• Adventure Trekking Tour

Sarankot in Pokhara

You may have curiosity where is sarankot and what is it famous for? Sarankot is the best tourist attraction point of Nepal nearby in Pokhara. Pokhara is a city of nature and tourism. Every in the morning, we can see many international tourist taking mountain photographs from Sarankot is the best place for sun rise and sun set with awesome Himalayan panorama views near by Pokhara. The view of the Annapurna Himalaya from Sarangkot is almost a religious experience. In single word, Sarankot is the best point to do mountain photography for all age’s people –children to pensioner of eighties without hiking and trekking in Himalayan. Sarankot is not only the place for Mountain photography, but also the spot for adventure tourism sports like Paragliding and Zip line in Nepal.

From Sarankot, you can see a panoramic sweep of Himalayan peaks includes Dhaulagiri (8167m) in the west to the perfect pyramid that is Machhapuchhare (6997m) and the rounded peak of Annapurna II (7937m) in the east. Most visitors come to Sarankot either at dawn or dusk when the sun picks out the peaks in brilliant colours. The main village is just below the ridge, but a set of steps leads uphill to a dramatic viewpoint in the ruins of an ancient kot (hill fort). There's another ruined fort at Kaskikot (1788m), a one-hour walk west of Sarangkot along the ridge road, with similarly jaw-dropping views.

Pharping Dakshinkali

The temple of Dakshinkali is at the southern edge of the valley around Pharping and is somewhat spooky, with sacrifices taking place twice-weekly to satisfy the bloodlust of the goddess Kali, who the temple is dedicated to. At the southern edge of the valley, in a dark, somewhat spooky location in the cleft between two hills and at the confluence of two rivers stands the blood-soaked temple of Dakshinkali. The temple is dedicated to the goddess Kali, Shiva's consort in her most bloodthirsty incarnation, and twice a week faithful Nepalis journey here to satisfy her bloodlust.

Sacrifices are always made to goddesses, and the creatures to be sacrificed must be uncastrated male animals. Saturday is the major sacrificial day of the week, when a steady parade of chickens, ducks, goats, sheep, pigs and even the occasional buffalo come here to have their throats cut or their heads lopped off by professional local butchers. Tuesday is also a sacrificial day, but the blood does not flow quite as freely. During the annual celebrations of Dasain in October the temple is literally awash with blood and the image of Kali is bathed in it.

After their rapid dispatch the animals are butchered in the stream beside the temple and their carcasses are either brought home for a feast or boiled up on the spot for a picnic in the grounds. You'll see families arriving with pots, bags of vegetables and armfuls of firewood for the big day out.

Non-Hindus are not allowed into the actual compound where Kali's image resides (there is often an incredibly long queue for Hindus to get in), but it is OK to take photos from outside. Many tourists behave poorly here, perching vulture like from every available vantage point in order to get the goriest possible photos. However extraordinary the sights might seem, this is a religious ceremony, and the participants should be treated with respect, not turned into a sideshow.

The path down to the temple is lined with tea stalls, sadhus, souvenir sellers and hawkers selling offerings of marigolds, fruit and coconuts, as well as khuar, a sweet treat somewhere between cottage cheese and fudge.Despite the carnival spirit, witnessing the sacrifices is a strange and, for some, confronting experience. The slaughter is surprisingly matter-of-fact but it creates a powerful atmosphere. A pathway leads off from behind the main temple uphill to the Mata Temple, which offers good views.

Bandipur

Bandipur is ideal for the live local culture and their daily way of life. It is also good place for a wonderful day hiking to ethnic villages and the Himalayan panoramas of western Nepal –Annapurna range, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu and Machhapuchare with other snow peaks. Then you have thought where Badipur is?  Bandipur is in the ridge above Pritivi Highway near Dumre between Kathmandu and Pokhara.

Bandipur is a national treasure. Draped like a silk scarf along a high ridge above Dumre, the town is a living museum of Newari culture. People here seem to live centuries apart from the rest of the country and more than 70% of the buildings are traditional Newari houses, with carved wooden windows and overhanging slate roofs. It's hard to believe that somewhere so delightful has managed to escape the ravages of tourist development.

There are nice places to stay and eat and money from tourism ventures is ploughed back into restoring temples and houses. Bandipur remains very much a living community - as you wander around the narrow streets, you'll see farmers tending market gardens, women carrying baskets of freshly cut fodder, children stacking cobs of corn on wooden stakes, and goats, buffaloes and chickens wandering around as if they owned the place.

