Nepal: A Gateway to the Himalayas

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Nepal is mostly sidestepped by travelers because they figure it’s an extension of India; it’s not. It is a paradise for trekkers and nature lovers, in fact the Himalayan range offers some of the best trekking opportunities in Asia. Nepal has eight of the 10 highest peaks in the world. People here are incredibly friendly and fun — even more if you learn a bit of Nepali and they will love you for it. Usually a very safe place but do  be on a look out for the political situation with the Maoists, it changes rapidly.

Once a year, I visit Nepal. I love it and I love learning about culture and language. I highly recommend a visit, but that being said, be realistic about your visit as post-earthquake Nepal is a very different place than it once was. The 2015 earthquake had a upsetting result on the people of Nepal, on the country’s infrastructure. But, it’s still a place you can travel and have a wonderful time throughout the year.

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Currency: Nepalese Rupee (NPR)

Air Travel: Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport (KTM) is the primary airport. But be ready for long queues at Immigration and Baggage consoles. There are various budget airlines that connect all the major cities of Nepal.

Trains/ Bus: There are no Trains operational in Nepal but is well connected by bus as various state and private companies which are operational here.

Water: Not safe. Drink bottled or filtered water.

Local SIM: Travelers can easily purchase a SIM card as well as data. And it’s quite affordable.

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Animal/Elephant Tourism:

I particularly discourage riding elephants in Thailand and other areas of Southeast Asia. But in Nepal, there are other considerations. The elephants are primarily used in Chitwan National Park to allow tourists to see the endangered one-horned rhino. Chitwan is home to an abundance of wildlife, and unique flora and fauna. Even more, beyond the rhino, Chitwan houses the last stronghold of Bengal tigers in the wild and is home to a critically-endangered vulture species. This park is important, and the elephants shuttling tourists to the rhinos provide invaluable funding that goes toward anti-poaching measures. This is a rare instance where responsible tourism can include a ride on an elephant as a means of supporting responsible tourism. And even more, I highly recommend a visit as Chitwan National Park is a cultural stronghold of the Terai people, a UNESCO site, and a stunningly pretty place on this planet.

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Visiting Religious Sites:

The Nepalese are very spiritual people. Visiting the temples, stupas, and religious sites is a clear highlight to any trip to Nepal, but show respect by dressing conservatively on any day that you plan to visit temples and religious sites. Be respectful with your camera; you are not allowed to take photos inside of many temples. If you are unsure, ask first. Some of the best religious sites are:

BOUDHANATH: A UNESCO site and most likely the largest Stupa in the world. Consider this the mac-daddy of all Buddhist sites. It’s huge and bustling with activity all day long.

PASHUPATINATH TEMPLE: This is a sacred site for the Hindu and as a Westerner you can look at the temple from the other side of the river. Also a UNESCO site, you can watch from above as they regularly perform ritual cremations in the ghats.

SWAYAMBHUNATH, AKA MONKEY TEMPLE. There are literally hundreds of monkeys here. The are tons of statues to the various gods, including monkey god Hanuman. Worth a visit on the day you do the other popular stupas and temples.

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FOOD:

You absolutely have to try mo-mo here! They have hundreds of varieties to choose from and no matter where or which corner you have it, its going to be very delicious. Thukpa, a soupy noodle is another local beloved dish that should go on must try list.  Also, definitely try the Gorkha beer. Trust me, you would want to ship some home.

Restaurants to try (Kathmandu): OR2K- Middle eastern/ Western menu, Sheesha café, KKFC (yup! You read that right) where a robot will serve your food.

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Top Cities/ places to visit: Kathamndu, Pokhara, Chitwan, Nagarkot.

Adventure Sports: Nepal is well recognized for its best climbing and trekking destinations in the world. As the reputation for climbing and trekking remains undeterred, Nepal is also gaining popularity with other adventure sports. Let us explore the most thrilling, electrifying and mind blowing adventurous activities in the beautiful country Nepal apart from the obvious trekking and climbing. Like white water rafting, paragliding, ultralight, Bungee jumping, Heli-skiing. But more on this in another post.

Love/ hate Nepal, let me know your travel stories. Till next place- Cheers Neha

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