Nepal is a country known for housing 8 of the tallest 14 mountain peaks above 8,000 meters in the world. The Himalayan landscapes and unique regional cultures, food, and languages are something to truly behold. Beyond the mountain trekking, there is a true opportunity to get lost in the ancient history of Nepal. There are Hindu and Buddhist temples, lowland landscapes, and endangered wildlife to see and experience. I stayed in Nepal for 3 months and had such raw, wild, and eye-opening adventures. This is the careful curation of an adventure bucket list from my highlights in Nepal.
8 Adventurous Things To Do In Nepal
Go on a Mountain Expedition
There's no doubt that the biggest pull for most visitors to Nepal is trekking in the Himalayas. And there's no arguing that it is as scenic, awe-inspiring, and life changing as its reputation beholds! There are so many options of treks in the country, with many different regions, terrain, and for various skill levels, so do your research! Some of the shorter treks you can do include 1-2 day hikes around Pokhara and Kathmandu, and 3-7 day treks around Poon Hill and Mardi Himal. The most popular of the longer treks include Annapurna Circuit + Base Camp, Everest Base Camp + Three Passes, and the Langtang Trek. Opting to do something more off-the-beaten-track, I chose to trek for 21 days into Tsum Valley to the border of Tibet, then around Mount Manaslu (8,106m), the eighth tallest mountain on the planet! This expedition proved to be the most difficult and incredible thing I've ever done in my life.
Hike to Rani Mahal, the Taj Mahal of Nepal, in the Lowlands
Let's get way off the beaten track here. The Palpa region of Nepal is covered in rolling green hillsides with rice paddies running through its wide valleys. In the lowlands here, there exists a palace preserved from the outer world, which you can reach with no roads. This special place is Rani Mahal, translating to Queen's Palace, and is a 24 kilometer trek (there-and-back) down from the mountain town of Tansen, through the forest, small villages, rice paddies, along a rushing river until the mouth of the gorge meets the Kali Gandaki River. It's peaceful, it's quiet, and it's a unique adventure into the wilderness to reach a massive blue palace situated in such a beautiful landscape.
Read the full blog post: Rani Mahal, the Taj Mahal of Nepal
Experience the Birthplace of Buddha in Lumbini
Down by the border of India is a Buddhist pilgrimage site of the name Lumbini, that is frequented because it is the site where Queen Mayadevi gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama in 563BC. There are massive temples, monasteries, monuments, and a museum that comprise this World Heritage Site. Go in the early morning just before dawn or while the sun is setting to hear monks and worshippers chant around the Mayadevi Temple in the place where Buddha was born. It is worth two days to rent a bicycle and explore the site and relax in the lush, peaceful gardens.
See Rhinos, Elephants, Maybe a Tiger at Chitwan National Park
It's a tumultuous bus ride down to Chitwan National Park in the Terai lowlands from Kathmandu or Pokhara, but to see incredible endangered wildlife, isn't it worth it? You can take a plane down if you're short on time as well. It's best to go during the fall and winter seasons to avoid the monsoon rains, flooding, and also the sweltering summer temperatures in this part of the country. It is HOT! There are opportunities for half-day, full-day, and multiple day hikes into the national park and allow you to see a plethora of wildlife! There are crocodiles, Asian rhinoceroses, and elephants that frequent the river that runs through the northern border of the park. Every so often, tigers are spotted too! Please, don't take an elephant safari while visiting Sauraha. If you don't understand why, please google animal tourism, what the animals go through to be "broken", and educate yourself. Being on foot can let you get closer and be less noisy when approaching some of the larger animals anyway!
Get Lost in Pokhara
With Pokhara being a main hub for trekkers, chances are you will find yourself here in the second biggest city in Nepal. It's becoming known as a hippie haven as it is an incredible place to chill out, read by the lake in one of the numerous cafes, and take in the landscape. If you're feeling adventurous, make sure to venture around the shore of the lake, go up to one of the nearby hill towns for views of the Annapurna range, or head to the numerous lakes, waterfalls, and temples that lie in and around the city. There are hidden gems around every corner here.
Paddle + Swim in Begnas Tal
A lake in the shadow of the Himalayas, can you really ask for more? We visited in October and the weather was warm, sunny, and pleasant and made for perfect rowing and swimming weather on Begnas Tal. You can rent small row boats from the small town where you arrive and take them out until the sun sets in the evening. It is only about an hour from Pokhara, and is both cleaner and less crowded than Phewa Lake, which makes for a much more peaceful experience. And better swimming! Highly recommended as an awesome day trip from Pokhara to get out of the city and into nature.
Cross a Rope Suspension Bridge
They are high. They are long. And only sometimes are they made of durable materials! It seems that the rope suspension bridge is the most popular form of river crossing in Nepal and can range from sturdy steel to wood planks suspended by natural fiber rope. Use your brain and only use ones that look safe, and get out there and cross one of these rope bridges! They aren't so bad, sometimes.
Brave the Crowds at Monkey Temple and Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu
They're busy, they're touristy, but these temples should not be missed! Swayambhunath, or Monkey Temple, is located just west of Kathmandu's tourist district, Thamel, and requires visitors to climb 365 stairs up to the precipice where a magnificent domed stupa sits. There are shrines, temples, and monkeys galore in the temple complex and should be a stop on Temple Run: Kathmandu if you are playing that game. Go at sunrise to avoid the crowds and take some epic photos looking out over the sprawling city and mountains beyond.
Boudhanath is a Tibetan Buddhist stupa, one of the largest in the world, and is designated as a World Heritage Site. It was utilized as a site for Tibetan refugees in the 1950s and now is encircled by over 50 gompas, or convents, that respect this history. You can ascend and walk around the giant white stupa or climb a few of the buildings surrounding the site to get a view over the site. Make sure to stop at these spots on your way in or out of Kathmandu. They're stunning pieces of architectural and cultural history!