The best of Nepal: 21 incredible things to see and do in Nepal
Post updated: 11/7/2019 | Here’s our definitive list of things to do in Nepal, because after three months travelling through this country, we know a thing or two! Discover famous attractions, ancient sites, sacred temples, epic hiking and jungle safaris.
Welcome to the greatest country on earth: Nepal.
A true traveller’s nirvana unparalleled anywhere else on earth, this land-locked gem has an overwhelming amount of things to do.
Home to 7 of the world's 10 tallest mountains, some of the best hiking and mountaineering imaginable, the birthplace of Buddha, steamy lowland plains and incredible wildlife viewing opportunities, ancient royal cities and rabbit-warren-like streets of Kathmandu, plus adventure activities to blow your mind (or cause a heart attack), and some of the kindest locals imaginable, the question of ‘what to do in Nepal’ is one you could be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed by.
But it’s one we’re here to help you answer.
We’ve spent almost three months travelling through the country, which has felt like a whole lifetime too little, yet in that time we trekked the Annapurna Circuit, Poon Hill, and Everest Base Camp, relaxed in lakeside in Pokhara, navigated Kathmandu's craziness and somehow survived (and thrived), jumped off the highest tandem rope swing in the world, and searched for tigers on safari in Chitwan National Park.
We’re here to tell you there are a LOT an amazing things to do in Nepal, and although you almost certainly won’t have time to do them all, here are our top tips.
what to do in Nepal | 21 incredible things to see and do
What to do in Nepal | the best things to do in Kathmandu Valley
#1 Embrace Tibetan culture at Boudhanath Stupa
If you want to experience Kathmandu’s spiritual side, Boudhanath stupa really is a must visit attraction in Nepal.
Boudhanath Stupa, a vast 14th-century spherical Buddhist stupa that also proudly holds the dual titles of largest in Nepal, and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet.
Festooned with Buddhist prayer flags, the whitewashed dome and all-seeing eye of Buddha is already impressive when viewed at ground level - and when viewed from above, the complex transforms into the shape of a Mandala and a tribute to Buddha’s path to Enlightenment.
Thousands of pilgrims visit each day to walk around the central dome, spinning prayer wheels as they go; Tibetan monks chant mantras and pray in the surrounding monasteries while tourists take it all in.
The best time to visit Boudhanath is during the late afternoon when the place has a more authentic feel. Locals go about their daily ritual and the surrounding area is less busy, and the golden glow of the afternoon sun envelopes the stupa.
After the 2015 earthquake, the main part of the stupa collapsed, however after restoration efforts to reinforce the structure, the eyes of buddha gaze out over Kathmandu from the gilded central tower.
Cost | $2 USD per person
Opening hours | 9:00am - 17:00pm every day
Reviews | Check out Tripadvisor reviews
#2 Dodge monkeys (and admire the views of Kathmandu) at Swayambhunath Stupa
A visit to Swayambhunath (or Monkey temple) is one of the best things to do in Nepal, and an essential experience in Kathmandu.
Swayambhunath is a beautiful, if not slightly chaotic jumble of Hindu and Buddhist iconography; at the top there’s a heady scent of incense and butter candles, and the hum of the sacred om mani padme hum (in which all of Buddha’s teachings are said to be found).
The best time to visit is early evening when local devotees circumnavigate the stupa, spinning prayer wheels as they go and making their way through the ever present smoky incense hanging heavy in the air. This lofty hilltop also provides the best vistas of Kathmandu, perfect for a sunset snap.
There may be a few stairs (365) and a heap of monkeys to navigate before you summit, but the views at the top are worth it. From there, you’re greeted with an incredible view of bustling Kathmandu going about its day - a sight definitely worth the raised heart rate of the climb.
Unfortunately, during the 2015 earthquake the temple suffered a large amount of damage at the summit however the main structures are still standing and have been renovated over the last few years.
Cost | Around $4 USD per person
Reviews | Check out Tripadvisor reviews
#3 Experience deep hindu traditions at Pashupatinath temple
While Nepal is constantly abuzz with the intoxicating chaos and bustle of human life, the sacred Pashupatinath Hindu temple is a sobering reminder that all life eventually comes to an end.
Pashupatinath, dedicated to the god Shiva, is one of the holiest sites in all of Hinduism and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. On the banks of the Bagmati river, Pashupatinath has existed since 400 A.D and its main temple is considered a masterpiece in Hindu architecture.
For westerners, you’ll have to view from outside as the temple is for Hindu devotees only. The main attraction here is the shining Shivalinga and huge golden statue of Shiva’s Bull, Nandi. It’s also home to some pretty colourful artwork.
Pashupatinath is also the location for many buddhist and Hindu cremations, so you’ll likely see one of these taking place on the banks of the river. It’s a pretty confronting sight but incredibly interesting to witness.
We recommend hanging around and watching the Aarti ceremony which commences each evening at 6:30pm. The Aarti ceremony is one of the more important ceremonies in the Hindu faith; it’s full of colour, light and chanting and it’s totally worth staying for.
Overall, the temple only suffered minor damage from the 2015 earthquake so can still be seen in all its glory.
Cost | Around $10 USD per person
Reviews | Check out Tripadvisor reviews
#4 Experience an Aarti ceremony at Pashupatinath Temple
As night falls gently over the Pahhupatinath complex, different hum of activity starts to rise; people line the far bank of the river, and an elaborate offering of music, chanting, incense, lights and camphor to Lord Shiva begins.
