The highest mountains in the world, a reincarnated Goddess, an abominable snowman, a road called Freak Street, a temple where Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles used to chill in the 60’s, and the place where you can eat delicious momo’s every day! Where else but mesmerising, hypnotising Nepal?
Read article about Nepal: Where Gods and Mountains Meet – by our mountain loving editor, Nikki Scott.
If you’re ready to start booking your trip to this unique and mesmerising country, check out The Nepal Experience, a friendly group trip for backpackers that’s the perfect introduction to Nepal.
The Capital: Kathmandu
Nepal’s magical capital is an exotic mix of narrow alleyways, bric-a-brac shops, shanty houses, colourful rickshaws, crossed telephone wires and hidden alcoves where Hindu shrines emit sweet incense into the humid air. The touristy trekking hub of Thamel, the dated hippie hangout of Freak Street and the ancient and glorious Durbar Square, Kathmandu has much to keep the visitor occupied. With a hectic pace, beeping crazy traffic and pollution that’ll give you the ‘Kathmandu cough’ within the week, you’ll be maddened by, yet most certainly will fall in love with this city.
Bustling Durbar Square
Things to do in and around Kathmandu
- Durbar Square: Dating back to the 12th & 18th centuries, this urban focal point of the city houses a multitude of palaces and temples in its ancient courtyards and streets.
- Freak Street: Made famous by the hippies of the 60s and 70s, this area close to Durbar Square is still a popular traveller hang out with a more chilled out vibe than Thamel, and cheaper food and accommodation.
- Patan: The third largest city in Nepal, Patan is 5km South of Kathmandu and is famous for its arts and handicrafts as well as its ornate architecture and hundreds of monuments and temples.
- Bhaktapur: Providing stunning views of the Himalayas, Bhaktapur is filled with magnificent Hindu and Buddhist religious sites as well as being home to the elaborately carved 55 Window Palace housing the National Art Gallery.
- The Garden of Dreams: A welcome oasis of tranquility in the hectic surrounds of Thamel, The Garden of Dreams offers a romantic park with lawns, water features, neoclassical architecture and a small café. Worth the small entrance fee.
- The Monkey Temple: A 20 minute walk from Thamel to the foot of the hill, and a further 1000 steps to reach this most sacred Tibetan Buddhist pilgrimage site. Rotate the prayer wheels and, on a clear day, view the whole of the Kathmandu Valley.
- Boudhanath Stupa: Join the monks, locals, tourists and pilgrims circumnambulating this majestic shrine. Be taken aback by the smells of incense and butter lamps, the ringing of the stupa bell and the flapping prayer flags and the sheer size of this Stupa – an all-round sensory experience. Then take it all in over lime soda and dal bhat from a rooftop restaurant.
Where to stay in Kathmandu?
Thamel is the main tourist hub of the city and the place where most of the hostels and hotels are located… you’ll find accommodation to suit a variety of budgets here. There are also plenty of restaurants, Nepalese and international, bars, shops and trekking agencies.
Adventures in Nepal:
What everyone comes to Nepal for: Trekking!
With its spectacular views, neat rice terraces carved out of the hillside, thatched cottages clinging on like magnets and every now and again a waterfall gushing from a great height providing you with a cool way to freshen up in-between trekking. With the crisp air and clear sunshine, this is nature at its best leaving your body feeling healthy and alive as you wake at 6am each morning with the rising sun and fall fast asleep by 9pm after a day full of exercise. Trekking becomes your daily job. You look forward to your dal bhat and masala chai ‘tea breaks’, sleeping in basic trekking huts on wooden planks that are surprisingly comfortable, and are always met by the friendliest of hosts.
Trekking the Annapurna Sanctuary – a 10 day trek to Annapurna Base Camp
And you’ll be pleased to learn you can hire or buy locally all the necessary clothing and equipment needed for your trek.
- Annapurna: A short drive from Pokhara, the Annapurnas, a range of peaks in the Himalayas, offer some of the best trekking experiences in the world both for beginners and the experienced alike. With treks starting from just a few days, you can choose one to suit you.
