Top 10 things to do with kids in Nepal

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.

  1. 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.

Riding the elephant through the river

On top of the elephant wading to cross the river.

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.

Bathing the elephant, Nepal

Even the elephant looks like he’s smiling

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.

Rules for the Zoo

Kathmandu Zoo

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.

4.       Trek

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.

Trekkers

There are lots of adventure-style suspension bridges that cross over roaring rivers

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.

Ponies around the Phewa Tal, Nepal

Ride ’em cowboys

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.

Cycle rickshaw, Thamel

The birthday girl

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).

Silkworms, Bandipur, Nepal

Silkworm life-cycle display, Bandipur

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.

Canoe ride, Chitwan, Nepal

Dug-out canoe ride, Chitwan

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.

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57 thoughts on “Top 10 things to do with kids in Nepal

  1. Am I talking about the lovely pictures, or the tour itself? My-o-my! I particularly like the picture of your kids on the suspension bridge! It reminds of the ones in Burma (I’ve not been to the country but have a pal there). I wonder…were you guys kinda scared mounting the elephant, or maybe it’s not your first time?

    Thanks for the pictures and stories. I bet you’ll be an excellent tour guide. O, best wishes your daughter–the birthday girl.

  2. We weren’t really scared getting on the elephant though at one point it rolled onto its side in the river and we all scrambled very quickly away from it so we didn’t get rolled on. Unfortunately a zoo-keeper in Australia was crushed by an elephant just last week so perhaps we should have been more concerned! Thank you for the birthday wishes. She will be very excited to know someone all the way from Nigeria is sending her salutations!

  3. What a great article. This sounds like an amazing trip. Sorry that museums didn’t work out well for you. The elephant ride sounds like fun, but for me, mmmm I’ll just say that horseback riding was not m favorite thing.
    Lovd the post.

  4. How exciting!! Have you written about your work at all? It would be interesting to know what you did to make the museum more accessible to kids. It would also make an interesting article to know what you suggest to teachers and parents about how to help kids get the most out of their museum experience. Field trips are so limited these days, teachers have to justify every minute they have with students.

  5. journeyman1977 says:

    Quick, quirky and haphazard is fine compared to confronting, noisy and smelly 🙂 As for normal holidays, to normal places like normal people…may be someday your son will realize how enriching off the beaten path is 🙂 And then he’ll be grateful to mom and dad 😉

  6. Sue Ann, This is a fabulous list! What a great experience for kids … and adults. When we were in Nepal we didn’t see many travelers with children, so this is really special. Thanks for sharing. All the best, Terri

  7. Sharon Allen says:

    Thanks so much for your article. Its very helpful as I’m taking my two girls (just turned 8 and 10) to Nepal at the end of March. From Kathmandu we are heading to Pokhara where we are doing a four day trek (while my husband does a 12 day trek). The girls and I are planning on staying in Pokhara for three nights after the trek and then I’m thinking we’ll head to Chitwan National Park for three or four days before heading back to Kathmandu. If you have any other suggestions especially regarding where to stay in Chitwan I’d appreciate it very much.

    I’m from Sydney too (and just happen to have a good friend who is a longtime employee at the Maritime Museum). My daughter is also named Lily 🙂

    • Such a small world. That sounds like a great itinerary! I’ll look up the name of the hotel in Chitwan & send you an email. Feel free to contact me if you want any more info. it is handy to talk to people who have done it with kids. Sue Ann

  8. Irma Jacet says:

    Thanks for the nice top 10 things to do. We are planning to go to Nepal with our little kids of 2 and 4. We are interested in the places where you have stayed in Chitwan, Pokhara, Kathmandu. And in which hotel did you swim in Pokhara? The kids will love this! And how did you travel; by bus or private driver? We hope to hear from you. Any other recommendation are very welcome. Thank you in advance! Irma (The Netherlands)

    • Hi Irma,
      It was a year ago now so sorry I don’t remember the specifics. We hired a car and driver as I was nervous of the buses. The place at Chitwan was from the lonely planet – and the only one with a resident elephant. Nothing fancy but really lovely and helpful people. Pokhara and Kathmandu were at the Hotel Family Home who were very helpful and they also organised our trek – but do negotiate on prices. The hotel with a pool in Pokhara was from the lonely planet – not many hotels have pools so you should find it in there easily. I think it started with a B. Hope that helps. Have a great trip! Sue Ann

      • Sharon Allen says:

        Hi Irma,

        Sue Ann gave me lots of helpful tips when I was planning our April trip to Nepal this year with my two girls aged 8 and 10. We were attending a wedding in Kathmandu of my brother-in-law who lives there.

