Nepal: Roof of the World

Nepal: Roof of the World
Photo by Azin Javadzadeh / Unsplash

Location 

Introduction

Nepal, a landlocked country in South Asia, bordered by India to the east, south, and west, and China to the north. The capital city of Nepal is Kathmandu, and the national language is Nepali. The official currency is the Nepalese Rupee (NPR), with $1 USD equivalent to approximately Rs.133 NPR. Nepal boasts 8 of the world's highest mountains, including Mount Everest, and is the birthplace of Gautam Buddha and Sita. The country is home to 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with 8 located in Kathmandu. It fosters peace and harmony among people of different religions. There are 8 main religions practiced in Nepal: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Kirat, Christianity, Prakriti, Bon, and Jainism. Nepal is characterized by its multilingual community, with 142 different ethnic groups and 123 languages spoken. Each language contributes to the country's diverse culture and identity. Known as "the land of gods/temple," Nepal is abundant in religious and cultural traditions, with Hindu and Buddhist temples and shrines scattered throughout the country. Agriculture is a significant sector in Nepal, employing a majority of the population. Tourism plays a vital role in Nepal's economy, attracting pilgrims, trekkers, and mountaineers to its sacred sites and stunning landscapes.

History 

Nepal's history is marked by the unification of small Baise and Chaubise Rajya into one country by King Prithvi Narayan Shah in the 16th century. Bhuktaman of the Gopal dynasty is regarded as the first king, followed by rule under the Kirant, Licchavi, Malla, and Shah dynasties. The Anglo-Nepal War of 1814-1816 saw Nepal signing a Sugauli Treaty with the British, leading to a 104-year rule by the Rana dynasty from 1846 to 1951. The monarchy regained power briefly before Nepal became a UN member in 1955. The Royal Family's Massacre in 2001 was a significant turning point, leading to the declaration of Nepal as a Federal Parliamentary Republic in 2006 following the Loktantra Andolan movement.

When to visit Nepal?

The most popular time to visit Nepal is October-November, offering ideal weather for trekking and outdoor activities, but with crowded trails and higher accommodation costs. Spring (March-April) is great for wildlife watching, with warm weather and blooming rhododendron forests. The monsoon season (June-September) and winter (December-February) offer cheap deals and fewer tourists, but come with transport disruptions and cloudy skies.

Visa Conditions

Most countries’ citizens can apply for an online tourist visa or visa on arrival while citizens of India are allowed freedom of movement in Nepal. The visitors require a valid passport of at least six months from the date of arrival and are allowed to stay in Nepal for a maximum of 150 days within the same year. On Arrival Visa fee for 15 days is $30, $50 for 30 days and $125 for 90 days. If you wish to extend your visa, it can be done for a minimum of 15 days which costs $45 and $3 per day for additional days. In the case of delay less than 150 days, additional $5 per day will be deducted as a late fine. Unless holding a temporary passport issued by any European Union member state, Temporary passport holders are not eligible to apply for a visa. Citizens of SAARC member countries, except Afghanistan, can get a free visa on arrival for 30 days. Nationalities from China, Hong Kong and Macao may obtain a free tourist visa on arrival. For more information, you can visit Nepal Immigration Website

For more comprehensive information on dos and donts while traveling Nepal, be sure to read, "Things to know before traveling Nepal."  

Festivals celebrated in Nepal 

a person in a costume performing a dance in front of a crowd
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Nepal, a country known for its diverse geography, rich biodiversity, and varied culture, boasts a plethora of festivals, each community celebrating unique customs passed down through generations. This diversity is reflected in the country's vibrant festival calendar, with major celebrations such as Dashain, a fifteen-day Hindu festival commemorating Goddess Durga's victory over the demon Mahishasura, being highly anticipated and celebrated with great fervor. Another notable festival is Tihar, also known as Deepawali, which spans five days and involves decorating homes with lights and worshipping animals. Other popular festivals in Nepal include Holi, Buddha Purnima, Mahashivratri, Chhat, Gaijatra, and Teej, each adding to the cultural tapestry of this diverse nation.

Places to visit

Temples

brown and green temple on top of mountain during daytime
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Nepal is home to a multitude of temples, with new ones constantly being built, making it impossible to have an exact count. This country is renowned for its rich religious and cultural heritage, often referred to as the abode of Gods and Goddesses. Many national and international tourists are drawn to Nepal's major spiritual sites, contributing to its vibrant religious tourism. One of the remarkable aspects of Nepal is the abundance of religious places, ensuring that visitors will always have new places to explore. Among the many ancient temples in Nepal, some, like Swoyambhunath Temple, Nyatapola Temple, Muktinath Temple, and Tal Barahi Temple, stand out for their beautiful and archaic architectural style.

