The Annapurna region is accessed from tranquil Pokhara, and is famous for the Annapurna range and the sacred Fish Tail mountain. The 10-day Annapurna Sanctuary trek is the region’s most popular activity. The sanctuary is an oval shaped glacial plateau reached via a narrow pass between the peaks of Hiunchuli (6,441 m) and Machapuchare (6,993 m, aka ‘Fish Tail’, regarded as sacred and therefore unclimbed). Annapurna base camp (4130 metres) is the highest point, providing stunning 360 degrees views of the Annapurna range, the glaciers running from it, and the near-vertical south face of Annapurna I (8091 metres).
The Boudhanath stupa is one of the holiest and most recognisable sites in Kathmandu. Assigned UNESCO world heritage status in 1979, Boudhanath (aka the Boudha, Chorten Chempo and Khasa Caityais) has a diameter of 120 metres, making it the largest temple in Nepal. The stupa is built on an octagonal base, is surrounded by prayer wheels, and has colourful prayer flags draped from its 36-metre central spire. Boudhanath is rich in symbolism: it has five statues of Dhyani Buddhas, representing the five elements (earth, fire, water, air and ether); nine levels, representing Mount Meru (the mythical peak at the centre of the Buddhist cosmos); and 13 rings from its base to its apex (representing the steps to enlightenment or Nirvana). Boudhanath is the religious centre of Nepal’s Tibetan/Buddhist community, and is surrounded by around 50 monasteries and shops settling Tibetan artefacts. About 15% of the population are Buddhists.
Chitwan National Park
This was the very first National Park established in Nepal in the year 1973 and was granted the status of a World Heritage Site in 1984. Formerly called the Royal Chitwan National Park, it was renamed to only Chitwan National Park after the dismissal of the royal family. The park covers an area of 932 square kilometers and is located in the subtropical Inner Terai lowlands of south-central Nepal in the district of Chitwan. It is certainly one of the most popular tourist destinations in Nepal, with several lodges and hotels providing full accommodations inside the park along with elephant-jeep-safaris, rafting tours and guided jungle walks. The park is a sheer example of wildlife exploration and all the different kinds of birds and vegetation that provide importance to its existence.
Even though the Nepali royal family moved from the Hanuman Dhoka palace about a century ago, Durbar (Palace) Square remains the tourist heart of Kathmandu. Most visitors are surprised by the sheer number of temples surrounding the square, and the two adjoining squares, some dating back to the 12th century. The jewels in the crown are the Hanuman Dhoka itself (the complex of royal palaces), the magnificent Taleju Temple (built in 1564 by Mahendra Malla, standing on a 12-stage plinth, and reaching 35 metres in height), and the Kumari Bahal (an intricately carved three-storey structure built in 1757 in which the ‘living godess’, a young girl selected from the Kathmandu valley, still lives).
Everest Base Camp
It is certainly acknowledged by everyone that the highest mountain peak in the world Mt. Everest lies in Nepal. As it is not feasible for anyone or everyone to attempt and climb the Everest itself, the trek to Everest Base Camp trek shall suffice for the experience of conquering Everest, at least experience and feel wise. A trek that lasts 16 days offers an exhilarating flight to Lukla, then a trek through lush rhododendron forest and stone walled traditional villages, to the Sherpa Land, Namche and all the way to the village of Phortse Gaon where one can witness magical peaks of Everest and Nuptse and various other mountain ranges. The journey involves plenty of challenges and requires a high level of fitness. The camp lies at an altitude of 5,364 meters. The camp is a more of a rest point for Climbers looking to climb the Everest and they rest there for several days for acclimatization to reduce the risks of severity of altitude sickness; however it makes for an extravagant adventure tourism spot for any adventure enthusiasts.
Garden Of Dreams
The Garden of Dreams is a beautiful enclave found a stone’s throw from the centre of Thamel. The Garden—formal in style—occupies about half a hectare. Its lush lawns, sunken flower gardens, large central pond, fountains, gazebos and three neo-classical pavilions are kept in pristine condition. Built by Field Marshall Kaiser Shumsher (1892-1964), son of Nepal’s prime minister Chandra Shumsher, the Garden was inspired after a trip to Edwardian England using funds that Kaiser had won from his father in a game of cowrie shells. The Garden was restored by the Austrian team responsible for the renovation of the Patan Museum (see above). They are best savoured in good weather, over a picnic or whilst reading a book or surfing the net (wifi available).
