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Top 20 Things You Must Not Miss in Nepal

Top 20 Things You Must Not Miss in Nepal

By Carol WangUpdated Dec. 21, 2023

From March 14, 2022, Nepal has eased its entry requirements. All international visitors can go to Nepal whether you are vaccinated or not.

Here we describe the top 20 things for visitors to do in Nepal, a wide variety of experiences to cherish forever, including something for everyone.

The most popular thing to do in Nepal is to visit Buddhist Temples and educate yourself on Buddhist history. If this is not enough, you can discover stunning views of the Himalayas, explore the jungle on a safari or wander around in ancient towns.

For those looking for adventure, join a jungle safari in Chitwan National Park, or trek Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain. Food enthusiasts can take part in a cooking class, creating and eating delicious food, such as momo, daal bhat tarkari, dhido, or explore the local market in Thamel.

We recommend at least 7 days in Nepal in order to make the most of your travel experience. During a 7-day tour, you can experience major cities, including Kathmandu and Pokhara. You can also explore UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as Pashupatinath,Durbar Squares, and Chitwan National Park

Highlights of Nepal

  • Visit several World Heritage sites, including Pashupatinath and Durbar Square in Kathmandu Valley.
  • Taste Nepalese snacks down back streets and buy unique souvenirs in Thamel.
  • Explore the jungle on a safari, and search for tigers in Chitwan National Park.
  • Experience paragliding and rafting adventures in Pokhara.
  • Get close to the Himalayas by taking flights over Mount Everest, or trek to Annapurna Base Camp.

1. Explore Nepal's Buddhist Heritage

Recommended visiting time: half day

Historically, Nepal is a country that consists of many kingdoms, and is filled with multiple ethnicities. Nepal's many temples allow you to witness Nepalese history over many time periods.

Nepal is a vibrant country full of life, and the holy PashupatinathTemple gives warning that life will always come to an end. Pashupatinath Temple is the location for Hindu Buddhist cremations. You are likely to see bodies being cremated on the opposite side of the river.

Every afternoon, Tibetan monks chat and pray in the surrounding monastery. You can walk around the central dome at Boudhanath Stupa, spinning prayer wheels as the locals go about their day.

White Tower White Tower

West of Kathmandu lies Swayambhunath (monkey temple), one of the oldest religious sites in Nepal. The hilltop upon which this Temple sits provides a breathtaking view of the city.

Perfect for: all travelers

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • The time to see cremations is from 7–10 am or at 6 pm.
  • Non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the main hall of Pashupatinath. Visitors are required to watch the cremation across the river.

2. Get a Blessing at Pashupatinath — Aarti Ceremony

Recommended visiting time: 1–2 hours in the evening

Every evening at 6pm, you can witness the Aarti ceremony in front of Phashupatinath. During this ceremony, Hindus will perform a chant called Aarti.

The priests perform the Aarti by waving oil lamps. Religious songs are sung by devotees during the Aarti, creating a joyous environment. It is believed that good will and good luck can be achieved by moving a hand over the flame.

Perfect for: travelers interested in Hindu culture

Asia Highlights tip:

  • Keep silent during the ceremony.

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3. Visit all Durbar Squares in the Royal Towns

Recommended visiting time: 1 full day

There are three Dubar Squares (Royal Squares) in Kathmandu Valley, and each has its own unique characteristic, which make them worth a visit. Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Patan were the three kingdoms in Kathmandu Valley. If they were not divided by the Bagmati River, they would be whole.

Kathmandu's Durbar Square is a good place to see temples and monasteries, and architecture from the 16th through 19th centuries. There are stunning temples of both Hindu and Buddhist religions, former royal palaces, as well as numerous statues and fountains. There are more than 50 temples and palaces in the square.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square is the largest of the three squares. Warm-brick facades are the most beautiful feature. Walking the streets, you'll see pottery makers, craftsmen, painters and carpenters making beautiful pieces of art. Local people will surround you while going about their daily lives.

Patan Durbar Square, although it is not as large as the other two, the ancient buildings are more concentrated and exquisite. It is the most charming and well preserved of the three squares, known as the Open-Air Architecture Museum.

Potters Square in Bhaktapur Pottery Square in Bhaktapur

You can visit all of them in one day. Kathmandu–Patan: 7 km (4 mi); Patan–Bhaktapur: 12 km (7 mi); Bhaktapur–Kathmandu: 20 km (13 mi).

