Kathmandu in 1000 faces, Nepal

Treasures of Nepal (Kathmandu-Chitwan-Pokhara)

Nepal is a small kingdom sandwiched between its powerful neighbors India and China. Nevertheless, Nepal certainly has something to show the world – on its territory you can find almost every conceivable landscape that can make any traveler’s head spin. Ancient cities, mountain villages, dense forests, green plains and clear lakes. The pride of Nepal is its mountains, the Himalayas – eight of the fourteen highest peaks in the world are located here, making Nepal an ideal place for mountain hiking and climbing.

In the twenty-first century, Nepal remains one of the few places on earth where the spirit of modernity is still not so strong, and in some places not at all. A journey here is a journey to the origins of the Earth, to its original timeless essence. There are almost endless opportunities for outdoor activity and communion with nature: trekking, safaris, rafting on violent rivers and much more.

Whether you venture into the wilds of the jungle on foot or on horseback on an elephant, dive into Nepal’s rivers on a raft or simply lie on the ground, gazing spellbound at the Himalayan stars and mountain peaks, know that you will have an experience to remember for a lifetime.

Trip Features:

Duration: 7 nights / 8 days

– Ancient Kathmandu – Elephant safari in the wilderness of Asia’s best national park Chitwan – Beautiful Pokhara Valley – Stunning views of the High Himalayas

Trip itinerary

Day 1. Arrival in Kathmandu

– Arrival at Kathmandu International Airport, Tribhuvan. Meet your guide, help with customs and luggage pickup. – Transfer and accommodation in the hotel of the chosen category. – Rest after the flight. – Lunch at the hotel. – Short briefing and reception of the introductory information about the trekking program. – In the afternoon free time. – In the evening welcome dinner and national entertainment show. – Overnight in a hotel in Kathmandu.

Day 2. Sightseeing in Kathmandu

– Morning: Breakfast at hotel. Meet your guide and leave for a full day excursion to see the main sights of the city.

Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal, every visitor comes to marvel at the hundreds of temples, thousands of statues and filigree wood carvings. The original inhabitants of the Kathmandu valley, who still make up the majority of the population, have developed their own architectural style and perfected the wood carving and metalworking here. The maelstrom of people, bicycles and carts is as impressive as the kaleidoscope of temples, colors and smells.

– A visit to Durbar Square and the Old Royal Palace with its many structures, temples and pagodas, Hanuman Doka Palace.

Durbar Square with its old temples and palaces represents the religious and social life of the population. It was here that the kings of Nepal were crowned and the solemn celebrations after the coronations took place.

– Excursion to the temple of the living goddess Kumari, which is also located here in Palace Square.

– After visiting the Palace Square of Kathmandu, you proceed to the Swayambunath Stupa, also known as the Monkey Temple.

Swayambunath is a famous stupa located on the outskirts of Kathmandu. Around the stupa are several Tibetan monasteries of different schools and trends. Swayambunath is also revered by Hindus, who have a small sanctuary near the stupa. The stupa is located on a high mountain to the west of town. To climb it, you have to overcome 365 steps – the number of days in the year. The sides of the stupa face different parts of the world.

The temple grove on the slopes of the mountain is home to a large number of wild monkeys, which are fed to pilgrims and servants of the temple. That is why the stupa is sometimes called the “Monkey Temple. On the stupa itself depicts the most ancient symbol – the Buddha’s eyes.

– In the afternoon visit to the temple complex of Shiva Pashupatinath, located on the banks of the holy river Bagmati.

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Pashupatinath is considered one of the most important holy temple of Shiva in the world and is one of the main attractions in Kathmandu. It is dedicated to the god Shiva in the guise of Pashupati, the king of animals, or otherwise the lord of living beings. “Pashupatinath” comes from three Sanskrit words: “Pashu” (animal), “Pati” (protector), and “Nath” (lord). Every day thousands of pilgrims from all over the world, mostly from Nepal and India, come to Pashupatinath. After the tour return to the hotel. Rest.

