The Most Dramatic Landscape on Earth
Nepal is a blend of ancient history, vibrant cultures and scenic grandeur. Located between China and India, Nepal’s main geographical features include snow-caped peaks, lower mountains, mid hills and fertile Terai plains of tropical jungles. Nearly one-third f the total length of Himalayas and 8 of the world’s 14 highest peaks are in Nepal. The landlocked country covers an area of 147,181 sq kilometers ranging from 70 meters to the highest point at 8.848 meters above sea level. Nepal’s popularity as a tourist destination has increased vastly over the years. While trekking and mountaineering have long been popular, an entire range of other activities are carried out. With the variety of adventure options, the country is a favorite among adventures lovers.
Trekking is the highlight of a visit to Nepal. The range of geographical features, variety of vegetation and rich Himalayan culture award trekkers with unique trekking experience. Thousands of visitors trek to different parts of Nepal every year to experience the charm of nature and culture. Most treks go through altitude between 1,000 to 4,000 meters, while some popular parts reach over 5,000 meters.
Protected regions along the Himalayas like Shey-Phoksundo, Langtang, Sagarmatha, Makalu-Barun,Rara, Kanchenjunga and Shivapuri national parks, and Annapurna and Manasly conversation areas, provide excellent trekking options. For group trekkers arrangement for food and accommodation are managed by trekking crew, while independent trekkers can find night rest and food halt at small lodges and tea houses that dot the main trails. Independent trekkers should be self sufficient. As per new regulations, all trekkers are required to carry TIMS card on their trek.
From glacier-fed lakes up north to where rivers ease into the Terai plains, there are numurous lakes in Nepal where tourists can experience the pleasures of boating. With famous lakes like Phewa, Begnas and Rupa, Pokhara is known as the lake city and a popular place to go boating.
In the Terai, one can go canoeing on Narayani or Rapti rivers near Chitwan National Park. Boats and canoes can be rented from local dealers on hourse basis from nearyby areas. Pokhara and Chitwan are accessible both by air and road from Kathmandu. A wide variety of accommodation and other facilites are easily available in both the places.
Mountaineering is the prime attraction of Nepal. The mountains of Nepal have stood as irresistible landmarks for the world’s adventures since Nepal opened its doors to visitos in the 1950s. Mountaineering can range from climbing the highest peaks over 8000 meters to climbing lower peaks which even though considered minor by Himalayas standards are technically quiet challenging. There are 23 trekking peaks opened by the Government. Mountaieering teams can apply for permit at mountaineering section of the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation.
Climbers gears can be bought or rented in Kathmandu and Pokhara. Many of the mountaineering and trekking comapnies also offer packages, where they provide gear, food, transportation, guides, porter services and also arrange for insurance coverage. Orientation on altitude sickness, acclimatization process and safety measures is a must for every mountaineer. The fatal sickness, also known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) can be dangerous for climbers ascending 3,000 meters and above. Symptoms include headache, loss of appetite and sleeplessness. Immediate sescent or evacuation to lower altitude is the best cure for AMS.
Mountain flights offers a luxurious option of Himalayas experience. The one-hour mountain flight takes one close to some of the highest peaks in the world including Mt. Everest. One can clearly see and identify the peaks, and see the Himalayan landscape and glaciers during the flight. The peaks seen are Gosaithan, Dorje Lhakpa, Phurbi Chyachu, Choba Bhamare, Gaurishankar, Melungtse, Chugimago, Number, Karyolung, Cho-Oyu, Gyachungkang, Pumori, Nuptse and of course Mt. Everest. Mountain Flights are offered by several airlines especially in the morning from the domestic airport in Kathmandu.
Paragliding in Nepal gives the opportunity to experience an aerial view of the Himalayas. Pokhara, the beautiful lakeside town at the foot of the Annapurna mountains offers paragliding services. There are various deals for the paragliding veterans and novices. Three-day introduction course is offered to beginners, and tandem flights where one can fly with instructor are also offered.