Perfect for: architecture lovers and shopping

Asia Highlights tips:

  • If you are interested in photography, it is good to stay in Bhaktapur for a night. It is quiet in the morning and you can see the real life of the Nepalese.
  • In the afternoon, you may have a chance to see the "living goddess", who is mentioned many times in movies and books.

4. Enjoy Sun Rise at Nagarkot

Recommended visiting time: 1 day and 1 night

Nearly half of Nepal is occupied by the Himalayas, and this is one of the most popular reasons why people visit this wonderful country. Nagarkot, a village 30 km (18 mi) from Kathmandu, is said to be an observation deck with a panoramic view of the Himalayas.

The beautiful scenery will unfold in front of you like a scene from a movie. Visible peaks are Annapurna, Manaslu, Langtang, and Everest. Each peak is beautiful in its own way.

Hotels line a ridge all the way up the mountain. It is a good idea to choose a hotel that has a view of the Himalayas, so you can enjoy sunrise and sunset views from the comfort of your balcony. Alternatively, you can walk more than an hour to the south to reach the observations deck.

Perfect for: photographers, people wish to avoid the hustle and bustle of the city

Asia Highlights tips:

  • For a good view you must go to the observation deck.
  • Stunning views are visible when there are clear skies, so check weather information before going.

5. Taste Delicious Nepalese Food

Recommended visiting time: half a day

Food is one of the best ways to understand a country's culture. Nepalese food is deeply influenced by Tibet and India. This is why you will also find a lot of Tibetan and Indian food in Nepal.

Foods that you must try are: Nepalese pizza, aloo (potato) chop-fried, mashed potato balls, gajar ko halwa (carrot pudding), bara (a type of pancake), and spring rolls (fried egg rolls). Find yourself some choila (spicy grilled buffalo meat), which goes down a treat with an ice-cold Everest lager(beer).

 Thamel in Kathmandu Thamel in Kathmandu

The streets of old Patan, the area around Durbar Square, are the best places to find tasty, authentic Newari food at affordable prices. Mid-range restaurants are always found in Thamel. If you are looking for high-end restaurants, it is better to visit luxurious hotels.

Perfect for: food lovers

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • We can always arrange local restaurants for our customers. We want you to try as much authentic Nepalese food as possible.
  • Let us arrange a food tour so that you can save time and enjoy delicious meals.

6. Enjoy a Cooking Class

Recommended visiting time: half a day

It is said that to experience a country, the best way is to understand its food culture. For Nepalese women, the kitchen is the heart of their family. If you love food and enjoy cooking you will have fun taking part in a cooking class. These classes use fresh and local ingredients from Kathmandu Valley.

The average cooking class will include following steps:

  • Meet the teacher at the cooking school, and get to know the history of the meal you'll be cooking.
  • Explore a local produce market to pick up the ingredients.
  • eturn to the class and learn the best way to chop, fry and season your ingredients.
  • Enjoy eating the dishes you cook.
  • Receive the recipes to take home with you.

Some things you may learn to make are: momo, Nepali dal bhat, newari khaja set, thukpa, sel roti. They are considered the top five dishes to try in Kathmandu. Cooking classes are popular in Kathmandu and Pokhara, so there are many different options. Asia Highlights will select the best cooking class for you.

Perfect for: cuisine lovers and those who enjoy cooking

Asia Highlights tip:

  • There are options for a half-day course or full-day course.

7. Walk Through a Local Market

Recommended visiting time: half a day

In Kathmandu, wandering from Durbar Square to Thamel, the narrow streets and alleyways will keep you enthralled. Thamel is the busiest area, and anything you need can be found there.

The streets are lined with various shops, colored clothing, jewelry, thangka, wood carvings, bronze statues, musical artists and book shops. You could spend hours wandering around and meeting the local people.

In Pokhara, the Lakeside area is where local shops are found. It has everything the local people need for their daily life. This is where they buy everything from vegetables to ingredients, housewares and fun toys for children. It has everything that Thamel has, but cheaper.

handicraft Handicraft in Local Market

Perfect for:all travelers

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • Bargain with shopkeepers for the best price.
  • You can come back by rickshaw.

8. Celebrate a Traditional Festival Like Local People

Recommended visiting time: 1-2 days

There are Hindu and Buddhist festivals celebrated in Nepal throughout the year. Travelers are always welcome to take part in these events. If you are in Nepal during one of the festivals, it will enrich your tour experience, and create lifelong memories.

