Top 10 Places to Visit in Nepal and What to Do

Top 10 Places to Visit in Nepal and What to Do

By Carol WangUpdated May. 14, 2021

Nepal is a mature tourist destination offering a wide range of activities and sights. You could go on a day trek in the Himalayas, take a flight above Mount Everest, or go on a  jungle safari to see elephants and tigers. If you like exploring ancient relics, then Nepal has ancient Newari, Hindu, and Buddhist sites.

It usually takes a week to fully explore the country. You can easily cover Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Chitwan National Park in a week. If you are looking to travel for longer, then visit nearby areas such as Lumbini, Nagarkot, and Bandipur as well.

If you want to take your time exploring Kathmandu, then visiting local bookstores and museums would be a good idea. If you like outdoor activities, then head to Pokhara for adventure sports, such as trekking, paragliding, rafting, bungee jumping, and more.

Quick Facts

  • The best combination of cities to visit in Nepal is the Golden Triangle, comprising Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Chitwan.
  • If you want to learn more about Buddhist culture, a visit to Lumbini is a must. Nagarkot and Kirtipur are good options to extend your trip from Kathmandu.
  • Bandipur is a good place to visit if you plan to travel from Kathmandu to Pokhara by land.
  • Head to Janakpur to see buildings with Indian architecture and culture.

1.Kathmandu: World Heritage Sites

Recommended stay: 1–2 days

Kathmandu, with a history dating back nearly 2,000 years, was one of the three imperial cities in the Kathmandu Valley. The once primitive royal Himalayan kingdom has become a collection of ancient Newari culture, sacred Hindu and Buddhist temples, and heritage buildings.

Pashupatinath Temple is one of the largest and most sacred religious sites in Nepal. You will find that both Hindus and Buddhists share this place of worship. The temple is located on the banks of the Bagmati River. On the other side of the riverbank is a cremation ground, where you can meet sadhus or Hindu ascetics.

Monks At Pashupatinath Temple, Nepal.Monks At Pashupatinath Temple

Do visit the central area of Kathmandu, Durbar Square. Located 11 km (6 miles) from central Kathmandu is Boudhanath Stupa, which is visited by thousands of pilgrims every day. They walk around the central dome, spinning prayer wheels. Finally, climb up the top of Swayambhunath Stupa to watch and capture charming panoramic views of Kathmandu during sunset.

You can also take a walk through Kathmandu, or shop and eat delicious local food in the Thamel area. Don’t forget to buy some exquisite handicrafts here.

How to get there: Kathmandu can be your first stop in Nepal.

 2.Bhaktapur: Redbrick City

Recommended stay: 1 day

Bhaktapur is one of the three medieval cities in the Kathmandu Valley, around 12 km (7 miles) from Kathmandu city. It is also a pilgrimage site, with exquisite temples and other religious buildings. Redbrick buildings dot the ancient city.

The Bhaktapur Durbar Square is the most important section of the city and was formerly the home of the royal family of Bhaktapur. There is a palace on the square which was the seat of power of one of the three capitals of Kathmandu Valley in the 15th century. The square has buildings with traditional Newari architecture.

Begin from Durbar Square and walk to Taumadhi Square, which is unique for its beautiful stone and wood carvings. Visit Nyatapola Temple where Goddess Siddhi Lakshmi is enshrined, and the National Museum of Art, which has several collections of different works of art.

A walk around Bhaktapur can be more relaxing and enjoyable than one in Kathmandu! Most tourists like to stay at one of the quaint hotels in the ancient city and explore the city on foot. Travelers highly recommend Hotel Peacock.

How to get there: Bhaktapur is 45 minutes by road from Kathmandu.

3. Patan: Lalitpur

Recommended stay: 1 day

Also known as Lalitpur, Patan is one of the best heritage cities in the Kathmandu Valley. It is a unique city full of exquisite architecture, wood carvings, and religious art, which has earned it the nickname of "the ciy of art".

Patan Durbar Square located in the middle of the heritage area of Patan is an important site. It is the smallest of all the durbar squares in Kathmandu Valley and full of beautiful temples which are located very close to each other.

