Nepal should be on everyone’s bucket list. From the crowded streets of Kathmandu to the jungle region of Chitwan to the mammoth Himalayas, there is no shortage of adventure, culture and magic to experience. Nepal was my first trip abroad, and after crossing overland from New Delhi (an experience I am not soon to repeat), stepping across the border at Banbasa was a welcome breath of fresh air.
Despite what you might imagine when you think of Nepal, this country is so much more than prayer flags and yaks and should be added to your travel list right now. In this article I’m excited to share my top 5 adventures you must do in Nepal!
ADVENTURE 1: PREP FOR YOUR TREK IN POKHARA, NEPAL
Pokhara is one of my favorite towns in the world. Nested at the base of Annapurna, this trekker’s town has a chill vibe, great food and gorgeous scenery. Often quickly passed through as a stopover for trekkers on their way to Annapurna Sanctuary, I highly recommend reserving a day or two to enjoy this great town.
First, make sure you are prepared for your trek – there is an abundance of discount trekker shops filled with knock-off North Face and all the gear you need at incredible prices. Once you are all geared up, grab some samosas from the local street vendors and head to the lake where you can rent a rowboat.
Phewa Lake is surrounded with the Himalayas; as you row out, you will see the Shanti Stupa across the way. Bring a book and just let yourself drift, taking in the beauty. If you are feeling more adventurous, Pokhara offers some of the world’s best paragliding (unfortunately when I was there it was too rainy to go) -definitely worth including in your trip.
The night before your trek, head to Viva Pasta Cafe & Restaurant to carb load. I know what you are thinking – “why the heck would I eat Italian in Nepal?”, but the small restaurant is owned by Italian expats and the handmade pasta and homemade bread is out of this world and something you will be dreaming about night 5 of the trek.
When you get back from your trek, book another night in Pokhara to rest and recover, and take advantage of the great bars like the Busy Bee Cafe (two-for-one happy hour) or the rooftop lounges (hookah optional), to celebrate the amazing trek experience you just had.
ADVENTURE 2: HIKE ANNAPURNA, EVEREST’S AWESOME LITTLE SISTER
First off, yes, I said Annapurna, not Everest. Over the past 10 years Everest has become a tourist hot spot and the trails are very crowded and commercialized (they even have a Yak Donald’s), but Annapurna is a best kept secret that provides a truly transcendental experience. Many people elect to hire a guide and sherpa to help you up the mountain, however, we did it on our own which proved to be both incredibly challenging but highly rewarding.
WHAT TO PACK FOR ANNAPURNA
When preparing for Annapurna, make sure you pack light (you will thank me later), but pack for all seasons. Throughout this trek you will be going through bug-infested jungles at one moment and then frigid cold a few days later, so layers are imperative.
I highly recommend bringing a cozy, warm outfit that you only wear in the evenings so you have something clean and comfy to change into after a long day of hiking. If you are hiking it on your own, plan out your stops in advance. A good goal is 10-15 miles per day, which might not seem like too much, but once you have your pack on and are up in the altitude, it will feel like plenty.
SAY HELLO TO THE SHERPAS
Now, as you are mentally fortifying yourself for those last few miles of the day, sweating and legs on fire, be warned: at this moment a team of sherpas will pass you at a run, carrying unbelievably heavy packs on their backs and wearing flip flops. It will crush your confidence… shake it off. They are unmatched and act as if the thin air does not phase them; make sure to smile and wave as they repeatedly assure you it’s only a “little-little more”.
LOCAL FOOD AND ACCOMMODATION
In the evenings, pay extra for a hot shower (no regrets) and eat the local food. Dal bhat uses local ingredients and is very delicious and filling. Be sure to plan accordingly because as you get higher up the mountain, the food gets more expensive, so bring plenty of money because you will surely work up an appetite. About halfway up there are stunning views of Machapuchare. I recommend staying at Fish Tail Lodge which has wonderful food and stunning views of the Fish Tail mountain peak.
ARRIVAL AT ANNAPURNA BASE CAMP
Finally, you made it up to Base Camp 1 (4137M)! You are exhausted, the altitude is crazy thin and you had to bring a hammer to break the ice over the squatty potty. But there is one more challenge you cannot miss: sunrise from base camp 2 offers views that are completely out of the world.
