When most people think about things to do in Nepal, they think about long-distance trekking to the world’s highest peaks. And while yes, there is plenty of trekking in Nepal, there is also a wide array of diverse cultures, interesting cityscapes, and lowland areas to explore.
They say you come to Nepal for the mountains but refuse to leave because of the people. After traveling the world, Nepal still remains one of my absolute favorite countries and it’s easy to see why. It’s a diverse place with beautiful scenery, rich culture, friendly people, and incredible food.
1. Take a Panoramic Flight in the Himalayas
If you don’t have time to trek, but you’ve got some cash to spare, consider going on a scenic flight into the mountains for a few days. There are several ways to catch eye-popping views of the iconic Himalayas. First, you can book a scenic Himalayan mountain flight and spend an hour soaring through the skies among these mighty peaks.
Alternatively, you can book yourself a domestic flight to Lukla and experience landing (and taking off) in the world’s most dangerous airport. This is an ideal choice if you’d like to stay a night in the town of Lukla, nestled at the foot of the mighty Himalaya.
Cost: $220 per person
Recommendation: Nepal Trekking Planner. High-quality service and you’re treated like family
Best times: Hours are flexible depending on weather, but the best times for a scenic flight is September through May.
2. Visit the Birthplace of the Buddha in Lumbini, Nepal
Lumbini, Nepal brings spirituality to your bare feet. As the birthplace of the Buddha, this highly-sacred UNESCO World Heritage site is a must-see while visiting Nepal. In the center of town, you’ll find the Lumbini Development Center with a huge development of parks and temples celebrating Siddhartha Gautama or Buddha. Spend your time at the Maya Devi Temple to pay your respects to Buddha under the Bodhi tree.
Cost: around $5 USD pp to visit the Maya Devi Temple
Location: Lumbini, Nepal, off of Taulihawa Road
Hours: Maya Devi Temple is open from 6 am to 12 pm and 4 pm to 8 pm.
3. Eat All the Delicious Nepalese Food
If the scenery and smiling faces weren’t enough, the food is incredible in Nepal. There are countless foods you have to try, or you can even go on a food tour in Kathmandu. A few local favorites are:
- Momos. These Tibetian style dumplings are either steamed or fried.
- Dal Bhat. This meal of lentil soup with curried veggies and papadam is a staple in Nepal. Most Nepali people eat it every day.
- Thukpa. A hearty stew of meat, noodles, and veggies.
- Samosas. Aka delicious slices of curried heaven wrapped in a flakey pastry. YUM!
- Newari food. The Newari people are an ethnic group special to Nepal. They make intricate, spicey dishes of potato, meat and more. If you love the spice, you’ll love the flavors of Newari.
- Northern Indian food. You’ll find all your favorite Northern Indian staples in Nepal. It’s darn good!
Remember, if you’re trekking in the mountains stick to vegetarian food only. There is little to no refrigeration in the mountains. Not to mention, the food takes days to arrive via someone carrying it. The sanitation isn’t the best, so it’s best to be a veg freak while trekking.
Cost: Meal costs vary, but for $5 USD pp you can get a very nice meal in Kathmandu, complete with a Khumbu Kolsch.
4. Wander the Streets of Thamil
Thamil, or Freaky Street as it’s known by the local community, is a bustling backpacker haven. Many of the hotels, hostels, and trekking companies call Thamil home. There are a plethora of restaurants, some with live bands, and fun little shops selling everything from hand made jewelry to knock-off trekking gear. If you forget something, it’s a great place for some last-minute shopping before you head to the mountains, or to pick up a souvenir. Just keep an eye out for authentic goods over the stuff that’s imported from China and India.
Location of Thamil
Best times: Any time. For more local action, visit in the mornings.
5. Go Whitewater Rafting
Whitewater raft snow-fed glacial lakes on the adventure of a lifetime. Nepal offers an array of whitewater trips from one day to ten-day excursions. Splash your way down the Bhote Koshi River just four hours north of Kathmandu for class three to four rapids or head to the Sun Kosi river, rated one of the top ten rivers to raft in the world. Day trips can be made from the Trisuli River on your way to Pokhara.
