Combining an abundance of natural beauty with a rich cultural heritage, Nepal has no shortage of appeal for travellers. Towns and cities replete with majestic temples and palaces are framed by awe-inspiring mountains, forests and vast, open plains, making it one of the world’s most scenic – and fascinating – countries to visit. To help you make the most of your trip, and give you a taste of what to expect, we’ve picked out the most spectacular places where nature and culture meet in Nepal.
Keen to visit Nepal? With Culture Trip, you can do so in the company of a Local Insider by joining our exclusive 11-day Nepal adventure, which includes Kathmandu, Pokhara, Nuwakot and Chitwan National Park, among several other fantastic destinations.
Lo Manthang, in the district of Mustang, offers a range of cultural experiences. It’s not one of the most commonly visited parts of the country by travellers, and, as such, it’s extremely peaceful. When visiting, you will most likely walk the direct trade routes from the 15th century. It’s one of the best places in the country to familiarise yourself with ancient Buddhist cultures. The annual Tiji Festival usually takes place in May, and is one of the most important events on the cultural calendar – well worth attending if you’re there at the right time.
Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, lies in a valley containing seven Unesco World Heritage sites, including Kathmandu Durbar Square, Swyambunath Stupa (also known as the Monkey Temple), and the Pashupatinath Temple (the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu). The nearby city of Bhaktapur, meanwhile, is packed with ancient artworks and carvings made from wood, stone and metal, plus an abundance of ancient temples and traditional houses. For panoramic views of the valley, head to the hilltop village of Nagarkot.
Sagarmatha National Park
Awarded Unesco World Heritage status in 1979, and covering an area of 124,400 hectares, the protected area of Sagarmatha National Park lies in the Himalayas in eastern Nepal, alongside Mount Everest. In the Himalayas, you will be introduced to the Sherpa people, who have a rich cultural history as the indigenous inhabitants of the region. There are approximately 6,000 Sherpas within the national park, and their ever-presence creates a coupling of nature and culture within the park that makes it truly unique.
Although the price location has long been the subject of debate and speculation, Lumbini, close to the border with India, is widely regarded as the likely birthplace of the Lord Buddha (the Tathagata). The predominant source of evidence behind the site’s authenticity as the Buddha’s birthplace is the Ashoka pillar, which was constructed in 249 B.C. and discovered in 1896. It testifies this area as the birthplace of Buddha. Today, Lumbini is home to the three-mile-long Lumbini Peace Park, which is regarded as one of the holiest and most sacred spots in the world, featuring an array of Buddhist monasteries and temples built by 25 countries from around the world.
Chitwan National park
Founded in 1973, Chitwan was the first national park established in Nepal and is also a Unesco World Heritage site. Comprised of grassy marshlands and forests, it’s contains an extraordinary range of wildlife. Once a historical hunting ground, Chitwan is home to both the Bengal tiger and the one-horned rhino – it’s one of the last places these animals exist in the wild. Within the park, you can find a number of lodges to stay at, many of which offer activities from rafting to jeep safaris and walking tours. A safari adventure in Chitwan National Park is included as part of Culture Trip’s exclusive 11-day Nepal adventure.
The city of Janakpur, southeast of Kathmandu, is home to many temples and sacred ponds. Framed by the Himalayas, the city contains some of the most beautiful architecture in Nepal. The intricately decorated Janaki Mandir, which is dedicated to the goddess of Sita and stands as Janakpur’s oldest temple, is among Nepal’s most impressive religious structures – an important example of Rajput architecture. There are also more than 100 sacred ponds, such as Ganga Sagar, and traditional Maithili artworks, the origins of which are mysterious and as ancient as the place itself.
Arguably one of the most spectacular destinations in the country, Pokhara is the second-largest city in Nepal. The landscape here abruptly changes from green hills to snow-capped mountains, offering breathtaking views. Nicknamed ‘the Jewel in the Himalaya’, this area is equally suited to those wanting to unwind – aided by the crisp, clean air – and those seeking adrenaline-pumping, outdoor adventures, such as white-water rafting and paragliding. Rent a rowing boat on the lake, visit the Barahi Temple and see the famous World Peace Pagoda – a dome-shaped stupa perched on the hilltop, providing panoramas of the surrounding area.
On the northern side of Kathmandu, Langtang runs very close to the borders of Tibet and China, and is a popular trekking spot. Here, you’ll find the Tamang Heritage Trail that passes through the historical towns of Gojng, Gatlang, Chilime and Briddim. Langtang features some of the oldest Tamang villages, offering an insight into how people live in one of Nepal’s most traditional communities. The Gosainkunda Lake is an important religious spot for Hindus, and is said to have been created by Lord Shiva himself.
The town of Tansen, within the mid-west Nepalese hills, contains charming houses designed in the traditional Newari architectural style. The temperatures are fairly mild all year round, so it’s suitable to visit at any time. The capital of the Palpa district, on an old trading route between India and Tibet, its history dates back to 11th century AD. Prominent temples such as the Bhairab Temple, in addition to other sculptures and monasteries, make this an important cultural centre. Stop by the town’s sprawling bazaar, Makhan Tole, while you’re there.
In the hills of eastern Nepal, Ilam is famous for its production of Nepal tea, as well as its fine cheeses, and and various other agricultural exports. Antu Danda is a popular spot for views of the surrounding areas, in particular at dusk and dawn for the sunsets and sunrises. An important religious site, meanwhile, is the Gajur Mukhi – a carved tunnel containing images of Hindu deities, alongside the Deumai Khola river.
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