Nepal is a beautiful little country with so much to offer tourists but creating a Nepal itinerary can be a challenge given the amount of variables such as weather and transport times. This guide aims to give you an overview of all the best places to visit in Nepal and roughly how long you need to explore each one.
Famous among trekker and mountain enthusiasts, Nepal became a popular tourist destination before the severe earthquake in 2015 brought tourism to a virtual standstill. But Nepal is a land of resilience, strength and yak cheese and it is slowly regaining popularity not only with trekkers but with all kinds of visitors. Whether they come to spot rhinos and tigers in the national parks, meditate at the many temples, sip tea in the hills or conquer the tallest mountains in the world, Nepal provides it all with a ‘namaste’ and a smile!
We didn’t plan our Nepal itinerary until we landed in Kathmandu and in a way this worked out surprisingly well. But we had a completely flexible amount of time so didn’t have any pressure. If you have set amount of time in Nepal you probably want to have a rough idea of where you’re heading.
How long to spend in Nepal
This really depends on if you want to go trekking in Nepal, and I highly recommend that you do! The most popular treks in Nepal take anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks and take you through some of the most gorgeous scenery in the world. If you want to experience some other areas of Nepal I would recommend factoring in a week plus your trek(s).
If you want to visit more than just the main tourist towns (Kathmandu and Pokhara) and also do some trekking and relax a little after I would recommend 2 weeks plus your trek time. We spent one month in Nepal and definitely considered staying longer.
Transport in Nepal
The number one rule of transport in Nepal is that it always takes twice as long as you expect. The roads in Nepal aren’t great and there are often closures and delays effected by weather. The situation is improving but make sure you factor a whole day to travel between locations in Nepal.
There are buses between cities and jeeps which travel to the more hard-to-reach places. There are also some domestic flights which are meant to have stunning views but can be a little nerve wracking in the tiny propeller planes.
For more info on logistics in Nepal read our Guide to Backpacking in Nepal.
Trekking options in Nepal
There are so many places to trek in Nepal and all of them offer beautiful scenery and varying levels of challenge. There are also many off the beaten path trekking options which are best done with a local guide who know the area. Here are the most popular trekking routes in Nepal so you can decide based on your ability and time allowance which one (or more) to add to your Nepal travel itinerary.
A challenging circuit trek which starts and ends near Pokhara. People often combine it with other treks in the area. It reaches an altitude of over 5000m so factor in some rest days for acclimatising.
Annapurna Base Camp
This is a great trek for beginners as it is provides a physical challenge but the trail is easy to follow and there are villages at regular intervals. There is minimal risk of altitude sickness and the views are spectacular. We did the trek without a guide in 7 days, read our full article for everything you need to know about the trek.
A great trek for people with limited time or who are looking for a more easy going trek in Nepal. Renowned for it's great sunrise views if you're lucky enough to get a clear day.
Everest Base Camp
The trek to Everest Base Camp is the most famous of all the treks in Nepal and as a result one of the busiest. This is quite challenging but has good facilities and you can do the trek without a guide which will reduce costs.
This is a lesser known trek also in the Pokhara area which only opened teahouses in 2011. This is a ridge track which provides amazing views and reaches an altitude of 4,500m. You can return along a different route making it perhaps more interesting than the Annapurna Base Camp.
Nepal itinerary 2 weeks
If you only have 2 weeks in Nepal and you don’t want to spend the whole time trekking you’ll need to pick a shorter trek (Poon Hill or ABC) and then spend some time in these places.
Recommended time: 2-3 days
Nepal’s bustling capital gets a bad wrap but we really loved it. The air quality is a huge downfall which makes it unpleasant to be in the city for more than a couple of days but make sure you plan to spend some time here at the start or end of your trip. Durbar Square, the Monkey Temple and the Garden of Dreams are well worth it. Thamel is the place to be for all the action, cafes, restaurants and trekking gear.
Where to stay: For huge, clean, comfortable double rooms and delicious free breakfast make sure you book in to Thamel Bed and Breakfast.
