Nepal is known all over the world for its spectacular mountains, its rich cultural ambiance, rolling valleys, picturesque villages, and sundry wildlife. However, Nepal has much more places to offer than its most visited Golden Triangle – Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Chitwan.
Although the famous locations are quite spectacular in their own unique way and hold special places in my people’s hearts, you may want to go off the beaten path and explore the less-trodden destinations every once in a while to truly take in the beauty and repose of Nepal. Tucked between China and India, Nepal is an amalgamation of the ancient and the modern, a little unique strip of land where time seems to be on pause. Here are some hidden gems of Nepal, that will mesmerize you with their untouched beauty.
The Langtang Trek
By Alya & Campbell from Stingy Nomads
Langtang Trek is one of the lesser-known hiking routes in Nepal. It’s a 5-7-day trek that starts at about 1500m in lush jungles and finishes at 4600 m up in the snowy mountain peaks. The total distance of the trek is 77 km. It’s a moderate to difficult high-elevation route that requires good acclimatization. The route starts and ends in Syabrubesi, a small town 120 km from Kathmandu. It’s easy to get here by jeeps or public buses.
The scenery on the trek is truly impressive; lush jungles, mountain rivers, small villages, green valleys, impressive mountain ranges, and bizarre rock formations. Every day due to constant elevation gain the route offers different scenery; from the humid and hot forest at the beginning to cold and bare lands at the end.
Langtang is not as commercialized and developed as more popular hiking routes in Nepal. It has basic infrastructure including tea houses for hikers. Tea houses on the trek are more like homestays than guesthouses. It’s a great cultural experience to see how people live in small isolated villages, how they make food, bring up their children, etc. It’s possible to combine the trek with visiting a Tamang Village. Tamang people are a local tribe. They considered being descendants of the Tibetians who came to the area several centuries ago.
The area was badly affected by the earthquake in 2015. Doing the Langtang trek and staying with local people is a great way to support them and in this way help them to recover from the disaster.
Rara National Park
Rara in the far northwestern part of Nepal is the smallest national park in the country and a hidden gem of Nepal. The park is surrounded by alpine coniferous vegetation, making it a home to 500 different kinds of flowers, 20 species of mammals, and 214 species of birds. The Rara lake is one of the best-kept secrets of Nepal.
The rich vegetation of the park supports sundry species of wildlife including the endangered red panda, musk deer, Yellow-throated martin, Himalayan black bear, leopard, jackal, Himalayan tahr, rhesus macaque, and various others. During the winter season, a wide variety of birds can be seen in the Rara Nationa Park such as coots, black-necked grebe, red-crested pochard, great-crested grebe, mallard, common teal, merganser, and gulls. A paradise for bird watchers.
The main highlight of the park is the Rara Lake which is the deepest and most pristine lake in Nepal. Its beauty is increased manifolds by the surrounded green hills, covered in juniper trees, making it the best spot to camp by the sparkling waters of the lake. The lake is 167m deep at certain places and merges with the rivers Mugu Karnali via Nijar Khola. The nearby Chuchemara Hill is the best vantage point to get stunning views of the deep blue lake, the forested hillsides, and the snow-capped peaks.
The best time to visit the park is during the spring, summer, and autumn seasons. To begin your journey, fly from Nepalgunj to Jumla, from where it is a 2-3 days hike to reach Rara Lake. Jumla is well known for its apples and walking through these orchards can be a scenic experience. The trek leads through the remote countryside towards the Tibetan border.
A journey into the Jumla region and the beautiful Rara Lake is probably one of the most captivating treks in the Himalaya uninterrupted by hordes of trekkers usually found on other trek routes.
By Lotte from Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog
Jiri is a lovely mountain village at the foot of the Himalayas. Sometimes called the Switzerland of Nepal, Jiri is known for its lush green forests and mountains, waterfalls, and rural setting. However, the main reason why Jiri is quite famous is that before Lukla Airport was built, all Everest expeditions began in this town. Including the expedition Edmund Hillary who, together with Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay, became the people confirmed to have reached the summit of Mount Everest.
Nowadays only 5% of all people hiking the Everest Base Camp trail start their journey at Jiri, which is a shame because not only is Jiri a nice town but the trail between Jiri and Cheplung is absolutely beautiful. This part of the original EBC trail is quiet, with lovely villages like Bupsa and challenging climbs like the hike to Lamjura Pass. Things to do in and around Jiri include:
- Jiri Bazar: buy local produce, such as Yak cheese, freshly grown vegetables, or handmade souvenirs.
