Attractive Travel Destinations for First-Time Visitors to Nepal
From the majestic Himalayan peaks to the lush forested lowlands, Nepal is an incredibly diverse country that attracts a lot of tourists for a variety of reasons. Many come for serious treks in the Himalayas with a chance to admire the highest peak in the world – Everest. Some are intrigued by ancient cultural landmarks and sort of spiritual awakening in the capital Kathmandu, while others are lured by the call of nature and adrenaline adventure. If you’re planning your first trip to Nepal, here is the list of best places to visit in the country.
Vibrant Kathmandu is the first destination on any trip to Nepal. Once a medieval royal city along with Bhaktapur and Patan, the capital and largest city now is the epicentre of tourism with a lively atmosphere and chaotic streets brimming with storefronts and rickshaws. However, it still retains the individual characters of the ancient world in decaying pagodas and temples for those very interested in the country’s diverse culture and long history. There are so many sights to see within and around Kathmandu, such as the Durbar Squares – large palace squares full of monuments of varying sizes and styles, Boudhanath Stupa, Pashupatinath Temple, and Swayambhunath Stupa, which are all included in the UNESCO-listed Kathmandu Valley.
- Best things to do: Take time to explore sacred temples and stupas, Visit the nearby Durbar Squares of Bhaktapur and Patan, Wander around the narrow streets and enjoy Nepalese cuisine, See locals producing traditional crafts
- Best time to visit: Late September to December when the weather is pleasant and local festivals arrive
- Insider’s tip: If you want to avoid the crowds in Kathmandu Durbar Square, visit Bhaktapur’s which is more pedestrian-friendly and well-preserved
- Recommended duration: 2 - 4 days
Beyond a way station and gateway for treks to the Annapurna region and the Himalayas, Pokhara is the jewel of Nepal tourism with many nature’s marvels. Though being the second-largest city in Nepal after Kathmandu, it feels like a town surrounding its emerald Phewa Lake with lines of lakeside hotels, shops and restaurants, an ideal spot for those seeking a little relaxation. Besides enjoying sleepy vibes at a boutique café or boating on the calm lake water for some views of the snow-capped Annapurna Massif and Fishtail, tourists can also partake many adventure sports in Pokhara like paragliding, rafting, and trekking. Paying a visit to the World Peace Pagoda, the International Mountain Museum, Devi’s Falls or Seti Gorge is also a must when in the valley.
- Best things to do: Hike up to the World Peace Pagoda, Take a boat trip on Phewa Lake, Watch the sunrise from Sarangkot viewpoint, Experience paragliding from Sarangkot
- Best time to visit: October and November when the weather is comfortable and the skies are clear
- Insider’s tip: You can travel to Pokhara in March and April to see blooming rhododendron forests
- Recommended duration: 2 - 5 days
3. Chitwan National Park
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nepal, Chitwan National Park is one of the best places to see local wildlife and one of the most-visited sites in the country. Expect to encounter some of the 544 species of birds and many rare animals like gharial crocodiles, deer, wild elephants, sloth bears, and especially the one-horned rhinoceros. You can even spot the rarest critter of all: the Bengal tiger though the chance is quite low. The 932 square kilometre park located in the south-central part of the country is also home to a large area of forests, marshes, grasslands, which together with the scorching heat can give your jeep tour or jungle trek some vibes of safari-like savannahs.
- Best things to do: Take a safari walk or jeep safari for wildlife spotting, Enjoy kayaking or riding a canoe down the Rapti river, Visit the Two Thousand Lake, Walk through the jungle alongside the elephants, Join a bird watching tour, Explore the local villages of Tharu people
- Best time to visit: October to March when the average temperature is around 25°C and the skies are clear
- Insider’s tip: If you want to avoid tourist crowds, stay at Ghatgain or Meghauli
- Recommended duration: 2 - 3 days
For those not looking to climb Mount Everest but still wanting to see the world's highest peak, the picturesque hill station of Nagarkot is the perfect place to visit. Just 32 km from Kathmandu at an elevation of 2,195 meters, this town is famous for spectacular sunrise and sunset views over eight Himalayan ranges, including Everest, Annapurna, Manaslu, Langtang, Jugal, Rolwaling, Ganesh Himal and Numbur. Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts travel to Nagarkot for many hiking, trekking and mountain biking opportunities amidst the scenic mountains. You can also enjoy paragliding with Everest views in Nagarkot.
- Best things to do: Relax and admire the scenic beauty of nature, Hike the Panoramic Trail, Hike up to Nagarkot viewpoint tower, Experience breathtaking views of the Himalayan mountain ranges at sunrise, Go Paragliding and mountain biking
- Best time to visit: Months of October, November, March and April when clear skies are likely
- Insider’s tip: Bring warm clothing as it can be cold up there
- Recommended duration: 2 - 3 days
Home to the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha, Lumbini is not only one of the country’s most important archaeological sites, but also one of the most significant and sacred places in Buddhism. Dating back to the third century BC, this small town in the Western Terai now allures a lot of Buddhist pilgrims and tourists from around the world coming for its strong Buddhist traditions and peaceful monasteries in the religious park. The most highlights in the complex are the Maya Devi Temple dedicated to Buddha's mother and the ancient stone erected in 249 BC depicting Buddha's birth. Lumbini is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site designated in 1997.
- Best things to do: Stroll around the holy gardens teeming with ancient monasteries and shrines, Visit new monasteries under construction from many countries, Explore the rural parts by bicycle, Join a meditation class, Try traditional Nepalese food
- Best time to visit: Months of September to November and April to June when the weather is cool and the celebration of Buddha Jayanti takes place
- Insider’s tip: Avoid trips in the winter (December-February) as the city gets cold with a lot of fog
- Recommended duration: 1 - 3 days
These are just some of the best places to visit for your first trip to Nepal. There are many more destinations to explore the natural charm and historical treasures of this land-locked nation. If you need more information or some suggested tours in Nepal/Asia, feel free to contact our Asia Tours experts at any time.