Nepal

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Nepal is a landlocked country in Southern Asia, between the Tibet autonomous region of China and India. It contains eight of the world's 10 highest peaks, including Mount Everest - the world's tallest - on the border with Tibet, and Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. In 2008, Nepal was declared a republic and abolished its monarchy.

Population: 30,430,267 people
Area: 147,181 km2
Highest point: 8,850 m
Coastline: 0 km
Life expectancy: 66.86 years
GDP per capita: $1,300
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About Nepal

Climate

Nepal has a Monsoonal climate with four main seasons - though traditionally a year was categorized into six distinct climate periods: Basanta (spring), Grishma (early summer), Barkha (summer monsoon), Sharad (early autumn), Hemanta (late autumn) and Shishir (winter).

Below is a general guide to conditions at different seasons:

  • Heavy monsoonal rains from June to September - the rains are generally lighter high in the Himalayas than in Kathmandu, though the mountain peaks are often not visible due to clouds. In the Kathmandu Valley & Pokhara - monsoon rains typically consist of an hour or two of rain every two or three days. The rains clean the air, streets, & cool the air. If you come, bring an umbrella, expect lower lodging prices & fewer tourists.
  • Clear and cool weather from October to December - after the monsoon, there is little dust in the air so this is the best season to visit the hilly and mountainous regions.
  • Cold from January to March, with the temperature in Kathmandu often dropping as low as 0°C (32°F) at night, with extreme cold at high elevations. It is possible to trek in places like the Everest region during the winter, but it is extremely cold and snow fall may prevent going above 4,000-4,500m (13,000-15,000 feet). The Jomosom trek is a reasonable alternative, staying below 3,000m (10,000 feet) with expected minimum temperatures about -10°C (14°F) (and much better chances of avoiding heavy snow.)
  • Dry and warm weather from April to June - there is an abundance of blooming flowers in the Himalayas at this time, with rhododendrons, in particular, adding a splash of colour to the landscape. Terai temperatures may reach or exceed 40°C (104°F) while Kathmandu temperatures are about 30°C (86°F). This is the best time to undertake mountain expeditions.

The recording of temperatures and rainfall of the major locations across Nepal was started in 1962 and their averages provides a reference point for analysing the climate trend.

Geography

Elevation Zones

Nepal has been divided into elevation zones, south to north:

  • Outer Terai - Level plains, a cultural and linguistic extension of northern India. Nepali is spoken less than Awadhi and Bhojpuri dialects related to Hindi and Maithili. Lumbini ( Lord Buddha's birthplace ) and Janakpur (Hindu Goddes Sita's birthplace) are in this zone. Other cities -- Dhangadhi, Nepalgunj, Bhairawa, Butwal, Birgunj, Janakpur and Biratnagar -- are transportation hubs and border towns more than travel destinations. Nevertheless the Terai may offer opportunities for intimate exposure to traditional Indian culture that have become less available in India itself.
  • Siwalik Range or Churia Hills - the outermost and lowest range of foothills, about 600m (2,000 ft) high. Extends across the country east to west but with significant gaps and many subranges. Poor soils and no agriculture to speak of. No developed tourist destinations, however the forests are wild and the sparse population of primitive hunters and gatherers is unique.
  • Inner Terai - large valleys between the Siwaliks and higher foothills to the north. The Dang and Deukhuri valleys in the Mid West are the largest, offering opportunities to experience Tharu art and culture. Chitwan south of Kathmandu is another of these valleys, known for Royal Chitwan National Park, a World Heritage Site where tigers, rhinos, crocodiles, deer and birds can be observed. Originally these valleys were malarial and lightly populated by Tharus who had evolved resistance and developed architectural and behavioral adaptations limiting exposure to the most dangerous nocturnal mosquitoes. Suppression of mosquitoes with DDT in the 1960s opened these valleys to settlers from the hills who cleared forests and displaced and exploited Tharus. Nevertheless, more remote parts of these valleys still have a Garden of Eden quality - forests broken by indefinite fields, lazy rivers, fascinating aboriginal peoples.
  • Mahabharat Range - a prominent foothill range continuous across the country from east to west except for narrow transecting canyons, with elevations ascending up to 3,000m (10,000ft). Steep southern slopes are a no-man's land between lowland and Pahari (hill) cultures and languages, which begin along the crest and gentler northern slopes. Given clear skies, there are panoramic views of the high himalaya from almost anywhere on the crest. Underdeveloped as a tourist venue compared to India's 'Hill Stations', nevertheless Daman and Tansen are attractive destinations.
  • Middle Hills - Valleys north of the Mahabharat Range and hills up to about 2,000m (6,500ft). are mainly inhabited by Hindus of the Bahun (priestly Brahmin) and Chhetri (warriors and rulers) castes who speak Nepali as their first language. Higher where it becomes too cold to grow rice, populations are largely Magar, Gurung, Tamang, Rai or Limbu, the hill tribes from which the British recruited Gorkha soldiers while the soldiers' families grew crops suited to temperate climates. Men in these ethnic groups also work as porters or may be herders moving their flocks into the high mountains in summer and the lower valleys in winter. Trekking through the hills is unremittingly scenic with streams and terraced fields, picturesque villages, a variety of ethnic groups with distinctive costumes, and views of the high Himalayas from high points.
  • Valleys - Kathmandu and to the west Pokhara occupy large valleys in the hills. The Kathmandu Valley was urbanized long before the first Europeans reached the scene and has historic neighbourhoods, temple complexes, pagodas, Buddhist stupas, palaces and bazaars. Its natives are predominantly Newar farmers, traders, craftsmen and civil servants. Newar culture is an interesting synthesis of Hindu and Buddhist elements. Unfortunately a range of hills north of this valley limit views of the Himalaya. Pokhara has fewer urban points of interest but outstanding views of the nearby Annapurna Himalaya. Pokhara's Newar population is confined to bazaars. Elsewhere upper caste Hindus dominate, whose ancestors probably were Khas peoples from far western Nepal. Both valleys offer excellent opportunities to experience Nepal without strenuous trekking. Narrower valleys along streams and rivers are important rice-growing centres in the hills. There is a limited amount of this land and most of it is owned by upper caste Hindus.
  • Lekhs - Snow occasionally falls and lasts days or weeks in the winter above 3,000m (10,000ft), but melts in summer below about 5,500 m (18,000ft). Treeline is about 4,000m (13,000ft). This zone is used for summer pastures but not year-round habitation.
  • North of the lekhs, the snowy high Himalayas rise abruptly along a fault zone to peaks over 6,700m (22,000ft) and even over 8,000m (26,000ft). Himalaya means 'abode of snow', which is uninhabited. Valleys among the peaks are inhabited, especially along trade routes where rice from the lowlands was traded for salt from the Tibetan Plateau along with other goods. Trade has diminished since China annexed Tibet in the 1950s but catering to trekkers and climbers has become an economic engine. People living along these routes have Tibetan affinities but usually speak fluent Nepali.
  • Trans-Himalaya - Peaks in this region north of the highest Himalayas in central and western Nepal are lower and gentler, mostly around 6,000m (20,000ft). Valleys below 5,000m (17,000ft). are inhabited by people who are essentially Tibetan and have adapted to living at much higher elevations than other Nepalis. Roads have not yet penetrated this far and travel is expensive by air or arduous on foot. Nevertheless, it is a unique opportunity to experience a very significant and attractive culture in spectacular surroundings.