Cost and locations vary depending on the duration and location. The best time for white water rafting in Nepal is September through December and March through June.
6. Explore the UNESCO World Hertigate Sites of Kathmandu
When it comes to things to do in Nepal, a trip to visit Kathmandu’s seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites is a must-do. Kathmandu is a surprising city with more than just the normal hustle and bustle of daily life. Here are a few must-see spots in Kathmandu that aren’t holy sites.
Durbar Square in Patan
Located in the southern part of Kathmandu, the ancient Durbar Square in Patan is yet another must-see UNESCO World Heritage site in Nepal. It’s stunning examples of both stone and wood-carved, intricate architecture are unbelievable displays of craftsmanship. Home to the ancient royal palace of the Malla Kings of Lalitpur, it is steeped in history.
Many of the sites are still being rebuilt after the 2015 earthquake, but they have made quite a bit of progress. Not to mention, it’s quite neat to watch the restoration process.
Cost: around $10 USD pp
Location: Old City of Patan
Hours: The square proper is always open, but to access the buildings and museums you must visit between 9 am to 6 pm
The Ancient City of Bhaktapur
Located west of Kathmandu proper, the ancient city of Bhaktapur makes an excellent day trip from Kathmandu. Escape the hustle and bustle of the dusty capital and spend the day wandering the streets of Bhaktapur. Literally translated to “the place of devotees” this beautiful district is home to several artisans such as pottery, weaving, and window making.
Cost: around $15 USD pp to enter the Durbar Square – free to wander the town.
Location: East of Kathmandu, approximately a 40-minute drive from Thamel.
7. Take a Nepalese Cooking Class
Once you bite into the perfect momo you’ll be dying to learn how to make them at home. With so many delicious delicacies, it’s worth it to take a cooking class in Kathmandu. Pick up your food from a local market and learn all about the traditions of Nepalese cuisine. Yummy!
Cost: Varies by company, but around $35 pp on average
Recommendations: 2 Sisters Cooking School. We love this cooking school because it is owned, run by, and supports local women.
Hours: 9 am or 1:30 pm
8. Discover the Temples of Kathmandu
Kathmandu is a wonderful mix of Buddhist and Hindu cultures. In fact, Nepal is 81% Hindu. As the home of the birthplace of the Buddha and with so much rich history, it’s no wonder that Kathmandu is home to some of the holiest religious sites around. Take a tour of the many temples throughout Kathmandu, including these must-see UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Many of the sites are still being rebuilt after the 2015 earthquake, but they have made quite a bit of progress. Not
Cost: around $10 USD pp
Location: Around 20 mins from Thamel, en route to the airport.
Hours: Always open, with special Aarti chanting ceremony at 6:30 pm
Considered one of the holiest sites in the Hindu religion, the Pashupatinath Temple is a must-see. Much of the temple complex is closed to non-Hindus, but the grounds provide plenty of culture to soak in. The temple itself is dedicated to Lord Shiva, as is evident by the many bull statues in the area. For most Hindu Nepali people, this is where Hindu people cremate their deceased loved ones. Their body is washed in the holy river then the ashes are poured in at the end of the ceremony. It’s a solemn place, so please be respectful when you visit.
Cost: around $10 USD pp
Location: Around 20 mins from Thamel, en route to the airport.
Hours: Always open, with special Aarti chanting ceremony at 6:30 pm
Swayambhunath or The Monkey Temple
Perched high up on the hill, the Swayambhunath temple is a beautiful Buddhist temple complex with spanning views of the city. Climb the 358 steps to the top and watch the many monkeys jump and play. Go around sunset for sweeping city views.
Cost: around $4 USD pp
Location: Northeast Kathmandu, approximately 20 mins from Thamil
Hours: Always Open
The Boudhanath Stupa
For one of the most impressive sites you’ll ever see, head to the massive Boudhanath Stupa. This is by far the most impressive stupa in Nepal and is a must-see attraction in Kathmandu. Littered with prayer flags and teeming with activity you’ll find tourists, monks, and even Hindu devotees circumnavigating this massive structure.
