Nepal Travel Guide
Trekking through epic mountain scenery with vast panoramic snowy peaks on all sides, exploring mystical cities packed with holy temples and colourful markets, tracking down endangered wildlife in lush primary jungle - and these are just some of the highlights of a Nepal holiday! Then there are the Nepalese themselves, with their friendly welcome and utterly charming company. For a small country, Nepal packs a heck of a lot in, so make sure you plan enough time to absorb and appreciate it.
Where to travel in Nepal
Your holiday in Nepal will almost certainly begin in the vibrant, magical capital of Kathmandu. The bustle takes a little getting used to, but once you do, you won’t want to leave. It's the kind of place that gets under your skin. You'll need at least a couple of days to soak it all up, exploring eons-old temples, smoke-wreathed shrines, throbbing markets and dusty museums, full of unexpected treasures.
Close by in the Kathmandu valley there's a brace of ancient cultural cities that feel locked in time. Places like Bhaktapur with its narrow streets, serene squares with winged-roofed temples at their centre, artisan shops and wafting prayer flags feel like they've hardly changed in generations.
Of course many people associate Nepal with trekking in the mighty Himalayan mountains. Epic hikes like the Annapurna circuit and Everest Base Camp tend to get most of the attention, but there's walking for all levels. You don't need to be a hardcore trekker to enjoy rambles through valleys strewn with wildflowers, stopping at traditional villages that are surrounded by impossibly steep, emerald rice paddies and the spectacularly snow-capped Himalayas.
Nepal is also home to remarkable wildlife. In Chitwan National Park it's surprisingly easy to see rare one-horned rhino if you visit at the right time of year. There are resident Bengali Tigers as well, however you'll be extremely lucky to have an encounter. Birdwatchers will be in paradise, spotting a huge number of vibrantly colourful, indigenous species.
Reasons to love Nepal
Nepal is an incredibly diverse place: its exotic jumble of ethnicities, religions and traditions mean it’s constantly surprising, with each day offering up a different experience. And what makes it particularly special is the way it's all wrapped up in the traditionally warm welcome of its people. They are utterly charming, curious and open.
That diversity continues into the sights and experiences too. It really is several holidays rolled into one. Where else could you find easy-to-reach rare wildlife, enthralling ancient cities that offer moments of serenity amidst their exuberant chaos, countryside where people tend rice paddies and kids play in streets unchanged in generations, and spectacular walking to the backdrop of the moody magnificent Himalayas?
In 2015 an earthquake ravaged parts of the country, destroying whole villages in some areas and reducing ancient temples to mournful piles of puzzle. Repairs are underway and many of the most revered temples have been rebuilt, but you will still see rebuilding work taking place and occasional piles of rubble. The Nepalis are a resilient people, and visiting them now is a great way to bring much-needed income to the country.
Although it's relatively small, roughly the size of England and Wales, Nepal can be a little challenging to get around. Roads are not particularly good, and can even get washed away in monsoon season. Most visitors hop around on the plethora of tiny aircraft that connect the main tourist areas. But you do need to go with the flow a little as things might not always go to plan. Nepalis are used to just taking things as they come with a shrug of the shoulders, a smile, and the phrase Ke garne? - 'what to do?'.
Given the relaxed way that people from many religious and cultural backgrounds seem to get along just fine here, you might be surprised to find that Nepal's relatively recent history is a little turbulent. For several decades after the Second World War it was a constitutional monarchy, then - partly due to a shocking massacre of most of the royal family by the heir to the throne in 2001 - Maoists seized power and the country became a republic. Politics remain a little volatile, but life seems to go on quite happily for both citizens and visitors alike.
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