightsee in Patan
According to the Lonely Planet, Patan has a greater concentration of temples than any other city or town in Nepal. The four stupas built by Indian Emperor Ashoka, when he visited Patan in 249 BCE, are in the four corners of Patan city. Most of the Hindu and Buddhist temples in Patan are from the 8th through the 17th century. Durbar Square Patan, the Golden Temple (Hiranya Varna Mahavihar), the Kumbeshwar Temple and the Red Machhendranath Temple are some of the main attractions in Patan.
3. Sightsee in Bhaktapur
Nepal's government has tried to keep the city of Bhaktapur in its medieval state, which is why automobiles and modern constructions are prohibited in the town center. Bhaktapur is famous for its Royal Palace Plaza, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, ancient settlements and traditional farming.
4. Visit Stupas: The Buddhist Temples of Nepal
A stupa is a Buddhist temple design that consists of a white dome, gilded spire, brass canopy, prayer wheels and prayer flags. There are over 100 ancient stupas in Nepal. Some of the most famous ones, which are believed to be about 2,000 years old, are Boudhanath, Swayambhunath and Charumati Vihara. Boudhanath and Swayambhunath are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
5. Visit Pashupatinath and Other Hindu Temples
Nepal is a secular state with a predominantly Hindu and Buddhist population. There are more than 3,000 ancient Hindu Temples and over 1,200 Buddhist Temples and Monasteries in Nepal. Most of the Hindu Temples in Nepal are built in a pagoda design consisting of multi-tiered roofs, latticed windows and carved doors, all standing on multi-tiered plinths. Pashupatinath is the most important temple in Nepal.
6. Trek to the Everest Base Camp
A 30-minute flight from Kathmandu will take you to Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla (2,860 metres), which is one of the 10 deadliest airports in the world. You have to walk for eight days to reach Everest Base Camp. The alternate Everest Base Camp Trek, an 11-day walk, is from Lamosangu village, which is a three-hour drive from Kathmandu.
7. Go on an Everest Expedition
If you are a mountaineer, you should definitely try the Everest Expedition, which begins at Everest Base Camp (5,356 metres). Before you begin climbing, you have to acclimatize by climbing uphill and downhill for a few days to reach Kala Patthar (5,545m). Kala Patthar offers breathtaking views of Everest and other adjacent peaks. The first major hurdle to ascending Everest is Khumbu icefall (5,486 metres). If you are lucky enough to survive Khumbu icefall, you will have to climb further to four camps, the South Col (7,906m), the Hillary Step (8,760m) and finally to the summit (8,848m)
8. Visit the Namche Bazaar
Namche is a small town in the Everest region at an altitude of 3,440 metres. Namche is the gateway to the Everest Expedition and the Everest Base Camp Trek. If you are not a trekker or a mountaineer, you should experience the Everest region by travelling to Namche. Namche is a two-day walk from Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla.
9. Do the Annapurna Base Camp Trek
The trek to Annapurna Base Camp begins in Pokhara. From there, it takes about 8 days to reach Annapurna Base Camp.
10. Or the Annapurna Circuit Trek
The Annapurna Circuit Trek is one of the most popular trekking routes in Nepal and the world. It circumnavigates the entire Annapurna Range and takes almost 21 days to complete. The highest elevation along the Annapurna Circuit Trek is 5,416 metres at the Thorung La pass.
11. Or the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek
You can reach Annapurna Sanctuary via walking through a narrow pass between the Hiunchuli (6,441m) and Machapuchare (6,993m) mountains. Annapurna Sanctuary is a plateau that offers views of all the peaks in the Annapurna Mountain Range.
12. Hunt in the Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve
Nepal allows legal hunting in Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve. All you have to do is get permission from the Wildlife Conservation Department by paying USD $500. Hunting can be expensive because access to Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve is difficult. Be prepared to cover expenses for a helicopter.
Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, which is located in western Nepal, was established in 1982 and spreads over 1,325 square kilometers. At least 32 species of wildlife—including wild boar, red panda, snow leopard, bear, stag, blue sheep, etc.,—are found in Dhorpatan. However, you are not allowed to hunt anything other than blue sheep and wild boar.
There is also a trekking route from Dhorpatan to Dolpo, which is called the Guerrilla Track, named after the Maoist guerrillas who traveled this route during the armed insurgency (1996–2006). Recently, Nepal's government has announced Dhaulagiri-Dhorpatan as the new travel destination. Dhaulagiri (8,167 metres / 26,795 feet) is one of the eight highest mountains in Nepal.
