Nepal was part of our exotic “world wonders” honeymoon trip (where we also saw the Sahara Dessert in Morocco, the Pyramids of Egypt, and the Taj Mahal in India).  Every year, hundreds of people from all over the world flock to the country to attempt to reach this famous summit; however this exquisite country offers more than just the world’s tallest peak and we’re here to share it with you!

Sometimes referred to as the “roof of the world”, Nepal boasts a vibrant culture made up of the world’s friendliest people, and is home to both spiritual and ancient wonders.

The geography in Nepal is made up of the famous Himalayan mountains including Mount Everest, which is the Earth’s highest mountain above sea level), jungles, deep gorges, glacial rivers, lakes. With a wide array of outdoor activities, Nepal is the perfect place for adventure seekers.

Everest Region (Khumbu Region) – If you want to get up close and personal with Mount Everest, this is the place to be. Whether you’re attempting the summit or simply trekking to Base Camp, you won’t want to miss this region on your Nepal itinerary.

If scaling a cold and death defying mountain is not for you- fear not! There is plenty of wonders this exotic world wonder has for you to explore, and fall in love with!

Did you know that Nepal has the densest concentration of UNESCO World Heritage Sites of any country in the world? That means there are tons of opportunities for you to imagine you’ve stepped into a time machine.  While you can find stunning historic architecture all around the country, Kathmandu itself has many fantastic historic sites.  Kathmandu is Nepal’s capital city offering tons of adventures, ancient sites, markets to peruse, and delicious local cuisine to try, our favorite by far were delicious Momos. Momo is a type of East and South Asian steamed filled dumpling, popular across the Indian subcontinent and the Himalayan regions of South Asia. 

Being near China and India, Nepal’s cuisine is similar to that in other parts of Southern Asia, but with a twist of their own. Here are some foods that we’d recommend trying while traveling in Nepal:

  • Momos: steamed dumplings served with a peanut or tomato-based dipping sauce

  • Dal Bhat: papadams (thin, crispy crackers), rice and a bowl of lentils

  • Thukpa: veggie noodle soup perfect for cold days

  • Aloo Dum: potatoes seasoned with ginger, coriander, cumin, chili, and turmeric

  • Juju dhau: yogurt made from buffalo milk served in clay bowls

  • Masala Chai (Milk Tea): tea – best after a long day of trekking or during cold monsoon mornings (but after spending summer in Morocco, Egypt, Sri Lanka and India – cold can be refreshing :)).

  • Vegetarians Traveling in Nepal: If you’re vegetarian or vegan, Nepal’s veggie momos and dal bhat will be your favorite! You’ll find it is quite easy to stick to a vegetarian diet in Nepal.

Walk down any street in Kathmandu and you’ll likely see a temple or a shrine… and occasionally both.  Whether you’re interested in religion or not, a visit to one of city’s most famous stupas should be on your list of things to do in Kathmandu.

The two most commonly practiced religions in Nepal are Hinduism (approximately 81% of population) and Buddhism (approximately 11% of the population). You’ll often find Buddhist stupas and Hindu temples wherever you go. When visiting temples and holy sites, make sure your shoulders and knees are covered in a show of respect.

Located near the border of India, the town of Lumbini is known as the birthplace of Buddha, and is an important religious pilgrimage for people from around the world.  In Lumbini, you’ll find a complex filled with temples, monasteries, and stupas. And you’ll also see the sacred Bodhi Tree, adorned in colorful prayer flags. This tree is said to symbolize the tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment

Durbar Square translates to “Royal Square”, and if you look closely at a map of Kathmandu and the surrounding area, you’ll see there are 3 of them:

  1. Kathmandu’s city center
  2. Bhaktapur
  3. Patan

Kathmandu’s City Center:

If you’re staying in the city center, this square will be the most accessible during your trip.  Wander past ancient buildings and vendors selling handicrafts. Beware that it is still undergoing construction as they continue to repair damages from the 2015 earthquake.  If you venture to the Kumari Ghar (“house of the Kumari”), you have the chance to see an interesting piece of Nepal’s culture. The Kumari is a young girl who is thought to be a “living goddess”, and is worshipped until she reaches puberty. The history behind the Kumari is interesting and well worth the research.  If you are in Durbar Square in the morning hours or in the afternoon, you might see her come to the window to give her worshippers a glimpse. Important: Photography of the Kumari is strictly forbidden.

