The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal is a landlocked Himalayan state sandwiched between India to the west, south and east, and China to the north. Nepal was a monarchy, but in 2006 the king lost most of his traditional power. Ten of the world’s 16 highest mountains lie along the border in the north. Mount Everest, locally known as Sagarmatha, is located on the border between Nepal and China. Nepal is famous for its wild and beautiful nature, many valuable ancient monuments (especially in the Kathmandu Valley), and a very diverse population that speaks over 100 languages and has preserved much of its ancient and traditional culture. The country is among the poorest in the world. Nepal’s official calendar is called Bikram Samwat in Nepali, and has important symbolic value both because it marks Nepal as a state with Hindu culture and emphasizes that Nepal is different from the rest of the world.

3-16. October 2023: 14 days tour with Carpe Diem to Nepal and Bhutan 

We flew into Kathmandu and visited the giant Boudhanath stupa before continuing to Bhutan next morning. After a week in Bhutan we returned to drive on bad roads straight to the mountain village of Bandipur. After a long walk and climb to visit the small village of Ramkot high up on a hill we continued to Pokhara where we stayed in a lake-side lodge. From a hilltop above Pokhara we saw the sunrise, and had a glimpse of the Annapurna mountain range through the clouds. We had sightseeing stops at the Bindhyabasini temple, visited a cave temple and a Tibetan refugee camp.  We flew back to Kathmandu for sightseeing, and visited the old palace at Patan Durbar Square, the  Swayambhunath monkey temple, and had a glimpse of the holy Kumari girl at the Durbar Square. The last day before flying back to Norway was reserved for shopping

Day 1-2: To Kathmandu + sightseeing 

Our ‘Himalaya tour’ started with a 3 + 2 hours transit stop in Istanbul. We arrived Kathmandu in the morning and were met by our local guide. Our flight to Bhutan was scheduled to next morning, so after checking into the Nepali Ghar hotel, and a few hours rest, we had time for a sightseeing tour of the Boudhanath stupa – The Great Stupa. We visited a temple where two rows of monks chanted. Unfortunately no photos or video were allowed inside temples in Nepal and Bhutan! After circling the stupa we were bussed back through the ‘interesting’ Kathmandu traffic. After dinner we relaxed before getting a good night’s sleep before heading for Bhutan.

(For day 3 to 7, see Bhutan page)

Day 8: From Bhutan to Bandipur in Nepal

On arrival in Kathmandu after a week in Bhutan we drove directly westwards to the town of Bandipur. With the highway being under construction it was very bumpy drive. After a lunch stop, and a walk across a long suspension bridge, the bus climbed steep winding roads up 700 meters to Bandipur – one of Nepal’s most charming towns. Bandipur is a living museum of Newari culture, a beautifully preserved village crowning a lofty ridge, its main street lined with traditional row houses restored as cafes and lodges. We were boarded in the very interesting Gaun Gahr Hotel. The door to my room had a simple padlock, and in the bathroom I could only stand upright between the wooden beams in the low ceiling. Late afternoon we had a sightseeing walk around this relaxing town with no cars or traffic in the main street. 

Day 9: Bandipur – Ramkot village tour

We hiked to the beautiful rural village of Ramkot, which is a popular destination about 2 hours walk (7 km) to the west of Bandipur, where we experienced the rural lifestyle of Nepal. The village is habituated by native Magar people, which are the successors of Mongols. The path mostly follows the hillside, except for a few steep slopes. The village is located on a mountain ridge, about 1000 meters above sea level, with magnificent view to both sides , which we did not see fully because of low clouds. The sun came out now and then, and it was relatively hot when we walked back to Bandipur.

Day 10: From Bandipur to Pokhara – “City of Lakes”

After breakfast in Bandipur we headed for Pokhara on the same roads being under construction most of the way. After a few breaks and lunch stop, we reached our Fish Tail Lodge – named after the ‘Fish Tail’ Mountain in the nearby Annapurna Range.

Pokhara is a metropolitan city in central Nepal, and is the second most populous city of Nepal after Kathmandu, with about a half million inhabitants, located 200 kilometers west of the capital. The city is on the shore of Phewa Lake, at an elevation of about 822m. The Annapurna Range, with three out of the ten highest peaks in the world is within 24–56 km of the valley. Pokhara is considered the tourism capital of Nepal, being a base for trekkers.

Day 11: Sightseeing in Pokhara 

We left our hotel while it was still dark and drove the narrow winding road up to the Sarangkot plateau to watch the sunrise. Unfortunately it was haze and low clouds, but as the sun rose some clouds cleared and we could see the peaks of a few snow covered mountains. Next stop was the Bindhyabasini temple, and after a breakfast break in our hotel we visited the Davis Falls waterfall and the underground river in the Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave.  A short walk from there is the Tashiling Tibetan Refugee Camp that was established in 1960 for Tibetan refugees. After a coffee break in the Little Tibet Café we returned to our hotel for a relaxing afternoon. In the evening we had a nice dinner with a local dance show.

Day 12: Palace and temples in Patan Darbar Square, Kathmandu

After returning from Pokhara to Kathmandu we started our sightseeing in the old Patan Darbar Square area – one of the three Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu. We were guided around in the old king palace, which is now a museum, before we walked along the impressive multi-roofed temples in the square outside. In a side-street we visited a shop where we were introduced healing bowls. Outside we passed a Hare Krishna procession. We had lunch in a restaurant overlooking the square before leaving the area.

Day 12: The Swayambhunath temples and Stupa (‘Monkey Temple’)

Swayambhunath is among the oldest religious sites in Nepal with an ancient religious complex atop a hill west of Kathmandu city. For the Buddhist Newars this is probably the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sites. For Tibetans and followers of Tibetan Buddhism, it is second only to the great stupa (Boudhanath).
Tourists know the place as the Monkey Temple because of all the monkeys in the forests around the hill. A long staircase leads directly to the main platform of the temple. The complex consists of a stupa and a variety of shrines and temples, and more recent additions like a Tibetan monastery, a museum and a library. There are also shops, restaurants and hostels. 

Day 12: Durbar Square and the Kumari girl, Kathmandu

The bus let us off near a bridge where we crossed a polluted river and walked narrow streets up to the Durbar Square dating back to the 3rd century. The outer complex consists of a number of 16th-century temples, and the central square is surrounded by palace. We visited the Kumari Ghar palace, where the Kumari girl – the “living goddess” – revealed herself from a window high above us for a few minutes (- photos and video not allowed!). This day was the beginning of a festival, and the crowd and traffic in the square was chaotic, but we found our way back to our bus down by the river.  

Day 13: Kathmandu – People and traffic in the Thamel area 

On our last day in Nepal we had the day off for sightseeing by ourselves or shopping. I walked the streets in the Thamel area where our hotel was located, looking in shops and at people. Thamel is known for its narrow alleys crowded with various shops and vendors. A “tourist friendly” area according to Internet, but easy to get lost. The dense traffic and crowded streets was fascinating – very different from home.  

Day 14: Kathmandu – Istanbul – Oslo flight along Himalaya

Our Turkish Airlines flight from Nepal home to Norway via Istanbul in Turkey, flying along 7-8000 meter high Himalaya mountain peaks – a wonderful spectacle!