Where to go in Nepal
Planning a trip to a new country can be confusing at first, so we’ve prepared a little introduction to some of Nepal’s main destinations.
Thinking of doing some trekking? You can also check out our Trekking Regions guide.
Nepal’s capital city is the beating heart of the nation, and also the starting point for most travellers setting out to explore the country. It can feel like a chaotic introduction, where the fast-paced modern world bumps up against ancient traditions and architecture, but the city has a unique charm which makes it well worth exploring for a few days.
From the peaceful stupas and temples of UNESCO-listed Durbar Square to the hectic bars and bright lights of the Thamel district, Kathmandu is a city of contrasts. Soak up some of Nepal’s ancient culture, experience the buzz of modern Kathmandu and try out some of Nepal’s best restaurants.
There are plenty of activities on offer in Kathmandu, and the city is a starting point for a most tours and a number of great treks.
The Kathmandu Valley
The valley which is home to Nepal’s modern capital has been central throughout the country’s history, and is thought to have been home to some of the area’s earliest settlers. During the 12th-18th centuries, the cities of Patan, Bhaktapur and Kathmandu were independent states ruled by Malla kings, giving each former kingdom a unique culture and history. The entire Kathmandu Valley was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
Away from the historical cities, monuments and temples, the valley is made up of lush green hills and rivers which are perfect for hiking or touring by road. You can also visit some of the smaller settlements and ancient tribal communities of the valley, to see a different side of this important and beautiful part of Nepal.
Nepal’s second city sits on the banks of the beautiful Phewa Lake, surrounded by lush green hills and with the snowy peaks of the Annapurna range as a not-so-distant backdrop. It’s no wonder that so many travellers choose to stop off here on their Nepal adventure.
The picturesque waterfront which buzzes with local life, whilst the city provides a great selection restaurants, bars and accommodation to suit any budget. Perhaps the tourist shops and nightlife take a little away from Pokhara’s laid-back charm, but a slice of modern civilisation can be more than welcome after days spent trekking in the mountains. And anyway, that view…..
With its close proximity to the Annapurna range, Pokhara is a perfect base for trekkers exploring this part of Nepal. It has also become Nepal’s adventure sports capital, with world-class opportunities for paragliding, rafting and mountain biking nearby.
One of the world’s premier trekking destinations, this spectacular part of Nepal lies in the Central Himalayan region, not far from the lakeside city of Pokhara. You’ll find jaw-dropping mountain scenery at every turn, with some of the country’s highest and most famous peaks found here, including the imposing Annapurna Massif which gives the region its name.
There are a wide range of adventures on offer, ranging from gentler 3-4 day treks through the foothills where you can stay with welcoming local communities, right through to hardcore mountaineering, extreme sports and the iconic 230km Annapurna Circuit.
With most trailheads easily reached from Pokhara and an excellent trekking infrastructure in place, Annapurna is understandably popular with outdoor-lovers of all abilities.
The world’s tallest and most famous mountain is a true icon of Nepal. For many travellers it is simply a must-see, and the feeling of getting up close to this giant is impossible to match. There’s more to region than just Everest, of course, with peaceful foothills and fascinating tribal communities spread across the landscape and into neighbouring Tibet, making any journey to Everest a real adventure.
There are many ways to see the mountain, whether you’re trekking to Everest Base Camp via the ancient Sherpa capital at Namche Bazaar, scaling the peak or taking the scenic flight to see Everest from the sky. Whichever you choose, the experience will stay with you for a lifetime.
Chitwan National Park
Part of the Terai Lowlands in the southern part of Nepal, Chitwan is regarded as one of the premier wildlife destinations in all of Asia.
The national park is home to iconic species such as Bengal tigers, leopards, hyenas, sloth bears, elephants, crocodiles and the famous one-horned rhinoceros, as well as countless varieties of birds, butterflies and smaller mammals. Whilst you probably won’t see all of these in one visit, visitors are rarely left feeling disappointed by their Chitwan experience.
The park is made up of vast forests, marshes and grassland, covering some 932 sq km, and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its huge diversity and environmental importance.
Famous as the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha, Lumbini holds a huge significance for pilgrims and historians alike.
For centuries the site was lost to history, but after the discovery of a pillar inscribed by the emperor Ashoka in 1896, Lumbini has been steadily restored to something like its former glory. Centred around the Maya Devi Temple, built on the exact spot of Buddha’s birth, the site is a complex of beautiful temples, monasteries and stupas built by Buddhist nations from around the world.
Most visitors to Lumbini come as part of a pilgrimage, but tourists are also welcome to come and soak up the peaceful atmosphere and wonderful architecture of this famous site, whatever their beliefs.
Far Eastern Nepal
The eastern Himalaya Region is often forgotten by adventurers heading to Everest and Annapurna, and it is this remoteness and feeling of peace which will give you a truly unforgettable experience. This part of Nepal is home to two of the world’s five highest mountains in Mt. Makalu (5th) and Mt. Kanchenjunga (3rd), as well as dense alpine forests and rolling foothills – it is untouched nature at its finest.
The people in eastern Nepal have a culture all of their own, formed by centuries of relative isolation. You can meet ancient Magar farming communities, see traditional art techniques, and experience wildly colourful cities like Janakpur. Eastern Nepal may not be the easiest option, but it is certainly one of the most rewarding parts of Nepal to explore.
Far Western Nepal
Remote and barely explored by tourists, the far western part of Nepal has always had its challenges in terms of development and accessibility. However, things are slowly starting to change, and through initiatives such as the Community Homestay Network, more and more intrepid tourists are beginning to explore this fascinating part of the country.
You’ll encounter unique tribes such as the colourful Rana Tharu, charming villages and sweeping green landscapes with striking mountain backdrops. Far Western Nepal is also home to native jungles and numerous national parks, where some of Asia’s rarest and most iconic species can be found.