Nothing can inspire and bond a family like a challenging trek through the high Himalayas. Walking for days with your children through the greatest mountain range on Earth can truly be a life-changing experience and if you can is the one activity in Nepal that you and your family should put at the very top of your list of things to do. For much more detail on trekking as a family in Nepal see this blog post.
From cows ambling down city streets to tigers in the jungle and monkeys in the temples, animals are everywhere in Nepal and children are likely to be so enchanted by this wealth of exotic wildlife that wildlife watching will likely become a favourite family activity while you’re in Nepal. A family safari in Nepal (covered in much more detail in this blog) will bring lasting memories of peacock fans and elephants trumpeting. But other places to get to know Nepal’s natural history include the Swayambhu Temple – otherwise known as the Monkey Temple – on the edge of Kathmandu. The temple grounds are swarming in macaques and langur monkeys and your children will delight in watching their rough and tumble antics. But, do be warned.
The monkeys are not afraid of people and you shouldn’t let your children approach too close and you should never carry food in the presence of the primates. Stroll the streets of Old Kathmandu and your children will be amazed at the cows calmly walking down the streets chewing on whatever they can find while a zillion mopeds swerve effortlessly around them. And anywhere you go in the countryside your children won’t be able to avoid noticing the radiant birdlife around them: the extravagance of a peacock's tail feathers, the noisy chatter of Indian parakeets or the inquisitive crows and talkative mynah birds.
Finally, if you take your children trekking then what animal (bar a yeti!) could be more symbolic of the Himalaya than a lumbering yak?
Are your children fussy eaters? Perhaps if they mix their own spices and roll their own momos then they might be encouraged to become a little more adventurous in their menu choice? In Kathmandu, Patan and Pokhara there are numerous opportunities to join a cooking course and learn how to create a perfect dhal bhat.
On most courses you’ll be taken to the local market to select the ingredients and then carefully guided through the chopping, mixing and guiding the process, before sitting down to eat your culinary masterpieces. It’s an all-around fun and informative experience for parents and children alike and always a favorite family activity to do while in Nepal. Ask your tour company to help arrange a course.
Not one for younger children, but if you’re traveling with teens then they will likely be thrilled to know that Nepal is home to some of Asia’s biggest, fastest, highest and scariest bungee jumps and canyon swings. Follow the ‘Friendship Highway’ (the old road linking Kathmandu with Tibet) to the Borderland Resort (borderlandresorts.com) or The Last Resort where you can strap your overly cocky teenagers to a giant elastic band and chuck them off a 160m high bridge…The same crazy crew also offer canyoning and, if none of that is quite exciting enough, then there’s always the canyon swing. It’s the highest in the world and your little angels will be whipped by the ankles at 150km/h through a 240m arch. Definitely a Nepalese family activity your kids will be talking about for a long time to come!
Another one for the teens. Those who wish they could fly can strap into a paraglider and sail off the sheer sided hills that surround Pokhara. With consistent thermals the Pokhara area is considered one of the planet’s best paragliding locations and there are several professional companies in Pokhara who’ll get you soaring like a vulture. Now, if only the kids were as quiet as a vulture.
Somewhat more sedate than bungee jumping and paragliding, a gentle afternoon rowing around the gorgeous, forest lined lake of Phewa Tal in Pokhara is a favourite family activity in Nepal. It’s an especially enjoyable activity to do with younger children and there are lots of row boat hire places all along the lake shore.
White-water nuts rave about the white-water rafting conditions in Nepal. There are endless rafting and kayaking routes which range from gentle half-day descents in warm still waters, which are perfect with younger children, to multi-day, serious expeditions suitable only for expert rafters. Dedicated agents in Kathmandu and Pokhara will sort you out with the best white-water route for you and your family.
Recommended Trip: Nepal Multi Adventure Holiday
For the ultimate cultural shock take your children to one of Nepal’s many colourful, noisy and chaotic markets. These range from the giant daily affairs in the streets of Old Kathmandu where temples and commerce meld into one heady mix, to the small, weekly markets held in villages throughout the land. No matter what age your children are, after a visit to one of Nepal’s markets a trip to the local supermarket back home will never be the same again!
For young eyes (and even for older eyes!) Nepal is an endlessly exotic destination, but plunge into one of Nepal's big festivals and the colours and thrills come brighter and louder than ever. Held in Sept-Oct (exact dates depend on the lunar cycle so ask with a tour company for that years dates), Dasain is the most important festival of the year for most Nepalese, and Bhaktapur and Kathmandu see huge and elaborate masked dances take place in and around the main temples.
Another memorable festival is Shivaratri (held over the Feb-March full moon) which takes place in Pashupatinath on the edge of Kathmandu. Tens of thousands of Hindu pilgrims from across Nepal and India bathe in the river waters here at this time and the festival attracts masses of sadhus (Hindu holy men or ascetics). Even if you cannot time your visit to Nepal to coincide with one of these two festivals there are numerous other events big and small throughout the year.
The most important Tibetan Buddhist site in Nepal and one of the most spell-binding sights in all of Asia, the giant stupa of Boudhanath, with its famed searching blue eyes, will captivate all children. Bring them in the early evening when hundreds of Buddhist pilgrims make a clockwise kora (religious circumambulation) of the stupa and the air is heavy in incense and chanting and your children (and you!) will feel like you’ve somehow stumbled into a fairy-tale.
The Kathmandu Valley can feel like one giant temple and even if your children aren’t normally gripped with thrills by ancient monuments the temple packed Durbar Squares of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and, most especially, Patan are certain to fascinate. T
he best thing about the temples of the Kathmandu Valley is that they are very rarely mere historic monuments. These are living, vibrant temples full of devotion, pilgrims, saints and offerings. Some of them are even the home of living goddesses who, if you’re very lucky, you might catch a glimpse of as she peers briefly out of a window. Organise a guide to show you around the temples of the Kathmandu Valley and they can further help bring the sights to life with tall tales of demons and heros that will keep your children wide eyed in wonder.
If trekking up into the Himalayas is beyond the energy levels of your kids then head to one of the Himalayan viewpoints on the edge of the Kathmandu Valley to watch the sunrise over the greatest mountain range on Earth. The small resort town of Nagarkot has perhaps the classic Himalayan panorama, but Daman and Dhulikhel are close contenders and all have a super array of places to stay. If you’ve got older children then a challenging, but highly enjoyable family activity to do in Nepal is to hire mountain bikes in Kathmandu and cycle along quiet countryside tracks to or from Kathmandu and the viewpoint towns. Ask your tour company to organise a bike and guide for you.
If you and your family are traveling by road between Kathmandu and Pokhara break the journey at the fascinating Hindu pilgrimage town of Manakamana, which is situated atop a high ridge with commanding mountain views. Famed as a wish-granting temple, masses of pilgrims visit every day and though some walk the long and steep path from the main road most people soar up to the temple in Nepal’s only cable car, which travels 2.8km in just ten minutes.
The cradle of the Nepalese nation, the small town of Gorkha which sits roughly halfway between Kathmandu and Pokhara, is dominated by the Gorkha Durbar, a massive fortress-palace complex atop a giant spur of rock. Children will love hearing the history of the place and exploring the ramparts and ruins.
To really give your children an insight into Nepalese life spend a night or two in a rural homestay with a Nepalese family. Your hosts will likely take your children under the wing, introduce them to local children, cook them treats, let them help with the livestock and show them the secrets of Nepalese village life. It will be a life experience that no week at school could ever teach them and in our opinion is the single best family activity you can do in Nepal! Most tour companies can organize a homestay.