If you are looking to add some adventure and a magical destination to your bucket list, you need to think about Nepal. This complex oasis of mountains, valleys, ancient towns and varied culture had been one of my top destinations for many years. Far off the beaten path, Nepal is like entering into an ancient world that has been at a standstill for all of time.
You can avoid the usual tourist traps and crowds in this part of the world. Because of its remote location, Nepal has enjoyed the luxury of keeping its cultures and traditions while becoming a host to nations from around the world. I discovered a slower and more simple way of life while I toured the countryside and villages throughout the country. I was treated to a variety of majestic sights from small rice paddy farms in the luscious lowlands to soaring heights on the slopes of the tallest mountains on Earth.
Many of the most accomplished hikers and climbers from every corner of the Earth have visited the mountains of Nepal. Its most famous peak (Mt. Everest, of course) has drawn adventurers for over 100 years. Although I love to hike, I don’t have the skill to make a summit trek but I did visit the base camp on Mt. Everest just to get in on the excitement of a grand adventure.
For the experienced mountain climber, Everest is the holy grail of climbs. You can join an expedition team or put one together yourself and reach the summit for a once-in-a-lifetime journey. There are guided tours to different camp levels on Everest, so if you aren’t sure you can make the summit like me, you can still enjoy the challenge and testament of claiming that you climbed Mt. Everest.
If you aren’t looking to stretch your muscles on the dangerous trek to the mountain tops, there are plenty of other things to enjoy in the mountains. I took a memorable tour of the valleys and peaks via mountain bike. The tour was guided by a local expert who let me know that white-water rafting or hiking were also options to see the valleys. Maybe next time.
There is no shortage of lodges and accommodations for travellers that want to explore the mountain ranges. The hospitality is outstanding and there is something for every budget. Specialized mountain tour guides are easy to find and can help you plan your trip. You can even take a sky tour and soar over the mountains from above. I have so many unimaginable pictures I can share with my family and friends to show them the beauty of this country.
There is no other city that compares to the old-world ancient charm of Kathmandu. Packed with religious shrines and temples, markets and city center parks, there is no shortage of things to do and see in Kathmandu. Make sure to visit the Swayambhunath Stupa and take in the magical ambiance of this ancient Buddhist temple.
If you are planning a visit to the capital city you can’t miss out on the Thamel neighborhood. This was one of my favorite stops in Kathmandu. Located in the oldest part of this ancient city, Thamel is filled with open-air markets selling all kinds of goods, from luxurious fabrics and hiking gear to books and antiques. While you are there, make sure to have a taste of some of the local traditional fare offered by the many street food vendors.
Nestled in the heart of the old city center is Durbar square. If you have an interest in historical families and tradition this is a must-see stop on your Kathmandu tour. Named one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, Durbar square is the home to the original royal palace, a place where kings were crowned and ruled from. Lavish pagoda-style temples and palaces built in the 15th century stretch through the street. The site sustained heavy damage during an earthquake in 2015, so now is the time to see what is left standing of this royal arena before it is gone.
If you are the type of traveller that likes to take in the sights off the beaten track, like I am, Nepal has everything that you are looking for. The countryside is full of quaint traditional villages that welcome travelers from all over the world.
It was fascinating to experience the everyday life and traditions of the Nepalese people as a backpacker or trekker. The rural populations of Nepal heartily embrace a slower and more simple way of life. They hold on tightly to their ancient traditions and tend to avoid the trappings of technology and other aspects of modern life.
There are lots of areas to find accommodations and even guides to show you the best of the country. I chose to stay at a small inn, but you can also opt for a hostel or one of few larger hotels that are found in the more populated towns.
Your welcome to the Nepali countryside will be as genuine as it is life-changing. It is incredible to see how the people of Nepal have maintained their traditions, spirituality and lifestyle as the rest of the world rushes around them.
You may not think of the jungle when you picture Nepal, but the country has a wide variety of landscapes to appreciate. I had a picture in my mind of snow covered peaks and harsh wastelands for miles; I couldn’t have been more wrong. The lowlands are covered in miles of rice paddies and jungle depths. You can go on a jungle safari and try to spot some of the local wildlife, including tigers and rhinos. Take a guided tour through the lush rainforest terrain and discover a place of magic and reverence.
The best way to take in the view from above is a jungle treetop zipline experience. The jungles of Nepal are home to some of the most exotic plant and bird species on the planet. Take your time as you pull yourself along up in the tropical canopy. Imagine soaring above the jungle floor and seeing the wildlife and vivid greenery within arm’s reach on a memorable journey to one of the world’s most unique places.
There are bus tours that will take you to different geographical areas to give you a better sense of the variety of this stunning country. Short day trips of a specific area are available or you can choose to go on a luxury jungle safari if you are up for some rugged adventure. Stay overnight in the wild with your guides as you search out some of Nepal’s magnificent wildlife.
The full Manaslu Circuit Trek is not for the inexperienced or faint of heart. This two week adventure will take you on a tour of the entire country. Starting in the jungle lowlands, you will hike through small villages and climb through farmers’ fields to make your way to the rugged drylands. From there you will start your ascent to higher peaks via horse or on foot.
As you make your way towards the mountains you will pass through stunning valleys and riverbeds. Ride the rapids of the mountain rivers in guided rafts and sleep under the stars in the canyons of the Himalayan foothills.
The last leg of your journey will take you to the base camp of the highest mountain in the world. Stand where adventurers from around the world have begun their record breaking ascents to Mt. Everest. Your climb down will lead you to the end of your journey into the bustling city of Kathmandu.
This is a once in a lifetime journey when you choose the full circuit. There are shorter trips available where you can see each section of the trek individually.
I invite you to explore the temples and stupas and discover the history of Nepal’s faith, or go on a life-changing journey through the Manaslu Circuit Trek. From the foothills of Mt. Everest to the lavish city markets that are a delight for the senses, Nepal has it all.
Bryan has visited exactly one more country than his wife, and she won’t let him forget it! Also an avid photographer, he enjoys entrenching himself within the local culture in order to learn more about the people of a place. He is the co-founder of Budget Your Trip and loves a good adventure, an exotic meal, or a passionate conversation about global events.