The ceremony, known as Aarti, builds slowly until the whole crowd is on their feet, dancing as they chant and sing together in worship, and it’s impossible to resist being swept up in the energy of it all!
The Aarti ceremony is one of the more important ceremonies in the Hindu faith; it always includes a flame or light, and generally involves the passing of an Aarti plate/lamp around a deity or person, and is accompanied by songs praising that deity or person.
Watching an Aarti ceremony truly is one of the most unique experiences to have in Nepal.
We recommend hanging around and watching the Aarti ceremony which commences each evening at 6:30pm.
Entry | Around $10 USD per person
#5 Explore the Kathmandu Valley’s ancient Durbar Squares
No visit to Kathmandu would be complete without visiting the incredible UNESCO World Heritage listed Durbar squares of Kathmandu.
Going back in history, Nepal was actually split into three main kingdoms - Basantapur (Kathmandu), Bhaktapur, and Patan, each of which had a royal palace and surrounding Durbar squares located in the Kathmandu Valley.
In the unified Nepal of today, each Durbar Square is made up of temples, idols, statues, open courts and fountains along with other structures. They are the perfect place to admire ancient Nepali architecture, Newari wood carvings and historic traditions. Oh, and it’s a great place to people watch.
Below is an overview of each:
| Kathmandu Durbar Square |
Kathmandu Durbar Square might have suffered more from 2015 earthquake than most Kathmandu tourist sites, but it’s still an essential stop on any self respecting travellers 'what to do in Nepal' checklist. And best of all, it’s it super accessible, situated in central Kathmandu, just a 10 minute walk from the tourist hub of Thamel.
The UNESCO World Heritage listed Kathmandu Durbar Square is a stunning series of former beautiful temples and shrines, both Hindu and Buddhist, former royal palaces, courtyards, statues and ponds.
The most impressive parts of the square are indeed the pagodas, which feature traditional Newari wooden carvings, some of which date back to the 16th century. Unfortunately, the majority of the glorious structures Mark saw on his first visit to Nepal in 2013 no longer remain, or are under reconstruction, but there’s still a lot of interesting sites to see. These include:
Jagannath Temple | The oldest and most beautiful structure in the complex, and most famous for its erotic carvings. Dates back to 1563
Hanuman Dhoka | The former Royal Palace, hit hard by the 2015 earthquake. You can walk into the courtyard, and see the Hanuman statue at the main entrance
Kumari Ghar | Home of the Kumari, a girl selected to be the town’s living goddess, and symbol of Devi, Hinduism’s concept of female spiritual energy. It’s unlikely you’ll see the Kumari (if you do, you’re very lucky!), but do check out the small courtyard, with beautiful carved wooden balconies and windows
Kal Bhairav | A colourful stone image of Bhairav, representing the deity Shiva in his destructive manifestation. Great for watching locals performing religious practices
Many of the ancient temples and structures were severely damaged in the 2015 earthquake, and when we visited again in 2019, the area resembled more of a construction site than a world heritage site. That being said, positive restoration work is being done, and it won’t be long before this area is back to its former glory.
Cost | $10 – $15 USD to each, per person
Reviews | Check out Tripadvisor reviews - Kathmandu
| Bhaktapur Durbar Square |
The ancient Newari city of Bhaktapur, with it’s pagodas, temples, palaces, narrow laneways and warm-brick facades, is the most extraordinarily beautiful ‘city’ in Nepal.
Founded in ninth century, Bhaktapur ruled the Kathmandu Valley from 1200 - 1482, when the king, Yaksha Malla, devided the valley into three kingdoms - Bhaktapur, Basantipur (Kathmandu), and Patan. Quarrelling and oneupmanship led to a period of growth in culture, construction, artistry, and architecture from 1400 - 1800’s, leading to the stunning set of structures found today.
The UNESCO World Heritage listed city is known for it’s artistry and crafts; walking the streets you’ll notice pottery makers, craftsmen, painters and carpenters doing their thing - we recommend buying your souvenirs here, where the quality is great and directly from the local
Points of interest in the city of Bhaktapur that we recommend you visit include:
Bhaktapur Durbar Square | The square is large, and houses the 55 window Palace, Golden Gate, Pashupatinath temple/Pagoda, the Royal bath, Chyasalin Mandip, Siddhi Lakshi temple, Vatsala temple (currently being restored)
Nyatapola temple | The tallest pagoda ever built in Nepal, this five storey temple based on the five basic elements
Dattatreya Square | Located in the older, east end, Dattatreya Square is our favourite square in Bhaktapur. Flanked by Dattatreya temple and an array of traditional Newari buildings, it’s a quieter and more comfortable here, with far less tourists making it to this part of Bhaktapur
Juju Dhau | Okay, this isn’t necessarily a place, but rather a local staple food - Newari yoghurt. Made from buffalo milk, it’s sweet and creamy and served in a traditional clay bowl. We could eat this all day… trust us!
Pottery | In the south of the city there are a number of old men who go make pottery
A visit here takes around 40 minutes from Kathmandu, but once inside the old-town, including Bhaktapur Durbar Square, the streets are pedestrianised, providing a calmer atmosphere than Kathmandu Durbar Square.
Cost | $10 – $15 USD to each, per person
Reviews | Check out Tripadvisor reviews for Bhaktapur
| Patan Durbar Square |
The classic Newari marvel, Patan is a far less-touristy and dare we say it, more attractive version of Kathmandu Durbar Square.
Like most of the classical Newari architecture found in the Kathmandu Valley, Patan was mostly constructed during the Malla period (14th - 18th centuries), leaving a Royal Palace, and assorted Hindu and Buddhist temples and idols surrounded by public squares.