Bandipur was originally part of the Magar kingdom of Tanahun, ruled from nearby Palpa (Tansen), but Newari traders flooded in after the conquest of the valley by Prithvi Narayan Shah. The town became a major stop on the trade route between India and Tibet and traders invested their profits in temples, slab-paved roads and towering brick shop-houses. Then, 50 years ago, it all fell apart. The new Pokhara-Kathmandu highway passed far below town and traders picked up sticks and relocated to Narayangarh. Even today, many buildings are empty, though some have found a new life as restaurants and guesthouses.

Begnas Tal & Rupa Tal

Where is Begnas Tal & Rupa Tal?  It is nearly 10km southeast of Pokhara; a road leaves the Prithvi Highway for Begnas Tal and Rupa Tal, the two gloriously serene lakes that see few foreign visitors, despite their proximity to Pokhara. The hiking trail between the lakes forms the final leg of the popular Annapurna Skyline Trek.

It's a peaceful spot and the mountains of the Annapurna Range are brilliantly reflected in the rippling waters. If you feel energetic, you can rent boats for leisurely paddles on the.  Rupa Tal is via a 3km hike along the trail that winds uphill from Begnas Bazar. It's much more isolated than Begnas Tal but the surrounding country-side is delightful and you can stay at several laid-back teahouses on the ridge overlooking the lake.

Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur, also known as Bhadgaon meaning 'City of Rice'  in Nepali, or Khwopa-‘City of Devotees’ in Newari, is the third major town of the valley. Traffic free, the traditionally intact town is also in many ways the most timeless. The cobblestone streets link a string of temples, courtyards and monumental squares, and the side streets are peppered with shrines, wells and water tanks.

The lack of traffic makes walking through Bhaktapur a pleasure and certainly more enjoyable than walking in Kathmandu. The town's cultural life is also vibrant, with centuries-old traditions of craftsmanship and strong communities of potters, woodcarvers and weavers. Look for rice laid out to dry in the sun, people collecting water or washing under the communal taps, dyed yarns hung out to dry, children's games, fascinating shops and women pounding grain - there's plenty to see.

Perhaps most entrancing of all is Bhaktapur's effortless blending of the modern and medieval, thanks largely to the German-funded Bhaktapur Development Project, which restored buildings, paved dirt streets and established sewerage and wastewater management facilities in the 1970s.

Boudhanath Stupa

Boudhnath is home to one of the world's largest stupa. It is on the eastern side of Kathmandu, just north of the airport and around 6km from Thamel. The village, also known as Boudha is the religious centre for Nepal's considerable population of Tibetan exiles, and the side streets are full of maroon-robed Tibetan and foreign monks, gleaming monastery roofs and shop fronts full of Tibetan texts and yak butter. This is one of the few places in the world where Tibetan culture is accessible, vibrant and unfettered.

Boudhnath has always been linked to Tibetan Buddhism and Lhasa. A major trade route coming from Lhasa went through Sankhu, and Bodhnath therefore lies at the Tibetan traders' entry to Kathmandu. One can easily imagine the traders giving thanks for their successful journey across the Himalaya, or praying for a safe return. People including mountaineers and Sherpas still come here to pray before undertaking a journey in the Himalaya.

Many of today's Tibetans are refugees who fled Tibet following the unsuccessful uprising against the Chinese Communists in 1959. They have been both energetic and successful in the intervening years, as the large houses surrounding Boudhnath testify. Apart from the local Tibetans and Nepalese there's a sizeable community of foreign Buddhist students, which contributes to occasional bitchy factional tensions between the different schools.

Late afternoon is a good time to visit Boudhnath, when the group tours depart and the place once again becomes a Tibetan village. Prayer services are held in the surrounding gompas and, as the sun sets, the community turns out to circumambulate the stupa - a ritual that combines religious observance with social event. It's a wonderful feeling to be swept around by the centrifugal force of faith - remember to walk around the stupa in a clockwise direction.

Most people visit for an hour or two before returning to Thamel but the accommodation and facilities in Boudhnath are good and it's not a bad place to be based, especially if you have an interest in Tibetan culture. The atmosphere of cultural exchange and spiritual curiosity is unrivalled.

Budanilkantha

Vishnu has many incarnations. Ultimately everything comes from Vishnu, and at Budhanilkantha the legend is set in stone. In Nepal he often appears as Narayan, the creator of all life, the god who reclines on the cosmic sea. From his navel grew a lotus and from the lotus came Brahma, who in turn created the world.

