Nepal is a landlocked country between India and Tibet and only opened its doors to tourism in the 1950’s. Its wonderful to see that Nepal hasn’t been strongly influenced by western culture and still holds it’s values and traditions very close.
After you have explored what Kathmandu has to offer it’s time to explore the rest of the country.
While in Nepal I generally spend most of my time in Kathmandu, but I have also still had plenty of time to discover many other areas of this beautiful land.
Here are a few of my favourites:
Pokhara: First things first, I need to tell you about Pokhara… No trip to Nepal would be complete without a visit to this little lakeside town. Pokhara is located approximately 200km from Kathmandu. There are two ways to get there, one is by bus. This is by far the cheapest option but can take anywhere between 5 to 8 hours to reach. The time will depend on traffic, if there are any road blocks and the weather. You can also fly, which takes about 1 hours but although the flight is quicker remember it’s quite possible you could be held up in the airport for hours. I’ve done both and flying was definitely easier. But not as adventurous as sitting on a bus, slowly squeezing past trucks on each narrow corner, while looking out the window, over the edge and seeing vehicles that have previously crashed into the tree tops… ah yeah so a bit scary.
There are heaps of accommodation options in Pokhara, if you haven’t pre booked anything just go for a walk up the main street and take your pick. Hotel staff will generally be happy to negotiate a price and of course let you see the rooms before you decide.
Things to do:
Sarangkot Lookout – Wake up early and get yourself to the top of the lookout before the sun starts to rise. It’s easy enough to organise a car to take you up or you could hike up. I suggest getting a car up and hiking back down. Pokhara is the gateway to the Annapurna trekking circuit, so the Himalayas are literally right there. So big and bold you’ll feel like you can reach out and touch them. Even if you love your sleep you won’t regret getting up early to watch the sun rise over these majestic mountains.
World Peace Pagoda – Gifted to Nepal by the Japanese, this Buddhist stupa sits on a hilltop overlooking Pokhara valley, with breathtaking views of the Himalayas and Phewa Lake. It’s a very peaceful area and while walking around the stupa it’s appropriate to stay very quiet.
Row Boats – There are many boats on Phewa Lake so if you love the water, you can hire someone to take you for a row. There’s a temple in the middle of the lake where you can get off and take a look around. But beware of the many many pigeons and all their pooping
Yoga – There are heaps of yoga retreats and studios in Pokhara, some better than others. So why not take advantage of the relaxed atmosphere and book in for a couple of yoga classes.
Food – There’s so many great restaurants in Pokhara, you’ll never go hungry. A couple of my favourites are Moondance restaurant & bar and Lakeside Pizzeria.
Nagarkot: This small town is located 32 km from Kathmandu & is easy enough to get to by bus or booking a taxi to take you there. Unfortunately this area was hit hard in the 2015 earthquakes; many of the hotels were severely damaged. I’ve been to Nagarkot before and after the quake and I can assure you this area is still worth a visit. Nothing can change the incredible mountain views this area has to offer.
One night in Nagarkot is enough. After arriving & checking into your hotel, go for a walk through the gorgeous villages. Then be back in time for an evening beer while watching the sun creep down behind the mountains.
In the morning, assuming you’re not sick of sun and mountains, wake up nice and early for sun rise. Depending on where your hotel is, you could take in the views from your rooftop or head to a lookout point. Not many places in the world can offer mountain views like Nepal, so take advantage of every moment, because tomorrow you might wake up and it’s cloudy.
Cable Car up to Manakamana Temple: The beginning of the cable car is approximately 4.5 hours from Kathmandu and the trip up cost 20USD for foreigners. The steep incline of the cable car offer’s awesome views of the area and travels over the Trishuli River. Once up the top you’re greeted with a busy little town. Manakamana is the name of a Hindu god who fulfils wishes to her devotees. In the centre of town we were aware of the large Hindu temple and thought this is would be cool to check out. After a number of visits to Nepal we were excited to explore a new area. After stepping of the Cable car we quickly realise the temple was no more. Our friend Krishna, who had organised the trip, casually mentioned that the temple was damaged by the earthquake. This to us is more than damaged, it was destroyed. Slightly frustrating that we weren’t told this information before we left, we still planned on making the most of our time there. They were in the process of re-building the temple when we were there, hopefully that won’t take too long.
