From the chaos of Kathmandu to the untouched beauty of Everest, only in Nepal can you trek on the roof of the world and plunge into the planet’s deepest gorge. Speak with Sherpas, drink tea with Gurkhas and discuss the country’s shaky political past. Or set foot in the temples to find spiritual sanctuary and journey into the jungle in search of the Bengal tiger.
Temples, traffic and tourist touts flood the eccentric capital of Kathmandu – the starting point for almost every Nepalese adventure. From boutique hotels and backpacker bars to tiger balm and fake DVDs, you’ll find everything you need, and don’t need, in the tourist zone of Thamel. To get your bearings, start out in Durbar Square, where palaces and golden gates decorate the city centre.
ide in the back of a rickshaw through smog-choked streets, smelling burning incense and open sewers as you dodge the sacred cows. Visit Monkey Temple and the Boudha Stupa, then get under the city’s skin as you chat to the locals, get lost in the backstreets and pick past the riverside slums.
Travel west of Kathmandu and pass temples, townships and river valleys en-route to the city of Pokhara. Make a base in the tourist hub by Phewa Lake, where the icy Himalayas rise dramatically from the valley floor. Spend your days biking and kayaking, or browsing the bookshops and boating across the water.
The city itself has a good choice of museums, including the International Mountain Museum and an impressive natural history collection. During your time in Pokhara you’ll encounter Tibetan refugees, yoga fanatics and meditation gurus, as well as hard-core hikers who’ve come for the Annapurna Circuit. Home to Nepal’s only Gurkha training centre, it’s also a fantastic place to learn about these fearsome fighters.
One-horned rhinos and Bengalese tigers roam the steamy jungle of Nepal’s oldest National Park. A former hunting reserve for maharajas and a prime spot for Chinese poachers, Chitwan became a rhino sanctuary in 1962. Today, more than 43 species of mammals, ranging from sloth bears to clouded leopards have been recorded here.
Enter the park and join your guide on a jungle walk or jeep safari. Gaze through tall grasses at elephants and Indian bison, peer across the river plains at storks and kingfishers, or canoe along the waterways past mongoose and fishing cats. Allow at least two days to take it all in, staying on the edge of the park in Sauraha tourist village, where you can drink beers by the Rapti River after each day’s adventure.
Home to the world’s highest mountain, Nepal is a place of pilgrimage for hikers but you don’t have to be Edmund Hillary to get involved. If an Everest base camp trek is on your bucket list, meet your Sherpa guides in Namchee Bazaar and stock up in the markets before taking-on the challenges of high-altitude terrain.
Further west, the famous Annapurna Circuit follows ancient trade routes for more than 100-miles beneath the white peaks of Annapurna. For something less challenging but equally stunning, visit the Kathmandu Valley and hike past temples, teahouses and tiny villages in the Himalayan foothills. Easy to reach from Kathmandu city, choose between short day-treks or hut to hut hikes.