Nepal is known the world over as a trekking destination, but for travellers wanting to dig a little deeper, there are so many more experiences waiting to be uncovered.
About 36km from Kathmandu is the small city of Panauti, which originally was given by King Bhupatindra Malla as a dowry to his sister. The city is surrounded by rice fields and nestled at the foot of lush green hills; its historical charm can still be felt as you wander the narrow streets of the city.
The best way to taste authentic Nepalese life is by living with a family as part of the Community Homestay program, where you can learn about the area from the locals. Spend an afternoon exploring the town, from the elaborately carved wooden facades of ancient buildings, to the picturesque temples set on the banks of the river. Hear stories about a grand old house that has sat empty for years as it is believed to be haunted, or drink chai on the steps of a tea shop as the sun goes down and watch the locals herd their ducks home from the river.
Many of the cities in Nepal are famous for specific industries. One such is Bhaktapur, which is known for the handmade pottery created by its residents. The narrow lanes are filled with market stalls selling everything from vases to money boxes and wind chimes, and potters can be seen working on hand spun wheels creating pieces from lumps of clay in minutes, with the efficiency that is only brought by years of practice. Pieces are fired in large mounds with hundreds of pots layered with rice hay for up to two days. The city is also known for its beautiful architecture and temples, including the Palace of 55 Carved Windows.
Experience the spiritual side Nepal with a stay in the guesthouse at Neydo Tashi Choeling Monastery. The Monastery is perched on a hill above the lush Kathmandu Valley and is a beautiful and peaceful respite from the constant movement of life in the cities. In the main temple, every surface is covered in colourful paintings depicting the teachings of Buddha. Visitors are welcome to sit and observe the morning and afternoon prayers when the temple fills with the resident monks and the sound of chanting, drumming and horns. Watch the afternoon debating session where the monks discuss the teachings of the day or take the opportunity to have tea with some of the young monks and learn about their daily lives.