Nepal is best known for its wild landscapes, ranging from glacier-capped Himalayan peaks to dense forests and vast, grassy plains. Yet its vibrant towns and cities shouldn’t be overlooked, with ornate temples, rambunctious markets, and restaurants serving delicious Nepalese cuisine. As such, Nepal’s urban hubs offer a rich insight into the country’s cultural heritage, and, with plenty of amenities for travellers, are ideal bases to start and end your trip. To help you plan your adventure, we’ve picked out the most beautiful towns and cities to visit in Nepal.
Is Nepal on your travel bucket list? With Culture Trip, you can visit Kathmandu, Pokhara, Nuwakot, and numerous other fantastic destinations on our specially curated 11-day Nepal adventure, led by our Local Insider.
Colourful Kathmandu, which lies in a bowl-shaped valley at 1,400m (4,593ft) above sea level, is a must-visit destination on any trip to Nepal. The capital boasts an abundance of impressive landmarks worth seeing, including the Unesco-listed Boudhanath Stupa, Swayambhunath, and Pashupatinath temples, the Kopan Monastery, and Durbar Square, which contains the Hanuman Dhoka Palace (Nepal’s former royal residency). Take a stroll through Garden of Dreams, ride a rickshaw through the streets, or head to the Thamel district to soak up the lively atmosphere at one of many bars, restaurants, and clubs. There’s easily enough to keep you occupied for a couple of days in Kathmandu and, with an extensive choice of accommodation options and good transport links, it makes an excellent jumping-off point to explore the rest of the country.
Lumbini is one of the most historically important towns in Nepal, as the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, in 563 BCE, as well as some of the country’s most important archeological findings, dating back to the third century BCE. Interestingly, the area around Lumbini is predominantly Muslim, but the city is an important place for Buddhist pilgrims from around the world. Mayadevi Temple is the focal point, containing a sandstone marking of the supposed exactly birthplace of the Buddha, but there are over 30 temples, monasteries and monuments in total in the three-mile-long Lumbini Peace Park, which also includes the World Peace Pagoda. It’s a tranquil place to spend an hour or two admiring the array of religious architecture and relaxing in the idyllic gardens.
Pokhara, on the shoreline of a peaceful Lake Phewa – and with awe-inspiring views of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri mountains in the background – is embedded within beautiful natural scenery. Nepal’s second-largest city is a popular site for adventure sport-lovers, with paragliding, canoeing, white-water rafting, and bungee jumping among the exhilarating activities on offer. Fancy something more laid back? You can float across Lake Phewa at a leisurely pace on a rowing boat. Head to the International Mountain Museum, just outside the city centre, to gain a fascinating insight into Nepal’s mountaineering history, the geology of the Himalayas, and indigenous mountain cultures.
Bhaktapur, which has historically been regarded as the best-preserved ancient city-kingdom in the Kathmandu Valley, was devastated by the April 2015 earthquake, with many traditional buildings completely destroyed or damaged beyond repair. The recovery process is still ongoing, but thankfully, restoration work has ensured many of the town’s historic and religious monuments, such as the Changu Narayan and Nyatapola Temple, are still towering over the three bustling squares. It’s a more pedestrian-friendly city than Kathmandu or Lalitpur; you’ll pass artisans weaving cloth and laying pots to dry in the sun as you wander through the streets.
This hilltop village, which used to be the capital of Nepal, sits on the former trade route between Tibet and the Kathmandu Valley. Historic temples and monuments were severely damaged, and many houses completely collapsed. The town is recovering, however, and there are still plenty of sights to see, as well as panoramic views from the viewpoint tower at the Kalika Temple or the hilltop Malika Temple. Visit the historic Durbar Square with its majestic seven-story fortress, built in the 18th century during the reign of Prithvi Narayan Shah – the first monarch of the Kingdom of Nepal.
Located in a valley just off the Arniko Highway, at the sacred confluence of the Roshi Khola and Pungamati Khola rivers, the ancient Newari town of Panauti is surrounded by rolling hills and farmland. It’s dotted with 40 temples and restored Rana-era mansions, which have remained remarkably resistant to the impact of earthquakes over time. Allow yourself to get lost as you wander through the old town, which feels like a step back to another era; don’t be surprised to see chickens, goats and cows throughout the streets. It’s just 32km (20mi) southeast of Kathmandu, making it an easy day trip from the capital – perfect if you want to escape the crowds and experience a quieter, more low-key Nepalese town.
Lalitpur, formerly known as Patan, was once an independent city-state. Founded in the third century BCE, it’s believed to be the oldest city in the Kathmandu Valley. Visit Durbar Square, home to several extraordinary temples and palaces, and stop by the fair trade shops, which sell a wonderful array of handcrafted goods. It’s often busy during the day, when visitors cross over the Bagmati River from neighbouring Kathmandu, and it becomes quiet at night when they return to the capital.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.