Keen to visit Nepal on a budget? While some of the longer treks to Everest base camp or along the Annapurna range require a decent amount of time and money, there are plenty of ways to take advantage of the country’s natural beauty and exciting landscapes without breaking your bank. [Note: all prices are listed in Nepali rupees. At the time of writing, £1 was equivalent to 118 rupees. 1 USD is around 77 rupees.]
Visit the Swayambunath Stupa in Kathmandu
Tucked away high on a hill on the western edge of Kathmandu, you can see the golden stupa of this famous Buddhist temple well before you reach it. While the lower portions of the temple are free to wander through, a 200 rupee fee is required from all foreigners wishing to view the stupa itself. The fee is well worth it, though, to see the long rows of prayer flags and groups of mischievous monkeys.
Get a bird’s eye view of Durbar Square
There are a number of Durbar Squares located throughout Nepal, it being the standard name given to the plaza opposite a royal palace, but Kathmandu’s is especially remarkable. Officials will charge you 350 rupees to walk through it, but why not out-smart them and grab an even better view from above? A number of restaurants surrounding the square offer roof-top dining from which you can gaze down on the columned classical buildings and the multi-tiered roofs of the Newari temples.
Catch the sunrise from Sarang Kot in Pokhara
Rather than pay for an expensive taxi up the mountain, arrange with your hotel or guesthouse owner to have a motorbike pick you up early one morning. The driver will take you up winding roads to the well-known Sarang Kot viewpoint, where you can hopefully have your first glimpse of the Annapurna range. A little less sleep is more than made up for by the panoramic view of the valley.
Stroll along Fewa Lake at sunset
Take advantage of Pokhara’s beautiful location on Fewa Lake and catch the sun as it sinks below the distant hills. You can either sit along the shoreline or find a seat in one of the many lakeside restaurants and cafes–the perfect place to people-watch as local boaters bring their boats in for the night.
Bike to the Elephant Breeding Centre in Chitwan
To finish off your stay in Nepal, make your way south to Chitwan National Park, right on the country’s border with India. If you take a bus from either Pokhara or Kathmandu, chances are you’ll arrive in the village of Sauraha in mid-afternoon. This leaves just enough time to grab a bike from a rental shop in town and head out to the Elephant Breeding Centre. For an entry fee of 50 rupees, you can wander along the L-shaped complex of shelters that are home to about 25 female elephants and their little ones.
Go on a Jungle Safari
You may have started to notice that in Chitwan, it’s all about the wildlife. There’s no better way to track down the fauna of Chitwan National Park–from deer and wild boar to that elusive tiger–than from the back of an elephant. However, you have two options when it comes to where you go on an elephant ride. One is in the national park, which is government-run and costs 1,200 rupees. The other is the community-managed Baghmara Forest, which only charges 1,000 rupees. Either way, you’ll need to purchase an additional entrance permit for 500 rupees.
Give an Elephant a Bath
In between their morning and afternoon jungle walks, the elephants are led back through Sauraha to a local riverside hotel. Why? It’s bathtime. What’s even cooler about this mid-morning ritual is that you can help. For a small tip of 50-100 rupees, all you have to do is approach a driver on the shore and he’ll give you a leg-up onto the back of an elephant. Make sure to leave your camera and any other valuables in safe hands, though…as soon as you’re in the river, it’s time to get sprayed!