Must See Nepal: The Ultimate Travel Guide

Whether you’re considering your first trip to Nepal or just looking for ideas for your next visit to this incredible country, this aims to provide the best must-see Nepal inspiration.

Nepal is a country filled with opportunities to engage body, mind and soul. Between trekking in the Himalayas, visiting ancient Hindu temples and Buddhist monasteries, and immersing yourself in some of the oldest mountain cultures in the world, you’re sure to find something that excites your senses in the sweeping mountainous landscapes of Nepal. 

When you first visit the Nepalese Himalaya and its people, you learn why it’s such an eternally special place for lovers of the mountains and the outdoors.

And it’s hard to choose just one thing to do in Nepal. There is SO MUCH to see. Having been there three times myself, I always wish I had more time to venture somewhere else or see something new. This post aims to share some of my most recommended locations so that you can have a well-rounded taste of this epic country.

Let’s break down everything bright and beautiful about Nepal – including all of the must-see places!

Must Visit Places in Kathmandu

Filled with UNESCO World Heritage sites, Kathmandu Valley is steeped rich in culture. Kathmandu is also your entry point to Nepal. And while many folks hop right out of Kathmandu (KTM) and straight into the mountains, this ancient city is worth at least a day or two of exploration.

1. Wander the streets of Thamel

Nestled in the heart of Kathmandu, the bustling Thamel district stands as a vibrant kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, and sensations. This vibrant neighborhood, a haven for travelers and locals alike, is an emblematic gateway to the rich tapestry of Nepalese culture and an experience in itself.

As you step into Thamel, you are instantly enveloped by a whirlwind of energy. The narrow streets are lined with a myriad of shops, cafes, and guesthouses, each exuding its own unique charm. The air is infused with the aromatic scents of Nepalese cuisine, inviting you to explore the diverse culinary delights that await around every corner.

Be sure to hit up Coffee Cafe down Z Street and the restaurant at the Dalai-La Boutique Hotel.

A group of tourists ordering food at the Dalai-La Hotel restaurant.

2. Boudhanath Stupa

Adorned with colorful prayer flags and intricate Buddhist symbols, the Boudhanath Stupa stands as a symbol of peace, enlightenment, and unity. As one of the largest stupas in the world, it attracts pilgrims and visitors from all corners of the globe, who circumambulate its base in a clockwise direction, spinning prayer wheels and chanting mantras.

Surrounding the stupa are various cafes and local artisan shops. Don’t miss relaxing with a cup of joe at Himalayan Java Coffee! It’s the perfect perch to soak in the enchanting atmosphere of this spiritual haven in the city.

3. Swayambhunath Stupa (aka Monkey Temple)

Perched atop a hill in Kathmandu, Swayambhunath Stupa, also known as the “Monkey Temple,” is a sacred site in the city. As you ascend the steps up, you will be greeted by mischievous monkeys that inhabit the temple grounds. The site is also a great spot for sweeping panoramic views of the Kathmandu Valley.

4. Pashupatinath

Pashupatinath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the banks of the sacred Bagmati River in Kathmandu. This revered temple complex is dedicated to Lord Pashupati, an incarnation of Lord Shiva, and is considered one of the holiest Hindu pilgrimage sites in the world.

The temple complex is adorned with intricate wood carvings, sculptures, and ornate pagoda-style temples, showcasing the skill and craftsmanship of Nepalese artisans.

5. Old Durbar Square

Located in the heart of Kathmandu, Durbar Square is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of my favorite places to people watch while in the city. When you walk into Durbar Square you are transported back in time. You’ll find beautiful old palaces and temples, including my favorite, The House of the Living Goddess (Kumari Ghar). Don’t miss the story of the Kumari – it’s a living tradition that draws thousands every year.

Unique Trekking Adventures in Nepal

And no, I’m not talking about Everest Base Camp. These are a few of the treks I have done and one I plan to do in the coming years.

1. Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) Trek

We did this trek in 2017 for our first visit to Nepal and were completely blown away by the shear magnitude and proximity to the mountains! If you’re looking for a solid trek to get your feet wet in Himalayan mountain culture – this is it. It takes about 7 days to complete the roundtrip trek.

It includes a lot of stair-stepping so be prepared for burning legs! But if there’s one must see place in Nepal… the views between Annapurna Base Camp and Machapuchare Base Camp are IT. This trek is pretty diverse in that you start in the forest and end in the snow at the base of some 24,000+ foot peaks!

We met all sorts of trekkers on the trail who had also visited Everest Base Camp. We asked which was better and every time the answer was ABC by a LONG shot!

2. Upper Mustang Trek to The Forbidden Kingdom (Lo Manthang)

The Upper Mustang is super special due to its limited permits. Not nearly as busy as ABC or of course, EBC, this trek is longer and more remote. You even get quite close to Chinese border during one portion of this journey. It’s incredibly rewarding to spend several days making your way through rocky canyons to pop over a hill and see the ancient walled city of Lo Manthang.