River Basins

These are also important geographic divisions. The Mahabharat Range is a major hydrologic barrier in Nepal and other parts of the Himalaya. South-flowing rivers converge in candelabra shapes to break through this range in a few narrow gorges. Travel is usually easier within these candelabra drainage systems than between them, so high divides between river systems became historically important political, linguistic and cultural boundaries.

Karnali-Seti-Bheri

The Karnali system in the far west is the birthplace of Pahari ('hill') culture. It was settled by people called Khas speaking an indo-european language called Khaskura ('Khas talk') that was related to other north Indian languages, all claiming descent from classical Sanskrit.

East of the Karnali proper, along a major tributary called the Bheri and further east in another basin called the Rapti lived a Tibeto-Burman people called Kham. Khas and Kham people seem to have been allies and probably intermarried to create the synthesis of aryan and mongoloid features that especially characterizes the second-highest Chhetri (Kshatriya) caste. It appears that Khas kings recruited Kham men as guards and soldiers. Khas and Kham territories in the far west were subdivided into small kingdoms called the Baisi, literally '22' as they were counted.

Nepal has one of the world's highest birthrates because Hindu women usually marry by their early teens, causing their entire reproductive potential to be utilized. Furthermore, men who can afford it often take multiple wives. This may trace back to Khas culture, explaining relentless Khas colonization eastward as finite amounts of land suitable for rice cultivation were inevitably outstripped by high birthrates.

Rapti and Gandaki

The Rapti river system east of the Karnali-Bheri had few lowlands suitable for growing rice and extensive highlands that were not attractive for Khas settlement but were a barrier to migration. However the Rapti's upper tributaries rose somewhat south of the Himalaya. Between these tributaries and the Dhaulagiri range of the Himalaya, a large east-west valley called Dhorpatan branching off the upper Bheri provided a detour eastward, over an easy pass called Jaljala into the Gandaki river system further east. The Gandaki is said to have seven major tributaries, most rising in or beyond the high Himalaya. They merge to cut through the Mahabharat and Siwalik ranges. In this basin elevations were generally lower and rainfall was higher compared to the Karnali-Bheri and Rapti basins. There was great potential for rice cultivation, the agricultural base of the Khas way of life. A collection of small principalities called the Chaubisi developed. Chaubisi literally means '24', as these kingdoms were counted. Not all were Khas kindoms. Some were Magar -- a large indigenous hill tribe people related to the Kham. Other kingdoms were Gurung and Tamang. Several Gandaki tributaries rose in the transhimalayan region where inhabitants and rulers became increasingly Tibetanized to the north.

