Nepal – A Comprehensive Travel Guide to the Land of Adventure

Nepal, one of the most popular destinations in the Eastern Himalayas is the best blend of nature, history and adventure. Bordered by China’s Tibet Autonomous region and India, Nepal is home to the world’s highest peak – Mt. Everest.

The country is well known in the West among backpacking and trekking communities and receives a large number of tourists every year. From exploring the tourist hubs to heading out on outdoor adventures, there is no end to the list of best things to do in Nepal. So go ahead to read further and find for yourself a comprehensive travel guide to plan and execute an epic trip to Nepal.

 

How to reach Nepal

 

By Air

    • Tribhuvan International Airport is the only international airport in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal and you could fly down from any country. However, from India, direct flights are only available from major cities like Delhi and Mumbai.
    • In the peak seasons, the rates go too high if you’re taking a connecting flight. Bhadrapur airport in the border town of Nepal comes into picture then. You have to first fly to Bagdogra Airport and then cover a distance of 45 kms by road to reach Bhadrapur Airport, which takes only about one hour. There are about 10 flights daily from Bhadrapur Airport to Kathmandu. These flights take 40 minutes approximately to reach Kathmandu and the tickets come in around INR 2000. But do remember that you cannot book a flight from Bhadrapur to Kathmandu on most of the common ticket booking apps/websites. You could check the websites/apps of Buddha Air or Yeti Airlines to book the ticket for this leg of the journey.

 

By Road

    • Reach Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh via bus/train. Next, you’d have to cover a bus ride of 3 hours to reach Sunauli, the border town. You need to get an exit stamp from the immigration office and cross the border on foot. You’d now be in Bhairawa, the border town in Nepal from where you can take an overnight journey to Kathmandu.
    • There are direct buses daily from Siliguri in West Bengal to Kathmandu which is an overnight journey, costing about INR 2000.
    • You could reach the border town of Kakarvitta, which is an hour away from Siliguri in West Bengal from where frequent buses (luxury and non-luxury) are available to reach Kathmandu. This too is a night long journey. 

 

Tourism Hotspots in Nepal

 

KATHMANDU

Previously being the trade route between India and Nepal, Kathmandu has always held a considerable significance in terms of history, spirituality and cultural values. The city might appear to be chaotic and confusing at a first glance but if you pause and re look, you will experience warmth and discover stories at every nook and corner.

Kathmandu City

The city of Kathmandu, founded in 12th century AD and earlier known as Kantipur, in located in central Nepal. Though there are traces of early civilization in Kathmandu, the growth to the present bustling city is believed to have got a boost due to the trade carried out in the Indo-Tibet route.

Devotees and priests at Pashupatinath Temple
Corridors of Pashupatinath Temple

From exploring the busy streets of Thamel to taking a bus ride to reach the heritage sites, there is no end to the list of things that you could engage in this incredible city. There are tons of things you can expect in the capital city of Kathmandu.

 

What to See in Kathmandu?

 

Swayambhunath Stupa

Visit Swayambhunath Stupa (also known as monkey temple), perched on a lofty hillock to witness an amalgamation of Hindu and Buddhist faiths. The construction of this mighty shrine is said to have been finished by the 13th century. Climb up through the steep staircase to the top of the stupa to enjoy a panoramic view of the Kathmandu valley. If you can, try to stay till evening to enjoy a surreal sunset.

  • A glance of Swayambhunath Stupa
    Swayambhunath Stupa

 

Pashupatinath Temple

Located on the banks of Bagmati river, Pashupatinath Temple is the holiest site in Nepal for Hindus. Walk through the busy temple complex that consists of 518 temples and buildings to have a look at the wood carvings and detailings made by silver. Pashupatinath Temple, a UNESCO Cultural Heritage site, is dedicated to lord Shiva and devotees from all over Asia visit this sacred site. Shiva Ratri is one of the most important occasions that are observed in this temple. You must not miss the evening aarti in Pashupatinath Temple.

