Nepal is the country in the Himalayas that has Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. It is a small landlocked country in South Asia, bordering India and the Tibet autonomous region of China.
Your Nepal tour will most likely begin in Kathmandu, the capital city. The Kathmandu Valley is the most crowded part of Nepal. It is also the most populated city in Nepal and has beautiful ancient palaces, temples, monasteries, and architecture.
Furthermore, the Kathmandu Valley has 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites with five of them either in Kathmandu or the near vicinity. All of them are worth visiting and spending time exploring.
Nepal is one of the most popular destinations in the world for mountaineering, trekking, and adventure. It has eight of the world’s 10 tallest peaks.
Lumbini in Nepal is the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.
Things To Do In Nepal
Numerous travelers from all around the world go to Nepal to explore the natural beauty of the Himalayan kingdom. There are lots of activities that can be done here.
A lot of visitors love mountain climbing, trekking, hiking, rafting, bungy jumping, canyon swing, and paragliding.
Many tourists also visit Nepal to indulge in the beautiful mountain view. There are resorts on hill stations around the valley, and national parks full of wildlife. Tourism is a major part of the country’s economy.
A Sherpa girl
People in Nepal are very tourist friendly and host a lot of travelers from around the world. Most of the country remains raw and rural due to the varying topography and landscape.
Top Places in Nepal
- Kathmandu — capital and cultural center of Nepal, with its Hanumandhoka Durbar Square and the stupas at Boudhanath and Swayambhunath
- Boudhanath– location of the largest Buddhist Stupa in Nepal and a very important place of pilgrimage & meditation for Buddhists, local Nepalis, and tourists. Approximately 30 Buddhist Monasteries and nunneries in the area
- Bhaktapur — a well-preserved historical city, also a UNESCO World Heritage site noted for its temple and pilgrimage
- Patan — World Heritage Site, beautiful and historic
- Pokhara — picturesque lake-side town fast becoming the destination of choice for travelers due to the scenery, adventure sports, dining, hotels and live music scene
View from Pokhara
- Dhulikhel – a small town 30 km south-east of Kathmandu in the heart of small hills and green valleys. Perfect for small hikes and a 3-hour walk to the hill-top Namobuddha Monastery
- Namche Bazaar — a high altitude Sherpa settlement in the Himalayan Khumbu region and a popular stop for trekkers on their way to the Everest Base Camp
Namche Bazaar, a Sherpa Village
- Mount Everest — the tallest peak of the world in the Khumbu region
Gokyo Lake in Mount Everest
- Annapurna — popular trekking region of Nepal with the world-famous Annapurna Circuit
- Tangting — a beautiful and undiscovered traditional Gurung village with a stunning view of the Annapurna range
- Daman — a tiny village in the mountains offering panoramic views of the Himalayas; especially stunning at sunrise and sunset
- Nagarkot — a hill station one hour from Kathmandu offering excellent views of the Himalayan Range
- Chitwan National Park — World Heritage site with tigers, rhinos and jungle animals
Rhino at Chitwan
Top Spiritual Destinations
Locked between the snow peaks of the Himalayas and the seething Ganges plain, Nepal has long been home to wandering ascetics and tantric yogis.
Tibetan prayer wheel
Consequently, the country has a wealth of sacred sites and natural wonders:
- Lumbini — the sacred site of the Buddha Shakyamuni’s birth
- Haleshi (Tibetan: Maratika) — the site of a mountain cave where Padmasambhava attained a state beyond life and death
- Namo Buddha — the location of where it is believed that in a previous life the Buddha offered his body to a starving tigress and her cubs
- Pharping — the site of several sacred caves associated with Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism
- Janakpur — a historical religious center and home to the 500-year old Janaki Temple
- Pashupatinath — a famous and sacred Hindu temple complex located on the banks of the Bagmati River, 5 kilometers north-east of Kathmandu
Nepal is also very popular for Hindus and Buddhists. A lot of travelers go to Nepal for religious purpose.
Nepal was once the only Hindu nation in the world. There are a lot of temples of gods and goddesses with major significance for Hindus and Buddhist alike.
