Nepal is a beautiful country with a lot of culture, nature and lovely locals. After the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit in 2015, much of Nepal was reduced to rubble, and the death toll reached around 10,000. Although so much history was lost as temples and beloved buildings fell, the country is still full of a vibrant culture as it rebuilds. It is famous for holding the highest peak in the world within its borders.
Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal and by far the largest city in the country with a population of 1,003,285 people. The city is located in the Kathmandu District, which is in the Bagmati Zone, which in turn is located in the Central Development region. Besides being the capital, Kathmandu is also the headquarters of the Kathmandu District and the Central Development region. The city is located in the northwest area of Kathmandu Valley and sits to the north of the Bagmati River. The city is divided by the Bagmati River and its seven tributaries that flow through the city and it is surrounded by the cities of Lalitpur to the south, Kirtipur to the southeast and Madhyapur Thimi to the east.
Kathmandu is one of the oldest cities on Earth whose earliest history is clouded behind traditional legends and myths, however the oldest object ever found in the city is from 185 AD, although the city is alleged to have been founded around 900 BC. Brahmi stone scripts have been found that date to the 3rd Century BC, but very few historical records regarding the city exist from before the Licchavi Kingdom. The modern day version of the city was founded in 723 AD by the Licchavi ruler Gunakamadeva. In 1768 following the Battle of Kathmandu the city became part of the Empire of Nepal and subsequently the capital.
Kathmandu is the most important and central hub for commerce and industry in Nepal, with the stock exchange, national bank and head offices of companies located here. The major industries are trading paper, handicrafts and arts, as well as manufacturing, agriculture and education. The Durbar Square is a complex of two quadrangles that houses many ancient heritage buildings that represent that four kingdoms of the country, as well as various ancient temples and houses the old Hanuman Dhoka Palace whose oldest parts date to the middle of the 1500s. Make sure you visit the Swayambhunath temple (also known as the monkey temple) and the Boudhanath temple, which are both very impressive. Surrounding the temples, you’ll find both Buddhists and Hindus in beautiful robes walking around saying prayers.
The Pashupatinath temple is a holy place for Hindus next to the Bagmati river. At this place, multiple dead people are being cremated and you can see friends and families praying. It can feel difficult to watch, but at the same time it’s fascinating to see the religious locals practicing their faith.
Pokhara is the second largest city in Nepal with a population of 353,841 people. The city is located in the Kaski District, which is in the Gandaki Zone, which in turn is located in the Western Development Region of the country. The city of Pokhara serves as the headquarters of the Kaski District and the Western Development Region.
The city is in the northwest corner of the Pokara Valley and because of this the elevation of the city rapidly changes from 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) to over 7,500 meters (24,606 feet) in only a 30 kilometer (18.64 mile) stretch. The city has the Seti Gandaki River flowing through it and this river and its tributaries have resulted in the city having gorges and canyons in the city and the surrounding areas. The southern part of the city sits on the Phewa Lake, while the northern part is close to the bottom of the Annapurna mountain range.
The city of Pokhara is a real backpackers paradise in Nepal and you can see some Western influences here. People from all over the world come to this city, mostly because it is the starting point for many treks, like the popular trek to Annapurna base camp and Poonhill. As a result, Pokhara is filled with clothing shops, bookstores and shops full of accessories, like shawls and bags. Next to that, Pokhara is full of restaurants and you should make sure to try some of the local dishes (some food in Nepal is similar to Indian food). Dal Bhat is a typical Nepalese dish and contains rice with lentil soup and curry.
Lalitpur, historically known as Patan and alternatively referred to as Manigal, is the third largest city in Nepal with a population of 226,728 people. The city is located in the Lalitpur District, which is in the Bagmati Zone, which in turn is located in the Central Development Region of the country. The city of Lalitpur is the headquarters of the Lalitpur District. The city is located in the south central part of Kathmandu Valley and sits near the south side of the Bagmati River, with the Nakkhu Khola stream to the south of the city. The city is believed to have been founded in 299 AD at the very end of the Kirat Dynasty (~900 BC-300 AD), although historians and scholars agree that the city was a developed town before this, since it is mentioned in other historical records and various legends.
Some of the historical monuments that the city has to offer are the four Ashoka Stupas that sit on the corners of the city’s cardinal points and are believed to have been built at some point in the 4th Century AD. There is also the Patan Durbar Square, which is an ancient site that is filled with Hindu and Buddhist bahals and temples, and has also been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Close to Kathmandu there’s the historical city Bhaktapur, which is a lot less crowded than Nepal’s capital. You’ll have to pay a fee to enter the city, but it is definitely worth the money. The city has had a hard time during the 2015 earthquake and the locals are working hard to renovate the temples and buildings that suffered from the quake. You will find many small streets, cute little temples, monuments and squares. You can describe the architecture of the city as marvellous, and the Durbar square of this city might be prettier than the one in Kathmandu. Also, take a look at Potter’s square, where you can find people making all sorts of beautiful pots. There are various small shops everywhere in town that sell clothes, food, souvenirs and typical stationery.
Lumbini is one of the most historically important towns in Nepal, as it is home to the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, in 563 BC, as well as some of the country’s most important archeological finds that date back to the third century BC. You can visit Lumbini’s peaceful monasteries in the wooded park or spend time relaxing in the gardens. Interestingly, the area around Lumbini is predominantly Muslim, but the city is an important place for Buddhist pilgrims from around the world. A newly designed religious park is a long-time work in progress meant to revitalize the often-forgotten city. You could spend a few hours exploring the small area of Lumbini or you could spend days basking in the city’s peaceful vibes.
Chitwan is home to one of Nepal’s most-visited sites, Chitwan National Park. The park is relatively simple and cheap to visit, and was hardly damaged in the earthquake. The 932 square kilometers of parkland is filled with forests, marshes, grasslands, and wildlife like rhinos and monkeys. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and is recognized as one of the best parks to see Nepal’s local wildlife. Watch for some of the 544 species of birds as well as rare animals like leopards, wild elephants, sloth bears, and the rarest creature of all: the Bengal tiger. In 2013, there were just around 120 adult tigers in the park. You can stay in one of the luxury lodges in the village of Sauraha, but if you want to avoid tourist crowds, try Ghatgain or Meghauli.
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