You can join in the prayer by moving around the massive 14th-century stupa in clockwise rotation, spinning prayer wheels in the same clockwise direction.
Cost: $2 USD per person
Location: In the northeast part of town, again 20 mins from Thamil
Hours: 9 am to 5 pm
9. Stay with a Host Family
Homestays are one of the best ways to truly immerse yourself in any culture. Nepal offers an array of homestay opportunities nearly anywhere in the country. A typical homestay includes interactions with locals, local meals, and a comfortable, private room for the night. You can opt to spend your entire holiday with a homestay or choose a few nights.
Prices and locations certainly vary, but in general, this is a very budget-friendly option.
10. Go on a Wildlife Safari in Chitwan National Park
Located in the southern part of Nepal, Chitwan National Park is one of the best things to do in Nepal for wildlife lovers. See the endangered Asian Rhino and a wide variety of birds and other wildlife. When visiting Chitwan National Park be sure not to ride elephants. It’s terrible for the animals. Do your research and go with a reputable company. This guide to visiting Chitwan National Park gives plenty of insight into what to expect and how to plan your trip.
Related: How to Travel Responsibly
11. Mountain Bike in the Kathmandu Valley
For an action-packed day of ripping trails, book a full-day tour of mountain biking in the Kathmandu Valley. An excellent day trip from Kathmandu, this high-octane activity is perfect for seasoned MTBers and newbies alike. So go ahead and enjoy the single-track with epic views of the Himalayan “foothills” (read: still really tall mountains!).
Cost: $80 USD per person
Location: Kathmandu Valley
Hours: All-day tour
12. Rock Climb in Lukla
As more and more world-class mountaineers and climbers begin to develop new climbing areas around the Himalaya, single-pitch climbing is quickly becoming all the rage.
There are several different options when it comes to rock climbing in Nepal. You can embark on a guided expedition where you explore several areas, similar to trekking. Or you can simply catch a flight to Lukla and experience world-class climbing just 30-minutes down the trail from the airport.
Cost: Varies, depending on duration and difficulty. However, due to the nature of this sport, even experienced climbers should hire a local guide
Location: Lukla and Sagarmatha National Park
Hours: All-day or multi-day tour
13. Take a Mount Everest Helicopter Tour
Short on time but still want to soak in those epic mountain views? You can take a scenic helicopter tour to Mount Everest straight from Lukla. It isn’t the cheapest way to see the tallest mountain in the world, but it’s certainly an adventure you won’t ever forget.
However, keep in mind, since you’ll be rapidly ascending in altitude, you should expect to feel the effects of thin air. Be sure to properly acclimatize before your flight.
Cost: $1,000 USD pp
Location: You can take a tour to a variety of mountainous regions, but all tours start and end at the Kathmandu Airport
Hours: 5-hour tour
14. Relax in the City of Pokhara
Known as the adventure capital of Nepal, Pokhara is home to several amazing activities. One of the best things to do in Nepal is to relax along the iconic shores of Lake Phewa in this small town after a fun-filled day of adventure.
Pokhara is much more beautiful than it’s dusty counterpart, Kathmandu. If you’re trekking in the Annapurna Region then you’ll be based in this city to begin with, so be sure to build in some extra time for exploring.
15. Go Skydiving Near Mount Everest
Another adrenaline-packed activity if you’ve got limited time and lots of cash to burn, you can skydive with iconic Himalayan views. By far the most expensive activity on the list, this monumental, once in a lifetime dive is one you’ll never forget.
Cost: $22,000 USD pp for two jumps
Location: Most jumps are from the Ama Dablam Base Camp Drop Zone. This all-inclusive package includes all your gear, medical assistance, permits, helicopter flights, and 5-star accommodation including food, and transport starting and ending from Kathmandu.
16. Have a Paragliding Adventure
Get a bird’s eye view of Nepal’s most adventurous city by paragliding in Pokhara. This fun-filled adventure brings you stellar views with a shot of adrenaline as you glide your way across the sky.
Cost: $75 USD pp
Hours: 30-minute flight plus safety debriefing.
17. Jump Off the Worlds Longest Swing
Feel weightless with the swing of a lifetime in the Bhote Koshi gorge. The longest freefall (for bungee enthusiasts) or the longest swing in the world, for a heart-stopping rush that you’ll never forget.