  • Emergence of Shah Dynasty from Gorkha

Within the Chaubisi kingdoms of the Gandaki basin, Gorkha was a small valley east of Pokhara ruled by a Khas family now called Shah, an honorific title that may have come later, however any earlier name seems to be forgotten. In 1743 A.D. Prithvi Narayan Shah became the ruler of Gorkha after his father Nara Bhupal Shah died. Prithvi Narayan already had a reputation as a hotheaded upstart. Resolving to modernize Gorkha's army, he was bringing modern arms from India when customs officers demanded inspection and payment of duties. Prithvi Narayan refused and attacked the officers, killing several before escaping with his arms and men. He also visited Benares to study the situation of local rulers and the growing encroachment of British interests. Prithvi concluded that invasion was a chronic danger to rulers on the plains of northern India, whereas the hills were more defensible and offered more scope to carve out a lasting empire.

Kathmandu Valley (Bagmati)

Prithvi Narayan must have been a charismatic figure, for he recruited, equipped and trained a formidable army and persuaded his subjects to underwrite all this from his ascension until his death in 1775. Through conquest and treaty, he consolidated several Chaubisi kingdoms. As his domain expanded, Khaskura became known as Gorkhali, i.e. the language of the Gorkha kingdom. Then he moved east into the next river basin, the Bagmati which drains the Kathmandu Valley that held three small but prosperous urban kingdoms. Like the Rapti, the Bagmati rises somewhat south of the Himalaya. Unlike the Rapti basin, this valley had once held a large lake and the remaining alluvial soil was exceptionally fertile. Between the agricultural abundance, local crafts, and extensive trade with Tibet, the cities were prosperous. Prithvi Narayan encircled the valley, cutting off trade and restricting ordinary activities, even farming and getting water. With a combination of stealth, brutality and intimidation he prevailed and deposed the local kings in 1769, making Kathmandu his new capital. This was the high point of Prithvi Narayan's career, however he continued consolidating the Kathmandu Valley with the Chaubisi and Baisi federations to the west until his death in 1775. Gorkhali was re-dubbed Nepali as 'Nepal' came to mean not only the urbanized Kathmandu Valley, but all lands ruled by the Shahs.

Koshi

Prithvi Narayan's heirs Pratap Singh, Rana Bahadur and Girvan Yuddha continued expansion of their kingdom into the Koshi river basin east of the Bagmati system. Like the Gandaki, the Koshi traditionally has seven major tributaries descending from the Himalaya before joining forces to break through the Mahabharat and Siwalik ranges. Ranges drained by Koshi tributaries include Mount Everest and its neighbouring peaks, as well as the western side of the Kangchenjunga massif. Kangchenjunga and a high ridge to the south are the watershed between the Koshi and Tista basins as well as the border between Nepal and the former kingdom Sikkim that India annexed it in 1975.

Containment by British

The Shah dynasty's expansion continued eastward across Sikkim and westward across Kumaon and beyond Dehra Dun to the Sutlej River, until the British declared war in 1814 and finally defeated Nepalese forces in 1816. The British also wanted a buffer state between British India and the Chinese empire that ultimately controlled Tibet. The war trimmed Nepal back approximately to its present size. It remained independent.

Informal Settlement in Sikkim and Bhutan

Nevertheless Nepalese eastward colonization beyond the Kosi continued informally, still driven by high birthrates. By the 1800s land-hungry Nepalis were settling in the Tista basin, which happened to be a different country, Sikkim.

In the 1900s they were settling beyond Sikkim in the kingdom of Bhutan. This kingdom -- where late marriage and low population densities prevailed among the indigenous, culturally Tibetan population -- saw the demographic writing on the wall and expelled as many as 100,000 Nepalis in 1990. Nepal did not welcome them "home" and many lingered in refugee camps for decades before finally finding a welcome in countries like Canada and New Zealand.

Activities

Trekking

A total of 101,320 trekkers visited Nepal in 2007. Of that number, 60,237 (59.4%) visited Annapurna area while those visiting the Everest and Langtang regions accounted for 26,511 (26.5%) and 8,165 (8.1%) respectively.

"Tea-House Trekking" is the easiest way to trek as it doesn't require support. Tea Houses have now developed into full-scale, although somewhat rustic, tourist lodges with showers, pizza, pasta and beer. The day's hikes are between lodge-filled settlements or villages: there's no need for tents, food, water, or beer. All those things, plus luxuries such as apple pie, can be purchased along the way. Physical requirements range from easy to strenuous.

Facilities available in remote areas are less extensive than in the more popular areas thus these areas are often visited as organised groups, including guide, porters and full support. Manaslu, Kanchenjunga, Dolpo, Mustang and Humla require Restricted Area Permits requiring a minimum of two foreign trekkers plus a registered/qualified guide. Progress is being made however, and tea-houses are becoming more available in all of these areas. Before setting out on any trek, make sure your research discovers what the current facilities are in that area as they are changing every year.

Annapurna Region Treks

Annapurna - North of Pokhara, from lush middle hills into high mountains.

