Our Nepal Family Travel Guide
Nepal is a land full of beauty, chaos, spirituality and wonder.
We fell in love with Nepal over twenty years ago when Sue and I first visited, to trek in the Everest region.
In fact after visiting three times now it feels like coming home.
But returning with our 11-year-old daughter Annabel, for her first visit was going to be a different experience entirely.
That’s why we wanted to share our Nepal family travel guide with you so that you might fall in love with this amazing country too.
It’s a heady mix of cultures from the Indian Subcontinent to the South and the Tibetan plains to the North.
This mixture forms a culture rich in religious practices and welcoming hearts.
Whether you want to trek in the Himalaya or just enjoy other sights and experiences Nepal has to offer, you may come away with a different perception of Nepal than you entered with.
It’s not for everyone but then nowhere is.
You’ll experience and see first hand a country and people struggling with challenges but also a land full of beauty that you can only imagine until you see it for yourself.
We love to trek and climb in the high lands, it’s the mountains that pull us back time and time again but you don’t need to trek to enjoy all Nepal has to offer.
Over twenty years ago Sue and I set out from Kathmandu on a trek into the Everest region and were mesmerised by the astounding scenery and kind people of the Sherpa regions.
In more recent years I found myself back to climb Mount Mera at just under 6,500 meters and in 2017 and as a family with Annabel, we decided to trek independently and unaided to Everest Base Camp.
Nepal is one of those places that we definitely wanted to take Annabel and have her experience.
We set out to attempt to trek from Salleri to Everest Base Camp, but did we make it??
You’ll most likely head into Kathmandu for you first experience of Nepal, so that’s where we’ll start.
Scenery In The High Himalaya
If you’re flying into Kathmandu on your Nepal family travel adventure and the weather is kind to you, you’ll get uninterrupted views of the snowcapped Himalaya in the distance as you descend over the outskirts of this huge sprawling city with buildings crammed into every available space.
We think Kathmandu has changed a lot over the time since we first stepped into its magical atmosphere.
Like most cities, there’s more pollution, traffic and people than there used to be and as a result of the devastating 2015 earthquake, the dust that hangs in the city can get a bit overpowering at times but don’t let those things deter you from exploring this amazing city.
At the heart of the city is the old backpackers haunt of the Thamel district, an area chock full of shops, guesthouses, restaurants and cafes.
Alongside the simple hostels of old, there are more modern luxury hotels and fancy restaurants but it’s still the place to go to stay and eat cheaply.
Thamel is the place to buy any trekking gear you may need although don’t be fooled by the fancy brand names as it’s all fake unless you go to the main brands, own outlets.
The gear isn’t particularly well made sometimes so don’t expect it to last too long but for those last minute items there’s no beating the prices.
We bought and rented gear from the well known and recommended Shona’s shop in the heart of Thamel where Andy, a Brit climber gives advice on treks and gear you’ll need.
If it’s souvenirs you’re wanting then Thamel is the place to find anything your heart may desire, from prayer flags to Kashmir’s, to jewellery.
The range of food available is endless from simple Daal Bhat counters to five-star cuisine.
Thamel is just right for getting lost while exploring its narrow congested streets and alleyways that may exit into beautiful squares but don’t worry as you’re never far away from where you want to be.
Further afield you’ll find the other sights Kathmandu has to offer that can be reached easily by taxi.
Annabel And I In The Heart Of Thamel
Other Things To See Around Kathmandu
If you’re feeling a bit hemmed in by Thamel then you can get out to some of the more spacious areas of Kathmandu and the well-known sights.
This 5th Century stupa is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the biggest stupas in the world which sits in the outskirts of the city.
Also on the outskirts of Kathmandu is Pashupatinath Temple that stretches either side of the Bagmati River and is a sacred Hindu site dedicated to the God Shiva.
Just a word of warning if you intend to visit.
Cremations are held on the banks of the river here at certain times that can be distressing for some people but give an insight into a different culture.
Located near the Thamel district, Durbar Square is the old royal square that housed the royal palaces and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Several of the structures collapsed in the 2015 earthquake.
At one end of the square, you’ll find the Kumari Chok, a gilded cage containing the Raj Kumar, a girl chosen by a traditional process to become the living incarnation of Durga, the Hindu Mother Goddess.
