Located between its large neighbors of India and China, the Himalayan nation of Nepal may be small in comparison — but that doesn’t stop it from offering incredible scenery and authentic cultural experiences. Just one visit, and you will be filled with complete wonder and amazement. Nepal is home to some of the world’s highest and most famous mountains (hint, hint: Mount Everest!). Whether you find yourself trekking in the mountains or enjoying the villages in between, you will always find yourself surrounded by stunning landscapes. In this guide, we’ll introduce you to the best places to visit in Nepal.
Sagarmatha National Park
Home to Mount Everest itself, Sagarmatha National Park offers a dramatic mountainscape filled with many glaciers and valleys. Check out the tranquil wildlife and see if you can spot the diverse animal species such as the snow leopard, black bear, and the red panda. Make the 29,028-foot trek up to Everest, or view it in all of its glory from below. The best time to visit is from October to November or from March to May.
Tea lovers, make your way to Nepal’s tea district of Ilam! Ilam is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Nepal, as it truly lies off the beaten path and is highly untouched by travelers. Take a tour through one of the many stunning tea gardens that look over the scenic and quaint town of Ilam. Sip your cup of tea as you gaze up at Mount Kanchenjunga. Follow up your morning cup of tea with some bird-watching and hiking.
For the most tea activity, visit Ilam between April and November to watch the tea pickers in action.
The biggest and deepest lake in all of Nepal, Rara Lake is the highlight of Rara National Park. It is a popular destination if you are planning on trekking through the western part of Nepal. Take in all of the flora and fauna that call this park home. Hop on a paddle boat (there are no motorboats) early one morning and glide along the glass-like waters. Get to know the locals that live in the area and take a horseback-riding tour on the trail that circles the lake. For the best view of the lake, hike to Murma Top. From there you’ll be able to see the entire lake and surrounding area filled with mountain peaks and small villages.
Birthplace of the Lord Buddha in 623 B.C., Lumbini is a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site for Buddhist devotees from all across the world. One of the most popular sites is the temple of Maya Devi, which protects the ancient ruins where Queen Maya Devi gave birth to Gautam Buddha. You’ll find many stunning monasteries built by many countries scattered among this spiritual site. Whether you personally follow the faith or not, this significant site is worth visiting when in Nepal for its historical atmosphere alone. Take in the tranquility and remember to take your shoes off when entering the various temples.
One of the most elegant and culturally rich places to visit in Nepal is the ancient city of Bhaktapur. Located in the Kathmandu Valley, Bhaktapur makes for an easy day trip from Kathmandu. Bhaktapur holds some of the best art and architecture in all of Nepal, and it was once known as one of the three “Royal Cities” and served as a trade hotspot on routes from China to India. Here, you can find Changu Narayan, one of the oldest temples in the area. See if you can spot all ten incarnations of the Narayan and stone lion guard that decorate the temple. When you’re done with temple hopping, shop around for some souvenirs, and try the unique dish of “King Curd,” also known as Juju Dhau. This yogurt (made from buffalo milk and sweetened with Nepalese honey) is well known for its rich flavor. Bhaktapur is also known for its puppets, crafts, and detailed pottery.
Patan, also called Lalitpur, translates into “Beautiful City" and is located in the southern part of the valley. Patan definitely stands true to its name between the wood carvings, exquisite architecture, and religious art scattered throughout the city. Pass by the Patan Durbar Square, which once served as the residence for the Malla rulers of the Patan states. Here, you will find a constant buzz from a mix of tourists and locals. Visit during the Rato Machhindranath for month-long celebrations, chariot pullings, and traditional music.
Beyond the sights, Patan is also known for its arts and crafts and rich cultural heritage. Patan’s craftsmen continue to use many traditional techniques to produce their stunning metal pieces and fine thangka paintings. Thangka paintings are traditionally painted on cotton or silk and usually incorporate a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala.
There are many affordable places to stay in Patan, such as the Yamba Traditional Home for $38/night, or the Hira Guest House for $60/night.
Located on the top of a hill in Kathmandu, this holy site is also referred to as ‘Monkey Temple.’ Be prepared for monkeys everywhere (which are known to be very well-behaved). On this site, the monkeys are considered holy, and people often stop to feed them. Make the steep 365 step climb up to the top for wonderful views of Kathmandu and its many ornate temples. It is 100 percent worth the climb!
Some affordable and top-rated accommodations in the area include Sunrise Homestay & Apartment for $44/night and Hotel Magnificent View for $23/night.
For a dose of peace, relaxation, and breath-taking Himalayan views, Nagarkot is a must-visit destination in Nepal. It’s a great place to read a good book, practice some yoga, or grab a cup of coffee and reflect on your travels. Check out the Panoramic Trail and the Nagarkot View Tower for some great outdoor options. Temperatures can get fairly cold in Nagarkot if you’re not being active, so cozy up by the fireplace which can be found in almost all houses, hotels, and restaurants in Nagarkot. (It’s also worth mentioning that practically all of the restaurants and hotels in this area offer spectacular panoramic views!) For the adventurous soul, check out paragliding over Nagarkot.
One of the most beautiful places (and most important Buddhist sites) in all of Nepal is Namo Buddha. This very quiet and pure place is a great spot to practice meditation, catch the sunset, and gaze at the snow-covered Himalayan views. Here, you can dine in local restaurants or catch a meal at a monastery’s guest house.
If you’re planning a trekking expedition, or if a cultural experience is calling your name, be sure to include these amazing places to visit in Nepal on your itinerary. You most definitely will not be disappointed!
Which place in Nepal are you most excited about seeing? Take the first step toward visiting by booking a trip with Acanela today!
Post written by: Kirsten Cusack, @kirqsak