  • Annapurna Circuit: A 2-3 week trek around the Annapurna mountains, leads up the Marsyangdi river to Dharapani, Chame, Manang, over Thorung La (5400m) to the Hindu temples at Muktinath and (possibly) ending at Jomsom. Down the Kali Gandaki on the Jomsom trail (the last week of the Annapurna Circuit which is done by itself in the opposite direction). Known as the "Apple Pie Trek" partly for crossing the apple growing region of Nepal, and partly for being one of the easier treks, enjoying Gurung and Thakali hospitality. Up through spring rhododendron blooms to Poon Hill for a dawn Himalayan vista. Another shorter but spectacular mini-circuit is the Nayapul-Ghandruk-Ghorepani-PoonHill-Nayapul route.
  • Annapurna Sanctuary: A trek up into the very heart of the range provides an awesome 360 degree high mountain skyline.

Everest Region Treks

Everest lies in the region known as Khumbu - To get here, take a bus to Jiri or fly to Lukla then hike up to Namche Bazzar, capital of the Sherpa lands at the foot of Everest. Main "teahouse trek" regions, in each of these areas there are a number of trail options, there is plenty of scope for short treks of less than a week to much longer if you have time and wanderlust.

  • Everest Base Camp Trek: Lukla to EBC, Stunning scenery, Wonderful Sherpa people. The most popular trek is up to Everest Base Camp and an ascent of Kalar Patar. Visit the Buddhist Tengboche monastery for the Mani Rimdu festival in November.
  • The 'Classic Everest Base Camp Trek': Jiri to EBC
  • Gokyo: Lukla to the sacred lakes of Gokyo. Explore the Gokyo valley with its sacred lakes and stupendous views of four 8000m peaks. Or a circuit of the region crossing the high passes or Cho La and Renjo La.
  • Numbur Cheese Circuit Trek through the largest cheese producing area, via the sacred lakes of Jata Pokhari and Panch Pokhari to Numburchuili base camp.
  • Island Peak Trek in the Everest region takes in some of the most spectacular scenery in the Himalayas. See 'Regions' - Khumbu
  • Pikey Cultural Trail
  • Dudh Kunda Cultural Trail

Trekking Peaks

Trekking Peaks require a qualified "climbing guide", permits and deposits to cover camp waste disposal:

  • Island Peak Trek - The Island Peak trek in the Khumbu region takes in some of the most spectacular scenery in the Himalayas.
  • Mera Peak Climbing - Enjoy panoramic views of Mt Everest (8,848m; 29,030 ft), Cho-Oyu (8,201m; 26,910 ft), Lhotse (8,516m; 27,940 ft), Makalu (8463m; 27,770 ft), Kangchenjunga (8,586m; 28,170 ft), Nuptse (7,855m; 25,770 ft), and Chamlang (7,319m; 24,010 ft).

Langtang Region Treks

  • Helambu Langtang Trek a short taxi ride from Thamel to the roadhead at Shivapuri leads to a trail through the middle-hills countryside of Helambu, either circuit around and return to Kathmandu or cross the pass to the sacred lake at Gosainkhund, descend and then hike up the Langtang valley beneath mountains that form the border with Tibet. Descend back to catch a bus on a rough road through Trisuli to Kathmandu. If you don't fancy the long shaky bus ride (>8 hours) from/to Syabrubesi, Dhunche or Thulo Barku, you can get a 4x4 pickup for about NPR90,000 to/from Kathmandu.
  • Tamang Heritage Trail

Pro-Poor Rural Treks

Tourism is a dynamic sector of economy and accepting it as a vehicle of poverty reduction is a relatively new concept in Nepal. Nepal is a predominantly rural society, with 85% of the population living in the countryside. Naturally, Nepal’s rich culture and ethnic diversity are best experienced in its village communities. You can engage in local activities, learn how to cook local cuisine or take part in agricultural activities like kitchen gardening, etc.

In the rural Nepal context, pro-poor tourism means expanding employment and small enterprise opportunities especially pro-Indigenous Peoples, youth and pro-women. Recent pro-poor initiatives in Nepal include the UNDP-TRPAP and ILO-EMPLED projects.

  • Tamang Heritage Trail
  • Chepang Heritage Trail
  • Pathibhara Trail
  • Limbu Cultural Trail
  • Dudhkunda Cultural Trail
  • Pikey Cultural Trail
  • The Guerrilla Trek
  • Numbur Cheese Circuit
  • Indigenous Peoples Trail

Trekking on the Indigenous Peoples Trail and the Numbur Cheese Circuit is a means for Nepali as well as foreign visitors to experience the rural and traditional Nepali way of life, and for the local Community to participate in and benefit directly from tourism. You'll feel better knowing that your visit is genuinely helping your hosts. And if you want to simply lie on a beach, well, the Majhi Fishing Experience on the Sun Kosi in Ramechhap features one of the best beaches in Nepal.

'Ethno-Tourism' or Cultural Treks

Ethno-tourism is increasingly popular in Nepal and is designed to maximize social and economic benefits to the local communities and minimize negative impacts to cultural heritage and the environment. Ethno-tourism is a specialized type of cultural tourism and can be defined as any excursion which focuses on the works of humans rather than nature, and attempts to give the tourist an understanding of the lifestyles of local people.

