Surprisingly, Nepal is a diverse country that attracts visitors for many reasons. Some are drawn to the call of the mountains and seek to climb or trek in the Himalayas, others are intrigued by the culture and famous city of Kathmandu, and still others come hoping to find a kind of spiritual awakening. Nepal can be an adrenaline rush, a cultural eye-opener, a life-changing experience, or all of the above.
Most travelers spend time in Kathmandu to visit sacred and historical attractions and then head to other parts of the country. Some of the best places to visit outside of the capital are Chitwan National Park for wildlife viewing and the lakeside town of Pokhara popular for hiking.
Hikers will find a variety of options across Nepal with the most important areas being the Everest, Annapurna and Langtang regions.
A major earthquake struck Nepal in 2015, causing severe damage in Kathmandu and other areas, but restoration is underway and progress has been considerable.
To find the best places to visit, read our list of top Nepal attractions.
Kathmandu, the capital and largest city of Nepal, is unlike any other world’s city. The smell of incense flakes from the shops as street vendors push their wares, and people go about their daily lives, all against the backdrop of historic temples and sculpted statues.
Kathmandu was one of three rival royal cities for several hundred years, along with Bhaktapur and Patan. Located in close proximity to each other, these three work almost together.
Durbar Square has long been the highlight of Kathmandu, the largest of the palace squares in the three royal cities. Temples and monuments of different shapes, sizes, styles and beliefs can be found here.
Kathmandu’s Durbar Square was badly damaged in the 2015 earthquake, with many buildings destroyed beyond repair, but it remains a special place to visit.
The third of the “royal cities” Bhaktapur, lies on the old trade route to Tibet, just outside of Kathmandu. The trade route was both an arterial link and a major source of wealth for Bhaktapur. Its relative remoteness at the time allowed the city to develop independently and in such a way as to distinguish it from the other two cities.
The population of Bhaktapur is predominantly Hindu unlike Patan and Kathmandu. Durbar Square is the best place to start a city tour, where in addition to the Royal Palace, several temples are also located.
Many buildings in Durbar Square in Bhaktapur were damaged in the 2015 earthquake, major temples are on the verge of full repair, but progress over much of the surrounding area has not been so rapid .
3. Boudhanath Stupa (Bodhnath)
In the world, the Bodhanath Stupa, just outside of Kathmandu, is one of the largest stupas of its kind and dates back to some time around the 6th century, possibly even earlier. It lies on the old trade route to Tibet like Bhaktapur and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Each different shape represents one of the five elements, earth, water, fire, air and sphere, which are also attributes of the five Buddhas. Gathered in the form of the stupa, their unity reflects in an abstract way the structure of the universe itself.
The stupa suffered minor damage in the 2015 earthquake and is now fully repaired.