A Buddhist dance in Nepal
Rafting and Kayaking
Nepal is one of the best places in the world for whitewater adventures. Rafting trips of 1 to 10 days on many rivers and for all levels of experience leave from Kathmandu and Pokhara.
The main rivers for rafting are:
- Bhote Koshi
- Kali Gandaki
- Sun Koshi
Many companies offer “Learn to Kayak” clinics on the Trisuli river, an ideal spot to take your first steps into the world of whitewater
Trekking in Nepal
Almost 60% of trekkers visit Annapurna area while the rest visiting the Everest and Langtang regions respectively.
Tea House Trekking
“Tea-house trekking” is the easiest way to trek as it doesn’t require support. Tea houses have developed into somewhat rustic full-scale tourist lodges with showers, pizza, pasta, and beer.
The day’s hikes are between lodge-filled settlements or villages: there’s no need to take tents, food, water or beer.
Note: Manaslu, Kanchenjunga, Dolpo, Mustang and Humla require Restricted Area Permits, requiring a minimum of two foreign trekkers plus a registered/qualified guide.
- Annapurna Circuit: a 2-3 week trek around the Annapurna mountains, leads up the Marsyangdi river to Dharapani, Chame, Manang, over Thorung La (5,400 m) to the Hindu temples at Muktinath and (possibly) ending at Jomsom
- Annapurna Sanctuary: a trek up into the very heart of the range provides an awesome 360-degree high mountain skyline
Everest Region Treks
Everest lies in the region known as Khumbu. To get here, take a bus to Jiri or fly to Lukla then hike up to Namche Bazaar, capital of the Sherpa lands at the foot of Everest.
- Everest Base Camp Trek: Lukla to Everest Base Camp, stunning scenery, wonderful Sherpa people. The most popular trek is up to Everest Base Camp and an ascent of Kalar Patar. Visit the Buddhist Tengboche monastery for the Mani Rimdu festival in November.
- The ‘Classic Everest Base Camp Trek: Jiri to Everest Base Camp
- Gokyo Trek: Lukla to the sacred lakes of Gokyo. Explore the Gokyo valley with its sacred lakes and stupendous views of four 8,000 m peaks
- Numbur Cheese Circuit: Trek through the largest cheese producing area, via the sacred lakes of Jata Pokhari and Panch Pokhari to Numburchuili base camp.
- Island Peak Trek in the Everest region takes in some of the most spectacular scenery in the Himalayas.
- Pikey Cultural Trail
- Dudh Kunda Cultural Trail
Langtang Region Treks
- Helambu Langtang Trek – a short taxi ride from Thamel to the road head at Shivapuri leads to a trail through the middle-hills countryside of Helambu
- Langtang Valley Trek
- Tamang Heritage Trail
- Kanchenjunga is in far eastern Nepal and accessible via Taplejung (from Kathmandu 40 min by plane or 40 hrs by bus). It is a strenuous trek through the sparsely populated country to the third highest mountain.
- The Upper Dolpa in northwestern Nepal beyond the highest Himalaya is the remote Land of the Bon, almost as Tibetan as Nepali. (Lower Dolpa is more accessible and can be reached by plane. From here, you can trek to the Upper Dolpa.)
- An unspoiled trail through remote villages and over the Larkya La, a remote pass at 5,100m, to circuit an 8,000m mountain. The Manaslu massif rises above the old kingdom of Gorkha close to the Tibetan border about halfway between Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Mountain biking in Nepal is fun and at times challenging event. Biking can be done independently or can be organized through biking companies of Nepal. You can rent mountain bikes of almost any quality as well.
There are many popular biking routes:
- The Scar Road from Kathmandu starts from Balaju towards Kakani to Shivapuri ending in Budhanilkantha in northern Kathmandu.
- Kathmandu to Dhulikhel starts from Koteshwor in Kathmandu to Bhaktapur to Banepa to Dhulikhel.
- From Dhulikhel to Namobuddha to Panauti to Banepa.
- The Back Door to Kathmandu starts from Panauti and heads to Lakuri Bhanjyang and then to Lubhu in Lalitpur ending near Patan.
- Dhulikhel to the Tibetan Border starts in Dhulikhel and follows the Araniko Highway with a night stay on the way.
