This story is part of our Visit Nepal series, coinciding with the anniversary of the 2015 earthquake.
When it comes to Nepal, the first thing that springs to mind is the Himalayas. This isn’t unusual, after all, it is home to seven of the 10 tallest mountains on earth.
While we concede that the Himalayas are pretty damn awesome, you may be surprised to realise that Nepal isn’t just tall mountains. For such a small nation, this land-locked gem has pretty incredible diversity. It’s home to the birthplace of Buddha, has a rich and varied history, flora and fauna rich jungles in the south and and chilled out towns.
We’re here to tell you there is a LOT more to do and see in this wonderful country. So here are the best of the rest – the other attractions you also need to visit during your stay in Nepal.
THE 6 BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN NEPAL (APART FROM THE HIMALAYAS)
Nagarkot is a town located 32kms north of Kathmandu and is famous for one thing only and one thing only; the best views of the Himalayas, outside the Himalayas.
It’s definitely one of Nepal’s best attractions and perfect for an epic photo opp!
A far cry from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu, Pokhara has a distinct beach side vibe to it, despite it being 1000’s of kilometres from any beach! Located on the banks of the Phewa Tal lake and with the stunning backdrop of the Annapurna Range behind it, it has chilled vibes for days and is a great stop off for post trek relaxation.
Home to great restaurants, bars, coffee shops and massage/yoga retreats, when the time comes to leave, you won’t want to. There are a number of activities you can partake in, including paragliding or parahawking from Sarangkot, boating on the lake, taking a walk up to the World Peace Pagoda and admiring the view or people watching on the foreshore of the lake.
Or if you’re like us, spend your days doing not much; literally.
#3 CHITWAN NATIONAL PARK
In the southern lowlands of Nepal, bordering India lies Chitwan National Park. This former royal hunting ground is now home to one of the world’s most successful National Park’s; there was zero rhino poaching there in 2015!
The starting point for all Chitwan safari is Sauraha, a lovely small town on the banks of the Rapti river. There are heaps of safari options available from one of the many tour outlets in town. On safari, you’ll have the chance to spot Rhino (we saw 15!), sloth bears, crocodile, including the endangered Gharial, monkeys and if you’re really lucky, the Bengal Tiger or Leopard.
Chitwan National Park really is one of the best places to visit in Nepal!
This little town is slightly off the beaten track but well worth the effort to visit. Why? Because visiting is like stepping back in time in this living, breathing open museum of Newari culture. The town was formerly a stopping point on the India-Tibet trade route, leading to glorious wealth. The subsequent construction of the Prithvi Hwy reduced the amount of visitors and ultimately its visitors. Since then, it has been partially restored to its former glory.
Beautifully preserved traditional houses line the main street and restaurants spill out onto the motor vehicle free streets giving it a distinctly european feel. You can also walk up to the peak which has epic views onto the surrounding valleys below.
We recommend staying in one of the beautiful, quaint main street guesthouses.
#5 THE THREE DURBAR SQUARES OF KATHMANDU
If you like royal palaces and ancient architecture, look no further than Kathmandu’s three Durbar (royal) Squares.
Back in the day, Nepal was split into three main kingdoms – Basantapur (Kathmandu), Bhaktapur and Patan, each of which had a royal palace and surrounding squares located in the Kathmandu Valley.
In the unified Nepal of today, each Durbar Square is made up of temples, idols, statues, open courts and fountains along with other structures. They are the perfect place to admire ancient Nepali architecture, Newari wood carvings and historic traditions. Oh, and it’s a great place to people watch. In other words, one of the most incredible places to visit in Nepal.
It’s hard to say which one is more impressive as they are all incredible in their own right, but our favourite was Patan. The architecture is stunning, it’s well maintained and it has a much more laid back vibe.
These UNESCO World Heritage sites may have suffered more than most during the earthquake in Nepal’s capital, but they still retain the beauty and intricacy which made them so famous. It’s easy to spend a day exploring these squares and we absolutely recommend it. We also recommend venturing out into the surrounding areas which are filled with quaint laneways and hidden temples/religious monuments.
KEEP READING: OUR COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO KATHMANDU
Surely we’ve missed somewhere? Tell us what you think the best places to visit in Nepal are in the comments below!
KEEP READING: WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT NEPAL IN 2017