– Dinner in one of the restaurants in the city. – Overnight in hotel in Kathmandu.

Day 3. Kathmandu – Chitwan transfer (travel time: 5 hours, distance 186 km).

– Early breakfast at hotel. Gathering and preparing for departure. – Transfer by car (travel time about 5 hours) to Chitwan, Royal National Park located 186 km from Kathmandu.

Your journey will take you through scenic areas along the modern Prithvi Highway, named after the first king of Nepal, Prithvi Narayan Shah.

Upon arrival at the park, meet biologists studying the nature of the park. Chitwan National Park covers a vast area of 400 square kilometers in the low forested hills. Known for the beauty of the snow-capped Himalayan peaks, the country boasts one of the best national parks in Asia, located on the plains. It is one of the few places in the world where the Bengal tiger and Indian rhino can still be seen in the wild.

Chitwan is home to leopards, bears, monkeys, various species of deer, wild boar, and about 400 species of birds. The park is also home to about 60 Bengal tigers. Chitwan National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the importance of its biodiversity.

– Hotel accommodation in Chitwan Jungle of your choice. – Rest and leisure time. – In the evening, a traditional Nepalese open-air campfire dinner awaits you.

One of the iconic dishes of Nepalese cuisine is Dal Bat, boiled rice and lentil sauce. Combined with a variety of side dishes – vegetables, peppers, onions, meat and more – it’s delicious and nutritious. And Dal Bat Tarkari is a variation of Dal Bat with vegetables. It can be eaten with fruit, spices, eggs and fish, which are abundant in the rivers of the country. The Dal Bat is served on a tin plate which consists of segments in which each component is individually laid out, accompanied by a flatbread.

– Overnight at the hotel in Chitwan.

Day 4. Adventures in the Jungle of Chitwan

– Early rise and morning elephant safari (duration 2-3 hours).

Morning in the jungle is definitely the best time to observe nature and its awakening. Sitting on top of an elephant you will have the opportunity to see rhinos, tigers and other wild animals living in the thick and tall grass at arm’s length.

– Return to the guest house for breakfast. – After breakfast you will visit an elephant farm.

Chitwan contains a very large number of elephants of all ages. You can especially enjoy watching very young, newborn elephants play amusingly between their giant congeners. You can even take part in the elephants’ bath if you like.

– Lunch at the guest house. Free time and rest. After a hearty lunch at the camp you can take a well-deserved siesta or head to the library for information about the history and organization of Chitwan National Park.

– Closer to the evening, you can participate in Park activities such as canoeing, hiking through the park, or bird watching. – Overnight at the hotel in Chitwan.

Day 5. Transfer to Pokhara (travel time: 5 hours, distance 165 km).

– Breakfast at the guest house. Gathering and preparations for the departure. – Transfer by car to Pokhara, a town in central Nepal. – Arrival in Pokhara valley and accommodation in hotel of chosen category.

The town of Pokhara is located 200 kilometers west of Kathmandu, in a quiet valley at an altitude of 827 meters above sea level. This second most popular city in the country attracts travelers with its picturesque scenery and proximity to the major peaks of Nepal – Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Manaslu and others. Pokhara is located on the very beautiful Feva Lake, and several major Nepali treks start here, including one around Annapurna.

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– Lunch at the hotel and rest after the transfer. – In the afternoon, a short sightseeing tour of the city and a tour of the main attractions, including the Davis Falls, Seti River Gorge, Bindabashini Temple and the Tibetan refugee camp.

Pokhara’s history began essentially in the second half of the twentieth century due to the lack of modern roads. The journey from the capital of the country to Pokhara took one or two weeks on foot or by mule through rivers and gorges. Until the late 1960s, only a handful of Western travelers ventured to make the grueling journey here. Those who did dare, they compared the city to Shangri-Loi-a fictional land described in the fiction writer James Hilton’s short story “The Lost Horizon.

– Dinner at a restaurant in Pokhara. – Overnight in hotel in Pokhara.

