Located between the majestic Himalaya Mountains and the fascinating dense jungles, Nepal is a land yaks, yetis, mountain peaks and hidden monasteries appear to be seemingly common. Ever since the country opened its borders to foreigners, it emerged as an enchanting destination for hikers and trekkers of all types, many venturing to the famous Everest Base Camp. Its rugged trails proved unparalleled trekking opportunities while the appeal of climbing Mount Everest was more than enough to attract mountain climbers from all over the planet. Over the years, Nepal has also managed to invent itself into a popular travel destination. Its rich natural beauty, historic attractions and vast cultural heritage has proven to be the perfect mix between the ancient and the modern, slow paced lifestyles and frantic city life. Its capital Kathmandu is a bustling metropolis with deep ties to history, culture and ancient religion. Its religions – Hinduism and Buddhism – melt together and lure Western travelers. With unparalleled terrain and adventure, Nepal never fails to deliver an unforgettable experience. No wonder Nepal is featured high on the list of travel trends for 2016 and beyond. Just for the anxious ones, Nepal’s earthquake did not destroy the country, although it was almost portrayed that way in the various medias. Old monuments were laid down and many local villages suffered, however, many monuments, buildings etc remains 100% intact and almost all trekking routes have already opened up again. While there are too many great things to do in Nepal to list, we’ve narrowed down seven activities that Nepal is best known for, and some that are newly emerging. 1. GO TREKKING IN THE HIMALAYA Whether you are a novice or an experienced trekker, Nepal is the land of trekking (and climbing), offering some of the best trekking routes in the world. Trekking is a way of life in this vertical land. While you are lumbering in your state-of-the-art hiking boots, villagers and Sherpas will waltz by in flip flops, with kids running on their way to school. Porters haul large loads in dokos (baskets) strapped to their foreheads with a namglo (rope belt). Take note: When the guide tells you today’s path is Nepali flat, he usually still means lots of ups and downs, just not as steep as usual. But it’s often worth the climb: the trails open up into panoramic vistas, fluttering Buddhist flags, and beautiful local villages scattered across the countryside. Nepal has two main trekking regions – Annapurna and Everest – and a number of other popular treks that are just as beautiful but receive significantly less traffic, such as the Manaslu Circuit and Upper Mustang. Most treks in the Annapurna region begins from Pokhara, a 25-minute flight or 7-hour drive from Kathmandu. The 4 days Poonhill trek is one of the better short treks in Nepal; the Everest Base Camp trek is a great trek if having 12 days available; while the Everest Base Camp – 3 Passes trek are some of the best adventure treks in Nepal, taking you on unparalleled trekking routes amidst pristine nature. For the Everest region, you can either walk in from Salleri or Jiri, or skip the first four days by flying directly into Lukla, a spectacular mountain airport. For a those seeking adventure with a taste for luxury, stay overnight in one of Yeti Mountain Home’s luxury lodges throughout the Solu Khumbu, often perched at a great vantage point over the valley. The most famous view of Mt. Everest is from Kala Patthar, where you can see spectacular, close-up views of Everest, Nuptse, Pumori, and the Khumbu icefall and glacier below. For the more adventurous, venture further afield to the more remote areas of Nepal, such as the Dolpo, Makalu, and Kanchenjunga regions, where you can disappear on a month-long trek amid yak caravans and remote valleys that have seen few western tourists. 2. EXPERIENCE THE ANCIENT CULTURE OF NEPAL Beautiful Taumadhi square in the historic city of Bhaktapur At dawn or on a full moon, Pashupatinath is intensely spiritual. This extensive collection of Hindu temples is located at the top of a wide set of steps that lead down to the sacred Bagmati River. This UNESCO World Heritage Site draws hundreds of thousands of devout Hindu pilgrims, the red tikka marks on their foreheads a symbol of their piety. Not far from Pashupatinath lies the Great Stupa of Boudhanath, built in the 5th century and surrounded on all sides by a vibrant community of Sherpa and Tibetans, restaurants and monasteries. Come here at dawn or at dusk when the places comes to life with thousands of devotees praying and lighting butter lamps. The all-seeing eyes of the Buddha look down on your from all four directions as you circle clockwise to the chanting of “Om Mani Padme Hum” in the air. Literally, “Hail to the jewel in the lotus.” (Note: The Stupa was damaged in the 2015 earthquake and is currently being repaired.) Situated near the edge of the valley is Swayambhunath, commonly referred to as Monkey Temple. After climbing the steep staircase, lined with small Buddhist shrines, you’ll reach a smaller stupa that’s just as impressive as Boudha, yet more intimate and mixed with an air of Hinduism, as well. This is the stupa you can see looking out over the valley from most parts of Kathmandu. Outside of Kathmandu, Lumbini is one of Nepal’s best-known pilgrimage sites, being the birthplace of Lord Buddha. Not far from the Indian Border, many people come here for an overnight on their way to India or Chitwan, and to pay their respects to this famous birthplace. 