Nepal is a blend of ancient history, vibrant cultures, and scenic grandeur. Located between China and India, Nepal’s main geographical features include snow-capped 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 kilometres 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 is carried out. With the variety of adventure options, the country is a favourite among adventures lovers.
Trekking is the highlight of a visit to Nepal. The range of geographical features, the 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 Manaslu 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 numerous 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 horse basis from nearby areas. Pokhara and Chitwan are accessible both by air and road from Kathmandu. A wide variety of accommodation and other facilities are easily available in both 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 visitors 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 quite challenging. There are 23 trekking peaks opened by the Government. Mountaineering teams can apply for the 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 companies 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 a headache, loss of appetite and sleeplessness. Immediate descent or evacuation to the lower altitude is the best cure for AMS.
Mountain flights offer 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 paragliding veterans and novices. Three-day introduction course is offered to beginners, and tandem flights where one can fly with the instructor are also offered.
Ultralight aircraft 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 every day 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 a water sport. Approximately 118 varieties of freshwater fish are found in the Himalayan 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 sports option is canyoning to explore hidden landscapes. Rafting trips are usually planned in the dry seasons from October through mid-December and March through 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 skills by hanging themselves on cliffs as high as 300 meters using bamboo ladders and hemp ropes while harvesting the honeycombs.
Licensed hunting is allowed in Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve in the 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 acquiring a license from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation in Kathmandu and is restricted to a certain time 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 facilities 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. A trip to these places can be combined with hiking, bird watching, nature tours and other activities. Nagarjuna, 3 kilometres from Kathmandu city can be reached via Balaju near the New Bus Park. Shivapuri can be reached via Budhanilkantha which is 9 kilometres 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 raging Bhote Koshi river in the northern part of the country. The site is located close to the Nepal-China border at Barahbise and is a 3-hour bus ride from Kathmandu. A package deal includes the jump, bus ride to the site and meals. Accommodation and other facilities are available in Barahbise.
The tropical jungles of Nepal’s Terai preserve some of the best wildlife habitats in the subcontinent. Jungle safaris on the elephant back or jeep rides are offered at Chitwan National 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 is 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 roads and trails offer a chance to go on extended trips to exotic locales like Annapurna and Kanchenjunga areas. 21 to 27 gear bicycles are recommended when riding through the Himalayan terrain. Mountain bikes are available for rent at numerous bicycle rental outlets in and around Kathmandu or Pokhara. Riders can explore rims and ridges of Kathmandu and Pokhara through off routes that weave in and out of the cities. Food and accommodation facilities are available along the main trails. It is recommended to use the service of licensed biking companies.