Ultralight aircrafts offer breathtaking bird’s eye view of Pokhara valley and the surrounding mountains. Flights are operated almost throughout the year except during the monsoons June through August. Flights take place from sunrise to 11 am and from 3 pm to sunset everyday provided the weather is not rainy. In the half hour flight, one can fly over Pokhara city, Phewa Lake, Sarangkot hill and get close to the Mt. Fishtail. Another option is the exploration of Annapurna range from 12,000 feet or higher in an hour. Pokhara is easily accessible from Kathmandu, Chitwan and other major towns.
Angling is gaining popularity in Nepal as water sport. Approxmately 118 varieties of fresh water fish are found in the Himalayn rivers ranging from the much sought after Mahseer to the mountain stream trout varieties. Fishing trips on white waters are generally organized before and after the monsoons from February through April and October through November.
Rafting is one of the most exciting ways of exploring Nepal. Options range from paddle rafting a team to Kayaking alone in the water. Yet another extremely popular water sport option is canyoning to explore hidden landscapes. Rafting trips are usually planned in the dry seasons from October through mid December and March throguh early May. The Government has opened 16 rivers graded on a scale of 1 to 5 for commercial rafting. Since safety is of utmost importance, choosing a well reputed rafting company is recommended. It is also important to observe all the safety rules and precautions provided by the river guide.
Honey hunting is an age old tradition in Nepal. Local honey hunters show their exceptional skilss by hanging themselves on cliffs as high as 300 meters using bamboo ladders and hemp ropes, while harvesting the honeycombs.
Licenced hunting is allowed in Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve in Western part of Nepal, Dhorpatan is the prime habitat of blue sheep, ghoral, serow, Himalayan Thar, black bear, pheasant and partridge. Endangered species here are chir pheasant and red panda. Hunting is allowed only after accuring license from the Department of National Paks and Wildlife Conservation in Kathmandu and is restricted to a certain times in a year. Most hunting trips are planned in spring and onset of autumn from February through April and August through October. Dhorpatan is a 4 day trek fro Baglung which is 72 km from Pokhara. Accommodation facilites are available in tented camps offered by agencies or at one of the village houses.
Rock climbing is a challenging sport for outdoor lovers. Most of the areas for rock climbing are situated towards the north of Kathmandu in the Nagarjun forest and Shivapuri National Park areas. Trip to these places can be combined with hiking, bird watching, nature tours and other activities. Nagarjun, 3 kilometers from Kathmandu city can be reached via Balaju near the New Bus Park. Shivapuri, can be reached via Budhanilkantha which is 9 kilometers outside the city area in Kathmandu.
The ultimate thrill of bungy jumping is offered at one of the best sites in the world. Nepal’s bungy jumping site is situated 160 meters over the ranging Bhote Koshi river in the northern part of the country. The site is located close to the Nepal-China border at Barahbise and is 3 hour bus ride from Kathmandu. A package deal includes the jumo, bus ride to the site and meals. Accommodation and other facilites are available in Barahbise.
The tropical jungles of Nepal’s Terai preserve some of the best wildlife habitat in the subcontinent. Jungle safaris on the elephant back or jeep rides are offered at Chitwan Natioanl Park, Bardia National Park, Parsa Wildlife Reserve and Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve, all located in Terai. Winter months here are temperate while summer and monsoons are hot and humid. A wide range of tourist facilities are available in and around the areas.
Nepal’s diverse terrain is a mountain biker’s dream. Biking offers an environmentally sound way of exploring the country. It is possible to go biking the entire length of Nepal. Centuries old dirt roades and trails offer a chance to go on extended trips to exoitic locales like Annapurna and kanchenjunga areas. 21 to 27 gear bicycles are recommended when riding through Himalayan terrain. Mountain bikes are available for rent at numurous bycycle rental outlets in and around Kathmandu or Pokhara. Ridrs can explore rims and ridges of Kathmandu and Pokhara through off routes that weave in and out of the cities. Food and accommodation facilites are available along the main trails. It is recommended to use the service of licensed biking companies.