The Most Beautiful Towns and Cities in Nepal

The main street of Nuwakot village
The main street of Nuwakot village | © Hemis / Alamy
Courtney Stanley

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.

Kathmandu

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

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.

Monks sitting in front of the Bodhi Tree in Lumbini

Pokhara

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

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.

Durbar Square Road is a popular meeting spot in Bhaktapur

Nuwakot

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.

Panauti

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

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.

Sunset over Patan Durbar Square in Nepal

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All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

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