Quite simply the best trekking destination on the planet.
Pinched between the mighty India and Tibet, Nepal packs a punch more powerful than its diminutive size would suggest. There are mountains aplenty - the frontiers of Nepal encircle a sizable chunk of the Himalayan range, including eight of the ten tallest peaks on earth. The challenges and rewards of trekking in such formidable surroundings are the main attraction and our local experts are primed to advise you on each and every trail. Beyond the world of boots, blisters and base camp, Nepal shines as a destination rich in spiritual intrigue, jungle wildlife, rural splendour and a genuine welcome. Whether you want to spot tigers in Chitwan National Park or discover the cultural highlights of Kathmandu, Nepal has plenty to offer the intrepid traveller.
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Top three things to do in Nepal
There are many wonderful experiences to be had in this mountainous country. For further inspiration take a look at the trip ideas put together by our trusted local experts, but in the meantime here are our top three things to do in Nepal.
Take a walk on the wild side
With Himalayan black bears, red pandas, Bengal tigers and elephants roaming free in national parks containing a variety of habitats, wildlife lovers will not be disappointed. It’s a little known fact that Nepal’s altitude range spans an immense 8,789 metres from the lowland Terai to the summit of Everest, meaning a huge variety of habitats. Chitwan National Park is known as one of the best wildlife-watching destinations in Asia - lowland jungle shelters leopards, jackals, langurs, gharials, elephants, indian rhinos and an impressive range of birds.
If you are a fan of trekking you need to experience the highland trails of Nepal. Using Pokhara as a base, take advantage of the many routes in the spectacular Annapurna range. Logistically a trek from Pokhara is simple to arrange, and within a couple of days’ hike the views of the high peaks open up. Beyond hiking, the mountains have plenty of other adventures to offer. Try your hand at rock climbing, mountain biking and scenic flights around the roof of the world.
Explore the diverse cultural landscape
The capital, Kathmandu, is a busy and historic city which is the hub of the Kathmandu valley, a region crammed with cultural sites that reflect Nepalese society. Hindu and Buddhist teachings are both prevalent in Nepal, and for many worshippers the two have become intertwined, resulting in hundreds of colourful temples scattered all over the nation. Numerous exciting festivals reflect the eclectic cultural scene and despite earthquake damage, history is on display in many of the ancient towns.
Lesser-known highlights in Nepal
While there are many well-known things to do in Nepal, what about the lesser-known highlights? Our local experts have shared some of their top tips for where to go and what to do if you fancy a bit of an alternative Nepalese adventure.
Mantras and meditation
Influenced by Hindu and Buddhist traditions, Nepal is an idyllic location for yoga or meditation retreats, its peaceful atmosphere conducive to calm. Though housed in spectacular buildings, the courses run at monasteries tend to be longer commitments for monks in training. Shorter-term options abound for beginners and experienced practitioners alike, with Pokhara offering many multi-disciplinary weekends. Elsewhere, consider a course in Tibetan Buddhism; a silent, spiritual or fasting retreat; or a more esoteric chanting or Tantric meditation escape. Only doing this once? Practice Vipanassa meditation in Lumbini, the place where Buddha himself is said to have been born.
Get wet in the wild
Nepal is renowned for high-altitude treks but its waterways offer a whole other world of adventure. The country’s rivers course down through the foothills of the highest mountains on Earth, with monsoon rains and meltwaters joining the party en route. Here you’ll find world-class rafting, canyoning and kayaking adventures, day paddles or committing river expeditions.
Wall to wall celebrations
The names of Nepal’s myriad celebration and feast days are as exotic as the events themselves, with events staged by the country’s Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, and Kiranti religions. Our local experts can advise on authentic and lesser-known cultural events; if lucky your visit might coincide with Janai Purnima (The Festival of the Sacred Thread), one of the greatest celebrations for Nepal’s Hindu, Buddhist and Jain communities.
When is the best time to go to Nepal?
