Nepal is adventurous, mysterious and remote, yet this is what is so appealing! From mighty Mount Everest, bustling capital Kathmandu and more ornate temples and stupas than you can shake a stick at – this is the birthplace of Lord Buddha after all – it’s time to say Namaste Nepal.
Explore the Everest Region
Discover your inner Tenzing Norgay or Edmund Hillary with a classic trek up to the Everest Base Camp. And this year is perfect timing as it marks the 60th anniversary of the very first Everest Ascent. Called Sagarmatha in Nepali, the name means ‘goddess of the sky’. On 29 May 2013 Norgay from Nepal and Hillary from New Zealand tackled the highest mountain in the world, which rises to a mighty 8,848 m (29,029 ft). Fly into Kathmandu and hook up with a local experienced Sherpa guide who will lead you towards the ‘roof of the world’.
Soak up the culture in Kathmandu
Kathmandu is a little pocket of delightful madness in an otherwise land of calm – the sights, sounds and smells hit you full-on soon as you arrive. Kathmandu has attracted curious travellers since the 60s and as soon as you hit the quiet sidestreets, the real spiritual culture and heritage awaits. Think ornate temples, majestic stupas, mysterious monasteries and fascinating palaces. Wander the Old town which has a real medieval feel and discover the
ancient Durbar Square in the heart of the Kathmandu Valley, which holds UNESCO World Heritage status. Here you’ll find the Durbar Square Museum, the Newari-style Taleju Temple and the Saraswati Temple which is in honour of the ‘Goddess of Knowledge and Learning’. Other top sights in Kathmandu include the Bodnath Stupa, the neo-classical Garden of Dreams and Hanuman Dhoka Square which honours Hanuman, the monkey god.
Get back to nature in Pokhara
Overlooked by the Annapurna Mountains, Pokhara is a welcome retreat from the bustle of Kathmandu. Think calm lakes, icy peaks and monkey-filled forests. Travellers can take a boat trip on the second largest lake in Nepal, the Phewa Tal, climb the Sarangkot Mountain for spectacular views over Annapurna and visit the starkly-white World Peace Pagoda (Shanti Stupa) which was built by Buddhist monks. There are also some notable museums in Pokhara such as the International Mountain Museum which details the 14 highest peaks of the Himalayas mountain range and the Ghurkha Memorial Museum which has uniforms, flags and knives on display.
Trek the Annapurna Circuit
In western Nepal is the most popular trekking circuit; Annapurna, which rise to 8,091m. With outstanding scenery, Annapurna is often touted as one of the very best treks in the world. The classic trek passes through the lush green valleys of Lamjung and Manang and the Tibetan Buddhist villages of Mustang and Myagdi higher up. The Annapurna Circuit is classed as a ‘teahouse trek’, which is to say that are lodges and eateries along the route. Try the filled ‘momo’ dumplings, which along with the local curry dishes, serve as the local fast food. As well as taking in traditional Buddhist village life, the trek also passes holy Hindu sites such as Muktinath village and the ancient monastery of Braga. Use a local Sherpa team for your climb and whilst trekking is possible all year round, October and November tend to be the busiest.
Explore the Royal Chitwan National Park
Both the Sagarmatha National Park and the Chitwan National Park HOLD UNESCO World Heritage Status. Sagarmatha National Park is dominated by the glaciers, valleys and mountains of mighty Mount Everest. Inscribed way back in 1979, here you can spot rare wildlife species such as the snow leopard. The Chitwan National Park sits at the foot of the Himalayas and gained UNESCO status in 1984. As well as diverse flora and flora, Chitwan is known to be home to two incredibly rare species; both the Bengal Tiger and single-horned Asiatic Rhino reside here. There are also sloths, elephants, crocodiles and monkeys. Take a boat trip along the Narayani River to spot the crocs and spend a day on a Chitwan Jungle safari spotting rare birdlife.
Discover Lumbini; the birthplace of Lord Buddha
Lumbini is the most important Buddhist site in the world, as it’s here that Lord Buddha was born. Known also as Siddhartha Gautama, the Lumbini Garden witnessed the birth in 623 BC. The gardens has now become revered the world over and attract pilgrims from across the world. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, the main point of interest is the Ashokan Pillar. The pillar bears inscription and was erected by Emperor Ashoka in 249 BC. As you’d expect, there are some exquisite temples and stupas in Lumbini, including the Maya Devi Temple, the Dharma Swami Maharaja Buddha Temple and The Japan Peace Stupa.
Walk the temple circuit of Bhaktapur
The third largest town in Nepal, Bhaktapur is traditional and quiet with cobblestoned streets allowing glimpses into every Nepalese life. The backstreets hide monuments and temples – in fact there are more temples in Bhaktapur per square foot than in Kathmandu! The town is ideal for exploring on foot and must-see sites include the Bhaktapur Durbar Square which once served as a palace and is now home to the National Art Gallery. See the oldest temple in the valley; the Changu Narayan, discover the Nyatapola Temple and wonder at the Bhairavnath Temple.