The Buildings Of Durbar Square
Where To Stay In Kathmandu
We booked a budget hotel in the Thamel area but soon moved out as it became clear there was a bed bug problem in our room.
Annabel was covered in bites so we made a hasty retreat.
What we did find instead though was a great deal on a wonderful apartment.
The Retreat Serviced Apartments on the edge of town offer lovely one and two bedroomed apartments.
They have lovely soft clean beds and pillows, a sitting room area with a tv and a kitchen with a cooker.
There’s even a small gym for use by the residents.
They’re not cheap by any means but at the time there was a special offer on for the days we wanted so we leapt at it after going to look at the apartments one day.
They were ideal to get all out gear sorted out for our upcoming trek and to wash everything thoroughly to get rid of the bed bugs.
The staff also kindly let us store all of our stuff we didn’t need while on trek.
Our Apartment At The Retreat Serviced Aparnments
Where To Eat In Kathmandu
Thamel is stuffed full of places to eat from simple curry houses to five-star restaurants.
One place we found that was nice was Gupta Bhajanalaya Pure Vegetarian.
A very simple kitchen offering vegetarian Indian food.
Inexpensive Indian Food
Jump on a tourist bus and head West from Kathmandu and after a six-hour drive you’ll end up in the beautiful city of Pokhara.
Pokhara is a city of two halves, the main city and the tourist area of Lakeside nestled by the idyllic Phewa Lake.
The Lakeside area has a small town feel with mostly low rise buildings giving view to the lake and the Annapurna mountain range as a backdrop.
It’s this view that Pokhara is known for and the fact that it is the gateway to trekking in the Annapurna region.
We spent a few weeks there, after our trek to Everest Base Camp in 2017 and it was the ideal wind down to our trek with relaxing boating on the lake and a chilled atmosphere.
If you’ve come from Kathmandu, the pace of life in Pokhara will seem like you stepped into another country completely.
There is a quietness about Pokhara that will have you drifting off into a calm state of mind and a less hurried way of being.
In fact, there are people who have found home here and decided to stay.
The stores have the same touristy feel as Kathmandu with trekking being the main focus as well as all sort of trinkets you can imagine but it has a much more mellow feel.
Hours can pass as you sit having a coffee in one of the many cafes by the shores of the lake just watching life go past.
Relaxing Beside Phewa Lake, Pokhara
Things To Do In Pokhara
If you feel the inclination to get active during your stay in Pokhara, you’ll find plenty to keep you occupied.
Take A Boat Out On The Lake
Boating on Phewa lake is a very popular thing to do and is especially beautiful at sunset.
You can rent your own boat by the hour and paddle yourself or rent a boat with an oarsman to take you wherever on the lake you want.
The boats are large wooden canoe style with plenty of room for 3 or 4 people comfortably.
Phewa Lake Boating
Take A Walk Up To The Peace Pagoda
Perched atop a hill to the South of Pokhara lies the white painted Peace Pagoda or Buddha Peace Stupa.
To reach this beautiful spot you’ll need to hop on a boat to cross the Phewa lake and climb the hill to the Stupa
If you have rented your own boat you can leave it on the shore, visit the Stupa and return the same way or as we did you can get someone to row you across, climb the hill, visit the Stupa and return via a route over the other side of the hill which you can combine with a visit to the Devils Falls waterfall.
The walk up the hill is quite strenuous so take plenty of water with you.
The Peace Pagoda
Watch A Movie Outside
Fancy watching a movie?
You can visit The Movie Garden for an out in the fresh air movie experience.
Every week the Movie Garden puts on some really cool movies to watch.
The setting is in a beautiful garden area with a bar and food options.
It’s not a huge space so get there early to get a good spot to watch from.
We went to watch the movie, Everest, and it was brilliant and much better than we thought it would be on an outside screen.
The only downside is that they allow smoking as it’s outside and there were a few people lighting up which was a negative point for us.
Big Screen At The Movie Garden
Visit The International Mountain Museum
If you’ve got any sort of interest in the mountains then a visit to the International Mountain Museum is a must.
Set outside the main city and close by to the airport the museum is set in a large and quite impressive building.
On first glance, exhibits look quite sparse but there is a large amount of mountaineering memorabilia as well as some stunning images of the Himalayas and facts on the more well-known peaks.
It’s well worth a cab drive or walk out there.