- Everest Region: Understandably the most popular trekking area in Nepal, there are several trek routes of varying lengths of time from around 8 – 24 days taking you through flora and fauna to spectacular views of the highest mountain in the world.
- Langtang: The most easily accessible of all the trekking regions, it presents fewest altitude problems and offers a beautiful forests, fascinating Sherpa villages and, of course, views of the mountains you’ll never forget.
Check out the following treks on Backpacker Bookings:
- The Annapurna Sanctuary Trek – A 16-day adventure taking you through varying scenery from rice paddies to forests and finally to a high-altitude basin with spectacular views of some of the highest peaks in the world. Highly recommended.
- Everest Base Camp Trek – Reach the base camp of the highest mountain in the world on this awesome 16-day trek.
If you’re the truly adventurous sort (who enjoys getting jostled and soaked!), you’re in for a treat with a whitewater rafting voyage down the Kali Gandaki River. The river begins in the Mustang region bordering with Tibet and runs south through a steep gorge and through the mountains. As you gently raft pass the villages and wildlife, don’t get complacent – you will soon be hurtling through the rapids!
Visit a National Park
If you think you can survive being charged by a rhino (hint: climb a tree – fast!) spend a few days on an organised tour exploring the rich and varied biodiversity at one of Nepal’s 10 national parks, such as the beautiful Chitwan. View the spectacular mountain ranges, experience the variety of climates and take the opportunity to see and learn about some of the world’s rarest animals in their natural habitat.
Backpacker Favourite: Pokhara
A hairy eight-hour bus ride later and you’ll find yourself in the chilled out Bohemian town of Pokhara, the second biggest city in Nepal. The town is famous for its beautiful majestic lake, Phewa Lake and the awesome view of the nearby himalaya. From here, you can arrange to go trekking, paragliding, boating, cycling and much more…
Things to do in Pokhara:
- Take a rowing boat out to the far side of the lake and climb the hill to the World Peace Pagoda.
- Get up early and view the spectacular sunrise at Sarangkot.
- Chill out at a lakeside bar with a guitar.
- Help out with sports and creative activities at a local school.
- Strap yourself to a handsome stranger and paraglide over Phewa Lake.
How to get to Pokhara from Kathmandu?
(Information by Fibria Rhischa of SillyTraveller.com).
- Tourist Bus – You can find this bus from Kantipath Rd everyday at 7am and it costs NRS 600-700 (around USD 6). This bus is safe and comfortable and we would recommend it as the best way to get to Pokhara. It stops twice along the way to Pokhara (first stop for breakfast and second stop for lunch) in authentic Nepalese local restaurants. It takes approx. 8 hours to reach Pokhara, and along the way you’ll get the opportunity to socialise with locals and other travellers.
- Local Bus – This is the bus that local people usually use. It costs NRS 400-600 (around USD 4) and leaves the bus station every 15 minutes. It takes approx. 10 hours to reach Pokhara.
- Micro Bus – This is a minibus with capacity of 8 people. The minibus leaves only after all of the seats have been taken. You can find the micro buses in Kalanki Bus Park, Kathmandu. It costs NRS 800-1000 (around USD 8) and it takes 6 hours to reach Pokhara.
- Taxi – Taxi is an expensive choice. It costs NRS 5000 (around USD 45) and it takes 8 hours to Pokhara (same as the tourist bus). You can find taxis everywhere in Kathmandu, usually they are waiting for passengers in Thamil Chowk area.
- Airplane – Airplane is the fastest transportation choice to reach Pokhara. It costs USD 100-150 per flight.
Tips for travellers to Nepal
- Always bring toilet paper for those caught short in the wild moments.
- Take your motion sickness medicine – the roads in Nepal can get bumpy!
- Bring altitude sickness medicine if you are trekking to high altitudes.
- Bring iodine tablets to treat unclean water.
- Bargain all the time. (You can bargain for goods, for bus tickets and for accommodation – it’s the way things are done in Nepal).
- Bring all types of clothing.
- Bring warm clothing for Pokhara and for hiking as it can get freezing in high altitudes.
- Bring hot weather clothing for Kathmandu and the national parks.
- The best time to visit Nepal is March-April and October-November when the days are sunny, dry and clear and temperatures cool and fresh.