Nepal- a sandwitch country in Southern Asia, between the himalayan country Tibet and India near bhutan. Nepal has eight of the world's 10 highest peaks, including Mount Everest - the world's tallest - on the border with Tibet, and and Lumbini, the birth place of lord Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Nepal recently was declared a republican state and has abolished the monarchy.
Nepal is divided in three regions
1- Himalayan regions
2- Hilly Regions
3- Terai Regions
- Emergence of Shah Dynasty from Gorkha
Within the Chaubisi kingdoms of the Gandaki basin, Gorkha was a small valley east of Pokhara ruled by a Khas family now called Shah, an honorific title that may have come later, however any earlier name seems to be forgotten. In 1743 A.D. Prithvi Narayan Shah became the ruler of Gorkha after his father Nara Bhupal Shah died. Prithvi Narayan already had a reputation as a hotheaded upstart. Resolving to modernize Gorkha's army, he was bringing modern arms from India when customs officers demanded inspection and payment of duties. Prithvi Narayan refused and attacked the officers, killing several before escaping with his arms and men. He also visited Benares to study the situation of local rulers and the growing encroachment of British interests. Prithvi concluded that invasion was a chronic danger to rulers on the plains of northern India, whereas the hills were more defensible and offered more scope to carve out a lasting empire.
- Kathmandu Valley (Bagmati)
Prithvi Narayan must have been a charismatic figure, for he recruited, equipped and trained a formidable army and persuaded his subjects to underwrite all this from his ascension until his death in 1775. Through conquest and treaty, he consolidated several Chaubisi kingdoms. As his domain expanded, Khaskura became known as Gorkhali, i.e. the language of the Gorkha kingdom. Then he moved east into the next river basin, the Bagmati which drains the Kathmandu Valley that held three small but prosperous urban kingdoms. Like the Rapti, the Bagmati rises somewhat south of the Himalaya. Unlike the Rapti basin, this valley had once held a large lake and the remaining alluvial soil was exceptionally fertile. Between the agricultural abundance, local crafts, and extensive trade with Tibet, the cities were prosperous. Prithvi Narayan encircled the valley, cutting off trade and restricting ordinary activities, even farming and getting water. With a combination of stealth, brutality and intimidation he he prevailed and deposed the local kings in 1769, making Kathmandu his new capital. This was the high point of Prithvi Narayan's career, however he continued consolidating the Kathmandu Valley with the Chaubisi and Baisi federations to the west until his death in 1775. Gorkhali was re-dubbed Nepali as 'Nepal' came to mean not only the urbanized Kathmandu Valley, but all lands ruled by the Shahs.
Prithvi Narayan's heirs Pratap Singh, Rana Bahadur and Girvan Yuddha continued expansion of their kingdom into the Koshi river basin east of the Bagmati system. Like the Gandaki, the Koshi traditionally has seven major tributaries descending from the Himalaya before joining forces to break through the Mahabharat and Siwalik ranges. Ranges drained by Koshi tributaries include Mount Everest and its neighboring peaks, as well as the western side of the Kangchenjunga massif. Kangchenjunga and a high ridge to the south are the watershed between the Koshi and Tista basins as well as the border between Nepal and the former kingdom Sikkim that India annexed it in 1975.
The Shah dynasty's expansion continued eastward across Sikkim and westward across Kumaon and beyond Dehra Dun to the Sutlej River, until the British declared war in 1814 and finally defeated Nepalese forces in 1816. The British wanted a buffer state between British India and the Chinese empire that ultimately controlled Tibet, so it trimmed Nepal back approximately to its present size and let it remain independent.
- Informal Settlement in Sikkim and Bhutan
Nevertheless Nepalese eastward colonization beyond the Kosi continued informally, still driven by high birthrates. By the 1800s land-hungry Nepalis were settling in the Tista basin, which happened to be a different country, Sikkim. In the 1900s they were settling beyond Sikkim in the kingdom of Bhutan. This kingdom -- where late marriage and low population densities prevailed among the indigenous, culturally Tibetan population -- saw the demographic writing on the wall and expelled as many as 100,000 Nepalis in 1990.
- Caste, Ethnicity, Religion and languages
The caste and ethnic groups of Nepal according to the 2001 census are classified into five main categories: (a)Castes originating from Hindu groups (b) Newars (c) the ethnic groups or janajati (d) Muslims (e)Others.