Bhaktapur:

  • This ancient Newari city is said to be the best preserved old city center in all of Nepal. More than 80,000 people call Bhaktapur home today, so visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site isn’t only about seeing the past… it’s also a perfect spot to observe local life happening all around you.

    Watch artisans as they make clay pots and other traditional crafts, which they sell on the streets.

    Hot Tip: Be sure to try juju dhau, which translates to “king of yogurts” in the Newari language. And Bhaktapur is the place to try this sweet and creamy treat! You can’t find it in many other places in Nepal. Made with buffalo milk and traditionally served in a small clay cup, we think you’ll fall in love at first taste. We sure did!

“If this was the only part of Nepal you visited,

it would be worth the trip half way around the world”

Patan:

  • Entrance fee for foreigners: 1,000 rupees (about $9 USD)While each Durbar Square is unique, they have similarities too: each containing a mix of temples, palaces, monasteries, and shrines.  Hailed as one of the most beautiful places to see in the Kathmandu Valley, Patan is just south of the city center and is well worth a visit.  Patan is one of the oldest known Buddhist cities, yet it is also a center for Hinduism, and you can observe both temples and shrines relating to both religions around the town square.

    Pro Tip: Apparently, Patan is one of the best places to purchase a singing bowl in Nepal, as it is famous for artisans who craft these bowls from hand.

    Take in the stunning architecture and get lost in the narrow streets. You can visit the Patan Museum, which is quite interesting (Note: it costs 250 rupees, or free by presenting your Patan entrance ticket). Glimpse the famed Golden Temple (50 rupees), and relax at a cute cafe.

Another must see is the Boudhanath Stupa (the Entrance fee for foreigners is 250 rupees).  Boudhanath Stupa is located 8 kilometers east of the city center, this is perhaps one of the most beautiful attractions in all of Kathmandu. Standing 36 meters high, this is one of the tallest stupas not just in Nepal, but in South Asia.  Sometimes called simply “Boudha” for short, this famed stupa is said to contain relics of the Buddha, and is the center of Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal. In fact, you’ll find several Tibetan monasteries surrounding the stupa; the most famous being Tamang Monastery. You’re allowed to enter, and the view from the rooftop is beautiful. Just be respectful of those meditating.   Surrounding the stupa are souvenir shops, but somehow this place didn’t feel overly “touristy”. We felt like there were more worshippers and locals then foreigners.  If you want a relaxing break, wander up to one of the many rooftop cafes and order a mango or banana lassi (Lassi is tropical milkshake which blends yoghurt, water, spices and sometimes fruit.

Swayambhunath Stupa (“Monkey Temple”) is another famous stupa that sits atop a hill and overlooks the city. It is sometimes called the “Monkey Temples” by foreigners for the furry creatures that like to hang out here. Also perhaps because the name — Swayambhunath — is more challenging to pronounce. You can see locals lighting butter candles and you’ll get panoramic views over the city. It’s a good spot for sunset if the timing works out.  Keep close tabs on our belonging when visiting. Those monkeys can be conniving and will reach out for bags because they will think there’s food inside.

Visiting the Pashupatinath Temple can be both an interesting and intense experience. This complex contains hundreds of temples, and within it, you will witness cremation ceremonies on platforms beside the Bagmati River, which eventually joins the River Ganges.  Many elderly Hindus come to Pashupatinath Temple near the end of their lives with the wish to be cremated here once they pass away. Unlike Varanasi in India, followers of the Hindu faith believe that being cremated and having your ashes placed into this holy river will wash away their sins and bring them to Nirvana.   those who are cremated at Pashupatinath are reborn as a human (regardless of sins that may bring bad karma).

Rhesus Macaques have a high population in Nepal and rising! … In Nepal most monkey interactions will happen in the temples you visit such as Swayambhunath (or Monkey Temple) which is home to many monkeys. Here the Macaque’s are used to the locals and tourists.

Here, mischievous monkeys roam the great green open pastures, looking for what snacks they can snatch from the new friends they make each and every day. My favorite was the one reading the Lays potato chip bag like a newspaper, cheeky little sneak.

If looking for the ideal time to travel:  Winter is between December to February, Spring is March to May, Monsoon Season is June to August, and Autumn is September to November.  Of course we traveled in July which technically is monsoon season, but we lucked out except for a bit of rain.

