1) Singing Bowls
Singing bowls are extremely popular across the world and Nepal produces an abundance of them.
They are pretty much like musical instruments that are traditionally used for Buddhist prayer and meditation. The name of this wonderful souvenir from Nepal may confuse you slightly in thinking this may be related to food - however, this is far from the truth.
The singing bowls are crafted from metal and are usually sold with a short wooden baton that when rubbed in a circular motion around the rim creates harmonious calming sounds. These soothing vibrations are great for meditating and are believed to have healing qualities.
Prices for these vary depending on the size, material, whether they’re handmade or machine-made and also the level of decoration.
You can find many stalls or roadside vendors with singing bowls on display at the Durbar Squares in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan.
One of the most stylish and luxurious items in Nepal is the pashmina, which can also be called cashmere.
Even though Nepal is actually one of the newer producers of cashmere, there has been an upsurge of the pashmina industry here due to it’s extremely high quality. As a result of this upsurge, Kathmandu is now full of pashmina stores.
These extremely soft shawls are made from a fine wool that’s taken from the undercoat of the Himalayan mountain goat that is hand-spun on handlooms from the real fibre. Pashminas can also be made from Yak wool, but as this is hard to find, it may be tricky to find a pure pashmina made from it.
These soft and warm handmade shawls are great for both women and men and make the perfect gift for loved ones. Although 'Pashmina’ is a Persian word that means ‘soft gold’, you can find these in many different colours, sizes and qualities to choose from including either lightweight Summer pashminas or heavier winter scarves.
They make great fashion statements and are perfect for any occasion as they never go out of style. As well as shawls, be sure to look out for cardigans, stoles and blankets too.
The cost of Nepal’s cashmere items range from anything between £5 - £200 depending on the quality. Nonetheless, this is an extremely beautiful and significant souvenir to have from Nepal.
There have been a lot of fakes being produced in the marketplace recently, so to be safe you're purchasing authentic high quality pashminas, you can buy these from trademark shops or retailers which usually have a higher price. To qualify as a real authentic Pashmina, the fabric should be made from yarn with a 97% purity - so be aware of the mixes that contain synthetic material.
3) Nepali Tea
Nepalis are serious tea lovers. If you are too, then Nepal should 100% be on your list of places to visit as it’s incredibly common to be invited in for a cup of tea wherever you are.
Tea plantations flourish in Nepal has the perfect hilly climate that allows for tea plantations to flourish here, which is why it is extremely well known for it’s abundant variety of high quality teas. The manufacturing of tea here is an extremely important industry and due to the amount of manual labour and hard work that goes into this, Nepal is known as being one of the finest tea manufacturers.
There are so many varieties available including the more well known flavours like oolong, earl grey and green tea. If you’re wanting to try something a little different, there are flavours like masala, tulsi or gold & silver tips tea. The typical Nepali tea - which is locally known as ’chiya’ - is a sweet milk-based spiced tea that is drunk frequently throughout the day by Nepalis. It tastes slightly like chai, but is it’s very own special and unique tea that is treasured in Nepal. Chiya would be a wonderful souvenir from Nepal to take home for your loved ones - and some extra for yourself to enjoy!
The teas are usually beautifully packaged in gorgeous envelopes, which can be found at pretty much every local bazaar. They can be sold in tourist shops, but tends to be lower quality and overpriced.
It is suggested to avoid buying fruit flavoured teas as these are mostly artificial.
4) Tibetan Prayer Flags / Dar Cho
In Nepal, it’s likely you’ll see colourful flags hung mostly by Buddhists all around the country in places such as stupas, monasteries, mountains, in homes and near lakes.
These are Tibetan Prayer Flags, which are also locally known as Dar Cho and are available in many different shapes colours and sizes.
Each colour represents something different and have sacred symbols, texts and mantras written on them that are intended to increase the fortune, wellbeing and health of all sentient beings. It is believed that they contain spiritual vibrations that are released as silent prayers by the wind which carries them into the air once the fabric eventually disintegrates.