The 5m-long image of Vishnu as Narayan was created in the 7th or 8th century from one monolithic piece of stone and is the most impressive, if not the most important, Vishnu shrine in the country. It was sculpted during the Licchavi period, probably somewhere outside the valley, and laboriously dragged here.

Narayan lies peacefully on a most unusual bed: the coils of the multithreaded snake, Ananta or Shesha. The snake's 11 hooded heads rise protectively around Narayan's head. Narayan's four hands hold the four symbols of Vishnu: a chakra disc representing the mind, a conch shell - the four elements, a mace primeval knowledge, and a lotus seed -the moving universe.

During the early Malla period, Vishnuism went into decline as Shiva became the dominant deity. King Jayasthiti Malla is credited with reviving the popularity of Vishnu, and he did this in part by claiming to be an incarnation of the multi-incarnated god. To this day, the kings of Nepal make the same claim and because of this they are forbidden, on pain of death, from seeing the image at Budhanilkantha.

The sleeping Vishnu image, which lies in a small sunken pond enclosure, attracts a constant stream of pilgrims, and prayers take place at 9am every morning -the best time for photos due to the angle of the sun. Vishnu is supposed to sleep through the four monsoon months, waking at the end of the monsoon. A great festival takes place at Budhanilkantha each November, on the day Vishnu is supposed to awaken from his long annual slumber. Non-Hindus cannot enter the enclosure, but there are some unobstructed views from outside the fence surrounding it.

Bungmati

Where Bungmati and what are is famous for?  Bungamati is a classic Newari village dating from the 16th century. It is perched on a spur of land overlooking the Bagmati River, 10km from Kathmandu, and is shaded by large trees and stands of bamboo. Fortunately, the village streets are too small and hazardous for cars. There are quite a few woodcarving shops in the village and a couple of carpet looms but visitors have yet to arrive en masse, so tread gently.

Changu Narayan

The beautiful and historic temple of Changu Narayan stands on a hilltop at the eastern end of the valley, about 6km north of Bhaktapur and 22km from Kathmandu. It dates from 1702, when it was rebuilt after a fire, however its origins go back to the 4th century and many of the stone sculptures date from the Licchavi period (4th to 9th centuries). The temple is a World Heritage site. Visit Changu Narayan temple can be combined a day walking tour with morning sun rise view of Himalaya panorama from Nagarkot, and then 3 hours easy walking on a ridge with wonderful landscapes.

The double-roofed temple is dedicated to Vishnu in his incarnation as Narayan and is exceptionally beautiful, with quite amazingly intricate roof struts depicting multi-armed Tantric deities. It is fronted on the west side by a kneeling figure of Garuda said to date from the 5th century. The man-bird mount of Vishnu has a snake around his neck and kneels with hands in the Namaste position facing the temple. Stone lions guard the wonderfully gilded door, which is flanked by equally detailed gilded windows. Two pillars at the front corners carry a conch and disc, the traditional symbols of Vishnu. Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple itself, which is normally shut anyway.

The temple's true gems are the wonderful, much older sculptures dotted around the courtyard. In the southwest corner are several notable images, including one of Vishnu as Narsingha, his man-lion incarnation, disemboweling a demon? Another, to the left, shows him as Vikrantha/Vamana, the six-armed dwarf who transformed into a giant capable of crossing the universe in three steps during his defeat of King Bali. He is in a characteristic 'action poses', with his leg raised high. To the side of these images is a small black slab showing a 10-headed and 10-armed Vishnu, with Ananta reclining on a serpent below. The scenes are divided into three sections - the underworld, the world of man and the heavens. The beautifully carved image is around 1500 years old.

In the northwestern corner there is a 7th-century image of Vishnu astride the Garuda, which is illustrated on the Rs 10 banknote. In front of the Garuda figure that faces the front of the temple is the oldest stone inscription in the valley, dating from 464 AD. The inscription is in Sanskrit and tells how the king persuaded his mother not to commit sati (ritual suicide) after his father's death.

Also interesting are the statues of King Bhupatindra Malla and his queen, kneeling in a gilded cage in front of the temple. In the centre of the courtyard, triangular bricks are used, while out towards the edge there are older, rounded-corner bricks. Just outside the temple complex is the Bhimsen Pati, with its stone guardians; the remains of the Balamphu royal residence on the north side; and a small open-air collection of sculptures to the south, behind the Changhu Peaceful Cottage.