National Parks

tiger on grass field during daytime
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Nepal boasts a significant forest cover, with over 40% of its land area enveloped in greenery. The country is also blessed with more than 6,000 rivers, creating diverse habitats for a variety of birds, wild animals, reptiles, and mammals across its landscapes, including forests, lakes, ponds, glaciers, snow lakes, and wetlands. Nepal is home to a wide range of flora, including plants, herbs, trees, and charkoshe bushes. However, many of these species face the risk of extinction due to human development and changing times. To safeguard these natural treasures, Nepal has implemented various conservation measures, such as National Parks, Conservation Areas, Ramsar sites, and conservation concepts. These initiatives not only aim to protect these natural elements but also promote eco-tourism, thereby contributing to the country's economy. Nepal boasts a total of 12 National Parks, including well-known ones like Chitwan National Park, Khaptad National Park, Shey Foksundo National Park, Sagarmatha National Park, and others, each offering unique ecosystems and wildlife experiences.

Waterfalls 

waterfall in forest
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There are more than Twenty waterfalls in Nepal each with its own unique beauty. Some of the famous Waterfalls are Devi’s Falls, Jhor Mahankal and Sundarijal

Historical Sites

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Nepal's rich history and cultural diversity are reflected in its many historical sites, each telling stories of civilizations, cultures, and significant events that contribute to its heritage. From the intricately carved temples in Patan and Bhaktapur to the palaces of Gorkha and Palpa, these sites serve as living museums, showcasing artistic mastery and architectural brilliance. Within these majestic structures, one can glimpse the stories of monarchs and civilizations that once thrived. Among the notable historical sites are Nuwakot Durbar, Makwanpur Gadhi, Gorkha Museum, Sindhuli Gadhi, Lumbini, and Narayanhiti Royal Palace, each offering a window into Nepal's facinating past.

Things to do

 1. Stroll around Bhaktapur

people walking on brown concrete pathway near brown concrete building during daytime
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Located just on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur is Nepal's smallest district, known for its authentic Newari culture. A visit to Bhaktapur is a must-do experience in Nepal, where narrow streets wind through ancient buildings and houses, exceeding visitors' expectations at every turn. The Bhaktapur Durbar Square area is a highlight, showcasing the rich culture of the Newar community that has thrived here for centuries. Don't miss trying the famous 'Juju Dhau,' known as the king of Yogurt. Just a short distance away, Nagarkot offers stunning sunsets and sunrises, adding to the allure of this historic and culturally rich destination.

2. Visit Pokhara

parachuting under blue sky
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Pokhara, a captivating city in Nepal, is a destination that should not be missed. Offering stunning scenery, vibrant nightlife, and thrilling adventures, Pokhara is the gateway to some of the finest treks and mountains in Nepal. Whether it's your first stop or the culmination of a long trekking journey, Pokhara has something for everyone. From the bustling city life along the lakeside to the tranquil villages and breathtaking sunrise views from Sarangkot hills, Pokhara promises a memorable experience and a plethora of adventures. Visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the city lights, lakes, and mountains from various vantage points, including their hotel rooms. For those seeking more adventure, Pokhara offers activities such as paragliding, zip-lining, ultra-light flights, and mountain biking, ensuring a truly exhilarating experience.

3. Explore Ghandruk

an aerial view of a village in the mountains
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Situated northwest of Pokhara, the picturesque village of Ghandruk is a popular trekking destination in Nepal, offering a unique cultural experience. The local Gurung community is known for its warm hospitality, providing visitors with an authentic glimpse into their rich culture. For an immersive experience, consider embarking on a trek from Pokhara that culminates in a homestay in Ghandruk. Here, you can enjoy stunning views of the mountains and hills, as well as experience the tranquility of village life, far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city.

4. Walk around Tea Gardens of Illam

white car on road near green mountains during daytime
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Illam, renowned for its miles of tea farms, offers a tranquil retreat for those seeking peace and serenity. It boasts some of Nepal's most exquisite tea gardens, with Phikal and Kanyam standing out for their picturesque locations, perfect for picnics, sightseeing, and capturing memorable photographs.

5. Explore The Plains Of Terai

river in the middle of the field
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The Terai region of Nepal, although less discussed, offers a plethora of activities for visitors. Its expansive plains and dense jungles beckon adventurers to explore the wilderness. Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha and known as the Light of Asia, is a treasure trove of religious, historical, and spiritual artifacts found nowhere else. The region is home to two renowned national parks, Chitwan National Park and Bardiya National Park, where visitors can delve into the forests and observe endangered wildlife up close. Elephant rides provide a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in nature, and if fortunate, witness the annual Elephant Polo Competition, a spectacle unique to this region.

