Nepal is a small country in South Asia, sandwiched between India and China. It is home to some of the most spectacular natural and cultural wonders in the world, such as the majestic Himalayan mountains, the ancient temples and palaces of Kathmandu, the birthplace of Buddha in Lumbini, and the diverse wildlife and landscapes of Chitwan National Park. Nepal is a destination that appeals to all kinds of travelers, whether they are looking for adventure, spirituality, or relaxation. Here are some of the best things to do in Nepal, along with some practical tips and information to help you plan your trip.
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Trekking in the Himalayas
Nepal is famous for its trekking trails, which offer stunning views of the snow-capped peaks, lush valleys, and remote villages. There are treks for every level of fitness and experience, ranging from short and easy hikes to challenging and long expeditions. Some of the most popular treks in Nepal are:
- Everest Base Camp Trek: This is the ultimate trek for those who want to get close to the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest. The trek takes about 12 to 14 days and covers a distance of about 130 km. Along the way, you will pass through Sherpa villages, Buddhist monasteries, glacial rivers, and scenic viewpoints. You will also have the chance to see other famous peaks such as Lhotse, Nuptse, Ama Dablam, and Thamserku.
- Annapurna Circuit Trek: This is one of the most diverse and scenic treks in Nepal, which circles around the Annapurna massif. The trek takes about 15 to 20 days and covers a distance of about 230 km. You will cross different landscapes, such as subtropical forests, alpine meadows, barren deserts, and high passes. You will also encounter various cultures, such as Gurung, Manangi, Thakali, and Tibetan.
- Langtang Valley Trek: This is a relatively easy and short trek that takes you to the beautiful Langtang Valley, which lies north of Kathmandu. The trek takes about 7 to 10 days and covers a distance of about 70 km. You will enjoy the views of the Langtang Himal range, as well as the rich flora and fauna of the Langtang National Park. You will also visit some charming Tamang villages and monasteries along the way.
Kathmandu is the capital and largest city of Nepal, as well as the gateway to many attractions in the country. It is a vibrant and chaotic city that offers a mix of ancient history and modern culture. Some of the highlights of Kathmandu are:
- Durbar Square: This is the historic heart of Kathmandu, where you can see many old palaces, temples, courtyards, and monuments that date back to the medieval times. Some of the notable buildings are Hanuman Dhoka (the former royal palace), Kumari Ghar (the residence of the living goddess), Kasthamandap (a wooden pavilion that gave the city its name), and Taleju Temple (the tallest temple in Kathmandu).
- Swayambhunath Stupa: This is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in Nepal, which sits atop a hill overlooking Kathmandu. The stupa is also known as the Monkey Temple because of the large number of monkeys that live there. The stupa has a white dome with a golden spire, which is surrounded by colourful prayer flags and statues. The stupa also offers panoramic views of the city and the mountains.
- Boudhanath Stupa: This is another important Buddhist site in Kathmandu, which is located on the outskirts of the city. The stupa is one of the largest and most impressive in the world, with a diameter of about 100 meters and a height of about 40 meters. The stupa has a simple design with four pairs of eyes that symbolise wisdom and compassion. The stupa is also a centre of Tibetan culture in Nepal, as many Tibetan refugees live nearby.
Lumbini is a small town in southern Nepal that holds great significance for Buddhists around the world. It is believed to be the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, who later became known as Buddha. Lumbini is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that attracts pilgrims and tourists alike. Some of the attractions in Lumbini are:
- Maya Devi Temple: This is the main temple in Lumbini, which marks the spot where Queen Maya Devi gave birth to Buddha in around 563 BC. The temple contains a stone slab that is said to be the exact location of the birth, as well as a pond where Maya Devi bathed before the delivery. The temple also displays some ancient relics and sculptures related to Buddha’s life.
- World Peace Pagoda: This is a gleaming white stupa that was built by Japanese Buddhists in 2001. The stupa is one of the world’s greatest stupas, with a height of about 41 meters and a diameter of about 70 meters. The stupa has four niches that contain statues of Buddha in different poses and colours. The stupa also offers a peaceful atmosphere and a view of the surrounding countryside.
- International Monasteries: Lumbini is also home to many monasteries that represent different countries and traditions of Buddhism. Some of the most interesting ones are the Cambodian Monastery (with touches of Angkor Wat), the Royal Thai Buddhist Monastery (with a stunning white marble wat), the Zhong Hua Chinese Buddhist Monastery (with an elegant pagoda-style temple), and the Myanmar Golden Temple (with a golden spire and a replica of the Shwedagon Pagoda).
Wildlife Watching in Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park is one of the best places in Nepal to see wildlife in their natural habitat. The park covers an area of about 950 square kilo meters and contains a variety of ecosystems, such as tropical forests, grasslands, marshes, and rivers. The park is home to more than 500 species of animals, including endangered ones such as the Bengal tiger, the one-horned rhinoceros, the gharial crocodile, and the sloth bear. The park also hosts more than 500 species of birds, such as the hornbill, the peacock, the kingfisher, and the eagle. Some of the activities you can do in Chitwan National Park are:
- Jeep Safari: This is one of the most popular ways to explore the park and spot wildlife. You can take a jeep ride through different zones of the park, such as the core area, the buffer zone, and the community forest. You can also stop at some observation towers and viewpoints along the way. A jeep safari usually lasts for about 4 to 5 hours and costs around 3000 NPR per person.
- Elephant Safari: This is another option to see wildlife up close and personal. You can ride on the back of an elephant and follow a guide through the jungle. You can also feed and bathe the elephants at some camps. An elephant safari usually lasts for about 2 hours and costs around 2500 NPR per person.
- Canoeing: This is a fun and relaxing way to enjoy the scenery and wildlife of the park. You can take a canoe ride along the Rapti River or the Narayani River, which are both rich in aquatic life. You can see various animals such as crocodiles, turtles, otters, and dolphins along the way. You can also stop at some islands and sandbanks for birdwatching or picnicking. A canoeing trip usually lasts for about 1 hour and costs around 500 NPR per person.
Nepal is a country that has something for everyone, whether you are looking for adventure, spirituality, or relaxation. You can trek in the Himalayas, explore Kathmandu, visit Lumbini, or watch wildlife in Chitwan National Park. Nepal is a place that will leave you with unforgettable memories and experiences.
Text by Harender Singh