Pokhara

You won’t find anywhere quite like Pokhara. Nepal’s second largest city predominantly features all the traditional hall marks of a large, over populated city in a third world destination but unlike most, Pokhara has a hidden jewel. Tucked away at the Western side of the city you’ll find Lakeside District; a place you won’t want to leave. Lakeside Pokhara is all about the scenery which features a large lake that spectacularly reflects the Annapurna Mountain Range on its mirror surface. On a clear day, the Annapurna’s snow capped peaks can be a holiday highlight. Bordering the lake at every side are smaller mountains which provide a sense of peace and intimacy capturing the serenity of an otherwise bustling city. In the lakeside district of Pokhara you’ll feel like you’re in an alpine village minus the snow. The mysterious quality of the mountain scape, popularity of tourists visiting the region for outdoor pursuits, and the snow capped vistas create the resort village vibe. There is plenty to do at Lakeside pokhara including relaxing lakeside sipping a beer, peacefully enjoying the view. Or hire a small paddle boat and row across the top of the lake, or to the lake edge where you can enjoy a steep hike to World Peace Pagoda. At the top you’ll be rewarded with panoramic mountain views across the Annapurna mountain range, magnificent lake, and through to the city itself. Lakeside Pokhara is the best place to book trekking from, and the lakeside area has plenty of adventure specialist companies, maps and trekking gear available for hire or sale. There are also a number of Nepalese and Kashmir stores selling trinkets and gem stores to enjoy looking at, or heal tired muscles at the hands of one of the many massage therapists in the area.

Annapurna Conservation Area

Chances are that if you’re travelling to Nepal you’re intending to do a trek. The two most popular are the Annapurna Circuit and Everest Base Camp, and while each are the experience of a lifetime, trekking the Annapurna region has a few advantages to that of Everest. The most obvious advantage that Annapurna has is that it can be enjoyed with just a moderate level of fitness because no mountaineering experience is required. A close second to what makes this Nepal trek so special in comparison is that travellers ca do so without the need for a guide, giving plenty of opportunity to self guide your own route with little more than hiking boots, map and minimal trekking essentials.

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Trekking Annapurna takes in the lush green nature of the country, opposed to snowy environment that the popular Everest Base camp involves too. There are many aspects that make trekking the Annapurna region so incredibly special, but the landscape, and sense of remote travelling are up there at the top fo the list. The Annapurna Conservation Area was the first protected area of land in Nepal, pioneering tourism to the country, and signalling Nepal’s reputation as an outdoor adventure destination. Many different landscapes and eco systems thrive within the area, and although there are small tribes residing in remarkably remote areas, the wonderful sensation of independence is a part of what makes this area such a special one.

Thamel

In the heart of Kathmandu is the original Nepal backpacker destination of the 1970’s where anything and everything was possible. Thamel pioneered Kathmandu for travellers with plenty of entertainment, nightlife, and a notorious underworld that promised to remain secret during a travellers escape period. Today Thamel still exudes the essence of a hippyesque undertone complete with the familiarity of a bygone error, dusty narrow streets lined with gem stores and Nepalese style emporiums. Thamel is a place you will get lost within, yet feel comfortably at ease as you notice that at every turn there’s a new discovery. You’ll experience the typical hustle and bustle found in Asia, mixed with an historic infrastructure that includes some of the most authentic Nepalese restaurants and music venues in the country. There’s plenty to see and do here, but sitting back and watching the action is also a thrill on it’s own. Arrive with an intention to move on to more adventure parts of the country, but find it hard to leave Thamel’s charm. A stay at the Kathmandu Guest house in the heart of Thamel is part of the walk down memory lane. At the very least, ensure you stumble up KGH’s trademark iron gates.

Lumbini

The birthplace of Buddha is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and place of pilgrimage in Nepal not only for travellers, but for monks, nuns and Nepalese locals too. Lumbini is located around 4.5 hours drive West of Kathmandu city. The site is home to a complex of historic structures, shrines and gardens, within an archaeological and protected conservation area. Despite being the place where a major spiritual event took place in 600BC, Lumbini can present more of an eerie vibe than peaceful one.

This is largely due to it’s position in a wide open place far removed from where you might expect such a colossal event to have occurred. Stupas, shrines and ancient remains are dotted around a large grass area. Some stupas adorned with the bright Nepalese artwork style and prayer flags seen throughout the country, some give the appearance that maintenance or budget are running low. There are few thoughtfully maintained and a reflection pool mirroring the facade of one such structure. For a ticket fare of 200 rupee you’re free to explore the very place where Buddhism began.

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Chitwan National Park

In 1984 Chitwan National Park achieved World Heritage Status and today it receives around 300 visitors per day. For undisturbed vistas of the Terai region that once reached through to India, this is Nepalese wildlife, flora and fauna at it’s best. For an entrance fee of 1500 rupees you’ll have an opportunity to witness penal tiger, one horned Indian rhino, gharial and sloth bear. The park spans an enormous 900 square kilometres at the foot of the Himalayan Mountain range lending the way to a spectacular Nepalese safari style experience.

Top Hotel Recommendations

Best Lumbini Hotel

Lumbini Garden Hotel is positioned in the heart of Lumbini complex with plenty of space to relax after a day soaking up the essence of Buddhism.

Best Chitwan National Park Hotel

It’s hard to beat Barahi Jungle lodge if you want a magical experience that takes you up close and personal with Nepalese wildlife.

Best Pokhara hotel (lakeside)

Hotel Barahi’s private resort hotel is of the high end of the Nepal spectrum, but encompasses comfort, class and convenience.

Best Annapurna Area Hotel

Trick question. This isn’t the place to go to for a hotel, but it is the place to enjoy guest houses in the remote villages, enjoying local Nepalese hospitality.

Best Thamel Hotel

Undoubtedly Kathmandu Guest House is where any traveller to Thamel must stay to be in the heart of the rush, with bucket loads of history.

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