Chitwan National Park

Chitwan National Park has long been regarded as Nepal's third biggest attraction after trekking and the Kathmandu Valley. An impressive 92% of all visitors to Nepal visit Chitwan National Park for elephant safari in Jungle. This huge beautiful nature reserve protects 932 sq km of sal forest, water marshes and rippling grassland. The park is one of the last refuges of the endangered one-horned Indian rhino and there are sizeable populations of tigers, leopards and rare Gangetic dolphins.

Many Nepal visitors visit Chitwan on package tours arranged through trekking travel and Tour Company. This is by far the easiest approach if you plan to stay at one of the up market lodges in the park. The nearby town of Sauraha is an excellent hub for this. A small but lively tourist centre has grown up along the river bank about 6km south of Sauraha Chowk (Tandi Bazaar) on the Mahendra Highway, with hotels, restaurants, bars, moneychangers, travel agents, Internet cafés and dozens of shops selling the full range of Nepali souvenirs, from pirate CDs to tiger pugmark ashtrays.

Careless development has undermined some of the safari atmosphere at Sauraha, but the setting is impressive - perched beside a wide, slow-flowing river with a wall of dense jungle looming tantalizingly on the far bank. An incredible range of jungle activities can be arranged and the surrounding countryside is a peaceful patchwork of rice fields and Tharu villages. In fact, there's probably more to do here. When planning a visit to Chitwan, try to give yourself enough time for several safaris. The wildlife is unpredictable and you can't rely on sightings every time. Two whole days in the park is really the minimum for wildlife spotting. Be aware that the popular four-day, three-night packages to Chitwan include a day of travel at either end.

Daman

Damam is at 2322m above sea level, with clear views to the north, east and west. Daman boasts what is arguably the most spectacular outlook on the Himalaya in the whole of Nepal. There are unimpeded views of the entire range from Dhaulagiri to Mt Everest from the concrete viewing tower inside the Daman Mountain Resort. Alternatively, head to the helipad at the Everest Panorama Resort.

There are several interesting detours from Daman. About 1km south of the village, towards Hetauda, a trail leads west through the forest to the tiny Shree Rikheshwar Mahadev Mandir, sacred to Shiva. On the way, you can drop into a gorgeous little gompa (Buddhist monastery) in a glade of trees draped with thousands of prayer flags. From the highway, it's 1km to the gompa and 1.5km to the temple.

Dhulikhel

Dhulikhel is the interesting small hilly town, 32km from Kathmandu. It's popular as a Himalayan viewpoint, in part because the road to Dhulikhel is an easier route than the steep and winding road to Nagarkot, but also because Dhulikhel is a real Newari town, not just a tourist resort. It's also a good centre for short day treks - many visitors come here to stretch their legs before setting off on longer treks.

The peaks on view stretch from Langtang Lirung (7246m) in the east, through Dorje Lakpa (6966m) to the huge bulk of Gauri Shankar (7145m) and nearby Melungtse (7181m) and as far as Numbur (5945m) in the east.

Godavari

Godavari is not an especially interesting village but there are a number of places to visit in the area, such as the Godavari Kunda, Phulchowki Mai Temple and enjoyable walks to the giant Shanti Ban Buddha or shrine of Bishankhu Narayan. It's not a must-see sight but it does make for a nice day trip from the capital on a motorbike or mountain bike.

The 10km sealed road from the Kathmandu Ring Rd south of Patan passes through the village of Godavari to an open space at the foot of the hills. Here a partially sealed road continues south to Phulchowki Mai Temple and on to Phulchowki Mountain; the main road veers left (northeast) 1km past an ashram to the gardens and Godavari Kunda. The road from Kathmandu passes several large plant nurseries, highlighting the region's botanical importance and commercial viability.

Gorkha

Gorkha is the birthplace of Prithvi Narayan Shah, conqueror of the Kathmandu Valley and founder of modern Nepal. It's a major pilgrimage destination, particularly for Newars, who regard the Shah Kings as the living incarnations of Vishnu. The main attraction here is the Gorkha Durbar, the former palace of the Shahs, which lords over Gorkha from a precarious ridge above the town. This is also holy pilgrimage site for local Nepalese.

Janakpur

Janakpur has been a centre for Hindu pilgrimages since at least the 4th century BC, when the story of Sita, wife of Rama and daughter of King Janak of Mithila, was written down in the Ramayana. Even today, the town feels closer to the Hindu towns of India than the tribal townships of Nepal - there's nowhere better to get a real feel for life in the plains.

