Travels in Nepal are deeply compelling, simply because of the infinite variety of experiences that await first-time visitors, whether they are high adventures buffs, culture enthusiasts, food addicts or spiritually inclined. The highest Hindu kingdom in the world is also home to some of the mightiest peaks in the world, amongst them— Mt Everest, Annapurna and Lhotse. The landlocked country is accessed by the ancient capital of Kathmandu, set in a verdant valley surrounded by spectacular mountainscapes. Enriched by remote and hidden valleys and mountain trails rich in flora and fauna, protected by pioneering conservation programmes of many lost or vanishing species, the country is also an alluring cultural hub. Home to some of the most revered Hindu temple sites, Nepal also has a strong Buddhist culture as Lord Buddha's birthplace.
Not only does this bewildering fusion of spiritual and cultural highs enrich the first time traveller, but there are also foods to enjoy and crafts to get acquainted with and village ways to explore as well. Then there are the unique cultural traditions like the worship of a young virgin goddess and the mystique of the shamans (jhakaris). These religious practitioners are called upon to cure various diseases and sicknesses by their supernatural powers and local communities. Oh yes! All this should be on your bucket list when you head out to Nepal. And if you miss out on something, you know you have an excuse to come back!
Magnetic Mount Everest
The world's highest peak, Mt Everest, is one of Nepal's most iconic attractions. When Sir Edmund Hillary and legendary Sherpa Tenzing Norgay conquered the peak streams of visitors attracted to the mountain from all over the globe. Here's a good 'Tip’—You don't need to climb the legendary mountain to soak in its fantastic legacy. First-time visitors should enjoy that mind-blowing experience of a sumptuous champagne breakfast at Everest Base Camp with a local summiteer, followed by a peak-spotting flight, on their list of things to do in Nepal.
A visit to the UNESCO-acclaimed Boudhnath Stupa in Kathmandu must feature on your list of things to do in Nepal. One of the top experiences in Nepal's capital city, this Buddhist shrine offers opportunities to visitors to glean some understandings about Buddhism and its religious and cultural influence on Nepal. Tip The busy stupa square, teeming with local monks and visitors, is a great selfie point.
Kathmandu Surrounds Are Calling
Hopping onto a bicycle to explore Kathmandu and its surroundings can be a truly rewarding experience, so putting it on your list of things to do in Nepal should be a priority. Pedalling off to village Chobhar, with a local guide, comes well recommended, as the village offers you fantastic panoramic views of Kathmandu Valley from the hilltop. One may join the regional Buddhist and Hindu devotees to obey Rato Machhindranath to dedicate the 15th-century Adinath Lokeshwor Temple. Slow travel on a bike is one of the top ways to savour the Chobar Gorge, which falls along the way and the spectacular views of the Bagmati River as it bids farewell to the valley. Nepal's Newari culture is richly embraced at Kirtipur village, where you will discover much about these indigenous people of the Kathmandu Valley. Also, on the cards are stopped at the Chilamchu Stupa, the temple of Bagh Bhairav, and the atmospheric Kirtipur Bazaar. TIP Do experiment with the lunch of traditional local delicacies while you are enjoying those superb views of the many high snow-mantled Himalayan peaks.
The medieval town of Bhaktapur is steeped in Nepalese culture and must find a place in your line-up of things to do in Nepal. To soak in its rich cultural and spiritual traditions, a wander around the town with a local expert will give you the very best of the experience. The Palace of 55 Windows in the Bhaktapur's Durbar Square, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site like the one in Kathmandu, dates to the time of King Bhupatindra Malla in 1754. It gets its name from the number of ornate windows, an important architectural feature of the royal residence. A browse around the National Art Gallery inside offers another window into Nepal's olden days. One of the top things to do during your explorations here is to stop by at the Golden Gate (Sunko Dhoka in Nepali), a masterpiece in repousse art. In proximity to the place are several temples worth stopping by. A visit to Bolachhen, also known as Potter's Square, where artisans may be found at work, introduces one of Bhakatapur's most important local crafting traditions. TIP Do try a cup of "Tchya' traditional milk and spicy tea.
Wandering through the streets and localities of Kathmandu, you will undoubtedly be attracted and distracted by the hustle and bustle of the locals and visitors. When planning your line-up of things to do in Nepal, make sure that you spend some time exploring the street art culture and meeting some of the local artists. This open-air gallery of artistic expressions is undoubtedly one of the top things to do to soak up the local culture of present-day Kathmandu. This can be a real eye-opener for first-time visitors who are still trying to get a handle on Nepal's local pursuits. TIP Try and attend one of the organised community art events with an expert.
Exploring Kathmandu's markets can be a lot of fun to soak in the local rhythms and routines of the inhabitants. Such an exercise should undoubtedly top the list of things to do in Nepal as it offers you an intimate experience of the heart and soul of the local community. First-time visitors, in particular, are pretty bemused by the hectic activity at the local markets south of Thamel. From wedding trousseaus to fresh vegetables, from safety pins to spices… it's a world of colors and scents and textures which hold visitors in thrall…Tip Do try the local snacks to bump up your energy!
Kumari, the Living Goddess
Steeped in myths and spiritual diversity Nepal offers the first time visitor a fabulous mosaic of religious traditions to explore. When you create your bucket list for things to do in Nepal, you must include a visit to the Kumari temple at Durbar Square in Kathmandu. One of the most abiding traditions is the worship of Kumari, the living virgin goddess revered by Hindu Nepal from ancient times. It is one of the fascinating aspects of local Nepali culture. Bhaktapur and Patan to have temples to Kumari. Tip A visit during the annual Indra Jatra harvest festival is highly recommended as the goddess is taken out in a procession in the city.
Tharu Village Ways
One of Nepal's top cultural attractions, the Terai region is one of the most beautiful parts of the country. The Chitwan area here has forests renowned for their wealth of flora and fauna; it is also home to the Tharu community; they are descendants of the migrants from Rajasthan who came here centuries ago intermarried with the locals here. Do plan a visit to Tharu village with a local as one of the things to do in Nepal. You are sure to be deeply enriched by its unique culture. Tip Try a dish made with field mice which they enjoy greatly!
Cooking a Nepalese Meal
To delve deeper into the culture of this beautiful Himalayan country, one of the top things to do in Nepal is to explore its culinary heritage. As first-time visitors will discover, Nepalese cooking shares quite a few common traits from the traditions of its neighbors – India, Tibet and China. Geography and history have been pivotal to the crosswinds of these culinary pursuits, which visitors experience in local homes or the cafes and restaurants in town. The country has managed to retain much of its authenticity in dishes native to Nepal, as they are mainly dependent on local ingredients. Here's a tip: Learning to cook a meal guided by a local homemaker can be a lot of fun. You will have a firsthand experience interacting with the family, and then there's the other thing—you even get to take away a treasured recipe to try when you are back home!
A local's random planting of a few coffee beans in his garden in the remote Argakhanchi district has introduced a burgeoning café trend in Kathmandu and Pokhara. Exploring this relatively new phenomenon should undoubtedly be at the top of your list of things to do in Nepal. First-time visitors, who generally associate coffee production in these parts with South India and Sri Lanka, will enjoy the unique experience of visiting a coffee plantation where one can learn all manner of things linked to coffee production in Nepal from a local planter in these Himalayan environs near Pokhara. TIP You even get to enjoy a cup of the local brew at the end of the visit.
Nepal offers first-time visitors a fabulous opportunity to enjoy the combination of natural and cultural diversity on offer in all their travels through the land. There's no time to be lost. Just Go!