When we were planning our trip to Nepal I searched the internet for tips on travelling there with kids. I found very little. The Lonely Planet Nepal (which is generally wonderful) suggests a pizza place in Kathmandu and the zoo. Here are my Top 10 things to do. I have a teen – 15 years (son) and a tween – 11 (daughter) so bear that in mind. The travelling wasn’t always fun but as a family we got a lot out of the trip. It’s a beautiful country with lovely people and it’s very poor.
- Take an elephant safari in Chitwan National Park
It’s very Indiana Jones lurching through the jungle on the back of an elephant looking for tigers, sloth bears and deer.
2. Help wash an elephant in Sauhaura
We scored on this front as the hotel had its own elephant and we all hopped on its back and rode down the main street of Sauhara to the river where the elephants bathe. The elephant dutifully gathered up water in its trunk and sprayed us all thoroughly. Probably the highlight of the trip for my daughter.
3. Visit Kathmandu Zoo
This is nicer than you would expect and the animals seem reasonably content and well cared for. When we visited there were hoards of excited and chatty Nepalese school children on excursions and they were as interesting to my kids as the animals. Throw all ideas of Occupational Health and Safety out the window. The rides are incredibly shonky (but fun!). We saw the resident elephant lurching through picnicking school kids which I can’t imagine happening in most of the zoos I’ve visited. I’m just glad he was careful with his feet.
There are lots of Nepalese animals on display including the rare blue sheep, leopards etc and you can also hire a paddle boat out onto the algae covered lake. We didn’t stay for an elephant ride because we had been on one in Chitwan but this is available after 1pm.
We did an eight day Annapurna Trek with a guide and 2 porters. We chose the trek because it used established tea houses, wasn’t too high in elevation and the availability of food was better than some of the more remote treks. It was hard work and the kids didn’t always love it but it was a fantastic time to spend together as a family. There was no tv, no internet and therefore lots of time to spend together playing cards, talking (!) and reading. My biggest concern was ill health and I had an enormous first aid kit that got used once on a little Neplalese girl who had a sore on her chin. Other than that we had a water pump to filter our water , washed our hands a lot and were reasonably careful about what we ate.
The scenery was beautiful, the teahouses basic but clean and if my kids are ever out of work they can always get jobs as a croupiers in a casino. The highlight for my city slicker daughter was all the babies: ducklings, kids, chickens, kittens and humans. Next time around I would bring kids multivitamins and more snacks from home because the food was very basic and after a hard days walking you get pretty hungry.
5. Ride a pony around the Phewa Tal lake in Pokhara
The poor old ponies aren’t in the greatest shape so if you go and remember this, can you take them an apple for me? The pony men were really sweet and friendly and this was a nice way to see other parts of the lake.
6. Go paragliding in Pokhara – or if you’re on a budget and/or the kids are too young – take a bicycle rickshaw ride in Thamel, Kathmandu
We didn’t go paragliding but it looked like fun for the brave ( ie. foolhardy) types. We were told they take children as young as six years old but it seems a bit young to me. So unless your child is the reincarnation of Evil Knievel I’d wait until they were at least ten.
Lily celebrated her 11th birthday when we were in Kathmandu and enjoyed taking a cycle rickshaw from the bakery where she collected her birthday chocolate croissant.
7. Visit Bandipur
There’s not a whole lot to do here but it’s a very nice town and a good stopover point for a night between Pokhara and Kathmandu. The village square is closed to traffic and at night there are kids everywhere playing and shouting and oblivious to the fact that their photo is getting taken every 5 minutes. You can visit Nepal’s largest cave which is a big walk out of the town and as we had just finished our trek the kids put the kybosh on that one. We went to the silkworm factory instead (which was much closer).
8. Lie by the pool at a nice hotel
Sometimes both adults and kids can find Nepal confronting, noisy , dusty and smelly and need a rest day. One day we just paid an entrance fee and spent the day swimming and lounging beside a pool at a hotel in Pokhara. We could have been anywhere in the world and just for that day that suited us all just fine.
9. Eat chicken pad thai at Moondance Restauraunt, Pokhara
The cuisine in Nepal is not great so when we discovered Moondance in Pokhara the kids were thrilled. Not only did they have “normal” food they had an old scrabble set and many hours were spent playing scrabble and cards. They also served up Nepali dishes which suited my husband who is a loyal fan of the Nepali staple – dal baht.
10. Travel by jungle canoe & walk though Chitwan National Park
We spotted a mugger crocodile, some deer, a rhino from a long way away, a variety of birds and a very large feral pig. The walk led us to the Elephant Breeding Centre.
What not to do
Temples, views and museums get the big thumbs-down from my kids.
Temples. They enjoyed Pashuputinath because of the monkeys and the spotted deer however watching the bodies being cremated on the side of the sacred Bagmati River may have been fascinating to us as adults, but it was too confronting for the kids. Not long after witnessing this my long-suffering and stoic son threw his hands up in the air and asked beseechingly why we couldn’t just go on normal holidays to normal places like normal people. Point taken.
Views. You’ve seen one majestic Himalayan peak, you’ve seen them all as far as my kids are concerned. We learned this lesson travelling through National Parks in the USA last year. They are happy to lift their heads up for a look but they’d rather we didn’t wax lyrical about how amazing it looks and how wonderful it is to finally see them.
Museums. We didn’t go to any in Nepal because past experience has been that they need to be dragged physically to the site (often to discover “it wasn’t that bad!”) We did go to the silk worm factory out of Bandipur and they found it quite interesting as it was a quick tour and so quirky and haphazard that it was kind of funny.