We stayed in Manakamana for one night. We spent the afternoon hiking though villages, greeting locals and enjoying the fresh mountain air (a nice change from Kathmandu). No surprise the next morning we got up early to take in the mountain views at sun rise. We were in Manakamana during the Dashain festival, a 15 day Hindu festival where devotees sacrifice a large number of animals, especially goats. We saw this happen a number of times, right in town, next to the temples. So if you’re visiting during this time and are a bit squeamish…. Beware!
Gorkha: After our time in Manakamana we headed 12km south to Gorkha town. There is the option to hike between the two locations and I’m told this takes a few hours. We spent a couple of days exploring the town, hiking though villages and visiting museums. The highlight of our time in Gorkha was visiting the Royal Palace. This is the oldest palace in Nepal and was home to Nepal’s first king. You’ll need to walk up many steps to reach the top but the views from there are well worth it, on a clear day you’ll get amazing views of the Himalayas. The palace isn’t too big so it doesn’t take too much time to explore the whole area. The palace did sustain some damage on the roof after the earth quake but it’s definitely still worth a visit. The hotel we stayed in was Gorkha Inn Village Hotel, it was really nice and had a lovely eating area in the back garden. The food was really good there to and they had plenty of cold beer.
Chitwan National Park: Chitwan is location 158km away from Kathmandu and in Nepal time will take about 6 hours to reach by bus. There isn’t an airport here so if coming from Kathmandu a bus or private car is your only option. I haven’t been to Chitwan for a few years but I do have very fond memories of it. It’s a beautiful and peaceful area, surrounded by lush jungle. You can explore the jungle two ways, walking or elephant back. We did both last time but now being more educated on how elephants are treated in captivity when being used for human entertainment, I wouldn’t do it again. So I suggest now to go for a hike. If someone tells you that you may run into a tiger, don’t stress they’re lying. The chances of you running into a Tiger in this particular national park are slim to none. You’d have to head west to Bardiya National Park if you were looking for Tigers.
The Narayani River runs through Chitwan National Park and hosts the perfect spot for an afternoon drink. Beware though, there’s a good chance you’ll see Crocodile’s swimming by.
White Water Rafting on Trishuli River: There are many tour operators offering 2-3 days rafting trips; it’s one of the most popular activities to do in Nepal. I did this a few years ago. It was a full two days of rafting and one night camping on the river banks. The Trishuli river can be very rough so your definitely going to get the full ‘white water rafting’ experience. I had a great weekend on the river but it’s something I’m happy enough never do again. At one point our guide was questioning whether it was safe enough for us to pass this one particular area of the river. After having a good look at the currents, they decided it was safe enough for us to pass through. Now our boat may have just been the unlucky one, but we hit a rough spot and I went flying out, getting stuck in a rapid under water, I felt like I was under water for ages & literally thought I was going to die. Eventually I popped up, unharmed and our guide pulled me back into the boat with a rope. At that point I was very pleased with myself for listening to the safety instructions at the beginning of the day. After that I was still determined to finish the weekend but definitely feel like that’s something I’ve done properly in life.
Trekking – I haven’t had a chance yet to do a full on trek, it’s definitely on my to do list. If you’re interested in something shorter and at a much lower altitude, there are plenty of treks and hikes that can be done just outside the valley & can be done within 3 days. We did a 2nights / 3 days trek. We walked though Chisapani and Nagarkot, finishing in Bhaktapur. Our meals were provided and we stayed at local guesthouses. If you’re interested in something like this I really recommend booking it through a local travel agent in Nepal. Apart from the fact you’ll save heaps of money, you’ll be sure to receive more local insight and a more authentic trip. Plus these people work tirelessly for business so it’s good to help the local economy.
The best time of year to trek in Nepal is April/May or October.
I could seriously go on all day about Nepal so if you have any questions or want any further information please feel free to contact me!
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