  • Pashupatinath Temple

 

Kathmandu Durbar Square

Consisting of about 50 pagoda-like temples, courtyards and royal palaces such as Hanuman Dhoka, Kathmandu Durbar Square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which was the palace for the Shah and Malla dynasty of rulers who ruled until 19th century. Durbar Square has cultural as well as historical significance. Built in the Newari style, the temples and towers are carrying forward the legacy of rich tradition and culture in Kathmandu. A visit to Kathmandu Durbar Square is much needed to understand the cultural aspect of Kathmandu, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

 

Garden of Dreams

Take a tour of Garden of Dreams, a beautifully created neo classical historical garden right in the heart of the city. It was originally built as a private garden in the 20th century and was later handed over to the government and opened to the public in 2007. A combination of exquisite pavilions, fountains, ponds and trimmed gardens, Garden of Dreams indeed looks like an enclave right out of your dreams. Also drop in to Kaiser Café situated within Garden of Dreams to relish over some continental delicacies.

  • A peaceful evening at Garden of Dreams
    Garden of Dreams

 

Patan Durbar Square

Patan Durbar square, located in Lalitpur district is best known for its artistic significance and old world charm. Patan Durbar Square too is a World Heritage Site and houses a museum that exhibits an incredible collection of metal crafts, pieces of wood carvings and other numerous artifacts. What is more engaging in Patan are the alleys where you’d find craftsmen working on metal pieces, ornaments and paintings. It is the best place to experience Newari culture and cuisines in Kathmandu valley. Savour on some amazing Newari delicacies in the local eateries after you finish taking a tour of the entire complex.

 

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Located in the east of Kathmandu Valley, Bhaktapur Durbar Square is a living example of the medieval lifestyle and look of the entire valley. This old city is said to have retained the ancient way of living with its beautiful architecture, pottery square, and the royal palace dating back to 12th century. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bhaktapur Durbar Square is also known for the celebration of the grand and century old festivals that attract tourists from all over the world. Even though Bhaktapur is only about an hour away from Kathmandu and is usually explored as a part of Kathmandu, it is recommended that you spend a day or two here to get the real essence of Newari lifestyle in its unchanged form.

Nyatapola Temple in Bhaktapur

Where to Stay in Kathmandu?

 

Best cafes and restaurants in Kathmandu 

 

NAGARKOT

Nagarkot is a magnificent union of Himalayan ranges, clouds, sun and pristine valleys that is sure to leave you in awe of its beauty. Located some 30 kms away from Kathmandu, Nagarkot is famous for its hiking trails and viewing sunrise. The laid back village life is a contrast to the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu city – a much needed escape to experience spectacular views of the snow capped Himalayan ranges.

Vistas of mountains as viewed from Nagarkot
Panoramic views of the Himalayan ranges from Nagarkot

How to reach Nagarkot?

    • You can reach Nagarkot by a private taxi from Kathmandu that costs between NPR 2500-3000 for a drop. If you also want to return by a taxi, you should arrange for it beforehand as it may get difficult to find one in Nagarkot. Your hotel in Nagarkot would be able to help you regarding this.
    • To reach Nagarkot by a local bus, you’d have to break the journey into two segments. First, reach Bhaktapur from Kathmandu and from Bhaktapur, take another bus for Nagarkot. These local buses are usually very crowded and traveling with luggage is not recommended. However, if you’re a backpacker and want to strike a conversation with the locals, traveling in a bus is the best idea. The total time to reach Nagarkot, including changing buses would take up to 2.5 hours, costing about NPR 100.
    • A third option is to divide the journey into bus and a taxi. First, travel to Bhaktapur in a bus, as they are frequently available from all the major points in the city. From Bhaktapur, hire a taxi to drop you off at Nagarkot that would cost you between NPR 1200-1500. This brings the cost about 50% down without having to go through the back-breaking bus ride on the curvy and bumpy mountain roads.

 

Things to do in Nagarkot

 

Relax and Rejuvenate

Nagarkot is the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate amidst a calm ambience. So enjoy the gentle breeze from your balcony or the cosy cafes and soak the best of nature’s offerings.

Nagarkot View Tower

Wake up at dawn to witness a gorgeous sunrise. Hike up to the Nagarkot View Tower to witness the sun rise through a panorama of mountains.