Janakpur is a tourist town, but almost all the tourists are pilgrims from India. The streets are dotted with pilgrims' hostels and the huge Janaki temple attracts pilgrims from across the subcontinent. The best time to visit is during the Hindu festival of Sita- Bibaha Panchami when vignettes from the Ramayana are acted out in the streets, bringing the ancient myth vividly to life.

The other lure in Janakpur is Mithila culture. Janakpur was once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Mithila, a territory now divided between Nepal and India, and more than two million people in the area still speak Maithili as their native tongue. The people of Mithila are famous for their wildly colorful paintings. Mithila art is primitive, in the Fine Art sense, and it offers a fascinating window onto rural life in the Terai.

Janakpur is actually the third city on this site. The city mythologized in the Ramayana existed around 700 BC, but it was later abandoned and sank back into the forest. Simaraungarh grew up in its place, but this city was also destroyed, this time by Muslim invaders in the 14th century. Modern Janakpur is a busy, bustling bazaar town, with winding narrow streets, more rickshaws and bicycles than cars and a real sense of energy and purpose. Many people visit on the way to/from Kakarbhitta and you can make a fascinating detour south to the Indian border though not across it on the old meter-gauge train to Jaynagar.

Kakani

Kakani is nowhere near as popular as Nagarkot, standing at 2073m on a ridge northwest of Kathmandu, but it does offer magnificent views of the Ganesh Himal and the central and western Himalaya. The 24km road to Kakani also offers a great bike ride from the capital.

Apart from staring open-mouthed at the view, there's not much to do. The century-old summer villa used by the British embassy, large police training college and army posts crowd out the views somewhat. The peaceful Thai Memorial Park commemorates the 113 victims of a 1992 Thai Airlines crash. The Shiva shrine across the road offers wider Himalayan views. The government is constructing an International Mountaineer Memorial Park below the hillside.

Kritipur

The small town of Kirtipur retains an unhurried, timeless air despite its proximity to the capital strung out along a ridge 5km southwest of Kathmandu. Its impressive but little-visited temples point to a golden age that has long passed.

During the 1768 conquest of the valley by Prithvi Narayan Shah it was clear that Kirtipur, with its superbly defensible hilltop position, would be the key to defeating the Malla kingdoms, so it was here the Gorkha king struck first and hardest. Kirtipur's resistance was strong, but eventually, after a bitter siege, the town was taken and the inhabitants paid a terrible price for their courageous resistance. The king, incensed by the long struggle his forces had endured, ordered that the nose and lips be cut off every male inhabitant in the town. Fortunately for a small minority, he was practical as well as cruel, and those who could play wind instruments were spared.

At one time there were 12 gates into the city; traces of the old city wall can still be seen. As you wander through Kirtipur, you can see dyed yarn hanging from upstairs windows and hear the background clatter of the town's handlooms. Many of the town's 9000 inhabitants are weavers or farmers; the lower-caste people generally live outside the old city wall, lower down the hill. Kirtipur's hilltop position offers fine views over Kathmandu, with the Himalaya rising behind.

Koshi Tappu Wild Reserve

This Wildlife Reserve was founded in 1976 to protect a small triangle of grassland and small islands in the floodplain of the Sapt Kosi River, the last habitat of the endangered wild water buffalo. At the south end of the reserve, the Kosi Barrage funnels the floodwaters of the Sapt Kosi into a single channel to minimize flood damage in Bihar.

It's a wonderfully serene spot and most travellers who visit are bird-watchers in search of rare species such as the Bengal florican and sarus crane. At least 439 species of birds have been recorded here and migratory species from Siberia and Tibet take up residence from November to February. Arna tend to hang out on the tappu and you may also spot deer, wild boars, pythons and crocodiles. There are thought to be a handful of Gangetic dolphins in the Sapt Kosi but they are very rarely seen.

Most visitors come on organized tours from Kathmandu or Pokhara, which include bird-watching walks, elephant rides, boat trips, accommodation and meals at the tented camps inside the park and transfers from Biratnagar airport. There are few facilities for independent travelers.

Lumbini

 Lumbini is one of the most important religious sites in the world due to the historical birthplace of Gautama Siddhartha Buddha. The man, who would later achieve enlightenment under a Bodhi tree, inspiring a global philosophy of peace and reflection, was born under a sal tree in Lumbini in the month of May in 563 BC.

Despite being an important destination for pilgrimages, Lumbini is nothing like Haridwar, Mecca or Lourdes. Pilgrims here come in a slow, respectful trickle and many stay on to meditate in the monasteries surrounding the sacred site. That said, Lumbini has undergone a major renaissance over the last few years, and new monasteries are springing up here faster than you can say 'om mani padme hum'.