Hindu castes migrated from India to Nepal after 11th century due to Muslim invasion of northern India. The traditional Hindu caste system is based on the four Varna Vyawastha "the class system" of Brahman (Bahun) priests, scholars and advisors; Kshatriya (Chhetri) rulers and warriors, Vaishya (merchants); Shudra (farmers and menial occupations not considered polluting). Below the Shudra Dalit perform 'polluting' work such as tanning and cleaning latrines. However the middle Vaishya and Shudra are underrepresented in the hills, apparently because they did not have compelling reason to leave the plains while Muslim invaders tried to eliminate previous elites. Dalits seem to have accompanied the upper castes into the hills because they were bound by longstanding patronage arrangements.
Traditional caste rules govern who can eat with whom, especially when boiled rice is served, and who can accept water from whom. Until the 1950s these rules were enforced by law.
Dalits are subject to caste-based discrimination and so called ‘untouchability’ in social, economic, educational, political and religious areas. The National Dalit Commission (2002) categorized 28 cultural groups as Dalits. Some argue that the use of the term Dalit will never ever help to abolish caste-based untouchability. (Literally, 'Dalit' translates to 'suppressed' in Nepali.) There are suggestions that the term should not be used because it not only breeds inferiority but is also insulting.
Newars -- the indigenous people of the Kathmandu valley -- follow both Hinduism and Buddhism. According to the 2001 census they can be classified into 40 distinct cultural groups, but all speak a common language called Nepal bhasa (Newa bhaaya). Newars use prevailing lingua francas to communicate outside their community: Nepali in the hills and Maithili, Bhojpuri and Awadhi in the Terai.
The ethnic groups of the hills, Terai and mountain areas are grouped as Janajati. According to the National Foundation for Development of Indigenous Nationalities (NFDIN), ethnic groups are those “who have their own mother tongue and traditional customs, a distinct cultural identity, a distinct social structure and written or oral history all of their own" (NFDIN, 2003). A total of 61 Adibasi Janajatis have been recognised by the Nepal Government, 5 are from the mountain regions, 20 from the Hills, 7 from inner Terai and 11 from the Terai region. A Janajati is a community who has its own mother tongue and traditional culture and yet does not fall under the conventional fourfold Varna of the Hindu system or the Hindu hierarchical caste structure. Many of these ethnic groups are Hinduized to some degree, although Hindu practices supplement rather than replace more ancient beliefs and practices. Unlike the Hindus, many indigenous nationalities of Nepal such as the Sherpa people as well as the people of Muslim & Christian faiths, have a culture of eating beef.
Other caste and ethnic groups included in the ‘other’ category are; Sikhs, Christians, Bengalis, and Marawadis.
Different indigenous nationalities are in different stages of development. Some indigenous nationalities are nomads, e.g. Raute, and some are forest dwellers, e.g. Chepang and Bankaria. Most of the indigenous nationalities rely on agriculture and pastoralism and very few are cosmopolitan, e.g. Newar.
The census of 2001 has listed 8 religions—Hindu, Buddhist, Islam, Kiranti, Christian, Jain, Sikh and Bahai. In addition, are animism or Bon are still practiced. Hindu comprises 80.6% and other religions are 19.4%.
Nepal has a Monsoonal climate with four main seasons - though traditionally a year was categorized into six distinct climate periods: Basanta (spring), Grishma (early summer), Barkha (summer monsoon), Sharad (early autumn), Hemanta (late autumn) and Shishir (winter).
- Below is a general guide to conditions at different seasons:
Heavy monsoonal rains from June to September - the rains are generally lighter high in the Himalayas than in Kathmandu, though the mountain peaks are often lost in cloud.
Clear and cool weather from October to December - after the monsoon, there is little dust in the air so this is the best season to visit the hilly and mountainous regions.
Cold from January to March, with the temperature in Kathmandu often dropping as low as 0°C (32°F) at night, with extreme cold at high elevations. It is possible to trek in places like the Everest region during the winter, but it is extremely cold and snow fall may prevent going above 4,000 - 4,500 meters (13,000 - 15,000 feet). The Jomosom trek is a reasonable alternative, staying below 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) with expected minimum temperatures about -10°C (14°F) (and much better chances of avoiding heavy snow.)
