Nepal Holiday Planning Guide
With everything from snow-capped mountains and vast grasslands to dense tropical forests, Nepal represents one of the world's most ecologically diverse destinations. A trip to Nepal takes visitors to an ancient land situated between India and China, both of which influence the region's culture, cuisine, and religious traditions. Despite the country's natural appeal, commercial tourism in Nepal remains a relatively new industry and most of the area lies unspoiled and undiscovered by foreigners. Ideal for travelers interested in pushing their physical abilities to the limit, Nepal contains most of the world's tallest peaks, including the legendary Mount Everest.
Places to Visit in Nepal
Regions of NepalCentral Region
: Home to the nation's capital, Nepal's hilly Central Region is also its most populous, serving as a common entry and exit point for many Nepal holidays.Western Region
: With its scenic, lakeside capital of Pokhara serving as one of the most desirable places to visit in Nepal, Western Region also features the Annapurna Range, widely considered one of the world's most spectacular trekking spots.Eastern Region
: Boasting the crowning jewel of the Himalayas--mighty Mount Everest--Eastern Region serves as a top destination for a hiking vacation in Nepal.
Cities in NepalKathmandu
: Choked by chaotic traffic, beset by power cuts, and devastated by the 2015 earthquakes, Kathmandu no longer holds its mysterious Shangri-La appeal, but nevertheless features some of the most important cultural attractions in Nepal.Pokhara
: Calmer and more aesthetically pleasing than the capital, Nepal's second city attracts tourists with its impressive natural scenery and serves as the gateway to the impressive Annapurna Range.Patan (Lalitpur)
: Located so close to Kathmandu's urban sprawl that it could almost be considered part of the capital, historic Patan boasts the highlights of many Nepal itineraries among its bustling streets.Sauraha
: A southern village whose tiny size belies its importance to Nepal tourism, Sauraha serves as the final stop-off before reaching the World Heritage Site of Chitwan National Park.
Popular Nepal Tourist AttractionsBoudhanath Stupa
: Despite suffering severe damage in the 2015 earthquake, this imposing white stupa stands out as one of the largest in the country, and one of the best-loved attractions in Nepal.Swayambhunath Temple
: Perched atop a hill on the outskirts of the capital, this historically important temple offers panoramic views over Kathmandu Valley to accompany its majestic architecture, unharmed by the 2015 earthquake.Garden of Dreams
: Find peace amid the chaos of Kathmandu at this well-maintained garden, built in 1920 as one of the city's most serene oases.Thamel
: Most Nepal itineraries include this throbbing tourist neighborhood, which was once a haven for hippies but now abounds with hotels and bars geared towards tourists.Phewa Tal (Fewa Lake)
: Pokhara's most iconic natural feature, this expansive lake offers calming scenery, Buddhist temples, and old-fashioned wooden fishing boats.Mount Everest
: Whether viewing it from afar, trekking to its base camp, or attempting to mount its summit, you'll feel a sense of wonder as you cast your eyes over the world's highest peak.Sarangkot
: Try your hand at paragliding, or simply enjoy the iconic views from this lookout spot as part of your trek through the Annapurna Range. Shree Pashupatinath Temple
: Dedicated to Shiva and attracting locals and tourists alike, this sprawling temple complex is the oldest in Kathmandu.Peace Temple
: You'll truly find a sense of peace at this serene hilltop temple, which offers sweeping views over Pokhara, Phewa Lake, and the mighty Himalayas.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Nepal
Cuisine of Nepal
Much of Nepal's traditional cuisine consists of simple, nutritious rice- and lentil-based dishes served with a selection of curries and vegetables.
During your Nepal holiday, you'll have plenty of opportunities to try "dal bhat," a filling mountain meal of rice, dal curry, and several accompanying vegetarian dishes. You should also try "momos," simple boiled dumplings filled with meat or vegetables.
Vegetarians will be in heaven during their trip to Nepal--for religious reasons, many Nepalis live on a vegetable-based diet and only eat meat if the animal dies of natural causes.
You can find the most diverse range of traditional Nepalese and Western-style cuisines in Kathmandu
, while food up in the mountains tends to revolve around what can be sourced locally.
Shopping in Nepal
Open-air markets and small, family-run businesses provide some of the most interesting shopping opportunities on a Nepal vacation.
You can buy plenty of hiking gear--both top brands and low-cost alternatives--in Kathmandu
. While there, you can also pick up cultural souvenirs, such as Buddhist prayer flags, pashmina shawls, and locally made winter clothing.
