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Tourist Destinations in Nepal


Tourist Destinations in Nepal

The small country of Nepal situated on India’s long northern arm is a tiny package brimming with lofty mountains, ancient temples, acres of verdant forest cover, and frozen glacial lakes. The nearly 1800 kilometres border between the two countries traverses neatly through the exalted, several-millions-years-old Himalayan range and the fertile Indo-Gangetic plains, birthing some of the tallest summits in the world with an enviable and unique ecosystem. The echoing whispers of the mist contrasted with the clangs of temple bells are perhaps the two most recognised sounds synonymous with this ageless land.

Nepal’s aesthetics have also expanded due to a vast entourage of diverse cultures melting into an ever-welcoming pot of varied cuisines, languages, dances, and rituals. Hindu and Buddhist traditions co-exist with festival gatherings acting as pivotal conference points, peppered across its ancient sites, unifying the many factions of Nepal. 

Pashupatinath Temple: A Befitting Patronage to Nepal’s Patron Deity 

Located on the outskirts of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, on the banks of the Bagmati - a transboundary river between India and Nepal - the Pashupatinath Temple is one of the most sacred shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva in his form as Pashupati, or protector of animals. Even though the precise date of the temple’s construction is ambiguous, it is considered the oldest temple in Nepal. The earliest data of its existence can be traced to the 4th century, but the current sanctum of the revered complex was built near the end of the 17th century. Over time countless smaller shrines, made of stone and metal, were erected on both sides of the river. 

Classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979, the key temple is an artful reflection of Nepal’s pagoda style of architecture with its two-storied roof glittering with a gold layer and spire, over copper. The four main doors leading to the inner shrine - where the linga is perennially dressed in gilded attire - are covered in sparkling silver. The temple is at its ornate best with a golden statue of Shiva’s trusted bull, Nandi, and intricately carved wooden sculptures famed for making wishes come true!


Only educated Bhatta priests chosen through a rigorous selection process hold the privilege of touching the idol and executing everyday formalities. They are assisted by the Bhandari clan of priests who are caretakers and not trained to perform prayer rituals. Although only Hindus are allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum, people of other faiths are allowed to visit other mini-temples and cremation sites, accessible through a decorated, paved riverbank. The smaller shrines are single-storied structures including the 14th-century Rama Temple and the Guhyeshwari Temple, which finds mention in an 11th-century script. The latter is the chair of the supreme goddess and Shiva’s consort, Adi Shakti.

Numerous legends regarding the Pashupatinath Temple abound. Chief among them is the claim that the principal site of worship marks the spot where Shiva lost one of his antlers, whilst in the guise of a deer, roaming the forests with his wife Parvati, admiring the beauty of the flowing Bagmati. Grabbed by his horns by the gods he was forced to revert to his celestial form. The wrecked horn was then deified as a linga, but was lost over time. It was accidentally found by a herdsman several eras later when his cow ambled on the plot where the linga was buried, subsequently bathing it with milk. 

As Shiva is worshipped as the saint of animals here, monkeys and even deer can often be spotted strolling around the complex, especially during the annual festivals of Teej and Maha Shivaratri, or the ‘great night of Shiva.’ 

Pokhara: The Shangri-La of the Annapurna Range   

The tourism capital of Nepal, Pokhara, sits on the shimmering blue Phewa Lake, with splendid views of the snow-tipped majestic Annapurna Mountain Range. It is often a base for avid trekkers, who traverse through large gorges and canyons, hundreds of metres deep, cutting across the land, thick green forests, deep lakes, and painted sunsets. The altitude differences in the Pokhara Valley region are stark and one can experience the thrill of great heights in as little as a 30-kilometre radius, with the gradient shooting up to 24,000 feet from a mere 1000 feet. The alterations can even be seen in the amount of rainfall in the city, due to the elevation. 

Lakes: Pokhara’s serene charm has captivated many a writer with its cluster of lakes and summits. The trio of Phewa, Begnas, and Rupa lakes draw several thousand visitors each year. The largest of the three, the cavernous Phewa Lake is home to the Tal Barahi or Lake Temple, seemingly floating tranquilly on the lake. Devoted to the goddess Barahi, one of the Matrikas, a group of seven mother goddesses who assume specific feminine powers from the bodies of the gods, the shrine is located on a small island in the middle of the reservoir, accessible only by boat. Constructed in the typical Nepalese pagoda style, it is a dual-storied structure made of stone. The added thrill of boating amidst the warm embrace of the dense ‘Rani Ban’ or Queen Forest, enveloping the periphery of the lake is an added appeal for tourists. The twin Begnas and Rupa Lakes are quieter than the famed Phewa Lake and both present spectacular sights of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri highland ranges, with a delicious mountain breeze for company.

