How to Plan a Trip to Nepal — A Complete Guide to Travel in Nepal

How to Plan a Trip to Nepal — A Complete Guide to Travel in Nepal

By Carol WangUpdated Sep. 24, 2021

Traveling to Nepal is an adventure that never fails to help us appreciate the natural beauty of this world we call home with the country’s immense mountains, jungles full of wildlife, beautiful temples, ancient cities, and friendly people.

To help you create your dream journey, here is our complete guide to traveling in Nepal. In this article, you will find all the practical information you need to start planning your trip including reasons to visit, where to go, what to experience, when to visit, food, accommodation, and much much more.

But a few basics first:

Nepal is a landlocked country that is located in the Himalayas between China and India. The most popular things to do in Nepal include trekking, mountaineering, mountain viewing, and visiting temples. Nepal has a very vibrant culture that is a mixture of Buddhist and Hindu values which can be seen in the abundance of temples and in the everyday life of the local people.

4 Reasons to Visit Nepal

1. Once-in-a-lifetime Mountain Views

Containing some of the tallest ranges in the Himalayas, Nepal is one of the best countries in the world to view some of our planet's most incredible mountains. From Mount Everest and Annapurna to Kanchenjunga, Ama Dablam, and Dhaulagiri there is no shortage of massive mountains to see here.

One of the best things about Nepal is that it allows visitors to view these mountains at their own pace. Adventure seekers can take on the multiple-day trek to the Everest Base Camp while more relaxed travelers can opt for the Everest Flight or head to Nagarkot to take in panoramic mountain views from the hotel balcony.

2. Best Wildlife Viewing Opportunities in Asia

Nepal contains many different climate regions from the high elevation areas of the Himalayas to the Terai lowlands. Due to the variety of terrain and the conservation efforts of the local government, Nepal has become an important hotspot for biodiversity.

One of the top places to go to see Nepal's wild side is Chitwan National Park. A wildlife safari through Chitwan offers travelers the chance to glimpse one-horned rhinos, Bengal tigers, crocodiles, leopards, and Indian elephants.

3. Friendliest Country in the World

Nepali people are famous for their generosity and welcoming attitudes. When in Nepal, travelers are often greeted very warmly and treated like family. It is a Nepali culture to treat guests well and a tradition to share whatever you have, even if it's very little. 

Because of this openness and friendliness to outsiders, travelers find Nepal a great place to build connections with locals and have authentic and experiences with Nepali culture.

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Differences Between India and Nepal

Because Nepal is surrounded by India on three sides, it is often grouped together with its powerful neighbor. Although some aspects of Nepali culture are similar to Indian culture, the countries are also different in many ways.

Religion—While both India and Nepal are majority Hindu countries, Nepali culture is more influenced by Buddhism. India has a few small Buddhist communities but in Nepal, Buddhist temples, stupas, and worshippers can be found throughout the country.

Poverty—Nepal is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world and the earthquake of 2015 made matters even worse. One-fourth of the people living in Nepal live below the poverty line. India also has problems with poverty but has a much larger middle class and more valuable resources than Nepal. Nepal relies heavily on tourism and the money sent home by citizens working abroad.

Adventure Travel—While there are some great options in India for adventure, it is hard to beat Nepal in adventure travel. Nepal's incredible terrain is the best in the world for trekking and the country offers many great routes at many different levels of difficulty. In Nepal, you can also find other adventure sports such as paragliding, mountain biking, sky diving, and camping.

Safety—Many solo female travelers find that they feel safer and more at ease in Nepal than they do in India. In Nepal, women often deal with less staring and awkward interactions.

Best Time to Visit Nepal

The best time to visit Nepal is during the post-monsoon season (September to November) when the visibility in the mountains is at its best and trekking conditions are great around Everest and Annapurna.

Another good time to visit Nepal is in spring (February to April) when the weather at high elevation is cool and good for trekking. Conditions are often less clear this time of year due to crop burning in the Kathmandu Valley. Spring is one of the best times for a visit to Chitwan National Park because this is the hottest time of year and when the animals are most active.

Summer in Nepal is the monsoon season (June to September). The monsoon rains make for super blooms of beautiful Himalayan flowers but also cause landslides and dangerous travel conditions throughout the country. Leeches and mud are also large problems for outdoor adventurers at this time.