        In Pokhara we stayed at Temple Tree which had a pool. It is a little pricey but we stayed there for a night after returning from our trek. My daughter was ill so it was nice to be in a little bit of luxury after the trek. You can go just to swim there and I think they have a small fee. I hired a car and driver from Temple Tree to drive us to Chitwan. I organised that before I arrived as I was travelling alone with my daughters and paid a premium for a nice car with air conditioning and peace of mind. The driver sped on the poor roads though and my daughters and I were all sick from the car ride. If you do organise a driver its important to ensure they know where they are going, which my driver didn’t.

        My brother-in-law is friends with the Manager at Tiger Tops Tharu Lodge in Chitwan and hence got me a very good deal to visit there. It was a magical experience staying in the traditional village housing and the girls loved bathing the elephants, searching for tigers, getting up close to the rhinos in the jungle, visiting the neighbouring village, swimming in the pool, canoeing on the river and eating under the stars. It was one of the highlights of our trip to Nepal.

        We flew from Chitwan back to Kathmandu and stayed at a wonderful guest house – Traditional Homes Swotha. I loved this place. It is very small and is right in Patan Durbar Square. While it can be a little noisy, it is simple, clean, tasteful, has a fabulous shower, great internet connection and an excellent cafe. The girls and I would hang out in the cafe from 4pm with our books and journals.

        In Kathmandu, for some luxury, Dwarika’s is stunning, the pool gorgeous and a great place to visit. As budget accommodation, Ting’s Guesthouse was excellent and has great food.

        I hope this is helpful.

        Have a great trip.

  9. Thank you SO much for this list and to the other commenters who added! After a botched trip to Tibet (the Chinese government kindly closed TAR a month early this year), we’re going to Nepal instead… and only have two weeks to plan our trip!

  10. Leah says:

    Great list…. Thankyou sooooooo much…. We are heading to Nepal on Friday… Was a little worried as travelling with a four year old and a eight year old!

  11. Sara Lee Taiwan says:

    Hi there,

    I am so happy to read your “Top 10 things to do with kids in Nepal” as I am pondering shall I or not bring my two kids, 2-year-and-7-month-old and 5-and-a-half-year-old, there this Oct. I have never been to Nepal but I always travel some countries where people wouldn’t take kids to like Burma and India.

    I love to do trekking but I am really worried if my kids (especially the baby) can cope with it.

    Do you have any advice for me to travel with such young kids in Nepal?

    Sara Taiwan.

    • Personally I would wait until your youngest was a bit older. The 2 year old would be spending most of the time in a basket on someone’s back which would be ok but I would just worry that if they got sick the little ones go down fast and there is no access to medical help except by walking back the way you came in.They would be very popular with the locals but will have little or no memory of the trip being that young.
      It’s a personal choice and we took our youngest to India for 6 months when she was four but i just felt that by then she was a bit more robust and thank goodness she didn’t get sick at all in that time. Our son was 9 then and remembers most of the trip but the younger one really doesn’t remember it at all.
      Best wishes with your decision! xS

  12. Thank you for this blog! I have a question, about how many days do you suggest to spend overall in Nepal. Scheduling our year of trips (we are American expats in KL) and Nepal is on our list. We have an 11 and 9 year old, both very well traveled. Thanks!

  13. Andrew Tompkins says:

    Hi good info and comments – travelled with my kids to Thailand, Lsos and Cambodia from when they were two – all great times – they are now 14 and 10. Took them to Burma two years ago having been there in 94 and they complained a lot, but I think they ended up having a good time and great memories – was about to take them both to Nepal for new year having been there in Jan 97 but finding my daughter constantly complaining at the thought of it – she even sent me the link to this blog! I’m having second thoughts now, my daughter 14 wants to go to Bali, so might end up doing that instead for a quiet life – at least she can’t complain if it’s her idea! Might try and fit in a side trip to see the Orangutans In Sumatra – anyone done this? I’m a single Dad but like to put them out of their comfort zone so they see the real world rather than sitting around here in Sydney. Thanks Andrew

    • Hi Andrew. Sometimes you just have to go with the destination that suits everyone a little bit. Bali is gorgeous and you can get away to some wonderful spots with a bit of effort. A reluctant 14 year old is not much fun!

  14. Zanzistan says:

    Thanks so much for the down to earth suuuuuper useful review! We’re going to Nepal with our 2 year old in October and I’m petrified, mostly scared that he don’t enjoy it. So this is super useful!

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