3. GET A GLIMPSE OF MOUNT EVEREST – BY AIR Heading toward Everest on a mountain flight out of Kathmandu For once-in-a-lifetime views, hop aboard an early morning scenic flight to Mount Everest. This one-hour flight takes off from Kathmandu’s domestic airport provided the weather is clear. Both Tara air and Buddha Air operate mountain flights from Kathmandu’s domestic airport when the weather is clear. (Expert tip: Be sure to get a seat at the front or rear of the plane so your view is not obstructed by the wing.) Alternatively, the more expensive option is to take a Mount Everest helicopter tour from Kathmandu. This tour lets you get up close and personal with some of the most traditional Himalayan cultures and admire majestic peaks such as Mt. Cho Oyu, Mt. Ama Dablam and Mt. Pumori at the same time. Insider Tip – The base camp of Kala Patthar is famous for its 360-degree panoramic views of fascinating mountains from ground level. 4. GO RAFTING, PARAGLIDING OR BUNGEE JUMPING A great option for adventure lovers is to go on an overnight river rafting trip, with an outfit like GRG Adventure Kayaking. Start from a popular beach along the Madi River near Pokhara. Birds—kingfishers, eagles and kites—are everywhere (so are monkeys). Class III rapids offer a thrill, along with soaked clothes. At nightfall, a remote beach serves as the campsite. The sound of the water is so relaxing, sleep comes easily. The next day it is back to the rapids until the pullout. Few people know that Nepal is also a world-class paragliding destination. Head to Pokhara, situated on Phewa Lake with Machhapuchhre as its backdrop, to catch the steady thermals up over the lake with amazing views of the entire Annapurna range. Rest assured, you’ll be safely attached to your pilot. Finally, if you’re looking for that last bit of adrenaline, there are some great bungee-jumps to be had given the steep terrain in Nepal. To quote the Last Resort, “Imagine a bridge over a 160-meter high tropical gorge, with one of Nepal’s wildest rivers raging below… Now jump!” 5. VISIT TO CHITWAN NATIONAL PARK Chitwan National Park, the first national park in Nepal, is considered to be another must-see destination in Nepal. More than 500 species of migratory birds call the park their home, as do one-horned rhinos, Bengal tigers and Asian elephants. It covers almost 332 sq. miles and is supposed to be your best chance of seeing animals such as bears, tigers, crocodiles, elephants and rhinos while in Nepal. The most common bird sightings include kingfishers, paradise flycatchers, egrets and ducks. Insider Tip – The ideal way to explore the Chitwan National Park is to go for a three-day trip and stay for 2 nights at one of the hotels in Chitwan. This also gives you a chance to explore a typical Tharu village while in Nepal. 6. EXPLORING POKHARA Pokhara – essentially a lakeside town – attracts explorers, nature lovers and adrenaline junkies with its spectacular natural beauty, an array of fishing opportunities, mountain biking, exciting treks such as Poonhill, Annapurna Base Camp and Annapurna Circuit, visiting the peace pagoda, paragliding and sunbathing. It is one of those destinations that you certainly wish to visit for the second time in your life. Boating and strolling down the lakeside in Pokhara is definitely two of the top things to do in Pokhara. 7. HIT THE TRAILS RUNNING OR BIKING Reach new heights by not leaving the ground on one of Nepal’s great mountain biking excursions. Due to the steep climbs and precipitous descents, some routes are best left to the most experienced while others are great for all skill levels. Biking is gaining popularity as a great way to see Nepal’s spectacular scenery. For an idea of what kinds of bike trips are available, check out Unique Trails. Nepal’s also a great trail running destination, with a growing number of internationally-recognized races and a local superstar in Mira Rai. The best thing about trail running in Nepal is that you have established trails around the famous mountains, breathtaking views to distract your from the fatigue, and local accommodation and food awaiting you each night in the teahouses. It’s hard not to think of Nepal as one of the best trail running destinations in the world. 8. BARDIA NATIONAL PARK Bardia National Park is the largest wilderness area in Terai. It boasts of beautiful wildlife and is considered to be what the Chitwan was about 30 years ago, before it became commercialized due to tourism. The park covers about 968 sq. kms. of grasslands and Sal forests and is famous as one of the biggest stretches of tiger habitats in Asia. Apart from tigers, you can also check out 30 different species of mammals such as one-horned rhinos and elephants, Gangetic dolphins, crocodiles and more than 250 species of birds such as sarus cranes and the Bengal floricans. 9. YOGA & MEDITATION If you’re looking for peace of mind, look no further. Nepal has a variety of centres and monasteries where you can retreat from the craziness of Kathmandu and find calm in a local monastery or retreat. For example, check out one of the retreats held by Pranayama Yoga. You can also get away on a yoga trek, which combines the best of both worlds – world-class trekking and daily yoga classes, led by your very own yoga instructor. Both Kathmandu and Pokhara have multiple yoga studios, as well, if you’re just interested in day classes.
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How to choose hotels in Kathmandu? If you are looking for touristic place to stay, then definitely it is Thamel to choose in Kathmandu. Thamel is the tourist hub of Kathmandu and you can easily find money exchangers, internet cybers, lots of eateries to choose from and of course nightlife which is a plus point for someone looking to have an experience of Kathmandus nightlife. There are some others places which are equally good but not as facilitating as Thamel is. Lazimpat is 2 kms away from Thamel and it has good options to choose hotels from. Ranging from 5 star to 3 star hotel, this place is gaining popularity because of its posh surroundings. Hotel Ambassador is a 3 star deluxe hotel located near the street and the building is a newly built one. There is Radisson hotel as well – a 5 star hotel – offering chic rooms and restaurants. Choosing to stay near World heritage sites? If you are opting to choose to stay in hotels near world heritage sites then