The centre of Lumbini is the Maya Devi Temple, which marks the exact spot where Queen Maya Devi of Kapilavastu gave birth to Gautama Siddhartha. Surrounding the temple is a sacred garden containing the pillar of Ashoka as well as the ruined foundations of dozens of ancient stupas and monasteries. Extending for miles around the sacred garden is a huge park known as the Lumbini Development Zone, designed by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange in 1978. It's a work in progress but the grounds are already full of landscaped lakes and Buddhist monasteries, constructed by Buddhist communities from around the world.

You can easily spend one or two days exploring the site so it's well worth an overnight stay. There are hotels all around the perimeter of the Development Zone and plenty of small guest houses in the peaceful village of Lumbini Bazaar, directly opposite the main entrance to the site.

Manakamana

An Austrian- engineered cable car sweeps up an almost impossibly steep hillside to the ancient Manakamana Mandir, one of the most important temples in Nepal. Hindus believe that the goddess Bhagwati, an incarnation of Parvati, has the power to grant wishes, and newlyweds flock here to pray for male children. Pilgrims seal the deal by sacrificing a goat or pigeon in a gory pavilion behind the temple. There's even a dedicated carriage on the cable car for sacrificial goats.  Built in the tiered pagoda style of the Kathmandu Valley, the temple dates back to the 17th century and the atmosphere is electric, particularly on feast days, when Manakamana almost vanishes under a sea of pilgrims, pigeons and sacrificial goats. For views of the Himalaya, continue uphill for about 3km past the small Shiva mandir to Lakhan Thapa Gufa, a sacred cave offering uninterrupted views of the mountains. Trekkers can continue west along the ridge, reaching Gorkha in about four hours.

Visitor numbers have soared since the construction of the cable car, but foreigners are still a novelty and most things here exist for the benefit of pilgrims rather than tourists.

Mustang

Mustang as it’s usually called a ‘little Tibet’ or ‘the last forbidden kingdom’; though politically part of Nepal, in language, culture, climate and geography, it’s Tibet. The remote region is north of the Himalayan watershed and on the Tibetan plateau, and just south of the border with ‘big Tibet’, the Chinese one.

Only a few years ago it has ‘nobody’s been there’, now it’s heading towards ‘last chance to see’. The completion of a road connecting Mustang to China in the north and the rest of Nepal to the south will make all the difference.

Until 1992 nobody from outside was allowed in; for a while after that it was opened up to a few hundred a year, and these days it anyone can enter, though the pricey trekking permit keeps the numbers down. There’s also a restricted season for visits: in winter it’s too cold and the snow too deep, so for months each year it again becomes a ‘forbidden kingdom’. Much of the population heads south to India and further afield during these winter months to exercise their legendary trading abilities.

Up here everything is sharp, severe and absolute: the colours are vivid, the terrain is rugged, the air is crisp, it’s either desert-dry or river-rapids, sere and barren or a flash of irrigated green.

Nagarjun Forest Reserve

On the hill behind Balaju is the walled Nagarjun Forest Reserve also known as the Rani Ban (Queen's Forest), which is home to pheasants, deer, monkeys and a couple of military posts. This, along with the former Gokarna Park and Phulchowki, is one of the last significant areas of untouched forest in the valley.

A winding unpaved road and a much more direct footpath lead to the summit (2095m), which is a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site- the reserve is named after the Buddhist saint Nagarjuna. There's a small shrine at the summit to Padmasambhava, Guru Rinpoche in Tibetan and a viewing tower offers one of the valley's widest mountain panoramas, stretching on a clear day all the way from the Annapurna to Langtang Lirung, via Machhapuchhare, Manaslu and the Ganesh Himal. There are also grand views of Kathmandu and its valley laid at your feet to the south.

It's possible to make an enjoyable two-hour cardio-hike up to the summit from near the main gate but there are some security issues to consider.

Nagarkot

Nagarkot is very much a night stand, and few visitors stay longer. The best way to leave Nagarkot is on foot, on downhill hikes west to Sundarijal, Sankhu, or Changu Narayan, north to Chisopani or south to Banepa.

There are various places around the edge of the Kathmandu Valley that offer great mountain views, but the resort village of Nagarkot, 32km from Kathmandu, is generally held to be the best. Dedicated mountain watchers make their way up to the village, stay overnight in one of Nagarkot's lodges, then rise at dawn to see the sun appear over the Himalaya.