Some of our recommended sites to visit in Patan include:
Patan Museum | Housed in the former royal palace, the museum exhibits objects and treasures from Nepal’s rich cultural history, including bronze and copper casts, and traditional crafts from Patan
Krishna Mandir | The most impressive temple in all the Durbar squares, and Patan’s most important, Krishna Mandir houses shrine to Lord Krishna, with shrines to Radha and Rukmini on either side
Mul Chowk | Central courtyard of the Palace and the most beautiful of the three main chowks in the complex
The third of Kathmandu Valley’s UNESCO World Heritage listed Durbar Squares is also the most authentic, with a distinct lack of souvenirs stalls and touts giving a friendly, relaxed vibe.
The locals treat it like their second home, with the benches and temples a meeting point for people of all types, from young lovers to groups of old men. It’s a fascinating place to people watch - you could spend hours here watching the world go by (we did just that on our second visit here!).
Like most historical sites in Kathmandu, Patan Durbar Square is still undergoing restoration post 2015 earthquake.
Cost | $10 – $15 USD to each, per person
Reviews | Check out Tripadvisor reviews Patan
KEEP READING: OUR COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO KATHMANDU
#6 Join a cooking class with a difference at Seven Women in Kathmandu
We always say that to truly experience a destination, you have to understand its food culture too - so most places we go, we try to take a traditional cooking class.
In Kathmandu, we joined a cooking class at Seven Women, a social enterprise working to empower marginalised Nepalese women through skills training and literacy classes. For Nepali women, the kitchen is the heart of the home and we learned that it gives them a great sense of pride to share their food, culture and traditions with travellers from around the world.
During our cooking class, we learned how to make traditional Nepali dishes, including a proper Nepalese curry (Dal Bhat!) from scratch using fresh local ingredients from Kathmandu Valley. Surprisingly, it tasted absolutely delicious.
We then made a traditional rice pudding for dessert, which we’re both comfortable in admitting, was the best thing we’ve ever cooked.
During the class, we also heard from Anita, our leader, all about the hardships faced by women in Nepal, and how things are slowly but surely improving across the country, especially with the help of social enterprises such as Seven Women.
Not only is a traditional cooking class at Seven Women one of the best things to do in Nepal, it’s also a great way of supporting an enterprise that is helping empower Nepali women.
Cost | USD $45 for a three hour class
Includes | Guided tour of Seven Women headquarters, lunch and drinks
#7 Eat all the delicious Nepali food
Don’t be worried by the quality or variety of food in Nepal because it’s incredibly good! Nom.
For the local variety of snacks, start with Momos. The Nepali answer to dumplings, these pockets of joy come in vegetable, buff (buffalo) or chicken and can be fried or steamed. Our personal preference is steamed, served with a red chilli chutney.
You can also find amazing Indian influences, such as pakora and samosas on any street corner! Next, find yourself some Choila, spicy grilled buffalo meat which goes down a treat with an ice cold Everest lager.
For larger meals, you really can’t go past Dal Bhat, the Nepali staple meal for lunch and dinner. Dal Bhat is a traditional Nepali meal consisting of rice, a lentil based soup and other condiments, and it’s generally all you can eat so you’ll never go hungry. For those who enjoy soups, our go-to favourite is Thukpa or Thenthuk, a delicious mix of meat, noodles and vegetables in a thick soup, from the mountains of Tibet.
On the restaurant front, check out Yangling just outside of Thamel. It has the best Tibetan/Nepali cuisine in all of Kathmandu (we’ve tried almost everywhere!), at seriously cheap prices.
RECOMMENDATION | For the best Nepali/Tibetan, visit Yangling restaurant. Read Yangling Tripadvisor reviews
#8 Join a Kathmandu off-beat food tour
“Where the hell are we going” we asked our guide, Sandib, as we walked through the rabbit warren laneways of Basantipur, Kathmandu’s old town. “To eat some delicious food, trust me” was his reply.
He wasn’t wrong.
After our third visit to Nepal, we were keen to learn more about Nepali cuisine away from the westernised restaurants that dot Thamel and Freak Street, so we joined a Secret Food Tour with Backstreet Academy
Meeting Sandib just outside Thamel, we began our tour at a local tea house located in an ancient bahas, or courtyard, where we sampled some of the local chiya (not chai!!, which we were quickly told off to saying).
Sugar high complete, we moved on, stopping at five epic, locals-only food stalls, where we tried a whole range of local delicacies. These included baras (traditional lentil pancakes), yomari (dumpling made out of rice flour and is filled with molasis traditionally), samosas with a Nepali twist, a Tibetan staple of momos, sweet and sour pani purri, and a thick, creamy lassi.
It’s fair to say that each stop was a taste sensation; we just didn’t realise that Kathmandu had such a thriving street-food scene.
While the food was delicious (like, really delicious!), stepping off the well worn tourist path and into local bahas and through narrow alleyways, while learning all about the history of Kathmandu from Sandib was an unexpected benefit. A word of warning through - if you’re taller than five feet, mind your head — in Nepal the mountains are high but the doorways not.
There is no doubt in our mind we would never have found these food stalls without this tour, and we highly recommend it as one of the best things to do in Nepal.
#9 Chill out in Kathmandu’s Garden of Dreams
When the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu gets you down, pop into the Garden of Dreams just outside of Thamel for a relaxed oasis of tranquility.