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Flying to Nepal

Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu is the only international airport in Nepal. Approximately 30 airlines link it with destinations throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East including Qatar Airways (www.qatarairways.com), Turkish Airlines (www.turkishairlines.com), Etihad airways(www.etihad.com) and Nepal Airlines (www.nepalairlines.com.np).

The peak seasons for travelling to Nepal are from September to November and February to May. Flights to Kathmandu are most expensive during these times. To keep costs down, travel on the edge of these seasons and book in advance.

There are no direct flights to Nepal from the UK, USA or Australia.

Flight times:

From London – 12 hours (including stopover); New York – 18 hours (including stopover).

Air passes:

The Asia Airpass by Star Alliance enables passengers to create flexible, multi-flight itineraries on just one ticket. Kathmandu is one of the destinations available.

Departure tax:

All taxes are included in ticket prices for international flights.

Airport guides

Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport

Airport Code: KTM. Location: Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport is located 6km (4 miles) east of Kathmandu. Money: There are several banks offering bureau de change facilities; one can be found in Departures end.

Travel by rail

It is not possible to travel from China or India and into Nepal by train. However, Indian Railways (www.indianrail.gov.in) runs passenger trains to Gorakhpur, which is near the Bhairahwa border. Cycle-rickshaws and taxis are available there for onward journeys.

There are plans to construct railway lines between Nepal and India, and Nepal and China.

Rail passes:

It is not possible to travel through Nepal by train.

