Here’s a list of 5 must-see places that you should put onto your travel itinerary when you visit Nepal.
This one’s fairly obvious given that most people will either enter or leave Nepal (if not both) through Kathmandu – the capital of Nepal.
Kathmandu is where you truly see the mainstream business side to Nepal. Yet, this bustling city is a beautiful blend of the old and the new. Particularly interesting are the old neighbourhoods surrounding the majestic Durbar Squares in Patan and Bhaktapur. The trekkers’ market in Thamel – said to be one of the best markets in the world for trekking and adventure gear – is another interesting neighbourhood that is quite unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else. There are several hep eateries and quirky cafes that are quite lively and modern. It’s a city that’s grown with the times, but still noticeably connected to its rich history.
Home to the famous Fewa Lake, most of the action in Pokhara happens in and around the area referred to as “Lakeside” – which, surprise surprise, is right near the lake. It’s the second largest city in Nepal and the Pokhara story almost entirely revolves around tourism. The “touristy” ambience can be a bit of a downer on some occasions, but overall the town manages to retain a quirky appeal, especially if you’re returning to an urban setting after a trek or adventure trip. Nepal is known to have a pretty good live music scene and if you spend a weekend in Pokhara you will know why. While I was there, my evenings were usually spent strolling down the main road around the lake, stopping at different restaurants/cafes/pubs to listening to local bands – quite a few of them were REALLY good!
Pokhara is also a hub for several adventure sports/activities. Bungee jumping, ziplining, paragliding, microlight flights, helicopter rides etc. etc. If you have some money to spare, you’re guaranteed to find some thrills. You might want to do your homework about which operators you choose to do any of these activities with though.
3. Lower Mustang
Think towering mountains set against clear blue skies, think alpine desert circled by rugged rock face, think ancient kingdoms. The Mustang region of Nepal is a fabled land that is tucked away amidst the beautiful Himalayas. Part of the popular Annapurna Trekking circuit, it’s divided into two parts – Upper Mustang and Lower Mustang. While the “Upper” region is more difficult to access (due to rugged terrain, expensive permits and limited connectivity), the lower parts of Mustang are more easily accessible. It takes some level of off-road adventuring to get into Lower Mustang, but the effort is definitely worth it. These images below should be enough to convince you:
Lower Mustang is also well-known because of the famous temple and monastery at Muktinath. Do also read my detailed Travel Guide for Lower Mustang by clicking here.
Manang lies on the other side of the Annapurna circuit, to the East of Mustang. While trekkers can go from Mustang to Manang (or vice-versa) through the Thorong La Pass, if you’re travelling by road, you need to head back to Pokhara and then enter the Annapurna Conservation Area once again through Besisahar. This, again, is an adventurous destination that requires traversing several broken (or non-existent) roads to eventually reach another somewhat hidden pocket near the Himalayas.
5. Rara Lake
Rara Lake, said to be Nepal’s largest lake, is located fairly high up in the mountains in Mugu District (Western Nepal). It’s a considerable distance away from the more popular tourist destinations of Nepal and hence remains quite isolated and beautiful. If you’re going there by road, it takes some doing, but is a particularly special experience because you will get to see a more rustic and traditional side to Nepal. Food is more basic, accommodation is functional and life is generally more simple. The lake itself is spectacular, especially early in the morning when you can see the reflections of the Himalayan peaks and the surrounding forests in the glass-like water.
Do also read my suggested trip itinerary and travel guide for a trip to Rara Lake by clicking here.
This is just a glimpse of what is on offer in Nepal. If you dig a little deeper, there are plenty of other places that you can visit – trekking routes, monastries, tea gardens, hot water springs, alpine lakes, etc. – depending on what appeals to you. This variety, in essence, makes Nepal a very interesting country to travel through.
If this post has piqued your curiousity, you should also look up my more detailed blogposts about travel through Nepal – on places to visit, itineraries, budget planning etc. You might also enjoy the video series I created while I was there. You can find it on my Youtube Channel – click here.
Disclaimer: Since I rode a motorcycle through Nepal, this post is written from the perspective of a road tripper and does not include any suggestions that are connected to or that revolve around trekking. Hence the noticeable exclusions of EBC and other trekking destinations/spots. I do hope to trek in Nepal someday though.