2021 for me started on such a happy note. I had an opportunity to experience the magical and mystical land of Nepal! A place of idyllic beauty—nature’s paradise. Nepal as a destination has so much to offer and only after visiting the place I realized how underrated as a destination it is. It took me more than 30 years to visit this neighbouring country but now that I have been there, I would go back to this beautiful country in a heartbeat!
Why should Nepal be your next holiday destination?
The right question to ask would be “why not?” After visiting the place, I know for sure that this tantalizing country would have the healing effect one is looking for while taking a vacation. Surrounded by snow-clad mountains and stunning sky-high jagged peaks, absolutely loving and heart-warming locals, a place known for unknown trails, placid lakes and out-of-the-world food options—Nepal is a love-at-first-sight kind of destination. It is also immensely inexpensive making it a super affordable travel option. From backpackers’ hostels to affordable boutique hotels to exotic resorts—you can take your pick depending on how much you want to spend on your vacation. If you love experimenting with food and exploring cuisines—Nepal has authentic Nepali, Tibetan, Bhutanese, Chinese and Thakali cuisines to offer among others. Nepal is also a paradise for adventure junkies and outdoor lovers because it has amazing adventure sports options like bungee jumping, paragliding, zip-lining, river rafting, trekking among others.
The two cities I visited were—Kathmandu and Pokhara. On one hand, Kathmandu is the capital city, buzzing with people and crowd, also a city of beautiful monasteries and temples, and on the other hand, Pokhara is a quaint little town and an antidote to the hustle-bustle of Kathmandu. Together they make for a perfect vacation offering you the best of both worlds.
Pokhara is a quaint town stretched across the shores of Phewa Lake. The lake is dotting with vibrant and colourful paddles and rowing boats—it’s a beautiful sight to behold. The scenic landscape of snow-capped Annapurna range, surrounding hills, a beautiful temple in the middle of the lake, and perfectly still and transparent water of the lake would provide you with the peace and quiet you need on a vacation. The lakeside has innumerable cafes offering good food, sheesha, drinks, hot beverages, live music et al. You could also rent a cycle and cycle your way around the lake.
The sunrise tower at Sanrangkot is a 25 minutes’ drive from the centre of the town. It’s considered to be one of the most popular viewing points in Pokhara that offers spectacular views of the Annapurna peaks, mesmerising and enchanting sunrise views. We woke up at 5 am to reach the viewing point on time. During the sunrise, the peaks were tinted with delicate hues of gold and orange. Watching the sunrise at Sarangkot was just worth it and should be added to your must-go places in Pokhara.
To my surprise, I got to know that Pokhara is a heaven for adventure activities. If you are an adventure junkie and outdoor lover, Pokhara is the place for you! I was so happy to have discovered High Ground Adventures. They have trained professionals, quality adventure activities, great safety standards, and the best technologies. The cherry on the cake is that the activities they offer are also affordable. I tried the most thrilling and exciting adventure activity—Bungee Jumping that was always on my bucket list! My jump from their 72-meter tower was a once-in-a-lifetime thrill I have ever experienced. They also offer Tandem Bungee for couples. How cool is that! I did zip lining with High Ground Adventures as well which is one of the tallest, longest, and steepest ziplines in the world. It will be amongst the most memorable things you can do in Pokhara. The view of Pokhara from the top while paragliding is something that’s etched in my heart forever!
Recommended adventure experience: High Ground Adventures (@highgroundnepal)
Prices: Starting at INR 4000 per person per adventure
The lakeside road in Pokhara is buzzing and peppered with numerable coffee shops, cafes, pubs and bars. Most of them have some really good food, amazing and soothing lake view, artsy interiors and would guarantee you some good times! Some recommended cafes to visit would be:
BYANJAN: An absolutely recommended café for brunch. The lake view is to die for, the interiors in white and blue add sass and flair to the atmosphere. The chicken thukpa here is authentic and a must-try.
Café Boomerang: This café runs a Nepalese Cultural Folk dance program every evening. You can enjoy this cultural side of Nepal alongside a candlelight dinner at their backyard Garden.