Driving to Nepal

There are seven designated entry points to Nepal by road; six in India (Kakadvitta, Birgunj, Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj, Dhangadi and Mahendranagar) and one on the China/Tibet border (Kerung).

As a general rule, border towns don’t provide much in the way of sightseeing and accommodation; get in and get moving. You can purchase visas at Kakadvitta, Birgunj, Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj, Gaddachowki, and Kerung provided you have cash and a passport-size photo.

By road note:

Tourists entering the country in vehicles must have an international carnet and an international driving licence. Be advised that strikes (known locally as bandas) frequently bring Nepal to a grinding halt. During these strikes the roads close, so keep an eye on the news before you travel.

Border offices at the India-Nepal border have fixed hours (0600 to 2200). These hours are not always reliable, and long lines can form. While you may be able to find immigration officers who will let you in, don’t count on it. Many tourist and local buses arrive early to secure their spot in line and move through inspection as quickly as possible.

Getting to Nepal by boat

Nepal is a landlocked country and not accessible by water.

Annapurna vs Everest. Your definitive trekking guide

Everest or Annapurna Base Camp? It’s the choice every adventurer faces eventually. Most travelers end up trekking both in the end, because it’s worth doing both.

On the one hand you have Mt. Everest. Its world famous and half your friends will probably assume you’re summiting the thing and planting a flag on the top. On the other hand you’ve got Annapurna: more diverse, less high, with gorgeous rhododendron forests and fewer crowds. If you are worried about acclimatization, scared of flying small planes or don’t like colder temperatures then Annapurna Base Camp might be a better option. Here is a short review of both treks and the pros and cons of doing each. Keep in mind at the end of the day this is a bit subjective and that they both deserve to be included in a list of the world’s greatest treks. Whose scene reigns supreme? It’s a tricky decision.

The first thing to consider is the scenery of each trek. The trek to Everest Base Camp I think wins by a good margin. One of my favorite things about the trek to Everest Base Camp is that you are almost in direct view of some amazing peaks.

Overview – Everest

If you’re coming just for the mountains, for the biggest, wildest, most precipitous mountains you can find, Everest is the way to go. It’s a high altitude trek through some of the most spectacular scenery in all of the Himalayas. Trekking through the Gokyo Lakes, they literally surround you on all sides. But be aware, you pay for these views with sore calves and aching thighs.

Overview – Annapurna Base Camp Trek

Annapurna is a totally different side of the Himalayas. You still get huge, snow-capped peaks, but they’re more of a constant backdrop. The Circuit begins in the fertile lower foothills and you spend most of your time trekking up the canyon of the Modi Khola which is fairly deep and obscures direct line of sight with the peaks. You start to get out of the canyon after you reach the small village of Doban but this is already close to Annapurna Base Camp. One of the peaks you will see before reaching Doban is Machhapuchhre or Fish Tail which is an amazing peak and often called the Matterhorn of the Himalayas, The trail follows terraced rice fields, oak forests and rhododendrons galore (come in April for the full bloom). And mountain-lovers, don’t worry, there are still the incredible sites of Machapuchare and the 8000m giant Dhaulagiri to keep you happy. Annapurna just has more diversity to go with its stunning views.

If you are short on time Annapurna Base Camp or even Poon Hill are great options. The Poon Hill trek can be done in as little as three days if you are fast and the views of Annapurna are amazing. I always put off doing this trek because it sounded like too much walking through the foothills but now I am a fan and its great option to get in and out quick. Most treks to Annapurna Base Camp make a loop that includes Poon Hill and lengthens the trekking time by several days. If you want to skip Poon Hill and just do Annapurna Base Camp ask us and we can shorten the itinerary by a few days.

Trekking Everest

The route to Everest has more up and down elevation gain so it is probably a bit more difficult. Everest trek is also colder and drier because of the higher elevations. Trekkers usually hike the Everest trail to get to the fluttering prayer flags of Basecamp, where many expeditions wait until their big ascents in May. The altitude is higher (you’ll reach 3420 meters in Namche Bazaar on Day 2), and you’re constantly surrounded by knife-like peaks. Gyoko Lakes and the lesser-trekked passes at Cho La are great detours from the usual trail, and Island Peak will get you some of the best views in the Himalayas.