Day 6. Pokhara and trek to the Peace Stupa

– Breakfast at the hotel. – Transfer by car to the place Dam Side, where the trail to the Peace Stupa starts.

A short hike awaits you – the Peace Stupa is located at an altitude of 1100 meters, on the beautiful tree-covered top of the Andu Danda hill. The ascent is quite steep, but does not require any special physical skills. The trekking duration is 1 hour.

– Picnic lunch not far from the Peace Stupa.

You will spend a few hours on the amazing surroundings and the views from the tops of the hill and then descend to the south shore of Feva Lake. A boat will be waiting on the shore to take you to the Barahi temple, located on a small island in the middle of the lake.

The ancient goddess Ajma, to whom the Barahi temple was dedicated in ancient times, was considered one of the goddesses who was reincarnated from the goddess Oakti. The Feva Lake surrounds the temple and gives it an unprecedented romance and mystery.

A small islet in the lake is practically the base for the temple. According to legend, the temple was also built in honor of the god Ajim, who patronized the female spirit. Reincarnation in those days was considered a miracle and the embodiment of new lives. The temple conceals a lot of mysterious and enigmatic stories and legends, which say about the change of souls and moving into other bodies.

Weather permitting, you can watch the stunning panoramas of Fishtail Peak and the Annapurna massif.

Machapuchare is a 6,998-meter-high mountain that is part of the Annapurna mountain range in the Himalayas. The mountain owes its name “Fishtail” to the shape of its two peaks, which, when viewed from the west, form a figure resembling the tail of a giant fish. The mountain is revered by the local population as the home of the god Shiva, and the snow feathers are thought to be the smoke of his divine essence.

– Return to Pokhara. Free time and rest (if you wish, you can walk to the picturesque lakeside market). – Dinner in one of the restaurants of the town. – Overnight in hotel in Pokhara.

Day 7. Return to Kathmandu

– Breakfast at hotel. Preparing for departure. – Transfer to Pokhara airport. Flight from Pokhara to Kathmandu (flight time about half an hour). Optional transfer to Kathmandu by car (approx. 8 hours). – Transfer and accommodation in the hotel of the chosen category. – Lunch. All day today is free time to spend at leisure, souvenir shopping or gathering. – In the evening you will have a farewell dinner in one of the restaurants in Kathmandu. – Overnight at the hotel in Kathmandu.

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Day 8. Departure home – Breakfast at the hotel. Preparing for departure. – Arrival on time at Tribhuvan airport. Departure from Kathmandu.

Cost

The listed cost is the cost per person in dollars (USD) assuming double occupancy, including all government taxes.

Kathmandu

Nepal’s capital is for most tourists a transit city, which is what it was for me at first: a short stopover between trips around the country. But in a couple of such stops, it transformed from a stopover into “my home city of Kathmandu.” When I first came here (with no experience of traveling in Asia), it was dirty, cluttered, chaotic, unsettled, with rigid rules and rituals. And it was frightening, repulsive. But after India, Kathmandu no longer seems so wild to me, but calm, quiet and loyal to tourists.

Located in a valley surrounded by the mountain ranges of the Himalayas, the capital of Nepal will be the starting point for a multi-day trip to the Himalayas. But Kathmandu itself has much to offer the traveler. Two thousand years of history, interweaving of traditions of different peoples and religions, isolation from the outside world until the middle of the last century has created an extraordinary image, which is worth getting to know gradually, savoring every discovery.

This is why it is dangerous to take a return ticket with an open date, you can linger here for a long time.

How to get there

The easiest way to get to Kathmandu is by plane, and the most interesting, colorful and memorable, in my opinion, is by bus, and I will definitely repeat this route!

By plane

There is no direct flight to Kathmandu from Moscow (as well as from other Russian and European cities); therefore you have to make long (5 to 50 hours) connections to Delhi, Sharjah or Dubai. All in all it will take you at least 11 hours to get to Kathmandu and make connecting flight. For me, the most pleasant stop is in the Indian capital: the spacious and half-empty transit zone has sun loungers, while in Sharjah you have to jostle with the same Nepalese returning home after the shift in the UAE.

