The most visited places in Nepal are Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan, Lumbini, the Everest region and the Annapurna Region. While the last two regions are the ultimate destinations for trekkers and mountaineers, the four cities are havens for tour groups. In Kathmandu one should not miss out on the UNESCO World Sites. There are seven in the city and taking a cultural tour will let you explore all or some of these protected world heritage monuments. Visit the three medieval cities in Kathmandu Valley- Patan, Bhaktapur and Kathmandu. Climb up a hill to reach one of the oldest shrines in the valley, Swayambhunath. Discover the largest Buddhist stupa in Nepal, Boudhanath, which is also an important centre of Tibetan Buddhism. Visit Changunarayan and Pashupatinath Temple, two of the holiest and most ancient Hindu shrines in the country. Discover more of the valley’s rich culture by taking a heritage tour to ancient Newari towns and villages – Khokana, Panauti, Bungamati, Bandipur etc.
Pokhara is also one of the most visited destinations in Nepal. Set beside the serene Phewa Lake and surrounded by green hills and the snowcapped peaks, this picturesque lakeside city is a traveller’s delight. While in Pokhara experience her natural wonders – Davies Falls, Mahendra Gupha, Gupteshwar Gupha, Seti Gorge etc. Take delightful nature walks and hikes to the verdant hills and traditional villages surrounding the city – Peace Stupa, Begnas Lake, Naudanda, Sarangkot etc. For families, a wildlife safari at Chitwan National Park makes up for an ideal family vacation. One can enjoy elephant rides, jeep safari, jungle walk (with a guide), canoe rides etc. inside the park.
Nepal is also a spiritual destination for Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims. The country is dotted with Hindu and Buddhist shrines dating back to thousands of years. There are many places in Nepal that have found mentioned in the Puranas (Hindu religious texts) and the holy epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana. Muktinath, Gosainkunda, Halesi Mahadev, Dudh Kunda etc. are some of these sacred sites. For Buddhists, Nepal is the birthplace of their greatest teacher Lord Buddha. The high mountains have served as meditation retreats for ascetics. There are many mountain caves in Nepal where Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche is believed to have meditated. One can find imprints of his body and hands at these caves.
Bhutan, a tiny Himalayan kingdom where Gross National Happiness gets more priority than Gross Domestic product, is a destination worth visiting. With 70 percent of the country’s total area covered by forests, this is one of the greenest countries in the world. While people in other countries are embracing modernity and letting go off their ancient customs, Bhutanese continue to preserve and practice their centuries old beliefs and traditions. A visit to Bhutan will take you to places covered with pristine forests and get you in touch with people who are deeply spiritual and optimistic.
While in Bhutan one can visit the most popular cities – Paro, Thimphu, Punakha and Phobjikha Valley. Hike up to Taktshang Monastery and visit the magnificent Paro Dzong in Paro. In Thimphu walk around the King’s Memorial Chorten. Explore Buddha Dordenma, Tashhicho Dzong and National Textile Museum. Stroll around the local market and interact with the locals. Explore the nesting site of the endangered Black-necked cranes in Phobjika and visit the impressive Punakha Dzong in Punakha. Take a bike ride or an overland tour and enjoy the Himalayan panorama from the high mountain passes of Dochula Pass and Chele La Pass. Learn more about Bhutanese culture and traditions by enjoying a homestay with a local family at Haa Valley, a region that has remained untouched by modern development.