Paradiso: This sports bar is boisterous and buzzing with live rock music. A perfect place to watch ongoing sports on the big screen along with some great cocktails and mocktails.
Planet Purple Café: – By the lakeside, this open café has the most beautiful view of the lake and the open seating helps you absorb the positive and soothing vibes of Pokhara. How amazing it is to enjoy a great dish of momos here! Highly recommended.
A pretty and extremely neat boutique hotel in Pokhara with a view of the Annapurna range to die for. The red bricks with which the hotel is built gives it a super vintage feel. The terrace has an infinity pool offering views of the mountains of glory. The rooms are comfortable and cosy. It’s situated in the heart of the town by the lakeside making it a desirable hotel to stay. The bonus was their breakfast platter that was delectable! Their restaurant café is Instagrammable! I spent two nights here and absolutely loved it. Highly recommended.
Kantipur is a beautiful and aesthetically constructed property that has stoned cottages and bungalows with modern interiors. Anyone and everyone would fall in love with the property. They also offer authentic Nepalese hospitality and meals which is worth experiencing. I stayed in their suite room which also had two balconies and clearly was one of the most beautiful rooms I have ever stayed in. For lunch, I had their simple Nepali set which one should definitely try. The breakfast was served in their garden in the middle of the property guaranteeing a lovely view of the hotel in this pleasant winter weather. A highly recommended place to put up while in Pokhara.
From the laid-back vibes of Pokhara to the burgeoning crowd and busy streets—welcome to the city of Kathmandu!
Swayambhunath is an ancient temple also called ‘The Monkey Temple’. There are more than 300 steep steps that lead you to the top of the temple which gives incredible panoramic views of the city. The architecture of the temple is also extremely beautiful, it has aesthetic spots and corners and of course monkeys all around.
The Pashupatinath temple is a world-renowned Hindu Temple visited by believers and Hindu pilgrims from all over to worship Lord Shiva. The whole temple complex is huge and sprawling and an extremely positive place. The temple is also known for its public cremations that happen on the riverfront within the temple.
Boudha Stupa is another Buddhist temple and one of the tallest Stupas in Kathmandu that is worth a visit.
Thamel is in the heart of the city and known as the city center. There are multiple food joints to visit here, it’s the busiest street in Kathmandu, a narrow alley buzzing with shops and street vendors. Other than souvenir shops, authentic and continental restaurants, budget, and fancy hotels—it is also home to all the trekking and travel agencies making it a pre-base camp for trekkers and mountaineers. While here some of the must-try things to do and places to visit would be:
Document Related: If you’re an Indian travelling to Nepal, you do not need a VISA. All you need is either a valid passport or a valid election card.
Currency Update: Also note that none of your Indian credit and debit cards would work in Nepal, so it is advisable to carry cash on hand. They can be exchanged for Nepali currency at various exchange outlets. Some restaurants, hotels, and shops also accept Indian currency. The current rate is 1 INR = 1.6 Nepalese Rupee.
COVID 19 Guidelines: Due to COVID-19 it is mandatory to have a negative RT PCR report in order to enter Nepal and you need the same while returning back to India. The test should have been carried out within 72 hours of your flight. In Kathmandu, the test can be conducted at Star Hospital—it’s reliable and affordable.
Climate Update: The weather in Kathmandu would be anything between 18 degrees Celsius to 2 degrees Celsius. The weather in Pokhara would be more or less similar. Make sure to carry your winter clothes.
Affordable Flight Tickets: A one-way ticket from Delhi to Kathmandu via Nepal Airlines would cost around 5-6k INR one way per traveller. The flights between Kathmandu and Pokhara can be booked via local airlines Buddha Airlines or Yeti Airlines that would cost around 1.5k INR one way per traveller.
All in all, my trip to Nepal was soul-satisfying. I enjoyed the mountain lifestyle to the hilt. I will always cherish the little moments I spent there and I can without a doubt say that Nepali people are the humblest and most heart-warming people welcoming you to their country. Traversing their beautiful land and mountains was life-affirming and I have come back refreshed, happy and inspired. I would any day trade for a mountain lifestyle because I have for sure left a part of my heart in the hills.