Things to Do in Nepal
Thamel is the beating heart of Kathmandu’s traveler scene. Hiking and rafting businesses, hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, and souvenir shops are jam-packed into the narrow streets of Thamel. While Thamel is hardly typical of the rest of Kathmandu, it’s a lively place to spend time, and is convenient for planning your travels around Nepal.
Pilgrims from Nepal and India flock to Pashupatinath Temple, the holiest Hindu site in Nepal. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and is on the banks of the holy Bagmati River. Pashupatinath is also where many Hindu Nepalis come to die and be cremated.
The heart of Kathmandu, the Kathmandu Durbar Square (Basantapur) is a vibrant public square was once the Kathmandu Kingdom royal residence. It has one of the world’s highest concentrations of well-preserved ancient buildings, making for a stunning open-air museum. Although the square was damaged during the 2015 earthquakes, there is still an array of architectural gems to see.
One of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world, Boudhanath is a major pilgrimage point near Kathmandu. Every day, Buddhists fill the square to light incense, turn prayer wheels, and perform kora (clockwise circumambulations) around the monument. Rebuilt after the 2015 earthquake, the stupa is one of Nepal's most unmissable attractions.
Sagarmatha is the Nepali name for Mount Everest, and the Sagarmatha National Park is where the tallest mountain in the world sits. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is full of natural wonders: other high mountains, trekking trails, diverse wildlife, and Sherpa culture. It’s Nepal’s most popular trekking destination.
Lukla is the gateway to the Everest region of Nepal, and most travelers who visit Sagarmatha National Park and Everest Base Camp pass through Lukla. This small town perched on the side of a mountain is also known to have one of the most dangerous airports in the world, although most flights do arrive without incident.
Bhaktapur, once medieval Kathmandu Valley’s seat of power, earns its accolade as Nepal’s best-preserved city. The earthquake of 2015 claimed many historic buildings, but the one-time flourishing kingdom is still packed with old-world charm. Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and heart of the city, is well-worth a visit.
The oldest shrine complex in the Kathmandu Valley, Swayambhunath Temple (sometimes called the Monkey Temple) was said to have been built over 2,000 years ago. Situated at the top of a winding staircase, Swayambhunath has one of the city’s best panoramic views. The complex, containing multiple shrines and a stupa, is considered holy to both Buddhists and Hindus.
Namche Bazaar is a small, busy market town perched high in the Himalayas. It’s been on trade routes to Tibet for many centuries, and is now an essential stopping point on hikes in the Everest (Khumbu) region. As it’s located at 11,286 feet (3,440 meters), hikers and climbers stop at Namche to acclimatize before heading higher into the mountains.
Patan, also called Lalitpur, was once a separate kingdom from Kathmandu, with its own kings, culture, and traditions. Now, it is essentially the southern part of Kathmandu city. With its strong Newari culture, exquisite temples, and vibrant handicrafts traditions, it’s a favorite day trip destination for travelers to Kathmandu.
More Things to Do in Nepal
Mt. Everest is probably the most famous mountain on Earth, and, at 29,029 feet (8,848 meters), it is certainly the highest in the world. The peak sits on the border between Nepal and the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China, and is called Sagarmatha in Nepali and Chomolangma or Qomolangma in the Sherpa and Tibetan languages.
Many travelers think of snow-capped mountains when they think of Nepal, but the Chitwan National Park couldn’t be further from that image. Located on the Terai—the once jungle-filled plains of southern Nepal bordering India—Chitwan is famed for its jungle activities, and sightings of the 1-horned rhinoceros are almost guaranteed.
Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park is in the north of the Kathmandu Valley, a chance to enjoy nature close to the city. There are many hiking and mountain biking trails through the park, and on a clear day visitors can see snow-capped mountains to the north. It’s a great place to come for a quick escape from Kathmandu, or to embark on a longer trek.
The Changu Narayan Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu and is thought to be the oldest temple in Nepal. Parts of it date back to the third century, but most of the structure and its decorations date from between the fourth and 18th centuries. It’s uncrowded, and a nice destination from Bhaktapur.
Sundarijal is a village in Gokarneshwar Municipality to the north of Kathmandu, and on the edge of the Shivapuri National Park. Sundarijal means “beautiful water,” and the area is known for its waterfalls. Many visitors come to Sundarijal while hiking and mountain biking in the Shivapuri area.
In the middle of dusty, traffic-clogged central Kathmandu is the neoclassical Garden of Dreams. The garden and pavilions were created in the 1920s as private gardens, but now they’re open to the public and provide a peaceful contrast to the busy streets outside.
This tiny village just north of Pokhara is known for its stunning sunrises over the Annapurna Mountains. Travelers get incredible views and a taste of local village life during an overnight stay at this popular destination.
Visit the Shiva temple tucked away on the mountaintop, soak up stunning views of Phewa Lake and look for indigenous birds, leopards and tigers roaming through the natural landscapes. Adrenaline junkies can also paraglide from Sarangot, or fly down the world’s fastest zipline, which starts at the top of this famous mountain.
According to Hindu lore the goddess Bhagwati, an incarnation of Parvati, grants wishes to those who make a sacrifice in her name. Newlyweds praying for children and other favor seekers visit Manakamana Temple, located in Nepal’s Gorkha district, to do just that, often in the form of a goat sacrifice made in a pavilion behind the temple.
The pagoda-style temple has a history dating back to the seventeenth century, but the structure as it stands in its current form was built in the nineteenth century. While worshipers and visitors once had to make an arduous trek up uphill, today the temple is serviced by the Austrian-designed Manakamana Cable Car now makes the 1.7-mile (2.8-kilometer) journey in less than 10 minutes. From the top, the temple offers spectacular views of the Trisuli and Marshyang-di River valleys as well as the peaks of Manaslu, Himalchuli and Annapurna.
Phakding is a small village in the Everest region. It’s one of the first places that many hikers stop on the Everest Base Camp trek. Situated at 8,530 feet (2,600 meters), it’s at a lower elevation than Lukla—where the airport is—and thus an ideal place to acclimatize before heading higher into the mountains.
Dakshinkali Temple, 14 miles (22 kilometers) south of central Kathmandu and on the edge of the Kathmandu Valley, is a sacred Hindu temple famous for one thing. Twice a week, male goats and roosters are sacrificed here to the goddess Kali, who is said to be hungry for blood. Visitors can watch this event at the temple in the hills.
The Annapurna Mountain Range(Annapurna Massif) is situated in the Himalayas in Nepal and consists of several peaks, with the tallest reaching a height of over 8,000 meters. The mountains and the regions surrounding them are protected by the Annapurna Conservation Area, which is the largest conservation area in Nepal.
The region is naturally a popular area for trekking; the Annapurna Circuit trek circles the Annapurna Range, taking in some stunning Himalayan views and passing through hot springs, rhododendron forests and tiny hamlets along the way. The Annapurna Sanctuary Trek leads up to the Annapurna Base Camp, and there are also a number of smaller and slightly less challenging trails.
Patan’s Krishna Temple (Krishna Mandir) is one of Kathmandu’s finest temples, and unlike most in Nepal, which are usually made from carved wood and brick, Krishna is made of finely crafted stone. Built in 1637, it stands unique in the middle of Patan Durbar Square and is a highlight of a visit to Patan.
Hanuman Dhoka is Kathmandu’s royal palace, once the seat of power for the kingdom. Home to the royal courts of both Malla and Shah dynasties, it was built during the fourth and eighth centuries and is an important part of Kathmandu’s UNESCO-listed Durbar (or “palace”) Square. Although damaged in the 2015 earthquake, it remains a must-see site.
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