Dashain (mid-October, nationwide) is the most important festival. It celebrates the victory of the goddess of Durga over demons. People return home for reunions to be with their families.

Holi (March 9, in Kathmandu Valley and Tare region) is a festival to welcome spring. It's a very fun and interesting festival. People paint their bodies, fill balloons with water and throw them into the air. It is similar to the Splashing Festival in Thailand.

People celebrate HoliPeople are celebrating Holi festival

Tihar (mid-November, nationwide) is the second most important festival in Nepal, and it commemorates the goddess Lakshmi. Every family in the country will light oil lamps and candles, and decorate with colorful lights. Kathmandu lit up is even more beautiful.

Buddha Jayanti early-May, in Kathmandu and Lumbini) festival is to commemorate the birthday of Buddha Sakyamuni. Ceremonies are held in every Buddhist Temple in Lumbini.

Machchhendranath (May–June, in Patan) is the longest festival in Nepal, it commemorates the Newari god of rain and welcomes the coming monsoon. The statue of the Newari god is pulled through the streets by a carriage, and is accompanied by bands and traditional folk instruments.

Perfect for: all travelers

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • It is more crowded and noisier during festivals.

9. Relax at the Garden of Dreams

Recommended visiting time: 2–3 hours

Entering through a small door from bustling Thamel, it will feel as though you've entered into another world. The Dream Garden, built in 1920, reflects the Edwardian style architect in England.

You can walk around the garden, then sit on the steps to relax, chat or read a book. Dream Garden is regarded as an oasis in the city. It is a place perfect for relaxing on the steps.

Perfect for: people who enjoy to relax

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • Wi-Fi is an extra change.
  • The Kaiser Café provides Western food.

10. Experience the Best Trek Trails Amongst the Himalayas

Recommended visiting time: 5–12 days

Without a doubt, trekking is one of the best things to do in Nepal. You should not leave the country without stepping on its trek trails. Trekking trips can be done anywhere from 5 days to 10 days, or even up to 3 weeks.

Trek trails are very well facilitated. Tea houses are along the popular trek trails. They are a basic guest house, but provide a private room with a warm bed and hot food.

We recommend the following trek tours:

  • Short but epic trail: Poon Hill trek
  • Off the beaten path: Langtang Valley Trek and Upper Mustang Trek
  • Long/epic trail: Annapurna Base Camp Trek and Everest Base Camp Trek
  • Multi-day trail: Annapurna Circle trek

Perfect for: travelers who love the outdoors and adventurous travelers

Asia Highlights tips:

  • Trekking is not suggested between May and mid-September due to mud-rock flows and landslides.
  • Porter service is available on most of the trek trails.

11. Fly over the Himalayan Mountains

Recommended visiting time: 1 hour for flying

If you are not good at trekking, a mountain flight trip can bring you to the Himalayas within 30 minutes. Planes take off from Kathmandu and will fly for an hour.

The planes fly higher than the peaks in the Himalayas. You can have a close look over the glaciers and lakes in high altitudes. Every passenger has a seat by the window. The pilot will invite each passenger to the cockpit to take a picture of Mount Everest. You will return home with incredible photos!

helicopters Helicopters of Annapurna

In Pokhara, helicopters are more popular than planes. You can easily reach the ABC base camp in 2 hours by helicopter. You can enjoy spectacular 360-degree views of Annapurna.

Perfect for: all travelers

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • Flying trips are only available in the early morning. This is so passengers can have a clear view.
  • The aircrafts normally have a capacity of 19 passengers, and helicopters hold 3 passengers.

12.Paddle Boat on Phewa Lake

Recommended visiting time: 2 hours

Pokhara is much more quiet, tidy and peaceful than Kathmandu, and this is in large part because of Phewa Lake. There are colorful wooden boats and sailboats for rent, which will allow you to experience the beauty of the lake from another perspective.

If you are not a morning person, it is a beautiful place to watch the sunset. Annapurna is reflected on the lake, which makes for a magical site. In the middle of the lake on a boat, you will feel at peace.

Perfect for: couples, people who prefer a slower pace

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • The Tal Barahi Temple, on an island in the lake, is a worthwhile stop.
  • There are four people per boat, including a boatman, however you can paddle the boat on your own.

13.Paraglide through Pokhara

Recommended visiting time: 30 minutes

What can't you miss in Pokhara? Everybody would say Paragliding. Paragliding in Pokhara is said to be the best in the world, thanks to the breathtaking views of Annapurna, snowcapped mountains, and farming villages.