For this reason, they are perfect to hang outside in your garden or rooftop to remind you of your gorgeous memories and trip to Nepal as you watch them fluttering in the wind. They are also a perfect gift for someone you love as these are beautiful blessings that love can be shared through.
Tibetan Prayer Flags can easily be found in tourist shops and the prices vary depending on their size and whether or not they are made from silk.
Nepal has a wonderful variety of jewellery and constitutes as one of its greatest handicrafts.
Alongside the Nepalese silver that has an incredible reputation for the quality, you can also find bright beads made from bodhi, blue lapis and rudraksha seeds that a lot of the time include stunning semi-precious stones studded into the jewellery. You’ll find many different items including necklaces, bracelets, earrings and handcuffs that a lot of the time can be custom made if you wish or you can buy your own beads to make your own piece.
When Nepali women get married, they shower themselves with gorgeous beads in the form of necklaces and bracelets that signify their new state.
Just be sure to check the authenticity of the silver and try to buy from the shops that only have a fixed price where possible.
The colourful and exotic Nepalese jewellery is for sure a perfect souvenir to have as a reminder of the beautiful country.
Due to the extensive varieties of spices manufactured and sold in the Nepali markets, the food in Nepal is known for its unique and exotic taste.
The spices there are responsibly extracted from its wilderness & Himalayan fields and can be found in many shops that sell them at a fair price that’s much cheaper than back home.
When buying spices from Nepal, its suggested to collect the ones that are most commonly used in their cuisines. These include coriander, ginger, timur (also known as Sichuan pepper which is a unique Hilalayan pepper), chillies, cumin, turmeric, fenugreek & mustard seeds and many many more. They come in either powdered form or raw, which are both perfect for taking back home as gifts or for your own kitchen and cooking pleasures. However if doing so, just be sure to buy spices with labels to minimise issues going through customs!
7) Statues & Masks
The statues and masks are extremely important pieces of Nepalese culture. They are mostly found as religious, cultural and traditional symbols, but can also be found as souvenirs which are also viewed to be significant.
They are part of forming many Hindu structures such as temples and also play important roles in religious festivals. The statues are mostly that of Buddha and other aspects related to Buddhism but go beyond this too. The masks for example which are very unique often depict Shiva, Indra and other deities as well as Buddha.
Both the statues and masks show the true talent of craftsmen in Nepal and can be made from various different materials including brass, clay, bronze, gold, silver and the masks sometimes cotton or papers.
They both make great souvenirs to hang or place in your home and many people believe them to be good luck charms for you and your loved ones.
8) Madhubani / Mithila Art
Madhubani art (or Mithila Painting) are a beautiful traditional art form practiced in the Mithila region of Bihar and can be traced back as far as the 7th century. This art is hand-painted by Maithili women of Nepal and has been passed from generation to generation since.
Initially, the womenfolk of the village drew the paintings on the walls of their home with fingers, twigs, brushes, and matchsticks as an illustration of their thoughts, hopes, and dreams. With the change in time and tradition, the paintings started becoming a part of festivities and special events, like marriage.
These unique pieces of art are full of gorgeous bright colours to make them stand out as a stunning decoration in your home. It makes a great gift for the art lover or a loved one interested in storytelling tradition.
9) Lokta / Rice Paper Items
Lokta Paper, or Rice Paper, is a eco-friendly traditional Nepalese art form that is a handmade form of paper. Like thangka paintings, lokta paper was originally created as a way of recording religious stories and most Buddhist texts centuries ago. It is also used for official documents and manuscripts which are all still in great condition today due to it’s great durability.
The paper is extremely smooth and soft and today is innovatively used for gorgeous exotic Nepali handicrafts. It is made from either rice husk or the bark of the Daphne bush (Daphne papyracea) which is found in remote areas of Nepal. It is made by hand through cooking the bark twice, then washing it and beating it with a wooden hammer before being spread out and dried in the sun.
