Gateway to the highest mountain at a staggering height of 8,848, visit to Nepal is every mountaineer’s dream. Every year, thousands of people travel from all across the globe with a desire to reach the Top of the World – Mt. Everest and many nearby peaks. The mighty mountains that surround this country has given it the reputation of a Travelling destination fit for only mountaineers & trekking enthusiasts but this is not entirely true. Nepal boasts of 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, out of which 7 are located in Kathmandu valley itself namely Pashupatinath, Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Changunarayan Temple, Swayambhunath & Boudha Stupa.
Founded by King Prithvi Narayan Shah in 1768, this land-locked country has the Great Himalayas bordering it on North & Eastern side while India, China are close neighbors. The country has lived under isolation & was closed for outside world until a revolt took place in 1950 abolishing this rule for good. Nepal houses 8 of the highest mountain peaks in the World, national parks rich in wildlife, flora & fauna and off course, not to forget, the rich culture and heritage of this country can get any traveler revise his checklist to include this wonderful country in it.
The Capital City – Kathmandu
If you plan on visiting Nepal, your first destination should be Kathmandu for sure. Whilst many travelers look at it as a fleeting spot whilst they head to their Mt. Everest Expedition or Annapurna Trek, city has so much more to offer than you would be left wondering about if you should miss the spell bounding sites & experiences that this City of Temples & Gods has to offer or just extend your stay here. You can feel the soothing spirituality all around in Nepal but in here, it feels a little too overwhelming. The age-old temples, durbars, palaces & monasteries are sure to transport you some 100 years back in a world which was more peaceful & tranquil. The city is a perfect example of diversity & co-existence of people of many beliefs and different religions living together in complete harmony. You can take a look at major tours & things to do in Kathmandu here .
The major & most important attraction of the city is the Kathmandu Durbar Square which once held Royal Palaces for the Kings of the city. The Durbar now serves as a site for Royal Palaces, Museums, Taleju Temples & Kumari Chok – where the Living Goddess of the valley stays.
You can walk through the old town of the city, Thamel for some souvenir shopping, cafes or just visiting the local spice & wholegrain sellers who might entice you with their knowledge of mountain herbs else a visit to Freak street is recommended – once famous amongst the backpackers as a cheap accommodation destination now houses some renovated cafes & few guesthouses but the vibe still lives on. Another noteworthy site is Garden of Dreams which was the visionary project of a Field Marshal in Nepal’s Royal Army. Spread over an acre of land, garden serves as noteworthy attraction with its fountains, pavilions & well-maintained landscapes attracting the tourists & locals alike.
Cultural & Spiritual Hub
With Hinduism & Buddhism being the widely followed religions, Kathmandu valley has numerous temples, stupas, pagodas celebrating the same. The magnificence, serenity & rituals that you will come across at these sites is sure to awaken the sense of spirituality, inner peace & positivity. Pashupatinath is the oldest temple in the Kathmandu valley & is devoted to Lord Shiva. The holy grounds of the temple close to Bungamati river has long been used to carry our cremation ceremonies for the departed souls. Located 2 km West of Thamel on a hill, Swayambhunath or the Monkey temple is popular amongst the locals & tourists alike. A climb of 365 steps to the temple complex and you shall come face to face with the holiest Buddhist Stupa in the valley plus can enjoy panoramic views of the valley below. Boudhanath Stupa located just 11 kms from the main city is considered to be the center of Tibetan Buddhism & culture in the entire region & one of the holiest Tibetan sites outside Tibet. Other of the lesser known but significant sites are Guhyeshwari Temple, Dakshinkali Temple, Manakamana Temple, Budhanilkantha and more.
Treks & trips to Neighboring Cities
One can take a day tour to the close cities of Patan which is listed under UNESCO World Heritage site and Pokhara which is regarded as the gateway to Annapurna circuit or choose to spend few nights there, it would always be worth it. Another much recommended day trip is the one to the traditional Newari villages of Bungmati and Khokana. A day trip to Bhaktapur can be combined with a hike to Changunarayan temple for an unforgettable experience (book here). For the nature lovers, sunrise trek to Nagarkot, Chitwan National Park Wildlife Safari, visit to Langtang National Park and Royal Botanical gardens are some good options.
Adventure activities in & around the Valley
If you love the mountains but are short on time for the long treks, here is your chance – opt for the Everest Mountain flight & treat yourselves with amazing views of the mighty Himalayas & skies beneath. Get wet & wild as you try canyoning & white river rafting right in the lap of Himalayas plus Bungee jumping from the 9th highest point in the world is definitely a not miss. Sky diving, Tandem Paragliding, motor biking at some of the most beautiful & rugged terrains is sure to give you the much-needed adrenaline rush.
The Local cuisines & classes
As they say if you want to understand people & their culture properly, eat their food first. One may find Nepalese food intriguing on the first sight but it is likely to be always prepared with the freshest of ingredients and techniques that have been used for centuries & mastered over time. While dal-bhat-tarkari might be considered as the staple food of the region, momos have made their way to the hearts of all Nepali households & restaurants and are now available in both steamed & fried variants with different fillings such as minced meat, vegetables, potato etc. Newari cuisines are readily available and our pick would be chatamari and bara. For the street food lovers, samosas with sweet sauces and dahi puri are much recommended. You can finish off your day with a cup of Nepalese tea or a glass of local rice wine.