Unfashionable footwear and long days spent walking up and down hills isn’t everyone’s idea of a holiday, but don’t let the thought of trekking put you off visiting Nepal.
Sure, trekking is a big deal here, but there are so other many things to see and do in our unique Himalayan nation.
We’ve put together a little list with some of Nepal’s best non-trekking options.
1. Spot wildlife in Chitwan National Park
Nepal’s most famous wildlife destination is widely considered to be one of the best in all of Asia. It’s home to iconic residents such as the one-horned rhino, Bengal tiger and Asian elephant, amongst hundreds of other bird and animal species. This UNESCO World Heritage site is made up of vast forests, marshes and grassland, covering some 932 sq km.
Safari tours here take place by 4×4, so no trekking required. Probably for the best when there’s tigers and leopards roaming the park….
Just a few hours drive south-west from Kathmandu, a few days in Chitwan can easily be included in your itinerary. There are also some great lodges you can stay in nearby, as well as the Barauli Community Homestay, if you prefer a more local experience.
2. Visit the ancient towns of Kathmandu Valley
The Kathmandu Valley is at the heart of Nepal’s history and civilisation. Its fertile soils drew settlers from all parts of the country, and from further afield, creating a melting pot of cultures and faiths which still exists modern Nepal.
The valley was once dominated by three distinct kingdoms, with their capitals in Kathmandu, Patan (Lalitpur) and Bhaktupur, and much of the ancient architecture of these places remains intact. Smaller towns such as Panauti have also changed very little in centuries, and strolling around these places is like taking glimpse back in time.
3. See Everest from the air
You don’t need hiking boots to see the world’s tallest mountain. In fact, you can see it in just one morning if you book onto an Everest Scenic Flight from Kathmandu.
These flights run daily if the weather allows, and within a few hours you can be soaring just above the Himalayan Range and getting a birds-eye view of Mount Everest, before settling back into the comfort of your hotel by lunchtime.
For something extra special, you can treat yourself to an epic helicopter ride through the mountains. It’s not cheap, but the experience of hovering almost touching distance from these giant mountains, the deserted Everest viewpoint and a luxury breakfast at the world’s highest hotel will make it feel worthwhile.
4. Eat! (and learn to cook Nepali-style)
One of the biggest joys of visiting a new country is the food, and it plays a huge part in Nepali society and family life. Whether you’re trying out the restaurants of Kathmandu and Pokhara, or eating home-cooked food at a homestay, Nepali food can be one of the highlights of your holiday.
Its also healthy and there are always great vegatarian options, so you can eat Dal Bhat to your heart’s content!
If you’d like to learn a few recipes to take home then you can take a local cooking class. Not only will you learn some recipes to take home with you, but you’ll also experience a little Nepali family life at the same time.
5. Adventure Sports
Nepal is fast becoming a leading destination for adventure sports, and with such landscapes and terrain it is easy to see why. Bungee jumping, white-water rafting, canyon swings and mountain biking can all be arranged just a short drive from Kathmandu.
Pokhara is perhaps Nepal’s adventure capital, with the vast Phewa Lake, rolling hills and nearby Annapurna Range providing the perfect playground for paragliding, watersports and ultralight Himalayan flights.
6. Relax in Pokhara
Pokhara isn’t all about adventure sports and trekking, and a few days enjoying the charms of this peaceful lakeside city can be a great addition to your time in Nepal.
The waterfront promenade buzzes with local life, bars and restaurants, whilst excursions out on the lake and to the nearby World Peace Pagoda make a great way to break up your relaxing days in the city. You’ll find some excellent hotels too, so you can treat yourself to little extra luxury, if you feel the need.
7. Go haggling in the local markets
Shopping isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but shopping in a foreign country is a different experience entirely. The markets and bazaars of Nepal can be fascinating places, full of beautifully crafted trinkets, colourful artwork and beautiful textiles. If you’re looking for some unique souvenirs to take home to your friends or family, don’t wait until you get back to the shops of Kathmandu Airport….you’ll be very disappointed!
Visiting the markets also gives you the chance to try out your haggling skills. Haggling is almost a national sport in Nepal, and it can be good fun and a nice way to connect with the local people…..so long as you don’t take it too seriously!
8. Temples everywhere!
Nepal’s history has been shaped by religion, and it’s plain to see from the wonderful architecture you’ll find throughout the country. Most of the Hindu temples and Buddhist stupas you’ll see have been lovingly preserved for centuries, and many are still used daily by the local community.
Each town or city will have its own religious buildings, often beautifully crafted and lavishly decorated by ancient kings. You’ll also find entire temple complexes such as Pashupatinath, where you can easily spend the whole day exploring the architecture and artwork of this sacred site.
You can explore these places at your own pace, or take a tour with a local guide to get a better insight into their history and meaning.
9. Enjoy an authentic homestay experience
Thanks to the pioneering work of the Community Homestay Network, it’s never been easier to experience local life and get to know the people of Nepal. From city homestays to tiny rural communities and even a Tibetan refugee camp, there are so many unique experiences you can add to your Nepal adventure.
Nepali hospitality is well-known, and to be welcomed into a family home is something quite special. You’ll often find no airs and graces here, and you’ll be treated as a friend rather than a guest. You can also get involved in daily chores and cookings, and join in with local parties and festivals too.
10. Take a hike
You don’t need to go on an epic 3-week trekking adventure to enjoy Nepal’s great outdoors, and there are a number of shorter, gentler hikes you can take. Many of these are day-hikes across easy terrain, and take you through traditional villages and to spectacular mountain viewpoints, before dropping you back to the comfort of your hotel in the evening.
11. Visit the birthplace of Buddha
Lumbini is considered one of the holiest places in the continent, and draws pilgrims from all over the world. Its fame comes from being the birthplace of Lord Buddha, and over the centuries wealthy kings and nations have added shrines, stupas and temples to demonstrate their faith.
Centred around the iconic Maya Devi Temple, the town is a complex of religious sites and artefacts, and the spiritual atmosphere is easy to get caught up with, whatever your own faith may be.