Ultimate beginner’s guide for planing a two-week trip to Nepal

The deadly earthquakes that struck Nepal on April 25 and May 12, 2015, not only killed and injured thousands of people, but also wrought a major havoc on religious and historical attractions. Despite the combined efforts of the Government of Nepal and the international community, tourism industry is still suffering.  In this suggested itinerary, we tried to hit up all the remaining historical spots in the country that survived the quake. This is the time when Nepalese need all the possible help. Travel Nepal now!

Things to know before traveling to Nepal:

Language – Nepali is the official language in Nepal. English is taught in schools and is widely used in the country, so do not worry about not knowing local phrases or words. It is, however, recommended to learn some Nepali or dialects specific to that region if you are heading towards rural areas.

Currency exchange – The official currency of Nepal is the Nepali Rupee (NPR). Exchanging money in Nepal is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in Asia. Currency can be changed at banks, airports, authorized money changers and some hotels. Credit cards are accepted in major cities and ATMs are widely available. The best way to get local currency is to use the ATM and withdraw in rupees to get the best rate.

A Nepali Rupee
A bill of 50 Nepali Rupee )CEW / Shutterstock.com)

Safety and security – There is currently no nationwide security advisory in effect for Nepal. Check your country’s travel advisory website to get the most up-to-date information for your personal safety abroad. It is safe to travel in the country. However, it requires special preparations, research and practices, especially for women. Although most visits are trouble free, remain vigilant because petty crimes like pick pocketing and theft do occur especially in major tourist destinations.

Etiquette – Nepal has the largest majority of Hindu population, so it’s important to remember some do’s and dont’s to enjoy a faux pas free journey. Taking photographs outside Buddhist stupas and Hindu temples are allowed. But seek permission while taking photographs inside temples or of religious ceremonies. Many people, especially the ladies, might not be willing to be photographed. When visiting a temple, it is customary to take off your shoes before entering. Walking around the temples or stupas is always done in clockwise direction. Ask for permission before entering a Hindu temple as entrance to some temples, like the Pashupatinath and Dakshinkali in Kathmandu, is strictly prohibited for non-Hindus. Take off your shoes before entering a Nepalese home. Never leave your shoes or sandals upside down. You may accept a handshake offered by a male or female but never offer your hand first to a woman.

Type of tourism – With only 7 days or less, you need to make some hard choices to plan what you want for your trip. The type of tourism in Nepal can be categorized as follows:

Cultural and Historical Tourism – Without going too far, you can certainly visit Nepal’s cultural jewels in Kathmandu Valley. The valley is composed of seven Monumental Zones with three historical palaces within their urban settings (Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur), two Hindu centres (Pashupatinath and Changu Narayan ), and two Buddhist centres (Swayambunath and Boudhanath).

Adventure travel – Nepal offers a wide range of adventure activities such as Paragliding, white water rafting, bungee jumping and rock climbing.

Ecotourism and wildlife tourism – Nepal has several national parks to choose from, an excellent example is Chitwan National Park.

Trekking tour – It is not possible to trek to Everest base camp as it would take 20 days under normal circumstances. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t get to see Mt. Everest in person. Your option now is to take short treks which are mostly Pokhara-based.

Best time to travel – Autumn (between September to November) and Spring (between March to May) are the best seasons for this trip when the weather is highly pleasant and so are the mountain views. However, if one wishes to avoid crowd and enjoy nature then this trip is favorable during the winter (between December to February) as well.

Getting to Nepal: 

A round-trip airfare from New York to Katmandu starts at 806 USD (we checked Google Flights and Tripadvisor, if you need more info on where to find the best priced airfare you can check our guide), from Hong Kong to Kathmandu is about 400 USD (maybe you should consider exploring Hong Kong for a couple of days), from London to Kathmandu a round-trip is about 765 USD and from Sydney (a great excuse to spend few days and discover what New South Wales can offer) to Kathmandu is about 640 USD.

Day by Day Itinerary: Ultimate beginner’s guide for planing a two-week trip to Nepal

Day 1: Kathmandu

Upon your arrival in Kathmandu, check into your preferred hotel / guesthouse either in Kathmandu or Bhaktapur. Stay in Kathmandu if you would like to be near the attractions or stay in Bhaktapur if you like a quieter environment. You may begin your sightseeing tour in the afternoon by visiting some of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites within the city.