Between October and March a trip to Nagarkot will nearly always be rewarded with a view, but you will be very lucky to catch more than a glimpse through the monsoon clouds between June and September. During the summer, sweaty valley residents escape the heat for the resort's cool mountain air; in winter they rush up if there's even a chance of being able to throw a tiny snowball. It can get very cold at Nagarkot in autumn and winter, so if you're staying overnight come prepared with warm clothing.

Panauti

Panauti once stood at the junction of important trading routes and had a royal palace in its main square. Today it's just a quiet backwater, but is all the more interesting for that. The village has retained and restored much of its traditional architecture and has a number of interesting temples, one of which may be the oldest in Nepal.

A 36km away from Kathmandu, the small town of Panauti sits at the junction of the Roshi Khola and Pungamati Khola. Like Allahabad in India, a third 'invisible' river, the Padmabati, is said to join the other two at the confluence. A popular tradition asserts that the entire town is built on a single piece of solid stone, making it immune to earthquakes.

Pashupatinath

Pashupatinath is considered to have a special concern for Nepal and, accordingly, he features in all official messages from the king. Before commencing an important journey, the king will always pay a visit to Pashupatinath to seek the god's blessing. Nepal's Dalit (untouchable) community was only allowed access to the shrine in 2001.

You can visit Pashupatinath as a half-day trip from central Kathmandu or en route to Boudhnath, as the two sites is an interesting short walking apart. Of the entire valley's entry fees Pashupatinath offers the least value, as many of the temple buildings are closed to non-Hindus.

Nepal's most important Hindu temple stands on the banks of the holy Bagmati River, on the eastern fringes of Kathmandu, not far from Kathmandu Airport. Pashupatinath is also one of the most important Shiva temples on the subcontinent and draws devotees and sadhus -Hindu holy men from all over India.

Shiva is the destroyer and creator of the Hindu pantheon and is best known in his 'terrible' forms, particularly in Nepal as the cruel and destructive Bhairab, but he also has peaceful incarnations including those of Mahadev and Pashupatinath, the lord of the beasts. As the shepherd of both animals and humans, Pashupatinath shows Shiva's most pleasant and creative side.

Patan

Patan is separated from Kathmandu by the Bagmati River and is the second-largest town in the valley. It has historically been known by its Sanskrit name Lalitpur -City of Beauty and its Newari name, Yala.

Patan's Durbar Square is full of temples, with a far greater concentration of architecture per square metre than in Kathmandu or Bhaktapur. Moreover, more than 600 stupas and 185 bahals are scattered throughout the fascinating backstreets.

Patan makes a great full day trip from Kathmandu. It is possible to stay the night here, although it's so close to Kathmandu that it's not really necessary. The choice of hotels and restaurants is limited, but you'll likely to have the town largely to yourself at the beginning and end of the day.

Pokhara

That's Pokhara where there is a perfect triangular mountain, capped by snow and buffeted by the icy winds of the Himalaya. Imagine a millpond calm lake, perfectly reflecting the snowy peaks. Now imagine a village on the lakeshore, thronged by travelers and reverberating to the sound of 'om mani padme hum' from a hundred shops selling prayer flags, carpets, masks, singing bowls and CDs of Buddhist mantras.

Nepal's second city, at least in tourist terms., Pokhara is the end point for the famous Annapurna Circuit trek and the starting point for a dozen more treks through the mountains of the Annapurna Range, including the perennially popular Jomsom Trek and the equally dramatic but less busy trek to the Annapurna Sanctuary. It's unashamedly touristic, in the Thamel mould, but the setting is spectacular - the perfect pyramid of Mt Machhapuchhare looms high above Pokhara, reflected in the placid waters of Phewa Tal.

For many travelers, Pokhara represents a last chance to stock up on creature comforts before hitting the mountain trails. For others, it's a place to enjoy a steak dinner and cold beer after weeks of daal bhaat in the hills. Even if you aren't a dedicated trekker, there's plenty here to keep you busy. Pokhara has numerous museums and there are some fascinating caves, waterfalls and Tibetan villages in the surrounding hills.

For the adventurous, there you could have adventure activities like from trekking and micro light flights to river rafting and jungle safaris. Paragliding from Sarangkot viewpoint has to be one of the most thrilling experiences in the subcontinent. Alternatively, bring a good book and spend your days reading in a café overlooking languorous Phewa Tal.