13. Take a Jungle Safari in Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park was a royal hunting reserve before it was turned into a National Park in 1973. King George V and his son hunted down 18 rhinoceros in Chitwan Jungle when they visited Nepal in 1911. Chitwan National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to 2011 census, there are 501 rhinos and 125 tigers in Chitwan National park.
You can reach Chitwan National Park via 6-hour bus ride or a 25-minute flight and a 15-minute drive.
Things to do in Chitwan National Park:
- Go boating on the Narayani River
- Watch crocodiles on the Rapti River
- Take a jungle safari on an elephant's back
- Take a jungle safari in a jeep
- Visit the elephant breeding centre
- Take in a Tharu cultural show
14. Take a Jungle Safari in Bardia National Park
Touted as the best place on earth to spot royal Bengal Tigers, Bardia National Park is home to 250 species of birds, tigers, rhinos, wild elephants, swamp deer and black bucks. If you are lucky, you might even spot a herd of wild elephants.
15. Go Bird Watching
It has been found that birds migrate to Nepal from Tibet by crossing the Himalayas. Some migratory birds come to Nepal from as far away as Siberia. There are over 900 species of birds in Nepal (which accounts for 10 percent of the bird species in the entire world). Over 500 species of birds have been recorded in Kathmandu Valley alone.
Are You an Avid Birder?
Some popular Nepali bird-watching spots are:
Koshi Tappu National Park
Shivapuri National Park
Chitwan National Park
Bardiya National Park
The Annapurna Conservation Area
16. Sightsee in Pokhara
Pokhara is a city of lakes, caves and mountains. It is also the gateway to short treks such as Ghandruk and Ghorepani and long treks such as Annapurna. When you are in Pokhara, don’t miss a walk to Sarangkot.
Things to do in Pokhara:
- Visit the International Mountain Museum
- Go rafting on the Kali Gandaki and Seti rivers
- Take a walk to Poon Hill
- Visit the Peace Temple
- Go boating on Phewa and Begnas Lake
- Go paragliding
- Visit the Gurkha Memorial Museum
- Visit the Annapurna Butterfly Museum
- Visit the Shree Gaden Dhargay Ling Monastery
- Check out Devi's Fall
- Walk through the Bat Cave
17. Take a Mountain Flight
Nepal has some of the best trekking routes in the world. However, for those who want to see the mighty Himalayas but cannot trek anywhere near them, mountain flights are an excellent option! Mountain flights offer eye-level views of the mountains from a close range. During mountain flights, planes fly at an average altitude of 7,000 m. A one-hour flight in the morning takes you near the following mountains:
and many more!
18. Go Peak Climbing
Almost 18 peaks are open for alpine Climbing in Nepal. You can obtain permission from the Nepal Mountaineering Association (note: the charges differ depending on the peak). However, you have to take care; climbing these minor peaks—sometimes known as Trekking Peaks—requires snow climbing experience, as some sections feature very challenging snow and ice climbing. A few of these minor peaks are:
- Chulu East (6,584 m)
- Mera Peak (6,654 m)
- Yala Peak (5,732 m)
- Imja Tse (6,183 m)
- Paldor Peak (5,896 m)
- Tharpu Chuli (5,663 m)
19. Try Mountain Biking
Nepali terrain consists of flatlands, hills and mountains, thus providing wonderful adventure for mountain bikers. Whether you choose a bicycle or a motorcycle, you can find numerous routes to explore Nepal. Depending on your stamina and interest, you can choose either short or long routes. If you dare, you can even try motorbiking on the Himalayan plateau.
20. Go Rock Climbing
If you love adventure sports, rock climbing is for you. In Nepal, you can climb either artificial walls or natural hills. The artificial rock climbing wall in Kathmandu is in Chabahil and is maintained by the Pasang Lamhu Foundation. In Pokhara, the artificial rock climbing wall is at the Mountaineering Museum.
Nagarjuna Forest and Shivapuri Forest also serve as rock climbing destinations. A rock climbing itinerary to Nagarjuna and Shivapuri can be combined with hiking and bird watching.