6. Helicopter Ride to Mount Everest 

mountain cover with snow
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A helicopter tour over Mount Everest, the world's highest peak, is undoubtedly a top experience in the high Himalayas. For those not inclined to trek to Everest's summit or base camp, this adventure offers a thrilling alternative in Nepal. Providing a bird's-eye view of the world's tallest peaks from the comfort of a helicopter, this ride is an unforgettable experience. In just a few hours, you can reach the top of the world and even make a brief landing at Lukla Airport, one of the world's highest and most challenging airports.

7. Trekking 

a rocky mountain side
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In recent years, trekking has emerged as a popular activity in Nepal, offering a captivating experience for visitors. Exploring nature with breathtaking scenery at every turn is a must-add to your itinerary. It's advisable to enlist the services of a tour guide and carry essential gear suitable for your chosen trek. Trekking in Nepal promises thrilling adventures, traversing hills and mountains. Some of the top trekking routes in Nepal include the Everest Base Camp Trek, Annapurna Circuit Trek, Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek, Langtang Valley Trek, and Upper Mustang Trek.

8. Rafting 

people riding orange kayak on water during daytime
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When it comes to adventure sports, white water rafting in Nepal is a standout experience. Rafting in the powerful rivers of Nepal promises an exhilarating adventure. The Bhotekoshi River, fed by the melting Himalayan ranges, has emerged as a popular rafting destination, just five hours from Kathmandu. Apart from the thrill of rafting, this experience offers the opportunity to explore Nepal's lush green fields and immerse oneself in the local culture, making it a must-do activity for adrenaline seekers.

9. Kayaking/ Canoeing/ Canyoning

red canoe in body of water during daytime
Photo by Mika Korhonen / Unsplash

Recently, there has been a growing interest in kayaking, with Nepal emerging as an ideal destination for both beginners looking to learn and experienced kayakers. The country's strong, fast-flowing rivers make it an excellent choice for this extreme water sport. Including kayaking in the list of activities to do in Nepal can be an adventurous experience.

10. The World's Highest Canyon Swing and Bungee

man bungee jumping
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The Last Resort in Nepal, located a mere three hours from Kathmandu, offers what could be considered the ultimate bungee jumping experience. This activity is a must-add to your Nepal itinerary. The thrill of free-falling for seconds, which seems like an eternity, has made this bungee jump famous. Participants plunge over the breathtaking Bhotekoshi River from a height of over 500 feet. In addition to bungee jumping, the resort also offers a tandem swing, which is equally thrilling. Kusma Bungee is the world's 2nd highest Bungee jump so make sure to visit there as well if your heart wants more thrill. 

Customs and Traditions 

Nepal boasts a rich tradition of folk and classical dances, with different communities showcasing their unique dance forms during festivals and family events. Music plays a significant role in Nepalese culture, serving as a medium to express emotions, tell stories, and provide entertainment. Traditional musical instruments like Madal, Dhimey, Panchay Baja, and Sarangi are often used in performances. The cow holds special reverence in Nepal, where its slaughter is illegal due to its symbolic representation of motherhood, charity, and compassion, aligning with the concept of "Ahimsa" (non-violence) in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Temples and some houses require visitors to remove their shoes as a sign of respect. Nepali cuisine varies by region, with influences from Indian and Tibetan cooking styles. The Newar and Tharu people have a diverse and nutritious cuisine, while the Thakalis also offer a unique culinary experience. A typical Nepali meal consists of daal (lentil soup), bhat (boiled rice), tarkari (curried vegetables), and achar (pickle). Curried meat is popular for special occasions, and momos (dumplings) are a beloved snack. Rotis (flatbread) and dhedo (boiled flour) are staples in some households.

Conclusion 

Nepal, cradled by the majestic Himalayas, offers a mesmerizing blend of landscapes, from dense forests to rolling hills and tranquil plains. This country beckons visitors with a promise of diverse experiences, from the serenity of its villages to the bustle of its cities, and from the tranquility of its mountain trails to the thrill of its city roads. Nepalese hospitality is renowned for its warmth and generosity, providing a welcoming embrace for visitors. Nepal's charm might just make you contemplate settling in this captivating land. If you haven't already, Nepal deserves a spot on your bucket list, offering an immersive experience that will leave you enthralled and enriched.