With exotic culture, spectacular natural scenery, timeworn temples and some of the world’s finest hiking trails, Nepal continues to pull in travelers searching for their personal Nirvana. Despite recent upheavals, the kingdom has lost none of its allure to the Western imagination, even if it appears to be a complete basket case!
Why You Should Go
What’s Cool: Snowy peaks, shopping in Katmandu, mountain flights, jungle safaris, ballooning above the capital, river rafting, trekking in the Himalayas, history and culture, untamed wildlife, friendly people, Maoists’ coming in from the cold (jungles) and potato pancakes.
What’s Not: Katmandu traffic, rabid street monkeys, altitude sickness, new trekking boots, sore feet, corrupt police, pushy street peddlers, fake holy men, travelers who believe them, wannabe hippies and royals with machine guns.
When to Go
Nepal’s weather is generally predictable and pleasant with four main seasons.
Heavy monsoon rains last from June to September, with poor visibility at this time.
Clear and cool weather from October to December is perfect for seeing the mountain peaks.
Freezing weather from January to March will chill your bones, even in Katmandu.
Dry and warm weather from April to June ensures lots of blooming flowers.
Getting There & Away
Arriving at Katmandu International Airport will give you an idea of the comfort level of traveling in Nepal – or lack of it! Planes are the best choice but must be paid for in hard currency. Bus travel is dependent on weather, with poor road conditions and frequent accidents. Eastern Terai has a passenger rail service. Public transport is like a world record attempt in sardine packing, but private taxis and smoke-belching rickshaws can easily be hailed.
Health & Safety
If there’s no festival to go around, Nepalis opt for a strike or two, confining most business to behind closed doors. Rallies and demonstrations are routinely broken up by police wielding long sticks. Stick to bottled water and wash your hands before touching any food. Always wash or peel fruits and vegetables. If on a trek, watch out for the dreaded altitude sickness. Evacuation by helicopter will have you calling your bank collect.
Food & Hospitality
Western-style accommodation is limited to the main cities, and while budget choices abound, they are at times spartan and grubby. Don’t worry, lack of power in remote areas conveniently disguises any grime. While fast food and Mexican grub can be found, Newari restaurants provide welcome relief from the staple diet of lentils on rice.
You’ll need at least two weeks to take in some of the highlights.
Two or three days to see the capital’s highlights and get acclimatized.
Two or three days to see Pokhara and get a panoramic view of the Himalayan region.
Two or three days to see the wildlife in Chitwan National Park.
A week to go on a trek.
Two days to see Bhaktapur (also known as the ‘Temple City’).
Two days in Patan exploring ancient historic and artistic landmarks.
Unlimited time chilling out in Nagarkot Village, located on rice steppes with spectacular views of the Himalayas..
Durbar Square in Katmandu: has a wonderful collection of temples and shrines.
Monkey Temple: outside the capital will spellbind you with its large staring eyes.
Bhaktapur: National Art Gallery has some unusual, colorful animal paintings.
Patan: has lots of ancient, historic and artistic attractions.
Nagarkot Village: offers fantastic vistas of the Himalayas.
Pokhara: once home of JRR Tolkien, it has the best views of the Himalayas and a laid-back feel.
Trekking: is to Nepal what gambling is to Las Vegas.
Shopping: for Tibetan handicrafts at the immensely impressive Bodnath Stupa.
Ballooning: in Katmandu and hang-gliding in Pokhara and the Langtang region are popular.
Rafting: with world-class rapids catering to first-timers and experienced thrill-seekers.
Scenic flights: over Mount Everest will have you scrambling for your jawbones.
Yeti hunting: promises the best results in the Khumbu region or just don some black feathers and shoot your own grainy video with your mobile phone.
Festivals & Events
Festivals in Nepal traditionally kick off with a touch of religion and then progress spontaneously into a family feast. These are some of the highlights.
March/April: Ghode Jatra features a grand horse parade at Tundikhel.
May: Baisakh Purnima celebrates Buddha’s birth.
August: Krishnastami honors the birthday of Lord Krishna. Ecstatic prayers and chants fill the air.
September/October: Dashain is the most important festival among Nepalis and card games are very popular during this time.
October/November: Tihar is the festival of lights and sees locals eat special sweets and wear tikas and garlands.