It’s a shame to only visit Nepal for its main claim to fame, Everest. The tallest mountain on Earth is simply spectacular and incredibly awe-inspiring, but it’s not the only attraction in the country.
Nepal is rich in culture and food, history and traditions, and is home to some of the world’s most amazing medieval cities and beautiful landscapes. Well, in my opinion, at least.
And in honour of Intrepid’s new 12-day ‘Hike, Bike and Raft’ trip, it’s time to showcase some of them.
So, read on to learn about the many amazing experiences you can have in Nepal. Ones that exist beyond Base Camp, and range from rafting the rapids of the Trisuli River to biking in Kathmandu Valley. Let’s crush the misconception that the country is only about trekking Everest. There are many unique, religious, cultural, and adrenaline-filled experiences that await.
Most trips to Nepal usually start and finish in Kathmandu, the country’s capital. Yet there’s so much going on in and around Kathmandu that it’s easy to spend your whole trip there. Take a step back in time as you navigate through the city’s ancient alleyways, notably around Thamel. You’ll pass by sacred religious sites, through markets of all sorts, past hole-in-the-wall eateries, and all round the intricate wooden architecture of the city’s close-quartered alleyways.
Make your way up to Swayambhunath Temple, also known as Monkey Temple, for a sweeping panoramic view over Kathmandu. As the name suggests, you will see monkeys. Also visit Boudhanath Stupa, one of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world. The Stupa is adorned with the ubiquitous all-seeing eyes of Buddha, that always seem to be peering over you. Do as the locals do and push the prayer wheels as you circle the white mammoth in a clockwise motion.
An afternoon in Kathmandu’s Durbar square, the sacred heart and historic centre of the old city, is also a must. And if you’re interested in day tours led by locals then look no further than our sister company, Urban Adventures. Their Kathmandu trips range from hikes to hidden monasteries to night-time rickshaw tours to a visiting a local family’s home for lunch.
Pokhara is the last stop for many travellers finishing a hike in the Annapurna region of the Himalayas. However, this city and its enchanting surroundings make for a great place to visit, regardless if you’re stepping down from the mountains. Nepal’s second biggest city, it’s also one of the best places to unwind.
Pokhara is situated along the picturesque Phewa laka, which makes for lovely walks around its shore. This lake is the second largest in Nepal, and there’s no better way to see it than via a boat trip. Intrepid also offers a yoga class on its tour, to continue the zen-like, Nepalese existence Pokhara offers.
With the Himalayas for a backdrop, Pokhara can serve as a relaxed getaway, but also as a gateway to a bunch of adrenaline-pumping activities. Visit on Intrepid’s new tour and you’ll find yourself zooming 11 kilometres down the mountain, to and from the beautiful Peace Pagoda Temple, on a scenic mountain bike trip.
The 206km of unforgettable countryside connecting Nepal’s two largest cities – Kathmandu and Pokhara – showcases ancient temples and historic villages. But, just as before, there’s something for the more adventurous, too.
Those seeking an adrenaline rush and wanting to see the countryside from a different view can take a white-water rafting trip down the Trisuli River. Intrepid’s new hike, bike and raft tour spends two days on the Trisuli River, making it easy to get up close and personal with some of Nepal’s raging rapids.
If you’d rather see the countryside from above, Manakamana is a good bet. The 17th century Manakamana Temple, one of the most important in the region, is accessible by a cable car, one that seems to defy gravity as it makes its way up the steep mountainside. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu God Bhagwati, who pilgrims believe to be a wish-fulfilling goddess.
Chitwan National Park
Far way from the mountains, on Nepal’s southern border, sits Chitwan National Park, where Nepal is at its most wild. Chitwan is home to some of the best wildlife viewing spots in all of Asia, particularly for Asian elephants, as well as a horde of other elusive animals. The World Heritage reserve is a 932 sq km network of grasslands, forests, marshland, and jungle. Pure wilderness.
The Park has seen a healthy growth of tigers and rhinos in recent years, making your chances pretty good of seeing a one-horned rhino.
Park goers should also be on the look for deer, monkeys, hundreds of species of birds, sloth bears, and the park’s main tourist grab: the chance seeing the magnificent royal Bengal tiger. Tiger sightings are fairly rare, but you just never know! Whatever wildlife you do see, Chitwan is not a park you’ll forget in a hurry.
Though Nepal is becoming increasingly modernised, some parts still look and feel like you’re in a land frozen in time from centuries ago. There may not be a better example of this than in Bhaktapur, the best-preserved medieval town in Nepal.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square is centuries old, and is the perfect place to wander around aimlessly staring at well-preserved temples. Many of the square’s pagodas were damaged in the devastating 2015 earthquake, however, restoration processes are in place.
Bhaktapur is also the place to see Newari men passing the day by chatting, sipping tea, and playing cards, Meanwhile, school children roam through the brick streets, passing skilled artisans creating traditional art.
Yet another area in Nepal where time seems to stand perfectly still. Panauti is a quaint town of about 10,000 inhabitants, steeped in tradition and culture. It sits where the sacred Roshi Khola and Pungamati Khola rivers meet, making the town a sacred place itself.
The serene village is home to many sacred temples, and exploring them during dusk and dawn make for a magical experience, which makes Panauti seem far, far away from the chaotic streets of nearby Kathmandu. Pilgrims make their way to Panauti every year during the religious Magh Sankranti festival, where they bathe at the confluence of the two sacred rivers.
By now, I hope I’ve done parts of this endless beautiful country justice. Nepal’s gravitational force has visitors not wanting to leave this. Visit, and you’ll see why. From adrenaline-pumping activities to serene getaways, from local cultures and traditions that have been crafted over centuries to the wildest, almost untouched places in the natural world, Nepal is beyond amazing.
And this all beyond stepping foot onto the highest mountains on earth. Despite not climbing Everest, Nepal still makes you feel like you’re on top of the world.
Ready to hike, bike and raft through this spectacular country? Check out Intrepid’s brand new 12-day tour through Nepal.
Image credits from top to bottom: Intrepid Travel, Evan Ceretti, Intrepid Travel, Evan Ceretti, Intrepid Travel, Helen Warnod, Evan Ceretti