Backpacking in Nepal: the perfect 3 weeks in Nepal itinerary
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Backpacking in Nepal is an amazing experience and despite it isn’t as popular as some other travel destinations, this country offers a wide variety of activities and unique experiences.
Discovering wildlife during a jungle safari in Chitwan National Park, immersing yourself in the rich cultural traditions of Bhaktapur, or exploring the highest mountain peaks in the Annapurna region are some of the best adventures in Nepal and therefore it should be on the bucket list of every nature lover.
I traveled for three weeks across the country and I was able to discover the most beautiful places in Nepal. However, I took my time and explored everything at a leisurely pace, including two multi-day treks in the Annapurna Mountains near Pokhara.
In this article, you’ll find the complete itinerary along with personal experiences, helpful tips, and impressive photographs to inspire you.
READ ALSO: Nepal Budget: How much does a trip to Nepal cost?
NOTE: From April 2023, it is not allowed anymore for foreigners to hike without a guide. TIMS and ACAP Permits will no longer be issued without a registered guide.
How to get to Nepal?
Even though Nepal is bordered by India and China, flying into Kathmandu or, through the recently opened airport of Pokhara is the most convenient option.
International flights departing from Europe typically cost about €500-700 for a round-trip ticket for one person, however, you might find some great deals online.
I find my flight with Malaysian Airlines from Malaysia to Kathmandu on Skyscanner and the round-trip ticket cost me just €370, which is a very reasonable price.
Another option is to cross the border from India by land. Trains and buses are operating from India to Nepal and 12GoAsia is a great platform to find transport that suits your schedule.
Although, keep in mind that the land border control is more strict and you might need a visa before entering. So, check the regulations for your country of origin.
How to get around Nepal?
The tourist buses that are widely available throughout the country make traveling to and from the major cities pretty easy. however, it is important to keep in mind that the travel times may not always correspond to the actual travel times.
Because the roads and traffic in Nepal are so chaotic, you will frequently lose time or it will take much longer to get from one place to another. For example, when I traveled from Kathmandu to Pokhara by bus, the journey took almost 8 hours, while the return trip took almost 11 hours due to heavy rainfall.
If you are backpacking in Nepal and you want to stick to a budget, traveling by bus is the best option as tickets are fairly cheap. From Kathmandu to Pokhara by bus will cost you around NPR 800 / €5. You can buy tickets also easily through 12goAsia, Viator, or at some hotels or tourist offices in the cities.
TIP: Someone’s backpack was also stolen on the bus, so make sure to keep all of your belongings on you at all times
Map of Nepal
The map of Nepal below shows the actual route that I made through the country. In addition, it also includes a few highlights that are definitely worth visiting if you still have a few days free in your itinerary for Nepal.
The best time to visit Nepal
The best time to visit Nepal is in autumn (October-November) and spring (March-April) as during these periods the sky is mostly clear and the temperatures are just right for outdoor activities. However, the weather is never predictable, especially in the mountains.
June through September is the low season, known as the monsoon season, which is affected by frequent heavy rainfall and landslides. the best advice is to avoid this time of the year.
I traveled from September to the beginning of October through the country and even though there were some great days, it was difficult to stay motivated when it rained so heavily during the hikes in the Annapurna region.
READ ALSO: 13 amazing travel tips for Nepal: things you need to know
Where to stay?
There are amazing places to stay such as lodges, guesthouses, hotels, and hostels within every price range.
During the three weeks that I traveled through this amazing country, I spent a couple of nights in a guesthouse in Kathmandu for roughly €20 per night in a private room. However, you can definitely find great options if you are on a tight budget, traveling solo, or want even more luxury.
The resort in Chitwan was a bit more expensive because a jungle safari in Chitwan National Park was also included, although the lodges that you stay in when you are hiking in the mountains do not cost more than €5–€8 per night.
Obviously, you shouldn’t expect luxury here, but wow, what incredible hospitality.
READ ALSO: 15 x best hotels in Nepal
3 weeks Nepal itinerary
Where to stay: Nepal Pavillion in Thamel
Recommended stay: 2-4 days
Reaching Mount Everest Base Camp was high on my bucket list, so in 2019 I decided to go backpacking in Nepal and flew from Malaysia to Kathmandu. It was a wonderful place to start these 3 weeks in Nepal as I stayed in Thamel, which is the most charming neighborhood in Kathmandu.
There are a lot of restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops, and stores where you can buy everything from sleeping bags to outfits and other necessities for multi-day hikes. However, there are also many awesome things to do in Kathmandu such as Durbar Square, Pasputinath, and the Boudha Stupa which is truly unique.