  • Numbur Cheese Circuit in the Everest Region
  • Indigenous Peoples Trail in Ramechhap
  • Majhi Fishing Experience on the Sun Koshi
  • The Guerrilla Trek in Mid-Western Nepal
  • Helambu Trek in Langtang
  • Tamang Heritage Trail in Langtang
  • Chepang Heritage Trail in Chitwan

Remote Treks

Other more remote regions will require a bit more planning and probably local assistance, not least as the required permits are only issued via Nepali guides/agents. Camping is required on one or more nights.

  • Kanchenjunga - far eastern Nepal, accessible via Taplejung (from Kathmandu 40min by plane, 40hrs by bus), a strenuous trek through sparsely populated country to the third highest mountain.
  • Dolpa - Upper Dolpa in northwestern Nepal beyond the highest Himalaya is the remote Land of the Bon, almost as Tibetan as Nepali. Lower Dolpa is more accessible and can me reached by plane
  • Manaslu Trek - Unspoiled trails through remote villages and over the Larkya La, a remote pass at 5,100m, to circuit an 8,000m mountain. The Manaslu massif rises above the old kingdom of Gorkha close to the Tibetan border about halfway between Kathmandu and Pokhara and will be close at hand for the last half of the circuit.

Social Responsibility and Responsible Travel

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and hiring a local company will benefit the local economy, however the involvement of travel agents in Kathmandu must be approached with caution. The numbers of travel, trekking and Rafting agencies registered in 2007 were 1,078, 872 and 94 respectively. The rapid growth in tourism in Nepal coupled with the absence of a self-regulating code of conduct has helped to grow unhealthy competition among travel agents with regular undercutting in tariffs. Such undesirable actions take away benefits not only from trekking guides and porters but also from others engaged in supplying goods and providing services to the tourists. By paying lower tariffs tourists may save money but directly at the expense of local communities. Try to use 'socially responsible' tour operators that promote proper porter treatment and cultural and environmental sensitivity among their clients in line with the UN-WTO Sustainable Tourism Criteria.

  • Organised Group Trekking or Independent Trekking?

While organized groups from "western tour operators" from overseas drain the operational profit out of the country, organized groups hire a larger amount of local workforce from porters to guides. With "local tour operators" most of the operational profit remains in the country. Groups are more likely to go remote areas, and rely as much as possible on local resources to minimize transport cost and hire maximum local porters.

In comparison, individual travellers are concentrated on the main trails with Lodges and usually a lower budget. These trekkers usually use simpler lodges with lower costs. They may venture less often into remote areas, as that would mean more expense or very basic local services which most try to avoid. They generally spend less than organized travellers on same trails simply because they often have more restricted budgets.

Safety and comfort are higher with organized tours. There is a full range of choice for any demand, just be sure to think about what trekking means for you. For the hard core trekkers, no porter will ever carry, while for others, to carry a 15-18 kg backpack might be more than they would want.

  • Keep working conditions and wages in mind when selecting a trekking company. For visitors from the west, hiring guides and porters is affordable and an extra few dollars can make a big impact in the life of a guide or porter. In order to feed themselves and their families, porters take on the job of carrying heavy loads to high elevations. Some of the problems porters face are underpayment, inadequate clothing and gear, being forced to carry excess weight, insufficient food provision and poor sleeping facilities. Sometimes these issues leave porters open to illness and neglect on the mountain. Nowadays most companies care better due to past awareness campaigns to their staff, however, some backpackers employ (illegally) porters and guides and there continue to be reports that some tourists pay less than the going rate.
  • There are a number of websites that facilitate direct contact with recommended trekking guides and porters. By law this is not permitted, as foreigners on tourist visa are not allowed to employ any kind of workforce, but only legal registered companies as use in most countries around the globe. So unless you want to break the law, do not employ yourself any kind of porters or guides and ensure to hire only through legal companies, in case of an accident it may bring severe problems to have employed illegally staff.


  • The International Porter Protect Group’s (IPPG) was set up in response to these issues, to improve health and safety for the trekking porter at work in the mountains and reduce the incidence of avoidable illness, injury and death. This is achieved by raising awareness of the issues among the trekking community and travel companies, leaders and sirdars. The IPPG recommends the following guidelines:
    • Adequate clothing is made available for protection in bad weather and at altitude. This should include adequate footwear, hat, gloves, windproof jacket and trousers, sunglasses, and access to a blanket and pad above the snowline.
    • Leaders and trekkers provide the same standard of medical care for porters they would expect themselves.
    • Porters must not be paid off because of illness without the leader or trekkers being informed.
    • Sick porters are never sent down alone, but rather with someone who speaks their language.
    • Sufficient funds are provided to sick porters to cover the cost of their land rescue and treatment.
    • All trekking porters should have provision for security, personal protective equipment including shoes and clothes, depending on the weather.