If you’re travelling solo and want a clean and affordable dorm try Kathmandu Peace Home.
Recommended time: 2 days
This lakeside tourist hub will be your base before and after trekking if you do Poon Hill or either of the Annapurna treks. Despite the throngs of local and international tourists on their way in and out Pokhara maintains a relaxed vibe and the lake is a beautiful place to relax. The cafes here rival some European cities and there is everything you need for post-trek relaxing such as massages, laundry and coffee! Pokhara is also popular for paragliding and water activities such as kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding.
Where to stay: Big, light rooms and comfortable dorms for decent prices at Pokhara Backpackers Hostel.
If you’re looking for a nicer option with private rooms with balconies and attached bathrooms try the beautiful Hotel Batika. Book here
Get there: 6-8 hour bus ride from Kathamandu. Tourist buses cost around 600 NPR and leave at 7.30am.
Recommended time: 2 days
The most popular of Nepal’s national parks as it is well connected by public transport and has good chances of spotting wildlife particularly crocodiles and rhinos. From the town of Sauraha is the main base for walking and jeep tours of the park. The town is small and there is not much to do there but if you head down to the river at sunset you’ll see all kinds of animals coming out of the park. We saw rhinos, deer, crocodiles, wild boar and a leopard without even entering the park! Hiring bikes and cycling to 20,000 lakes was also a great day out.
Where to stay: For gorgeous eco-friendly cabins in a beautiful garden plus great food check out Evergreen Eco Lodge.
Get there: Tourist buses from Kathmandu or Pokhara go to Tandi Bazaar, from there it’s a 7km journey with a rickshaw or shared taxi (50 NPR).
Nepal itinerary 3 weeks
If you have 3 weeks in Nepal you may want to do a longer trek, multiple treks or spend more of your time exploring lesser known areas of Nepal. In 3 weeks you can do all of the above at a more relaxed pace and even add in another stop. We recommend stopping in Bandipur on your way too or from Pokhara.
Recommended time: 1-2 days
Bandipur is a small historical town set in the hills about halfway between Pokhara and Kathmandu. The main pedestrian street of the town has been well preserved and beautiful windows, creeping plants and wooden beams look down over the paved street. There are mostly tourist cafes and guesthouses but walk 10m further at either end and you’ll be immersed in village life. Bandipur feels like time has stopped and you can easily sit and watch the world go by for several days. If you’re feeling active there’s a temple up a 20 minute climb, some nearby monasteries and a cave to walk to.
Where to stay: The standard of accommodation in Bandipur is not as high as in the more popular tourist areas but you can find basic, clean room for a night or two.
Get there: Take a local or tourist but between Kathmandu and Pokhara and get dropped in Dumre. From there it is a 20 minute local bus (50 NPR) up to Bandipur.
More time in Nepal?
If you plan to use the full 30 day visa or even extend it you could add in any of the following places to your itinerary depending on where your route is taking you.
Bardiya National Park
Located in the west of Nepal this is meant to be a less touristy version of Chitwan. With chances to see rhinos and tigers this is a great stop for animal lovers. Find more detailed information here.
Right on the southern border to India, Lumbini is famous for being the birthplace of Buddha. As a result this is a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site and has many temples. It makes a good stop if you’re crossing the border into India or interested in meditation.
If you are heading East in Nepal, Janakpur is a well-located stop. The city itself doesn’t have much to offer and is busy and dirty compared to most other places in Nepal. It’s really only worth stopping overnight but if you are there don’t miss the impressive Janaki Temple. It is the biggest temple in Nepal and is brilliantly colourful on the outside and contains a bizarre but interesting museum documenting traditional artwork from the region and the story of Ram and Sita.
A beautiful little tea town, this is Nepal’s answer to Darjeeling but on a much smaller, less-developed scale. You won’t find a lot to do here except for wander and take in some beautiful views of the tea plantations. There is also a viewing tower and if you get a clear day there are stunning views of the Himalayas.
Read about how to continue from Ilam to Darjeeling, India.