Nepal was a country that we had high expectations for and it completely exceeded them. It's not just the Himalayas (which are phenomenal), it's the beautiful culture, the friendly people and the history of this land which makes it an incredible place to visit. We've listed a few of the best things to do, and places to visit in Nepal, but in truth there's a lot more we couldn't fit in!
We're already planning a return visit to do some trekking so if you have any tips for us let us know!
The best things to do in Nepal that aren't trekking
1. Roof top café, Durbar Square, Kathmandu
We spent many days in Kathmandu simply soaking up the atmosphere from various roof top cafes. There were several in Durbar Square which provided the perfect vantage point to watch all the action in the square below. We visited before the earthquake and it was a hive of activity around all the temples. Although their was a lot of devastation to Durbar Square in the earthquake we have been told that many roof top cafes are still there and we highly recommend checking them out.
2. Watch sunrise over Everest, Nagarkot
There are few memories that have stuck with us quite like watching the sunrise over Everest and the rest of the beautiful Himalayan mountain range. Just a couple of hours (on public transport) from Kathmandu city centre and you arrive in the fresh mountain air of Nagarkot. Even if budget is tight definitely splurge and book a guesthouse with a view to the mountains. We chose Hotel Green Valley (1500 rupees, a real treat at the time) and had our own private balcony with a view to remember forever. It might have been freezing but we got up each morning to watch as the sun slowly lit the mountain range. Spectacular doesn't even begin to cover it.
3. Whitewater raft the bus route, Kathmandu to Pokhara
Most travellers will make the journey between these two popular areas, and what better way to take in the scenery than from the raging Trisuli river. The rafting is graded at level four, but only a couple of the rapids are at this level, although I did very nearly pop out on the last big rapid of the trip and it was by sheer luck that I managed to cling on!
Most of the journey is a fairly leisurely, and utterly spectacular mosey along the river (grade two). You do still need to do a small amount of the journey by road (which the raft company organises for you) but you miss a fair bit for this far more exciting option.
4. Take to the skies, Pokhara
I doubt there are many more picturesque paragliding locations anywhere in the world. You take the leap of faith from Sarankot Mountain, surrounded by the incredible Annapurna mountain range. Needless to say the views are spectacular. If you get motion sick I'd recommend taking travel sickness tablets ahead of time, you don't want to be like me and reaching for the paper bag! Nonetheless it's an incredible experience and one that you will definitely remember forever.
5. Walk the Kora, Bodnath
This was our favourite stupa in Nepal and that's saying something as we visited many. For a really atmospheric experience we'd recommend visiting around sunset for spectacular light which adds to the mood. Do as the locals do and walk around the stupa in a clockwise direction spinning the prayer wheels as you go. It was a very humbling experience to see the devout prostrating themselves on their koras.
You can walk to Bodnath from Pashupatinath temple in around 20 minutes and it's well worth taking this option The village you pass through is incredibly friendly and it was a pleasure to have the children walk alongside us smiling and asking questions.
6. Walk to the Peace Pagoda, Pokhara
Nepal is a Mecca for trekking and all the multi treks are mountainous. If you're planning on heading out into the hills, Pokhara is a great place to get some practice in on various day hikes which you can easily do without a guide. We chose the walk to the Peace pagoda. There are two ways you can approach the walk, one of the road from Devi falls and one by crossing the lake. The latter is a much shorter way up so if you have less time then it could be a good option, though it does of course require hiring a boat!
We chose to walk from Devi falls and the first bit is a fairly uninspiring hill but it gets prettier the higher up you go.
We were actually pretty lucky because we met a lovely Irish couple on this walk and they had taken the boat option. They invited us to join them on the return journey, so we actually made a really nice circuit. Definitely the preferable option if you're lucky enough!
The view from the Peace Pagoda is simply astonishing. Give yourself plenty of time to take it all in because it's the view of a lifetime.
7. Visit the birthplace of Buddhism, Lumbini
This little town makes a particularly good stop if you are crossing over the border into India. It's known as the birthplace of Buddhism and you can visit the exact spot where Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) was born. The site is marked by the Maya Devi Temple, and it's a simple affair.
It was fairly busy on our visit but not with tourists, with locals coming to pay their respects and it was a lovely experience to be a part of it.
8. Wildlife watching, Chitwan National Park
Nepal isn't as well known for wildlife watching as it probably should be given the incredible opportunities it offers. As well as smaller mammals such as monkeys and deer you can also spot tigers, elephants, rhinos and sloth bears.
The national park is extremely pretty and feels very wild, you arrive after taking a small wooden canoe up the croc infested river at sunrise. We took a walking tour as we love hiking and it's a great way to get up close to wildlife.
This turned out to be a very bad decision, we narrowly survived a bear attack and therefore while we still definitely recommend visiting the park it's probably best to do so by jeep or if you hike, make sure you go in a big group with reputable guides.
9. Observe ancient traditions, Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu
It's the largest temple complex in Nepal, located on the Bagmati river in Kathmandu. Just outside Pashupatinath are the cremation ghats, this is where bodies of the dead are cremated and put in to the sacred river.
Needless to say we didn't take photographs but it was a very moving memory from our time in Nepal. You observe from the other side of the river to where the cremations are taking place so it is not as intrusive as it might sound.
You may have other views on whether you consider it appropriate to visit.
10. Explore village backstreets by bike, Sauraha
The village of Sauraha is the perfect size to get around by bicycle. There's lots to see along the way but the best part for me was just observing rural life. When you are going at the speed of a bicycle on potholed roads you have time to take everything in, and stop and chat to people along the way. The children were particularly sweet and kept asking us to stop and play on their swing or join in a game of football. A lovely way to spend the afternoon.
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Are you planning on going to Nepal? What's on your "must-do" list? Let us know in the comments below!