Nepal is the ultimate destination for mountain expeditions, peak climbing, trekking, white water rafting, jungle safari etc. There are many things to do in Nepal. You can bungee jump over a gorge, fly to Everest, paraglide over beautiful valleys and lakes, see one-horned rhinos and royal Bengal tigers, travel to Lumbini the Birthplace of the Buddha and visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites. For someone who has lived in Nepal all his life, it is difficult to shortlist places to see in Nepal. However, I have tried to summarize some of the best places to see in Nepal. I hope this has something for everyone.
Durbar Squares, the medieval Royal Palace Plazas, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Cultural Importance. There are three Durbar Squares in Kathmandu Valley, which are highly recommended places to see in Kathmandu.
#1 Kathmandu Durbar Square
The landmarks in Kathmandu Durbar Square include 3 palaces and over 50 temples, which belong to 14th through 19th century. You can also visit Freak Street famous for Nepali handicrafts, wood and stone carvings, traditional paintings, budget restaurants and hotels, and tea and coffee shops. Freak Street takes name from the hippies who visited Nepal in 60’s and 70’s when marijuana was free in Nepal.
#2 Durbar Square Patan
The medieval royal palace in Durbar Square Patan is best place to see Nepali art and architecture. There are numerous Hindu and Buddhist temples in the Durbar Square courtyard and the adjacent areas.
#3 Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Bhaktapur is the only city in Nepal, which is preserved in its medieval structure. There are two palaces and numerous Hindu and Buddhist temples in Bhaktapur Durbar Square.
Kirkpatrick, the 19th century British historian and anthropologist, once said there are more temples in Kathmandu than the number of houses and more deities than the people.
#4 Pashupatinath Temple
Whether you are Hindu or not, visiting Pashupatinath is one of the best things to do in Nepal. Aryaghat, an open air Hindu Crematorium in Pashupatinath Temple complex, is the perfect place to observe Hindu death rites.
#5 Changunarayan Temple
Changunarayan Temple, which was built in 5th century AD, is one the Ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Nepal. The temple is located on a hillock in Changu village, about 22 km east of Kathmandu. Ther museum near Changunarayan Temple, which is in a 170 years old house, displays leather coins dating back to 2nd century, more than two hundred years old rice, rhino-skin shields etc.
The stone idol of Lord Vishnu in Budhanilkantha Temple is magnificent. The Temple is on the foothill of Shivapuri National Park, about 8 km north of Kathmandu. Shivapuri National Park is a wonderful short hiking destination and one of the best places in the country for bird watching. You can also visit Nepal Vipassana Center, which is on the way to the park, for Buddhist Meditation.
Nepal is the birthplace of the Buddha. There are more than 12 hundred ancient Buddhist temples in Nepal. Some of the Buddhist Temples are more than two thousand years old.
Boudhanath is 36 meters tall and 120 meters wide Buddhist Temple in Kathmandu, which is one of the largest Buddhist Stupa in the world. The area in and around Boudhanath is Nepal’s and the World’s largest Tibetan settlement out of Tibet.
Swayambhunath, often referred as the Monkey Temple by the Westerners, is believed to be two thousand years old, however, the present Stupa was built in 14th century after it was destroyed by a Muslim invader.
#9 Maya Devi Temple
Maya Devi Temple in Lumbini is dedicated to the Buddha’s mother. The structures in Maya Devi Temples dates back to 3rd century BCE to 4th CE.
#10 Namo Buddha
Namo Buddha is important tourist attractions in Nepal. It is about 40 km east of Kathmandu city. You can do many things in Namo Buddha such as pay homage to the Buddha, visit Thrangu Tashi Yangtse Monastery, and go for sightseeing or short hike.
Buddhist Monasteries in Nepal are the centers for Buddhist worshiping, meditation, learning and recreation.
#11 White Monastery
White Monastery, which is north-west of Swayambhunath, is a center for Buddhist meditation, rituals, worshiping and learning. The monastery also serves as a retreat center for the Westerners interested in Buddhism.