Many visitors to Nepal are hoping for blue skies and clear views of the Himalaya, which are most prevalent in the autumn months of September, October and November. This is also the best time to see the country at its greenest, fresh from the summer monsoon rinse, but as it is the peak season trails and lodgings are very busy. The other popular time to visit is during the spring months of February, March and early April which bring more warmth, but correspondingly higher levels of haze can obscure mountain views unless you get up into the high country. The chill of December and January is only for the hardiest hikers whereas the summer months of May-August are the lushest time, but bear in mind that the monsoon can bring unpredictable disruption.
Insider tips from our local experts
Being local, our experts have an extensive knowledge of the secrets to experiencing the 'real' Nepal. Here are a few of their top tips - ask them for other recommendations when you enquire to ensure you have the most in-depth experience whilst on holiday!
What’s your best price?
Haggling with street traders is part of life in Nepal and should be launched into with a verve to match the vendor’s. Around popular tourism destinations and World Heritage sites, it’s been elevated to an art form. Your guides can give advice on sensible offers for higher-value items, to ensure a fair price without advantage or insult being taken or given.
Dish up a Dahl Bhat
Nepal is a feast for the taste buds, with vegetarians particularly well-catered for. Return home hungry to Thamel in Kathmandu or Lakeside in Pokhara for moreish mouthfuls of the country’s best cuisine. Dahl Bat, consisting of rice and lentils, is the national dish. Dhido is a simple (love or hate) wheat-flour pudding often eaten before periods of fasting. The ring-shaped rice donuts adorning street stalls are sel roti, and samay baji is a festive food platter whose elements represent good luck, prosperity, fortune, health and longevity.
Cash is king
On a practical note, always keep Nepali currency to hand for ease. Though exchange facilities are available and certain larger outlets from hotels to shopping complexes accept plastic, having the readies ready will ensure you don’t miss out on an unusual keepsake or crafts straight from the stall holder who may not take a card.
Namaste and culture quirks
In some places smiling at strangers would be considered odd. In Nepal it’s the polar opposite with he who doesn’t smile considered strange. Upon meeting each other anew, Nepalis always greet each other with a namaste, the hands together at the heart chakra, eyes closed, head bowed. If ever unsure, follow this lead and you’re sure to stay on course. Removing shoes before entering homes, dressing modestly in public and near religious building, and minimising public displays of affection are other ways to successfully navigate through Nepal.
Interesting facts about Nepal
Nepal is a fascinating country. But did you know any of our top facts about it?
- Nepal has the densest concentration of World Heritage sites on Earth.
- Nepal is a landlocked state and shares its borders with just two countries – China and India.
- Over 90% of Nepal’s energy is generated by hydroelectricity.
- Sir George Everest actually objected to the Royal Geographical Society’s naming Mount Everest after him. Sagarmatha, its name in Nepali, means ‘Forehead of the Sky’.
What to read before you go to Nepal
If you're looking for something to get you in the mood before you set off on your travels to Nepal, we've gathered a list of our favourite books to inspire you.
'The Snow Leopard' by Peter Matthiessen
Metaphorical and actual journeys blend in this exquisite book. If you love tales of natural history, especially where it’s sought in spectacular settings such as the Tibetan Plateau, this classic from 1978 will deliver hand over fist. It’s the account of Matthiessen’s two-month search for the elusive (to the point of mythical) snow leopard, with fellow naturalist George Schaller his companion through the Himalayas’ Dolpo region.
'Because It's There: The Life of George Mallory' by Dudley Green
Did George Mallory conquer Mount Everest first? Bodies have since been found near the summit, but did he and his climbing companion perish thwarted on the way up, or victorious on the way down? Enigma and mystery still shroud the man and the mountain, with Sir Edmund Hilary officially given the accolade according to the history books. All sides of this puzzle are meticulously presented in this significant contribution of a book. Contains a foreword from Mallory’s son.
'Into Thin Air' by Jon Krakauer
This personal account of the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster describes the author and adventurer’s first-hand account of the terrible incident in which many climbers died and others were injured by an unexpected storm. Writer, mountaineer and narrator Krakauer’s gripping book quickly became a best-seller and inspiration for the film, Into Thin Air.
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