I wrote up this guide for my friends on their first visit to Nepal, so I thought I’d share with all of you! I spent 4 months in Nepal volunteering at a couple orphanages and teaching English in ’09. I recently traveled back to visit my host family and do a short trek. Hope this helps!
Nepal has been the most exquisite, irresistibly enthralling, ruggedly charming country I have ever been to. I cannot rave enough about traveling around Nepal and it should be at the top of every backpacker’s list. For a country with such an entrancing, colorful (rangi changi) and lively culture, I am surprised not more tourists visit. Most of the backpackers arrive in Nepal purely for the trekking (mindblowingly beautiful, btw), but not many go beyond. If you just walk away from the tourist-lined streets of Kathmandu and Pokhara, you’ll run into vast, culturally-rich towns and markets with few to no tourists. Don’t be afraid to get lost here! The unbeaten paths abound! Besides, if you do get really lost, the locals will bend over backwards to help you and probably invite you for tea and a snack inside their home. (Women need to be cautious – I’ve been approached for sex many times due to the large Asian and Western porn industry in Nepal.)
Bustling and uniquely charming
Taxi airport to Thamel: 350-400 RPS
Tibet Peace Guest House in Paknajol (800-1000RPS for double room) – taxis will know where it is. Remember to say Tibet Peace or they may take you to the other Tibet Hotel. TPGH has hot water! (so rare for Nepal) It is a 2 minute walk to the heart of Thamel, where everything happens! 🙂
The Last Resort!! 4 hours outside Thamel. You can book your stay at the agency in Thamel. It’s about $160 for a 3-day package: bungee jumping, white water rafting, waterfall abseiling, transportation, accommodation, all meals, wonderful hot showers, hammocks for napping and a peaceful sanctuary like you’ve been transported to some hidden island resort.
OR2K – for dinner! Israeli owned. Cool vibe and easy to make new friends here. you sit on cushions on a floor and eat great Middle Eastern food. Try the Sampler Platter. Go at night for the glow in the dark artwork and menu 😉 (Stay away from the pad thai and momos – they’re not good.)
Fire and Ice – Wood Oven Pizza!!
Street food, obviously (yak cheese)
Pumpernickel Bakery for breakfast
Tom and Jerry’s rooftop bar
There was a place that had amazing hot buttered rum and was decorated in hundreds of footprint cutouts. Can’t remember the name though.
See/Do (most charge admission)
Bhaktapur (1100RPS) – beautiful Newari old-style town. Very peaceful and known for wood crafting. Catch the local bus for about 25 RPS, 1-hour ride. Eat the local Newari meal for lunch and king’s curd for dessert yuuum.
Pashupatinath Burial River (500RPS): A religious burial site – Those passed away are wrapped in cloth for a funeral procession around the river. The body is then set on fire and placed in the river.
Boudinath Monkey Temple (Swayambunath)
Durbar Square (Thamel, Patan, Bhaktapur are the three different ones)
Free! Just explore the maze of Thamel, then continue beyond the tourist limit to explore where it really gets crazy. In the local area, sometimes you’re stuck in the same place for 5minutes because there is so much pedestrian traffic and bodies smooshed together 😀
Then, get the hell out of KTM before you die of pollution. Buses only leave to Pokhara at 7am from just outside Thamel. You’ll see a line of buses and they’re first come first serve. Get there by 6:30am for a seat on the good buses. 350-600RPS
100-150RPS to Lakeside or maybe a 20 min. walk to the heart of Lakeside. Easy to find a guest house for cheap.
Organic Coffee and Tea shop
German Bakery for breakfast
Moondance (pricier than local, but it’s amazing food for $6. The dhal bhat non-veg is great here!!)
Tons of small restaurants!
Anywhere that’s blasting music…
All your trekking gear
Book your trek here or with my homie, Karan Lama. His info is at the end of the post.
The short hike up to the Japanese Peace Pagoda at sunrise. Breathtaking views of Lake Phewa and the city covered in heavenly clouds and a dabble of light. There was no one else there when I did it in the early morning! (You have to catch a canoe across the river to the island).
Rent a bicycle and take the Temple walking tour route through Mahendrapul. You’ll pass through quiet alleyways of Nepalis carving wood, dozens of small and large temples, and old-style homes. You just have to get through the chaos of Mahendrapul’s central drag first.