# 12 Kopan Monastery
The Kopan Monastery and its sister nunnery Khachoe Ghakyil Nunnery are situated on the Kopan hill couple of miles east of Boudhanath. Kopan Monastery offers Tibetan Buddhism course and residential Buddhist Meditation.
#13 Tengboche Monastery
Tengboche Monastery is in Khumbu valley, in Sagarmatha National Park. If you are interested in Tibetan Buddhism Rituals, Tengboche Monastery is the best place to observe the rituals.
National Parks, Wildlife Reserves and Protected Areas
There are eight national parks, four wildlife reserves, four conservation areas and one hunting reserve in Nepal.
# 14 Sagarmatha National Park
Sagarmatha National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mount Everest, Mount Nuptse, Mount Loptse, Gokyo Lakes, Khumbu Valley, Ambulapcha-La hiking trail etc. are the main attractions of Sagarmatha National Park.
#15 Royal Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park covers 932 sq. km., and is a home to one-horned rhinos, Royal Bengal Tigers, crocodiles, wild elephants and 450 species of birds. Chitwan National Park is World Heritage Site.
#16 Annapurna Conservation Area
Annapurna Conservation Area, which is at the altitude of 1150 – 8091 meters, covers 7692 sq. km. Many of the world’s popular trekking routes, Kali Gandaki Gorge, the world’s deepest gorge, and Annapurna Mountains lie in Annapurna Conservation Area.
#17 Royal Bardia National Park
Bardia is considered the best place on earth to spot Royal Bengal Tiger. There are about 100 Tigers and 75 wild elephants in Bardia.
#18 Langtang National Park
After Everest and Annapurna, Langtang is the most popular trekking destination in Nepal. Trek to Langtang ends with a visit to Langtang National Park. Some of the mountains in Langtang National Park are Langtang (7227 meters) and Dorje Lakpa (6966 meters). Langtang National Park is a stop for the birds migrating between Tibet and India.
#19 Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve
Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve lies in the plains of seven Koshi rivers, one of the three main tributaries of the Ganges. The Wildlife reserve is a home to rare wild water buffaloes. Koshi Tappu is one of the best bird watching places on earth. The migratory birds come from as far as Siberia.
#20 Godavari Botanical Garden
The only botanical garden in Nepal, Godavari Botanical Garden is on the foothill of Phulchowki (2715 m), and about 18 km south from Kathmandu. The 82 hectors of land is home to over 500 species of plants. The botanical garden has a wonderful collection of rhododendrons, lilies, orchids, cacti and ferns. If you want, you can also hike to Phulchoki mountain.
City Tours in Kathmandu Valley
# 21 Thamel
Thamel is a tourist hub in Kathmandu famous for budget hotels, curio shops and the likes. If you are in Thamel, make sure you visit Keshar Library, the oldest library in Nepal, and the Garden of Dreams. The Garden of Dreams is touted as one of the best city enclaves in the world. It was built more than 200 years ago.
# 22 Narayanihiti Palace
In 2001, the then Crown Prince Dipendra committed patricide, matricide and suicide inside Narayanihiti Royal Palace. Narayanihiti was the official residence of the Kings of Nepal for 100 years. After the kingship was overthrown in 2008, Narayanihiti Royal Palace was converted into a museum. It showcases the belongings of the royals and marks the spot where the king, queen and the prince died. The interior of the palace museum has extravagant décor.
Kirtipur is an ancient town in Kathmandu valley. You can see ancient shrines, old houses and the ruins of medieval palaces and other structures in Kirtipur.
#24 The Central Zoo
Take a break from hustle and bustle of city and spend a day in Central zoo. The only zoo in Nepal, which is one of the best well managed zoos in South Asia, has a wonderful collection of tiger, black bear, rhino, etc.
#25 The National Museum
The National Museum is a couple of miles from Swyambhunath. The museum displays weapons and artifacts belonging to ancient and medieval times. There is also a vehicle donated by Adolf Hitler to the King of Nepal.
#26 Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum is 15 minutes walk from Swyambhunath. You can see rare specimens of butterflies, fish, reptiles, birds, mammals, plants and a variety of fossils collected within the country.