21. Take a Hike
If you think full-on trekking is not your cup of tea, try hiking. Some of the popular hiking routes near Kathmandu are:
- Nagarjuna Hike (5 hrs)
- White Monastery Hike (4 hrs)
- Sundarijal-Chisapani Hike (3 hrs)
- Nagarkot Hike (5 hrs)
- Namobuddha Hike (4 hrs)
- and Changunarayan Hike (4 hrs)
Hiking routes near Pokhara include:
- Sarangkot Hiking (6–7 hrs)
- World Peace Pagoda Hiking (4–5 hrs)
- Naudanda-Sarankot Hiking (6–7 hrs)
22. Go Whitewater Rafting or Kayaking
Nepal is a mountainous country, and hence the ideal place for whitewater rafting and kayaking. There are many long and short river routes for rafting and kayaking in Nepal.
23. Go Paragliding
Some people who love extreme adventure have done paragliding from the mountains. However, if you think this is too risky, you may paraglide from Sarangkot over beautiful Pokhara Valley or towards the Annapurna mountain range. Paragliding from Sarangkot Hill near Pokhara is one of the best ways to experience the mountains and the Himalayas.
There are two options for paragliding: you can take a free-flying foot-launched aircraft or a non-motorized foot-launched inflatable wind glider. In both cases, you will have a trained pilot to assist you. Alternatively, you can also take a 10-day course and do paragliding alone.
24. Try Bungee Jumping
Want an adrenaline rush? Try bungee jumping. The bungee jump over Bhote Koshi River is one of the top 10 bungee jumps in the world! The bungee site is situated near the Nepal-Tibet border above the Bhote Kosi River.
25. Participate in Nepali Festivals
If your visit to Nepal coincides with any of the hundreds of festivals in Nepal, try to become a part of the celebration. Some major festivals in Nepal include:
- New Year's Day (April 14)
- Buddha Jayanti: The Birthday of Lord Buddha (May 24)
- Machchendranath Rath Jatra (May–June)
- Gaijatra (August)
- Krishnashtami (August–September)
- Father's Day (August–September)
- Indra Jatra (September)
- Bada Dashain (October–November)
- Tihar (Diwali) (October–November)
- Maha Shivaratri: The Birth Night of Lord Shiva) (February–March)
- Holi: Festival of Colors (March)
- Mother’s Day (March)
26. Meditate at the Nepal Vipassana Center
The Nepal Vipassana Centre situated in Budhanilkantha, Kathmandu, is the best place to attend a free meditation course. You can attend a free 10-day residential Vipassana meditation course at the Nepal Vipassana Centre.
27. Visit Lumbini
Nepal marked 2012 as the "Visit Lumbini" year. Lumbini is the birthplace of the Buddha. There are many religious and archeological sites in Lumbini.
28. Eat Momo
Try momo, which is sold in all kinds of eateries, from roadside food stalls to the extravagant restaurants in five-star hotels. Momo is the Nepali version of Asian dumplings. Momos are made by stuffing meat, vegetable or dairy products inside a dough ball, which is then steamed or fried.
29. Go Fishing
Nepal is an ideal place for sport fishing because it's home to over 4,000 rivers and thousands of lakes. In the rivers that run through the Himalayas, you can find mahseer, snow trout, freshwater eel and catfish. Angling in rivers like the Gandaki, Koshi and Karnali is the experience of a lifetime. You can also team up with fishing communities such Bote, Majhi, Tharu and Machhuwar. You can even combine your fishing trip with rafting.
30. Walk the King’s Way
Walk around Rani Pokhari, the Queen’s Pond, Ghantaghar-clock tower, and then to Durbar Marg, the King’s Way. In the Durbar Marg, you can find some of the finest hotels, shopping centers and restaurants in Nepal. Narayanhiti Palace—the residence of the kings of Nepal until 2008—is on the King’s Way. Narayanhiti Palace has now been converted into a museum.
A Brief History of Modern Nepal
Before the arrival of Christian missionaries Gruber and Doraville in 1662, no Westerner had traveled to Nepal. The first Missionary office was established in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, 40 years later in 1722.
When Prithvi Narayan Shah, the founder of modern Nepal, took over Kathmandu in 1769, he banished all Christians and closed the country to foreigners.
In 1816, Nepal lost a war with Britain. The newly signed treaty made Nepal accept its first foreign diplomatic mission.
Nepal established diplomatic ties with the United States in 1947. Nevertheless, Nepal was still closed for the Westerners. This changed in 1950, when a revolution marked the beginning of modern Nepal. Westerners quickly began flocking to Nepal to explore its mountains. Today, tourism is the second largest revenue-generating sector in Nepal.