Paraglide! 30min for $50.
Boat to the Temple on the Lake! or swim! or run around the lake!
Bat Cave! Touristy and not a huge cave, but kinda fun with all the bat poopies everywhere.
I’ve seen the Annapurnas and I’ve seen Langtang. Langtang, a 10-hour local bus ride from KTM, is by far my favorite. Spectacular views (I saw an avalanche on the mountain next to us!), lower costs, much less people, more variation in scenery. Langtang cost about $75 total (guide, meals, accommodation, transport, park permit) for 6 days, and leaves from Kathmandu.
The Annapurnas is a crowded route, but the views are stunning, especially of the famous Macchapuchare (Fishtail) Mountain. I did a short 3-day trek for $60 (guide, transport, accommodation, park fee) and less than $15 for meals/alcohol.
Advice: If you hire a guide, don’t pay the agency for the cost of meals. It will be cheaper if you buy it on your own. Because the routes are easy to follow, you don’t need a guide for these two treks unless you want to learn about the history, plants, geography.
Take loads of small cash. No ATMs on the trek and, sometimes, no change for your 1000 rupee notes. Budget 1500RPS/day or more to be on the safe side.
You can store your extra stuff at the agency or guest house.
Ginger tea all the way. Also, have the fried king-sized Snicker bar. The yak curd cannot be missed!
Awesome advice I got from an Israeli friend: Do you guys know about the “Israeli price” phenomenon? Basically, Israelis will bargain “until someone cries,” so if you tell a Nepali you are Israeli, they will, hate you first, then automatically give you the lowest price to avoid bargaining with you. My Nepali friends told me this too – they get this impassioned hatred talking about Israelis, which is a bit scary. I’m not saying you should “be Israeli,” but on treks, you can use their tactic, which every other foreign trekker now uses (so it’s not a bad thing). When you approach tea houses at the end of your day’s trek, you can get a room for free so long as you promise to eat both dinner and breakfast at the guest house (which you’ll end up doing anyway). It’s really competitive out there, so the tactic works! Then, you can be nice and tip them 50-100RPS/room for their generosity.
If you guys end up wanting a guide, go with my friend, Karan! He’s part of this agency in Thamel: World Trail Finder Adventure PL.td. Thamel, Kathmandu Nepal
Agent (Sudip Moktan) Phone: 977-4415725 or mobile 977-9841918103
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Dhampus Trek (Around Annapurnas)
Quaint devout community
Take the tourist Bus to Bairahawa.
Walk to the local bus stop around the corner and take the 1hour ride into Lumbini. I think it was around 25 RPS.
All the guesthouses and restaurants are along one tiny street. For guesthouses, shop around before you commit to a room! Most are really dirty and almost all have cold water, so bring a sleeping bag. Electricity is down for the majority of the day and night, so bring a flashlight.
If you’d like to do meditation and have personal time, do the Korean monastery! Rooms are about 350RPS and you get free meals. It’s my favorite monastery in Lumbini because it is simple, industrial, cool (weather) and quiet. Bikes are only 100RPS/day if you stay here.
See the birthplace of Buddha
Rent a bicycle for 150RPS/day, then you can bike around the beautiful canal! It’s like a Disneyland Small World of Buddhist Temples. Asian nations donated temples to this sacred site of Buddha.
Everything is along the canal, so that’s all there is to “do”
Humble and naturally beautiful, lush green landscape
Sauraha (Jungle Safari) is the only thing in Chitwan that tourists do, since it’s a local area. Spend a few days there if you want and do the jungle trek, Jeep safari, see rhinos, etc. Don’t ride the elephants though- they’re treated very cruelly!
Naranghat is a busy local town with cheap goods, about 30min from the Jungle Safari.
OH MY BUDDHA, you have to try the Indian Sweets Shop in Naranghat! It is my favorite sweets (mithai) place ever and is quite famous. Milky, cheesy, crumbly delectable treats! There’s not much sugar used in Nepali food, so you’ll have to make up for that imbalance by eating a crap ton of mithai! Just tell a tuk tuk you want to go there and they should know which one it is.
If you want to volunteer in more of a remote village setting (teach English, community programs), I can hook you up with my old host family. Let me know!