- The Rajpath from Kathmandu starts from Kalanki in Kathmandu and follows the Prithvi Highway up to Naubise.
- Hetauda to Narayangarh and Mugling starts from Hetauda and heads along the Mahendra Highway to Narayangarh.
- Kathmandu to Pokhara starts from Kathmandu and traverses through Naubise, Mugling to Pokhara.
- Pokhara to Sarangkot and Naudanda starts from Lakeside Pokhara and heads towards Sarangkot and from there towards Naudanda.
The best time to go for biking is between mid-October and late-March, when the atmosphere is clear the climate is temperate: warm during the days and cool during the night.
Note: Practice caution when biking during the monsoon season (June to September) as the roads are very slippery.
Nepal’s geography and climate make for some of the best motorcycling roads in the world. The traffic is a little chaotic, but not aggressive, and the speeds are low.
Be aware that you need an international driving license in Nepal, even though you might never be stopped by the police as a tourist on a bike.
Perhaps the best and most original way to explore the country is by motorcycle. Kathmandu should be avoided by beginners, but the rest of Nepal is simply amazing.
There are at least 30 canyons where private companies organize excursions for descents. The Nepali canyons offer breathtaking views of the valleys and rice fields below and various combinations of difficulty and water level.
Note: The 2011 IRC (International Canyoning Rendezvous) took place in the Marshyangdi River valley in the Annapurna region.
Most canyons can only be accessed on foot from the nearby roads, through paths used by the locals for agriculture purposes or accessing their homes.
Chitwan National Park offers elephant rides, jungle canoeing, nature walks, and bird watching, as well as more adventurous tiger and rhino-viewing.
There are also many other less visited parks including Bardiya and Sagarmatha.
“The Last Resort”, near the Tibetan border, has frequent Full Moon trance parties, lasting 2-3 days. Watch for posters and check music shops.
Pokhara has started featuring its own brand of Full Moon raves and interesting Western takes on Nepali festivals.
Geography and Climate
The beautiful Himalayan country has eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains, including the highest mountain and point on Earth, Mount Everest, which is called Sagarmatha in Nepal.
The landscape and terrain of the country is very diverse.The rectangular shaped country can be divided into three physiography areas from east to west and there are several major rivers flowing from north to south.
The northern mountain belt of Nepal (Himalayas) borders with Tibet and has mountains. The temperate is usually cold all year long because of the altitude. The central hilly belt of Nepal (Pahad) has beautiful hills and valleys.
The temperature is usually pleasant and moderate. The southern flat belt of Nepal (Terai) borders with India and is flat. The temperature is usually warm and very hot and humid in summer.
- Greet people with a warm Namaste with palms together, fingers up. It is used in place of hello or goodbye
- Show respect to elders and show respect for the local culture and tradition
- Say “Thank you: Dhanyabaad” (Dhan-ya-baad)
- Don’t point the bottoms of your feet at people or religious icons. Feet are considered dirty.
- Be sensitive to when it is proper to remove your hat or shoes. It is proper to take off your shoes before entering a residential house.
- The left hand is considered unclean because it is used to wash after defecating. Many Nepali hotel and Guest House toilets have bidet attachments, like a kitchen sink sprayer, for this purpose in lieu of toilet paper.
- It is considered insulting to touch anyone with the left hand. It is proper to poke someone, take and give something with the right hand.
- Circumambulate Buddhist Shrines and Temples, Chortens, Stupas, Mani walls, and Monasteries in a clockwise direction. Hindu shrines and temples have no such practice.
- When haggling over prices, smile, laugh and be friendly. Be prepared to allow a reasonable profit. Don’t be a miser or insult fine craftsmanship. It’s much better to lament that you are too poor to afford such princely quality.
- Many Hindu temples do not allow non-Hindus inside certain parts of the temple complex. Be aware & respectful of this fact, as these are places of worship, not tourist attractions. Being a non-Hindu makes you moderately ‘impure to some strict Hindus.
- Avoid touching containers of water; let someone pour it into your drinking container. Likewise, avoid touching food that others will be eating.
