If you are interested to travel somewhere different, how about Nepal? I know many of you are unsure where exactly Nepali is. Or what, if anything, it is famous for, so I’m giving you a taste here. Situated to the north of India but with India also on the east and west borders of the country, it can be confusing, I get that. It also borders Tibet. So to make it simple we can say Nepal sits between India and Tibet! And what is it famous for? Well the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest, is found in Nepal. But what you will take away from any trip there is the friendliness of the people. And the stunning mountain views!
Many people ask if it is possible to visit Nepal during their short vacation period. So I have put together this 10 day itinerary especially for those who want to travel but have a job back home. For those who have more time and want to do the other thing that Nepal is famous for – trekking – then a minimum of one week up to one month is needed on the trail. And that’s a whole different post! Meantime, aside from the mountains, other interesting things to experience in Nepal include a rich cultural heritage, wildlife, and a slower pace of life. Chilling by a lake, exploring interesting villages, tiger spotting in the jungle, visiting ancient temples and Buddhist structures, mountain gazing and hunting down bargains and unique souvenirs are all possible in a 10 day trip.
Best Itinerary for 10 Days in Nepal
Day 01 – Arrival In Kathmandu
Day 02 – Kathmandu City Tour
Day 03 – Kathmandu To Pokhara
Day 04 – Pokhara City Tour
Day 05 – Pokhara to Phedi to Dhampus
Day 06 – Dhampus to Australian Camp to Pokhara
Day 07 – Pokhara to Chitwan
Day 08 – Chitwan
Day 09 – Chitwan to Kathmandu
Day 10 – Departure
Most of us like to be independent and it is possible to cover this 10 day itinerary alone. But I also think most of us have experienced those trips when our abilities have not lived up to our expectations! You are new in town and unless you have the luxury of weeks of vacation time ahead of you, sometimes we just need a helping hand to organize things for us.
Arriving in Kathmandu
That can be chaotic particularly if you have never visited Asia before. I would suggest you take a pre-paid taxi from the desk at the airport. Saves a lot of time and bother and so what if it’s $2 more than the cab on the main street.
Probably most of us will be staying in the tourist area called Thamel. Great place for networking, sourcing information, shopping and nightlife. But, if you are coming from North America or Europe, or pretty much anywhere actually, nightlife in Kathmandu cannot be compared to your home town. Keep in mind most visitors come for trekking so on the whole they are anticipating early mornings or have returned, invigorated but tired and not up to partying all night. Take it for what it is. Good restaurants and a great music scene area but not party central!
You can find all kinds of hotels in and around Thamel. From the budget to the mid-range and up. For those on a bigger budget, there are several luxury chain hotels such as the Marriott. Other luxury hotels built in a more aesthetic style include Dwarika’s and the Shankar Hotel.
What to See in Kathmandu
It’s all about culture! Kathmandu has a rich history – did you know it was once a lake and the valley itself was created when Manjushree, a Buddhist saint, drained the lake? And as you would expect there are plenty of sites to explore which go back hundreds of years.
Often the best way to get to know a city is to do a city tour. Unfortunately Kathmandu is not laid out to accommodate those open-top buses we see in Europe. And within a 10 day timetable, it’s not possible to cover all the great sites on foot. Your travel agent or hotel will organize a tour for you by private vehicle.
There is a set formula to these tours but you can add on, reduce, or request to stay longer at a particular site depending on your schedule.
Looking at the big 5 “must see” sites they are Pashupatinath Temple Complex (Hindu), Swoyambhunath Stupa (unique blend of Hindu and Buddhist which is particular to the Kathmandu Valley), Kathmandu Durbar Square (ancient Royal Palace and surrounding temples), and Patan Durbar Square (another ancient Royal Palace and surrounding temples on the south side of town). These are the 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu. And that pedigree packs a punch!
I would personally like to add in Boudhanath Stupa to this list. This is a very unique place and home to the Tibetan Buddhist community. Many visiting Buddhists who fled, or whose parents fled, Tibet say it’s the nearest thing to Lhasa and the place brings tears to their eyes. This can be linked (because of proximity) with a visit to Pashupatinath, bearing in mind both these locations are best seen early morning or at dusk.
Again, and this is just a personal preference, I would leave Kathmandu Durbar Square off your ‘official tour’ and do this yourself by wandering through the adjoining back streets of Thamel and Ason Tole (vibrant, crowded marketplace). It’s a short walk (20 minute or so) but one which will quickly bring you into a different aspect of life in Kathmandu. A guide can be hired at the square itself. Please remember there is still reconstruction going on after the 2015 earthquake.
Arriving in Pokhara
Moving on from the capital to the beautiful lakeside town of Pokhara can be an adventure in itself! Check the map and you will see there is only 210km between the two towns. But this is the Himalayas! The road winds down out of the Kathmandu Valley, following a river lying far below a steep drop. It will take you 7 to 8 hours to cover this 210km by road! If you love road travel then go for it. You will see mountains in the distance, rivers, and roadside villages. There are tourist buses or you can hire your own vehicle. Either way, time is the same.
If you have the budget or don’t want to spend your holiday on a bus, the flight takes only 20 minutes – with mountain views thrown in for free! And, get the timing right and you could be eating breakfast by the lake with a whole day of freedom ahead of you. From the tourist bus park or the airport it’s a very short taxi ride to Lakeside, where most of the tourist standard hotels are.