Patan Museum is one of the best museums in Nepal and is a must-visit spot. It showcases elements of Hindu and Buddhist culture, particularly in the architecture style of buildings and religious monuments. Do visit the Golden Temple (Hiranya Varna Mahavihar), which is adorned in gold and bronze ornaments, the Mahaboudha Temple, with more than 1,000 Buddha statues, and the Rato Machhendranath Temple, where the Hindu god of rain is worshiped.

Several Newari festivals, such as Rato Machhendranath, are held in Patan throughout the year. As the streets are very narrow, it may become very crowded. Have your lunch on the balcony of a restaurant near the square. You can enjoy a good view of the area while staying away from the crowd.

How to get there: It takes 30 minutes by road to reach Patan from Kathmandu.

4.Nagarkot: Postcard Himalayan Town

Recommended stay: 1 day and 1 night

A village only 32 km (19 miles) from Kathmandu city, Nagarkot is a gateway to the Himalayas. You can see eight of the thirteen Himalayas ranges of Nepal from almost anywhere in this beautiful town. Hotels and restaurants are readily available.

Here are the top things to do in the hillside village.

Hike to the Panoramic Deck (12 km / 7 miles) from where you can see the peaks of several Himalayan mountains, including Annapurna Massif, Manaslu, Langtang, Jugal, Everest, Numbur, Ganesh Himal, and Rolwaling Himal. The panoramic view extends from Dhaulagiri to the west and to the nearly invisible peaks of Everest and Kanchenjunga to the east.

There are mountain bikes available at most hotels, which you can use to traverse the Nagarkot Hiking Trail. You can also try paragliding or just relax and unwind.

It is wise to book a hotel on the hill, preferably a room with its balcony facing the Himalayas, so that you can wake up in the dark and just step out of the room to watch the magic of the rising sun. Club Himalaya is the best hotel for this.

How to get there: By road, it takes around 1½ hours from Kathmandu, and 50 minutes from Bhaktapur.

5. Pokhara: Tourist Capital of Nepal

Recommended stay: 2 days

Pokhara is Nepal’s tourist capital and the second-largest city in the Himalayan country. It is home to many beautiful historical temples and is a base for several famous hiking trails, such as the Annapurna Circuit, as well as many adventure activities.

Phewa Lake is an iconic spot in Pokhara. One of the most exciting and unforgettable ways to explore the lake and Pokhara is on a hot-air balloon ride from the lake. You will be swept off your feet by the spectacular views of the Himalayas. You can catch several breathtaking sights during sunset. If you are afraid of heights, then you could explore the lake on a boat ride — one of the most popular travel activities here.

Phewa LakePeople are relax on the Phewa Lake

Later, you can go rafting on Seti Gandaki River. Paragliding is a good way to see Pokhara from a bird’s-eye view. Finally, hike up to Sarangkot Hill, located just on the edge of Pokhara, to see astonishing panoramic views of Pokhara Valley.

Pokhara is not only a tourist city, but it also the home base for popular treks. The Annapurna region is one of the major trekking destinations in the Himalayas. Travelers usually take a flight to Jomsom to reach Annapurna.

How to get there: It takes 30 minutes by air or 8 hours by road from Kathmandu.

6. Chitwan National Park: Wildlife Paradise

Recommended stay: 1 day

It is one of the oldest and best national parks in the Terai region of Nepal. The verdant forests of Chitwan National Park cover 70% of the land. Many wild animals have made their homes in this beautiful park, such as the Bengal tiger, clouded leopard, one-horned rhinoceros, and elephant. The park offers natural landscapes, diverse vegetation, and close encounters with wild animals.

The elephant safari in this park offers a unique experience. You can spot wild animals, such as rhinoceros, rhesus macaque, deer, and more on the safari. If you’re not into elephant riding, then take the jeep safari. You can go further to the Gharial Breeding Centre in Kasara and see the crocodiles there.

Another interesting location to visit is the elephant breeding center, where you can see baby elephants. Feeding, washing, or even bathing with elephants in the Rapti River is a wonderful experience. Additionally, you can go boating and canoeing on Rapti River inside the national park.