Cost: $110 USD pp
Location: Bhote Koshi
Hours: Around 1 hour
18. Trek in the Himalayas
No trip to Nepal is complete without a trek in the Himalayas. When it comes to trekking in Nepal there are countless options for routes of varying difficulties, elevations, duration, and budgets. Most guide companies are happy to work with whatever it is you want to do and are always flexible in their plans. A few iconic treks in Nepal are:
- Poon Hill. Short (5 days), scenic, easy
- The Classic Everest Base Camp Trek. Crowded. Iconic. Moderate difficulty. 15 days.
- The Annapurna Circuit. Immersive. Beautiful. Some road walking required. 18 days.
- Upper Mustang. Remote. Off-the-beaten-path. More expensive (due to daily permit fees). The average is 9 days.
- Gokyo Ri. The best view of Mount Everest. Quiet, but follows part of the iconic route to Everest Base Camp. 11 days.
Guided trekking in Nepal is actually a budget-friendly option. You’ll likely spend more money organizing the trek on your own than you would if you went with a guide (since guide companies have access to local prices and accommodation charges more for tourists going it alone).
I recommend Nepal Trekking Planner for any treks in the Himalaya. They organized a custom trek for my partner and me for under $100 a day, all-inclusive. Nepal Trekking Planner treated us like family and I’ll never forget the experience.
Related: The Best Treks in Nepal
19. Arrive for a Nepali Festival
If there’s one thing the Nepalese people know how to do it’s throwing a stellar party. Attending a festival in Nepal is an awesome way to experience Nepalese hospitality and immerse yourself in the local culture. As a predominantly Hindu and Buddhist country, there are plenty of holidays to get excited about including:
- Dashain. A 15-day long festival celebrating the triumph of good over evil. It is the biggest festival in Nepal and celebrates community ties.
- Krishna Puja. A world-famous festival in late Autumn that celebrates the lives of dogs, crows, and cows.
- Deepavali. A famous Hindu festival that celebrates light. Many beautiful light and firework displays.
- Holi. A spring-time festival that is a celebration of color. Often celebrated by throwing colorful chalk at one another.
20. Climb a Trekking Peak
For the fit, adventurous individual, there is an array of tall, peaks to climb for beginners in Nepal. Called, “trekking peaks” these peaks don’t require the use of special mountaineering skills outside of walking in crampons. You can add these peaks onto a variety of itineraries or you can opt to make them their own adventure. You’ll undergo training for walking in crampons and on a rope team. Some of the most popular trekking peaks in Nepal are:
- Island Peak
- Mera Peak
- Lobuche East Peak
This adventure is a step up from trekking, usually requires an overnight stay in a tent on the mountain, and goes up to higher elevations than trekking.
21. Go on a Mountain Yoga Trek
Yogini’s rejoice! You can combine your love of hiking with a daily yoga and meditation practice from trained yoga teachers. Feel the power of yoga and meditation in the mountains. Almost any trekking route can be done as a yoga trek for a small additional fee.
How to Get to Nepal
The easiest way to arrive in Nepal is by plane via an international flight. You’ll fly into Tribhuvan International Airport. The customs line is a little confusing, and you’ll need to pay a permit in advance. First, head to the computer kiosk, then to the payment station, then to the custom’s official.
It is possible to pass into Nepal by road via northern India, but the process can be a bit tedious and long.
When’s the Best Time to Visit Nepal?
Realistically, you can visit Nepal any time of the year, but there are certainly preferred seasons. If you plan on spending any time in the mountains, you’ll want to visit either between March and May (climbing season, but the trekking is less crowded) or September through November (trekking season. Slightly warmer weather, but more crowds).
It is possible to visit Nepal in the winter, but typically temperatures and weather conditions are too cold for any high-altitude trekking. Summer is the worst time to visit Nepal since the country is in monsoon and many of the roads and trails become dangerous and impassable.
Overall Nepal is a wonderful country filled with plenty to do and see. You can spend a lifetime uncovering all of the amazing activities in this unforgettable country.