Rafting / Kayaking

Rafting trips from 1-10 days are available on many different river and all levels of experience leave from Kathmandu and Pokhara. For detailed itineraries visit the Nepal Association of Rafting Agents. The main rivers used for rafting are:

  • Bhote Koshi
  • Kali Gandaki
  • Karnali
  • Seti
  • Sun Kosi
  • Trisuli
  • Tamur
  • Marshyangdi

Many companies are now also offering Learn to Kayak Clinics on the Trisuli river an ideal spot to take your first steps into the world of whitewater. [www.grgadventurekayaking.com GRG's Adventure Kayaking] is one of the only companies to specialise in kayaking in Kathmandu. Nepal is one of the best places in the world for whitewater adventures.

Mountain Biking

Mountain biking in Nepal is fun and at times challenging event. There are many popular biking routes in Nepal that are in operation at the moment. They are:

  • The Scar Road from Kathmandu starts from Balaju towards Kakani to Shivapuri ending in Budhanilkantha in northern Kathmandu.
  • Kathmandu to Dhulikhel starts from Koteshwor in Kathmandu to Bhaktapur to Banepa to Dhulikhel. You can also continue from Dhulikhel to Namobuddha to Panauti to Banepa.
  • The Back Door to Kathmandu starts from Panauti and heads to Lakuri Bhanjyang and then to Lubhu in Lalitpur ending near Patan.
  • Dhulikhel to the Tibetan Border starts in Dhulikhel and follows the Araniko Highway with a night stay on the way.
  • The Rajpath from Kathmandu starts from Kalanki in Kathmandu and follows the Prithvi Highway up to Naubise. Then Tribhuwan Highway route is taken with overnight stay in Daman. From there, ride downhill to Hetauda, with the option of heading towards Narayangarh or the Indian border.
  • Hetauda to Narayangarh and Mugling starts from Hetauda and heads along the Mahendra Highway to Narayangarh. You could take a detour to Sauraha near from Taandi.
  • Kathmandu to Pokhara starts from Kathmandu and traverses through Naubise, Mugling to Pokhara.
  • Pokhara to Sarangkot and Naudanda starts from Lakeside Pokhara and heads towards Sarangkot and from there towards Naudanda. From there, ride downhill towards the highway.

The best time to go for biking is between mid October and late March, when the atmosphere is clear the climate is temperate - warm during the days and cool during the night. Biking in other times of the year is also okay but great care should be taken while biking during the monsoon season (June to September) as the roads are slippery. Biking can be done independently or can be organized through biking companies of Nepal.

You can rent mountain bikes of almost any quality, but remember that if you're going on a longer or harder ride, at least your own saddle would be a good option to bring. In late 2009 the daily rental costs ranged from USD3 for a simple bike to USD30 for a western bikes with suspension.

Motorcycling

Nepal's geography and climate makes for some of the best motorcycling roads in the world. The traffic is a little chaotic, but not aggressive, and the speeds are low. Be aware that you need an international driving licence in Nepal, even though you might never be stopped by the police as a tourist on a bike.

Perhaps the best and most original way to explore the country is by motorcycle. Kathmandu should be avoided by beginners, but the rest of Nepal is simply amazing. Hearts and Tears Motorcycle Club, Wild Experience Tours & Blazing Trails Tours are the better known Names in the industry. They specialize in motorcycle touring and have a great collection of custom bikes. They are professional set-ups with imported safety equipment, structured training and well organized group tours.

Canyoning

Since 2007 that the Nepal Canyoning Association was founded, a lot of canyons (khola in Nepali) have been equipped for organized descents. The 2011 IRC (International Canyoning Rendezvous) took place in the Marshyangdi River valley in the Annapurna region. There are at least 30 canyons where private companies organize excursions for descents. The Nepali canyons offer breathtaking views of the valleys and rice fields below and various combinations of difficulty and water level. Most canyons can only be accessed on foot from the nearby roads, through paths used by the locals for agriculture purposes or accessing their homes. In 2011, one of the longest and most difficult canyons in the world was equipped in an expedition by the "Himalayan Canyon Team" in the Chamje Khola.

Jungle Safari

Chitwan National Park offers elephant rides, jungle canoeing, nature walks and bird watching, as well as more adventurous tiger and rhino-viewing. There are also many other less visited parks like Bardiya and Sagarmatha.

Trance Parties

"The Last Resort", near the Tibetan border, has frequent Full Moon Trance Parties, lasting 2-3 days. Watch for posters and check music shops. Pokhara has started featuring its own brand of Full Moon raves and interesting Western takes on Nepali festivals.

Food

The Nepali national meal is daal bhaat tarkaari. It is spiced lentils poured over boiled rice, and served with tarkari: vegetables such as mustard greens, daikon radish, potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, squash etc., cooked with spices. This is served in most Nepalese homes and teahouses, two meals a day at about 10:00 and 19:00 or 20:00 If rice is scarce the grain part may be cornmeal mush called Ato, barley, or chapatis (whole wheat 'tortillas'). The meal may be accompanied by dahi (yogurt) and a small helping of ultra-spicy fresh chutney or achar (pickle). Traditionally this meal is eaten with the right hand. Curried meat, goat or chicken, is an occasional luxury, and freshwater fish is often available near near lakes and rivers. Because Hindus hold cattle to be sacred, beef is forbidden but still can be obtained for a high price in some expensive restaurants although the price is high mainly because it is imported from India. Buffalo and yak are eaten by some but considered too cow-like by others. Pork is eaten by some tribes, but not by upper-caste Hindus. Similar to India there are some communities and tribes who are vegetarians.

