Majority of people I have met from all over the world have more or less the same conception of Nepal. Whenever I tell them I am from Nepal, the response is more or less the same.
“Oh, Nepal! The mountainous country. It must be very cold there.”
I am sure, Nepali people living all over the world can confirm this.
Well, Nepal is a small country located in the Himalayas but the area also includes parts of Indo-Gangetic plain in the southern territory. The country can be geographically divided into three regions: Himal (mountains), Pahad (hills) and Terai (plains).
Obviously, if your country has eight of the top ten tallest mountains in the world including Mt. Everest in the country, it’s likely to get the reputation of the mountainous terrain. But Nepal also boasts beautiful landscapes of hills and plains with the lowest elevation of just 70 meters.
Famous for majestic landscapes, culture and heritage, here are top 3 tourist destinations to visit in Nepal that aren’t in the mountains.
1. Kathmandu valley.
The capital city, and the only entry point in Nepal by flight, it’s likely everyone will get there if you visit Nepal. Kathmandu valley is located in central Nepal with an elevation of 1400 meters (approx.). Aside from being the capital, it is also the center of culture, art, religion and history. Take any turn in Kathmandu and you are likely to see a Hindu temple or a Buddhist stupa, taking ‘god is everywhere’ literally. Kathmandu valley is the home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites; Kathmandu Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Swyambhunath stupa, Boudhanath stupa Pashupatinath temple and Changunarayan temple.
Originally, the home of people of Newar culture, Kathmandu valley is now a melting pot of people from all over Nepal. Kathmandu does offer a lot of other entertainment for tourists like nightlife, casinos, restaurants and parks but if you love cultural tours, Kathmandu is the place to be.
Author’s tip: Don’t forget to try the momos!
2. Pokhara valley.
Located about 200 kilometers west of Kathmandu valley, Pokhara is the second largest city in Nepal in terms of population. It is considered the tourism capital of Nepal and is very popular among tourist, national and international alike. There are seven lakes in Pokhara valley, of which lakes Phewa and Begnas are more popular and offers boating services. Mt. Annapurna, Mt. Manasalu, Mt. Dhaulagiri and Mt. Machhapuchchhre (Fishtail) can be seen from the city.
Other than the lakes, there is a lot to see in Pokhara like Mahendra cave, Chamero gupha (Bat cave), World Peace Pagoda, International Mountain Museum, Annapurna Natural History Museum and much more. Don’t miss the sunrise from Sarangkot hill. For all the adrenaline junkies out there, you can also try paragliding, bungee jumping, zip lining and skydiving in Pokhara.
Treks to Annapurna base camp and Mustang also starts from Pokhara.
Author’s tip: Batman fans out there, we have the bat cave.
3. Chitwan National Park.
The first national park in Nepal and most popular among tourists, Chitwan National Park is located in the south-central plains of Nepal covering an area of 932 square kilometers. The major vegetation of the park is made up of subtropical deciduous forest trees and grassland (about 20% of area). The park is home to more than 543 species of birds and 68 mammal species. Among other mammals, endangered Bengal tigers and one-horned Rhinoceros are also found in this area.
The small town of Sauraha located on the bank of Rapti river is the entry point to Chitwan National Parks for the tourists. Jeep safari, Elephant safari, Elephant bathing and boating are common tourist activities done in Sauraha. Bird watching is also popular in Chitwan National Park. It’s a paradise for nature lovers.
Indigenous Tharu communities have opened home stays and offer other cultural activities to tourists as well.
Author’s tip: Just go! You might encounter a tiger.
Author – Momish Manandhar