Travel Tip: To avoid hassle at Thribuvan International Airport, make sure you have a pen to fill out forms, two passport size photos (make sure you have plenty as you need these for trekking permit, visa extensions if applicable), US dollars and the phone number and address of your hotel / guesthouse.

Where to stay in Kathmandu:

Hotel Mi Casa ( Thamel-29, Tridevi Marg, Kathmandu 44600, Nepal)

Hotel Friends Home (Jyatha, Thamel (Beside Kantipur Temple House), Kathmandu 4600, Nepal)

Dwarika’s Hotel (Battisputali, Kathmandu, Nepal)

Dalai-La Boutique Hotel (Chaksibari Marg | Thamel, Kathmandu 44600, Nepal)

Hotel Tibet International (Boudha, Kathmandu, Nepal)

Gaju Suite Hotel (A One Complex, 3rd and 4th Floor, Thamel Marg, Kathmandu 44600, Nepal)

Kathmandu valley is composed of three ancient royal cities (Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur), two Hindu centres (Pashupatinath and Changu Narayan), and two Buddhist centres (Swayambunath and Boudhanath). However, Kathmandu Durbar Square has sustained severe damage during the 2015 earthquake and only a couple of pagodas have survived. You may explore a little bit in this area and proceed to Pashupatinath Temple where the temple of Shiva is located and considered as one of the most sacred Hindu shrines in the world. Then your last destination for the day is Swayambhunath, one of the sacred Buddhist Chaityas in Nepal. The main stupa at Swayambhunath still stands, with some damage restricted to smaller buildings in the compound.

Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Monkeys at the Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu (Skreidzeleu / Shutterstock.com)

Day 2: Kathmandu

Take an early morning taxi out to Boudhanath Stupa, the largest stupa in Kathmandu Valley and is the center of pilgrimage for Nepalese and Tibetan Buddhists. The surrounding structures appear to be significantly damaged but the 1500-year-old stupa has survived, with reports of cracks in the spire. If you visit early in the morning, you can witness the monks get up around the great stupa. Devotees offer worship by prostrating on the wooden planks. Eat a hearty breakfast before you travel to Patan Durbar Square, 5 km southeast of Kathmandu.

Patan Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal
Patan Durbar Square – a world heritage site (MosayMay / Shutterstock.com)

Travel Tip: Since you will be touring the rest of Kathmandu Valley on this day, consider hiring a taxi. This way you can cover the rest of Kathmandu and Patan in one whole day.

Patan, like its counterpart Kathmandu Durbar Square, is the social, historical, religious and urban focal point of the city. The city retains its old charm and more importantly Hinduism and Buddhism have co-existed here for ages. It is like stepping back in time because the buildings, narrow streets, brick houses and the way people live in this part of Nepal remains as it was hundreds of years ago. The Sundari Chowk (courtyard), as well as the most significant temple in the Durbar Square the Krishna Mandir, have survived. Unfortunately, many smaller pagoda temples have collapsed and cracked.

Day 3: Kathmandu

Water tap at Bhaktapur Drubar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal
Water fountain of ancient Nepalese Kings in Bhaktapur Drubar Square (Nabaraj Regmi / Shutterstock.com)

On day 3, after a filling breakfast, make your way to Bhaktapur Durbar Square, 12 kilometers to the east of Kathmandu. It has been reported that up to 80% of the temples around Bhaktapur Durbar Square are destroyed, including the 18th-century Batsala Temple. Changu Narayan Temple, an ancient temple enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been re-opened to the public. Another attraction you should see is Taumadhi Square, a 5-story pagoda which miraculously survived the 2015 earthquake. Nyatapola Temple also survived and was not reduced to rubble.

Nyatapola Temple stone steps, Kathmandu, Nepal
Guard statue at Nyatapola temple (Oleskaus / Shutterstock.com)

End your day at Siddha Pokhari located outside Bhaktapur Durbar Square. This is a perfect place for sunset viewing where you can get a stunning view of Nepal’s snowy peaks.

Day 4: Kathmandu to Pokhara

On day 4, set out this morning for Pokhara, a trekking gateway to the Annapurna Mountains. The most economical way to get to Pokhara is by taking the Kathmandu Pokhara Tourist Bus. Travel time is approximately 7 hours, which includes breakfast and lunch along the route. Bus leaves daily from Kantipath Bus Terminal in Kathmandu at 7:00 AM and arrives at 2:00 PM in Pokhara. If you prefer to fly to Pokhara – there are regular flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara. The flight is about 30 minutes and one-way ticket costs about 90-110 USD. Check Buddha Air or Yeti Airlines for up-to-date schedule and prices.