Winter (December to February) in Nepal offers the clearest views of the Himalayas and the most affordable prices on travel and accommodation. However, temperatures often get below freezing in high elevation areas of the country which can make for difficult trekking conditions. Lowland areas such as Kathmandu Valley can be as warm as 20°C (68°F) in the winter months.

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Top 7 Places to Visit in Nepal

The two most popular places to go in Nepal are Mount Everest and Kathmandu, but there is much more to this beautiful country than just these two destinations.

1. Kathmandu—Temples and Shrines

Kathmandu is the capital city of Nepal and the place where most travelers will begin their journey. This is a city with chaotic narrow streets that are packed full of gorgeous temples and shrines.

Some essential attractions to check out in Kathmandu include the maze of shrines in the city center and Thamel, the shopping street that is full of handicrafts and great food. Pashupatinath Temple, Boudhanath Stupa, Swayambhunath Temple, and Kopan Monastery are all located in Kathmandu.

Kathmandu International Airport is also where travelers can board a plane for a scenic flight around Everest.

2. Pokhara—Natural Beauty and Adventure 

Pokhara is a lakeside city near the Annapurna region. This city has long been famous for its spectacular scenery and abundance of adventure activities. Here you can relax while taking in the views of the mountains over the bobbing boats on Fewa Lake or participate in mountain biking, paragliding, and trekking.

Pohkara is the starting point for many famous treks including the challenging Annapurna Base Camp. The two-day Poonhill trek offers visitors incredible views of Annapurna in the distance and the Annapurna Circuit trek is a less demanding hike that can be taken at your own pace.

Pokhara is also home to the famous World Peace Pagoda.

3. Patan—The Ancient City

Patan, also known as Lalitpur 'The City of Beauty', has a history dating back to the year 250 BC. Although Patan is only located around 5 kilometers from Kathmandu, the city was a fiercely independent kingdom for most of its history and has managed to retain its unique culture.

The architecture of this entire city is based on the principles of the Buddhist Wheel of Righteousness and Patan has long been a melting pot of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs.

While in this ancient city make sure to explore the gorgeous temples, palaces, and statues of Durbar Square and check out the Patan Museum. Many of the ancient temples in Patan were damaged by the 2015 earthquake, but quite a few are still standing and the city is definitely still worth the visit.

4. Nagarkot—Panoramic Himalayan Views

Nagarkot is located close to Bhaktapur and is well-known for its stunning views of the surrounding Himalayas. There are 8 ranges that can be seen from this small mountain town including Everest, Annapurna, Manaslu, Ganesh Himal, Lantang, Jugal, Rolwaling, and Numbur. Nagarkot also offers panoramic views of the Kathmandu Valley.

The town itself is surrounded by dense pine forests and is a quiet and peaceful place full of boutique and luxury hotels with mountain views.

The most popular attraction here is the view of sunrise and sunset, but the town also offers some short treks and mountain biking trails.

5. Sagarmatha National Park—Home of Everest

Sagarmatha National Park is one of the most spectacular locations in the world and was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1976 for its spiritual and cultural importance as well as its vast range of flora and fauna.

Sagarmatha is most well-known for containing the highest peak in the world, Mount Everest, standing at 8,848 meters. The majority of the park sits above 3,000 meters and contains many areas above 6,000.

The most popular activities to do here including trekking and camping. Treks in Sagarmatha range from the steep and difficult climb of Mt. Taboche with its mountain top monastery to easier walks through the lower elevation villages inhabited by Tibetan-speaking people.

6. Lumbini—Birthplace of Buddha

Lumbini is one of the most significant Buddhist sites in the world and attracts religious pilgrims who come to meditate in the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, also known as the Buddha.

The Mayadevi Temple was built on the location that archaeologists have identified as the place where Buddha was born and took his first steps.

The temples in Lumbini range from the ancient 2nd century BC structures to those built in modern times. Here you can relax in the tranquility of the gardens and wander through temple sites.

7. Ilam—Tea Lover's Paradise

Ilam is a district of Nepal that is close to the border with India and is especially famous for its tea and spice plantations. Ilam is the perfect destination for travelers who want an off-the-beaten-track experience in Nepal.

Here, you can relax in the gardens of quaint towns with views of Kanchenjunga and a hot cup of tea in your hands.

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Top 9 Things to Do in Nepal

Nepal is the adventure and trekking capital of the world. Although most people visit Nepal to see Mount Everest, there are also plenty of other things to do and experience in this beautiful country.