In this beautiful neo-classical garden you’ll find pavilions, verandahs, fountains and a relaxing amphitheatre where you can chill out on one of the pillows provided. It’s also evidently the romantic destination of choice for Nepalis, with lovebirds on every corner!
There’s also the Kaiser restaurant which does a damn fine hamburger if you’re craving a western delicacy!
Where | 5 min walk from Thamel, Kathmandu
Cost | $2 USD per person
Reviews | Check out Tripadvisor reviews
Read more | Our guide to Kathmandu's Garden of Dreams
#10 Enjoy a community homestay in Panauti
If you’re keen for a super authentic Nepal experience, that empowers women and gives back to local communities, then you can’t miss a community homestay.
Just 32km and two hours drive from Kathmandu is Panauti, the stunning Newari village complete with red-brick buildings and intricate wood trimmings, surrounded by rice terraces carved into the foothills of the Himalayas.
More importantly, it’s home to the Panauti Community Homestay project, where a group of strong, independent Nepali women are stepping outside their comfort zones, building profitable businesses, and transforming the idea of a what a woman in rural Nepal is capable of today.
The premise of the homestay is simple: connect global travellers on homestays with local women and their families. The project was launched in 2013 with just 2 women, a number that’s swelled to 20 women and families today.
Homestay participants get close to the authentic lifestyle of the Nepali people, learning to cook traditional food, such as dal bhat and yomari (which Mark completely failed at!), harvest fresh produce, and build an understanding of the local culture and traditions. There are also local hikes into the surrounding lush hills, or the chance to explore the beautiful local village (full of the most warm locals you’ll meet in Nepal).
Not only are the benefits to to travellers amazing, the local community is also benefitting greatly - a family involved in the Panauti project can earn up to USD $400 per month - a very comfortable amount in Nepal. 80% of the income made from homestays like these goes straight to the women in charge, while 20% is deposited into a community fund that supports scholarships, sanitation training, and built the community hall a few minutes walk away from where we’re sitting right now.
Not only will you have the most authentic experience, you’re giving back to local communities, and helping empower women in Nepal.
Where | Panauti Community Homestay
Book | To experience the Panauti homestay for yourself, book this 7-day G Adventures Local Living Nepal tour!,
or book directly with Community Homestay
#11 Wander (and shop) in the backpacker district of Thamel
Most travellers spend most of their time in Thamel, Kathmandu’s not-so-sleazy answer to Bangkok’s Khao San Rd. Right in the heart of the city with all the major attractions and transport routes close by, it’s colourful, busy and brash!
Thamel’s a complete rabbit-warren of narrow streets and alleyways, and has everything a traveller needs; hotels and guesthouses, restaurants, bars, top quality bakeries (seriously, they are that good!), supermarkets, book stores, pirated DVD’s and everything in between.
You could spend hours exploring the streets and meeting all the smiling locals.
It’s also the place to find all your trekking gear (mostly imitation but still good quality), with literally hundreds of stores selling pretty much the same stuff. It’s worth the effort to haggle the prices down as you can save up to 50% from the first offer.
While Thamel is a cool place to hang out in and meet fellow travellers, it can pull you in and not let you out. Make sure you make the effort to escape its grasp and go explore the surrounding areas.
A map of the 21 best things to see and do in Nepal
Here’s a map of our 21 recommended best things to do in Nepal.
What to do in Nepal | The best places to visit in Nepal outside of Kathmandu
#12 Experience Nepal’s best treks amongst the glorious Himalayan mountains
Trekking in Nepal is without a doubt one of the greatest things to do, anywhere in the world.
There’s something about walking in Nepal that puts the mind and body at ease - it may be the sense of scale and perspective that only the Himalayas can give. Or perhaps it’s the fresh air, filtered by the surrounding forests and powerful winds. Or possibly it’s the trails lined with fluttering prayer flags, the constant call of ‘Namaste’, or the warm smiles offered by locals. Whatever it is, trekking is is one of the top things to do in Nepal, and you shouldn’t think of leaving this nation without having stepped foot on their mountain paths.
Nepal has a huge array of trekking opportunities, of which we’ve listed our favourite (and our suggested) hikes below:
| LONG/EPIC HIKES |
THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT
The 16 or so days spent hiking the Annapurna Circuit are some of the most inspiring and challenging you'll ever encounter.
Trekking between some of the world’s tallest mountains, through diverse climatic zones (from tropics to alpine peaks), passing quaint mountain villages while enjoying the incredible Nepali hospitality is a wonderful travel experience. Nowhere else on earth can you sip chai tea and bask in the sun while admiring 8,000m peaks in all directions.
From day seven onwards, it’s tough work - the days are long, the weather changeable, the altitude hard to manage, and the sleeping situation uncomfortable. But reaching the highest point, Thorong La pass, is one of the best feelings in the world.
If you’re looking to trek the Annapurna circuit, we recommend booking in advance with a reputable tour company such as G Adventures (check out their 18-day trek here!). They take safety seriously, and also respect the environment and local cultures.
BOOK | This 18-day Annapurna Circuit trek with G Adventures
EVEREST BASE CAMP
The 12-day, 130km round trip to Everest Base Camp is among the best treks in the world, and in Mark’s opinion, just shades the Annapurna Circuit in the beauty stakes.
Commencing in Lukla (after no doubt the scariest plane ride of your life!), the trek follows through quaint mountain villages, dense forests, over glacial rivers and up many, many hills before arriving at the notorious Everest Base Camp for a celebration chocolate and photo. Along the way there are ancient monasteries, delicious bakeries, and some of the most exquisite views you’ll ever witness.