Walk in the narrow alley of Ason and Indrachowk. Ason and Indrachowk are some of the ancient neighborhoods in Kathmandu valley. Asan is the best place to buy and sell produce. Annapurna Temple and Ganesh Shrine are in Asan.
Mountains in Nepal
One third of the world Himalayan Mountain Range (about 800 kilometers) is in Nepal. The Himalayan Mountain Range in Nepal has ten of the fourteen World’s Highest Mountains. Over 1500 mountains in Nepal are above 5000 meters.
Everest, one of the youngest mountains in the world, is also the highest point on earth. It is 8848 meters from the sea level, some say it has gone up by two meters. If you are not a mountaineer but want to experience Everest, you can take a mountain flight or trek to Everest Base Camp.
Kanchenjunga is Nepal’s second and the world’s third highest mountain. The 8568 meters tall mountain is one of the major expedition mountains in Nepal.
There are many mountains in Annapurna Mountain Range. Mount Annapurna I (8091 meters), the tallest of Annapurna Mountains, was climbed in 1950, three years before the Everest was conquered. You can access Annapurna Mountains through paragliding, base camp trekking or mountain expedition.
Expedition Mountains of Nepal
Height in meters
- Everest: 8848
- Kanchenjunga: 8586
- Lhotse: 8516
- Makalu: 8463
- Lhotse Shar: 8400
- Cho Oyu: 8201
- Dhaulagiri: I 8167
- Manaslu: 8183
- Annapurna I: 8091
- Nuptse: 7855
Sarangkot near Pokhara city is the best place for mountain viewing, sunrise/sunset viewing, and paragliding. You can see Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and Manaslu mountains from Sarangkot.
Nagarkot, which is about 32 km east of Kathmandu, is wonderful place for mountain and sunrise/sunset viewing. You can see Everest (8848 m), Ganesh Himal (7111 m) and Gaurisankar (7134 m) mountains from Nagarkot. Kathmandu-Nagarkot-Dhulikhel is a famous biking and hiking destination.
Sundarijal is about 30 minutes drive from Kathmandu. You can see cataracts and rock formations in Sundarijal. Sundarijal is also a starting point for Sundarijal-Chisapani short hiking route.
Bhedatar also called Charles Point, named after Prince Charles of Britain who visited the place in 1980s, is a small hill station in Eastern Nepal on the way to Dhankuta. Bhedatar is at 1420 meters and very ideal for viewing Mount Everest and Mount Makalu in the north and also the flatland, popularly called Terai, in the south.
#35 Gosainkunda Lake
Gosainkunda (4300 meters), commonly referred as Frozen Lake, is a pilgrim site for the Hindus and the Buddhist. Gosainkunda trek is a 7 days medium to hard grade trekking.
#36 Rara Lake
Rara Lake is Nepal largest lake covering 10.8 sq. km area at the altitude of 2990 meters. Rara Lake is in Rara National Park. Visit to Rara begins from Jumla. Jumla-Rara trek is a 13-day trek that takes you through the Sinja valley, the ancient settlements in Nepal.
#37 Tilicho Lake
Tilicho (5200 meters) is the world highest lake. Trek to Tilocho takes you through Marshyangdi valley, Manang village, Manaslu and Hinchuli mountains and Throng La Pass, the world’s longest pass. Tilicho Lake offers breath taking view of Mt Manasalu (8163m), Annapurna I (8091) and Dhaulagiri (8167m) and Throng La Pass (5416m). Tilicho lake and Throungla pass trek is medium grade, 18 day trekking.
Cities, Towns and Villages
Illam is a small town in the eastern Nepal famous for tea plantations. Apart from many tea gardens, you can also visit Mai Pokhari in Illam. Mai Pokhari, a lake, is a pilgrim site for the Buddhist and the Hindus. The lake is also a Ramsar site and a home to about 300 species of birds, leopards, jackals and many medicinal plants.
Dharan is a small neat town in eastern Nepal mostly inhabited by the British Ghurkha soldiers. The town is a pilgrim site for the Hindus.