The capital's Thamel
neighborhood serves as the hub of Nepal tourism, and as such offers a wide range of souvenir shopping options. The flea market at Asan
caters more to local shoppers.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Nepal
Interesting Facts About Nepal
● Nepal's flag is--uniquely among sovereign nations--not rectangular
● In 2001, the highest-ranking members of the Nepalese royal family were killed in a horrific massacre that eventually led to the abolition of the monarchy; the nation became a republic in 2008
● Nepal boasts the world's tallest peak--Mount Everest--among eight of the world's 14 highest mountains
● Unlike many other nations in the region, Nepal has never been colonized
Things You Should NOT Do in Nepal
Despite the country's overall air of social conservativeness and adherence to traditional lifestyles, you'll find Nepalis to be generally open-minded and understanding regarding Western cultures and values.
This is especially true in the bigger cities, such as Kathmandu
Many adventurers take a trip to Nepal to hike and climb, which leads them to small mountain villages. The locals of these settlements predominantly live a traditional and religious lifestyle, and you should avoid dressing provocatively when in their presence to avoid offending them.
Remember that you cannot order beef at restaurants, as cows remain sacred to the country's majority Hindu population.
If you're on a trekking holiday in Nepal, make sure you eat your meals at the guesthouse where you're staying--owners make almost no profit on rooms and rely heavily on selling meals for their income.
Holidays & Festivals in Nepal
With important events around the calendar, you'll very likely get the chance to celebrate a festival or two during your trip to Nepal.
Many local events honor Hindu traditions. One such festival is the springtime Fagu Purnima (commonly known as Holi), when people fling colorful powder at each other to celebrate fertility and love.
Gautama Buddha was born in Nepal's Western Region
, and the nation's Buddhist community celebrates his birth with a holiday during the full moon in May.
If you holiday in Nepal during Democracy Day (February 19) or Constitution Day (September 20), you'll see thousands of oddly shaped Nepalese flags waving in the streets.
Useful Nepal Travel Tips
Common Greetings in Nepal
Wherever your Nepal itinerary takes you, you'll be greeted warmly by welcoming locals. You can return the favor by pressing your hands together in a prayer-like gesture, bowing your head slightly, and saying "namaste" (hello).
To show respect to an older person or an important local figure, you can say "namaskar." Shaking hands is an acceptable, if slightly less exotic way to greet locals you meet on your Nepal vacation.
It would be considered inappropriate to hug or offer a kiss on the cheek when meeting a Nepali person for the first time.
Climate of Nepal
Nepal's wide variation of altitude--from its lowest point at 59 m (194 ft) above sea level in the tropical Terai plains, to the peak of Mount Everest
at 8,848 m (29,029 ft)--means the country experiences a range of different climates.
Summer, and the accompanying monsoon season, runs from June to August and sees scorching temperatures in the plains, with hot weather in Kathmandu
and milder conditions high in the mountains.
The best time for a trip to Nepal is between September and November, when comfortable temperatures and little rain ensure good conditions for sightseeing.
If you want a budget-friendly Nepal holiday and can handle alpine weather, consider trekking in the winter to enjoy less-crowded trails and significantly reduced off-season rates.
Transportation in Nepal
A combination of mountainous terrain, poorly maintained infrastructure, and general poverty make getting from place to place one of the toughest elements of a Nepal vacation.
When setting off on a trek in the remote Everest Region, you'll have the stomach-churning choice of taking an overcrowded public bus along mountain roads, or shaving a week of trekking time off your trip by catching a light plane from Kathmandu
to Lukla, considered one of the world's most dangerous airports.
Many choose the flight--it's probably less dangerous and significantly more convenient, although organized tours may offer a more appealing bus service.
You won't be train-hopping on your Nepal itinerary--the country effectively has no railway network, but you can haggle for relatively inexpensive taxis or rickshaws when traveling within cities.
Tipping in Nepal
While tipping is not necessarily expected during a Nepal vacation, gratuity will usually be accepted gratefully by those in the tourism industry.
Many restaurants include a service charge on the bill, but a 10 percent tip for good food or service won't go astray. The same goes for spas and hotels, where you should tip around 20 rupees to someone who carries your bag.
Taxis work for negotiable prices and don't usually expect a tip, although rounding up your fare can serve as a good compromise. The most important people to remember during your trip to Nepal are your trekking guides and porters--you should tip them handsomely, up to 10 USD per day.