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What’s the first thought that pops up in your mind on hearing the word Nepal? When I put this question to any foreigner I meet while trekking or traveling, I get the same answer almost every time and you’ve probably guessed it right. Its freaking Mount Everest, right? And guess what, I can’t help grinning when that answer slowly strikes my eardrum and my auditory nerve, languishing delivers to it the cerebrum because it’s amazing.
But wait, what about the few people who don’t answer same? If you have met any guy from Hippie generation or watched a movie “In the name of father starring Daniel Day-Lewis, you’ll know about freak street during 60’s and 70’s and the free drug spree. Well, those days are over now. Most of the foreigners, nowadays, when thinking about Nepal, think of talk about amazing Annapurna circuit, Durbar Squares, Lumbini, the virgin culture untouched by modernity and so forth.
You won’t believe it but Nepal was a mysterious land in Himalaya until 1950, its own citizens required the passport to visit different places and virtually closed to any foreign person except for the handful of British diplomats. But after the advent of democracy in 1950, everything changed and now it holds vast potential for the tourism industry. In this article, I am going to take you to little tour where you’ll visit beautiful places in Nepal.
I bet you’ve heard Bob Seger’s hit Kathmandu where he sings about mountains and desire to visit it. Well, turns out there are so many beautiful places inside Kathmandu which will not disappoint you.
Well, I think I already talked about the legendary freak street of Hippie era. Guess what, it lies in modern-day Basantapur aka Kathmandu Durbar Square, one of the three medieval palaces of Kathmandu valley which depict the classic example of woodart and stoneart. Kathmandu Durbar Square is located in the heart of the city adjacent to tourist hub, Thamel. The major attraction of the palace square is Hanuman Dhoka palace which used to be royal palace of Nepal for Malla dynasty and later Shah dynasty till the 19th century. Also, you may be piqued by the Kumari bahal, a quadrangle which contains a kumari home, a home to the living goddess in Newari tradition. The 2015 earthquake destroyed some of the heritages like Kasthamandap, Bhimsen tower, and so forth, you can still feel quaintness as you breathe the air sitting on the balcony of one of the cafes in there. I assure you, you’ll feel lifted just by visiting this amazing piazza.
Want to visit somewhere peaceful, open, and quaint? I gotta tell you, Bhaktapur Durbar Square certainly holds all three attributes and maybe more. Even I feel so mesmerized by the tranquility I feel whenever I visit this centuries-long, intact palace square. Red bricks paved roads, vintage cafes, most of them having medieval architecture, you’ll be amazed to see 55 windowed palace which used to be royal palace of Malla dynasty till 18th century. Also interesting one is Nyatapol ( five storied) temple which remains intact even after 2015 earthquake. Filled with temples of various gods and goddesses, you’ll find this palace courtyard more spacious. Don’t forget to taste local yogurt (juju dhau) once you are in Bhaktapur.
You’ll be amazed how all three durbar squares vary in respect to their architecture, design and the temples. My personal favorite among three is Patan Durbar Square, not just because it demarcates the vibrant lifestyle of people in Mangal Bazar downtown from rest of the Patan, also because of the cafes, tourists and the locals blended together as one which gives me an awesome feeling. You can visit the Durbar museum and observe all antiquity from the 6th century and also experience an amazing cafe, away from all the crowds. You don’t want to miss the Sundari Chowk once you are inside of it. And trust me, the alleys of Patan Durbar Square will provide pleasure to your eyes where you’ll observe thanka, woodcrafts, and metalcrafts.
Wanna feel serene and calm staring at the lamas rolling the beads and listening to the slow-paced Buddhist hymn? The best place for you can be, one of my favorite places in town, Boudhanath. Situated in Bouddha, few kilometers northwest from Kathmandu, it’s one of the few largest Buddhist stupas in the world. Filled with Tibetan restaurants which provide exquisite dishes, this is an absolute hideout from the fast paced metropolis. Boudhanath has an interesting history as it acted as a transit point between Indian and Tibetan traders during the medieval period. So, Tibetan traders started to offer garlands and offer their goods to then small stupa which, acted as a safe haven for the Tibetan refugees afterward. Today, if you travel through the alleys, you’ll be transcended to typical Tibetan community, where seniors can be seen counting beads, and lamas and nuns strolling around.
Popularly known in the western world as Monkey temple, Swayambhunath is popular Buddhist shrine located on the west of the Kathmandu, atop a hill. According to Buddhist scripture, it is believed the shrine was self-created when Kathmandu valley was still a lake, hence the name Swayam ( self), bhu( existence). Today, this place consists of a large Stupa, which holds a central position in the faith of Nepalese Buddhists also there are so many temples which are thought to be made during Licchavi period. If you ever visit Kathmandu, the best time for you to visit Swayambhu is either early morning or at dusk by a short hiking. Walking past hundred of vertical steps, you’ll burn plenty of calories before you glance at enormous Stupa and serene eyes of Swayambhu. The panoramic view of Kathmandu valley seen from here during dusk is just awesome. Though this place is popular among Buddhists around the world, it doesn’t hurt anyone to visit it for the peace of mind. Being here, you feel like you’ve been transcended to such a blissful place, you never want to go away from.
