Nepal may be known as a trekker’s paradise, but there is so much more to see there than mountains alone. The country is brimming with UNESCO World Heritage sites, charming hillside villages, ancient cities and jungle wildlife. I say this often, but I felt like I was stepping back in time—my favorite type of travel. The best things to see and do in Nepal may not be what you’d expect.
Full of unexpected charm and beauty, G’s connections enabled us to seamlessly immerse into the local community. From taking a momo cooking class taught by human trafficking survivors, trekking through the Kathmandu Valley to see Nepal’s beautiful countryside, to having dinner with a local family in their home, I was reminded why I love travel so much!
Traveling with G Adventures
I’ve been on a few trips with G Adventures and am always impressed with their commitment to sustainability and quality. First of all, I know going on a tour with them will have a positive impact on the communities and environment visited. For example, during our first night in Nepal, we learned about their immense involvement in helping rebuild after the 2015 earthquake. Secondly, their itineraries always include the must-see locations with a few exclusive G experiences. Additionally, they seem to attract a certain type of traveler that sees the world is a thoughtful way and is not afraid of some adventure.
From my research and experience, most first time travelers to Nepal seem to travel around the Kathmandu Valley, Chitwan National Park and Pokhara. There’s so much to see and do in Nepal that I wish I had more time to explore lesser known spots. I guess I’ll just have to make another trip back!
Below are the best things to see and do in Nepal
Visit the Royal City of Bhaktapur
Bhaktapur is one of the three royal cities in the Kathmandu Valley and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is known for its rich culture, temples, and wood, metal and stone artworks. I especially loved turning a corner to find a potter working her wheel. Even more interesting was seeing a shop owner making a wooden mask while chatting with customers.
The 2015 earthquake destroyed a lot of Nepal’s temples and historical sites, and there are still many reminders in the places I visited. However, Bhaktapur seemed to have done a lot in preservation and restoration. I enjoyed it so much that I came back after our tour to explore the city on my own.
Good to know: Foreigners need to pay a US $15, or NPR. 1500 fee to enter the city, which goes towards upkeep and restoration.
Do a homestay with a Nepalese family
If you love connecting with locals and learning about culture in a personal way, then you need check out the Community Homestay Network. The organization was founded by two women from Panauti, a village in the Kathmandu Valley. Travelers can stay with families to experience life as a local.
The network empower women and benefit local communities. Most hosts are housewives that don’t have another source of income. Through the program, they often end up making more than their husbands, taking English language classes and other training to help their families. In addition, 20% of proceeds go back towards a community effort like building a school.
Currently they have host families in Panauti, Patan, Nagarkot, Palpa, Nuwakot, Patlekhet, two locations in Chitwan (Barauli and Sauraha) and along the Annapurna Community Trekking route.
Learn how to make Nepalese momos (dumplings)
Whenever I visit a new country, I always try to take a cooking class while I’m there. It’s the best way to learn about a culture and bring it back home. In Nepal, momos seem to be the staple. They reminded me of Chinese soup dumplings!
I’d recommend taking a class with SASANE’s Sisterhood of Survivors Project. The organization empowers survivors of human trafficking reintegrate into the workforce through rehabilitation efforts, becoming cooking instructors and paralegal training. We not only learned how to make momos and enjoyed a delicious lunch afterward, but also gained insight into the commercial sex trafficking industry in Nepal. Did you know every year 7,500 Nepalese girls are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation?
Visit the Boudhanath Stupa
This Buddhist shrine is just 8 km east of downtown Kathmandu and is one of the largest stupas in the world. Surrounded by countless monasteries, many Tibetan Buddhists and Nepalis make the pilgrimage to visit this UNESCO World Heritage site every year. Built in the shape of a mandala, each side has a pair of all-seeing-eyes with colorful Tibetan prayer flags flying overhead.
Unexpectedly, I visited on Buddha’s birthday and got to witness a huge celebration with people from all over the world. A week later, I went back, and it was a completely different atmosphere–much quieter, more peaceful and only a handful of tourists and monks. Regardless, I’m pretty sure it’s a special experience no matter what time you go.
Good to know: Entrance fees for foreigners are NPR. 400. There is a booth at the main entrance to purchase tickets.
Take a flight from Kathmandu to see Mt. Everest
Did you know you can take a flight to see Mount Everest at 8,848 meters? This one hour trip leaves from Kathmandu passing the Himalayas then returns back to the same airport. Everyone has a window seat and gets to visit the cockpit for panoramic views of the mountains before getting served champagne. It feels like you’re on top of the world (literally). I highly recommend this experience if you have no desire to trek to Basecamp but still want to see the highest mountain in the world!
Go on a trek to see Nepal’s countryside
Speaking of trekking, there are so many options for beginners to the ultimate Everest Basecamp trek. The purpose of my trip was not to go hiking so I only did a half day trek in the Kathmandu Valley. We walked from Sanga to Panauti and passed by beautiful landscapes, remote towns and ended in a community village. There is so much to see and do in Nepal besides trekking, but I’m glad I experienced!
Some longer, popular hikes include the Annapurna Circuit and Everest Base Camp.
Sunrise at Sarangkot
This famous hilltop village is known for its epic sunrises with Himalayan peaks in the distance. It is about 30 minutes from Pokhara, the second largest city in Nepal and gateway to treks in the Annapurna region. There are two options for seeing the sunrise: either getting up in the middle of the night to hike there or staying in a guesthouse the night prior.
Search for the rhinos in Chitwan National Park
Saving the best for last and one of my favorite parts of my trip: going on a jungle safari!
Chitwan National Park was the first national park of Nepal. It is located in the south-central part of the country. Renowned for its protection of the one-horned rhinoceros, royal bengal tigers and gharial crocodiles, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
There are many opportunities for wildlife sightings including going on a jeep safari looking for rhinos, tigers, monkeys and birds or a sunset riverboat safari along the Rapti River.
These are all activities from different G Adventures Nepal tours. Some even combine India and Nepal in one trip, which I highly recommend! There’s so much to see and do in Nepal; what better way to experience it than with a reliable tour company? Here are the trips I would recommend:
Thank you to G Adventures for hosting me on this Nepalese adventure. As always, all opinions and photos are my own.