Pokhara has conditions that allow for safe takeoff and landing.

On average, there are 3 flights per day, departing at 10 am, 12 pm and 2 pm. Travelers who are aged between 12–65 years old and weigh within 100 kg (220 lb) are allowed to take part in this experience. Beginners can take tandem flights with an instructor.

Paragliding Panorama View from Paragliding

Perfect for: outdoor adventurers and thrill seekers

Asia Highlights tips:

  • Travelers with a fear of heights or those who have heart disease are advised to not take part in paragliding.
  • Avoid going in July and August due to the monsoon rain.
  • Flying gear is offered.

14. Raft Your Way Down a White-Water River

Recommended visiting time: half a day to 10 days

Nepal is a paradise for white water rafting because of the high altitude drop and abundant rain. The rivers in Nepal have excellent conditions for rafting.

You will have the opportunity to raft through famous rivers, such as Trishuli, Kali Gandaki, Marshyangdi, Sunkoshi, and Seti. During your time rafting, you will have a fantastic view of remote villages, green mountains, terraces full of crops, dense forests and blooming flowers.

Rapid grades range from 1 to 6, depending on terrain, flora and aquatic life. You can choose your rafting route based on your experience and expectations. The epicenter for most rafting adventures is Pokhara.

Rafting options include:

1. Upper Seti River — the primary route

The starting point for rafting is located in Damauli village near Pokhara. The whole journey takes 2 days. You will cross the primitive jungle along the way, where you will witness breathtaking scenery. It is especially suitable for beginners.

2. Trisuli River — short-distance rafting and great value for money

You will start in either Baireni or Charoudi village, 3½ hours' drive from Pokhara. (Each rafting operator has its own starting point.) The scenery along the river is charming. You can raft down the river to Chitwan National Park.

3. Marshyangdi River — challenging / the most dangerous

The starting point is Ngadi village near Bokhara. You can raft to Bimalnagar along the river, with a total length of about 52 km (32 mi). It usually takes 4 days to finish this trip.

Along the way, you can enjoy the magnificent mountain scenery and the amazing scenery of Makalu's peak. It is best suited for those with a lot of experience rafting.

4. Kali Gandaki River — through an uninhabited canyon

It starts in Maldunga village near Pokhara, and you will reach Mirmi after 3 days. Kali Gandaki river has a total length of 120 kilometers (75 miles). The riverbank is full of uninhabited forests and vegetation, which will allow you to witness undisturbed wildlife.

The river is extremely breathtaking and suitable for those with prior rafting experience.

5. Sunkoshi River — the longest river in Nepal

With a total length of 270 kilometers (170 miles), the starting point for rafting is Dolalghat village, 3½ hours' drive from Kathmandu. The endpoint is Chatra village. The whole rafting experience lasts between 8 and 10 days. There are countless waves and whirlpools in the river.

From the Himalayas to the Central Plains of Nepal, you will witness a myriad of otherworldly beauty.

Perfect for: outdoor adventurers

Asia Highlights tips:

  • The best rafting seasons are February, October, and November due to the pleasant weather.
  • Trisuli River flows down to the Chitwan National Park. You can combine your white-water rafting adventure with a jungle safari.

15.Take Part in a Wildlife Jungle Safari

Recommended visiting time: 1 day

When most people think of Nepal, the Himalayas and Buddhism come to mind. Seldom does wildlife get mentioned in things to do, which does the country a great disservice, as Nepal is home to one of the most beautiful National Parks in the world, Chitwan National Park.

Located in the humid lowland, Chitwan National Park has incredible views. On the safari, you will have a chance to spot rhinoceros, bears, crocodiles, giraffes and monkeys. If you are really lucky, Bengal tigers or leopards can be spotted roaming around.

Jungle safari options include: Elephant Safari, Jeep Safari, dugout canoe trip or trek. We recommend Jeep Safari or dugout canoe trip, as trek requires you to stay overnight.

Elephant Safari Elephant Safari in Chitwan National Park

The gateway to Chitwan National Park is Bharatpur Airport, 25 km (16 km) away.

Perfect for: families with children, animal lovers

Asia Highlights Tips:

  • Elephant riding is an option. Please treat all elephants with respect.
  • Guesthouses are available near the park if you prefer to join a safari that will last several days.

