Nepal. This country always leaves you feeling enchanted. It has a way of getting to you, leaving you intoxicated with its larger-than-life attractions and ancient adventures. Every second spent here is a moment worth cherishing. You’re discovering a new adventure each minute and there’s always something old and historic nearby. And remember, you always have the majestic Himalayas for company.
Spend some time discovering ancient cities, rich artistic legacy and the birthplace of Buddhism, but don’t venture too far away from off-the-beaten path adventures, lush farmlands, remote mountains and exotic jungles. For that’s where you’ll see this Himalayan kingdom at its mesmerizing best.
Nepal can be an enriching and soul-stirring experience, but you always need to make sure you follow the right itinerary.
Day 1: Arrival in Kathmandu
Your first experience of Kathmandu can be harrowing to say the least. The dust, the sights, the sounds and all those conflicting smells can often cause a sensory overload, especially if you’re visiting this part of the world for the first time. Nepal feels a lot like its next door neighbor India, and you can absolutely forget about finding pockets of calm and quiet on your first day in the country. The streets are chaotic and full of traffic, and the monsoons can cause quite a mess.
Make sure you head straight to the hotel and enjoy the day at leisure, exploring the immediate area around your place of accommodation. Nepal takes some time to grow onto you, but once you do get over the initial cultural shock, you’re in for an absolute treat.
As you get acquainted to the city and its mannerisms, you slowly start getting over things that shocked you at first sight, and see the city for its real beauty. The best way to introduce you to the true wealth of Kathmandu is by discovering some of its priceless jewels. The following attractions should ALWAYS be a part of your day tour of Kathmandu, so make sure you plan accordingly.
Day 3: Sightseeing in Bouthanath Stupa, Pashupatinath Temple & Bhaktapur
The holiest Tibetan temple out Tibet is sure to feel special. Located on the eastern outskirts of Kathmandu, this ancient wonder is a symbol of Buddhism. The stupa looks like a humongous diagram personifying the Buddhist cosmos. It consists of a huge dome that sits on top of a pyramid tower. The entre design stands on top of mandala-shaped steps.
Boudhanath was built in the 14th century right after the passing of Buddha and soon became a focal point of pilgrims visiting Kathmandu. But why visit this stupa? Well apart from its stunning ancient designs, it also offers great insights into Buddhism and is quite peaceful and serene, an oddity considering the chaos that engulfs the streets of Kathmandu.
Dedicated to Shiva, the Pashupatinath Temple is one of the most important religious sites of Asia and the largest temple in Nepal. The site is said to have existed since the beginning of the millennium and is known for its magnificent pagoda styled gilded roof and four sides covered with exquisite wood carvings and silver. This UNESCO World Heritage site also enjoys the coveted status of being one of the few cultural heritage sites that are still full of energy and active participation at all times of the day.
Bhaktapur was the third city-state in the Kathmandu Valley. Like most of the valley, it suffered great loss during the 2015 earthquake, leading to the loss of countless traditional buildings that had been beautifully preserved over the ages. That said, Bhaktapur still presents a rich architectural heritage. Its three main squares are ideal places to check out the finest religious architecture in Nepal and its narrow streets still present hidden wonders, beautiful courtyards and ancient statues.
Once you’ve seen the top sights and attractions of Kathmandu Valley, it’s time to divert your attention towards Pokhara and those stunning mountain treks. Sure, the Everest Base Camp trek promises a trek of a lifetime, but we’re proposing an alternate route, a route allowing you to experience several vacation highlights while in Nepal.
The Flight Journey
It is possible to spend 8 hours on an inexpensive bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara, but it’s a long and not very rewarding day. We thus suggest that you fly to Pokhara, as it’s an experience in itself. Located in the western region, Pokhara is surrounded by the beautiful Phewa Lake and the Machhapuchre and Annapurna mountains. This also means that some of the most phenomenal views of the region can be seen from those tiny cabin windows of your flight. During the flight you’ll also pass by Mt Manaslu so make sure you’re first in line when boarding the flight to get a window seat, in the right hand side of the plane!
The 12 Days Annapurna Base Camp Trek
Depart for the Annapurna Base Camp trek the day you reach Pokhara, and stop in the city at the end of your trek. Trekking in the mountains might be exciting, but it is physically challenging and tiring as well. So a stopover at the end of your trek lets you recharge those batteries before moving onto the next part of your adventure.
The world is full of remote mountainous locations and exhilarating treks. However, there are very few treks that bring you so close to peaks rising to heights of 7000 to 8000 meters without making you spend weeks exploring the region. The Annapurna Base Camp trek passes splendid rice paddies, lush forests and high altitude landscapes and the views that each day has to offer are simply spectacular. You’ll get to see popular peaks such as Annapurna South, Annapurna 1 and Machapucchre.
