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5 Places To Visit In Nepal
While Nepal is known for trekking and mountaineering, scores of tourists just drive or fly to cultural, natural and historical places. In thousands of years, Himalayas have crafted beautiful valleys, layers of hills and alluvial planes for Tiger, Rhinos and many other colorful species. Isolated by manifold mountains, 125 ethnic groups developed distinct language and culture within small territory. The vertically rising landscape from tropical to alpine region created diverse eco systems, sheltering the wide verities of wildlife.
Nepal tour is all about exploring the rich culture, Himalayan history and the scenery from the hill station towns. There are tours for everyone ranging from easy to difficult in level based on homestay to luxury hotels. Here are the top five places to visit in your Nepal tour.
Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal since its unification in 18th century. During the medieval time, it was a popular hub along the trans-Himalayan trade route. The fertile valley and the benefit of trade made Kathmandu one of the prosperous cities in the world. The elaborately carved windows, doors, strut and tympanum bedecks the palace wings, pagodas and pavilions. Sunken water spouts are the place to look for master pieces of stone carvings. The whole city is a living museum.
Walking down the backstreets of Old Kathmandu, one can still discover the age old architectural reminiscence and the cultural heritages. Hindus and Buddhists live and practice together. The trans-Himalayan trading route is still a market place busting with colorful spices, vegetables, bronze and copper utilities and local garments. The 1,200 years old wooden pavilion ‘Kasthamandapa’ is what gave Kathmandu its name.
Similarly Bhaktapur and Patan are the other medieval towns with exquisite art and architecture. While Bhakatapur is more Tantric Hindu dominant, Patan is has about 300 Newari Buddhist monasteries. Bhaktapur used to be capital of Kathamndu valley until the 15th century. The town in terracotta and wood carvings, spread in one km radius from its. Bhaktapur is known as the living museum for very little have been changes in lifestyle and architecture of the town since the medieval time.
Patan in the other hand was established by the Buddhist monks fleeing the conflict in India. It is believed that some of the monks carried on the vocational occupation of making artifacts to support rest of the monks keep on practicing. After a while the town became popular for its art and craft and named as Lalitpur, the city of fine art. The artifacts from Patan went to Tibet, China and other neighboring countries. Majority of the households are still artists. Patan is a great place to learn about iconography and architecture.
Pokhara is known as the natural capital of Nepal. Pokhara is an amphitheater of mountains with snow peaks toward north. In valley in the foothills of Annapurna massif possesses three lakes, forested areas and charming villages with terrace farms. Pokhara is base for popular treks in Annapurna.
One of the must to do things in Pokhara is the sunrise view from Sarangkot, 1,500 m. As the early rays of sun touches the snow peaks, the whole horizon bathe into pink, yellow, orange and red. Sarangkot of Pokhara offers one of the best sunrises in the Himalayas.
Don’t forget to do a day hike while you are in Pokhara. Day hike will give you an opportunity to venture into the countryside and get the true insight of Nepal. Day hikes are relatively easier with flexibility in walking distances and difficulty. The most popular day hike is around Australian camp (2,060 m) or to Begnaskot. The shorter day hike goes to World Peace Pagoda, 300 m hillock south of Phewa Lake. The hillock is overlooking at the Phewa Lake and Pokhara valley with the Himalayan background.
Other places to visit in Pokhara are International mountain museum, Tibetan Refugee camp, Bhalam Bridge and Gurkha museum.
Chitwan National Park
The 950 sq km area of the Terai jungle is being protected as Chitwan national park. Chitwan is last enclave of the jungle that once spread from the foothills of the Himalayas till the Gangatic planes. Massive deforestation, hunting and migration endangered the wildlife. It was only in 1973, Chitwan was gazette as the first national park of Nepal. In 1984 Chitwan was declared as UNESCO Heritage sites. The national park has been witnessing the increase in no of Royal Bengal Tiger, Asian Single horned Rhinos and other endangered species. The no of Tigers increased from 50 in 1999 to 120 in 2013.
Chitwan national park is one of the must to visit place in Nepal. There are several safari lodges in the outskirts of the jungle which offers safari packages. The best way to explore the jungle is by walk and jeep. Escorted walk will have more changes of seeing wildlife as it is quieter and you can spend more time in a hide. With Jeep, one can go deeper into the jungle.
Lumbini is the birthplace of Buddha. Limbini was a garden between two kingdoms of Devdaha and Kapilavastu from around the 6th century before the Christ. Buddha was born in the garden while his mother was travelling to her maternal home, Devdaha. Buddha took renunciation when he was 29 and traveled to seek for wisdom. Many kings including 3rd century emperor Ashoka followed his path. At one time 70% populations of India were Buddhist. Downfall of Buddhism started in around 8th century and became worse during the Mogul invasion. All of the palaces and monasteries including the first Nalanda University from the time turned into ruins and buried under the ground. Lumbini was also buried under the debris of several temples built over it. It was only in 1990; Lumbini was rediscovered with the meticulous excavation. The area of 2 X 6 km was protected and developed into a world Buddhist center.
Lumbini tour at present is spiritual destination for all and a great place to contemplate Buddha’s message of peace.
Gorkha and Manakamana
There are several hill stations in Nepal with great view and decent accommodation. Nagarkot and Bandipur are quite popular among the tourists. However the influx of tourists has changed those places to be more like concrete jungle. Gorkha and Manakamana on the other hand are less touristic, historical and spiritual towns offering unparallel view of mountains. Manakamana is the ridge top marked by Hindu goddess temple. Manakamana can be reached by county’s first cable car ride. Two hrs hike along the ridge will lead to the hilltop cave known as Lakhan Thapa cave. The place has got the surreal view of Marshyangdi valley and the Mt Manaslu (8,163 m / 8th highest). One can also walk down to the historical town of Gorkha from the hilltop. This is from where the unification of Nepal begun in 18th century which stopped British from colonizing Nepal.
With long history in the crossroad of Chinese and Vedic civilization, Nepal sheltered several culture and practices. Between eight out of the ten highest mountains in the world and the last enclave of Terai jungle, Nepal has manifold pockets of charismatic valleys and surreal mountains. This is a great holiday destinations for people of all ages and interest.
I am an adventurer from the Himalayas of Nepal. I like trekking and discovering new places. I have a degree in culture and love to read non fiction books. I also write travel journals and blogs.
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