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Is Nepal a Family Destination?

  Written by : Jackie Taylor

   Sep 12, 2020


Is Nepal a Family Destination?

Overall Nepal is a safe travel destination in Asia. Definitely tours in Nepal cover everything from trekking in Nepal to luxury tours in Nepal. But you probably knew that right?  You want to know whether there are any family tours in Nepal.  Tours specifically or which can be easily adapted for children.  The short answer is YES! Nepal is a family destination. And yes it is safe to travel Nepal with kids!

Trekking with Kids

Let’s start with what Nepal is most famous for – trekking! 

Trekking doesn’t have to mean tramping 12 hours a day over snow and ice and sleeping in a drafty teahouse.  There are some amazing treks through gorgeous countryside that have very comfortable lodges on the routes. The  Ghorepani Poonhill trek comes immediately to mind!  Or trekking further up in the Annapurna Range to the villages of Marpha, Jomson, Kagbeni and Muktinath. And you can even reach these areas by flight, private jeep or bus.  I can also highly recommend the Millennium Trek which is both interesting, close to Pokhara and a homestay trek.  It highlights Swotah Travel’s commitment to the environment through sustainable trips and commitment to social responsibility.  And plenty of local kids for your kids to interact with while you relax in the late afternoons.

There is an easy one, two or three-day treks around the Kathmandu Valley such as to Nagarkot, Balthali and Dhulikhel.   And why not spend more time in these places also.  Nagarkot and Dhulikhel have deluxe accommodation with spas and bars which mum and dad will totally enjoy.

I should also point out that the treks and hikes highlighted for younger children are also extremely good for seniors.  Bring your grandparents!

Older kids: Almost all the trekking routes are suitable for young people over say 15 years who are fit and have a keen sense of adventure. If they haven’t hiked before I wouldn’t suggest anything too high or long but the well-known treks such as Everest Base Camp and the Annapurna Circuit Trek are doable.  But I leave it up to you.  You know your child best, and their capabilities; mentally and physically.

Young kids: I know people who have taken children as young as 3 or 4 for trekking.  However with children that young it is good to have a porter specifically there to carry the child in a traditional basket known as a doko when they are tired.  The child will find that fun also and makes for interesting discussion topic photos!  But most children travelling with their parents in Nepal fall in the 8 to 14 years category. I certainly don’t suggest you take them to high altitude places such as the Everest Three Passes Trek or the Limi Valley. I think my recommendation would be to lower Mustang in the Annapurnas. This area is easily reachable from Pokhara and you can even fly into Jomson then take a jeep or hike up to the extremely interesting village of Kagbeni and on to Muktinath, a very sacred Hindu shrine with 108 water spouts and an eternal flame.  On the return journey a couple of hours walk down from Jomson there is Marpha which is also really interesting and home to the majority of the Mustang apple orchards! An educational tour perhaps?

Rafting with Kids

Rafting is an exciting adventure trip which involves water, excitement and camping. Everything kids love!  Since there is always some risk involved where water is concerned, I would not recommend taking very small children rafting.  Although there are some very short trips you could speak to your Nepal tour agency about. Older kids might enjoy the thrill of white water rafting on the likes of the Trisuli River (nearest to Kathmandu). On this trip, you can raft and camp by the side of the river then get a vehicle on down to Chitwan National Park or simply back to Kathmandu.  It’s a Grade III river but in winter the water will be slower.  Please check before booking -  you don’t want to come when the river is at its wildest if you have younger children.  And if you are going to Chitwan National Park or Bardia National Park you can take a very safe non-white water rafting or canoe trip through the park. Opportunity for wildlife spotting!