Upon arrival, check into your preferred accommodation. You may start your Pokhara tour in the afternoon by taking a boat across the lake and climb up the hill to visit the World Peace Pagoda. This area is also one of the popular spots to view the Annapurna Mountain range. Enjoy a relaxing dinner in a restaurant by the lake.

World Peace Pagoda, Pokhara, Nepal
World Peace Pagoda or also known as Pokhara Shanti Stupa (saiko3p / Shutterstock.com)

Where to stay in Pokhara:

Hotel Middle Path (Lake Side 6 | Center Point, Pokhara 977061, Nepal)

Hotel Crystal Palace (Lakeside | Pahari Path, Pokhara 00977, Nepal)

Hotel Trekkers Inn (Shiva Marga | Lakeside, Gaurighat, Pokhara 061, Nepal)

Temple Tree Resort & Spa (Gaurighat, Lakeside 6, Pokhara, Nepal)

Fish Tail Lodge (Lakeside, Pokhara, Nepal)

Pokhara Grande (Pardi, Pokhara 200, Nepal)

Hotel Landmark Pokhara (Landmark Chowk | Lakeside, Pokhara,Nepal, Pokhara, Nepal)

Day 5: Pokhara

Start your day early at Sarangkot, famous for its sunrise and sunset views of the entire Annapurna Mountain Range and the valleys. It’s best to book a taxi in advance. If you would like to take time marveling at the views then you can opt to walk down back to town. For adventure seekers, Sarangkot is also the jump-off point for paragliding. You can book paragliding in the town of Pokhara (price starts at USD 70). Paragliding is a tandem flight and you will be guided by a licensed pilot. This is another way of viewing the Phewa Lake and the Himalayan foothills.

boats at Phewa Lake, Pokhara, Nepal
Phewa Lake, Phewa Tal or Fewa Lake is a freshwater lake located in the south of the Pokhara Valley that includes Pokhara city (Kristin Ruhs / Shutterstock.com)

Head back to town and continue exploring the town’s landmarks. Go to Devi’s Fall, a mysterious waterfall that flows directly into a narrow and deep canal which has no end. The water comes from Fewa Lake overflow and it reportedly goes in the Gupteshwar Cave which is quite deep. Inside the deep Gupteshwar Cave, a shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva will be found. After lunch, visit the famous International Mountain Museum that records, documents and chronicles the lifestyle of people in Nepal and the mountainous activities since early days. The museum also records the past and present development of mountaineering activities in the world and the Himalayas. Spend the rest of the day at Tibetan Refugee Camp where you can get an insight into Tibetan culture.

Day 6, 7, 8 and 9: Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek

Prayer flags with Annapurna in the background. Poon Hill Ghorepani
Prayer flags with Annapurna in the background. Poon Hill Ghorepani (Kenneth Dedeu / Shutterstock.com)

On day 6, embark on one of the most exciting journey in Pokhara by trekking Ghorepani Poon Hill, one of the most famous short treks in Nepal. In 4 days, you would be able access the stunning viewpoints of Poon Hill, visit local villages, pass through rhododendron forests and see the famous peaks like Dhaulagiri and Annapurna. Although Ghorepani Poon Hill trek can be done DIY-style, you can also join a Small Group Hiking Tour to help boost Nepal’s tourism industry.

A few details about the cost of the Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek:

You will need trekking permits – Annapurna Conservation Area Project Permit or ACAP – 1,000 Rupees (9.30 USD) per person and TIMS Trekker’s Permit – 1,825 Rupees (17 USD) per person. You can get your permits issued ad the Main Tourist Office in Pokhara or from the ACAP office in Ghauri Ghat (both offices are open 10 am – 4 pm, except on Saturday) . Getting the permits should not take more than 30 minutes just do not forget to bring two passport size photos. You can also ask your hotel or guest house host to help you with the permits (of course, expect to pay a small commission… like less than 10 USD).

Guide and porter – The pricing here is very straight forward – 25 USD a day for the guide and 15 USD a day for a porter. There is no reason you cannot do the trek without a guide or a porter – the trail is well marked between the villages and most people along the route speak at least little English. However, it is a good option if you travel alone… it is always good to have somebody to talk to and share the surrounding views of the mountains.

Equipment – A good backpack, even better shoes, down jacket, hat, pants (preferably light-weight ones), sleeping bags, trekking poles (most of the items can be rented from Pokhara) and of course all the personal items, including underwear, shirts, socks, etc. Also do not forget your permits, trekking maps, flashlight, camera and extra batteries.

