Nepal draws visitors for many reasons. Some go trekking through the stunning Himalayan mountains. Others come to visit the bustling city of Kathmandu. Many people come to the Hindu-and-Buddhist country in the hope of gaining spiritual enlightenment. Whatever your reason for visiting Nepal, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience.

If you want to soak up the cultural and spiritual feel of Nepal, you can visit temples, monasteries, and shrines. If you’re a nature-lover, you won’t want to miss out on seeing the country’s stunning wildlife. You can also shop in authentic Nepalese markets, and chill out in the evenings with some live music at a bar. A trip to Nepal can be an eye-opening adventure and a life-changing experience.

01Boudhanath Stupa

Buddha Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal piskunov / Getty Images

A stupa is a dome-shaped building constructed as a Buddhist shrine. You’ll find lots of stupas in Nepal, but if you only see one, make sure it’s the Boudhanath Stupa on the outskirts of Kathmandu. This UNESCO world heritage site is one of the largest of its kind on the planet. No other stupa comes close to the magnificence of this elegant shrine, which features a whitewashed dome and a gilded tower decorated with the all-seeing eye of Buddha.

02Asan Tole

Photo of a tourist, travelling by foot and eager to learn about local lifestyle AleksandarNakic / Getty Images

From dawn to dusk, this six-spoked junction in Kathmandu is jam-packed with food vendors selling everything from spices and vegetables to dried fish and yak tails. The Asan Tole marketplace is an incredibly lively and bustling place to hang out. Additionally, the area contains the impressive three-story Annapurna Temple and a red-faced Ganesh shrine, covered in bathroom tiles. Asan Tole is also famous for a teahouse where the renowned musician Cat Stevens allegedly wrote his hit song “Kathmandu.”

03Swayambhunath

Monkeys around Monkey Temple byakkaya / Getty Images

After the Boudhanath Stupa, this is the second-most important shrine in the Kathmandu Valley. It sits on a hilltop with an extensive panoramic view and dates back to the 5th century. Swayambhunath is affectionately-nicknamed the Monkey Temple. The reason is that lots of monkeys have decided to reside in parts of the temple. The Boudhanath Stupa is an important religious site for many of Nepal’s Buddhists, especially the Newari Buddhists who live in the locality.

04Chitwan National Park

A graceful Bengal tiger in the Chitwan National Park in Nepal. weaver1234 / Getty Images

If you want to get away from Nepal’s busy streets and experience another side of the country, head out to the Chitwan National Park. You can view many types of exotic wildlife in a safari-like atmosphere in a tropical monsoon climate. At this UNESCO world heritage site southwest of Kathmandu, you have the opportunity to see Bengal tigers, and many other fascinating creatures, including more than 500 species of birds. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see the crocodiles and dolphins that inhabit the streams and rivers.

 

05National Museum

National Museum of Nepal Clemensmarabu / Wikipedia

Nepal’s National Museum, south of Swayambhunath at Chhauni, is a sprawling walled compound that houses some fantastic treasures. You can view ancient manuscripts, votive objects, religious paintings, and archaeological findings from Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini. You’ll also discover old whale bones, stuffed animals, and an impressive collection of weapons. Also, look out for the bronze statue of the buffalo-headed Sukhavara Samvara, which has nine faces, 16 feet, and 34 arms. To the north of the compound, you can see the elegant Rana-era palace building.

06Buddha Jayanti

Colorful prayers' flags photo taken in Lumbini, Nepal. The birthplace of Buddha during the birthday celebrations week. kameramachina / Getty Images

This Buddhist and Hindu festival takes place in Lumbini every year in April or May and celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and death of the religious leader Buddha. Each year, thousands of pilgrims from all over Nepal and India travel to Buddha’s birthplace to participate in this colorful and vibrant festival. If you want to experience a genuinely Nepalese event, you will not be disappointed by this festival full of bright candles, joyful chanting, and heartfelt singing.

07Western Cremation Ghats

These are the Ghats of Bagmati River, Kathmandu, Nepal IVANVIEITO / Getty Images

You may be familiar with the famous open-air cremations on the River Ganges. Well, this Hindu site in Pashupatinath is Nepal’s equivalent. Cremations occur daily on the sacred Bagmati River, where you can see black smoke billowing upwards into the sky. Although the river itself is polluted and filled with garbage, this is an ideal sacred site to contemplate notions of mortality. Also, at the north end of the cremation ghats, you’ll find caves used by mystics and yogis.

08Cambodia Monastery

Snake statue at the Cambodian Buddhist Monastery in Lumbini, Nepal

This recently-constructed monastery has quickly become one of the most fabulous temples in all of Nepal. The exterior walls display intricate designs, and the colorful temple is surrounded by a square-shaped railing that consists of four 50-meter-long green snakes that entwine at the railings’ corners. Located in the Buddhist pilgrimage site of Lumbini, this incredible monastery is your opportunity to see how the Nepalese people are still constructing incredible buildings in this modern day-and-age.

09Paper Park

Close up photo of a souvenir shop in Kathmandu Obencem / Getty Images

Thamel is well known for its handmade paper products. Several stores sell items like paper lamps and photo albums. Paper Park is the best store in the district. You’re sure to find a souvenir to take back home. The paper that’s used to make the products comes from the Lokta plant. Its bark is boiled and then beaten with wooden mallets to make a pulp. It’s then spread over a frame to dry. All of Nepal’s official documents use this traditional hand-crafted paper.

10Nyatapola Temple

Nyatapola Pagoda on Taumadhi Square in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal.

You’ll be able to spot the high rooftop of this Hindu temple long before you reach it, as Nyatapola Temple in Bhaktapur is the tallest temple in the country. The perfectly-proportioned building dates from 1702 during the reign of King Bhupatindra Malla. The temple is devoted to the bloodthirsty Siddhi Lakshmi, who is thought to be an incarnation of the goddess Durga. The highly-decorated temple contains statues of elephants, lions, beaked griffins, and goddesses. But if you want to see the fearsome statue of the goddess Durga, you’ll be disappointed. It’s supposed to be so terrifying that only the priests of Nyatapola Temple are allowed to see it.

11Mount Everest

View of Mount Everest and Nuptse with buddhist prayer flags from kala patthar in Sagarmatha National Park in the Nepal Himalaya maroznc / Getty Images

A trip to Nepal is not complete without seeing the most famous mountain on the planet. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you could even consider climbing to its base camp. At 8,848 meters, Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world. If you don’t intend to climb it, the best place to view the mighty mountain is in the hill town of Nagarkot, not far from Kathmandu. However, you may have to wait for a clear day to see the mountain in all its splendor.