Wildlife Spotting with Kids

And speaking of wildlife spotting – both Bardia and Chitwan National Park are great for kids.  And for parents.  Chitwan is definitely easier to reach – a 4 or 5-hour road trip or a 20-minute flight.  And it is more set up for families and kids.  Accommodation ranges in price and comfort but almost all have a safe compound for children to run around in.  Aside from a safari walk or jeep safari through the park, there is an elephant hattisar where children can see elephants eating.  Maybe even a baby elephant!  If you venture over to Bardia National Park, a 1.5-hour flight or a very long road journey away (but which you can break at Lumbini – birthplace of Buddha) there will be less tourists around and it retains more of a remote feel to it.  Both parks have tigers, leopards, different deer and a variety of monkeys etc.  Chitwan has a big population of the Asian One Horned Rhino, whereas the rhinos in Bardia have been shipped in from Chitwan and mainly reside in parts of the park we can’t easily reach. But Bardia has a population of wild elephants.  And it has freshwater dolphins!  Just relaxing with a picnic on the banks of the river hoping to see dolphin, but more likely seeing deer coming down to drink, is an easy way to pass the day with children.  Fishing is also available. And that float through the park in a raft!

Culture and Heritage

If you want to give your kids a more educational experience – that doesn’t have to be dull for them. Nepal has tons of interesting culture and heritage spots.  

Starting in Kathmandu: well actually Kathmandu is made up of three old kingdoms – Kathmandu, Lalitpur (or Patan) and Bhaktapur.  In each there is a Durbar Square (literally Palace Square) where the kings of the past lived.  All Durbar Squares were hit badly by the 2015 earthquake but the Kathmandu one still has a long way to go in its reconstruction.  If you are staying in Thamel, you can walk through Thamel and Ason (a very interesting market area) to reach the square.  Otherwise, skip that one and head to Bhaktapur for a more authentic experience.  Bhaktapur is vehicle free and gives you a great look at how it would have been hundreds of years ago.  With temples to explore, nice restaurants to eat in, potters spinning wheels in the side squares and plenty of things  to buy to take home, Bhaktapur is also very worth an overnight stay.  Imagine walking among the temples in the evening or early morning when the square is empty except for locals worshipping or going about their daily business.  Since Bhaktapur is on the way to Nagarkot (a hill station above Kathmandu) you can combine the two.

Patan Durbar Square has an interesting museum which your older kids might be interested in.  It is also pretty near the zoo, which might be an incentive to get your younger kids to go.  The zoo is not very interesting or well cared.  But sometimes it’s about compromise, right?

The best travel companies in Nepal will definitely help you arrange your itinerary for sightseeing around Kathmandu.  Not to be missed is Swayambunath (Monkey Temple), Boudhanath (a huge white stupa set in the Tibetan Buddhist part of town) and Pashupatinath. 

Be aware you might see cremations at Pashupatinath so prepare your kids in advance. Swayambunath has a lovely view but not much more for kids and Boudha has great shops and restaurants and plenty of space for the kids to run around. Feeding and chasing pigeons around the stupa seems a local pastime for little ones!

Around the Kathmandu Valley, there are many interesting living ancient villages. Often seeing less tourists, there are many temples, shrines, nooks and crannies to explore. 

Outwith Kathmandu there are loads of great places which positively scream history.  Take Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, for example.  With plenty to see and lots of room to run around in this visit would be suitable for small and older children.  Getting a rickshaw ride around the area adds to the fun! Combine this with a trip to either Chitwan or Bardia National Park.

And no doubt  you will be heading to Pokhara, the city on the lake. Pokhara is the starting point for the Annapurna treks.  But whether you are trekking or not Pokhara is a great place to visit. The tourist area is called Lakeside and has many good hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs.  On the activity side… you can take your kids zip-lining, paragliding, and bungee jumping.  A little less heart-pounding is boating on the lake, a hike up to the Peace Stupa, a  visit to caves and a visit to the International Mountain Museum. The museum is not some dusty old place but a living museum with lots to see, experience, and touch.  Set in huge grounds kids can let off steam or utilize a climbing wall.

