Nepal, it’s not all about the mountains
Venture to the south of Asia for a holiday of trekking, temple exploring and retreats to recharge the soul. Nepal is famous for its mountain ranges and Mount Everest, but that’s not all that it’s popular for. Pilgrims flock to temples, people marvel at the architectural wonders or cruise along the Narayani River where you will spot wildlife that call Nepal their habitat.
If you ever wanted to see a different kind of polo match, head to Nepal for the World Elephant Polo Championships for some elephant-inspired polo. These well-trained, magnificent animals will amaze you. After the tournament, it’s your turn to ride the elephant and interact with them.
You may wonder why some of the buildings and attractions you visit are damaged or being repaired on your vacation to this popular tourist destination. On 25 April 2015 a devastating 7.8 earthquake in central Nepal killed over 8,000 people. Rebuilding of damaged buildings has begun.
Make your way to Nepal for your ultimate climbing expedition, try Everest if you dare. While you visit this interesting country, don’t forget to try the local cuisine. You may just become addicted to Dal-Bhat.
Things to do Nepal
- Kathmandu Durbar Square: This was the heart of the old town of Kathmandu. The word ‘durbar’ meaning palace refers to the old town’s palaces of the past. It’s also the city where kings were crowned. Durbar Square is filled with palaces and temples which were built between the 12th and 18th It’s a good idea to hire a guide to explain the history of the buildings and town. While you are here check out Taleju Temple. Legend says that the goddess Taleju appeared to the king in the form of a bee and advised him on how to build the temple. Rebuilding is underway to repair damage caused by an earthquake in 2015.
- Bodhnath Stupa: The largest stupa in Nepal and the most important Buddhist temple outside of Tibet was built in 600 AD. When you arrive, look up at the roof and notice the painted eyes of Buddha looking down at you. Legend says that the king had the stupa built after he killed his father. The dome of the stupa is 120 feet in diameter. Below the dome are 108 sculptured deities. To access the plinth, go to the north gate. When you get there, look down on all the pilgrims. You will find street vendors in the area surrounding the stupa. At sunset Tibetans come out in traditional clothes pushing prayer wheels, walking in a clockwise direction around the stupa. For a perfect view of this massive monument, stop off at one of the nearby cafés. Remember to walk clockwise at the stupa.
- International Mountain Museum: This extensive museum is where you will get to see everything to do with the mountains of Nepal, the people who climbed them and learn about the people who live in the mountains. Nepal is home to Mount Everest, which is the tallest mountain peak in the world. The museum is a must-visit for avid mountaineers. Head to the Mountain People Gallery and gain insight into the culture and lifestyle of the Himalayans. See life-size models, costumes and artefacts. The Mountain Gallery will teach you about peaks from around the world and there are even stuffed animals. The Mountain Activities Gallery is dedicated to the technical side of mountain climbing. Look through displays of clothes, equipment and learn about the famous legend of the Yeti – a large brown bear which some people claim to have seen and photographed its paw.
- Nyatapola Temple: Built in 1702, this five-story temple is 30 metres high. It’s also the tallest temple in Nepal. This sacred monument is built with bricks and wood. Various stone figures lead the way up to the temple door. Only priests are allowed to enter the building. The 8 lucky signs of Buddhists are carved on the temple doorways. Don’t miss out on a visit to Nyatapola Temple.
- Kopan Monastery: The monastery is a great place to spend a day or go for a retreat. Rising up from the Kathmandu Valley, the monastery is home to 360 monks. The king of Nepal’s astrologer also once lived here. The grounds are beautiful and peaceful. Check the visiting times before you decide to go.
- Annapurna Circuit Trek: For those who feel like a different type of holiday, why not do the Annapurna Circuit Trek. Get the thrills of walking through gorges, walk across rice farms, forests and experience a bit of local life when you pass through villages. This 21-day trek takes you around the whole Annapurna massif. Hiking enthusiasts will enjoy this for an experience of a lifetime. The trek was first opened to foreigners in the 1980s and has become a popular attraction around the world. Walk through canyons and as you make your way to the peak, experience breath-taking views. What makes the trek just as great, is that you pass other groups also doing the circuit. As you make your way along your adventure, enjoy traditional Nepal food. There is a surprise around every corner on the Annapurna Circuit Trek, so make sure if you are into hiking and adventure that this goes on your wish list.
- Garden of Dreams: These well-maintained gardens are great to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The gardens are characterised by European-style gardens, pathways and pavilions. The garden was built in 1920 and also boasts beautiful water features. Don’t miss out on taking a stroll around the whole garden to take it in from all angles. Pack a lunch and enjoy time in at this tranquil oasis.
Food to try in Nepal
Dal-Bhat: Probably the national dish of Nepal, this dish is served in homes around the country up to twice a day. It’s a dish made of lentils, rice and vegetables. It’s often served to mountaineers on their trekking expeditions. Yellow, red or brown lentils can be used.
Momo: This is the Nepal version of a dumpling. The dish consists of a white flour dough filled with meat. One of the nation’s most popular dishes.
Chatamari: Don’t leave Nepal without sinking your teeth into this delicacy. The Newari people in Nepal invented this great meal made from rice flour. The crepe is topped with meat, egg and vegetables. It’s also referred to as Nepali pizza.