This isn’t a walk in the park, though — expect to be challenged, especially during the final two days, when the altitude and colder temperatures start to effect even the hardiest of hikers.
Everest Base Camp is also one of the most popular treks in Nepal and can get a little crowded during the peak months from March - May, and September to December. But that also is the beauty of this trek - with so many hikers, the facilities up to Namche Bazaar are wonderful; and from Namche to Gorak Shep, more than adequate, so you’ll not be without some level of comfort during your hike.
| OTHER Popular MULTI-DAY HIKES IN NEPAL|
THREE PASSES & GOKYO LAKE HIKE
High in the Sagarmatha National Park lies the Gokyo Lakes, a set of incredible turquoise glacial lakes surrounded by some of the tallest peaks in the world. It’s incredibly beautiful and worth the hike. Also takes in Renjo, Chola and Kongma La passes.
| SHORT BUT EPIC HIKES |
POON HILL GHOREPANI
If you’ve only got a short time in Nepal but want to both admire the famous Himalayan Range and experience Nepal mountain culture, we recommend the Poon Hill Ghorepani trek.
This three-day trek is essentially a microcosm of what a longer Nepalese mountain trek is like. It passes through quaint villages, up many, many stairs, between jungles and over rivers, and before ultimately ending up at altitude (3,200m), with your head amongst the tallest mountains in the world. It really is the perfect way to ease yourself into trekking in Nepal.
The views from Poon Hill are some of the best we’ve ever experienced - uninterrupted, panoramic views of some of the largest and most photogenic Himalayan mountains, including Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri, Machhapuchhare, Annapurna II and Lamjung. It also happens to be the spot where the two of us got engaged - so we can definitely vouch for how epic a place it is!
What’s more, its affordable - treks to Poon Hill Ghorepani start at around USD $150 pp (NPR 10,500).
BOOK | Book with Nepal Wilderness Trekking - treks start at USD $150pp (NPR 10,500)
An ‘off the beaten track’ alternative to other popular treks in the Annapurna range, Mohare Donda takes in very similar scenery to Poon Hill, with half the amount trekkers. Expect to see the highest peaks of the Annapurna mountain range: Dhaulagiri 1, Dhaulagiri 2, Daulaghiri 3, Annapurna south and the incredible Fish Tail, and have the experience of a lifetime.
| OFF THE BEATEN TRACK HIKES |
LANGTANG VALLEY AND TAMANG HERITAGE TRAIL
Hiking through the unexplored parts of the Langtang National Park and deep into the Tamang hinterland. This trek is all about immersing yourself in local culture, learning about one of the oldest tribes in Nepal, the Tamang people, as well as witnessing some incredible Himalayan mountain scenery.
MUSTANG AND UPPER MUSTANG
If you speak to any local Nepali, they say Mustang is there favourite hiking area.
Bordering Tibet, Mustang’s desert-like terrain reminds of Mars, with high-altitude dessert’s and eroded badlands forming the area. It’s a mystical and culturally rich region less frequented by tourists, but hiking here is well worth the effort.
#13 Book a scenic flight over the Himalayan mountains
Let’s face it, most of us are never going to summit Mt. Everest (even Everest Base Camp is tough enough!), but there is an alternative… an epic scenic flight over the iconic peaks of the Himalaya, and of course Mt.Everest.
Soaking up the incredible views of the majestic mountains from above, this flight kicks off (weather permitting) from Tibhuvan airport before soaring over the impressive snowcapped peaks of Nepal. The pilot will provide narration during your flight, pointing out the main peaks, and teaching you all about the spiritual significance of the revered Himalayan peaks.
The holy grail though, is the Everest fly pass, which will no doubt end in tears, 100+ photos, and major bragging rights amongst your friends and family.
Book | 1-hour Everest Scenic Flight
Tip | Don’t forget to offset your flights - learn how to with our carbon offset post here
#14 Float through the sky Paragliding in Pokhara
If you’re going to paraglide anywhere in the world, then the lakeside adventure paradise of Pokhara is your place.
Rated as one of the top five commercial tandem paragliding locations in the world, Pokhara is blessed with the perfect combination of stable thermal currents, a safe take-off location and landing zone, and epic views.
Paragliding flights launch from Sarangkot, about 30 minutes drive from Pokhara. There are three flight times a day, depending on season and weather - 10:30am, 12pm and 2pm. The best flying time is around midday, when the thermals have become active and the flight the most enjoyable.
The 30-minute flight provides an initial adrenaline rush before a surprisingly calm glide back to earth. Floating above Phewa Lake and the surrounding mountains (with views to the Annapurna Range in the distance!) is wonderfully picturesque.
Where | Sarangkot, Pokhara
Cost | Standard flight (30mins): NPR 7,500
Cross country flight (40-60mins): NPR 11,000
GoPro footage: NPR 1,700
Additional Information | For safety reasons, you can’t take your own camera/GoPro on your flight so if you want footage, you’ll need to purchase it
Reviews | See what other travellers thought of paragliding in Pokhara here
#15 Go white water rafting in Nepal
Unsurprisingly, given the vast mountain ranges and glaciers, Nepal is blessed with raging rivers ready to be rafted, making it one of the most exhilarating things to do in Nepal.
The epicentre for most rafting adventures is Pokhara, where we joined Paddle Nepal on their half-day Upper Seti river white water rafting trip. Just a short drive from Lakeside, the Upper Seti provides a short but sweet adrenaline-filled rafting experience, and before we knew it, we were floating down the glacial river and approaching our first rapid.