The biggest advantage of choosing this trek is that it is incredibly scenic. The lodges in this region are well-equipped and you can enjoy great Nepalese dishes and hot showers right through the trek. The landscape keeps getting better as you get closer to the Annapurna Base Camp and you’re in for a true treat, something that isn’t usually possible in the given time-frame. The place feels even more beautiful during spring as the entire area gets covered with beautiful flowers, adding an extra appeal to your journeys.
Day 16: 2 Days River Rafting on Marshyangdi River
No trip to Nepal would ever be complete without trying your hand at river rafting. The country is home to some of the most gorgeous, exciting and challenging rapids on the planet, and its adventure-filled rivers rafting tours attract rafting enthusiasts from all over the planet.
Marshyangdi, also called the Raging River, is one of the best and greatest white water rafting destinations on the planet. Boxed between towering mountain peaks and offering great views of the Annapurna, this incredible beauty is not only famous for its grade 4 and 5 rapids, but also for its splendid natural beauty and wonderful, untouched scenery. This rafting adventure is perfect for those looking for challenging white water rapids as well as remote mountain beauty at the same time.
What makes Marshyangdi even more unique is that its challenging rapids introduce themselves on day 1 itself and are practically continuous. They are quite different than those offered by other popular river rafting adventures such as the Sun Koshi and demand an entirely unique approach. The ride ends up being extremely thrilling, but this also makes it an option that is usually recommended to those with prior rafting experience.
If you’re not a rafting expert, please do try the half day rafting trip on Upper Seti instead, located just a 30 minutes drive from Pokhara. It’s a quieter but yet fun rafting adventure which can be done in just half a day.
Day 18: 3 Days Chitwan Jungle Safari
So you’re done with trekking past exotic mountain slopes and you’ve spent a great deal of time conquering challenging rapids. You’ve explored ancient cities and timeless attractions and you’ve even had some time to recharge your batteries in idyllic destinations. You’d think you’re coming close to the end of your adventure, but there’s one big thing that’s still missing from your itinerary.
Nepal is home to some of the most exotic species and Himalayan animal species, and a trip to the Chitwan National Park for an exciting jungle safari is a must. The safaris in Asia feel incredibly unique, but Nepal truly takes it to the next level by combining exotic views of towering mountains to lush, untouched jungles (yes, the towering mountains can be seen all the way from Chitwan, one a clear sunny day).
Chitwan National Park is a 932. sq. km. UNESCO World Heritage Site that is famous for its incredible bio-diversity. It is full of more than 450 species of birds and 70 animals species such as elephants, ghariyal crocodile, gaur, one-horned rhinoceros and Royal Bengal tigers. The park feels particularly special because of the different adventures that it has to offer, right from elephant and jeep safaris to tonka rides, jungle walks, camel rides, elephant baths and cultural programs.
Day 21: Have fun in a mountain flight, shopping & swimming in Hotel Hyatt
A trip to Nepal isn’t just about exploring and seeing new sights. You could also spend the last few days of your itinerary just having fun, visiting casinos, partying, drinking and socializing with locals. You could try hunting for beautiful souvenirs or even finish those last-minute attraction visits that you’ve been putting off due to shortage of time. Here are ideas to help you get started.
SO you’ve come to Nepal, you’ve seen the Chitwan and the Annapurna, and you’ve also enjoyed an incredible river rafting tour. But you’re still disappointed you didn’t get the chance to visit the roof of the world despite coming so close. Instead of canceling out on the Annapurna and its exotic sceneries, you can opt for a mountain flight that lets you check out Mt. Everest from up close. These Himalayan flights offer the best views of the region and since they’re just one hour long, they can easily fit into your itinerary.
The bazaars of Kathmandu really know how to turn on the charm. Dating back an entire century, they know how to sell everything – right from goods that cater to the most basic everyday needs to exotic handicrafts and souvenirs. The colorful pashmina shawls are a huge draw, as are those Thanka dolls and paintings that promise to be incredible souvenirs. There’s a shop for just about everything and all you need is a sense of exploration and some fancy bargaining skills! If you’re looking for a quieter shopping experience in Kathmandu, do check out the Patan area located in Lalitpur, south of Kathmandu.
Pool Area in Hotel Hyatt
You could even spend a day at the 5 star Hotel Hyatt, enjoying its beautiful pool area at a cost of around NPR 2500 for full day. The hotel boasts of having a 25 m pool that is one of the largest L-shaped pools in the country, and next to it, a large recreational area. You can make use of the pool for an entire day and also enjoy some buffet lunch for a fixed fee, and you can always gulp a few sun-downers before retiring for the evening. This is the perfect relaxation day in Kathmandu!
Day 22: A Happy Departure
Alas you’re at the end of your journey. It is finally time to head back home, but you can be sure of going back feeling more complete as a traveler than ever before. Everest, its cousins and that ancient mountain culture all have a way of growing onto you, staying etched in your thoughts and memories forever.
Don’t forget to check out the best time to visit Nepal, where you can find information on the best months to visit Nepal.