If I have to say one good thing about Rana regime in Nepal ( who ruled Nepal from mid 19th century to mid-twentieth century), it’s their adaptation of European neo classical architecture in almost every buildings and garden they created. One of the finest manifestation can be observed garden of Dream which is located as an oasis in thirst ridden Kathmandu valley in the heart of the city, Thamel. Lying inside the Kaiser Mahal, this neoclassical, Edwardian style garden provides you an amazing ambiance and a haven to study, bask in the sun and simply savor its beauty.Besides, it also houses a natural library where visitors can take advantage of natural beauty inter related to historical and architectural flavor.The most striking of all is the six pavillion which depicts six seasons prevalent in Nepal. Along with it, you can fountains, decorative garden furniture, and European-inspired features such as verandahs, pergolas, balustrades, urns, and birdhouses. Plus, you can always try the amazing coffee at kaiser cafe located on the premises.
If Kathmandu offers you the immense cultural extravaganza, rest of the Nepal offers you the thrill of adventure and the virgin land of cultural plethora. I have list down the following places which will make your stay in Nepal worthwhile.
This cosmopolitan tourist hub is situated in the west Nepal needs very few explanation to you, I guess. Having Phewa lake as its courtyard, Pokhara offers immense and versatile atmosphere to people who want to seek pleasure and the thrill of adventure at the same time. The popular place in town, Lakeside contains the five-star hotels, famous resorts, and also, the hotels that fit your budget.
You can enjoy your stay at Pokhara by leisurely boating on Phewa lake or hike to begnas lake. For those who seek adventure, the availability of paragliding and bungee jump surely won’t disappoint. One thing about Pokhara is that it never fails to amaze me every time I go there. The ambiance during New year when Pokhara Street festival is celebrated is just amazing. Best time to visit Pokhara is any time of year, cool, right? I still haven’t talked about the World Peace Stupa which sits atop a hill and the hiking trail. This hike almost feels surreal as you can gaze at the behemoth Phewa lake and Pokhara valley. And the thing you don’t want to miss is the sunrise from Sarangkot, which also hosts the paragliding. As Nepal is often chosen as the recreational retreat, different places in pokhara offer mediation packages which will surely come as a bonus for you.
Do you want to trek for a month away from your comfort zone and humdrum of life exploring the remote villages and various ethnic cultures Nepal provide? Trust me, once you hear how awesome the deal is, you’ll feel like leaving your couch right now and packing your rucksack. Opened as a trekking circuit in the early 1980s, trekking in Annapurna circuit will offer you the amazing chapter in your life, which you’ll cherish for the rest of your life as this circuit is referred as “mother of all circuit”. This circuit will cover the places like Pokhara ( which I already described), Poon Hill, Ghandruk to all the way to Thorong-La pass in Manang which is at the height of 5000 meters from the sea level. Mark Twain has said that “nothing so liberalizes a man and expands the kindly instincts that nature put in him as travel and contact with many kinds of people.” Exactly. Trekking in the foothills of Annapurna circuit will bring you in contact with the people of so exotic culture which you had fathomed. While on the route, you’ll get to view three mountain ranges, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, and fishtail. Basically, this trek takes you around these mountain range, so imagine how awesome it’ll be. Besides the mountain ranges, you’ll bump into the tundresque terrain of Mustang district, notably the places like Kagbeni and the famous temple, Muktinath. And descending down from Thorong la pass, you’ll land on Manang district, which lies behind the mountain ranges. The diverse culture of Gurung, Thakali, and other tribes are the major attraction of this route, not to forget the amazing view of the mountains.
Why do people go for mountaineering? I often used to ponder on this question until I read the books like “on the road” and “ dharma bums” by Jack Kerouac. He tells that traveling and mountaineering is one of the ways for spirituality. Like him, I too believe now that traveling is all about deciphering myself. So, which is the farthest place on earth can I travel to unravel my inner self? Without a doubt, it’ll be the scaling of Mount Everest. Wait now! I am not telling everyone should do that but what I am trying to put is every travel enthusiast should at least go for EBC trek. For the adventure tourism, this trek is just number one. You can trek EBC either during March-May or September-December. Your journey will start by landing on the most dangerous airport in the world, the Lukla airport. Acclimatizing yourself at Namche Bazaar located at the height of 3440m, you can prepare for your journey which will offer you unparalleled natural beauty. On the way up, you’ll arrive at the famous monastery of Tengboche at a height of about 3800m which will certainly imbue the sense of belonging to the mountain god. It is often said, traveling on a mountain is the only time when the human realizes the insignificance of his ego and all the wildest hopes and desires. EBC is located at the height of 5346m, so any normal person can easily perform this trek without any problem. So, what’s special about it? Well, like I said, the sense of personal growth, immense hospitable people of Solukhumbu and majestic mountains will surely win your heart.
