Take Photos, Leave Footprints
By Scott Dicken
Nepal: An Adventurer’s Playground!
In April 2015, Nepal was hit by a devastating earthquake that measured 7.8 on the Richter Scale, killed nearly 9,000 people, and left approximately US$10 Billion of damage in its wake – about a third of Nepal’s GDP! This, twinned with the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, might lead you to ask, ‘is this the right time to visit Nepal’? My response is simple; as soon as COVID-19 conditions permit, the answer is a resounding YES! Nepal continues to be negatively affected by a slow recovery of its tourism market; and any visiting tourist is directly contributing to the country’s recovery with every dollar spent in restaurants, hotels, and with local tour operators. None of this is to suggest that this is a transaction solely benefitting the country’s recovery; it’s just a positive side-effect of visiting a country that’s steeped in history, culture, and religion, and can quench the thirst of even the most ardent adventure traveler.
Below are five reasons to move Nepal to the top of your bucket list.
Nowhere is the cultural and religious history of Nepal more evident than in the Kathmandu Valley, which just so happens to be the gateway to a Nepalese adventure! You’ll likely want to divide your time equally between the Valley’s three main cities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan; cities that are all within an hour of each other. Pretty much everything you touch in Kathmandu Valley is part of a World Heritage Site, so it isn’t just me alone opining its virtues; UNESCO seem to agree! With a vast array of temples, palaces, monuments, shrines and museums the Valley has it all, and can easily occupy the average tourist for a 4-day stay (and a history buff, much longer)!
I think it’s fair to say that one of the major draws of a trip to Nepal is the Himalayas. With seven of the World’s highest peaks located in Nepal, it’s true that the mountain scenery is probably at the top of most visitor’s ‘must-see’ list. From sunrise viewed from the hill stations surrounding Kathmandu, to a trekking holiday in the Annapurna range or Everest Base Camp region, there’s no end to the opportunities when it comes to mountain spotting! But Nepal is more than mountains alone! Heading south to the border with India you’ll find yourself in the biodiverse lowland terrain of Chitwan National Park. Amongst the stunning scenery of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll have the opportunity to track Bengal tigers, one-horned rhino, and leopard against a backdrop of Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands, broadleaf forests, and wetlands. With elevations from 60m to over 8,000m above sea level I guess diversity is the keyword when it comes to Nepal’s scenery.
To say that Nepal has a rich and diverse culture is probably an understatement. Encompassing a multitude of tribes and ethnicities, and influenced by the cultures of India, Mongolia, and Tibet, Nepal is home to a whopping 123 languages (the main language, Nepali, is spoken by approximately 45% of the population) from over 35 ethnic groups. Its rich diversity filters down to its music, religion, architecture, literature, dance and food. From visiting a Kumari (a prepubescent girl selected by a council of Newari people and chosen to be the living representation of the Taleju or Durga Goddess) to photographing the Sadhu’s (a holy person who has denounced worldly life) of Pashupatinath, Nepal is probably, from a cultural perspective, one of the most diverse countries I’ve ever visited.
The cultural diversity of Nepal is also visible in its food; it’s a real melting pot. From Chinese Chow-Mein to Indian curry and everything in between. That said, and if nothing else, you must try the dal-bhat-tarkari (which roughly translates to lentil soup-boiled grain-vegetable curry) and the Momo. Ahh, the Momo. Given that Momo are one of Nepal’s most popular dishes, it’s like hunting for sausage rolls in the UK…. they’re everywhere. Momo are Tibetan style dumplings filled with buffalo, vegetable, lamb or chicken, and Nepali spices – and they’re possibly the most delicious thing you’ll ever eat.
When it comes to adventure Nepal can really offer everything. Besides the obvious trekking and mountain climbing, Nepal offers some of the best white water rafting in the world and provides some of the best chances of seeing Bengal Tigers in the wild. Add to that the opportunity to take a light aircraft flight from Kathmandu to see Everest, hot air balloons, paragliding, bungee jumping, and ultralights and you’ve got the beginnings of an adventure addicts dream holiday!
Do you think I’ve missed anything? Be sure to check out my 4-day Kathmandu Valley itinerary and Destination Guides for Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur on the takephotosleavefootprints.com website before you plan your trip!