Festivals for You and for the Kids

 Nepal is certainly a land of festivals.  Almost every day there is some festival or other.  The larger ones can be easily found on the internet and you can plan your trip around them if you are interested.  To name just a few for you to look up:  Gai Jatra, Teej, Tihar, Chaat.  Teej is a women-only festival where your kids will be very welcome to join the dancing in the street or at Pashupatinath Temple.  Tihar is similar to the Festival of Lights (Diwali) in India.  If you are in Kathmandu, the best place to go is the Garden of Dreams where you can light oil lamps and the kids can go on a Ping (a swing especially set up around this time of year). Chaat is best seen in Janakpur.  Involving a flight, if you have the time and money it would be interesting to visit (November generally).  There is much to explore in Janakpur also and it is steeped in Hindu mythology. Don’t miss a trip to the Janakpur Woman’s Centre to learn about Mithali (the local ethnic people) art, crafts and architecture.  Children will be able to create their own painting if you ask nicely.  Don’t forget to pass through the gift shop!  

But aside from the religious/ cultural festivals, there are numerous art/ film/ theatre/ music festivals to enjoy at a fraction of the price you will pay in your home country.

For my money – Jazzmandu (jazz festival held Oct/ Nov) has something for everyone.  It is predominantly about jazz and musicians come from overseas to perform alone and with local musicians. With kids, the best thing to attend would be the Jazz Bazaar.  A whole day of music, jazz, modern and classical Nepali, held in the beautiful setting of Gokarna Forest Resort.  Plenty of room for kids to roam around (a small playground also) and food and drink stalls.

If you are here in December, the Kathmandu Mountain Film Festival (KIMFF) has great documentary films from around the world, focussing on mountain communities.  Educational and fun for older kids.

Yes, Nepal, mainly Kathmandu, has an amazing array of talented artistes which many visitors never discover!  Ask us!

With so Much to with Children in Nepal which is Best?

I would suggest that a private crafted tour would be the best idea.  Only you know what your kids are really interested in, and their attention span and stamina.  No point dragging them off on a great mountain biking tour in Nepal if they hate cycling.  Or going on a yoga retreat or spa without knowing your kids will be safely supervised for a few hours doing something they love (Nepali arts and crafts for example).

A complete package can be tailored to your needs.  From pick up at the airport, great accommodation to suit your budget, sightseeing tours designed with kids in mind, to a whole list of outdoor adventures (camping, heli tours, rafting, trekking, zip-lining, Everest mountain flightthe list is longer than you think!)

Transport can also be designed to suit your budget and available time.  While tourist buses are interesting, road travel tends to be long and bumpy in Nepal (don’t be fooled by the actual mileage chart).  Private transport or flights are often the best, particularly with young children.

What you won’t find is play parks.  Those are very rare indeed.  One of two in Kathmandu and Pokhara and that is basically it. One of two hotels have swings for kids but then you didn’t really come to Nepal for the same stuff you can get at home, did you?

And Finally, is Nepal safe to Travel Nepal with Kids?

It’s a question we are often asked. Nepal is a safe destination in those incidents of violence and theft are rare.  Yes, people do fall off mountains and into rivers but they are the exceptions. Your kids are probably safer in Nepal than in your home country because all Nepalis adore children! They will be well looked after while you eat dinner or relax.

 DISCLAIMER: Naturally, nothing or nowhere is 100% safe, but as a parent, you know that, right?

The main things I would say to look out for are:

  • The water. Do not drink it. Buy bottled or purify it yourself with drops or tablets.
  • The food. Be careful of spicy food if eating in local establishments.  And don’t let the kids eat street food.
  • Although I don’t recommend taking young kids too high, keep an eye on them over 3,000m for any sign of altitude-related problems. The key is to keep them well hydrated.
  • Hand washing. We now know all about washing our hands! Thanks 2020.  But good hygiene at any time is a must when trekking or exploring. 
  • COVID-19. I will be updating you on the situation regarding COVID-19 safety procedures in Nepal shortly.  Do drop into this website regularly for information.

Ghorepani Trek

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