If you’re a budget traveler, Nepal is a great destination that won’t break the bank. Basic food, transportation and accommodation can be very affordable.  If you are on a tight budget and watch your spending closely, $20-$30 per day could be a sufficient budget. If you want to have a few splurges and stay in nicer or private accommodation, plan to budget $35-$50 per day.

We also found beautiful gifts to take home such as a gorgeous original painting of yaks crossing a bridge to carry supplies of hikers for Mt. Everest! We hung it in our family room and smile fondly every time we look at it.

Lodging:

We stayed at two hotels while in Nepal.  The first was where that above picture of me lost in thought in the clouds was taken:

Nagarkot Club Himilaya 112605214707 123.05 Windy Hills, Nagarkot, Nepal

With a description of “comfort above the clouds”, and “a view with a room”, can give you a sneak peek of what you will experience.  After traveling through Morocco, Egypt, India and Sri Lanka in the hot summer heat of July, the cool and refreshing breeze of the mountain top, and the views were absolutely incredible!

The spa, the food, the pool- everything was an exotic oasis, and one which we never wanted to leave!

The second was a historic palace: 

Kathmandu Hotel Shanker 112605220476 83.21 Lazimpat, Katjhmandu, 350 Nepal

A terrific hotel in the heart of the city, and at a GREAT value. The Patan area is a popular location for those seeking to admire history, art, and culture. Among the many significant places, there is one such gem just north of the Durbar Square–the Hiranya Varna Mahavihar, or The Golden Temple, as it’s informally called.  We had a great stay, enjoyed the oasis in the middle of the urban city and delicious breakfast of local delicacies. 

Nepal was a feast for the senses, the sights – some ancient and artistic piece of history at every glance, with some adorable goat, dog, monkey or cow laying atop, locals un-phased, as if they are part of the landscape interwoven in time.  The smells of the fresh mountain air, or delicious cuisine wafting in the wind.  The sounds of the music and people smiling as they greet you with a Namaste and beam to have you visit their beautiful land and share its magic and treasures with you. Words simply do not do it justice, so I will share some more of my favorite photo with you…

Shopping Tips

Singing Bowls You know that golden bowl your yoga teacher pulls out at the end of class that makes a deep vibration? (Anyone else?!) That’s called a “singing bowl”, and they originated in Tibet. You’ll be able to find them all around Nepal, but the highest-quality singing bowls are said to be in Patan, a “suburb” of sorts just south of Kathmandu center.

  • Tip: Machine-made singing bowls sound higher pitched, while true handmade singing bowls have a deeper sound. Reputable shops often have both on hand to show you the difference.

  • Price: For a quality, handmade singing bowl, we were told to expect to pay between $40 – $70 USD. For large bowls, prices can get into the hundreds of dollars.

Cashmere

You’ll find everything from blankets to scarves to sweaters, and the best place to get your cashmere fix is Pokhara. Look for cashmere that is tightly woven so it won’t snag, and high quality material should be soft and have a sort of “bounce” where it pops back to life after being squished.

  • Price: You can pay approximately 2,000 rupees ($18 USD) for a large Cashmere blanket. It feels like nice quality, but the weave is a bit looser and the edge looks like it might fray over time, so a higher quality blanket might cost a bit more, but be a worthwhile investment.

Himalayan Salts

Sounds weird, but bringing back some pink Himalayan rock salt is a nice (and super practical!) souvenir or gift to share with family and friends. I mean, you’re getting it from the source, right?! Also, black Himalayan salt is a rarity in many parts of the world, but at local markets you can find this stuff for cheap.

  • Price: I got 2 medium chunks of black Himalayan salt for just 50 rupees (less than 50 cents!). A friend bought a kilo to bring to her mother (who is a chef ), and she paid only 500 rupees (less than $5 USD… Can’t beat the price!).

Jewelery

You’ll have no shortage of options when it comes to finding jewelry in Nepal. Whether you just want something inexpensive and pretty, or you want a fine piece of jewelry with deeper meaning, like a Buddhist prayer bead necklaces, there’s a variety to choose from.

All in all, I would have to say Nepal was one of the most intriguing, exotic, beautiful and peaceful places we have ever visited.  The people were kind and welcoming, the views incredible, the food delicious.  I would highly recommend visiting this exotic wonder if you have not yet had the chance, and we would love to hear about your experiences.  Until we meet again, Namaste (the Nepalese greeting which means, the light within me, bows to the light within you).