Accommodation along the route – Accommodation along the route are plentiful but basic… and we mean BASIC. This said, expect to pay 200 to 400 Rupee a night (2-4 USD… yes, this is two to four bucks a night!). If you want a hot shower – expect to pay about 150 Rupee for it (1.40 USD).

Food – Meals range from 300-1000 Rupees (3-10 USD). Of course, it depends   where you are (the higher you go, the more expensive it gets) and on what you eat.

Drinking water – You can buy bottles of water in every village along the trekking route. A bottle of water costs between 80 and 100 Rupee and if you have empty bottles, you can simply refill them for almost half the price. Also, water purification tablets are all-over Nepal. The most popular brand is called Aquatabs and they are extremely easy to use – just add one tablet to a liter of water, wait a little bit and Tah Dah!… it is now safe to drink.

Day 10: Chitwan National Park

After breakfast, say goodbye to Pokhara and head towards Chitwan National Park. This will be a long journey but the views of the river banks and hills are amazing. Bus leaves daily from Pokhara Main Bus Terminal at 7:30 AM and arrives at around 1:00 PM in Sauraha, a small town located just outside of Chitwan National Park. Upon arrival, check into your preferred accommodation.

Travel tip: Find an accommodation with good reviews and book well in advance. There are several accommodations in the buffer zone near the river of Chitwan National Park where you can practically see wildlife from your bedroom window. But keep in mind that staying in this area is more expensive than staying in Sauraha. Also, hotels and resorts are not permitted inside the national park so do not believe anyone claiming their property is inside the park.

Where to stay in Sauhara:

Hotel Parkside (Bachhauli-6, Hattisar, Sauraha, Chitwan, Nepal | Chitwan, Sauraha, Nepal)

Jungle Safari Lodge (Chitwan National Park | Main Street, Sauraha 32909, Nepal)

Royal Park Hotel (Sauraha, Nepal)

Eden Jungle Resort (National Park Road, Sauraha 32909, Nepal)

Green Mansions Jungle Resort (Bodreni, Sauraha 32909, Nepal)

In the afternoon, begin your adventure in Chitwan National Park and marvel at the views of the abundant wildlife. Join an elephant jungle tour on top of an elephant in search for the greater one-horned rhinoceros (also known as the Indian Rhinoceros). The best way to see a Rhino in Chitwan is to avail a full day tour. Tours are done early in the morning and late in the afternoon when they come out. So, if you did not see any rhino this afternoon, you still have a chance the next day.

Rhino, Chitwan National Park, Nepal
A rhino peeking through the grasses in Chitwan National Park (Wildnerdpix / Shutterstock.com)

Day 11, 12 and 13: Chitwan National Park

On day 11, 12, and 13, jump into a safari 4×4 and continue your safari adventure in search for lions, rhinos, crocodiles, elephants and buffalos. Chitwan National Park is one of the finest safari destinations in Asia, with abundant wildlife and distinct vegetation. Game drives are conducted by experienced and qualified game rangers and expert naturalist who will share the secrets of the wilderness. Joining a multi-day jungle tour will increase the likelihood of seeing a Royal Bengal Tiger.

A Royal Bengal Tiger in Chitwan National Park
A Royal Bengal Tiger on a dirt road in the jungle of Chitwan National Park in Nepal (CEW / Shutterstock.com)

Day 14: Kathmandu

After a filling breakfast, say goodbye to Chitwan National Park and head towards Kathmandu. Once in Kathmandu, rest a bit before your last minute shopping. There are a lot of shopping options in Kathmandu, from luxury boutiques to bargain outlets, they all have it. In the main street, you will find several tourist souvenir shops selling Nepalese handicraft, carved-wooden items, jewelries and many more. After shopping, you can have a farewell dinner at The Ship Restaurant Bar and Lounge (Thamel Kathmandu | Thamel, Kathmandu 0977, Nepal) in Kathmandu to celebrate your successful journey. Remember to be at the airport at least 3 hours before your scheduled flight. Traffic in Kathmandu can be a bit crazy.

This is the end of our 2-week suggested itinerary. Remember, this is just a guide for planning and is in no way, shape or form, the only way to travel Nepal. There are several alternative routes of travel within the country and it will depend on your intended length of stay. You can check out One week in Nepal itinerary. Happy travels!

Have you been to  Nepal? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below. 

Adventure, backpacking, Culture, History, Nepal

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