Secrets of Nepal's Most Explored Towns
Though Nepal is known for her mountains, urban areas provide visitors feasts of cultural and culinary delights. Since most travelers have limited time to spend in the main cities, we set out to uncover hidden treasures demanding to be explored. Whether you find yourself with an extra day in Nepal’s developing capital Kathmandu or arrive early in Pokhara, the lakeside hotspot of hippies and fashionistas, enjoy some of our favorite – and unique – travel experiences.
1. Warm up on indoor rock
Before you set out on the trails, get some climbing practice in at one of Kathmandu’s many indoor rock faces. Adventure centers have popped up around the city, appealing to residents and visitors alike. The Kathmandu Sport Climbing Center attracts professionals and novices with routes and problems of all levels and ability, and Astrek Climbing boasts Nepal’s highest artificial wall. Check out the happenings at the newly opened Outdoor Adventure Center Nepal; in addition to an indoor playground, the center organizes events and festivals celebrating outdoor sports.
2. Try Laping
With roots in China, this warming bowl of flavorful noodles has become synonymous with Tibetan culture. Look for Tibetan khaja ghars surrounding the most-visited temples, Boudha and Swayambhunath. You’ll see photos of thick stews advertising the special. The dish is spicy and will warm you from the inside out. Laping is unique to Nepali communities with origins in Tibet and is a “must-try” while you are in Nepal!
3. Find the Garden of Dreams
Folded into the outskirts of bustling Thamel, Garden of Dreams is a hidden oasis carved into the city – and easy to miss. Thick brick walls block out noise from the streets, and manicured gardens offer a quiet reprieve from an often-oppressive cityscape. With an attractive outdoor café, visitors can enjoy rich slices of chocolate cake and creamy lattes among the garden’s greenery.
4. Catch world-class musicians
The entryway is small and is easily passed by, but those who sleuth their way to the top of Jazz Upstairs will be richly rewarded. Diplomats and locals sit side-by-side at wooden tables for live sets, and the house is packed by 10pm. Music enthusiasts will also appreciate Jazzmandu, a music festival held annually with artists from all over the world.
5. Visit a farmer’s market
Farmers and art markets have become regular events around the city. Local artisans sell baked goods, French cheeses, and organic jams; the sales have become a meeting point of Kathmandu’s elite, expats, and curious travelers. If you find yourself in Kathmandu on a Saturday morning or Wednesday night, stop by the farmer’s market at Le Sherpa.
Only a thirty-minute flight from Kathmandu (if there are no delays!), Pokhara is a traveler’s dream: Adventure, discovery, relaxation, and a variety of restaurants to choose from. Formerly a quiet trekking town, Pokhara is now a cauldron of luxury and trends with well-preserved viewpoints on the outskirts of the city.
1. Explore Matepani Monastery
Get out of the tourist center Lakeside and make your way through city center, past Mahendrapool, and into the Matepani neighborhood. Founded by the Manangi tribe, the Matepani monastery is perched on a hilltop, and the intricate details of the temple columns delight tourists and neighborhood residents. Time your visit to join the monks for one of their prayer ceremonies or enjoy resting in the temple’s courtyard while gazing at the fishtailed peak of Machhapuchhre.
2. Have a drink at Dunga
Skip Busy Bee, the restaurant listed in all travel guides, and make your way to Dunga, the latest nightspot in Lakeside. Locals and tourists file into the nautical-themed restaurant for live music and drink specials, and a team of talented photographers captures photos to post on Facebook. With warm lighting and earthy colors, even the most haggard trekker looks like a star. By the end of the night, you’ll have made friends with a local eager to give you their own tips of things to do while visiting Pokhara.
3. Venture to Begnas
Reachable by bus or by car, Lake Begnas is the alternative to Fewa Tal. Fisheries, organic coffee shops, and high-end resorts make for a quieter day excursion or overnight trip. Perched above the shores of the lake, Begnas Lake Resort is the perfect scenic viewpoint for Mo:Mo (Nepali dumplings) and espresso. Higher up a nearby mountain, Rupakot Resort offers views of the full Annapurna range.
4. Capture sunset at Pumdi Bhumdi
Across the well-known and often-crowded Sarangkot, the white temple of the World Peace Pagoda is nestled above Pokhara. The road to reach this area is off-road and unpaved, so you’ll need to rent a motorbike or hire a Jeep, but we promise, it’s worth it. This area is a surreal viewpoint for morning sunrises and dreamy sunsets. Homestays in Kalabang and the plush Raniban Retreat offer bird’s-eye views of Lakeside, Fewa Lake, and the Himalayas. Pack a bottle of wine, head to the Pumdi Bhumdi tower, and don’t forget your camera.
5. Go flying
Local operator High Ground Adventures manages transportation to their zipline and bungee-jump platform in Hemja, a predominately Tibetan community set apart from Lakeside’s tourism center. The zipline ride lasts around two minutes, cutting through dark forests and rolling foothills. After your thrill, enjoy refreshments at their café or visit a nearby Tibetan camp or Buddhist monastery.
Pokhara is one of those places you could spend a week or more, easily, and lose track of time. With Movie Gardens and coffee shops, we’re sure you will enjoy your time by the lake.