16. Go Bird Watching

Recommended visiting time: 1 day and 1 night

Nepal is located in the lofty Himalayas. The warm and humid air in the Indian plain flows into the cold air in the mountains, and it has created a wealth of species, making Nepal a paradise for birds. 870 species of birds (almost 8% of the world's total) can be found in Nepal.

The Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve has become an excellent destination for bird-watching. There are 280 species of birds which can be found there, including the regal ibis, storks, egrets, and herons.

It is about a 45-minute flight from Kathmandu to Koshi Tappu airport, and then a 1½-hour drive to get Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve.

Perfect for: photographers, people interested in nature and animals

Asia Highlights tips:

  • The best season for bird watching is November to February when a large number of migratory birds migrate from Siberia.
  • Local guesthouses are available nearby.

17. Extend your Trip to Lumbini

Recommended visiting time: 1 day and 1 night

Hinduism is the official religion of Nepal, however Buddhism also plays an important role in the country, because the founder of Buddhism, Shakyamuni, was born in Nepal. Lumbini is the birthplace of Shakyamuni.

Lumbini is not often listed in tour itineraries, which is why the town is less crowded and peaceful. The main scenic spots are in Lumbini Park, including Mayadevi Temple, Lumbini Museum and many Buddhist temples.

If you have some spare time in Nepal, it's worth visiting this fascinating town. The gateway is Bharatpur Airport, 60 km (40 miles) away.

Perfect for: people who are interested in Buddhist culture

Asia Highlights tips: A celebration of Buddha Jayanti is held here every May. Flights and hotels during this time are in high demand.

18. Explore Ancient Newari Town in Bandipur

Recommended visiting time: 2 hours

Located between Kathmandu and Pokhara, Newari Town sits atop a hill and is regarded as a hidden gem in central Nepal. It used to be an important site along the trading route between Bhaktapur and Tibet.

Some shops are still kept as they were hundreds of year ago. Buildings from the 18th century are still charming and well preserved. The streets, temples, and architecture are perfectly integrated into the local people's lives.

It is a much quieter way of life than in Kathmandu. It is a good idea to stop here for a a few hours when you are traveling between Kathmandu and Pokhara by land.

Perfect for: travelers in general

Asia Highlights tips:

  • It is a 90-minute drive to the starting point of Annapurna Circle Trek, it is good to stay there for a night before trekking.

19. Visit Villages in Kathmandu Valley

Recommended visiting time: half a day

South of Kathmandu, there are two Newari villages, Khokana and Bungmati. These villages have retained their simple way of life and have not been affected by the modernization of nearby cities.

Khokana is a beautiful agricultural village that produces mustard oil. You will witness the local people working hard on their farms. In Bungmati, many villagers are engaged in sculpture and wood carving. You are welcome to visit their workshops at any time.

Villages are not as crowded as other attractions and can bring you a moment of peace. These two villages are not far away from each other and you can visit both of them in a single day.

Perfect for: travelers in general, people who wish to avoid the cities

Asia Highlights tips:

  • It is suggested to go in the morning, in order to witness the locals beginning their days.

20. Practice Yoga

Recommended visiting time: 1 day

Yoga originated in India, but yoga in Nepal has elements of Hindu and Buddhist cultures. Many people believe that the Kathmandu Valley and the surrounding Himalayas are a sacred land with deep spirituality.

TNepal provides a peaceful and spiritual place to practice yoga.There are a lot of yoga retreat options in Kathmandu and Pokhara. They provide yoga classes in the hills, by the side of rivers, or in the jungle.

Class options include yoga taster experiences, drop-in classes, and long-term packages. Asia Highlights will help you select the best one for your needs.

Perfect for: travelers interested in yoga

Asia Highlights tips: It is a good idea to do yoga after hiking to relax your muscles and unwind.

Explore Nepal with Asia Highlights

Most Nepal tours will have overland transfers. You will have a private car and a private English-speaking guide. Traveling with Asia Highlights gives you a lot of flexibility. We can create a tour program that no one else has ever done before that is tailored to your interests.

Why Travel with Asia Highlights (98.8% positive customer reviews among 10,000+)

  • Unique experiences tailored to your interests: Enjoy a premium trip that goes beyond the typical tourist attractions.
  • Hassle-free travel and peace of mind: Every aspect of your trip will be carefully planned and organized by your 1:1 travel consultant.
  • Experienced and knowledgeable guides: Your guides will be local and love to work for travelers' smiles.

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