Combining natural beauty, traditional heritage and a rich history, Nepal is one of the most culturally appealing places in the world. Historical cities and temples are surrounded by the broad mountain ranges that hug the country and run through its incredibly diverse landscape. With such a wonderful array of ethnicities, Nepal is a place like no other – here are our highlights.
Mustang District entrance | © John Pavelka/Flickr
Lo Manthang is located in the district of Mustang, which offers a range of cultural experiences. Lo Manthang has only been visited by foreigners relatively recently, and the numbers of visitors to Upper Mustang are still restricted. Due to this, the culture here is almost untouched, making it an incredible site to see. When visiting, you will most likely walk the direct trade routes from the 15th century, and explore some of the richest Buddhist culture found in the country. The annual Tiji Festival usually takes place in May, and is one of the most important events on the cultural calendar. This three-day ritual is centred around the Tiji myth, and is well worth attending if you arrive at the right time.
Pashupatinath | © kudumomo/Flickr
Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal, with the surrounding valley containing an impressive number of cultural heritage sites, and the valley has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This area contains a number of sister cities, including Bhaktapur, which was once the country’s capital. Rich with beauty and cultural significance, the city of Bhaktapur is teeming with ancient artworks and carvings made from wood, stone and metal. Also within the valley are the temples of Pashupatinath. Sat alongside the sacred Bagmati river, these are some of the most important temples of Lord Shiva in the world, and the oldest temples in Kathmandu. To see extraordinary views of the valley, travel to the nearby town of Nagarkot and stay in the Club Himalaya Resort.
Sagarmatha National Park | © Superikonoskop/WikiCommons
Sagarmatha National Park
Labelled a UNESCO site in 1979, and covering an area of 124,400 hectares, the protected area of Sagarmatha National Park (SNP) sits in the Himalayas in eastern Nepal alongside Mount Everest. The awe-inspiring area contains vast mountains aside deep valleys that have been carved into the mountainsides by staggeringly large glaciers. Within the Himalayas you will be introduced to the Sherpa people, who have a rich cultural history and a unique culture. There are approximately 6,000 Sherpas within the SNP, and their presence creates a coupling of nature and culture within the park that makes it truly unique. For a memorable stay in comfort, take a look at Yeti Mountain Home in Namache.
Lumbini Tree | © wonker/Flickr
Although the location remains under discussion by some, Lumbini is widely regarded as the birthplace of the Lord Buddha (the Tathagata). Today, a Buddhist pilgrimage centre is being erected, and the site is a favourite among archaeologists. The site is regarded as one of the holiest and most sacred spots in the world, and holds a calm serenity that is nonpareil. The predominant source of evidence behind this site’s authenticity is the Asoka pillar, which was constructed in 249 B.C. and was discovered in 1896. The pillar testifies this area as the birthplace of Buddha, and its location within the Terai plains make it both naturally and culturally rich.
Chitwan National Park | © Svetlana Grechkina/Flickr
Chitwan National Park
Founded in 1973, Chitwan was the first national park established in Nepal and is also a UNESCO site. Containing grassy marshlands and forests, the fertile nature of the soil allows for a unique range of wildlife. Once a historical hunting ground, Chitwan is home to both the Bengal tiger and the single-horned rhino, and this area is one of the last places these animals exist. Chitwan is a popular destination in Nepal, and within the area you can find a number of lodges in addition to several activities from rafting to jeep safaris and walking tours. Many visiting the park stay in the outside town of Sauraha, in the Sapana Village Lodge, where you can view the surrounding park in comfort.
Janaki Mandir | © Abhishek Singh/Flickr
The city of Janakpur is located southeast of Kathmandu, and is home to many temples and religious ponds. Benefitting from its position at the foot of the Himalayas, the city contains some of the most beautiful architecture to be found in Nepal and is surrounded by vast natural beauty. Located here is the Janaki Mandir, which is a dedication to the goddess of Sita and stands as Janakpur’s oldest temple, and Nepal’s biggest. The intricate building features incredible details, and is an important example of Rajput architecture. In addition to this, the city is home to more than 100 sacred ponds, such as Ganga Sagar, and traditional artworks from the Maithili women, the origins of which are mysterious and as ancient as the place itself.
Pokhara | © Svetlana Grechkina/Flickr
Arguably one of the most beautiful locations in the country, Pokhara is the second-largest city in Nepal. The landscape here abruptly changes from green hills to vast sheer mountains, and this creates an environment with views that are truly sensational. Named ‘the jewel in the Himalaya’, this area is a common visiting spot for those wanting to unwind – aided by clean air, enjoy the serenity diffused from the Phewa Lake, and stay at accommodations such as the Begnas Lake Resort. Try boating along the lake, visit the Barahi Temple and see the famous World Peace Pagoda – a dome-shaped stupa perched on the hilltop, providing stunning views of the surrounding area.
Langtang | © Jules Henze/Flickr
Nestled 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 will find the Tamang Heritage Trail that passes through the historical towns of Gojng, Gatlang, Chilime and Briddim to name just a few. Langtang offers some of the oldest and most traditional Tamang villages, and you will see how people within the oldest tribe of Nepal live. The Gosainkunda Lake is an important religious spot for Hindus, and is said to have been created by Lord Shiva himself. Also here is the village of Briddim, which is a picturesque Tamang settlement, and many of the inhabitants here offer their homes as accommodation for visitors.
Tansen | © Carlos Adampol/Flickr
The beautiful town of Tansen sits within the mid-West Nepalese hills and contains quaint houses with traditional Newari architectural influences. The temperatures are mild all year round, making it suitable for visiting at any time. Due to the town’s history as an old trade route between India and Tibet, a large bazaar (Makhan Tole) is the town’s commercial hub. The capital of the Palpa district, the town’s history dates back to 11th century AD and is home to a handful of ruins that date between the 15th and 19th centuries. Prominent temples such as the Bhairab Temple, in addition to other sculptures and monasteries, are specific to this part of Nepal, making it an important cultural visiting spot.
Ilma sunset | © Ganesh Paudel/WikiCommons
Located in the tranquil hills of eastern Nepal, Ilam is famous for its production of Nepal tea. The gentle slopes of the hills make for an easier exploration than some of the other areas within the country. The municipality of Ilam is also known for its fine cheeses, and has various agricultural exports. Antu Danda is a popular spot for its beautiful views of the surrounding areas, in particular at dusk and dawn for the sunsets and sunrises. An important religious site here is the Gajur Mukhi, which is a carved tunnel containing images of Hindu deities, and sits alongside the Deumai Khola river.