With remarkably serene lakes and outstanding views of Mt Everest, treks of the Gokyo Lakes are truly memorable. At the head of the Dudh Kosi Valley, the Gokyo Lakes region offers a seductive alternative to the more iconic trails of Mt Everest. With more time to acclimatize and a more tranquil, off-the-beaten-path trail, the Gokyo Lakes hike is arguably one of the most appealing options for the adventure trekker. Absorb the breath-taking views of Mt Everest and trail around dazzling lakes, overlooked from the spectacular panoramas atop beautiful alpine campsites. This trek through the Sherpa heartland is not to be missed.
Khaptad National Park
Khaptad National Park is a protected area in the Far-Western Region of Nepal which was established in 1984 on the advice of the region’s holy man Khaptad Baba. The Park stretches over four districts of Bajhang,Bajura, Accham and Doti and covers an area of 225 square km. The landscape consists of steep slopes, streams and moorland. It is considered to be one of the best scenic landscapes Nepal has to offer, with various landscapes and species of birds and animals along with different kinds of vegetation it surely is a place where almost none of the beauty has been rearranged by human hands. Certainly a place where one can experience the true essence of tranquility and peace.
The Kopan Monastery is a gated community of Buddhist monks found on a hilltop north of Boudhanath. Founded by Lamas Thubten Yeshe and Zopa Rinpoche in the early 1970s, the Monastery houses 360 monks in grounds which include an enormous Bodhi tree, theChenrezig gompa (temple), statues, prayer wheels, prayer flags (at the top of Kopan Hill) and the colourful Thousand Buddha Relic Stupa. The Monastery is twinned with the nearby Khachoe Ghakyil Nunnery. Those visiting should expect to replace the hubbub of central Kathmandu with morning chanting, an evening pooja/puja ceremony (involving pageantry and traditional Tibetan music made from cymbals and large horns), study, silence, peace and love. The Monastery also offers
daily and longer courses in meditation and yoga, provides panoramic views over the Kathmandu valley, has an immaculately kept garden and great gift shop and café. Just beware of the monkeys: they have a habit of stealing ice-cream from unsuspecting tourists!
Langtang National Park
Langtang was established in 1976 as Nepal’s first Himalayan National Park. Covering an area of 1,700 square kilometres, Langtang has a maximum altitude of 7,200 metres and contains climatic zones ranging from the sub-tropical to the alpine. Found in the Nukator, Rasuwa and Sindhulpalchok districts of central Nepal, Langtang is best known for its flora and fauna, sacred Hindu sites and great trekking (being the third most popular trekking area after Everest and Annapurna). The Langtang National Park’s highest peaks are Langtang Lirung (7,227 metres) and Dorje Lakpa (6,966 metres). At lower levels the flora includes oaks, pines, maples and rhododendrons, and the fauna includes red pandas, Himalayan Tahrs (which resemble goats) and black bears, Rhesus monkeys and (if some accounts are to be believed) the occasional Yeti! At 4,380 metres and with a surface area of 34 acres, the sacred Gosainkunda lake(pictured) is a must-see. Considered to be the home of Hindu deities Lord Shiva and Goddess Gauri, the lake is a popular pilgrimage site for the Janai Purnima (Sacred Thread) festival in August of each year. This festival marks the date on which Hindu men change the yellow cotton cord worn around their chest or right wrist.
Buddhist pilgrims head to this birth-place of one of history’s most revered figures: The Buddha. Colorful and peaceful monasteries are a place to worship in the home of the Buddha. The peaceful atmosphere in Lumbini is testament to the amount of reverence shown to the legend of Siddhartha, aka the Buddha. Born in Lumbini in approximately 563 BC, the Buddha has created a legend that is manifested by the vast amounts of Buddhist pilgrims that trek to Lumbini each year. Most people make a brief stopover in Lumbini but it would take you 1 or 2 days to properly explore and absorb all the majestic temples and beautiful scenery and tranquility.