There are so many unique lokta items available today that can be found such as photo albums, notebooks, lampshades, gift boxes & bags, greetings cards and so much more.
They are extremely cheap yet so interesting and intriguing, which makes them such a charming souvenir from Nepal to decorate your home, use or gift to your loved ones.
As these items are made from paper, this makes them wonderfully easy to carry. This does however also mean they are very delicate and should therefore be handled and transported with great care. Wrapping your souvenirs up in something will help make sure they make it back intact.
10) Tiger Moving Game (Bagh Chal)
The Tiger Moving Game, which is locally known as Bagh Chal (bagh translating to tiger), is a very unusual and classical board game that is a lot of fun to play for all age groups. This intelligent puzzle game has a board layout which simply has a square figure or a box with a lot of small boxes and the lines inside.
The game consists of 20 goat pieces and 4 tiger pieces whereby either the tiger or the goat wins. The tiger’s aim is to remove the goats from the board by jumping over them, and the goat's aim is to try to block the tigers from moving. If the tigers remove all the goats, the tiger wins, and the goat wins by surrounding and blocking all the tigers making them unable to move.
The wooden boards cost around $25 USD depending on their level of detail and how intricate they are.
This is a really fun & interesting game that can be enjoyed with family and friends as it’s super easy to understand and play, making it an incredible souvenir from Nepal.
11) Prayer / Mani Wheels
Prayer wheels are also very popular and found in many places across Nepal including trekking routes and inside monasteries and other Buddhist sites.
They are influenced by Buddhism and similar to prayer flags are intended for spreading spiritual blessings and increased wellbeing. Imprinted on them is very often the popular Tibetan Buddhism mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’. It is believed that reciting this mantra to yourself or aloud will invoke powerful blessings of the Buddha of compassion, Chenrezig. The wheel is spun round and round, which is considered to have similar effects to reciting the mantra.
When buying as a souvenir, different sized wheels are available that are lovely gifts or items to keep for yourself as beautiful blessings.
12) Thangka Paintings
These exquisite paintings are absolutely a souvenir that is worth the effort of travelling to Nepal. They’re extremely hard to find anywhere else, which is why many tourists visit Nepal solely for Thangkas.
They are pieces of embroidered and painted textile art with some of the most richest and intricate designs & gorgeous vibrant colours. Their canvas is usually cotton or silk with extremely opulent Thangkas featuring silver & gold threads and pigments made from semi precious stones.
The hand paintings portray important Buddhist stories and the lives of great Buddhism leaders including the Buddha himself. They were originally created to teach trainee monks and help guide personal meditation, and are now beautiful pieces of art to hang on the walls of your home.
It can take the artist a substantial amount of time to complete a Thangka painting. Depending on things such as the size and detail. It can take anything between six to eighteen months to complete.
Thangkas are undoubtedly one of the most valuable souvenirs from Nepal. Due to their level of handcrafted detail, they can often charge quite a large sum. Buying directly from Nepal however will likely save you lots of money.
They are priced at anything from $20 to $10,000, so it can sometimes be very difficult to know whether you’re being ripped off. That’s why it can be a good idea to take a close look and consult with the artist or expert themselves. As each painting has it’s own beautiful story, asking questions can just be a great way to find out more and get some lovely background knowledge on your purchase.
Nepal actually has incredible Thangka painting schools - demonstrating just how seriously Thangkas and their concept are taken over there.
Hopefully this gives you something to look forward to and offers some ideas for your trip to Nepal, or you were able to get your hands on those souvenirs from Nepal that you wished you'd bought before.
We have been working with the incredibly skilled and talented craftsmen of Nepal of over 20 years now under ethical conditions. Feel free to read about our Elefair story or shop even more souvenirs from Nepal here that aren't listed in this blog post.
Be sure to let us know in the comments what your favourites are or any that we've missed in this post! We love to hear from you and add in your contributions.