Dry and warm weather from April to June - there is an abundance of blooming flowers in the Himalayas at this time, with rhododendrons, in particular, adding a splash of color to the landscape. Terai temperatures may reach or exceed 40°C (104°F) while Kathmandu temperatures are about 30°C (86°F). This is the best time to undertake mountain expeditions.
The recording of temperatures and rainfall of the major locations across Nepal was started in 1962 and their averages provides a reference point for analyzing the climate trend.
Nepal is officially divided into 14 administrative zones and five development regions, but travellers might be more comfortable with the conceptual division below (based on the country's elevation). From north to south:
The roof of the world, including Mount Everest, Annapurna and Langtang National Park with numerous sightseeing, trekking, and other adventure sport opportunities.
Home to Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, this is the heart of Nepal and a crossroads of cultures with numerous sacred temples and monuments.
The Hill Region (Pahar in Nepali) is mostly between 700 and 4,000 meters altitude. This region is split from the Terai Range by the Mahabharat Lekh (Lesser Himalaya) and forms a geographic midlands between the Terai and the Himalayas. It includes the scenic Pokhara valley, a popular base for activities in the area.
The western side of the Terai mountain range with the Royal Chitwan and Royal Bardia National Parks.
Quite a populated area with Biratnagar, Nepal's second largest municipality.
* Kathmandu — capital and cultural center of Nepal, with the stupas at Boudhanath and Swayambu
* Bhaktapur — well-preserved historical city, center of Nepali pottery making
* Biratnagar — this city is in eastern Nepal near Dharan and famous for political reason
* Birgunj — business gateway between India and Nepal. It is in mid-southern Nepal
* Janakpur — a historical religious centre and home to the 500-year old Janaki Temple
* Namche Bazaar — a Sherpa settlement located in the Solu Khumbu region - popular with trekkers
* Nepalgunj — the main hub for the Mid- and Far-Western Development Region; Bardiya National Park is close-by
* Patan — sister-city of Kathmandu and metal working center
* Pokhara — picturesque lake-side town fast becoming the destination of choice for travelers due to the scenery, adventure sports, hotels and live music scene
Locked between the snow peaks of the Himalayas and the seething Ganges plain, Nepal has long been home to wandering ascetics and tantric yogis. Consequently, the country has a wealth of sacred sites and natural wonders:
* Annapurna — popular trekking region of Nepal with the world-famous Annapurna Circuit
* Chitwan National Park — see tigers, rhinos and animals in the jungle
* Daman — tiny village in the mountains offering panoramic views of the Himalayas; especially stunning at sunrise and sunset
* Haleshi (Tibetan: Maratika) — the site of a mountain cave where Padmasambhava attained a state beyond life and death
* Lumbini — the sacred site of the Buddha Shakyamuni's birth
* Mount Everest — the tallest peak of the world in the Khumbu region
* Nagarkot — a hill station one hour from Kathmandu offering excellent views of the Himalayan Range
* Parping — the site of several sacred caves associated with Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism
See also: Sacred sites of the Indian sub-continent.
Visas for citizens of most countries are available on arrival at the land borders and at the airport in Kathmandu at a cost of US$25 for 15 days, US$40 for 30 days and US$100 for 90 days multiple entry visa. Tourist visa can be granted for a maximum of 150 days in a visa year. You can pay this in Nepali Rupees, US dollars or Indian rupees. The Nepali Rupee is tied to the Indian Rupee at a rate of 1.6. Note 500 Indian Rupee notes are not accepted. To obtain a visa, you need to bring one passport photo.
Entry points for foreigners are Tribhuvan International Airport (Kathmandu), Kakarvitta, Jhapa (Eastern Nepal), Birganj, Parsa (Central Nepal), Kodari, Sindhupalchowk (Northern Border) ,Belahia, Bhairahawa (Rupandehi, Western Nepal), Jamunaha, Nepalgunj (Banke, Mid Western Nepal), Mohana, Dhangadhi (Kailali, Far Western Nepal), Gaddachauki, and Mahendranagar (Kanchanpur, Far Western Nepal).
The ceasefire signed by the Maoists has seen the opening up of routes with new airlines in the country. There are direct flights from Kathmandu to Bangkok , Singapore , Hong Kong with Dragon Air/Cathay Pacific . ArkeFly  flies direct to Europe (Amsterdam, Netherlands). Many European destinations can be reached via Doha with Qatar Airways , Abu Dhabi with Ethihad , Dubai with Emirates , Bahrain with Gulf Air . Flights are also available via Delhi on Jet Airways and UAE on Air Arabia.
