Pashupatinah, Kopan, Nagarkot, Chitwan, Nepal

Pashupatinath temple, Kathmandu valley, Nepal

The Pashupatinah Temple. Photo by Luca Galuzzi.

Why visit Pashupatinah?

Pashupatinah is a significant Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, built in the east of Kathmandu about 400 AD, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where many ardent Hindus are cremated.
Previously only born Hindus were allowed to enter the temple but now other religions are permitted to enter the temple, though photos inside are forbidden. Get a guide for a fascinating and fully informed visit but fix a price first!
Beware that some visitors think that Pashupatinah is dirty, crowded and polluted.

A Hindu cremation, Pashupatinah, Nepal

A Hindu cremation.

Pashupatinath Temple is second only to Varanasi as a Hindu religious goal, the end of a long pilgrimage for many Indian sadhus and a big step towards a better next life, or even no life at all. Stoned, free and headed for nirvana in Katmandu.

What is a sadhu?

Two sadhus get high as a kite at Pashupatinah, Nepal

Two sadhus get high as a kite at Pashupatinah, probably ingesting near-mythical Nepalese Temple Balls.

In Hinduism, sadhu means a holy man, an ascetic wandering monk. A sadhu is dedicated to achieving liberation – the fourth and final stage of life – through meditation, contemplation of brahma and smoking staggering amounts of dope. Sadhus often wear saffron-colored clothing, symbolizing their renunciation or worldly affairs and goods. Except dope of course.
Sadhu in Wikipedia: A popular characteristic of Sadhu ritualism is their utilization of marijuana (known as charrus) as a form of a eucharist in line with their worship of Shiva who was believed to have an adoration or affinity for the leaves of the plant. The drug is used in excess during the celebration of Shivaratri.

Note that you’ll have to pay for the pleasure of taking a photo of a sadhu. Probably better to negotiate this first, unless you don’t mind the hurt look on his face when you give him a little coin at the end! He’s only trying to boost the price though your guilt!

Painted Sadhu with snake and trident, Kathmandu, Nepal

A sadhu; though judging by his touristy attire, not entirely ascetic we believe.

Sadhus, like the gods, come in many styles, but they have some common characteristics.
Most of them follow Shiva. They don’t cut or wash their hair. They are sometimes totally naked, but usually wear a simple, loose cloth, decorated with strings of tulsi beads. They put ash on their heads and bodies, and marks on their foreheads to indicate their religious affiliation. Three white, horizontal stripes means Shiva, while red and white vertical stripes means Vishnu. They carry a brass pot for begging, and some also have a symbol favoured by Shiva – the three pointed spear called a trident. They have no other possessions.

Sadhus practice severe self-discipline, even self-torture on their road to total body control, magical powers and nirvana. They start with celibacy, silence, starvation, and painful body positions. There are recorded instances of sadhus who never lie down or who never stand up, who hold one or both arms permanently over their heads or who stand on one leg. More

Kopan

1000 Buddha Relic Stupa, Kopan Monastery, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, near Boudhanath, Nepal

1000 Buddha Relic Stupa, Kopan Monastery, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, near Boudhanath, 15km from the city. Photo by Irina Gelbukh.

Kopan is a working Tibetan Buddhist monastery but very peaceful and beautifully situated. It’s about an hour’s walk from Bodnath stupa with lovely views of the Kathmandu Valley on the way.
400 monks live and study here and the meditation centre offers courses on Buddhism and quiet places for personal retreat. Guest rooms are available for occasional visitors, but this isn’t exactly a tourist attraction. The monks are friendly, food is tasty and plentiful and rooms adequate but not luxurious.
If you are looking for a bit of quiet and a chance to observe or participate in the life of a Buddhist monastery, this is your place. p. s. the café serves excellent food at affordable prices.

On Saturdays masses of families and individuals head up to to the magnificent views and beautifully decorated hilltop and gardens. The monastery is not open to the public on other days. Kopan Monastery website

Nagarkot

Nagarkot view to the Himalayas, Nepal

Nagarkot view to the Himalayas. On a good day you can see Mt. Everest. Photo by electraacity.

Nagarkot is a dramatically and beautiful hiking base on the edge of the Kathmandu Valley, not far from Bhaktapur. 32 km north east of Kathmandu downtown, the region is famous for its Himalayan views, particularly at dawn.
Nagarkot is also fine hilltop location to acclimatize for high altitude hikes as it is at 7200 ft and is the transit point for Helambu and Lang-tang trekking.
It is also a good point for mini-trekking with several popular treks possible such as Sankhu, Changu Narayan, Dhulikhel, Sundarijal, Nala and more.

Chitwan National Park

A Chitwan National Park elephant safari, Nepal

A Chitwan National Park elephant safari. Photo by MMuzammils.

Fauna you might like to see in Chitwan includes Bengal tigers, leopards, sloths, jackals, civets, marbled cats, mongoose, rhinos, crocodiles, wild boar, deer, langurs, monkeys, squirrels and porcupines. However, you are unlikely to see any of the predators except the crocs. Rhinos are a reasonably common sighting.
The park is home to several hundred species of bird too, most of them migratory.
The elephant tiger hunts are fun if you go with low expectations but you can also take a canoeing trip, especially if you might feel sensitive about how the elephants are controlled by their riders who typically use pointy sticks to guide them.
Narayani River canoeing is a serene way to travel but also unlikely to yield much in the way of wildlife viewing, mainly birds, crocodiles and occasional Nepalese villages.
If you really want to see lots of animals, go to Africa! Particularly Namibia!

The best season to visit Chitwan National Park is January-May.
Don’t go there June-September, the rainy season.