- Tenzing Hillary Park: visit the statues of Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary.
- Cherdung Danda Peak track: hike to the top of this 3200-meter-high mountain and marvel at the view.
- Churpi Factory: visit the Churpi factory to learn more about the production process of this typical Nepali cheese.
- Dal Bhat: while this is technically something you can try anywhere in Nepal, you have got to try dal bhat while in Jiri. This famous Nepali dish is eaten by all locals and trekkers in the Himalayas.
The best months to visit Jiri are March-April and October-November. During these months, temperatures are comfortable and the skies are (generally) clear. Perfect to admire those majestic mountain views!
To get to Jiri, you can take a bus in Kathmandu from Ratna Park. While only 190 km from the capital, it takes at least 8 hours to get to Jiri by bus (including a stop for lunch). A bus ticket is around 500 rupees, you can buy a ticket at the bus station or via a travel agent in Thamel. The bus journey is slow but the scenery is beautiful. So just sit back and enjoy the ride! A few kilometers outside of Jiri, the bus will stop at a police checkpoint. Here you need to register and write down your name, age, passport number, and nationality.
The Poon hill trek
By Hanna from Solar Powered Blonde Blog
Poon Hill is the perfect trek for those who aren’t experienced hikers. This five-day trek involves three days of trekking to reach the summit and two days to get back to Pokhara where the hike starts. The trek is not too ‘strenuous’, as there aren’t many huge inclines or places you have to climb. However, the three days of trekking to the summit mainly involves stony stairs, so mentally prepare yourself to climb up a lot of stairs. The Nepalese climbing up and down, will make it look super easy but remember they are well trained. They have to carry everything up the stairs including mattresses so watch out as they zoom past.
The first two days of walking start soon after breakfast until sunset so it is quite an intense day but with a good guide, you will have the best time of your life. The Three Sisters is a great company to go with. It is a company run by women with all women guides, perfect if you are a solo woman or a group of ladies! There are stops for lunch, where it will be mainly lentils and curry, great fuel for trekking! Some places even let you take free second helpings, so don’t worry at all. You can find Western foods here but it’s wise to stick to Nepalese food. It will cost you a lot less than Western food. One of the top tips is to stock up on snacks, as they will be 5x the price the higher up you get.
The permit to do the hike costs around $20 but you can get the updated price while booking your guide online. The third night is very exciting as it involves staying at a guest house at the base of the summit. The guesthouses usually have a huge fire pit that everyone sits around in the evening before an early bedtime. The warmth from the fire pits helps you keep warm during the freezing nights high up there. The hike to the summit starts in the dark, arriving just before sunrise.
The maximum elevation is 3,210m, bear this in mind when getting travel insurance. The views from the summit are absolutely breathtaking! The sun will rise over the mountains and you need to be ready with your camera to capture these moments.
Bardiya National Park
By Ellis from Backpack Adventures
Bardiya National Park lies in the far western corner of Nepal, protected from mass tourism by its remote location. Despite being one of the best spots in Asia to spot tigers, it sees very few visitors. However, the natural beauty of the park is well worth the effort to go there.
Nepal is mostly famous for its mountains, but it has lush jungles too. Bardiya National park was established to protect the unique wildlife and nature in the area. The Karnali and Babai rivers run through the park and are surrounded by thick forests and savannah-like plains.
The big three of Bardiya include the royal Bengal tiger, the one-horned rhino, and the wild elephant. The river is home to crocodiles and even the rare Gangetic dolphin. You will need a bit of luck to spot them, but it is easy to see some of the other animals such as langur monkeys, deers, blackbucks, and lots of birds.
The lack of tourism adds to its charm. However, the few lodges that surround the park offer a wealth of activities from jungle walks to jeep safaris and rafting trips. A guide is mandatory and they are well trained to point out the animals for you. You can also visit the local crocodile and gharial breeding centers or rent a bicycle to explore the rural villages around the park where the indigenous Tharu population lives.
The best time to visit the park is from October till December. The best time to see tigers is right at the end of the dry season before the monsoon starts. This would be in May or early June. Do keep in mind that these are also the hottest months of the year with temperatures reaching more than 40 degrees Celsius. It’s then that the lack of water forces tigers to visit the shores of the rivers more frequently.