For 1.5 hours we paddle our way down the class III+IV rapids, admiring the Annapurna mountain range in the distance and the peaceful, lush surrounds. Although the rapids are less ferocious than post-monsoon, they’re enough to really kick the heart rate into gear.
Our rafting trip ends by passing under a suspension bridge covered in colourful prayer flags, before a quick lunch, celebratory Coke, and a 20 minute drive back to Pokhara.
Although we would have loved to spend a day or more rafting along Nepal’s rivers, time only allowed a half-day excursion. But for those wanting to do longer rafting expeditions, there are plenty of full day and multi-day options from Pokhara - enquire with the guys from Paddle Nepal.
Where | Paddle Nepal, Pokhara
Cost | USD $51 pp, half day trip
Further information | Bring adequate footwear for the rafting - either reef shoes or any closed toe shoe you don’t mind getting wet
#16 Chill in backpackers paradise of Pokhara
Pokhara’s iconic lake, Phewa, wouldn’t look out of place in Switzerland such is its natural beauty. And an early morning lakeside walk is one of our favourite things to do in Pokhara.
Starting in the south, slowly walk towards the northern shores, enjoying the epic mountainscapes of the Annapurna range as the early morning light illuminates their peaks.
At this time of day, there’s a calmness around Pokhara that you won’t find anywhere else in Nepal, so embrace the chill.
We recommend stopping at the various lookout points overlooking the colourful paddle boats and forested slopes and watching as the locals fish, hoping to reel in one of the resident catfish.
Finish your walk in the north, where arguably the best breakfast and iced coffee in Pokhara (and all of Nepal!) awaits you at The Juicery.
If you’re not a morning person, not all is lost! The lake is still a great walk at any time of day. Stop by one of the lakeside juice makers for a healthy pickmeup, or pop into a lakeside bar for a beer or two. There are also a number of Tibetan crafts vendors selling their wares by the lake if you’re keen to grab a bargain.
Where | Phewa Lake, Pokhara
#17 Experience the longest canyon swing in the world at The Last Resort
No one in their right mind would willingly jump off a 161m high suspension bridge into the canyon below, would they? At least, that’s what we thought until we did it for ourselves.
Located around four hours from Kathmandu on the Friendship highway that connects Nepal with Tibet is The Last Resort, an adventure lovers paradise located amongst incredible natural surrounds and is home to one of the tallest bungie jumps in the world (161m high), and the longest canyon swing in the world.
Wanting to test our recently engaged relationship credentials (and of course try one of the best things to do in Nepal), we decided on the tandem rope swing. Before long, we were harnessed up and making idle chit chat amongst ourselves, trying to divert our minds to the impending end of our life.
As the moment drew closer, we both trembled with fear, while Mim searched for any which way to escape her harness and run off the bridge. She couldn’t, and we were summonsed to the ledge to begin our countdown. Fuck...
3, 2, 1…. JUMP.
For four seconds we were in free fall.
It felt so outrageously exhilarating we didn’t know how to react when it all came to an end. There were tears, laughter, shock and a loooooot of swearing. But it was awesome.
While the tandem rope swing might not be for everyone, there are a range of awesome adventure activities offered at The Last Resort, including bungie, canyoning and rafting, making it the ideal place to tick off one of those adrenalin inducing items on your bucket list.
The Last Resort also has deluxe safari tents available for overnight stays.
Where | The Last Resort
Cost | USD $180 for a tandem swing day trip from Kathmandu, or USD $225 for a swing and sleep combo
Book | Book The Last Resort here
#18 Zen out and practice yoga in Nepal
We don’t get to practice yoga anywhere near as much as we’d like to these days, so any opportunity we get to practice on the road, we take.
Thankfully, Nepal is blessed with yoga studios, especially in Kathmandu or Pokhara - perfect to heal aching muscles post hike, or to participate in a longer term yoga retreat. Not only that, they’re super affordable, with classes starting around NPR 300 (USD $2.50)!
In our opinion, Pokhara is the best place to practice yoga in Nepal due to its picturesque lakeside setting and chilled vibes — and with a good array of studios offering everything from vinyasa to meditation, you’ll get the type of practice you’re after at affordable rates.
If you’re after classes in Kathmandu, Thamel is teeming with studios offering drop-in classes and long-term deals.
#19 Experience an epic wildlife safari in Nepal
Not many people associate safari and epic wildlife encounters with Nepal, yet the country is home to one of the most beautiful national parks in the world - Chitwan National Park (and most successful - there were zero rhino poaching deaths in 2015!).
This former royal hunting ground in Nepal’s steamy southern lowlands is home to unique and incredible landscapes, and a safari here, in search of Tigers, Elephants or one-horned Rhino is one of the best things to do in Nepal.
The starting point for all Chitwan safari is Sauraha, a lovely small town on the banks of the Rapti river. There are heaps of safari options available from one of the many tour outlets in town, but we’d suggest either a jeep safari or dugout canoe trip down the Rapti.
On safari, you’ll have the chance to spot Rhino (we saw 15!), sloth bears, crocodile, including the endangered Gharial, monkeys and if you’re really lucky, the Bengal Tiger or Leopard. Unfortunately, each time we’ve visited we’ve missed seeing the reclusive Tiger, but it’s just reason to visit again, right?
If that’s not enough, have a true once in a lifetime safari experience staying at the 5* Meghali Serai Safari Lodge within the park.