When did you last go on a jungle safari riding on the Elephant? Never? Don’t worry, just pack your bags, update your passport and head to Nepal because there’s nowhere better jungle safari in affordable price than in Sauraha, Nepal. Located inside Chitwan national park, home for one-horned rhino, Bengal tigers, deer and countless birds, you’ll encounter with a quiet Tharu villages ( native of Plain of Nepal) while your stay there. Chitwan is located 160 kilometers south of Kathmandu,155 km by road from Pokhara and 160 km by road from the Indian border at Sunauli. While you are at Sauraha, you can do many things which I’ll just list them below:
watch the sun set over the National Park which is just jaw dropping and you’ll wish it never ended.
There are so many Western-style hotels and cottages in Suraha, so you shouldn’t be worried at all regarding the accommodation. Also, the presence of local eateries are also the plus points if you want to go for local cuisine. Above all, Sauraha will be the best hideout for luxury tourism, if you are seeking for one. And wait, the best season to travel sauraha is from November to April.
There’s often misguided truth regarding the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, popularly known as Buddha. Most of the western researchers have falsely claimed that he was born in India. The truth is he was born in Lumbini, 22 km west from Bhairahawa ( one of the popular trading city which is located 265 km south west of Kathmandu). Though it is primarily a religious site for millions of Buddhists around the world, agnostics and pacifists revere this place equally. Since Buddhism is practiced as a philosophy rather than a religion in most of the western societies, the visit to this place creates a kind of emotional stir. Just think about how a person born in this very place around 563 BC has changed the way we perceive human life and other creature, it’s amazing, right? You can actually see the exact birthplace of Buddha upon which Mayadevi temple is built in the honor of his mother. Lost in rubble for many centuries, the renovation and upgrading of Lumbini started since the late 19th century. Besides Maya Devi temple, today, you can observe the temples like
So, if you ever visit Nepal, missing Lumbini would be a grave loss with capital G since this place, often overlooked holds a significant meaning for every human being. There are various ways you can take to visit Lumbini as various tour agency offer the combo package which will include the trip to different places including Lumbini. If you want to travel solo, you can board a plane to Bhairahawa from Kathmandu which is just easy as a pea.
Ask any foreigner about ABC and she’ll describe it in the more lucid way than any Nepali can. This is because almost all international tourist visiting Nepal go for this trek. Ascending upward from the queen of Nepal, “Pokhara”, ABC trek is famous for its quaint Gurung villages like Ghandruk which is located at 1940 m above the sea level, amazing places like poon hill and Ghorepani. ABC located at the height of 4130 m above sea level is the best trekking option for anyone visiting Nepal as the trek can be completed in about 10 days. This trek is popular among solo traveler to trekkers in a group too as hundreds of people from almost all around the world seem to scale this track every day during trekking seasons which are Autumn and spring. Starting from the foothill of revered Fishtail mountain, one can kiss the foot of Mt. Annapurna, one of the tallest peaks in the world. The most humanistic aspect of this trek is not just about the natural beauty but acquaintances with so many people, which give you a strong faith in humanity.
Mardi trek just starts on the east of ABC trek; matter of fact, it’s probably less trekked track which holds a significant potential. Ascending up from Pokhara, the trail leads you to the lush rhododendron forest ( if you travel during spring) which runs to the height of 3300m from where the path changes to rugged mountain scope. You can, from this height watch the magnificent mountains like Machhapuchhre (fishtail), Mardi Himal, Annapurna South and Hiunchuli. If you want to go to Mardi Base camp from High camp ( 3850m), it just takes 3-4 hours. Once you are in the Base camp, you can observe the undisrupted view of whole Annapurna range. Availability of cheap hotels and homestay means you can have a medium sized trekking packages with plenty of fun. And, like always, the cultural extravaganza and immense hospitality of people is always like the cherry on the top.
I hope my description of beautiful places in Nepal can be of a great help to you if you are seriously considering to travel Nepal. After the mega earthquake of 2015, most of the heritages are in the process of renovation. So, your travel can actually boost up the process. After the end of the civil war which lasted for almost 11 years and the political transition, Nepal is looking to offer its natural and cultural heritages to be observed by the people in the world so that collectively, we’ll be the better human.