Nepal Ultimate Itinerary: Despite looking small on the map, Nepal is practically a large country as the mountains, valleys, poor quality roads, and limited domestic flights pose a challenge. Getting to the most remote and remote corners of the Himalayas, it will take you weeks if not months in Nepal. But if you don’t have that long, don’t worry. You can still see and experience some of the most beautiful and interesting parts of Nepal on a quick, week-long trip. The trick is not to overfill your itinerary, as traffic jams and flight delays are inevitable in Nepal.
Starting from the capital city of Kathmandu, which is home to almost all travelers, this week-long itinerary takes you west to beautiful Pokhara. The two cities could not have been more different, but both traditional and contemporary are representative of different parts of Nepal.
One Week in Nepal: The Ultimate Itinerary
Day 1: Patan
While many travelers stay in the Thamel district of central Kathmandu as there are many hotels and tour offices, a great option is Patan. To the south of the Bagmati River that runs through the Kathmandu Valley, Patan (also known as Lalitpur) was once a separate kingdom, with its own royal family, palace and culture. Nowadays it is part of Kathmandu’s urban sprawl, but it still has a distinct feel and is less frenetic and overcrowded than central Kathmandu. Arriving at Tribhuvan International Airport is as easy as Thamel, about a half-hour taxi drive (traffic dependent).
Patan is home to the indigenous people of the Kathmandu Valley, the ethnic Newars, who speak the Tibetan-derived Newari language, and whose crafts and architectural styles dominate many traditional parts of Kathmandu. In fact, what many think of as traditional Nepalese architecture is actually Newari. Patan Durbar Square is an excellent place to see a living, working examples of Newari culture in the palaces, temples, and townhouses (some converted into guesthouses) that fill Patan’s old city area. The Patan Museum, in an old palace building, provides a stylish and comprehensive introduction to the art and architecture of Kathmandu.
There are many attractive accommodation options around Patan, mainly in renovated townhouses, a short walk from Durbar Square. There are also good restaurants around here, but no nightlife to talk about.
Day 2: Panauti to Namo Buddha Hike
On the second day, head out into the hills around Kathmandu, beyond the eastern rim of the Kathmandu Valley, for some hiking. While it is not possible to go deep into the high Himalayas in a week-long itinerary, you can enjoy some moderately challenging climbs in the mid-hills. When the weather is clear (most likely between November and January) you can enjoy sweeping views of the Himalayas.
A one-day hike between Panauti and Namo Buddha is a good option, as it includes culture, nature, views, and good accommodation at either end (or, you can arrange private transfers to drop you off and take you to someone else). can also be taken to the ends). Panauti is an old Newari town about 20 miles southeast of Kathmandu. It is located at the confluence of the Roshi and Punyamati rivers and has some of the best traditional architecture. There are small locally operated guesthouses or a network of homestays.
From Panauti, 7 miles away, the highest climb of Namo Buddha takes you through villages, agricultural land, and forest areas. Namo Buddha is one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist sites in Nepal, although the stupa there is much smaller and less dramatic than Boudhanath or Swayambhunath in Kathmandu. You can either stay at Thrangu Tashi Choling Monastery guesthouse, the lovely Namo Buddha Resort (famous for its organic vegetarian food), return to Kathmandu/Patan for the night, or visit Bhaktapur, which will take your three days. is the destination.
Day 3: Bhaktapur
In the eastern part of the Kathmandu Valley, 10 miles from the central city, Bhaktapur is another once-isolated state that exhibits some of the best examples of Newari arts, crafts, and architecture in Nepal. The main attractions here revolve around the Bhaktapur Durbar Square and the multi-tiered Nayatapola Temple. Look especially out for the intricately carved Peacock Window in Priest Monastery and Potters Square, where potters layout their pottery to dry in the sun before firing. The city of Bhaktapur was heavily damaged during the 2015 earthquake, but the large temples, fortunately, mostly survived.
Like Patan, Bhaktapur has small, quiet guesthouses that provide a great alternative to staying in busy central Kathmandu. An overnight stay in Bhaktapur will save you from sitting in oncoming traffic in Central City. When dining in Bhaktapur, take note of a thick, creamy, sweet curd called Juju Dhau, which is served in an earthen pot. Bhaktapur is famous for this.
Day 4: Fly to Pokhara
Take off early this morning to fly to West Pokhara. Early morning flights are best because flight conditions are generally better at this time, and also because you will avoid the inevitable delays that result from the knock-on effect of late flights later. Flights take just half an hour to travel 125 miles between Kathmandu and Pokhara, which takes 6 to 9 hours by road. If possible ask for a seat on the right side of the plane, because if the weather is clear, you will be treated to incredible views of the entire Himalayan range through central Nepal.