Caves: Pokhara houses deep natural caves, many of which have religious significance. The Mahendra Cave, a massive limestone cavern with glittering stones when beams of light pass through, is located at the bottom of a green hill and is home to a huge Shiva statue. Although the history of the idol is unknown, several thousands of visitors visit the cave to pay homage, treading carefully on its narrow and unstable corridors. It was discovered in the 1950s and was named after the local king. Another oft-visited cave is the U-shaped Chameri Gufa or Bat Cave, a dark and gloomy space with a constant drip of water on its damp floors. Thousands of horseshoe bats and other varied species of bats hang upside down from its ceilings. The inner walls of the cave have carved images of elephant tusks, gods, and goddesses.

Hills and Falls: Sarangkot, is a must-visit hill in Pokhara, with an astounding view of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri ranges. Serene sunrises greet travellers in the mornings with the soft gaze of the sun slowly peeking through the mountains and valley. The evenings transform the sky into a mystical sunset with the sun sluggishly dipping and hiding behind grand peaks, gradually passing the baton to the whiteness of the moon. Visitors often indulge in paragliding from this hill, gently flying over the Phewa Lake to view the panorama in all its glory.

Devi's Falls or Patale Chango is one of Pokhara’s most famous landmarks. Fed by the Phewa Lake, the enormous falls are enclosed by diverse flora species, and create a 500-foot-long underground tunnel at the bottom, where the Pardi Khola stream seemingly vanishes, leaving no trace of its existence! The water from the falls passes through the Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave or ‘cave beneath the ground’ after a short hide-and-seek. The best time to visit is during the monsoon season when the waterfalls noisily and sharply over rocks, splashing passers-by. Locals attribute the name to a Swiss trekker, Mrs. Devis, who was swept away and eventually drowned by the current of the water when the dam began to overflow in the early 1960s. Eventually, the name was corrupted to Devi from Devis.


Pokhara once lay on a pivotal trade route between India, China, and Tibet, tracing back to the 17th century, with medieval ruins dotting the terrain. It was only accessible by foot until the end of the 1960s and even today, mule trains set up camps on the fringes of the city carrying supplies from distant Himalayan districts. 

Lumbini: The Cradle of Buddhist Divination 

Lumbini, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the birthplace of Lord Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Buddhist legends recount the story of Prince Siddhartha or Gautam Buddha’s birth in the celebrated gardens of Lumbini in the 6th century BC, when his mother, Queen Mayadevi, sought refuge under a Sal tree after bathing in a pond, while on her way to meet her father. Immediately after his birth, the prince walked a few steps and announced that this would be his last birth. He was given a bath of purification in the same pond. After his enlightenment, the gardens, adjacent to the Maya Devi temple and the sacred pond or pushkarni, became a pilgrimage site, drawing Emperor Ashoka who erected a commemorative pillar with a Brahmi inscription confirming the spot as Buddha’s place of birth.

Religion and History: The Lumbini tour is incomplete without devotees visiting the tranquil setting in droves, silently connecting with the source of Buddhist spirituality. Prayer flags hanging from tree branches sway gently providing a cool breeze to the worshippers seated below, absorbed in deep meditation. Further afield, the site sprawls out with numerous monasteries and meditation centres overlooking landscaped parks. Tourists often shadow the steps of Buddha, soaking several thousand years of history, visiting his childhood estate, his mother’s city, and where he left the palace gates to commence his journey to divinity. Travellers across the world, irrespective of their faith, visit Lumbini to grasp the magnitude of the spiritual energy, eager to find their divine focus in Lumbini’s still settings, as a part of their inner search.

Beyond its religious significance, Lumbini is of tremendous historical importance, previously covered by multiple inter-connected small kingdoms. Archaeological projects have uncovered various ancient cities such as Kapilavastu, a luxurious capital city, Prince Siddhartha’s home until the age of 29, and Kundan, where several stupas were built to memorialise events marking his life. The most notable of these is his reunion with his father, King Suddhodana, after seven years. It is also the site where his son Rahula was ordained. One can also visit the ancient capital of the Koliyan kingdom, Devadaha, Queen Mayadevi’s city of birth, where numerous monuments have been constructed as a tribute to her. 