Nepal's Tribhuvan International Airport is located just outside of the Ring Road in Kathmandu. The terminal is a one-room brick building with a large wooden table serving as both customs and immigration. Tourist visa of 15 days or more is available on arrival. Money can be changed to the local currency as well, but these services are only available directly after scheduled arrivals.
Outside the airport, all 'representatives' of the tourist industry are required to remain 10 meters (about 30 feet) from the front door. This does not prevent them from waving large signs and yelling in an attempt to encourage you to choose them as your guide/taxi/hotel/luggage carrier. Make your choice before crossing the line, or better yet, arrange your first night's accommodation before you arrive and ask the hotel to send someone to meet you. Many hotel and guest houses offer complimentary pick up and delivery from the airport. Fixed priceTaxis are also available before you exit the building but you may get a cheaper fair if you are willing to haggle!. As always, negotiate the price beforehand with the driver. A taxi ride to Thamel or Boudha should be around 300 NRS. Otherwise, order a taxi at the pre-paid booth inside the airport, which costs 400+NRs (and rising). This is more than the normal taxi rate, but it saves the hassle of long negotiations.
By car or motorcycle
Car rental in Nepal is almost unheard of, as is renting a car in India and taking it across the border.
Many travellers drive from India on Royal Enfield motorcycles. Technically, foreigners have to pay customs at the borders but most don't bother. Selling the bike in Nepal is easy as other travelers are looking for bikes to ride back to India.
If you are coming from India you will find driving in Nepal a lot less chaotic! The roads are amazing and the new east-west highway currently under construction with support from the Japanese will open up new destinations for those interested in exploring Nepal by motor-bike.
Please check before hiring a motorbike on the current state of fuel. At time of writing (13DEC 09) there was large problems with fuel supply which can leave riders stranded. At time of writing, bike hire should be no more than 500Rs a day (Pulsar, Hero Honda, scooter) unless you are hiring an Indian Enfield.
Hirers are also notorious for trying to charge tourists large amounts of money on returning the bike for 'damage payment' that may not have been from you. Therefore make sure a thorough damage assessment with the hirer is carried out before departing and if the hirer tries to scam you on return go to local police.
There are Five border crossings open to tourists. The Sunauli-Bhairawa border crossing is the closest to Varanasi, the Raxaul-Birganj crossing to Patna, Kolkata, and Siliguri-Kakarbhitta is to Darjeeling. The Banbassa-Mahendrenagar border crossing in the extreme west of Nepal, is the closest to Delhi. The bahraich-Nepalganj border is the one closest to Lucknow which is the easiest destination by air or train from Delhi.
The crossing between Nepal and Tibet via Kodari is open to independent travelers entering Nepal, but only to organised groups entering Tibet.
A cargo train began operating between Sirsiya in southern Nepal, and the Indian town of Raxaul in 2003. Internal train network is limited to few kilometers of train network in Janakpur
* Micro Bus has become very popular lately. They are 10-12 seater with very fast service. It has almost replaced local bus service given its fast service. However, apart from previous few routes, Micro Bus has come up with many other alternate routes and now has got good coverage. The fare is more expensive than the local bus.
* Super Express Bus - or 'Supper Express' as the ticket says is somewhere between a micro and a local bus. These generally depart between 5 - 7AM and do not stop to pick up locals along the way. People are not allowed to sit on the roof. The 'supper express' is more expensive than a local bus but cheaper, (and faster) than the micro.
* Local Bus - Although the system can be confusing they are cheap. They can be crowded at times both with people and domestic animals such as goats, ducks etc. Some buses will not depart until full to a certain quota.
* Tourist Bus - Book a few days ahead at a Kathmandu or Pokhara travel agent (or your hotel will book for you). A few steps above local buses (no goats, everyone gets a seat) but not much safer. "Greenline" is the most reliable company and has trips between Kathmndu, Chitwan, Lumbini and Pokhara.
* Rickshaw - Good for short jaunts if you don't have much luggage and don't mind being bounced around a bit. Bargain before you get in, and don't be afraid to walk away and try another.
