Between an abundance of mind-blowing mountains and the clamor of crowded cities, Nepal has much to offer the avid adventurer. From soaring through the stunning Annapurna range to searching for the elusive Bengal tiger, you’ll be able to pack your agenda full of incredible experiences. Not sure where the start? Here are six of the best experiences from Nepal to whet your travel appetite.
Hike the world’s highest peaks
Most travelers feel the pull of the Nepalese trekking magnet; journeying to the country to explore one of its many magical mountains. It’s not called the ‘Roof of the World’ for nothing, as Nepal boasts eight of the world’s ten highest peaks, with a plethora of pretty incredible hikes up for grabs; from the novice trekker to the more professional path dwellers.
You can try your trekking hand at the Annapurna Circuit, that infamous hiking trail which can take as little as 3 days (called the Poon Hill trek, you’ll only hike a small slice of the original Annapurna route), to an almost interminable three weeks. Make like the monarchs and do the four day Royal Trek from Pokhara, a breathtaking panoramic hike made famous by Prince Charles, who made the pilgrimage in 1980.
Or, of course, etch Mount Everest forever in your memories, as you attempt one of the world’s most well-known trails to Everest Base Camp, skipping through monasteries and villages on your way up the tallest mountain on the planet.
Cycle the city of lakes (and more)
Prefer bikes over walking boots? Nepal has cycling trails in spades too. Hop on your bike and traverse Phewa Tal, the largest (and most scenic) of the nine lakes that make up the picturesque city of Pokhara.
Or travel from Pokhara to Jomsom, in the magnificent Mustang region. Here mountain bikers can attempt one of the globe’s most epic bike adventures – 10 days across 400 kilometers (248 miles) and some of the most incredible terrain. You’ll slide over snow, race through dust clouds, and breathe in spectacular scenery from atop mountain passes over 4000m high. This trail starts in the deepest valley in the world, the Kali Gandaki, and twists along the ancient trade route used by yak caravans for centuries.
Pro tip: If you want another great experience in Pokhara, check out one of the world’s longest zip lines! The ZipFlyer Adventure sees you fly along an 1800 meter cable about 1,650 meters above sea level, through the heart of the Annapurna Range.
Nosh down on local Nepalese food
It might not feature highly on the international gastronomic scene, but Nepalese food is a triumph of cooking; a fiery smorgasbord of palate-surprising dishes absolutely bursting with unusual flavors.
Like gundruk, a lip-smacking salad concocted out of pickled greens, or thukpa, a spicy meat noodle soup. The most famous is definitely dal bhat, a gigantic plate of rice offset by colorful side dishes of scarlet-hued curry, stir-fried vegetables and herby potatoes.
Make sure you frequent any of the traditional restaurants in major cities like Kathmandu, or sign yourself up for a traditional cooking class, so you can take a bit of Nepal home with you. There you’ll be able to try your hand at dishes like choyla, a buffalo meat appetizer or momos, meat-filled dumplings that usually have their pride of place on any self-respecting Nepalese menu.
Spot tigers on safari
Swap street food for scenic vistas, as one of the best experiences in Nepal is the endless search for the Bengal tiger. The Royal Bengal tiger is one of only five remaining tiger species in the world today, considered endangered due to loss of its natural habitat but, more recently, due to poaching.
One of the best places to see this magnificent creature up close is the Bardia National Park, the largest national park in the country, covering nearly 1,000 square km. Located in the most western reaches of the country, it’s well worth the visit here not just to see the tigers but Asian elephants, the greater one-horned rhinoceros and the over 400 species of bird that call the park home.
Not keen on venturing that far? If you are in Kathmandu, you can head to Chitwan National Park on a bus, minivan or in a more luxurious private ride. Chitwan also boasts tigers and a plethora of animals to behold.
Visit the birthplace of Buddha
More than boasting the world’s deepest valley and highest mountain, Nepal has a more spiritual claim to international fame: It’s home to one of the greatest historical figures of all time, Siddhartha Gautama, also known as Buddha.
Located in the town of Lumbini, you can make your way to Mayadevi Temple in the Lumbini Garden, to see the sacred spot where Lord Buddha was born in 563 BC. Sit quietly under the multi-colored prayer flags as you observe pilgrims from across the planet pay homage to Buddha, walk around the ruins of previous stupas and monasteries on the boardwalk, or watch saffron-robed monks go about their daily chores.
As one of the globe’s most revered spiritual homelands, there are over twenty-five Buddhist monasteries to see, or you can spend a little longer in Lumbini to study Buddhism.
Go rafting on the Upper Seti River
If out of this world hikes and challenging cycling routes aren’t enough to satisfy your thirst for adventure, then water babies can head out on an adrenalin-fueled white-water rafting trip.
Imagine dodging rapids on your raft as the Annapurna Himalayas wink at you from above. Add stunning white riverbanks, lashings of fun under the Nepalese sun and you’ve got the experience of a lifetime.
If you’re keen on kayaking or white-water rafting, Nepal has a number of great options to explore. Most popular is a day trip out from Kathmandu to the Upper Seti River, for a more difficult run. But you can find anything from a quick and easy jaunt on the water (Bhote Kosi River is your best bet) to extended 8 day trips fit for all levels, like the ‘river of gold’, the Sun Kosi, which boasts mid-sized rapids that wind through dense jungle on all sides.
Whatever your travel style, Nepal has heaps to offer. You can go paragliding in Pokhara, temple-hopping in Kathmandu or marvel at mountain-top villages like Bandipur. And that’s just the start…