Kathmandu is also the best place to stay if you are planning to hike in the Himalayas and to Everest Base Camp, but you have to be lucky to get there.
I had planned to fly to Lukla, which is the starting point for Mount Everest treks, but the flights were canceled due to bad weather, leaving me stranded in the airport for three days. Eventually, I decided to refund the money and take the bus to Pokhara instead to go hiking in the Annapurna region.
How to get to Kathmandu
- From Kathmandu International Airport, by taxi, 30 minutes, prices are around Rs 700-750/one-way
- If you find a local taxi on the street outside the airport, prices are around Rs 500/one-way
BOOK: Thick off the ultimate bucket list, a guided trip to the Mount Everest Base Camp
READ ALSO: 9 best places to visit in Kathmandu
Where to stay: Hotel Karuna in Pokhara
Recommended stay: 3-5 days (not including the multiday hikes)
After spending a few days in the bustling capital of Kathmandu, it was time to move on to the laidback and scenic city of Pokhara.
You can get here by bus from Kathmandu in about 7 to 8 hours, and even though the bus ride was quite rough, arriving in Pokhara feels very relaxing because it is surrounded by the beautiful Annapurna mountains and Lake Phewa.
Kayaking, parasailing, yoga retreats, and cooking classes, are some of the amazing things you can do in Pokhara besides the many milt-day hikes in the Annapurna region.
I stayed in Pokhara for about 12 days and did a four-day trek to the famous Poonhill and the five-day Mardi Himal trek, which, despite being unable to be completed due to heavy rains and floods, was one of the most enjoyable adventures in Nepal.
If you’re fit enough and you have extra time in your Nepal itinerary, consider hiking the Annapurna Circuit Trek, which is an unforgettable adventure of almost 16 days.
How to get to Pokhara
- From Kathmandu to Pokhara by bus (booked through the hotel), 7-9 hours, prices are around Rs 800 per person
- From Kathmandu, you can also take a short domestic flight, 25 minutes, and prices are around $80 per person
TIP: It is very common to go on a multi-day hike and leave all your luggage (which you don’t need during the hikes) in the hotel where you intend to stay in Pokhara.
BOOK: Hike among the highest peaks in the world and complete the Annapurna Base Camp Trek with a guided tour
BUS TICKETS: From Kathmandu to Pokhara
Mardi Himal Trekking – 4500m
Duration: 5-6 days
Pokhara is a little town where you start numerous hikes in the Annapurna conservation area, which is why I came here in the first place. A short hike of just a few days was the preparation for the longer hike of 11 days to reach Mount Everest Base Camp from Kathmandu.
In Pokhara you’ll also find many tour agencies that can help you in arranging any hike, providing you with the necessary gear and advice. For example, you can choose to go without a guide, which is cheaper.
However, it can be pretty lonely, and a guide speaks the language but can also tell you more about the area along the way. I was very happy to have my guide, Bipin, by my side.
I decided to go on the Mardi Himal hike, which takes between five to six days to complete and offers a stunning panorama view of the Annapurna Mountains from its highest point.
Due to strong rains, we were unable to reach the summit on the last day of the hike and were forced to return to Pokhara. Although, the hike itself was stunning, with picturesque landscapes and friendly locals who live in the mountains.
BOOK: Join a guided trip to the summit of Mardi Himal
TIP: If you want to go on an adventure in Pokhara, consider Ethical Trekking Nepal as the owner, Krishna, did an amazing job and organized the permits and route for the Mardi Himal and Poonhill trek for me.
Poonhill – Ghorepani Trekking – 3210m
Duration: 3-4 days
Sometimes your travel itinerary doesn’t go as you had planned, but that only makes it special and unique. Luckily, there are many other hikes and adventures in Nepal to choose from.
Since I couldn’t get to Lukla from Kathmandu to reach the Mount Everest Basecamp trip, I decided to return to Pokhara and do another short hike, The Poonhill – Ghorepani Trek
This is considered to be the country’s best and most popular short trek. Everyone who wants to experience breathtaking views of the Himalayas in a short amount of time will find that this is an excellent option to go with.
The Poon Hill Trek, which can be completed in just 4 days and 3 nights, is a fantastic introduction to Nepal’s trekking experience and a perfect alternative to the longer and more well-known Annapurna Circuit Trek and Everest Base Camp Trek that takes almost 16 days to complete.
With just a few days left, the Poonhill hike seemed the ideal activity, and there was still time to travel to Bhaktapur and Nagarkot.