NOTE | One thing you should avoid is the numerous elephant safari tours. As you know, Elephant riding is incredibly cruel and harmful to the animals, and just not cool in this day and age. If you’re unsure as to why riding elephants is wrong, read this post.
#20 Explore the beautiful Newari town of Bandipur
This little town is slightly off the beaten track but well worth the effort to visit. Why? Because visiting is like stepping back in time in this living, breathing open museum of Newari culture.
The town was formerly a stopping point on the India-Tibet trade route, leading to glorious wealth. The subsequent construction of the Prithvi Hwy reduced the amount of visitors and ultimately its visitors. Since then, it has been partially restored to its former glory.
Beautifully preserved traditional houses line the main street and restaurants spill out onto the motor vehicle free streets giving it a distinctly European feel. You can also walk up to the peak which has epic views onto the surrounding valleys below.
We recommend staying in one of the beautiful, quaint main street guesthouses (like this one).
Where | The historic village of Bandipur
Stay | Bandipur Village resort
#21 Visit the birthplace of Buddha, Lumbini
A UNESCO World Heritage site of huge global significance, Lumbini is the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, otherwise known as Buddha.
The modest Maya Devi Temple is the epicentre for pilgrims keen to pay their respects to Buddha’s birthplace - the temple housing the exact site Buddha was born, with an inscribed pillar found in 1896 amongst ancient monastery ruins. Beyond Buddha’s birthplace, there is the Secret Garden adjoining the temple, replete with ubiquitous prayer flags.
Lumbini also houses a vast array of stupas, monasteries and temples contributed by other Buddhist communities around the world which are worth exploring.
But let’s face it, there’s only one reason to visit Lumbini!
Where | Maya Devi Temple, Lumbini
Cost | NPR 500, free for Indian or Nepali nationals
Nepal trip planning essentials | Plan your visit to the best places in Nepal
HOW TO GET TO Nepal
We run through how to get to Nepal in our Nepal travel guide (read here!), but here are the basics:
| FLYING TO KATHMANDU |
Almost all international arrivals into Nepal are through Kathmandu’s international airport.
If travelling over peak periods, book flights months in advance as routes fill up. Only a small number of international airlines fly to Nepal, including Qatar, KLM and Malaysian.
Depending on the time of year, the cost of airfares vary. The timing of the high, low and shoulder seasons differ from airline to airline, and don’t always coincide with tourist seasons.
Note: Nepal’s airport is extremely old and inefficient, so be prepared to wait for immigration/visas, baggage, and baggage checks.
| TRAVELLING OVERLAND TO NEPAL |
A lot of travellers to Nepal combine their visit with a trip to India, via overland (read our three-week India itinerary here).
Although we haven’t done this route, we’ve heard from many travellers that it’s relatively pain free. You can book tours/buses through travel agents in Nepal, or jump on a tour such as this one with G Adventures.
There are numerous border crossings between India in the south of Nepal, and can be navigated fairly easily, especially when organised through tour agencies.
The three most common border crossings for tourists include: Sonauli/Belahiya, reachable from Delhi, Varanasi and most of North India (via Gorakhpur); Raxaul/Birgunj, accessible from Bodhgaya and Kolkata via Patna; and Kakarbhitta, serving Darjeeling and Kolkata via Siliguri.
As always, be aware of any scams while crossing the border, including petty theft and money exchange scams.
READ | Our Nepal Travel guide which runs through all the ways to get to Nepal
Transport in Nepal | How to get to the best places in Nepal
If there’s one part of Nepal that leaves a lot to be desired, it’s getting around. It’s tough, really tough!
While not a big country, it can take hours to travel even small distances. It is possible to hire a motorcycle, charter a taxi, car or 4WD, (or catch a flight) but the roads are some of the worst we’ve encountered, and public buses are often crowded, uncomfortable and prone to break down.
Nepal has a shocking road and air safety record, and accidents are very common, so always travel with up to date travel insurance (book here!).
| TOURIST BUS |
Tourist buses are the cheapest, and dare we say, best way to get around Nepal.
The roads though, are shocking and windy, and the traffic appalling. To put bus travel into perspective, we never spent less than 7hrs on a bus; to travel around 200kms (Kathmandu - Pokhara). Be prepared for a slow, long journey!
Tourist buses connect Kathmandu with Pokhara, Sauraha (Chitwan National Park) and Sonauli, as well as Pokhara with Sauraha and Sonauli. Expect a day (6-9hrs) to travel to any of these destinations.
The tourist buses are generally in good condition (depending which you book - Greenline are best), and often stop twice on the way to their destination, so you’ll never be short of food or water. However, we recommend stocking up on the delicious baked goods from Kathmandu or Pokhara before you depart.
Tourist buses can be booked through agents or accommodation providers, or at bus stations. We do recommend purchasing at least two days in advance, especially in peak periods.
| 4WD |
It’s unlikely you’ll need to travel by 4WD unless you’re up in the mountains. It’s a rough and tumble ride, often on extremely dangerous roads. But then again, it’s kinda fun! 4WD rides will often be organised in villages, or with your tour guides/porters.
| PLANE/HELICOPTER |
Despite the relatively small size of Nepal, air travel is an essential part of the transport network. Unfortunately, the air safety record is worse than the road safety record, so you’re essentially placing your life in the hands of the weather gods and pilot skill.
We’ve flown twice in Nepal, and both were exhilarating and scary. Be prepared!
As a tourist in Nepal, it’s likely you’ll need to fly at one point; either from Kathmandu to Lukla (Everest Base Camp trek), Jomson to Pokhara (Annapurna Circuit trek), or Kathmandu to Pokhara. Flights are generally organised as part of a tour/hike, however it is possible to book the Kathmandu to Pokhara route (at 25mins, it sure beats the 8 hour bus ride!) on Skyscanner (search prices and book here).