There are several flights a day, so the choice is mainly determined by the price.

Relatively cheap tickets (about 400 USD for the whole flight Moscow – Kathmandu) are found during sales on Arabian (AirArabia, Etihad Airways) and Turkish airlines (Turkish Airlines). Another option is to take a discount ticket to Delhi (from 270 USD) and from there take a 2-hour flight to the capital of Nepal with Indian airlines (IndiGo and AirIndia, about 130 USD).

You can also find the ticket prices here.

How to get from the airport to the center of Kathmandu

The International Airport of Kathmandu, Tribhuvan, is located 5.5 kilometers away from the tourist area of the city, Thamel. The best way to get there is by cab (6.6 USD, 700 rupees).

You will see the cab ordering counter in front of the exit of the building. Even if you miss it, the Nepalese will tell you.

As an exotic, you can take a bus ride whose stop is slightly away from the main airport exit. But public transport in this direction is very crowded, and such a ride is unlikely to be a good start to getting to know Kathmandu. I advise leaving this ride for a cross-town ride.

By bus

The journey by land to the capital of Nepal is longer, but, in my opinion, much more exciting. There are direct buses from Delhi, Varanasi, and China, but it sounds like a tedious and hassle-free trip to me. The experience of such a trip is described here.

So, returning from India to Nepal, I chose a prefabricated itinerary, diluted with intermediate stops at interesting places.

You can enter the country through 8 border checkpoints, but the most popular among tourists on the border with India: through Belahiya. From my own experience, I can say that this crossing is not as scary as they scare on the forums, even for an independent traveler. Overnight train ride from Varanasi to Gorakhpur (3 USD for 3rd class with air conditioning), a couple of hours by local bus to the border (0.6 USD) with local and colorful foreigners, 500 meters on foot along the busy shopping street in a stream of trucks and people, and you are met by smiling Nepali customs officers in national topi caps. Then take a rickshaw to the bus station, where you take a bus or jeep to Kathmandu or Pokhara (from 6.6 USD).

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I had another option and stopped for a while in Lumbini, the place where Buddha was born.

The main thing is to plan the route in a way to be at the border in the first half of the day, because it is not the most pleasant place to spend the night.

Almost all tourist buses arrive at the new Gangabu Bus Park, from where you can take a cab to Tamel for a maximum of 4.7 USD (500 rupees). Or to Patna Park, which is even closer to the tourist area.

One of the nice things about traveling to Nepal is that you don’t have to worry about a visa. It is issued immediately at the border after filling out a form and paying a visa fee (from 25 to 100 USD). Customs control is minimal, in Belahiya I did not notice it at all.

Details on getting a Nepalese visa and other options on how to get to Kathmandu, in the review article.

When is the season. When it’s best to go.

The climate of the Kathmandu Valley, located at 1200-2300m altitudes, shattered my ideas about the weather in Asia. Moderately continental in the lower zones, it changes to subtropical and alpine as you gain altitude in the mountains.

The average summer temperature in Kathmandu valley ranges from +28 ° C to +30 ° C, in winter it is +10 ° C.

The best time to go, especially if you are not limited to the capital sights and are going to the mountains, is spring (March to April) and autumn (October to November). These months are considered the high season in Nepal. The daytime temperature is summer by Russian standards (+25 ° C), and the occasional rain ends quickly. In the fall, travelers are guaranteed cloudless skies and gorgeous views of the mountains.

At the same time (in early spring and autumn) you can catch the most colorful festivals: Nepalese New Year, Night of Shiva, Holi, Diwali.

In Kathmandu, unlike the mountainous part of the country, will be comfortable in the low season, that is, in winter and summer.

Kathmandu in Spring

Spring in Kathmandu seemed to me better than our summer: +25 °C during the day and almost no rain. This is the beginning of the high season, so there are already a lot of tourists in the city in early March, which will not prevent sightseeing and the suburbs of the capital, as the bulk of white travelers stay in Tamil.