The Lumbini tour experienced today was designed by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange, based on the Buddhist imagery of geometric shapes. Aligned north to south, the northern end, or the first zone houses the Peace Pagoda, Lumbini Museum, and shopping areas. This figurative area of ‘worldly activities’ leads to the central region called the Cultural and Monastic Zone with a canal running down the centre, and monasteries housed on either side. The shrines have been built by different countries showcasing their varied architectural, cultural, and religious traditions. The central space embodies knowledge and spiritual purity. The final and most esteemed zone is the Sacred Garden, with the Maya Devi Temple, Sacred Pond, and Asoka Pillar, which represents enlightenment. Essentially the layout takes one through an evolution of Buddhist thought and principles through modified interpretations in different parts of the globe.

Patan Durbar Square: The Fulcrum of Cultural Ingenuity 

Often labelled as a cultural marvel and a living museum, the Patan Durbar Square is an artistic nucleus, located in the ancient city of Patan, south of Kathmandu. Patan, also known as Lalitpur and the ‘city of beauty’ is one of the oldest cities in the Kathmandu Valley and is a UNESCO world heritage site, with a regal blend of several pagoda shrines, spacious courtyards, and fortresses, including the royal residence or Patan Durbar. Each royal building displays an aspect of Nepalese culture, style, and life, during the reign of the Patan kings of the Malla dynasty. The 15th-century structures exhibit the architectural finesse of the Malla rule with intricate wood carvings and paintings, and stunning stone and metal sculptures. The history of Patan Durbar Square can be traced to the 3rd century BC, when the city was founded by the Indian Emperor Ashoka and was later conquered by the Licchavi Dynasty, the ancestry of the Malla kings, who would rule for over six centuries. The city became a key creative hub with several important temples being built in this period. 

Famous Monuments: The Patan Durbar palace complex comprises impressive shrines with intricate designs, along with the palace. The three-storied palace was the royal residence of the Malla kings for over a century. The former regal house is now a museum, displaying a collection of traditional paintings, statues, and weapons. The complex includes an assemblage of three prime courtyards - Keshav Narayan Chowk the oldest courtyard, Mul Chowk, the central courtyard, the heart of ritualistic activity, and Sundari Chowk. Each of these houses a series of different temples.


The celebrated Krishna Mandir is one such example of architectural genius, from the 17th century. Dedicated to the Hindu deities, Krishna and Shiva, the three-tiered structure has a gilded roof, 21 spires, and elaborate carvings of Lord Krishna and his consorts, Lord Shiva, and scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayan on its stone walls. Built entirely of stone, it is thought to be Nepal's first example of Shikhara-style architecture – a style known for steeple-like towers rising above the chief sanctum, resembling a mountain with engravings on each level. According to legend, the shrine was built as a tribute to Radha and Krishna who appeared in King Siddhi Narasimha Malla’s dream, blessing him to defeat his enemies in battle.


Matching the diverse cultural elements, numerous Buddhist viharas or shrines dot the darbar. The Hiranya Varna Mahavihar or Golden Temple, is a 15th-century three-tiered Buddhist temple with a towering golden image of the Shakyamuni Buddha, and a large prayer wheel. The main shrine is guarded by two metal Lokeshvara, or lords of the world, seated on lions, who in turn are standing on elephants. Delicate adornments display grand craftsmanship on the temple walls, and shrines of Lord Buddha are scattered in the courtyard. 

Much of the ancient city too has retained its historical structures offering a glimpse into Nepal’s imperial past. Narrow lanes, brick residences, Hindu temples, and Buddhist monasteries harmonise to present a synchronistic whole. Even today, the greatest artisans of Nepal reside here tinkering over figurines or using repoussé and wax process art techniques.


Nepal’s landscape is a rich amalgamation of traditions balanced with modernity, natural sceneries supplemented by differing topographies, and a fusion of religious interaction and synergy. Its diversity enhances its unifying elements, blending to make a complete whole. What Nepal lacks in size it makes up for in experience. Call Offbeat Tracks to curate the best experience for you and your loved ones, where we will take you on a hypnotic journey through Nepal’s many tourist destinations.