What to See in Pokhara
While Kathmandu was all about ancient monuments, Pokhara is all about nature. Pokhara is the gateway to the Annapurna Region, where great treks can be found. Pokhara is the natural starting and ending point for trekkers and as a result has a very laid back atmosphere. It is really hard to tear oneself away from any of the restaurants and cafes along the lake. But it’s well worth it if you can!
I recommend you go explore Davis Falls (thundering waterfall that disappears into a tunnel), and the adjoining Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave which is where the tunnel exits from the falls. Here you will find shrines, including one to Lord Shiva (creator of the Universe in Hindu mythology). End the day with a visit to the World Peace Stupa (hill top views of Pokhara, the lake and the surrounding mountains).
If you love all things mountains or are a keen trekker or mountaineer you should visit the International Mountain Museum which is on the same side of the lake as those places mentioned above. It provides a history of mountaineering and a look into the lives of mountain peoples through displays, videos and hands-on exhibits. Try your hand at rock climbing!
You can cover all of these places easily in one day, or spread them over two days if you chose the flight option. But there is always time for yet another coffee/ cocktail/ cold drink overlooking the lake! Nightlife in Lakeside can be either educational (cultural dances), chilled (dinner by the lake) or wild(ish) in one of the many bars and clubs.
Pokhara to Phedi to Dhampus
Since Nepal is renowned for its trekking and since Pokhara is dominated by a particularly interesting snow-mountain known as Fish Tail, I recommend you do a short two day trek. The one I am thinking about is the Dhampus Sarangkot Trek. A short drive from Pokhara (40 minutes) brings you to Phedi from where you hike to Dhampus. It’s around 7km which will take you 2 to 3 hours. It’s low in altitude and a relatively easy walk which is suitable for your kids, if they are accompanying you. Here you can overnight in the Basanta Lodge, considered a luxury lodge on the trekking routes of Nepal! But at least it is comfortable, clean and offers a great evening experience of sitting round an indoor central fireplace. Heading out the next day you will reach Nau Danda via the Australian Camp in about 2 hrs. Then it’s a short drive back to Pokhara in time for afternoon tea by the lake!
Okay, you might be asking why should you hike when on holiday if you are not really a trekker at heart? Forests, rhododendron flowers (in season), rice terraces, local village life, Himalayan mountain views, and fresh air and exercise. Does that answer the question? Go as slow as you want, take as many pictures as you want. This is your experience!
And if you love trekking or want to push yourself a bit more and have another free day (or are flying in to Pokhara) consider trying the Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek. This trek will take you 3 days and to an altitude of 3,200m. And give you a panoramic view which will live with you forever!
Arriving in Chitwan National Park
Many of us think of Nepal as mountains. But there is a whole strip of sub-tropical terrain to be explored! The most accessible, particularly on a short trip, is Chitwan National Park. There are no tourist buses between Pokhara and Chitwan so your only real option is to hire a vehicle. Yes, there are local buses but unless you are very adventurous I would give those a pass. Trust me, the $100 you will pay for your own vehicle is well worth it! Again the 147km seems much longer and will take you 5 to 6 hours. Much of it doubling back the way you drove from Kathmandu. There is a new flight service Pokhara to Chitwan so that might be worth exploring although it might just operate in high season.
There are a wide range of jungle lodges available. All outside the park as they are not allowed to operate in the park any more. Research their facilities and consider how much time you are (not) spending in the lodge itself before paying out a lot of money.
What to See in Chitwan
Home to the Asian One Horned Rhinoceros, wild elephants, the Royal Bengal Tiger, leopards, deer, and other mammals plus literally hundreds of bird species, this is your chance to go on jungle safari! I built two nights in Chitwan into this itinerary as by the time you arrive on the first day it’s already mid afternoon.
So I admit Nepal is no African safari: no savannas of wildebeests and zebras. But there is the biggest population of rhinos in Asia, exhilarating foot safaris, jeep safaris which take you far into the jungles and grassland, longboat canoe rides, birdwatching, culture dance shows, and a trip to the elephant breeding centre. Riding elephants is now a conservation no no – so if you are offered this option think hard before accepting. Yes it is also a formula ‘jungle experience’ but can you see such things at home? Chitwan is by far the most exciting way to spend your time outside of climbing Everest!
Whatever hotel you choose will organize all the above activities for you and provide a guide (mandatory) for your safety. In the evening, aside from the culture dance show, you can stroll around the town, drop into a bar, or listen to the (probably tall) tales of your guide. Some hotels offer massage facilities and/ or have a swimming pool.
Back to Kathmandu
By road it’s another 5 to 6 hours, by flight around 20 minutes. Which option you choose will determine how you spend the rest of the day in Kathmandu!
Bus rides can leave some people feeling drained but if you do opt for that choice don’t fail to make the most of the end of your holiday by getting in some souvenir shopping. If you have time, there is the option of more places to explore – Boudhanath Stupa or Kathmandu Durbar Square if you didn’t cover those on your first day. Or treat yourself to a really nice Nepali dinner which is on offer from several different hotels and restaurants.
So, What Next?
I hope this post was helpful and if it whetted your appetite to go to Nepal or to find out more about visiting this fascinating country, please drop any comments or questions below. Don’t forget to share with your friends. You never know, they might want to go with you!
Article by Pradeep from www.traveloutset.com