Kathmandu in Summer

June through September is the monsoon season, but you won’t suffer much from it in Kathmandu itself.

I’ve noticed that Nepal’s rains don’t compare to our lingering ones: they end quickly, though they turn the streets into canals.

Kathmandu in Autumn

Autumn is notable in Nepal for its clear and cloudless weather, which provides perfect panoramas. I consider it the best time to trek, including the Kathmandu Valley. In terms of temperature, it’s still summer (+21-23 °C on average)

Kathmandu in winter.

Winter should not scare the Russian traveler: daytime temperatures are unlikely to drop below +12 ºC. At night, however, sometimes it reaches 0 ºC, which is uncomfortable in Nepalese homes without heating. I was saved by a sleeping bag, blankets and heaters (when there is electricity in town).

Kathmandu – weather by month

Districts. Where it’s best to live

Choosing a hotel in Kathmandu depends on budget, travel plans, available time, and probably experience and willingness to be adventurous.

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If you are in Asia for the first time, are going to equip before trekking, or want to have fun with foreigners, I think it is better to look for a hotel in Thamel.

For a quiet, relaxing break go to Boudha or Patan.

If you want an overnight stay before heading into the mountains, choose hotels near the airport or Gangabu Bus Station. I stayed here in between trips to Nepal and didn’t regret it at all. The hotels near the station are new and reasonably priced. After the earthquake, many ghettos moved from Tamel to this area with low rents. On the downside, I would point out the remoteness from the center.

Authentic enough and cheap enough for unpretentious backers are the hostels near the historical center, on Freak Street.

Kathmandu loves tourists, so I can’t say it’s dangerous for a foreigner to stay in some areas. I felt comfortable everywhere during the day. In the evenings in Tamel, downtown Patan and near the Boudnath stupa, I also felt comfortable. It’s another matter that hotels, restaurants and places of interest are concentrated near the mentioned districts, and I didn’t see any reason to stay in the middle of nowhere.

Although the center of the city is Durbar Square, which still has medieval streets around it, the sights are scattered all over Kathmandu. So from this point of view, for me, Bouda or Patan are no less attractive than Tamel, which is closest to King’s Square.

I usually look for hotels on Booking, but you can check if there is a better price here. Those who want to immerse themselves in the local reality, rent private apartments or apartments – more about conditions and prices here.

Tamel

Traditionally, most travelers stay in this tourist area, and some do not even leave its borders. The best hotels in Kathmandu and budget hostels, restaurants serving every cuisine in the world, bars and nightclubs, souvenir shops and equipment stores, travel agencies ready to solve all your questions – everything is concentrated here.

This is the safest place for tourists: I felt comfortable even in the evening during the national holiday.

You won’t become an object of curiosity here. But the farther you get from Tamel, the more surprised the locals look.

The music doesn’t stop until late at night, so if you plan to get a good night’s sleep before an early departure, choose hotels somewhat away from the main shopping streets.

In season, the price for a double room with a shower and minimalist furnishings starts at $10 USD. In winter and summer the same rooms will be about 30% cheaper.

Patan

Nice atmosphere, proximity to historical monuments, no intrusiveness from the locals.

However, prices in the suburbs of Kathmandu in 2016 did not seem low to me compared to Tamel (from 20 USD for a double room in high season).

Bouda

I think the area around the Boudnath stupa, the center of Tibetan culture, would suit those who don’t want to jostle in bustling touristy Tamel.

Tamel or Durbar can be reached by cab or shuttle bus (to Patna Park).

There is nothing for tourists to be afraid of in this area: you will be welcomed with Buddhist serenity.

The prices are nice: you can find a decent double room for about 5 USD.

Prices for vacations

The expensive flight to Kathmandu is compensated by relatively low prices for accommodation and food. True, you won’t find them in the tourist spots. We found prices for locals in the shops and markets for locals, that is on the way to Durbar, Pulchok, Bouda.

So if you want to save money? go outside of Tamel. And do not forget to haggle: in a cab, in the hotel, in a souvenir store – everywhere you can count on a discount.

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