* Tempo - These come in two types. One is a three wheeled electric or propane powered micro-bus for 10-13 passengers. They run in different routes around the city and cost 5-12 NRs. The other type is a newer Toyota van running the same routes at a higher price and a bit faster and safer. Be prepared for a crowd
* Taxis - There are two types of taxi -- "private", which pretty much run from the airport to your (upscale) hotel; and "10 Rupee", which don't leave until they are full. When haggling for fare remember that Taxi drivers have been hit hard by the petrol crisis sometimes queing up overnight to get 5 litres of petrol at twice the market price. So be sympathetic but don’t get ripped off! Offer to pay 'meter plus tip', 10% is more than enough.
* Tram - The old-fashioned street cable-car that ran from Kathmandu (near the stadium) to Bhaktapur is currently closed due to 'non-existing maintenance' and the fact that none of the drivers paid for the power.
* Custom or classic motorcycle - Run by a European couple, Hearts and Tears in Pokhara offer lessons, guided tours and rental of 350cc and 500cc Royal Enfield bikes. In Kathmandu, Himalayan Enfields (behind the Israeli Embassy on Lazimpat)sells/rents good bikes and does repairs. The official Enfield dealer in Nepal is in Balaju Industrial Estate off the Ring Road.
* Local motorcycle - Another choice is to rent a small motorcycle. And it can be rented in the Thamel area. Again with the petrol crisis, motorcycle rental has become a costly choice, depending on availabily 1 litre of petrol will cost you 120-250 NRs on top of the rental fee (300-800NRs).
* On Foot - although motor roads are penetrating further into the hinterlands, many destinations can only be reached by foot (or helicopter). See the section on trekking, below.
The great biological and cultural diversity of present-day Nepal is matched by its linguistic diversity. Nepal boasts a variety of living languages many of which are remnants of the traditional Asiatic cultural amalgamation in the region. impressively large number for a country with a small land mass like Nepal. Nepal has more distinct and individual languages in one country than the whole of the European community.
The official language of Nepal is Nepali. It's related to Hindi, Punjabi, and other Indo-Aryan languages, and is normally written with the Devanagari script (as is Hindi). While most Nepali speak at least some Nepali, a large percentage of the population has as their mother tongue another language, such as Tharu around Chitwan, Newari in the Kathmandu Valley, and Sherpa in the Everest area.
Although Nepal was never a British colony, proximity to India has made English somewhat widespread among educated Nepalis. Nevertheless learning even a few words of Nepali is fun and useful, especially outside of the tourist district and while trekking.As Asian languages go, Nepali has to be one of the easiest to learn, and the traveler making the effort isn't likely to make worse blunders than many natives with a different first language.
A disturbingly large number of Nepal’s mother tongues are severely endangered and will likely be reduced to symbolic identity markers within a generation. So why not try to pick up a few phrases!
A total of 101,320 trekkers visited Nepal in 2007. Out of total 60,237 (59.4%) visited Annapurna area while those visiting the Everest and Langtang regions accounted for 26,511 (26.5%) and 8,165 (8.1%) respectively.
"Tea-House Trekking" is the easiest way to trek as it doesn't require support. Tea Houses have now developed into full-scale tourist lodges with hot showers, pizza, pasta and beer. The day's hikes are between lodge-filled settlements or villages: there's no need for tents, food, water, or beer-- all those things, plus luxuries such as apple-pie, can be purchased along the way. Physical requirements go from very soft to strenuous.
Facilities available in remote areas are less extensive than in the more popular areas. It may be advisable to visit such regions with organised groups, including guide, porters and full support. Manaslu, Kanchenjunga, Dolpo, Mustang and Humla are in remote areas. Many of them require also special permits.
Annapurna Region Treks
* Annapurna Circuit: A 2-3 week trek around the Annapurna mountains, leads up the Maryangdi river to Manang, over Thorung La (5400m) to the Hindu temples at Muktinath. Down the Kali Gandaki on the Jomsom trail- The last week of the Annapurna Circuit, done in the opposite direction. Known as the "Apple-Pie Trek" partly for crossing the apple growing region of Nepal, and partly for being one of the easier treks, enjoying Gurung and Thakali hospitality. Up through spring rhododendron blooms to Poon Hill for a dawn Himalayan vista. Another shorter but spectacular mini-circuit is the Nayapul-Ghandruk-Ghorepani-PoonHill-Nayapul route.
