Nepal is finally fully open to visitors and travelers, after two uncertain and testing years. After two years of being at a standstill, the Government of Nepal is putting a special emphasis on encouraging travelers to visit Nepal in 2023, promoting it around the world as a destination for adventure, luxury, and everything in between. While any year is a good year to visit Nepal, here are 20 reasons to visit Nepal in 2024. So, what are you waiting for?
The UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Nepal is home to four UNESCO World Heritage sites. But, this number is misleading because one of these sites (the Kathmandu Valley) includes seven monument zones. The full list of Nepal’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites is:
- Patan Durbar Square
- Kathmandu Durbar Square
- Bhaktapur Durbar Square
- Sagarmatha National Park
- Chitwan National Park
See pictures of each of these beautiful sites in the following article: Nepal’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Pictures
Sites on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List
The UNESCO World Heritage Sites are not the only worthwhile heritage sites in the country. There are currently 15 sites in Nepal that are on UNESCO’s tentative list. This means that although they’re not yet World Heritage Sites, they might be in the future. Learn more about these 15 sites in the following article: Why You Should Visit UNESCO’s Tentative World Heritage Sites in Nepal.
Travelers seeking a more homely experience than you can find in a hotel will love the network of women-run Community Homestay Network that Royal Mountain Travel has established around the country. You get to know local people, see how they really live and explore more rural and out-of-the-way communities that you might not otherwise find. Read more about the Community Homestays in these articles:
- A Grass Routes Tour of Nepal: Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Chitwan
- Cooking Up a Storm at the Patan Community Homestay
- Getting Local in Nepal’s Community Homestays
- A Perfect Break from the City at Panauti Community Homestay
- A Weekend in Barauli Community Homestay
- An 8-Step Guide to Staying in a Homestay in Nepal
- 10 Reasons to Stay at a Homestay in Nepal
The Luxury Hotels
If you do want to stay somewhere more upmarket, there are plenty of wonderful options in Nepal. Most are concentrated in Kathmandu, Pokhara, and the Chitwan National Park, but beautiful boutique accommodation can also be found in smaller towns like Bandipur, Namo Buddha, and Nagarkot. Read more about them in these articles:
- Beautiful Boutique and Luxury Hotels in Nepal
- A Weekend in Boudhanath at the Hyatt Regency Hotel
- 7 Beautiful Sustainable Hotels in Nepal
- The Most Unique Hotels in Kathmandu
Nepal celebrates a wide range of Hindu and Buddhist holidays (as well as those of other minority religions, such as Islam and Christianity). Some are observed nationally, others just in certain areas, such as Kathmandu or the Terai. If you stick around in Nepal long enough you’ll definitely find a festival to join in with, and the locals always welcome travelers!
Nepal’s mountains don’t really need any introduction. They’re why most travelers come in the first place. Whether you’re planning to trek through them, see them from a sightseeing flight, or just admire them on the skyline, the Nepali Himalaya will not disappoint.
Nepal isn’t only super-high mountains by any means, though. Before you get to the snow-capped rocky peaks you will encounter many green rolling hills that are mostly cultivated for crops–although the hills in Nepal can be higher than the mountains in most other countries!
The Plains (Terai)
The flat land bordering India is known as the Terai. The cities, towns, and villages here have a very different feel to those in the hills and mountains. Highlights of the Terai include the Chitwan and Bardia National Parks, Lumbini (birthplace of the Buddha), and Janakpur.
Most people travel to the Terai for the jungle national parks and nature reserves. As well as the famous Chitwan National Park, there’s also the Bardia National Park in the far west, the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve in the east, as well as smaller pockets of jungle, animals, and birdlife. Read more about these here:
- Tiger Hunting in Bardiya
- Tips for an Unforgettable Stay in Chitwan
- Jungle Walking in the Chitwan National Park
- Cycling Through the Villages of Chitwan
The Hindu Culture
A majority of Nepalis–more than 80%–follow Hinduism. In fact, until it became a republic, Nepal was the only Hindu kingdom in the world. Hinduism can be seen throughout society, from big, grand temples like Pashupatinath to small family shrines in a corner of a home or courtyard. Plus, many of Nepal’s annual festivals are Hindu. There are many opportunities to learn about Hinduism in Nepal.
