A vacation in Nepal is all about losing yourself in an ancient world, marveling at nature and engaging a lifestyle completely opposite the modern world. Sightseeing takes on a new aspect, with monasteries clinging to sheer rock faces, remote ethnic villages in secluded valleys, millennia-old holy places and traditions, and the tallest peaks on earth looming over magnificent scenery.

Things to do outdoors are inescapable, with trekking and hiking not just for fun, but necessary to explore the more remote regions devoid of transport and metal roads. Nepal is the world center for mountaineering and many visitors who never dreamt of being able to scale Mt. Everest head to its famous base camp just to be close to the overwhelming mountain. Nepal’s stunning lakes and rushing rivers offer water sports galore and kayaking, white-water rafting and a visit to an ethnic village is a must.

Phewa Tal Lake, the most famous of the seven glorious mountain lakes set around Pokhara is fed by an underground glacial river overlooked by the Annapurna range. Trekking around its shores or canoeing its water are favorite pastimes led by Unique Treks.

A trekking innovation only recently introduced, Tea House Trekking, gives day-hikers access to tourist lodges in villages that offer hot showers, beer, pizza and comfortable beds. The varied Nepalese routes, including the Annapurna Route, Lukla to Everest Base Camp and Upper Dolpa, run from easy to strenuous and Tea House Trekking provides friendly, knowledgeable guides.

Rafting and kayaking along one of Nepal’s 10 rivers is an exciting way to lose yourself in the spectacular countryside. Trips range from one to 11 days and include camping on a bug-free beach at night. The rushing whitewater and deep gorges offer varying degrees of difficulty dependent on the time of year, with the spring melt and monsoon season giving the most thrills. Raft Nepal offers tours down all of Nepal’s waterways.

Chitwan National Park lies in the subtropical, southern Terai plains and is Nepal’s premier safari destination. Exotic flora and fauna and a wide range of wildlife can be spied from lodges and guided trips into the jungle. Rhinos, tigers leopards, crocodiles, monkeys, sloth bears, elephants and over 500 species of birds are found here, and the specialty lodges have their own elephant stables. Nepal Uncovered offers accommodation within the park and elephant treks into the brush.

Visiting Sherpa villages as part of an organized trek provides a look into the harsh lives of the mountain people living in the shadow of Everest. Hiking in Mountain takes visitors on a historic, cultural trip though rhododendron forests, apple orchards and barley fields, past monasteries and temple villages. Khumjung, Thame and Namche, a former trading post between Nepal and Tibet are visited all, as is the holy village of Tengpoche.

Bhaktapur, known as the City of Devotees, is Nepal’s best preserved holy city and the essence of Old Nepal. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the ancient village is famed for its colorful architecture, tiny winding alleyways, traditional festivals and Newari lifestyle. Founded in the 12th century, the area is home to landmarks such as the Golden Gate, Nyataponia Temple, Peacock Window and the lingams at Haumanghat.