When you think of Nepal, the first thing that typically comes to mind is Everest, Kathmandu, Pokhara and The Annapurna Base Camp.
Sure, they’re well trotted for a reason but if you’re looking to get a little off the grid in order to experience a culture further than a stones throw away from another westerner, you’ll want to add these places below to your travel plans in Nepal.
Kathmandu > Ilam District > Janakpur > Gorkha > Bandipur > Pokhara: Panchase Trek
Most people head straight to Thamel when arriving in the city and see the main tourist attractions before heading north to Pokhara but miss the true essence of Kathmandu and all it has to offer. Be sure to check out the following areas for a truly authentic experience.
These medieval villages are a mere 10km outside of the city (both within walking distance from each other) and allow you to feel as through you’ve gone back in time.
Enjoy scenic views of rolling hills surrounding the villages and wander through rubbled streets and admire traditional architecture while local villagers go about their daily life without tourists in sight. From women spinning wool and sewing, gentlemen in their Newar hats huddle around on wooden benches playing cards and drinking chia while farmers work in the lush fields.
Located on the outskirts of Kathmandu is one of Nepal’s most revered Hindu temples where you can observe open cremations similar to being in Varanasi, India.
Entrance Fee: 1000/NR
Hours: 4AM-9PM (closed between 12pm-5pm)
Note: Best time to visit is in the early morning or late evening. Puja starts from 10AM-1:45PM
Visiting Hours: 9AM-5PM
If you’ve ever been curious about Buddhism or meditation and don’t know where to start, Kopan Monastery is the perfect place to visit. You can attend their free Daily Dharma Talk at 10.30 am (Mo – Fri) or focus on mindfulness as you take a 10-day Intro to Buddhism Course costing a small donation covering your course, accommodation and meals during your stay.
Take a local bus in Kathmandu city to Bhaktapur for a chance to stroll through the old medieval towns temples, hidden courtyard and Potters Square where hundreds of handmade clay pots lay drying in the sun.
IIam is known as the Darjeeling of Nepal and surprisingly missed by a lot of travellers. This tea region hosts beautiful flora and fauna, rugged jungle treks and rolling hills laced with fog where you can wander through striking tea gardens and relish the magnificent views overlooking the land with a cup of Ilam tea in hand.
Ilam Bazaar & Chhintapu Trekking > Fillak Baazar & Kanyam Tea Farm > Shree Antu
Your drop-off point will be Ilam Bazaar with holds the oldest tea gardens in all of Nepal and is a great starting point for trekking. A 3hr trek starting from Ilam Baazar will take you to Chhintapu, which is the second highest peak in Ilam that reaches a height of 3,400m. On a clear day, once you reach the peak, you will be rewarded by panoramic views all to yourself of Mount Everest, Mount Kanchanjunga, Kumbhakarna and Makalu as well as Sikkim and Darjeeling in India.
This quaint village is the perfect spot to relax for a day or two and enjoy sitting on your private balcony at Hotel Shikhar for a mere $8/night overlooking the tea region. It is the largest tea estate in Ilam and is only a 1.5hr local bus ride to the famous Kanyam tea gardens that will leave you breathless.
Also known as “Land of Sunrise”, Shree Antu is a must if youre in Ilam. Stay a night at one of the many budget-friendly guesthouses and wake up early to view the striking sunrise on Shree Antu Hill displaying vibrant hues of red, pinks and orange as the sun rises over the untouched land.
Once you’ve overdosed on tea, make your way by local bus to the famous pilgrimage site for Hindus. Janakpur is nothing but raw in every sense of the world and will give you a small taste of what travelling India is like. If you’re looking for a little intensity in your itinerary, this place will definitely shake things up from the relaxed region of Ilam.
Wander through buzzing streets, eat at the local stands selling delicious fried street snacks such as samosas and pakora and be sure to visit Janaki Mandir Temple dedicated to the Hindu goddess Sita to watch the evening puja ritual.
If you have time, spend one night in Gorkha to experience the hospitality of locals and tell your friends you drank Gorkha beer in Gorkha. (Although as it turns out, the beer isn’t actually made there!)
The village itself is nothing spectacular but as they say, the people make the place. Being the only foreigners in the village, we were instantly invited the next morning by a friendly local to their home for chai.
Not only was it the best chai we’ve had in Nepal; our new local friend also happened to be a musician. Within minutes of arriving, villagers huddled around the small room as our new friend and his band members broke out into song singing Nepali folk music while preforming on local instruments such as the sarangi and Madal drum. This seemingly quiet village turned into a morning of chai, dancing, singing and laughter showing us yet again why travelling off the grid is what makes a journey priceless.
If you love the romanticism of France, you will fall in love with the village of Bandipur and want to spend at least a few days here.
View a remarkable sunrise overlooking the village of Bandipur only a short walk from town and spend your morning relaxing while drinking a proper cappuccino along the flower lined, cobble-stoned streets. In the afternoon, try out one of the many budget-friendly local restaurants that serve delightful local curries and spend your afternoon exploring the temples and Siddha cave before a short climb to the sunset viewpoint.
This easy, 3-day trek to Panchase starts with a 1hr local bus to Ghatichini. From there you will trek upwards through lush forests until you reach your first homestay in Makanpur. Enjoy mingling amongst a local family where you will warm up in the evening with homemade dhal baht and chai around a fire as the sun is replaced with a clear view of the evening stars.
In the morning, the family will make you a typical Nepali breakfast before you begin your your next stop to the village of Sidinay where you can opt to do another homestay or make your way straight to Bhanjyang.
From the village of Bhanjyang you will have remarkable views of the Himalayas in a 360 view with a beautiful sunrise and sunset, the comfiest bed and local meals at Green Village Guesthouse and at 4:30AM the next morning, hike the final hour up to Panchase view point for sunrise.