Once you arrive, you’ll spend a couple days there exploring the history of this special place. Culturally this section of Nepal is incredibly different from the Annapurna Sanctuary. You’ll find different clothing, architecture and religious practices. If you are a culture or history buff, add this trek to your list!

3. Langtang Valley to Yala Peak

Langtang Valley is one of the Himalayan treks that does not have constant big climbs and descents. This particular trek is a slow and steady uphill hike to Kyanjin Gompa. Due to the fact that the gains are so gradual on this expedition, altitude effects are minimalized compared to other trekking destinations in Nepal. Considered an easy trek for the region, it’s a perfect introduction to trekking!

The area is home to the Buddhist Tamang ethnic group and some of the most awe-inspiring views of Nepal. And you can culminate the trip by summiting Yala Peak, a 5,520-meter (18,000+ feet) mountain in the middle of the Himalayas. Yala Peak is a non-technical, straightforward summit suitable for novice climbers.

3 trekkers walking down from the Yala Peak summit in Langtang Valley in Nepal.

4. Poon Hill

This trek is a fantastic introduction to hiking in the Himalayas if you’re short on time as it only takes four days roundtrip. Starting in the mountain town of Ghandruk, you hike primarily in rhododendron forest the entire way. You never get above tree line. The destination is Poon Hill which is a magical viewpoint of Annapurna I, Annapurna South and Dhaulagiri – all 8,000+ meter peaks!

5. Pikey Peak Base Camp

Pikey Peak Base Camp is a circular route that’s claim to fame is it’s sweeping 360 degree views of the Himalayas. While I’ve yet to do this particular trek, it’s on my list! Many, including Sir Edmund Hillary, claim it to be THE best view of Mt. Everest in all of Nepal.

This trek takes you through the remote landscapes of the Solu region, offering panoramic views of majestic peaks including Everest, Makalu, and Kanchenjunga.

Like all treks in Nepal, you’ll weave through local mountain villages and stay in teahouses along the way with opportunities to visit various Buddhist monasteries. This lesser-known trek is an opportunity to immerse yourself in Nepalese culture from three to seven days depending on the route you choose.

Must See Place in Nepal That Don’t Involve Trekking

If you’re coming to Nepal, you’re likely drawn there for the Himalayas. But trekking isn’t the only adventure to be had! Here a few other options to round out your time in Nepal.

1. Relax and adventure in Pokhara

Pokhara is the perfect must see place in Nepal to reset your body and mind. This Nepalese town near stunning Phewa Lake is guarded by Annapurna and Machapuchare peaks to the north. And there’s plenty to do in this charming city!

Boats floating on a calm Phewa Lake in Pokhara, Nepal on an overcast day.

Are you a water person? Join in the many opportunities for boating on the lake to take in the magical landscape. Enjoy stand up paddle boarding, kayaking or even fishing! Perhaps you’re more oriented for an educational experience; visit the famous International Mountain Museum to learn all about the rich history of Mountaineering Nepal is famous for. Pokhara is also the perfect place to have a sauna, massage, or simply recharge.

2. Take a Panoramic Everest Flight!

Not going to Everest Base Camp but still want to take in the full majesty of Mount Everest? Book a 1 hour panoramic Everest fight! These flights depart out of the regional airport in Kathmandu and fly alongside the Himalayas giving you a eye-level view of the tallest peaks in the world!

The flights are reasonably priced at around $150-250 USD. AND you can hop up into the cockpit with the pilots to get an unobstructed view allowing you to take some pretty incredible photos!

3. Go Whitewater Rafting

There are several rivers in Nepal that offer heart-racing white water rafting. If you’re trekking, be sure to ask your guide if there’s an option to add rafting to the end of your trip! Depending on the season, this is an adventurous way to add yet another unique perspective to your journey to Nepal.

A group of tourists whitewater rafting in Nepal.

4. Go on safari in Chitwan National Park

If you’re looking for a total change of pace, set off for Chitwan National Park near the tropical southern region of Nepal. Home to the Royal Bengal Tiger and One Horned Rhinoceros, Chitwan National Park is Nepal’s first national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

Wrapping up the Must See Spots in Nepal

Nepal is a country that will leave you breathless with its natural beauty, rich culture, and warm hospitality. From trekking in the Himalayas to exploring ancient temples and monasteries, there is something for everyone in Nepal. Whether you’re on a budget or looking for a luxury experience, Nepal has it all. So pack your bags, grab your passport, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!

This entry was all about the must-see places in Nepal. Now, for the love of adventure… JUST GO!

Related: Free Global Adventure Packing List

Related: Nepal Told Through My Lens

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