Panoramic Trail

If the wilderness of nature interests you then you should definitely hike the Panoramic Trail which makes a circle of the whole area so you wouldn’t have to take the same route to get back to Nagarkot. It would take about 3 hours with moderate fitness to cover the entire trail. The hike is totally worth your time as it takes you through forests and the trail opens up to an open area from where Mt. Everest is also visible on a clear day.

Climbing up the Nagarkot Watch Tower to watch the sunrise
Nagarkot View Tower

Where to Stay in Nagarkot?

 

Best cafes and restaurants in Nagarkot

 

 

POKHARA

A picture perfect lake town and the ultimate destination for adventure lovers and trekkers, Pokhara has a calm setup, yet full of life. The second largest town in Nepal, Pokahra is spread over Pokhara valley in Gandaki region and is the foothill town of Annapurna Range. Pokhara is a heavenly abode for backpackers, with many hostels and budget stays spread across the entire stretch beside Phewa Lake that offers exceptional views of the lake and layers of mountains. From choosing to spend a lazy day beside the lake to heading on an adventurous journey, Pokhara is the place that offers a plethora of experiences to choose from as listed in this Pokhara Travel Guide.

Streets of Lakeside, Pokhara
Streets of Pokhara

How to reach Pokhara

    • Fly to Pokhara from Kathmandu to witness the incredible Himalayan ranges from the top. There are about 20 flights daily that takes only 30 minutes and starts from as low as INR 1400 if you manage to book on time.
    • You could also travel from Kathmandu to Pokhara by bus (there are many types – non luxury, deluxe, super deluxe etc). The tickets generally start from INR 600 and the journey takes about 8 hours including the stop for lunch (do not believe the usual claims of a 6-hour journey). A deluxe bus (which is the only comfortable option to survive the rough roads) would cost you INR 1000 or more and thus, spending a few extra bucks on flight is recommended to save a lot of time.
    • Private taxis can also be booked from Kathmandu for INR 6000 or more (depends on your bargaining skills), which would take between 7-8 hours to reach Pokhara.

 

Things to do in Pokhara

 

Phewa Lake

Phewa lake is the main tourist hotspot in Pokhara and all the activities, restaurants and bars surround this spot. You should allot a minimum of half a day only to explore the lake side. Take a stroll, or a boat ride to reach Barahi Temple or the villages on the other side of the lake or relax at the lake side restaurants and bars to enjoy the views of beautiful landscape and the colourful boats floating on Phewa Lake. You could also book your stay right next to the lake to be able to witness this beauty right from your window.

  • Boats parked at Phewa Lake in Pokhara
    Phewa Lake

 

Movie Garden

For an out of the box experience, drop in at Movie Garden at Lakeside to watch a movie in the open, with great pizzas and some beer. An open theater built on a terraced land, with Phewa Lake on one side is the best place to spend an evening in Pokhara.

  • An evening at the movie garden beside Phewa lake
    Movie garden, Lake Side

 

World Peace Pagoda

You could reach World Peace Pagoda either by a boat ride and then hiking for about 30 minutes or by a taxi that will drop you off at the bottom of the stairs that leads to the World Peace Pagoda, situated on top of Ananda Hill. The World Peace Pagoda is a symbol of peace and was built by Japanese monks in 1973 as a gift to Nepal. It is the best place to experience a tranquil environment and also get some clear views of the Annapurna range.

World Peace Pagoda, as seen from Phewa lake
World Peace Pagoda, as seen from Lake Side

 

Davis Falls

Also known as Devi’s Falls, this spot is one of the major tourist attractions in Pokhara. Located about 5kms from Lakeside, Davis Falls has a story attached to it. It is believed that a Swiss couple went to swim at this place but Lady Davi got carried away by the force of the water and passed away. The sight of the underground falls that disappears into a gorge is an interesting place to visit on your trip to Pokhara. There is an entry fee of NPR 30.

  • The entrance of Davis Falls or Patale Chhango
    The entrance of Davis Falls

 

Gupteshwar Mahadev Cave

The Gupteshwar Mahadev Cave is said to have been discovered in the 16th century and is rumoured to be the longest cave in Nepal. Throughout your walk inside the cave, you’d spot shrines and statues in the dim lights. The cave is lined with shining stones and finally opens up to the view of a waterfall that is the lowest point of Davis falls. The cave can be visited between 7am-6pm with an entry fee of NPR 100.