Bardia National Park

Royal Bardia National Park is the largest untouched wilderness in the Terai, nearly halfway between Butwal and Mahendranagar. The park protects 968 sq km of sal forest and whispering grassland, bordering the Geruwa and Karnali Rivers. The atmosphere is wonderfully tranquil and with the current slump in tourism, you may well have the whole place to yourself.

There are estimated to be around 22 royal Bengal tigers and 100 one-horned rhinos at Bardia but these animals are elusive and sightings are rare. Other mammals in the park include grey langurs, rhesus macaques, leopards, civets, hyenas, sloth bears and barking, spotted, sambar and hog deer. Bardia also has more than 250 species of birds, including the endangered Bengal florican and sarus crane. Gharial and marsh mugger crocodiles and Gangetic dolphins are occasionally spotted on rafting and canoe trips along the Geruwa River.

Sankhu

Sankhu was once an important post on the trading route between Kathmandu and Lhasa (Tibet), and although the town's flower has faded, you can still see many signs of its former prosperity. Although many traditional aspects of Newari life continue here, the most persuasive reason to visit is the beautiful Vajrayogini Temple complex, an easy 45-minute walk or bicycle ride northeast of town.

As well as visiting the temple, it's worth devoting an hour or so to meandering around Sankhu village. At Dhalna Tole make a left (east) to Salkha Tole, then a diversion north to the Salkha Mahadev Temple, then south back to the bus station.

Shivapuri National Park

The northern part of the Kathmandu Valley forms the Shivapuri National Park upgraded to national park status in 2002 to protect the valley's main water source, as well 177 species of birds, orchids, rhesus monkey and even, it is alleged, leopard and bear. A good hike and mountain-bike routes are in the park. The off road is one of the best biking routes in the valley and follows the old forestry road through the western part of the park.

The Tibetan nunnery of Nagi Gompa is perched near the Tarebhir cliffs, on the lower slopes of the park, 3km from the main gate above Budhanilkantha.  It's a very bumpy 20-minute 4WD drive or a 1½ hour hike up to the nunnery, which has lovely views and is home to about 100 nuns. From the gompa it's possible to hike up about 800 vertical meters to Shivapuri peak (2725m), via Baghdwar, then back down via the Pani Muhan water tank for a very long day of around seven hours. This is a serious hike that you shouldn't do alone. Take a map, plenty of water and preferably a guide.

An excellent alternative is to walk downhill from Nagi Gompa to Budhanilkantha, or continue down the ridgeline south to Kopan (three hours) and Boudhnath. Another good mountain-bike or hiking option from Nagi Gompa is to follow the dirt road east to Mulkarkha and then descend to Sundarijal - a mostly level 11km trip.

Swoyambhunath

The great Buddhist temple of Swayambhunath), on the top of a hill west of Kathmandu, is one of the most popular and instantly recognizable symbols of Nepal. The temple is known affectionately as the 'Monkey Temple', after the large troop of handsome monkeys that guards the hill and amuses visitors and devotees with tricks including sliding gracefully down the banisters of the main stairway to the temple.

Legends relate that the Kathmandu Valley was once a lake, geologists agree on this point and that the hill on which Swoyambhunath stands was 'self-arisen' means swayambhu, much like a lotus leaf risen from the muddy waters of the lake. It is also said that Emperor Ashoka paid a visit to the site over 2000 years ago.

An inscription indicates that King Manadeva ordered work done here in AD 460 and certainly by the 13th century it was an important Buddhist centre. In 1346 Mughal invaders from Bengal broke open the stupa in the search for gold. King Pratap Malla added the stairway in the 17th century.

From its hilltop setting, Swayambhunath offers fine views over Kathmandu valley. It's particularly striking in the early evening when the city is illuminated, and the site is also very attractive under the soft glow of moonlight. There are several curio shops around the stupa, as well as a couple of reviving cafés.

Palpa Tansen

 

Tansen (Palpa) is a romantic medieval hill town, perched high above the Kali Gandaki River on the road between Butwal and Pokhara. The narrow, winding streets are full of Newari shop-houses and temples and most of the centre is too steep for cars, which all ads to Tansen's charm. Few tourists make it out this way, but it's easy to fill several days exploring the town and there are some excellent walks in the hills.  Metalworking and weaving Dhaka, the fabric used for traditional Nepali jackets and topis (cloth hats), are still important local industries in Palpa. A sheet of mist normally hangs over the valley till mid-morning, earning it the nickname 'White Lake'. For sweeping Himalaya views, head up to Shreenagar Danda, the forested peak above Tansen.

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