Visit Kathmandu, Pokhara and Chitwan the three most popular destinations frequented by tourists in Nepal. Kathmandu has 7 UNESCO Word Heritage Sites – Pashupatinath Temple, Boudhanath Stupa, Swoyambhunath, Patan Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Kathmandu Durbar Square and Changunarayan Temple. The medieval Newari villages surrounding the city are living museums or heritage sites and great locations for excursions or walking tours. Pokhara is a picturesque lakeside city set beside the serene Phewa Lake. Most of the Annapurna treks begin from Pokhara. One can enjoy boating on the serene Phewa Lake or hike through the surrounding hills and traditional villages. The forested areas around Phewa Lake and Begnas lake are ideal for nature tours. For wildlife safari and birding tours you can head to Chitwan National Park, Bardiya National Park or Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve. Nepal has been a spiritual abode for mystics and sages. Lumbini (the birthplace of Lord Buddha), Muktinath Temple, Gosainkunda, the ancient Hindu temples in Kathmandu, the monasteries and meditation caves blessed by Padmasambhava in Mustang and Dolpo etc. are some of the sacred pilgrimage sites frequented by devout pilgrims in Nepal.
This tiny Himalayan nation is also known for her towering mountains and the many trekking trails weaving across the foothills of these mighty Himalayan peaks. Take an exhilarating flight to Everest Region and trek beneath the shadows of some of the highest peaks in the world. Everest Base Camp trek, one of most popular high altitude treks in the world takes you to the base of the world’s highest peak Mount Everest. Visit the Annapurna Region in springtime and walk through a trail filled with rhododendron blossoms. Take a gentle ascent to Ghorepani-Poonhill and enjoy a magical sunrise, surrounded by snowy spires of Annapurna Massif, Dhaulagiri and Hiunchuli. There are around 10 trekking regions in Nepal. While Annapurna and Everest regions remain the clear favourites and receive the maximum number of visitors, the other regions also offer equally dramatic views and an incredible Himalayan experience. Walking under the shadows of Nepal Himalaya not only takes you close to the mountain, it also gives you an opportunity to immerse yourself in fascinating mountain cultures that have stood the test of time.
A nation that was long shrouded in mystery, Bhutan has ignited the interest of explorers and intrepid travellers for years. This tiny Himalayan kingdom opened its doors (for western tourists) only in the early seventies. Known as Druk Yul or the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’, Bhutan lies at the eastern end of the Himalayas. The country is dotted with traditional fortresses or dzongs, monasteries, lakhangs or Buddhist temples, picturesque villages, traditional wooden houses and lush green forests. Here are some of the ‘must-visit’ attractions for travelers visiting this hidden kingdom.
Paro– Paro’s pride is the Taktshang Monastery. An iconic landmark the monastery is a sacred spiritual site for Buddhists. Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche is believed to have flown to this place to meditate on the back of a flying tigress, so thus the place is called Taktshang or ‘Tiger’s Lair’. Perched on a rocky cliff high above the Paro Valley, the monastery can be reached by hiking for about 2 to 3 hours. Rinpung or Paro Dzong, National Museum, Dumtse Lakhang, Druk Choeding etc. are some of the other attractions of Paro.
Thimphu– The city is the capital of Bhutan. Some of the major cultural highlights in Thimphu include the impressive Tashicho Dzong, the ancient Changankha Lakhang, National Textile Museum, Buddha Dordenma etc. A trip to the busy local market will allow you to interact with the locals and find out which local ingredients are used in Bhutanese cuisine.
Punakha– Punakaha is a fertile valley that lies at the confluence of the Po (Father) Chhu and Mo (Mother) Chhu rivers. At one time it was the capital of ancient Bhutan. This historic city still serves as the winter retreat of the Je Khenpo(Chief Abbot). The majestic Do Chula Pass lies on the highway en route Punakha. Some of the major sightseeing places in Punakha include the ancient Punakha Dzong, Chimi Lakhang, Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten etc.
Apart from the above destinations, Phobjika Valley (the nesting site of the Black-necked Cranes) and Haa Valley are also frequently visited by tourists. These valleys are surrounded by pristine forests and offer dramatic views of the Himalayan mountains.
The Tibetan plateau is renowned as a spiritual destination for Buddhists since time immemorial. The region, known as the ‘Roof of the World,’ is the ancestral home of Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetans. Surrounded by the snowy Himalayas, brown treeless hills and emerald mountain lakes Tibet’s surreal landscape will surely take your breath away. Listed below are some of the fascinating Tibetan attractions.
Lhasa – The skyline of Lhasa is dominated by the majestic Potala Palace, the palace of the Dalai Lama. Located on the Red Hill or Marpo Ri, this magnificent palace was built by the Tibetan emperor Songtsen Gampo in the seventh century. Potala Palace is 13 storeys high and has more than 1000 rooms. Filled with shrines, assembly halls, statues and precious Buddhist relics and paintings, the palace is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. Norbulingka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama, and Jokhang Temple are other two historic sites designaed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Other attractions in Lhasa include the important Gelugpa monasteries – Drepung, Sera and Ganden; Tibetan Traditional Hospital, Drayerpa Cave etc.
After visiting Lhasa, one can take an overland journey and explore the rest of Tibet. Head to Shigatse and visit the ancient Tashilhunpo Monastery. Western Tibet has the remnants of the ancient Tibetan kingdom of Guge, while Gyantse in central Tibet houses the magnificent Gyantse Kumbum. A trip to Tsetang will take you to the birthplace of Tibetan civilization in the Yarlung Valley. Other places of interest in Tibet include the sacred lakes – Yamdrok Tso, Namtso, Lake Mansarover etc.; Mount Kailash, Rongbuk Monastery and the Everest base Camp (North Side).