  • The winding stairs leading to Gupteshwar Mahadev Caves
    Pathway leading to Gupteshwar Mahadev Cave

 

Begnas Lake

A quick visit to Begnas Lake would indeed be a serene escape to unwind and enjoy a quiet retreat. You could reach Begnas Lake by a bus that costs around NPR 55 or by a cab that would charge you around NPR 1500. Take a boat ride in this splendid creation of nature as an alternative to its busier counterpart.

 

Sarangkot View Point

Located at an altitude of 1592 m, Sarangkot Viewpoint is a perfect place to enjoy unparalleled views of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Range. You must reach Sarangkot about 30 minutes before the sunrise to find the best spot (do remember that many other people would head to Sarangkot to witness the sunrise). Though buses are available, it is recommended that you take a cab to reach Sarangkot to avoid getting late. A can from Lakeside would cost about NPR 1500 and take 40 minutes to reach below the hilltop in Sarangkot, from where you can hike up to the view point. You may also hire bikes to reach Sarangkot but do remember that the last leg of the road is quite rough and steep.

A mesmerizing sunrise from Sarangkot Viewpoint
A stunning sunrise from Sarangkot

 

Adventure activities in Pokhara

Paragliding in Pokhara
Paragliding

Paragliding is an extremely popular activity in Pokhara. Imagine flying over the beautiful mountain ranges and getting a closer look of the Annapurna Mountains. I’m sure you would want to miss this epic experience. Female travelers may choose to fly with female pilots that most of the well reviewed agencies now have. A 30 minute paragliding would usually cost around NPR 6000.

Bunjee Jumping

A jump site 20 minutes away from Pokhara, run by HighGround Adventures, offers a 3 seconds free fall from a 80 m high tower. For the adrenaline junkies, this would be an exhilarating experience to remember for life.

Ziplining

The zipflyer too is run by HighGround Adventures and they claim to have the world’s tallest, longest and steepest zipline that goes for 1.8 kms on a 56 degree incline and a vertical drop of 600 m, speeding up to 120 km/hr. The experience is a thrilling one to fly over the Pokhara valley down below and get spectacular views of the Annapurna Range.

Trekking

 The Panchase Trek and Poonhill Trek are short treks that take 4-5 days depending on your fitness level. The treks in Nepal are few of the top Himalayan treks to experience.

 

Where to Stay in Pokhara?

 

Best cafes and restaurants in Pokhara

 

 

BANDIPUR

Bandipur, a quaint hill town in the Gandaki region of Nepal is considered to be Nepal’s best kept secret. Bandipur is not yet widely discovered by the mass but is gradually gaining popularity. Trekkers often choose this place as an alternative rest-stop after finishing a trek. With well preserved 18th century Newari architecture, Bandipur has a charm and character of its own. The traditional row houses, wooden balconies full of different shades of bougainvilleas and aesthetic cafes on either side of the roads give this town a European vibe. You could break up your journey between Pokhara to Kathmandu to spend a couple of days in this offbeat destination, to experience Newari culture and lifestyle.

Streets of Bandipur

How to reach Bandipur

    • Hire a private taxi from either Kathmandu or Pokhara to reach Bandipur directly. The distance of Bandipur is 140 kms and 75 kms from Kathmandu and Pokhara respectively and takes around 4-5 hours from Kathmandu and 2 hours from Pokhara.
    • Take a bus from Kathmandu or Pokhara and get dropped off at Dumre. From Dumre, you can reach Bandipur by a private taxi, bus or a shared jeep.
    • Do remember that any of the above mentioned vehicles would drop you at the entrance of Bandipur as vehicles are not allowed in the main street within the town.

 

What to do in Bandipur?

Bandipur town

Take a leisurely walk around the main street and check the shops, cafes, temples and sacred shrines. Even in the by-lanes, there will always be something eventful taking palace. Explore the town at your own pace and discover the town.

 

Siddha Cave

Siddha Cave or Siddha Gufa is the largest cave in Nepal, with a depth of 437 m. The cave has many sections covered with water and stalactite structures and is quite dark to be explored on your own. Thus, hiring a guide is recommended.  It takes about half a day’s hike to reach this place so you must assign a full day to explore this cave.