- Make sure you are invited before entering someone’s house. You may only be welcome on the outer porch, or in the yard. Shoes are routinely left on the front porch or in a specific area near the front door.
- Wash hands before and after eating. Touch food only with the right hand if you’re not left-handed.
To get around, you can use taxis or rent a car with a driver. Taxis are relatively cheap, but you should always negotiate the price, before getting in.
There are two types of taxi: “private”, which pretty much run from the airport to upmarket hotels and “Fixed Price”, which don’t leave until they are full.
There are a number of domestic airlines in Nepal that offer frequent flights to many destinations around the country.
Destinations to and from Kathmandu include places like:
To arrange flights from outside Nepal, there are a number of online booking agents who can make bookings for you. Most can take credit card and PayPal payments as well as cash in local currency or USD.
Note: Cancellations and delays due to severe weather conditions do occur. So plan ahead and be flexible.
Micro Bus has become very popular lately. It has almost replaced local bus service given its fast service.
Tourists should be aware that microbuses are often driven with great speed and very little care and have unfortunately been the cause of a large percentage of road accidents in Nepal.
Although the system can be confusing they are cheap. They can be crowded at times both with people and domestic animals such as goats, ducks, etc. Some buses will not depart until it’s almost full.
Book a few days ahead at a Kathmandu or Pokhara travel agent (or your hotel will book for you). Unlike local buses or microbuses, you’ll have a seat. 🙂
Good for short trips if you don’t have much luggage and don’t mind being bounced around a bit.
Bargain before you get in, and don’t be afraid to walk away and try another.
Another choice is to rent a small motorcycle. And it can be rented in the Thamel area.
You can also rent a bicycle to travel around Kathmandu at a very reasonable price according to the condition or quality of the bicycle and the rental period.
Although motor roads are penetrating further into the hinterlands, many destinations can only be reached by foot (or helicopter).
The official currency is Nepalese Rupee. It is illegal to exchange currency with persons other than authorized dealers in foreign exchange (banks, hotels and licensed money changers).
Visitors should obtain Foreign Exchange Encashment Receipts when changing currency and keep them, as these will help in many transactions, including getting visa extensions and trekking permits.
Tourist shops, hotels, restaurants, and agencies accept MasterCard, Visa, and American Express credit cards.
The great biological and cultural diversity of present-day Nepal is matched by its linguistic diversity.
Nepal boasts a variety of living languages many of which are remnants of the traditional Asiatic cultural amalgamation in the region, it has an impressively large number for a country with such a small land mass.
Nepal has more distinct and individual languages in one country than the whole of the European community.
The official language of Nepal is Nepali. It’s related to Hindi, Punjabi, and other Indo-Aryan languages, and is normally written with the Devanagari script (as is Hindi), originated from “Sanskrit”.
While most Nepalis speak at least some Nepali, a large percentage of the population has as their mother tongue another language, such as Tharu around Chitwan, Newari in the Kathmandu Valley, and Sherpa in the Everest area.
Although Nepal was never a British colony, English is somewhat widespread among educated Nepalis. Nevertheless learning even a few words of Nepali is fun and useful, especially outside of the tourist district and while trekking (porters often speak very little English and the inquisitive children in the tea houses are delighted to hear a few words of Nepali from their house guests).
Electricity and Plug Type
As for electricity, Nepal uses Types C, D, and M sockets. You need to bring a travel adapter to fit the proper socket type. Check out the above-linked page to see the photos and other useful information.
The standard voltage is 230 V. Many of your devices may need a step-up transformer to match the electrical voltage.
Sometimes, there are “strikes” and demonstrations to contend with. Some businesses close, but many allowances are usually made for tourists, who are widely respected.
Ask about strikes at your hotel or read the English language Nepali newspapers.
The trekking routes and other tourist destinations are safe for travel. If your country has an embassy or consulate in Nepal, let them know your whereabouts & plans, and at least listen seriously to any cautionary advice they offer.
Nepal’s cities are safer than most, and even pickpockets are rare. Nevertheless, don’t flash cash or make ostentatious displays of wealth.