* Annapurna Sanctuary: A trek up into the very heart of the range provides an awesome 360 degree high mountain skyline.
Everest Region Treks
Everest lies in the region known as Khumbu - To get here, take a bus to Jiri or fly to Lukla then hike up to Namche Bazzar, capital of the Sherpa lands at the foot of Everest. Main "teahouse trek" regions, in each of these areas there are a number of trail options, there is plenty of scope for short treks of less than a week to much longer if you have time and wanderlust.
* Everest Base Camp Trek: Lukla to EBC, Stunning scenery, Wonderful Sherpa people. The most popular trek is up to Everest Base Camp and an ascent of Kalar Patar. Visit the Buddhist Tengboche monastery for the Mani Rimdu festival in November.
* The 'Classic Everest Base Camp Trek': Jiri to EBC
* Gokyo: Lukla to the sacred lakes of Gokyo. Explore the Gokyo valley with its sacred lakes and stupendous views of four 8000m peaks. Or a circuit of the region crossing the high passes or Cho La and Renjo La.
* Numbur Cheese Circuit Trek through the largest cheese producing area, via the sacred lakes of Jata Pokhari and Panch Pokhari to Numburchuili base camp.
* Island Peak Trek in the Everest region takes in some of the most spectacular scenery in the Himalayas. See 'Regions' - Khumbu
* Pikey Cultural Trail
* Dudh Kunda Cultural Trail
Trekking Peaks require a qualified "climbing guide", permits and deposits to cover camp waste disposal
* Island Peak Trek - The Island Peak trek in the Khumbu region takes in some of the most spectacular scenery in the Himalayas.
* Mera Peak Climbing - Enjoy panoramic views of Mt. Everest (8,848 m; 29,030 ft), Cho-Oyu (8,201 m; 26,910 ft), Lhotse (8,516 m; 27,940 ft), Makalu (8463 m; 27,770 ft), Kangchenjunga (8,586 m; 28,170 ft), Nuptse (7,855 m; 25,770 ft), and Chamlang (7,319 m; 24,010 ft).
Langtang Region Treks
* Helambu Langtang Trek: a short taxi ride from Thamel to the roadhead at Shivapuri leads to a trail through the middle-hills countryside of Helambu, either circuit around and return to Kathmandu or cross the pass to the sacred lake at Gosainkhund, descend and then hike up the Langtang valley beneath mountains that form the border with Tibet. Descend back to catch a bus on a rough road through Trisuli to Kathmandu.
* Tamang Heritage Trail
Pro-Poor Rural Treks
Tourism is a dynamic sector of economy and accepting it as a vehicle of poverty reduction is a relatively new concept in Nepal. Nepal is a predominantly rural society, with 85% of the population living in the countryside. Naturally, Nepal’s rich culture and ethnic diversity are best experienced in its village communities. You can engage in local activities, learn how to cook local cuisine or take part in agricultural activities like kitchen gardening, etc.
According to the NTB rural tourism in Nepal focuses on "Village Trek" visits to indigenous people that “… will make tourists, experience rural life and Nepalese hospitality off the beaten path with all the beautiful scenery and cultural diversity of Nepal.”
In the rural Nepal context, pro-poor tourism means expanding employment and small enterprise opportunities especially pro-Indigenous Peoples, youth and pro-women. Recent pro-poor initiatives in Nepal include the UNDP-TRPAP and ILO-EMPLED projects.
* Tamang Heritage Trail
* Chepang Heritage Trail
* Pathibhara Trail
* Limbu Cultural Trail
* Dudhkunda Cultural Trail
* Pikey Cultural Trail
* Numbur Cheese Circuit
* Indigenous Peoples Trail
Trekking on the Indigenous Peoples Trail and the Numbur Cheese Circuit is a means for Nepali as well as foreign visitors to experience the rural and traditional Nepali way of life, and for the local Community to participate in and benefit directly from tourism. You'll feel better knowing that your visit is genuinely helping your hosts. And if you want to simply lie on a beach.... well, The Majhi Fishing Experience on the Sun Kosi in Ramechhap features one of the best beaches in Nepal!
