IN & AROUND CHITWAN, POKHARA & KATHMANDU

PMGY volunteer in Nepal participants are offered a choice of rural and urban locations in this stunning and visually arresting country with volunteer programmes in Chitwan, Pokhara & Kathmandu. Each location is unique in its own way.

 

This off the beaten track destination offers such stark and beautiful scenic contrasts from mountains to jungle and there are few countries in the world that are as well set up for independent travel as Nepal. Wandering the trekking shops, bakeries and pizzerias of Thamel and Pokhara, it’s easy to feel that you have somehow landed in a kind of backpacker Disneyland.

 

Out in the countryside lies a quite different Nepal, where traditional mountain life continues at a slower pace, and a million potential adventures glimmer on the mountain horizons. This is a guide to just a few of them.

Elephant trekking through the jungle in Chitwan National Park

CHITWAN

Chitwan is located in the vast flat and fertile Terrai region close to the Indian border, offering a different landscape to that of Kathmandu and Pokhara, which are closer to the Himalayas. The main city in the region of Chitwan is Bharatpur and the region generally has a much hotter climate than the rest of the country!

 

Paddy fields, ox-towed carts and an array of wildlife, make this a perfect location for those seeking a quieter and more rural atmosphere. However, at the weekend there is still so much to do – elephant bathing, jungle safari, white-water rafting…there is definitely something for those seeking adventure! Whether you cross the country by mountain bike, motorbike, raft or tourist bus, Nepal offers an astonishingly diverse array of attractions and landscapes.

POKHARA

Far from the earthquake epicentre, and almost unaffected by the disaster, Pokhara is blessed with spectacular scenery and a booming adventure sports scene. One of the worlds best paragliding spots, surrounded by white-water rivers and gateway to the world famous Annapurna range treks, what’s not to love about this laid-back, lakeside town with views of snow-capped mountains just 20km away.

 

You’ll find everything you need from western restaurants to international hospitals. But if you prefer a more rustic experience we have placements in quaint rural settings just outside of Pokhara.

Pokhara lake and the Annapurna range in Nepal
Kathmandu the capital city of Nepal

KATHMANDU

Kathmandu is Nepal’s capital and only major city. It is a bustling metropolis rooted in history and rich in culture. Filled with temples, palaces and courtyards, the unique architectural heritage and religious influence make it a fascinating location to live and work.

 

All volunteers arrive in Kathmandu and spend their orientation there. During your orientation you will be located close to the Thamel area, which is the tourist base of Kathmandu. The 2015 earthquake brought devastation to parts of the city – including Kathmandu’s Unesco-listed Durbar Square – but many areas emerged unscathed, and the soul of the city endures. Stroll through the backstreets and Kathmandu’s timeless cultural and artistic heritage will reveal itself in hidden temples overflowing with marigolds, courtyards full of drying chillies and rice, and tiny hobbit-sized workshops.

DURBAR SQUARE

This square, where the city’s kings were once crowned and ruled from, remains the traditional heart of the old town and Kathmandu’s most spectacular legacy of traditional architecture. It’s easy to spend hours wandering around this Unesco World Heritage Site with its popular watch-the-world-go-by temples.

Durbar Square - Kathmandu’s most spectacular legacy of traditional architecture
Inside of Hanuman Dhoka, old Royal Palace, Durbar Square in Kathmandu, Nepal

ROYAL PALACE - HANUMAN DHOKA

Kathmandu’s royal palace, known as the Hanuman Dhoka dates back as far as the 4th century AD, although it was expanded considerably in the 17th century. Sadly, this sprawling palace was hit hard by the 2015 earthquake and damage was extensive. It has been reopened however and visitors still have access while the Nepalese go about reconstructing this beautiful complex.

GOLDEN TEMPLE - KWA BAHAL

Untouched by the earthquake, this unique Buddhist monastery is just north of Durbar Square. It was allegedly founded in the 12th century, and it has existed in its current form since 1409. The temple gets its name from the gilded metal plates that cover most of its frontage and it is one of the most beautiful in Patan. Outside of winter, look for the tortoises pottering around the compound – these are the temple guardians.

Golden Temple - Kwa Bahal - This unique Buddhist monastery is just north of Durbar Square
Just some of the cheeky monkeys at Swayambhunath Monkey temple in Kathmandu, Nepal

SWAYAMBHUNATH TEMPLE

Another Unesco World Heritage Site, the journey up to the Buddhist temple of Swayambhunath is one of the definitive experiences of Kathmandu. Mobbed by monkeys and soaring above the city on a lofty hilltop, the ‘Monkey Temple’ is centred on a gleaming white stupa, topped by a gilded spire painted with the eyes of the Buddha. Depictions of these eyes appear all over the Kathmandu Valley.

 

Coming to Swayambhunath is an intoxicating experience, with ancient carvings jammed into every spare inch of space and the smell of incense and butter lamps hanging heavy in the air. The mystical atmosphere is heightened in the morning and evening by local devotees who make a ritual circumnavigation of the stupa, spinning the prayer wheels set into its base. It is a great place to watch the sun set over Kathmandu.

MOUNTAIN HIGHS

The Nepal Himalaya is the ultimate goal for most mountain lovers. Some of the Himalaya’s most iconic and accessible hiking is on offer here, with rugged trails to Everest, the Annapurnas and beyond. Most trekking areas escaped with only minor damage in the 2015 earthquake.

 

Nowhere else can you trek for days in incredible mountain scenery, secure in the knowledge that a hot meal, cosy lodge and warm slice of apple pie await you at the end of the day. Then there’s the adrenaline kick of rafting a roaring Nepali river or bungee jumping into a bottomless Himalayan gorge. Canyoning, climbing, kayaking, paragliding and mountain biking all offer a rush against the backdrop of some of the world’s most dramatic landscapes.

Prayer flags and trekkers in the Nepalese Himalaya

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