1. View Mount Everest

The number 1 thing to do in Nepal is to catch a glimpse of the most famous peak in the world.

Trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp is a once-in-a-lifetime experience but it requires trekking experience and willingness to dedicate 12 days to the hike. The conditions on the mountain are also not the most comfortable. Many people hike with camping gear and sleep on the ground. Others prefer to stay in tea houses which provide very simple but comfortable accommodation.

Another great way to see Everest up close is to take the Everest Flight from Kathmandu Airport. Everest Flight planes hold around 18 people and each person has their own untinted window. These flights give travelers bird’s eye views of the most beautiful and tallest mountains in the Himalayas. 

For a panoramic view of Everest, travelers can head to the cities of Nagarkot or Duhilikel. Here, just an early morning hike to the nearby hilltop gives travelers unmatched sunrise views of the breathtaking peaks.

2. World-Class Trekking

Nepal is one of the best countries in the world to visit for trekkers and the country has much more to offer than just the trek to Everest Base Camp. Whether you are a novice or advanced trekker, there are plenty of incredible routes for you to discover in Nepal. 

The Manaslu trek is a 14-day tea house or camping trek that is one of the best adventures in the country. On this journey, you'll get legendary scenery of jungles and peaks as well as opportunities to chat with locals.

Another advanced route is Ama Dablam, the mountain that is perched like a mother or Ama above the Dablam glacier. Near Ama Dablam you can also see the Khumbu Glacier which is the highest in the world.

Less experienced trekkers can consider tackling Island Peak or Mera Peak which are both challenging adventures that can be accomplished without prior mountaineering experience. 

3. Light Trekking in the Annapurna Region

The Annapurna Circuit is a great option for outdoor lovers who want to trek but also want a more relaxed and moderate hiking experience. 

The entire Annapurna Circuit takes 17 to 21 days, but unlike many other treks in Nepal, this one can be broken down into small segments so travelers can choose the difficulty level and length of the hike they are interested in.

A benefit of hiking in the Annapurna region is that it is much less busy than the famous treks near Everest. Although the Annapurna Circuit is not at as high of an elevation as many other treks, while walking you will be surrounded by peaks over 8000 meters high.

The trekking trails in the Annapurna region are also joined by a serious of luxury lodges where hikers can enjoy hot water, great food, and a soft bed between days of walking.

4. Search for One-Horned Rhinos and Wild Tigers

Exploring the national parks of Nepal is another must-do activity when traveling in this stunning country.

Chitwan was the country's first national park and is a popular place to take wildlife safaris to see one-horned rhinos, elephants, and a beautiful variety of plants and migratory birds. Chitwan also contains a small population of wild Bengal tigers although they are elusive animals and more difficult to spot.

Another great wildlife destination is Bardia National Park which is the largest wildlife area in the Terai region and is much less commercially developed than Chitwan. Visitors in Bardia have a better chance of seeing wild tigers and can also spot rhinos, crocodiles, and dolphins.

5. Explore Kathmandu's Old City

Wandering the streets and alleyways of Kathmandu is an important part of any Nepal trip and helps travelers capture the everyday life of the local people. The city's Durbar Square is full of temples and shrines while Thamel is a great place to buy souvenirs and try local food.

Ason Tole is the busiest intersection in Kathmandu and is the perfect place to go to take in the organized chaos of Nepali roads. Make sure to check out the nearby three-story Annapurna temple and Thahiti Tole which is home to a 15th-century Buddhist stupa.

6. Explore the Largest Buddhist Stupa

Boudhanath Stupa is the largest Buddhist stupa in the world and is also the most important Tibetan Buddhist religious site outside of Tibet.

This gold and white stupa is enormous and consists of a giant white dome that is topped with a golden Buddhist pyramid draped in colorful prayer flags. Built sometime in the 14th century, the stupa has long been a major worship point in the region.

When visiting, expect to walk through throngs of worshippers who come to pray and make offerings. Here you can observe the devotees as they move around the stupa, listen to the chanting of monks, and enjoy the smell of burning incense.

7. Experience a Festival

As with traveling to many other countries, festivals in Nepal are a great way to experience local culture and traditions. In Nepal, there always seems to be a festival happening somewhere whether it is being celebrated by the Hindus, Buddhists, or the indigenous peoples.

Experience the joy of Durga's victory during Dashain, the beauty of the clay lanterns of Tihar, or the religious rituals during Buddha Jayanti.