Narayanhiti Palace Museum
he Narayanhiti Palace Museum (aka Narayanhiti Durbar) served as the primary residence of Nepal’s monarchy for over a century until 2008. It was here that, in June 2001, King Birendra, Queen Aiswarya and six other royals were shot dead by Crown Prince Dipendra before Dipendra turned his weapon on himself; the apparent motive was revenge, after the King and Queen refused to approve the Prince’s marriage intentions. Birenda’s replacement, King Gyanendra, was deeply unpopular, and Nepalis voted to abolish the monarchy in 2008. The new parliament promptly gave Gyanendra 15 days to vacate the Palace. The opening of the Palace Museum by Nepal’s prime minister in February 2009 was a highly symbolic event. The Palace comprises 52 rooms (19 are open to the public) and occupies 74 acres. It was designed by American architect Benjamin Pol in the style of a contemporary pagoda. The Museum showcases the belongings of former royalty, such as pictures of Queen Elizabeth II taken when the Windsors were on friendly terms with the Shah dynasty.
Built in 1696 on the orders of King Bhupendra Malla, Pashupatinath is Nepal’s most important Hindu temple. Constructed in the pagoda style of architecture, Pashupatinath stands on the banks of the Bagmati river, has a distinctive gilded rooftop, intricately carved rafters (featuring members of Shiva’s family) and four silver-plated main doors surrounded by statues of deities. Pashupatinath reaches a maximum height of 24 metres, and is presided over by piests called Bhattas and achief priest called Mool Bhatt or Raval. Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple, though a glimpse of Shiva’s bull, Nandi, can be caught from outside the western entrance. There is nonetheless much to see. The temple’s exterior and its surrounding buildings are worth a look. Sadhus (Hindu holy men) watch the world go by. Traders hawkmarigolds, incense and conch shells. And the riverbanks of the Bagmati river are a popular place for cremations.
Poon hill is the view point in the Annapurna foothills that offer unobstructed and magnificent mountain views. The Ghorepani and Poon Hill trek is a colorful foray into the Annapurna Region which starts and ends in Pokhara. The trail goes through patchwork valleys, dense mossy forests and past icy waterfalls where one can stop to cool off and rest. On the way to Poon hill around every corner is a tantalizing glimpse of the high mountains, whole horizon of which is revealed to you as you reach the higher points of your trek. The trek to Poon hill certainly one not to miss out on if you are planning to visit Nepal anytime soon.
Rara taal is the biggest lake situated within the borders of Nepal, which lies at an altitude of 2,990 m above sea level and covers an area of 10.8 square kilometers. The lake is surrounded by Rara National Park on all sides, the park was established in 1976 to preserve the beauty of the lake and protect the unique floral and faunal importance of the rare and vulnerable species found around the lake. The trek to Rara has been a popular destination for many trekkers, with a very rough route in the western part of Nepal. The trek begins with a flight to Jumla, and a mountainous trek follows after that, where one would pass many villages untouched by all the hassle in the world and finally reaching the banks of the Rara Lake which was aesthetically described by GORP founder Bill Greer as, ‘’a shimmering blue jewel set in a ring of snowy peaks.’’
Royal Botanical Gardens
The Royal Botanical Gardens, found 18 kms south of Kathmandu in the foothills of Mount Phulchowki, are a site of outstanding beauty.
The Swayambhunath Stupa (meaning the ‘self-created’ stupa, aka the Monkey Temple) is found on a hilltop to the west of Kathmandu. Second in importance only to the Boudhanath Stupa, the Swayambhunath complex,founded by King Manadeva during the fifth century, contains a stupa, temples, shrines, Tibetan monastery, museum and library. The Stupa, re-gilded with 20 kilograms of gold in 2010, has a large white dome at its base, above which are painted four sets of Buddha’s eyes and eyebrow; further up the Stupa are found four pentagonal Toran (gateways) and thirteen tiers leading to the Stupa’s golden spire. Monkeys live to the north-west of the complex; they are said to be holy because they grew out of head lice living in the bodhisattva (enlightened person) Manjusri’s long hair! Visitors should also inspect the carvings of the five Panch Buddhas found on each side of the Stupa, the two lions guarding the Stupa’s entrance, the adjacent Harati Devi Temple, Shantipur (a small temple northwest of the main stupa), and the Pratappur and Anantapur shrines.
It is one of the highest lakes in the world at an altitude of almost 5,000 meters located in the Annapurna range of the Himalayas in Manang district of Nepal. Anyone attempting to do the Annapurna Circuit route usually cross these watersheds between Manang and Kali Gandaki valleys above the 5,000 meters high Thorong La pass. Various lodges have been built between Manang and the Lake, but there aren’t any accommodation sites or even teahouses past the Tilicho Base Camp lodge. Tilicho Lake and the trek as a whole is a very revitalizing experience, yet a very demanding and an extremely adventurous terrain, not meant for everyone, only the adventure junkies so-to-say.