Outside the main morning and evening meals, a variety of snacks may be available. Tea, made with milk and sugar is certainly a pick-me-up. Corn may be heated and partially popped, although it really isn't popcorn. This is called "kha-ja", meaning "eat and run" Rice may be heated and crushed into "chiura" resembling uncooked oatmeal that can be eaten with yogurt, hot milk and sugar, or other flavourings. Fritters called 'pakora' and turnovers called "samosa" can sometimes be found, as can sweets made from sugar, milk, fried batter, sugar cane juice, etc. Be sure such delicacies are either freshly cooked or have been protected from flies. Otherwise flies land in the human waste that is everywhere in the streets, then on your food, and so you become a walking medical textbook of gastrological conditions.

Because of the multi-ethnic nature of Nepali society, differing degrees of adherence to Hindu dietary norms, and the extreme range of climates and micro-climates throughout the country, different ethnic communities often have their own specialties.

Newars, an ethnic group originally living in the Kathmandu Valley, are connoisseurs of great foods who lament that feasting is their downfall, whereas sexual indulgence is said to be the downfall of Paharis. In the fertile Kathmandu and Pokhara valleys this cuisine often includes a greater variety of foodstuffs -- particularly vegetables -- than what are available in most of the hills. As such, Newari cuisine is quite distinct and diverse relatively compared to the other indigenous regional cuisines of Nepal, so watch out for Newari restaurants. Some of them even come with cultural shows: a good way to enjoy good food while having a crash-course in Nepalese culture.

The cuisine of the Terai lowlands is almost the same as in adjacent parts of India. Locally-grown tropical fruits are sold alongside subtropical and temperate temperate crops from the hills. In addition to bananas ('kera') and papayas ('mewa') familiar to travellers, jackfruit ('katar') is a local delicacy.

Some dishes, particularly in the Himalayan region, are Tibetan in origin and not at all spicy. Some dishes to look for include momos, a meat or vegetable filled dumpling, which is similar to Chinese pot-stickers, often served with beer, and Tibetan Bread and Honey a puffy fried bread with heavy raw honey that's great for breakfast. Up in the Himalayan mountains, potatoes are the staple of the Sherpa people. Try the local dish of potato pancakes (rikikul). They are delicious eaten straight off the griddle and covered with dzo (female yak) butter or cheese.

Pizza, Mexican, Thai and Chinese food and Middle-Eastern food can all be found in the tourist districts of Kathmandu and Pokhara. If you are on a budget, eating local dishes will save money.

Note that many small restaurants are not prepared to cook several different dishes; try to stick with one or two dishes or you will find yourself waiting as the cook tries to make one after another on a one-burner stove.

As far as possible, eat only Nepali village products. If you take only village product foods, it will help them economically.

Drinks

Alcohol:

  • Raksi is a clear liquid, similar to tequila in alcohol content. It is usually brewed "in house", resulting in a variation in its taste and strength. This is by far the least expensive drink in the country. It is often served on special occasions in small, baked beveled clay cups (Salinchha in Newar language)that hold less than a shot. It works great as a mixer in juice or soda. Note that it may appear on menus as "Nepali wine".
  • Jaand (Nepali) or chyaang (Tibetan) is a cloudy, moderately alcoholic drink sometimes called Nepali beer". Mostly it is made from rice, specially in Newari culture. While weaker than raksi, it will still have quite an effect. This is often offered to guests in Nepali homes, and is diluted with water. For your safety, be sure to ask your guests if the water has been sanitized before drinking this beverage.
  • Beer production in Nepal is a growing industry. Some local beers are now also exported, and the quality of beer has reached to international standards International brands are popular in the urban areas. Everest and Gorkha beers are two of the popular local beers.
  • Cocktails can pretty much only be found in Kathmandu and Pokhara's tourist areas. There you can get watered-down "two for one drinks" at a variety of pubs, restaurants and sports bars.

Tea:

Although not as internationally famous as Indian brands, Nepal does in fact have a large organic tea industry. Most plantations are located in the east of the country and the type of tea grown is very similar to that produced in neighbouring Darjeeling. Well known varieties are Dhankuta, Illam, Jhapa, Terathhum and Panchthar (all named after their growing regions). Unfortunately over 70% of Nepal's tea is exported and the tea you see for sale in Thamel, while they serve as token mementos, are merely the scrapings from the bottom of the barrel.

  • Milk Tea' is boiled milk with added tea, with or without sugar.
  • Chai is tea with added milk and also sometimes containing ginger and spices such as cardamom.
  • Suja. Salty tea made with milk and butter - only available in areas inhabited by Tibetans, Sherpas and a few other Himalayan people.
  • Herbal teas. Most herbal teas are made from wild flowers from the Solu Khumbu region. In Kathmandu, these teas are generally only served in high class establishments or those run by Sherpas from the Solu Khumbu.

