Nepal — Overview
Mystical Nepal lies in the towering Himalaya Mountains on the roof of the world, sharing its wild landscape with eight of the tallest peaks on earth including Mount Everest. A destination for seekers of spirituality and Shangri-La, the sacred region was the birthplace of the Sakyamuni Buddha at Lumbini and Tibetan refugee settlements dating back to the Chinese invasion in the 1950’s.
A backpacker haven since the ‘60s, Nepal now attracts eco-tourists in droves to its magnificent, unspoiled lands and unique eco-systems, adding to the crowds heading to Everest’s base camp along the perilous mountain trails. Its capital, Kathmandu, is a hive of traditional homes, the Royal palace and innumerable Buddhist temples. Pokhara is the main tourist hub, central to many of the country’s attractions and has a fascinating Old Town.
Nepal’s population is a mix of traditional tribes from northern India, Tibet and the mountain regions scattered across nine dramatically different topographical areas. The official language is augmented by many local languages, and English is found mostly in the capital and the tourist town of Pokhara. Whatever their origin, the Nepali peoples are friendly, curious and hospitable. Nepal is still an inexpensive, unpretentious destination in all aspects including accommodation, although upscale hotels offering a range of creature comforts are becoming more and more common.
Dependent on your base, day-trips to nearby attractions are easily arranged by hiring a car and driver or contacting a local tour office. In the more remote areas, there may be no public transport at all, although temples and sites can often be accessed on foot by simply walking instead of trekking or climbing. Birders will enjoy every minute of it, with a plethora of rare species including the golden eagle and other birds of prey. In the north, traveling is made tricky by the mountainous terrain, with few metal roads and rapidly changing weather conditions.
For travelers in love with natural beauty and ancient heritage, Nepal is the perfect place, although getting to see all of its glory can be somewhat of a challenge. Smaller aircraft now link most of the major towns, but the scenery is best experienced from the ground with the exception of the Himalayas. Micro-buses are popular and easy to use, but local buses are confusing and transport livestock along with people. Tour buses are a convenient and slightly safer option that connects Pokhara to other towns.
- Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital with its temples, palaces and markets
- Pokhara, for its Bagat old city, Phewa Lake, canyons and ethnic museum
- Lumbini, birthplace of the Buddha, close to the Indian border
- Kopan Monastery on the heights above Kathmandu Valley
- Patan’s Golden Temple for its sheer magnificence
- Bodnath, Nepal’s most important Buddhist monument
- Durbar Square, Patan, with its Royal palace and stunning temple complex
- Tashi Palkhel, the largest Tibetan settlement in the country
- Chitwan National Park, for its dramatic beauty and elephant breeding center