The Buddhist Culture
Despite Nepal being a predominantly Hindu country, Buddhists form a visible minority and makeup around 9% of the population. The two religions very much overlap in Nepal though, and elements of Hinduism and Buddhism enter the beliefs and practices of people from both groups. High up in the mountains (as well as in pockets of Kathmandu) you will encounter Tibetan Buddhism, especially among the Sherpa people and refugees who came directly from Tibet.
Anyone who tells you that Nepali food is just like Indian food has clearly not spent long in either country. Nepali food revolves around rice and curries of various sorts, but the ingredients, flavors, and preparation is quite different from Indian curry. Plus, there are Tibetan influences like momos and noodle soups, and spicy Newari cuisine. Learn more about the variety of Nepali food in these articles:
- Chiya Khayo? Traditional Nepali Tea and Snacks
- Yomari, a Nepali Food for the Gods
- Must-Try Food While in Nepal
Whether you’re looking for yak wool shawls or Nepali tea, topographical maps of the mountains, or outdoor clothing, you can find it in Kathmandu and Pokhara. Fairtrade shops such as Sana Hastakala and Dhukuti are particularly great places to shop for handicrafts, while at Timro Conceptstore, the Local Project, and Of Silk & Salt you can find modern designs.
Nepali wildlife isn’t just restricted to the jungle. All around Kathmandu–but especially at Swayambhunath, otherwise known as the monkey temple–you can see cheeky monkeys. Just keep your food (and children) away from them. The mountains also have a wonderful array of wildlife: while you probably won’t spot a snow leopard, you may see Nepal’s national bird, the danphe, and you’ll definitely see a few yaks! Read the following article for a fuller list: Wildlife in the Himalayas You Might See.
The National Parks
Large areas of Nepal are protected as national parks, from the jungles of the Terai to the high Himalayas. Some are remote and can only be reached by trekking–such as the Sagarmatha National Park–whereas others are very accessible from Kathmandu–such as the Shivapuri-Nagarjung National Park. Travelers need permits to enter them or to trek in them.
Nepal may not be on par with Paris or New York when it comes to its museums, but there are a number of lovely places in Kathmandu and Pokhara that you shouldn’t miss. The Patan Museum is the most spectacular and provides a thorough introduction to the culture and architecture of the Kathmandu Valley. Other places worth checking out are the Taragaon Museum at the Hyatt Regency in Boudha and the International Mountain Museum in Pokhara.
The Adventure Sports
As well as trekking, travelers can do all kinds of other outdoor adventure sports in Nepal: paragliding, zip-lining, white-water rafting, white-water kayaking, canyoning, high ropes courses, trail running, mountain biking, rock climbing, motorbiking, microlite flying… However you choose to get your adrenaline rush, you can do it in Nepal.
The Sunrises and Sunsets
There’s nothing quite like seeing the sun rise or set behind the tallest mountains on earth. Popular places to see the sun at either end of the day include Nagarkot and Namo Buddha from Kathmandu, or Sarangkot and the World Peace Pagoda from Pokhara. If you’re trekking in the mountains, it’s highly recommended that you wake up early to see the sunrise.
Centuries and centuries of human and natural history are evident wherever you go in Nepal. Medieval temples in Kathmandu, archaeological sites from the time of the Buddha on the Terai, undated cave dwellings in Mustang, fossilized sea creatures lying amid the stones at 3,000 meters in Mustang… It would be hard to learn about Nepal’s millennia of history in a single trip, but browse the bookstores of Kathmandu and pick up something interesting to accompany you on your travels.
Many people say that you come to Nepal for the mountains, and return for the people. Let us know how it goes for you in 2023.
Top image: neijls/Flickr