Home to the majestic Mount Everest, Nepal has a lot more to offer than the towering peak, especially keeping in mind the recent concerns and after-effects of overcrowding and over-tourism that the world’s tallest peak is reeling with. The rampant commercialisation of the trek has also led to severe pollution and severe traffic jams for adventurers en route Mt Everest.
While the might Mount Everest will never stop being the biggest draw to Nepal, there's a lot for the avid traveller —lush forests, rustic villages, simple and hearty food, sacred sites and more. Here are ten must-do activities that will make an experiential tourist’s heart sing with glee.
1. Safari In Chitwan
Apart from the mighty mountains, not many realise that Nepal is also home to some of the most dense jungles and one such is the Chitwan National Park. Located in south-central Nepal, Chitwan is also one of the most accessible national parks known for its flora and fauna, including the elusive leopard, and the famous tiger.
The chances of you sighting the feline species depends on your luck, however, you might get to meet the showstopper, up close and personal—one horned rhinoceros. Chitwan National Park is easily accessible via flights from Kathmandu and there are plenty of hotels to suit your budget. If you want the complete jungle experience, you can stay at the Barahi Jungle Lodge that's nestled on the banks of the River Rapti and you could probably spot a rhino or two from your cottage balcony grazing or cooling down in the river.
2. Momo it up
The national dish of Nepal is the humble Dal Bhaat (rice and lentil or dal-chawal), which is the staple food anywhere up in the mountains. But one ubiquitous dish that is available at every corner in Nepal is a plate of steaming and plump momos. This Tibetan treat has a cult following, whether it is a restaurant, homestay or a roadside shack. Don’t miss the signature spicy sauce to dunk your momos in.
3. Tranquil Tansen
If you’ve had your share of trekking and adventure across Nepal, then head to Tansen—west of the country. It is an oft-forgotten hill station nestled between the mountains and home to generous and large-hearted people. You won’t find it on the tourist map, but the panoramas of the mountainous terrain and tall pine forests makes Tansen a perfect getaway. Munch on heavenly momos, stay in cosy homestays, observe the local life and forget the humdrum of city life!
4.Indulge in a Newari or Thakali thali
Momos are all well and good, but to truly appreciate local Nepalese cuisine you have to tuck into a hearty thali. The meal is based around the dal-bhaat combination, surrounded by a vegetarian dish, some fresh local greens, chicken or mutton gravy and pickles. Newar is an indigenous community in Kathmandu and boasts of nearly 200 different dishes as part of their cuisine. Thakali, on the other hand, is an ethnic group from the mountain region, their thali is comparatively simpler but incredibly popular. Both styles of thali seem similar, but are quite different.
Lake side lazing in Pokhara
If you’re planning to trek across the Annapurna circuit, then the city of Pokhara will be your base. But if the extreme physical exertion isn’t your cup of tea, then Pokharas also offers simpler attractions such as the Phewa Lake. The lake is at the centre of all activities at Pokhara. You can also rent a boat to enjoy the lake or go fishing like the locals. If you're fortunate enough to enjoy sunset here, you'll understand its immense appeal.
Sunrise at Sarangkot
Pokhara is also blessed with views of the most magnificent mountain range and to really experience the true grandeur, head out in the wee hours of the morning to Sarangkot. A steep climb to the viewing point will leave you dazzled as the sun’s rays dance on top of the mountain peaks and slowly illuminate the Pokhara valley below. On a clear day, the mountain range is visible with such stark clarity that it feels as if they're barely metres away.
Ultralight over Pokhara
Nepal draws adventure junkies from the world over, and if you want a taste of some thrill, try the Ultralight flight. The two-seater lightweight aircraft with fixed wings on the top takes off from the Pokhara airport. The craft looks like a contraption from an old 1920's black and white film, but this unique form of aviation offers a spectacular view of Pohkara below. While Ultralight might remind you of paragliding but with a cockpit and engine, these flights go much higher up in the sky.
Get Lost in Thamel
Thamel is what the cool kids call the hipster central of Kathmandu. Think hostels for backpackers, trendy cafes and restaurants, plenty of shops selling everything from souvenirs to trekking gear. The streets of Thamel are vibrant, full of life and seem like a whole another world tucked away in the capital. It's the hub for the city's nightlife with bars and restaurants belting out tunes and plenty of bands performing live.
Seek Adrenalin Rush
There's no denying that Nepal is a playground for adventure junkies, where a thrill seeker can choose from a variety of activities. The ultralight flight is just the tip of the iceberg—bungee jumping, paragliding, mountaineering, hiking, trekking, zip-lining, white water rafting, there's something for everyone depending on the adrenaline rush you seek. Pokhara is the hotbed for all these activities and you can book a tour in advance or just ask your hotel to help guide you.
Visit Pashupatinath Temple
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Pashupatinath Temple attracts devotees and tourists from the world over. The temple complex is known for its intricate carvings and decorations, the highlight being the golden statue of Nandi, Shiva's Bull. Climb up to the highest viewpoint in the evening to watch the sunset over the complex and the neighbouring River Bagmati.