Be cautious about public transport. Roads are narrow, steep, winding & frequently crowded. Domestic flights with a private company are safer than the roads. Flying risks are greatest before & during the monsoon season when the mountains are usually clouded over.
If you should be seriously injured or sick where there are no roads or airports available, medical evacuation by helicopter may be your last best chance.
If there is no firm guarantee that the bill will be paid, companies offering these services may demur, so look into insurance covering medical evacuations. You might ask if your embassy or consulate guarantees payment.
Since most of Nepal still gets along without modern sanitation, these are endemic. They range from self-limiting attacks of diarrhea where dehydration is the main risk, through intestinal parasites, amoebic dysentery, and giardiasis which are chronic without proper medical treatment, to immediately life-threatening infections like cholera and typhoid.
Filter or treat your own water, use bottled water, checking to make sure lid is sealed (limit use of bottled water since there’s no place to dispose of the used bottles) or stick with beverages made from water that has been thoroughly boiled and filtered.
Water that you can drink without fear of becoming ill is rare because of a lack of water treatment facilities and sewage treatment.
It is safest to assume that water is unsafe for drinking without being chemically treated or boiled, which is one reason to stick to tea or bottled water. Tea or coffee from cafes catering to tourists are ‘generally’ safe.
Note: The Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) has installed a number of safe water stations along the Annapurna Circuit where water may be purchased for a reasonable cost.
Make sure you trek with other people — especially on side treks with unclear paths. If a problem occurs, it is much easier to get help if others are nearby. Many people have gone missing or died on treks.
If you do not have a trekking partner, in Kathmandu or Pokhara, it is usually easy to find other like-minded people with similar travel plans in and trek together.
When trekking, carry iodine or other chemical means of treating water and be sure to follow directions, i.e. don’t drink the water before the specified time interval to ensure that resistant cyst are deactivated.
Food & Water Safety
- In trailside teashops, although glasses may be washed in questionable water, tea is made by pouring boiling water through tea dust into your glass. The chances of disease-causing organisms surviving that are small but not zero.
- Brush teeth with prepared drinking water and avoid water entering the mouth when showering.
- Salads, especially in the wet season, should be treated as suspect. Some restaurants wash salad greens with lightly iodized water to make it safe.
- Wash hands regularly and especially before eating. Carry hand sanitizer and use it regularly.
- Thoroughly wash fruit and vegetables for raw consumption using boiled and filtered water. Also, consider peeling them.
- Look for freshly-cooked food and avoid anything that has been cooked and then left sitting around without refrigeration (which can expose you to a buildup of bacterial toxins) or without protection from flies (which can transfer disease organisms and parasite eggs to the food).
- Buy antibiotics for stomach infections while at the pharmacy. Getting a script for bacterial and a script for amoebic infections is recommended. Pharmaceuticals are cheap in Nepal!
- For drinking water, the best practice is to treat all water as being contaminated – especially water in the cities. Although bottled water is often available, the disposal of the plastic bottles is a serious problem with no easy solution.
- Please do not buy bottled water on the trek as there are no rubbish disposal systems on the trek. It is less expensive and better for the environment to treat your own water. The main two options for trekkers are to use the safe drinking water stations along the trek for a small fee or bring your own water purifiers.
- Chlorination and iodine tablets are available in the main cities. You can also use a filter with a ceramic cartridge or a UV treatment system such as a Steripen which should remove anything 1 micron in size or larger. You might want to combine two of these systems just to make sure you have made the water completely safe.
Get vaccinated and consider prophylactic treatment. You may be exposed to typhoid, cholera, hepatitis malaria and possibly even rabies.
Practice safe sex
Nepali women are sought after in India and the Middle East and so there is human trafficking. Victims may be allowed to return home when health issues become a liability, then continue ‘working’ as long as possible.
The incidence of STDs is rising and the government has not always been proactive about treatment and promoting awareness. Unless your Nepali is extremely fluent, your chances of finding out about a prospective partner’s sexual history are slim.
Permanent snow lines are between 5,500 m and 5,800 m (18,000 ft and 19,000 ft), so base camps and passes in the Himalaya are usually higher than Mount Blanc or Mount Whitney.
