- One must be a fox in order to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten off wolves. Machiavelli Niccolo
Nepal draws visitors who come for a variety of reasons. Some are lured by the call of the mountains and seeking to climb or trek in the Himalayas, others are intrigued by the culture and the famous city of Kathmandu, and yet others come hoping to find some sort of spiritual awakening. Nepal can be an adrenaline adventure, a cultural eye opener, or a life-changing experience, depending on the itinerary and mindset of the traveler. Trekkers will find a variety of options, with the most popular areas being the Everest, Annapurna, and Langtang regions.
In 2015, a major earthquake struck Nepal, causing severe damage in Kathmandu and other areas of the country. So you have to check on local conditions before visiting.
Tourist Attractions in Nepal
Kathmandu, the capital and largest city in Nepal, is like no other city in the world. The decaying buildings in the heart of the city are a contrast to the lively atmosphere that permeates the streets. The smell of incense wafts from the stores while street sellers push their wares, and people go about their daily lives, all against a backdrop of historic temples and carved statues.
The highlight of Kathmandu has long been Durbar Square, the largest of the palace squares in the three royal cities and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Bhaktapur, the third of the "Royal Cities," lies on the old trade route to Tibet, just outside of Kathmandu. For Bhaktapur, the trade route was both an arterial link and major source of wealth. Its relative remoteness at the time allowed the city to develop independently and in ways which distinguish it from the other two cities. In contrast to Patan and Kathmandu, the population of Bhaktapur is primarily Hindu. The best place from which to begin a tour of the city is Durbar Square, where in addition to the royal palace, several temples are also situated. The whole area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Trekking in the Annapurna Region
The Annapurna Region is one of the most popular trekking regions in Nepal, with trekking options of a few days to a few weeks. There are three main routes in the Annapurna Region, which intersect and combine in places, but trekkers can opt to do a portion or a variation on the routes. The Annapurna Circuit around Annapurna Mountain takes about 21 days to complete and is incredibly popular with people who have enough time.
In many regards, the Annapurna Region, north of Pokhara, is an ideal walking area. The dramatic contrasts of the Nepalese countryside are especially visible, from the subtropical vegetation of the Pokhara Valley to the dry rain shadow area, with features of the Tibetan plateau. The people and cultures are also very different: facial characteristics, houses, lifestyles, customs, and religion.
Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park is the place to come to experience a different side of Nepal, apart from the hiking and the intrigue of Kathmandu. This is the place for wildlife viewing and a safari-type atmosphere. At an altitude of only 100 meters in some areas, much lower than Kathmandu at 1400 meters, this area has a tropical monsoon climate, usually quite different than what most people expect to find in Nepal. Visitors come here primarily to see wildlife. Tours from the lodges take visitors out into the park, either on foot, or more often, on elephants for close-up views of the animals.
Chitwan lies southwest of Kathmandu close to the Indian frontier and is included in the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage sites. The best time to visit Chitwan is from October to February.
Trekking in the Langtang Region
The Langtang Region, home to Langtang National Park, is an incredible area for hiking, with some high passes, extensive views, old monasteries, and beautiful mountain scenery with rhododendron forests that bloom during the spring hiking season. It is less developed than some of the other popular trekking areas in Nepal and generally less busy on the trails, despite its close proximity to Kathmandu. There are villages with guesthouses and food all along the route, although somewhat more spread out than in other trekking regions.
Everest and the Trek to Base Camp
The summit of Mount Everest, the highest mountain on earth, reaches 8,848 meters (29,028 feet) high. Trekking in the Mount Everest area became popular following the now legendary first ascent of the peak in 1953 by Edmund Hillary from New Zealand and the Sherpa Tensing Norgay. Since that time, many more have summited the mountain, but far more trek the route to Everest Base Camp simply for a glimpse of the peak far above. In recent years the mountain has seen its fair share of tragedy and drama. The 2015 earthquake and previous avalanches, along with disputes between climbers on the mountain, have left their mark on Everest trekking and climbing.