Be prepared for delays, often as a result of bad weather.
READ | Check out our Nepal travel guide to learn more about transport in Nepal
ACCOMMODATION IN Nepal | WHERE TO STAY IN Nepal
On the whole, accommodation in Nepal is pretty standard. Most places have a range of rooms, from budget to doubles with en suite. Beware, that cheaper accommodation is of a poor standard; if you’re backpacking, this might be okay, but otherwise, invest a few extra dollars for something nicer.
| HOTELS |
Hotels in Nepal range from the most incredible 5* hotels through to standard 3* (or lower) shoe boxes. Despite this, hotels are much cheaper here than other parts of the world, so if you’ve got a decent travel budget, you can find some incredible accommodation at decent rates.
BOOK | Find the best deals on Nepal accommodation here
| GUESTHOUSES |
Almost all accommodation is referred to as ‘guesthouse’, and there are varying levels of guesthouse in Nepal, from extreme budget to well appointed.
Guesthouses that cater to tourists are well organised: most innkeepers speak excellent English, and can arrange anything for you from laundry to trekking/porter hire (which comes in very handy). Guesthouses can either be booked through booking websites or Airbnb.
BOOK | Find the best deals on Nepal accommodation here
FREE AIRBNB COUPON | Use our Airbnb code to get £25 off your next booking!
| LODGES/TEAHOUSES |
The accommodation of choice (not that you have any) while trekking through the Himalaya, teahouses are generally comfortable but very basic.
Don’t expect anything more than a bed, a pillow and, if you’re lucky a woollen blanket. Amenities are often basic, and showers are more often than not cold (although this is changing with solar technology).
It is now possible to book some teahouses through booking platforms.
BOOK | Find the best deals on Nepal accommodation here
| AIRBNB |
Airbnb is a recent addition to the Nepal accommodation marketplace, allowing you to have a more authentic living experience in places like Kathmandu or Pokhara.
On top of homes, smaller, boutique hotels list their rooms on Airbnb, so it really is the best place to find unique and comfortable accommodation at a reasonable price.
FREE AIRBNB COUPON | Use our Airbnb code to get £25 off your next booking!
Nepal WEATHER, AND THE BEST TIME TO VISIT Nepal
Nepal has four main seasons revolving around the summer monsoon.
We recommend visiting post-monsoon (late Sept - late Nov), when the weather is clear and dry, the air clean and mountains most visible. Despite being peak season, it really is the best time to enjoy Nepal at it’s finest, wherever you chose to visit.
If this doesn’t suit, Spring (Feb - mid April) can also be a good time to visit. This is actually when we travelled there for our Annapurna trek, and we found the days were longer and the weather warmer, which make for perfect hiking conditions.
READ | Learn more about when to travel to Nepal in our Nepal travel guide
BEST TOURS OF Nepal
Although we’re definitely advocates for independent travel, we understand some travellers may want to experience Nepal with a guide or as part of a tour, especially when hiking in the Himalaya.
Below are selection of tours we recommend in Nepal:
Hiking the Annapurna Circuit trek with G Adventures | An epic 18-day small group tour trekking the Annapurna Circuit. Includes accommodation in a hotel as well as an expert guide, meals, transport and more. Book here.
Whatever you do, don’t travel through Nepal without travel insurance. Whether it be a sprained ankle in the mountains (or worse), Delhi belly, theft, or lost baggage (Kathmandu airport is notorious for losing baggage!), things can go wrong in Nepal, and insurance is your only way of mitigating the issues!
READ | Our ultimate guide to travel insurance
Nepal BACKPACKING ESSENTIALS
Travelling through Nepal comes with a unique set of needs. To help you have a comfortable, happy journey, we recommend bringing the following items with you:
Reusable water bottle | THE BEST INVESTMENT WE’VE EVER MADE! We use the Grayl water purification bottles, which allows us to fill up from any water source, anywhere in the world (including train taps!).
Biodegradable Wet Wipes | Keep clean without destroying the planet!
Hand sanitiser | not something we’d actually recommend normally, but in Sri Lanka it can be a bloody great investment.
A spork | to cut down on unnecessary plastic usage at meal times
Power bank | power does drop out… often! Don’t get caught out without power for your devices buy purchasing this power bank
READ | check out our eco-friendly packing guide to travel through Nepal consciously and comfortably
EXPERIENCE MORE OF Nepal WITH THESE ESSENTIAL POSTS
NEPAL TRAVEL GUIDE | Nepal Travel guide, including what to see, know and do!
NEPAL TRAVEL TIPS | Everything you need to know before you visit Nepal
KATHMANDU CITY GUIDE | Our in depth guide to the chaotic Kathmandu
THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT | Our comprehensive guide to hiking the Annapurna Circuit
TRAVEL INSURANCE | Don’t leave home without travel insurance (seriously, don’t!). Click here to get the best deals with World Nomads, our trusted travel insurance provider
PHOTOGRAPHY | Love our photography? Wondering what gear we use to get all of our photos around the world?
RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL | Responsible travel is important. REALLY IMPORTANT.
Learn our top responsible travel tips to help you, your family and friends travel more consciously around the globe
ECO FRIENDLY PACKING ESSENTIALS | Don’t leave home without our favourite eco-friendly travel essentials
Tell us what you think the best things to do in Nepal are in the comments below!