TIP: When you go with a guide, they often know the people from the lodges and can book a room in advance so you don’t have to worry and you can focus on your adventure
BOOK: Explore the most popular hike in the Annapurna region, The Poonhill-Ghorepani Trek
READ ALSO: The breathtaking Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek in Nepal in 4 days
Chitwan National Park
Where to stay: Sapana Village Lodge in Sauraha
Recommended stay: 1-2 days
Chitwan National Park was the perfect place to unwind after a couple of strenuous hikes in the Annapurna Mountains and a crazy bus ride.
Although this awesome place was initially not on my itinerary for Nepal, I am extremely glad that I came here as you can go on a jungle safari in Chitwan National Park, just as you can in places like Sri Lanka or South Africa.
The Sapana Village Lodge, where I was staying, offered this fantastic bucket list experience and of course, I had to experience it myself.
With a canoe along the river, you get into the National Park, where an open safari jeep is waiting to drive with you across the national park to spot fascinating wildlife such as deer, iguanas, birds, elephants, crocodiles, and even Indian one-horned rhinos.
You might get to see a Bengal tiger if you’re extremely fortunate.
How to get to Chitwan National Park
- From Pokhara to Chitwan by bus (booked the Mountain Overland Bus), a 5-hour drive, prices are around Rs 750 per person
BOOK: Discover the fascinating wildlife in Chitwan National Park during a guided safari
READ ALSO: 6 great reasons to experience A jungle safari in Chitwan National Park
Where to stay: Peacock Guesthouse in Bhaktapur
Recommended stay: 2-3 days
Bhaktapur is one of the most important cultural destinations in the country and the Bhaktapur Durbar Square is even on the Unesco World Heritage list. Therefore you need to pay a 15 USD entrance fee to actually enter this area.
As a result of the entrance fee, I decided to spend two days inside the heritage-listed zone to experience the authentic atmosphere, the many rooftop cafes, traditional pottery shops, and local markets.
Wandering around the narrow alleys, exploring the architectural masterpieces, and observing the locals around the famous Nyatapola Temple makes it a one-of-a-kind experience that’s perfect for photographing.
If you are planning to visit Nepal, make sure you add Bhaktapur to your schedule!
How to get to Bhaktapur
- From Kathmandu, by taxi, a 45-minute drive, prices are around Rs 1000/one-way
- With the local bus, it’s a bit more challenging, as you need to take 2 buses, and prices are around Rs 130 per person
Where to stay: Hotel Country Villa in Nagarkot
Recommended stay: 2-3 days
The highland village of Nagarkot is located at a height of 2195m at the rim of the Katmandu valley. it was the last stop of this Nepal backpacking trip and worth the long bumpy ride here as it is famous for having the best views of Mount Everest.
Although, if the weather is great.
Due to the time that I lost in the airport of Kathmandu, waiting for the flights to Lukla, I had only one night to spend in Nagarkot but you can expect to see some of the most stunning sunsets ever, and the surrounding area is also home to some excellent hiking trails.
It is absolutely breathtaking, so if you have extra time, I suggest staying longer and exploring the beautiful walking trails.
How to get to Nagarkot
- From Bhaktapur to Nagarkot by bus, a 1-hour drive leaves every hour and prices are around Rs 55 per person
- You can also go by taxi but that’s way more expensive, prices are around Rs 3000/one-way
A journey to Nepal is unique and a little more adventurous than most countries you may be familiar with. However, this beautiful country will leave you impressed as the magnificent nature, friendly people, and culture are all well worth a visit.
If you’ve been to Nepal and would want to share any tips or have any questions regarding this itinerary, please leave them in the comments.
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Plan your Nepal itinerary with my favorite travel apps
To plan my adventures, I use these FREE websites and apps as they provide the best information, the best deals, and they are user-friendly.
- Trip – Flight deals
- Booking.com – Hotels and accommodation
- TourRadar – Group trips
- TripAdvisor – Reviews and activities
- HostelWorld – Hostels
- GetYourGuide – Activities and excursions
- RentalCars – Car rental
- Omio – Transport
- iVisa – Travel documents
- Wise – Money transfer
- InsuredNomads – Travel Insurance
PICTURES AND EDITING
All the pictures on this page are made and owned by me. If you are interested in some pictures to use for your magazine, website, blog, or any other purpose, just send me an email and we’ll figure it out.
Do you like the edits? My Presets will be online soon so you can edit your pictures in just one click!
The camera gear I used for this trip
I never go out without my camera and many people ask me which gear I use. So to make it quite easy, I listed all the gear I used for this trip below.
Most of the time, I travel with the Sony A7III and the Sony 24-105mm/f4 as my primary lens but depending on the location, I change to another setup. However, I love the Tamron 17-28 to shoot in the big cities.