This puts even experienced mountain climbers at risk of altitude-related medical conditions that can be life-threatening. Risks can be minimized by choosing routes that don’t go high, such as Pokhara-Jomosom, or routes and trekking companies where gamow bags or other treatment are available, and by sleeping not more than 300 m (1,000 ft) higher per day.
According to the “climb high, sleep low” mantra, it is good to take daytime conditioning hikes that push acclimation, then to return to a more reasonable elevation at night.
Hypothermia is a risk, especially if you are trekking in spring, autumn or winter to avoid heat at low elevations. When it is a comfortable 30°C (85°F) in the Terai, it is likely to be in the teens Fahrenheit or -10°C (14°F) at that base camp or high pass.
Either be prepared to hike and sleep in these temperatures (and make sure your comrades, guides and porters are equally prepared), or choose a trek that doesn’t go high. For example, at 3,000m (10,000ft) expect daytime temperatures in the 40s Fahrenheit or 5 to 10°C.
Dogs are not vaccinated and catch this fatal disease from other dogs or wild animals with some regularity. All mammals are potentially vulnerable.
Dogs are considered ritually polluting and are widely abused, so it can be impossible to know whether a dog bit you because it is paranoid about people or because it is rabid.
You should be vaccinated against rabies before going to Nepal, but this is not absolute protection. Be on the lookout for mammals acting disoriented or hostile and stay as far away as possible.
Do not pet dogs, cats or pigs no matter how cute. Keep a distance from monkeys, especially in places like the Monkey Temple (Swayambunath) in Kathmandu.
If bitten or exposed to saliva, seek medical attention. You may need an extended series of injections that provides a higher level of protection than routine vaccination.
The risk is greatest in warm weather and at elevations below 1,500 m (5,000 ft). Poisonous snakes are fairly common and cause thousands of deaths annually. Local people may be able to differentiate poisonous and non-poisonous species.
Cobras raise their bodies in the air and spread their hoods when annoyed; itinerant snake charmers are likely to have specimens for your edification.
Vipers have triangular heads and may have thick bodies like venomous snakes in North America. Kraits may be the most dangerous due to innocuous appearance and extremely potent neurotoxin venom.
Kraits are strangely passive in daylight but become active at night, especially around dwellings where they hunt rodents. Krait bites may be initially painless, causing only numbness.
However without proper antivenin numbness can progress to deadly paralysis, even with bites from small, seemingly harmless specimens. Wearing proper shoes and trousers rather than sandals and shorts provides some protection.
Watch where you put your feet and hands, and use a torch when walking outside at night. Sleeping on elevated beds and on second stories helps protect against nocturnal kraits.
Wi-Fi & SIM Card
Internet connectivity is increasing rapidly, and obviously its availability is most widespread in Kathmandu (especially in Thamel and around the Boudha Stupa in Boudhanath) or Pokhara.
In those two cities, most hotels and lodges will have a free Internet connection with Wi-Fi. So will many restaurants. More and more villages will have Internet available at some lodges, usually with Wi-Fi.
In the more remote villages, however, there may only be the occasional Internet cafe that is available. Even more remote villages may have Internet via a satellite connection, but it is quite pricey.
Mail can be received at many guesthouses or at Everest Postal Care, opposite Fire & Ice on Tridevi Marg.
Phone calls are best made from any of the international phone offices in Kathmandu or alternatively you can make Voice over the Internet (VOIP) calls by using Wi-Fi.
There are two main mobile operators in Nepal. Government run NTC (Nepal Telecom Company) and private Ncell (previously called Spice Mobile and Mero Mobile).
Both operators allow tourists to buy SIM cards in Kathmandu and most major towns. You will need to bring a passport photo, fill in a form and have your passport and visa page photocopied.
- Ncell SIMs – can be bought from many stores, but are best bought from official stores in Kathmandu. Micro SIMs can be cut for free if you need.
- NTC SIMs – NTC SIMs can usually only be bought from their official offices. They often have a shortage of SIM cards, and you may have to wait up to 10 days to receive one. (NTC has superior remote coverage compared to Ncell, particularly on the Annapurna Circuit trek.)
June 22, 2016 12:00 am 3 Comments