By Dinesh Khadka

Nepal is a nation widely known for its vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and exciting adventures. From its cultivating jungles, and deep gorges to the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas and glacial rivers and lakes, it is a must-visit destination for every travel enthusiast.

As a native of Nepal, I am proud to call it my home and recently, I had the opportunity to explore parts of Nepal with my family. While there, I was able to visit some of the well-known tourist attractions and destinations of Nepal.

Despite having limited time due to a tight schedule, my family and I managed to make brief trips to numerous destinations. While there, Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal still appeared steeped in rich cultural heritage, scrumptious food, and historic landmarks as before. In contrast, Pokhara seemed to be a much quieter city. To escape the bustling crowds, Chitwan National Park happens to be a verdant sanctuary that immerses travellers in the serene beauty of nature’s purest form. The sacred temples and the village of Manakamana perched high atop the Gorkha district is another popular destination that I got to tour around. Chandragiri Hills offered a glimpse of the Kathmandu valley as well as the high mountains that surround the city. Having been able to travel to all these places ranging from busy crowds to tranquil environments, my family and I were able to gain a diverse range of experiences.

In this blog, I aim to quickly share my experiences with the readers to encourage all the enthusiastic travelers to visit Nepal and indulge in a unique cultural experience. Nepal boasts more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other country, with the famous ones being the city squares; Durbar, Patan, and Bhaktapur. While walking through these squares, the ancient architecture along with the ornamental designs of the temples, creates a surreal feeling. Another popular place is the renowned Swayambunath Stupa, also known as the ‘Monkey Temple’. Swayambunath Stupa is a Buddhist shrine located on a hillock providing breathtaking panoramic views of Kathmandu.

Although Kathmandu can become overwhelming with crowds of vehicles, street vendors, and pedestrians, a great sense of beauty is seen within all of this chaos. From the shopping district in the narrow streets of Thamel to the restaurants scattered around, the city has a wide area of exploration and experience to offer. Behind the chaos of the crowds lies a whole different world of ancient temples, delectable food, and friendly locals.

However, if you desire to escape the busy atmosphere of the city, then Chandragiri, a well-known hill station located on the southwest of Kathmandu valley, is the perfect destination. Chandragiri Hills can be easily reached via cable car, providing a breathtaking view of the Kathmandu valley together with the Himalayas ranging from Annapurna to Mount Everest.

The journey then continued from the buzzing city of Kathmandu to the cozy city of Pokhara. Pokhara is the gateway to numerous tourist destinations. The popular ones being treks to Ghandruk, Poon Hill, Annapurna Base Camp, and numerous other mountain ranges. Pokhara is often considered the tourism capital of Nepal and has only gained recognition as a destination for adventure sports, mountain biking, boating, trekking, and other attractions in recent years.

Situated on the edge of the Phewa Lake, Pokhara shows a distinct contrast to the city of Kathmandu. While in Pokhara, our itinerary included a visit to the World Peace Pagoda, a Buddhist monument on Anadu Hill. It was the ideal location to look at Phewa lake and the city, especially at sunrise and sunset. We also explored the small village of Sarangkot which lies at an altitude of 1600m above sea level. From there, a mesmerizing vista of the nearby villages along with the Annapurna Mountain range is seen.

Then, we continued our exploration in the city of Pokhara by visiting markets, historical temples, and notable tourist spots like Davis Falls, Shree Gaden Dhargay Ling Buddhist monastery, and Gupteshwor Mahadev temple, a cave temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. To experience the diverse cuisines and lifestyles of the locals, we hired a local taxi guide and visited multiple village settlements on the outskirts of Pokhara. This was a refreshing experience, something that is often missing in the hustle and bustle of bigger cities.

After leaving Pokhara, we headed to a new location which vastly contrasted with the environment of the previous ones. Popularly known for its national park, we were heading towards Chitwan. Chitwan National Park is the first national park in Nepal which covers a vast area of 367.81 square miles. It is situated in the subtropical lowlands of south-central Nepal. In Chitwan, we stayed in Meghauli which serves as the western entrance to the national park. The settlement of Meghauli sits on the banks of Narayani and Rapti river. As Meghauli is one of the popular tourist destination, numerous resorts and establishments have been established here for the visitors.

During our visit to Chitwan National Park, we went on a boat ride down the river along with a tour guide. This gave us the opportunity to look at various bird species there. After this, we went on a jungle safari, both by van and by foot with the presence of a tour guide with the hope of seeing wild animals living in the national park area up-close. Luckily, we were able to spot animals like wild elephants, four-horned antelope, Gaur, and endangered species like one-horned rhinoceros. The habitat and tracks of the Royal Bengal tiger and Sloth bears were seen as well. Walking through the vast jungle in the presence of wildlife was an incredibly captivating experience.

On our return journey to Kathmandu, we made a stop at Manakamana Temple, a sacred landmark which holds great religious significance for many people of Nepal. Located in Manakamana village of Gorkha district, the temple is 106 km west of Kathmandu and at an elevation of 1,300m above sea level. In English, the name of the temple translates to ‘a temple that fulfills the wishes of its devotees’. To reach the village as well as the temple, cable car can be used. The cable car ride itself provides stunning view of the surrounding mountain range and landscape. Visiting the temple with my family was a truly special experience especially after being away from Nepal for so long.

As much as this trip to Nepal was a rewarding experience, the activities my family and I did only scratches the surface of what this country has to offer. The rich cultural heritage and warm hospitality that Nepal has adds to its charm, making Nepal a must-visit destination for all adventurers, nature lovers, travel enthusiast, and spiritual seekers. With the presence of a diverse surrounding, activities ranging from simple city tours to extreme adventure sports can be experienced in Nepal. As travel restrictions gradually ease, I highly recommend the people of New Zealand to consider Nepal as one of their travel destinations to discover all the hidden gems that this country has to offer.

Editor – Dinesh Khadka, JP, is the Honorary Consul for Nepal in Auckland.