Trekking Annapurna

If you’re unsure of your mountaineering abilities, Annapurna is a slightly less taxing circuit. Annapurna Base Camp is also quite a bit lower in elevation 4,130m vs. 5,380m of Everest. If you anticipate problems with altitude, Annapurna might be the better option. Plus, instead of being funnelled into the Khumbu Valley on Everest, you can choose from a variety of trails, some of which don’t exceed 2000m in altitude. The descents on Annapurna are also a bit gentler, which can help the knees in the long run. And don’t discount the advantage of a circuit route: trekking new terrain every day without ever retracing your steps.

Getting there – Everest

Hillary and Tenzing had to schlep it on foot all the way from Kathmandu in the 50s. No roads existed at the time. These days it’s a little easier, and travellers can take a short (and spectacular) flight from Kathmandu to the tiny airstrip at Lukla. The views on the way in, and the way out, are worth the journey alone. But the domestic flights in Nepal don’t have the world’s greatest track record for safety and the thought of flying on a small plane into the short airstrip at Lukla can be a concern, especially if you don’t like flying. I have met several trekkers who hiked all the way into Lukla from Jiri just because they wanted to avoid the flight.

Getting there – Annapurna

The gateway to the Annapurna’s is the cool little town of Pokhara, sitting on the shores of the gorgeous Phewa Lake. Pokhara can reached by bus and car from Kathmandu. So if you don’t like flying it’s a good option and since it does not require a flight it’s also the cheaper trek which is always a plus. Pokhara is a laid back place where you happily spend a week with a good book. Plus the mountain views from the lake is amazing as well.

Communities – Everest

The valleys around Everest are traditionally the home of the Sherpa people who follow Buddhism. If you are interested in Buddhist traditions the Everest region is definitely of more interest and all along the trail you will find many Mani stones with carved Buddhist mantras as well as small temples and prayer wheels. You can feel the strong sense of spirituality as you pass through. Tibetan traders still visit the village of Namche Bazaar, as they’ve done for centuries, and in fact word Sherpa actually means ‘east people’ (the Sherpas migrated east from Tibet long ago). If you’re trekking the Everest trail in March or April, you’ll probably come across professional teams looking to make their summit climb in May.

Communities – Annapurna

The Annapurna Circuit passes through a lot of rural settlements where small farming communities cling to the sides of valleys and life is pretty much as it was a hundred years ago. You’ll meet the Gurung people here, especially in the village of Ghandruk. Along with the Buddhist chants that dominate the Everest region, there are traces of Hinduism and Animism in the Annapurnas, which give the trail a slightly different vibe. If you’re looking for more local flavour from your trek, Annapurna is probably the stronger choice.

People from all walks of life are drawn to Nepal to experience the incredible Himalaya. Whether it is witnessing the windswept summits of the world’s highest mountains, an early morning visit to a monastery high in the Himalaya, or sipping on a cup of warm Nepali tea with your trekking crew as you watch the sunrise over the mountains, we are sure you will find your adventure in Nepal with Nepal Wanders inspiring and rewarding. Far from the rush of the modern world, and in the delightful company of our trek crew, you will settle into a daily rhythm in the mountains that is immensely enjoyable. Our dedicated and experienced crew will take excellent care of you, helping you to relax, stay healthy and enjoy the beauty of Nepal. Their warmth and openness will give you an insight into their culture that will add a deeper dimension to your adventure. The camaraderie within your group that gradually develops on the trail, and the unexpected friendships you form with the locals you meet, will be highlights of travelling in this wonderful country.

Nepal’s population of around 30 million people practice a blend of Hindu, Buddhist and traditional animist religion. While Nepal is a predominantly rural society, with 90% of the population living outside metropolitan areas, Kathmandu is rapidly urbanizing with a population of around 1 million. With over 100 different ethnic groups and languages, and an unparalleled concentration of World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal offers a fascinating cultural tapestry like few places on earth.