8. Climb up to Swayambhunath Temple

Swayabhunath is located on the outskirts of Kathmandu and is a famous Buddhist temple that requires a hike up 365 stone steps to reach the entrance. This temple complex was founded at the beginning of the 5th century and is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Nepal.

When you make your way up the stone stairs, you will see some of the hundreds of monkeys that live on the temple grounds. These furballs are cute but can be mischievous. The monkeys are considered holy and are allowed to roam freely around the temple.

9. Make the Pilgrimage to Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath Temple is located on the outskirts of Kathmandu and is Nepal's most sacred Hindu temple. Pashupatinath is dedicated to Lord Shiva and draws worshippers from all over the Indian subcontinent. This temple is not only beautiful but is also a great place to witness ancient Hindu rituals.

Non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple, but the grounds and exterior of the complex are beautiful and still worth exploring.

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Festivals in Nepal

Nepal is a country that loves celebrations. Whether it is a Hindu, Buddhist, or indigenous festival, the people of every group in Nepal often take part in every celebration to support each other in a great show of religious harmony. 

The most important festival in Nepal is Dashain which occurs in October or November every year. This festival celebrates the victory of the goddess Durga in her battle against the demon king Maisasur. This holiday is a great time to visit Nepal as it is common for Nepalis to invite visitors to festival feasts and events.

Another great festival to experience in Nepal is Tihar which is similar to the Indian Diwali. Tihar takes place right after Dashain and is the celebration of the victory of light over darkness. This festival is celebrated for over 5 days. The second day of the festival, Kukkar, is dedicated to dogs who are prayed for and thanked for their loyalty.

Other important festivals in Nepal include Buddha Jayanti (Buddha's birthday) and Gai Jatra, the festival of cows. Holi is also celebrated here.

Food in Nepal

Nepali cuisine is heavily influenced by its surrounding countries and internal cultural diversity. With influences from India and China, Nepal has created its own entirely new cuisine that is both delicious and exciting. 

The most typical Nepali dish is Dal Bhat which is a lentil and rice soup that is flavored with various spices. This is a nice warm meal that tastes great on hiking trails. Other great foods to try include momos which are Nepali dumplings, yak curry, fried lentil patties, and samosas.

Because tourism is such a major part of the country's economy, it is also possible to find great western food in tourist areas. Thamel in Kathmandu serves everything under the sun from apple strudel to pasta.

It is important to note that Nepal is heavily influenced by Hinduism and most Nepalis consider cows to be holy animals. While in the country, you won't be able to eat beef, but buffalo and yak meat are available.

Best Accommodation in Nepal

Traveling in Nepal's major cities and tourist areas is a great opportunity to stay in a luxurious resort hotel. In Kathmandu, our favorite play to stay is the Nepali Ghar Hotel for its location in the city center, beautiful views, and in house restaurant that whips up both Nepali and international classics. 

In Pokhara, we love The Begnas Lake Resort & Villas for its lakeside location, outdoor pool, spa, and Ayurvedic treatment facilities. In the mountain town of Nagarkot, we love the Hotel Mystic Mountain for its resort features and Club Himalaya for its mountain views.

When visiting Chitwan National Park, we recommend Center Park Resort for its comfortable rooms and beautiful gardens which are great places to relax after a day on safari.

While Nepal does have some luxurious resort hotels, when you head higher up into the mountains this type of accommodation won't be available. In the Everest region, trekkers often bring their own camping gear or stay in simple tea houses. On the trek to Everest Base Camp, there are five lodges that offer a more comfortable stay.

On the Annapurna Circuit, you'll find nice but simple lodges that offer hot water and good meals.

How to Travel to Nepal

Nepal is a small landlocked country that is bordered by India and China on all sides. There are a few different methods to travel to Nepal, but the easiest way is to catch an international flight into Kathmandu.

There are direct flights available to Kathmandu from New York, Dallas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles in the US and from London, Paris, Munich, Frankfurt, and Istanbul in Europe. To make the trip to Nepal more affordable, travelers can head to India first and then fly to Kathmandu from New Delhi.

Travelers who are visiting India before their trip to Nepal can fly to Kathmandu from Delhi, Varanasi, Mumbai, and Kolkata. Delhi offers the most flight options at the best prices.

From India, it is also possible to cross into Nepal overland. This journey requires taking a bus or train to the India Nepal border. Trains from Delhi to the Sonauli border crossing often take around 14 hours.

