When you think of a new holiday destination, you probably don’t think of Nepal. Which is a shame, because Nepal is a beautiful country with a lot of culture, nature and lovely locals. We have made a guide for you about the most fascinating cities in this landlocked Asian country.
The capital of Nepal might feel a bit intense at first. It might take some time to get adjusted to the fumes, dirty roads, many motorbikes and crowded streets. But it is one of the cities that has a lot to offer. My suggestion would be to hire a local guide who can show you the highlights of the city with a taxi driver. Local guides can have loads of stories to tell about the history of the stupas and the people and they have knowledge about the Buddhist and Hinduist faith, which makes visiting the temples really fascinating.
Make sure you visit the Swayambunath temple (also known as the monkey temple) and the Boudhanath temple, which are both very impressive. Surrounding the temples, you’ll find both Buddhists and Hindus in beautiful robes walking around saying prayers. Be aware of monkeys walking around!
The Pashaputinath temple is a holy place for Hindus next to the Bagmati river. At this place, multiple dead people are being cremated and you can see friends and families praying. It can feel difficult to watch, but at the same time it’s fascinating to see the religious locals practicing their faith.
Also take a look at the Durbar square of Kathmandu, which is filled with religious buildings and lots people. You can also do a riksja ride around the city or go walking. The city is filled with shops, so make sure you buy some souvenirs or other bits and bops.
The city of Pokhara is a real backpackers paradise in Nepal and you can see some Western influences here. People from all over the world come to this city, mostly because it is the starting point for many treks, like the popular trek to Annapurna base camp and Poonhill. As a result, Pokhara is filled with clothing shops, bookstores and shops full of accessories, like shawls and bags. Tip: Everything needed for trekking is available here, be sure to try to bargain or ask if you can rent stuff like poles and sleeping bags. You can save a lot of money!
What to see/do
The main part of the town is fairly busy and if you want to get away from all the tourists, you should go to the old town. You can visit some markets, walk around the crowded streets and take it all in. There’s also a big lake, the Phewa lake, which is great for a relaxing boat ride. If you decide to take a boat to the other side to the lake so you can visit the World Peace Pagoda. You have to climb quite a few stairs but the temple and the view over the city are worth it. If the Nepal weather is on your side, you can also see the white Himalaya mountain tops in the distance.
Next to that, Pokhara is full of restaurants and you should make sure to try some of the local dishes (some food in Nepal is similar to Indian food). Dal Bhat is a typical Nepalese dish and contains rice with lentil soup and curry. Food tip: Do try some momo’s which are dumplings with meat or veggies. Or order Thukpa, a vegetarian or meat noodle soup. If you find the food spicy you can sooth your mouth with a local milkshake called lassi.
Close to Kathmandu there’s the historical city Bhaktapur, which is a lot less crowded than Nepal’s capital. You’ll have to pay a fee to enter the city, but it is definitely worth the money. The city has had a hard time during the 2015 earthquake and the locals are working hard to renovate the temples and buildings that suffered from the quake. You will find many small streets, cute little temples, monuments and squares. You can describe the architecture of the city as marvellous, and the Durbar square of this city might be prettier than the one in Kathmandu. Also, take a look at Potter’s square, where you can find people making all sorts of beautiful pots. There are various small shops everywhere in town that sell clothes, food, souvenirs and typical stationary.
Smaller cities: Patan, Bandipur and Lumbini
If you have time left, make sure you visit one or more of these smaller cities. South of Kathmandu lies Patan, which also has an impressive Durbar square and an interesting museum. Bandipur is a small town on the way to Pokhara and it’s the perfect place to just relax. There are few tourists there and you can do some small hikes in the area. Furthermore, if you want to see more temples and religious sites, you should go to Lumbini. Lumbini is the birth place of Buddha and many people from all over the world come to see the temples in this place.
If you want more information about adventure and activities in Nepal, make sure to keep an eye on the website for more future content!
* Merel is one of our guest editors in Rotterdam. She describes herself as a daydreaming student who loves to travel. She just came back from a 5-month backpacking trip trough Asia and can’t wait to see more of the world. Check her out on Instagram: @merel_d94.