  • The insides of Siddha cave in Bandipur
    Inside the Siddha Cave

 

Temples in Bandipur

The age old temples in Bandipur like Khadga Devi Temple and Bindebasini Temple have several stories attached with their existence. Visit these temples to witness the religious practices of the locals and hear about the stories from them.

 

Village Hikes

The village hikes in Bandipur, leading to viewpoints like Thundikhel and Thani Mai temple offers majestic views of several Himalayan ranges like the Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu and Lang Tang. Apart from the Himalayas, a spectacular view of the Marsyangdi River Valley can also be witnessed from these viewpoints in Bandipur.

 

Where to Stay in Bandipur?

 

Best Cafes and Restaurants in Bandipur

 

 

10-day Travel Itinerary for Nepal

Day 1: Arrive in Kathmandu airport and head straight to Bhaktapur. Explore the Bhaktapur Durbar square and spend the night in Bhaktapur.

Day 2: Post breakfast, head to Nagarkot. Explore the quaint village of Nagarkot in the afternoon and evening and spend the night in Nagarkot.

Day 3: Wake up to witness the best sunrise of your life with Mt. Everest right before your eyes. Head to Kathmandu in the afternoon. Explore the tourist hub of Kathmandu – Thamel in the evening and stay over in Kathmandu.

Day 4: Explore Swayambhunath Stupa, Boudhanath Stupa Kathmandu Durbar Square, Garden of Dreams on the fourth day of your trip.

Day 5: Head to Lalitpur to explore Patan Durbar square and Patan Museum. Spend the evening to buy some souvenirs and explore Kathmandu city.

Day 6: Fly to Pokhara in the morning. Explore Phewa Lake, Barahi Temple and World Peace Pagoda and spend the night in Pokhara.

Day 7: Try out one of the adventure activities (paragliding, bungee jumping or ziplining) in the morning or head to Sarangkot Viewpoint to enjoy a spectacular sunrise. Post lunch, visit Davis Falls and Gupteshwar Mahadev Cave. Spend a laid back evening in lakeside or watch a movie at Movie Garden.

Day 8: Head to Bandipur in the morning. Reach Bandipur by 12 pm and explore the historic town during the rest of the day.

Day 9: Visit the sacred shrines in Bandipur in the morning and leave for Kathmandu by 11am. Reach Kathmandu by 5pm and spend the night in Kathmandu.

Day 10: Fly out from Kathmandu airport with tons of memories.

 

Travel Tips to remember

    • Check the current currency conversion rate before planning your trip. For emergencies, exchange some currency in the beginning of your journey.
    • Buy a local SIM card after your arrival in Kathmandu. N-Cell works fine and will be easily available.
    • Watch out for scams in Kathmandu, specially in Thamel and exchange your currency at reliable places.
    • Do not book any of the experiences like paragliding or city tours through an agent who is in some other place. Walk in at the office or book them online after enquiring well and reading the reviews.
    • Most of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites have an entry fee. For SAARC nationals, the fee is considerably low but for non-SAARC nationals, they are quite high. Check the entry fee before you head out.
    • Carry enough cash as you may not be able to pay with cards at all places. Local taxis do not accept any other mode of payment apart from cash.
    • For non-SAARC nationals, there is an entry fee of NPR 300 to enter NAGARKOT.
    • Always carry some cash while leaving for hikes, as most of these trails have an entry station that charges a minimum fee. You’d definitely want to avoid a situation where you are cashless and have to return.
    • Indians DO NOT REQUIRE A PASSPORT OR VISA to enter Nepal (not even while traveling by air). In fact, I, myself have traveled to Nepal with my Voter ID card and it just did fine.
    • While shopping at local markets, observe how the locals are bargaining. Else, you’d be robbed.
    • Be watchful of your belongings while traveling in local buses.

 

Nepal is indeed a unique gift of nature and a trip to Nepal with a wide array of things to do would definitely add to your list of most memorable experiences in the Himalayas.

If you wish to trek in Nepal, you should definitely read about how to get ready for your first Himalayan trek.

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