Pokhara is Nepal’s second city but it couldn’t be more different from the capital, Kathmandu. Situated near Phewa Lake and just a short distance from the Annapurna Himalayas, many travelers love Pokhara for its serene surroundings, clean roads, and air, comparative lack of traffic, adventure sports, and proximity to mountains.
There are many accommodation options in Pokhara ranging from cheap guesthouses to fancy resorts with corresponding price tags. Whichever one you choose, try to get a room on top of the building so you can have unobstructed views of the lake and Mount Machapuchhare (fishtail) when the weather is clear. Pokhara’s lakeside district has many places to eat and drink, including Nepalese, Newari, Tibetan, and a variety of international cuisines.
After arriving, relax in Pokhara and take a walk by the lake, or shop for Nepalese handicrafts. Mahila Kaushal Vikas Sangathan is located in Pokhara and has many shops and outlets in the city that sell beautiful, practical, and sturdy hand-woven items made by local women. Shopping there is an ethical way to get your Nepal souvenirs.
Many of the lakeside restaurants and bars offer happy hour deals in the evening, making it the perfect time to sit down with a drink and watch the sunset over the lake.
Day 5: Active Adventures in Pokhara
Whatever kind of activities you are into, you are likely to find something to suit your interests and abilities in Pokhara.
Less physically active people can enjoy a gentle stroll along the banks of Lake Phewa, which is much paved and can enjoy a gentle boat ride on the lake. The International Mountain Museum in Pokhara tells the stories of the people who have lived and climbed these mountains for centuries.
For the more active, Sarangkot Hill behind Phewa Lake is one of the best places in the world to try paragliding. Beginners can take training in paddling on the lake. Whitewater rafting trips to nearby rivers depart from Pokhara and are suitable for beginners and families alike, as well as more experienced rafters.
Day hiking trails in the hills around Pokhara offer spectacular views of Annapurna even if you don’t have time for the full Annapurna circuit. Highground Adventures’ Zip flyer is one of the longest and steepest ziplines in the world, measuring 1.1 miles long, with a vertical drop of 1968 feet, and the company also offers bungee jumping.
Day 6: Bandipur
Leave Pokhara today and travel back to Kathmandu along the Prithvi Highway, either by private transfer or by tourist bus. But don’t go to Kathmandu today at all. Stop for a few hours’ drive from Pokhara and take a detour up a steep hill to Bandipur.
As you may have noticed in the Kathmandu Valley, the ethnic Newari influence is strong around the capital. But, Bandipur is a rare Newari town that is far away from the valley. Once on the main trade route between India and Tibet, Bandipur’s former wealth can be seen in its elegant brick townhouse and paved main road. Some lovely guesthouses can be found in the renovated mansion. When the weather is clear, the north also offers spectacular views of the Himalayas.
Bandipur is a good place to break the journey between Pokhara and Kathmandu, and you can do nothing but admire the scenery, or take some short walks around the steep hill on which the city is located.
Day 7: Kathmandu
Return to Kathmandu from Bandipur in the morning, and spend your last day in Nepal exploring some of the capital’s sights that you haven’t already. It is convenient to set yourself up in or around Thamel to check out the nearby attractions such as Kathmandu Durbar Square and Swayambhunath Temple. If you visit Kathmandu Durbar Square (also known as Basantpur Durbar Square), you can see that it is similar, but different, from the royal complexes of Patan and Bhaktapur. Hilltop Swayambhunath is also worth a visit, both for the dramatic gold-spirited stupa, but also for the sweeping views of Kathmandu.
Alternatively, if you have an international flight the next day and want to be closer to the airport, you can fit in a visit to Pashupatinath Temple and Boudhanath Stupa. By staying close to one of these major attractions, you’ll be in the right part of town with easy access to the airport the next day. Pashupatinath is the holiest Hindu temple in Nepal, and a major pilgrimage site for Nepalese as well as Indian Hindus. Situated on the banks of the Bagmati River, Hindus believe it is auspicious to die and be cremated here (much like Varanasi in India), so you will see cremations performed all the time. Non-Hindus cannot enter the temples of Pashupatinath, but they are allowed inside the grounds.
Boudhanath is the holiest Tibetan Buddhist site outside Tibet. The area around the huge white dome of Boudhanath Stupa is the Tibetan enclave of Kathmandu, home to many refugees. The stupa is a particularly atmospheric place to visit at dawn and dusk, when devotees make a blank of the stupa, make a clockwise circumambulation, rotate prayer circles, and recite mantras. It gets busy, but just go with the flow and don’t go against the tide of humanity.
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