Janakpur, a small town close to Nepal-India Border, was established in 7th century BCE; however, was abandoned for many centuries. Ram-Janaki Temple in Janakpur is one of the best landmarks in Nepal. Janakpur has been mentioned in the Hindu Epic Ramayana. Sita, Lord Rama’s consort, grew up in Janakpur.
Lumbini is the Birthplace of the Buddha. Lumbini-Buddhist Circuit Tour takes you to about 62 religious and archaeological sites in Lumbini and the adjacent areas, including Tilaurakot, the home of the Buddha’s father, and Devdha, the Buddha’s maternal home.
Pokhara is famous for lakes, caves and short hikes. Trekking and expedition to Annapurna begins from Pokhara. Phewa Lake, Machhepuchhre, the mountain with fishtail, bat cave, Peace Temple, Mountain Museum, Paragliding are some of the attractions of Pokhara city.
#43 Muktinath and Jomsom
Muktinath and Jomsom are one of the popular travel destinations in Nepal. Muktinath (3749 meters) is a small mountain village and a Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage site. Jomsom is about 18 kilometers from Muktinath. Jomsom (2710 meters), a small mountain town in Kali Gandaki River Valley, is located in Annapurna Conservation Area.
You can reach Jomson from Pokhara in a 35 minutes flight, and then take a northeast route to Muktinath. Alternatively, you can walk to Muktinath from Besi Sahar, in Pokhara then towards Jomsom. From Jomsom you can board a plane to Pokhara.
#44 Manang and Mustang
Manang (3505 meters) is a small valley north of Annapurna Mountains. Trekking towards Manang begins from Besi Sahar, Pokhara. Alternatively, you can take a flight to Hondge and then walk towards Manang. From Manang you can walk to Muktinath and then towards Mustang. Mustang is touted by the Lonely Planet as one of the world’s top-three travel destination for 2013. Until recently, Mustang was forbidden for the Westerners. If you want to walk towards Mustang, you will see world’s deepest gorge Kali Gandaki Gorge, world’s longest pass Thorung La Pass, and one of the world’s 10 highest mountains Annapurna Mountain.
#45 Sirubari/Ghale Gaun Village Homestay
If you want to experience rural life in Nepal, you should definitely try village Homestay. Village Homestay consist of two-day stay in a local’s house, eating their food and observing their daily life. Sirubari Village Homestay and Ghale Gaun Village Homestay are some of the village Homestays available in Nepal. Sirubari is a village in Syangja district, inhabited by Gurungs, one of 92 ethnic communities in Nepal. Ghale Gaun, also inhabited by Gurungs, is at the foothill of the Lamjung Himal (6932m).
#46 Osho Tapoban
Osho Tapoban is meditation and retreat center on Nagarjuna hill in Shivapuri National Park. It is one of the best places in the world to practice meditation methods preached by Indian Guru Osho Rajneesh.
#47 Nepali Cuisines at Nepali Chulo
Nepali Chulo is a restaurant opposite of Narayanhiti Palace, adjacent to American Embassy Recreational Center. It is one of the best places to eat Nepali food in Kathmandu. The restaurant is in 157 years old former Rana Palace.
#48 Nepali Coffee at Himalayan Java
Himalayan Java at Thamel is the best place in Kathmandu for Nepali and foreign coffee varieties. It offers breakfast and free wifi.
#49 Rum Doodle Bar
Once reviewed by the US magazine Time as one of the best bars in the world, Rum Doodle Bar is a wonderful place to hang out in Thamel. Rum Doodle offers free dinner for those who have successfully climbed Mountain Everest. On the walls, you can see autographs of mountaineers who conquered Everest, including Sir Edmund Hillary.
#50 Sherpa Mall
You can buy clothes, jewelries and other accessories in the stores at Thamel, New Road or King’s Way. Most of the Star Hotels in Kathmandu also have inbuilt shopping centers. However, if you want to shop for Nepali and foreign goods and accessories, Sherpa Mall, located at King’s Way, is the place for you.