Once crossing into Nepal, it is necessary to take a long-distance bus to Kathmandu. Buses from the Sonauli to Kathmandu take 6 to 7 hours.

How to Get Around Nepal

Because of Nepal's mountainous terrain and poor infrastructure, traveling around Nepal is often one of the biggest challenges of visiting. The best way to travel from one Nepali city to another is often by private car or jeep. 

Private transportation is more comfortable and faster than traveling by bus and allows guests the option of being picked up directly from their hotel and dropped off directly at their next one without the hassle of booking taxis and buying bus tickets. 

Flying is another good option for traveling across Nepal. Most internal flights start or end in Kathmandu. The cities of Pokhara, Bharatpur, and Siddharthanagar all have airports. Some popular Nepali Airlines include Yeti Airlines, Angi Air, Buddha Air, and Gorka Airlines.

One problem with traveling by plane in Nepal is that delays and flight cancellations are very common.

The last option for traveling from city to city in Nepal is by bus. This method is the most affordable, but the journey is often long and uncomfortable.

Cost of Private Tailor-Made Tour

Nepal has a developed tourism industry and is a relatively affordable place to visit especially when it comes to the cost of food, souvenirs, and accommodation. While most travel in Nepal is affordable, trekking, mountaineering, and adventure activities are often quite expensive.

In Nepal, everything costs more the higher up you go.

Private tailor-made tours start from around 260 USD per day per person. This price includes the cost of private transportation, an English-speaking guide, two hearty meals, and a 4-star hotel.

Travelers who would like to spend many days trekking or take an Everest Flight can expect to pay more.

How to Get a Visa

Most foreigners will need a tourist visa to enter Nepal, however, Nepal makes getting a tourist visa quite simple by offering a visa on arrival option at the airport in Kathmandu as well as at all land crossings.

To obtain a visa on arrival, you will need to bring passport-sized photos and money to pay your visa fee. It is a good idea to come prepared with USD because some border crossings will only accept U.S. dollars for visa payments.

The visa on arrival process is very quick and simple. It requires travelers to fill out a short form which can also be filled out online 15 days before arrival to make the process even faster.

Indian citizens do not need a visa to enter Nepal but will need to show their passport at the airport upon arrival.

Nepal Travel and Safety Tips

  • Power Outages—Nepal struggles with power shortages and it is normal for the power to go out once every day. Most hotels and restaurants have back up generators but it is still a good idea to bring a power bank and flashlight with you.
  • Spotty Internet—The internet in Nepal is not quick and often goes out do to power problems. Internet access is available in all cities but is not widely available on trekking routes.
  • Trekking Safety—Trekking in Nepal can get very dangerous very fast and it is important to never trek alone especially on difficult routes. If you decide to trek alone, always tell hotel staff where you are going and when you should be expected to return.
  • Water Quality—Most cities in Nepal have poor water quality. It is okay to use tap water to shower and brush your teeth but you should never drink it. While in the city, make sure to drink bottled water. If you plan to spend multiple weeks trekking, it's a good idea to invest in a water filtration system.
  • Altitude Sickness—Altitude sickness is a risk in many areas of Nepal and claims the lives of multiple trekkers every year. When hiking above 2,500 meters it's a good idea to travel with a guide as they will choose the best route for quick acclimatization.

Tailor Make Your Nepal Itinerary

Tailor-making your Nepal journey will allow you to choose the activities that suit you best and also enable you to explore the country more in-depth. Visiting Nepal on a private tour provides guests with meaningful cultural experiences that cannot be accessed by other travelers.

In Nepal, there are plenty of opportunities for travelers to create their own unique journeys. Outdoor lovers can spend time trekking through the country with an experienced trekking guide.

Whether you want to hike to the base camp of Mount Everest or Annapurna or spend some time hiking in the valleys. The difficulty and duration of the hike are entirely up to you!

Explore Nepal with Asia Highlights

Want to experience the rich culture and stunning peaks of Nepal? At Asia Highlights, we can help you plan your dream trip that is tailor-made to suit your travel wants and goals. Leave the planning and stress to us so that you can just relax and enjoy your journey.

Why Travel with Asia Highlights

  • Tailor-made experience: All of your ideas/needs will be carefully considered to create your ideal trip.
  • Worry-free planning: Every step of your trip, you will be looked after by your 1:1 travel consultant based in Asia.
  • No-risk booking: We refund as much as we can and adapt flexibly to unexpected changes.

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