The International Mountain Museum
The Gurkha Museum
We were lucky enough to meet the Gurkha Everest Expedition Team on our Everest Base Camp trek so we wanted to learn more about the Gurkha people and their link to the British Army.
Lucky then, that just outside of the main town is the Gurkha Museum which tells the history of the Gurkha’s from their founding to the present day.
It gives a fascinating insight into the region of Nepal where the Gurkhas originate from and their way of life.
Set over three levels, it is a well-organised museum with plenty to keep you interested for a couple of hours.
The International Mountain Museum
If you’ve never been paragliding before then Pokhara might just be the place to have a go.
Annabel our daughter decided she was going to be a daredevil and have a go so we asked around and Buddha Paragliding was recommended to us as one of the best outfits.
Once at the office they will drive you and a group of other adventurous people up to a very high hill overlooking the town.
You’ll be strapped to an experienced pilot for your flight then basically you run for all your worth off of the hill and into the air.
The paraglider glides in the air and the pilot can guide it over nearby villages as you get wonderful views of the mountains in the background.
We were able to wait at the landing site and watch Annabel land.
She loved the experience but now wants to do something a bit more exciting.
Annabel’s Paragliding Adventure
Where To Stay
There are numerous places to stay in town.
We would recommend being in the Lakeside area but perhaps not right in the middle as it can be a bit loud on the main strip through town.
We booked somewhere for a couple of days before we arrived but then looked around town ourselves to find somewhere a bit nicer.
After a search around we found the wonderful Pokhara Palace Hotel.
It’s a budget hotel but was probably the cleanest hotel we looked at for the price and the owner and his wife are lovely and really helpful.
We ate at the hotel quite a few times during our three-week stay and the owner brought our meals up to our room and we ate at a table out on the balcony with brilliant views.
Now we have found the Pokhara Palace we wouldn’t stay anywhere else.
Our Room At The Pokhara Palace Hotel
Breakfast On The Balcony Of The Pokhara Palace Hotel
Where To Eat
On first sight, Pokhara doesn’t appear to be a very cheap place to eat with its overpriced tourist restaurants but scratch the surface and you’ll find places that are very inexpensive with great quality food.
Most people who come to Pokhara are only staying a short while and they are willing to spend their hard earned cash on expensive food in upmarket places but if you’re on a budget like us then it’s important to find the more traditional inexpensive places, and they do exist.
Wander away from the centre of town and you’ll find hidden gems.
We found a really tiny place that sold the most delicious Lemon Pancakes we have had since leaving the UK.
By far our favourite place to eat apart from our hotel was The Asian Tea House, a tiny place with just four tables down a small side alley in the centre of town.
It was the cheapest place we found but had by far the best food that was traditional and cooked fresh there and then by the owner who trained to be a chef in England.
The huge menu was only eclipsed by the huge portions whipped up in the minute kitchen in this family-run eatery.
We found ourselves eating here all the time and it never got boring.
The Asian Tea House
Huge Menu At The Asian Tea House
Trekking In Nepal
Undoubtedly the number one attraction to Nepal is unbeatable trekking and climbing in amongst the high Himalayan peaks.
There are several areas to choose from though.
The most visited areas are the Everest region and the Annapurna region.
We’ve trekked and climbed in the Everest region three times but never yet in the Annapurna so we aren’t really qualified to give you an opinion here on the Annapurna.
What we can say is that it’s supposed to be beautiful, which kind of goes without saying of the Himalaya.
The Everest region we know quite a bit about and have trekked in groups and independently.
You’ll most likely fly into Lukla when visiting the Everest region although it is possible to walk in from either Jiri or Salleri as we did on our last trek to Everest Base Camp.
The main destination for the majority of trekkers will be Everest Base Camp or Gokyo Lakes or a combination of both in the Sagarmatha National Park.
The trekking by its very nature is high altitude so trekkers have to be aware of the risks of altitude sickness and take all necessary precautions.
We would recommend being part of a group or hiring experienced guides to lead you who have knowledge of the area and know the dangers of trekking in this environment.
If you do manage to find yourself high up in the Himalaya we can almost guarantee that you will be astounded by the beauty and scale of the landscape.
It’s like nowhere else on earth and once you have a taste for it you may find yourself returning again and again.
Reaching Everest Base Camp