Chitwan Chitwan National Park

November to December is an excellent time to visit when the weather is not too hot. There are higher chances of spotting animals at the end of the dry season, running from October to December, when the tigers and other wild animals come to watering holes.

How to get there: It takes 6 hours by land for Kathmandu or Pokhara; 30 minutes flight from Kathmandu to Bharatpur Airport and then another 30 minutes by land

7. Lumbini: Birthplace of Lord Buddha

Recommended stay: 1 day

Located in the Himalayas near the Indian border, the beautiful town of Lumbini is the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha. It has several ancient pagodas and temples dating back to 2,000 ago. Travelers from all over the world visit Lumbini to learn more about Buddhism and the scriptures, as well as to try activities such as meditation, yoga, and hiking.

Maya Devi Temple is one of the most important and sacred places in the region. It is here that Buddha was born to Queen Mayadevi. Other important nearby attractions include the Bodhi tree, an impressive tree with prayer flags and the Ashoka Stupa, a stone pillar built during the reign of King Ashoka.

Since meditation is an integral part of Buddhism, there are several classes conducted in Lumbini. Travelers interested in learning the art can find many meditation centers in Lumbini.

Bodhi Tree Monks are praying under the Bodhi Tree

How to get there: It takes 30 minutes by flight from Kathmandu to Bharatpur Airport and then another 30 minutes by road. Kathmandu to Lumbini by road is a 9-hour journey. Alternatively, you can travel 6 hours by road from Pokhara or Chitwan.

8. Janakpur: City of Ponds

Recommended stay: 1 day

Located in Terai district, Janakpur is also known as the City of Ponds as it has more than 70 ponds dotting its verdant landscape. Janakpur is unique for its fascinating temples.

Janaki Mandir has the largest temple complex in Nepal. It covers an area of more than 440 sq m (4,800 sq ft). The building is made of white marble, with a dome, column, and balcony like a grand palace. There are 60 rooms decorated with intricate lattice windows, stained glass, beautiful paintings, and charming sculptures.

Ram Mandir is another important temple in Janakpur, which highlights the ingenious Nepalese architecture and craftsmanship. Take a short tour of the Janakpur Dham Railway Station, which is the first and only railways operated in Nepal. Do check out the Ganga Sagar and Dhanush Sagar tanks; they are the most sacred ponds in the region.

Janakpur is known to celebrate many festivals throughout the year, but Ram Navami is the most important one. The festivities are held between March and April. It is an ideal time to visit the Ram Mandir, as well as learn more about Hindu festivals.

How to get there: It takes 40 minutes by air and 10 hours by road from Kathmandu to Janakpur.

9. Bandipur: Remarkable Newari Town

Recommended stay: half day

The elegant hilltop town of Newari lies between Pokhara and Kathmandu. One good reason to visit Bandipur? Unlike most of Nepal’s mountainous areas, Bandipur retains its ancient cultural attributes — temples, shrines, and Newari style buildings that date back to the ancient Kathmandu Valley.

The bazaar is the town center and full of Newari style old houses. Anytime you stroll through the clean streets, you will see the flowers on the balcony of people’s homes. At Thani Mai temple, at the top of Bandipur, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of sunrises and sunsets.

Bandipur is also the ultimate destination in the Annapurna Circuit trek. Many tourists choose to stay here for a night after a long journey. Homestays and old inns can be found everywhere.

How to get there: By road, it takes 3 hours from Pokhara and 5 hours from Kathmandu to reach Bandipur.

10.Kirtipur: Sleepy Town

Recommended stay: 1 day

Located 8 km (5 miles) southwest of Kathmandu, Kirtipur is a sleepy town quieter than other cities in the valley. The city is home to many sacred stupas and has attained a popularity for its authentic experience of Newari culture.

Bagh Bhairab is the most famous temple in Kirtipur. The three-story temple, built in the 16th century, houses the statue of the main deity Lord Bhairav, wooden pillars, and carvings of other Hindu gods and goddesses. The Naya Bazaar, located at the foothills, is a hub for trade and business activities.

Cycling enthusiasts can also cycle to and from Kirtipur.

How to get there: It takes 25 minutes by road from Kathmandu city to reach Kirtipur.

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