In April 2015 Nepal was hit by a devastating earthquake that measured 7.8 on the Richter Scale, killed nearly 9,000 people and left approximately US$10 Billion (yes, with a ‘B’) of damage in its wake – in case you were wondering that’s about 50% of Nepal’s GDP! This might lead you to ask, ‘is this the right time to visit Nepal’? My response is simple; there’s no better time! Nepal continues to be negatively affected by a slow recovery of its tourism market; and any visiting tourist is directly contributing to the country’s recovery with every dollar spent in restaurants, hotels and with local tour operators. None of this is to suggest that this is a transaction solely benefitting the country’s recovery; it’s just happens to be a positive side-effect of visiting a country that’s steeped in history, culture and religion and can quench the thirst of even the most ardent adventure traveler.
Below are five reasons to move Nepal back to the top of your bucket list in 2019.
Nowhere is the cultural and religious history of Nepal more evident than in Kathmandu Valley; which just so happens to be the gateway to a Nepalese adventure! In fact, there’s so much to squeeze in to a stay that I’ve spread my destination guide to Kathmandu Valley over 3 separate posts (Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan); cities that are all within an hour of each other. Pretty much everything you touch seems to be part of a World Heritage Site, so it isn’t just me alone opining its virtues; UNESCO seem to agree! With a vast array of temples, palaces, monuments, shrines and museums the Valley has it all and can easily occupy the average tourist for a 4-day stay (and a history buff much longer)!
I think it’s fair to say that one of the major draws (if not biggest draw) of a trip to Nepal is the Himalayas; with seven of the World’s highest peaks located in Nepal it’s true that the mountain scenery is probably at the top of most visitor’s ‘must-see’ list. From sunrise viewed from the hill stations surrounding Kathmandu, to a trekking holiday in the Annapurna range or to Everest Base Camp, there’s no end to the opportunities when it comes to mountain spotting! But Nepal is more than mountains alone! Heading south to the border with India you’ll find yourself in the biodiverse lowland terrain of Chitwan National Park. Amongst the stunning scenery of the UNESCO World Heritage Site you’ll have the opportunity to track Bengal tigers, one-horned rhino and leopard against a backdrop of Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands, broadleaf forests and wetlands. With elevations from 60m to over 8,000m above sea level I guess diversity is the keyword when it comes to Nepal’s scenery.
To say that Nepal has a rich and diverse culture is probably an understatement. Encompassing a multitude of tribes and ethnicities, and influenced by the cultures of India, Mongolia and Tibet, Nepal is home to a whopping 123 languages (the main language, Nepali, is spoken by about 45% of the population) from over 35 ethnic groups. Its rich diversity has also filtered down to its music, religion, architecture, literature, dance and food. From visiting a Kumari (a prepubescent girl selected by a council of Newari people chosen to be the living representation of the Taleju or Durga Goddess) to photographing the Sadhu’s (a holy person who has denounced worldly life) of Pashupatinath, Nepal is probably, from a cultural perspective, one of the most diverse country’s I’ve ever visited.
The cultural diversity of Nepal is definitely visible in the food; it’s a real melting pot. From Chinese Chow-Mein to Indian curry and everything in between. That said, and if nothing else, you must try the dal-bhat-tarkari (pretty much translates to lentil soup-boiled grain-vegetable curry…..I think) and the momo. Ahh, the momo. The wife and I decided that we would devour momo at every opportunity…and given that momo are one of Nepal’s most popular dishes it’s like hunting for sausage rolls in the UK….they’re everywhere. They’re Tibetan style dumplings filled with buffalo, vegetable, lamb or chicken and Nepalese spices – and they’re possibly the most delicious thing you’ll ever eat.
Nepal, The Ultimate Adventure
When it comes to adventure then Nepal can really offer everything. Besides the obvious trekking and mountain climbing Nepal offers some of the best white water rafting in the world (see https://www.kimkim.com/c/top-5-rafting-trips-in-nepal) and provides some of the best chances of seeing Bengal Tigers in the wild on a Chitwan safari. Add to that the opportunity to take a light aircraft flight from Kathmandu to see Everest, hot air balloons, paragliding, bungee jumping and ultralights and you’ve got the beginnings of an adventure addicts dream holiday!
Think I’ve missed anything? I’d love to hear about your highlights of Nepal in the comments section, and be sure to check out my 4-day Kathmandu Valley itinerary and Destination Guides for Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur before you plan your trip!