Wake up at 3:00am, grab your headlamp, put on every layer you have and head out. It’s about 2 hour climb to the second basecamp. Right as you get up to the top, the pink sunrise brightens up 360 degrees of Himalayan mountains. Grab some hot tea and breakfast (suggest no caffeine as the altitude is so thin anything can give you a headache) and take in a view only a select few get to see in their life.
ADVENTURE 3: PARTAKE IN A JUNGLE SAFARI IN THE CHITWAN NATIONAL PARK
When people think about Nepal, it’s all giant mountains and prayer flags, however, Nepal also hosts a lush jungle region with diverse wildlife. Chitwan National Forest sits in the southern part of the country – you can get there via a gnarly bus ride from Kathmandu (insider tip: do not forget to bring snacks because the ride typically takes hours longer than predicted and the stops are few and far between). There is a small village across the river from Chitwan named Sauraha where you can enjoy relaxing meals right on the river and book your safari.
For your jungle safari, make sure to wear lightweight long pants and shirts to protect you from the bugs and long grass which can cut you. The safari starts with a dugout canoe ride up the river early in the morning where you can see birds hunting and possibly crocodiles as well. Following the river (be careful if you go in, that sucker is stocked with leeches), your guide will take you on an adventure to find the Nepalese horned rhinos. Our trip we were lucky enough to find a mom and baby!
ADVENTURE 4: WANDER THROUGH THE ANCIENT DURBAR SQUARE
If you go to Nepal, Kathmandu will most certainly be on your agenda. This UNESCO World Heritage site vibrant city is best experienced on foot, and without an agenda. From the crowded streets and merchants peddling everything from pashminas to teas to the odd brass trinket, simply wandering is an afternoon well spent. Make sure to meander down to the very historic Durbar Square where history is seeping out of every temple (fair warning, this area is completely overrun with pigeons).
Now the streets can be a bit overwhelming and hot, so many sure to take plenty of breaks, ducking into small momo shops for a snack or better yet, find one of the many rooftop bars for a Mustang beer or hot tea. Once you have had enough of the streets, head up to the Swayambhunath Temple (aka Monkey Temple). This sits at the top of the hill, so bring water for the climb up. Once you reach the temple, be on the lookout for rogue monkeys (it got its name for a reason). Plan on spending some time admiring the view: the entire city sits below and it’s quite a peaceful and introspective experience
ADVENTURE 5: EAT YOUR HEART OUT
One of the most memorable parts of Nepal was the incredible food. Having come from a classic American diet of lots of meat I was a bit worried about transitioning to a vegetarian diet overnight. However, I never missed meat once. The food is so flavorful and fresh and full of spice.
The staple Nepalese food is Dal Bhat which is essentially rice with lentil soup,served with curried vegetables. The portions are huge and while it may sound simple, the spices give this cuisine an incredible kick. We typically had this twice a day and it was a fantastic way to experience authentic Nepalese life.
Some other favorites: momos – find the divey spots in the corners of Kathmandu. Another classic is samosas, best tried from the street carts on nearly every corner. And, last, but certainly not least, indulge in the tea. Masala is the classic Nepalese tea, but the local cafes have all kinds of chai, mint teas and others which will make you completely forget your coffee from back home. If you are feeling especially adventurous, Raksi is the Nepal version of vodka, and is typically served as shots (prepare with a chaser because it’s strong!).
So there you go, if Nepal isn’t at the top of your bucket list, then shame on you. Don’t miss out of a country drenched in history and culture, surrounded by nature and full of adventure.
We hope that this article has inspired you to visit Nepal. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
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Our Top Places To Stay In Kathmandu, Nepal:
- Baber Mahal Vilas
- The Dwarika’s Hotel
- Kathmandu Marriott Hotel
- Find the best price on hotels in Kathmandu, Nepal
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Read More About Nepal
- 13 Reasons To Trek To Everest Base Camp
- 5 Reasons You Should (And Can) Hike Everest Base Camp
- 6 Things You Must Do In Kathmandu
- A Guide To Survive A Trek To Everest
- 5 Tips To Make Your Himalayan Trip A Success
We Are Travel Girls Contributor Raevyn West
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