Water:

Water that you can drink without fear of becoming ill is rare because of a lack of water treatment facilities and sewage treatment. It is safest to assume that water is unsafe for drinking without being chemically treated or boiled, which is one reason to stick to tea or bottled water. It may be possible to buy filtered, treated water in cities and many villages. The Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) has installed a number of safe water stations along the Annapurna Circuit where water may be purchased for a reasonable cost.

Shopping

Nepalese rupees (NPR) are the local currency.

Although Indian currency is also accepted in Nepal (at an official exchange rate of 1.60 Nepalese rupees to 1 Indian rupee), the INR500 and INR1,000 currency notes are not acceptable. Carrying 500 and 1000 Indian rupee notes is illegal in Nepal.

There are banks in Kathmandu, Pokhara and in several other major cities that will allow you to retrieve cash from ATM or credit cards. You may be charged a service fee, depending on your bank. There are quite a number of ATMs now in those cities that are open round the clock.

Be sure to keep all currency exchange and ATM receipts as they are required at the airport bank to convert back to your original currency. If you don't have them, they will refuse to convert your currency but they will suggest going to the Duty Free shop upstairs, even though it isn't a licensed money changer. Traveller's checks may be useful outside of the major cities.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Nepal on Wikivoyage.

Cities in Nepal

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Kathmandu is the largest city and capital of Nepal and the namesake of the Kathmandu Valley. Once thought to be the fabled and inaccessible Shangri-La, Kathmandu is now a hub for independent travellers as well as a growing vacation spot catering to all budgets. As a result of considerable urban growth in ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Taleju Temple
  • Kathmandu Durbar Square
  • Pashupatinath Temple
  • Swayambhunath
  • Boudhanath
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Pokhara is the third largest city in Nepal with about one million people in 2013. It is the starting point for most of the treks in the Annapurna area. It is considered by some to be the most beautiful place in the world.

Interesting places:

  • Barahi Temple
  • Muktinath Temple
  • World Peace Stupa
  • Devi\'s Fall
  • Bindhyabasini Temple
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Sauraha is a town on the border of the Chitwan National Park.

Interesting places:

  • Chitwan National Park
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Bhaktapur a city in Nepal known variously as City of Culture, Living Heritage, Nepal's Cultural Gem, An open museum and a City of Devotees. Bhaktapur is an ancient city and is renowned for its elegant art, fabulous culture, colorful festivals, traditional dances and indigenous lifestyle of the Newari ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Bhaktapur Durbar Square
  • Taumadhi Square
  • Pottery Square
  • Peacock Window
  • Nyataponla Temple
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Kathmandu is the largest city and capital of Nepal and the namesake of the Kathmandu Valley. Once thought to be the fabled and inaccessible Shangri-La, Kathmandu is now a hub for independent travellers as well as a growing vacation spot catering to all budgets. As a result of considerable urban growth ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Patan Durbar Square
  • Golden Temple (Hiranya Varna Mahaa Vihar)
  • Banglamukhi Temple
  • Patan Zoo
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Nagarkot is a village in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal. It is 32km north east of Kathmandu on the northern fringe of the Kathmandu Valley. Nagarkot is famous for its Himalayan views, the Himalayan peaks at sunrise being particularly magnificent.

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Pokhara is the third largest city in Nepal with about one million people in 2013. It is the starting point for most of the treks in the Annapurna area. It is considered by some to be the most beautiful place in the world.

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Bandipur is a city in Nepal.

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Bhairahawa is a city in Rupandehi District in Western Nepal.

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Lumbini is the sacred site of the birth of Sakyamuni Buddha. It is located in southern Nepal, near the Indian border.

Interesting places:

  • Ashoka Column
  • Mayadevi Temple
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Points of Interest in Nepal

  • Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world is probably Nepal's most famous sight, and much of the country consists of very high mountains.

There are four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Nepal:

  • The Kathmandu Valley, obviously including the capital but also the cities of Bhaktapur and Patan.
  • Sagarmatha National Park
  • Chitwan National Park
  • Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha.

Taleju Temple - Kathmandu

Bhaktapur Durbar Square - Bhaktapur

Barahi Temple - Pokhara

Patan Durbar Square - Lalitpur

Tengboche Monastery - Chheskam

Ashoka Column - Lumbini

Chitwan National Park - Sauraha

Harihar Temple - Bharatpur

Janaki Mandir - Janakpur

Bagalamukhi Mandir - Biratnagar

Budol View Tower - Dhulikhel

Khaptad National Park - Dipayal Silgadhi

Manakamana of Tumlingtar - Tumlingtar

Rara Lake National Park - Jumla

Royal Bardia National Park - Kohalpur

Kathmandu Durbar Square - Kathmandu

Pashupatinath Temple - Kathmandu

Taumadhi Square - Bhaktapur

Pottery Square - Bhaktapur

Swayambhunath - Kathmandu

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners
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