The best way to reach Bardiya National Park is to fly to Nepalgunj. From there it is 3-4 hours by bus to Thakurdwara. Thakurdwara is close to the park entrance and has a decent choice of lodges to stay. If you prefer not to fly you can also take a bus from Kathmandu. This journey takes about 16 hours. The entrance to the park is 1500 Nepalese rupees per person per day.
The Siddha Gufa in Bandipur
Nepal has many caves and hidden underground crevasses, especially in places like Pokhara and Mustang. The Siddha Gufa in Bandipur is the largest cave in Nepal, measuring 437 meters deep with a 50-meter high rock ceiling. With the ceiling of the cave covered in roosting bats, exploring the cave is a thrilling adventure. The cave interior eroded with minerals like the stalagmites and the stalactites giving the insides of the cave a cathedral-like impression. The water flowing through the stones is yet another attraction of the cave.
It is believed that the Siddha Gufa got its name from a sage called Siddha baba who attained his enlightenment here. The most popular way to reach the Siddha Gufa is via trekking from Bandipur which takes about one and a half hour hike each way if it’s muddy. An alternate path is a 45 minutes march uphill to the cave from Bimalnagar (which lies on Prithvi Highway).
The path leading to the cave is a dirt path full of stones which can be slippery during rainy seasons. The path is being maintained to make the climb easier for the tourists. It’s essential to hire a local guide at the entrance of the cave who would take you through the path in the cave and tell you more about it. The cave entrance fee is Rs 200 and another Rs 200 for hiring the local guide.
The Gokyo Lakes trek
By Dean Johnston and Laynni Locke at Routinely Nomadic
Everybody knows about Mount Everest – the tallest mountain in the world featuring the iconic Everest Base Camp trek, one of the most famous hikes on the planet. And rightly so as it’s an adventure of a lifetime. What most people don’t know, however, is that just slightly off the main EBC route is a far less trodden loop that offers arguably even better scenery with just a fraction of the hikers – the magnificent Gokyo Lakes trek.
Nearly all trekkers to the Everest Region find themselves spending a couple of nights acclimatizing to the altitude in relatively civilized Namche Bazaar (3,400m) on their way up. While the EBC trek continues north from there, you can take a left toward the pleasant, placid Thame Valley and, magically, the hordes of fellow trekkers fall away and you are left to enjoy unspoiled views, virtually empty trails, and quiet, friendly tea houses.
After 2 or 3 nights ascending the valley, slowly acclimatizing to higher elevations, you eventually reach Renjo La, a 5,400-metre high mountain pass that needs to be traversed to reach Gokyo Valley and its spectacular lakes on the other side. Do not underestimate the rigors of this difficult pass – between the steep ascent and breathtaking lack of oxygen at this level it can be slow going. Rest assured, though, the views at the top are more than worth the effort (not to mention the incredible scenery throughout the climb).
Dragging yourself over the pass, you are immediately faced with the first of 19 amazing Gokyo Lakes (the highest freshwater lake system in the world) glittering in the sun far down in the valley, backed by the looming range of many of the world’s tallest peaks including Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, and Cho Oyu. We recommend at least 2 nights in Gokyo (3 would be even better) so that you have time to visit a few of the lakes and climb to Gokyo Ri, the incredible viewpoint right beside the first lake, which offers possibly the best look at Mount Everest (among others) found anywhere in the Himalaya (and definitely better than the view from Everest Base Camp). From here you can either continue on toward Kongma-La to complete the Three Passes trek or spend a day or two headings back down the Gokyo Valley, joining up with the main EBC trail at Tengboche.
Starting in Lukla, most people take 10-14 days to complete the Gokyo Lakes trek, staying in basic tea houses along the way (usually spending around $20-30 nights including food). You can carry your own gear or hire porters for roughly $20/day and park fees total around $60/person. The best time to trek in Nepal is between early October and mid-November, although spring (March-April) is also a good time.
While you explore the unexplored paths, don’t miss the taste of Nepal. Interactions with the local people offer a real glimpse into the simple life and traditions in the valleys of Nepal. Guests are graciously welcomed to partake in the homemade Nepalese delicacies, such as fried fish, special curries, and eggs served with rice.
Explore the lofty heights and vibrant culture of this magical Himalayan kingdom at your own pace. With such breadth and depth of adventure available in this small nation, that you will not be disappointed.
Comment down below if you have been to any of the above-mentioned places and tell us your experience.