A traveler’s instinct is to always seek the next destination and to push the boundaries on what’s already been seen and experienced. Recognizing that many identify Nepal with just a handful of destinations, we strive to stretch the bounds of a guest’s typical itinerary with a few lesser-visited towns and community homestays. The reward for stepping off the beaten path? Those experiences that truly capture the essence of Nepal.
So where should you go if you’re headed to Nepal in 2020, we’re sharing five of our favorite spots right here:
Just 1.5 hours outside of Kathmandu, this village offers some of the best views of the Himalayas, Everest and Kathmandu Valley. Come for the opportunity to see the sun rise over the majestic mountains from Nagarkot view tower. Stay for the peaceful respite from the city bustle, and the chance to live (if only temporarily) with members of the extended Bastola family at the Nagarkot Community Homestay. Take a yoga class, hike to a waterfall or visit one of the oldest temples in Nepal, Changunarayan Temple, dating back to 464 B.C.
Once a Newar kingdom and Nepal’s capital for several centuries, the old town area of Bhaktapur is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its red-brick buildings, medieval squares, and cobbled alleys, the City of Devotees is meant for strolling. Visit Durbar Square, the 55-Window Palace (now a museum) and several temples, including the 100-foot-tall Nyatapola Temple, the tallest in Nepal. Look for artisans selling hand-thrown pottery and even better, look for signs of one of the many festivals celebrated here.
While Nuwakot was badly damaged in the 2015 earthquake, this beautiful small town is in recovery mode and its Kalika and Malika temples, Durbar Square and the Saat Tale Durbar, an 18th-century fortress are well worth the visit. Stay at the Nuwakot Community Homestay in a local farming village surrounded by green hills and terraced fields for an idyllic retreat. Profits from the homestay are used to support the local schools and guests are encouraged to visit the schools and engage with the local community .
One of the oldest towns in Nepal, Panauti is often considered a day-trip destination from Kathmandu. We suggest an overnight stay at the Panauti Community Homestay to settle into the region’s relaxed pace and to better explore the historic medieval town. The Indreshwar Mahadev Temple is believed to be the oldest surviving pagoda in Nepal. Additional temples, stupas and markets beg to explored in town, but don’t miss a cooking class and lunch at the homestay or Namo Buddha, one of the most sacred Tibetan Buddhist pilgrimage sites. The lush countryside also provides a beautiful backdrop to a six-hour hike through farmland and Tamang villages.
The country’s largest national park is more remote than its popular counterpart Chitwan, but offers excellent wildlife viewing for the Royal Bengal tiger, the one-horned rhinoceros, elephants and many other mammals and reptiles. Stay in the Bardiya Community Homestay with the Danguara Tharu people to learn about the indigenous culture and explore the jungle through a local’s eyes. Alternative accommodations high in a forest watchtower for better wildlife viewing can also be arranged.
While all of Nepal’s destinations are worth a visit in 2020, we hope travelers will jump at the chance to venture a little farther this year and support local people earning their living through tourism in these communities.