'Ethno-Tourism' or Cultural Treks
Ethno-tourism is increasingly popular in Nepal and is designed to maximize social and economic benefits to the local communities and minimize negative impacts to cultural heritage and the environment. Ethno-tourism is a specialized type of cultural tourism and can be defined as any excursion which focuses on the works of humans rather than nature, and attempts to give the tourist an understanding of the lifestyles of local people.
* Numbur Cheese Circuit in the Everest Region
* Indigenous Peoples Trail in Ramechhap
* Majhi Fishing Experience on the Sun Koshi
* Helambu Trek in Langtang
* Tamang Heritage Trail in Langtang
* Chepang Heritage Trail in Chitwan
Other more remote regions will require a bit more planning and probably local assistance, not least as the required permits are only issued via Nepali guides/agents. Camping is required on one or more nights.
* Kanchenjunga - far eastern Nepal, accessible via Taplejung (from Kathmandu 40min by plane, 40hrs by bus), a strenuous trek through sparsely populated country to the third highest mountain.
* Dolpa - Upper Dolpa in northwestern Nepal beyond the highest Himalaya is the remote Land of the Bon, almost as Tibetan as Nepali. Lower Dolpa is more accessible and can me reached by plane
* Manaslu - Unspoiled trails through remote villages and over a wild pass to circuit an 8000m mountain. The Manaslu massif rises above the old kingdom of Gorkha about halfway between Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Social Responsibility and Responsible Travel
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and hiring a local company will benefit the local economy, however the involvement of travel agents in Kathmandu must be approached with caution. The numbers of travel, trekking and Rafting agencies registered in 2007 were 1,078, 872 and 94 respectively. The rapid growth in tourism in Nepal coupled with the absence of a self-regulating code of conduct has helped to grow unhealthy competition among travel agents with regular undercutting in tariffs. Such undesirable actions take away benefits not only from trekking guides and porters but also from others engaged in supplying goods and providing services to the tourists. By paying lower tariffs tourists may save money but directly at the expense of local Communities. Try to use 'socially responsible' tour operators that promote proper porter treatment and cultural and environmental sensitivity among their clients in line with the UN-WTO Sustainable Tourism Criteria
* Organised Group Trekking or Independent Trekking?
While organized groups from "western" tour operators drain the big chunck of the profit out of the country, still organized groups hire a larger amount of local workforce from porters to guides. While with local agents most of the profit remains in the country. Groups are more likely to go remote areas, and rely as much as possible on local resources to minimize transport cost and hire maximum local porters. Cost of full organized tours might be also very high, depending on services.
In comparison, independent trekkers while concentrated on the main trails with Lodges, stay often longer also in one place with less budget. They usually use simpler lodges with less costs. They venture seldom in remote areas, as that would mean more expense or very basic local services which most try to avoid. While individual travellers may consume more locally easy producable services, they generally spend less than organized travellers on same trails simply because they often have longer travel periods with less budgets.
Safety and comfort are higher with organized tours, freedom of changing itinerary is the domain of the individual traveller. There is a full range of choice for any demand, just be sure to think about well what trekking means. For the hard core trekkers, no porter will ever carry, while for many to carry a 15-18 kg backpack might be just simple too much.
* Keep working conditions and wages in mind when selecting a trekking company. For visitors from the west, hiring guides and porters is affordable and an extra few dollars can make a big impact in the life of a guide or porter. In order to feed themselves and their families, porters take on the job of carrying heavy loads to high elevations. Some of the problems porters face are underpayment by companies, not receiving the full amount of tip intended for them, inadequate clothing and gear, being forced to carry excess weight, insufficient food provision and poor sleeping facilities. Sometimes these issues leave porters open to illness and neglect on the mountain. As porters have no job security, they have little room for complaint.
* There are a number of websites that facilitate direct contact with recommended trekking guides and porters. The standard wage for a porter is 500 NRs per day and you pay for food and accommodation (approx 200 NRs) or 700 NRs per day without food - Most porters prefer this arrangement as they may save a few rupees by staying with relatives along the trail!
* The International Porter Protect Group’s (IPPG)  was set up in response to these issues, to improve health and safety for the trekking porter at work in the mountains and reduce the incidence of avoidable illness, injury and death. This is achieved by raising awareness of the issues among the trekking community and travel companies, leaders and sirdars. IPPG recommends the following guidelines that:
o Adequate clothing is made available for protection in bad weather and at altitude. This should include adequate footwear, hat, gloves, windproof jacket and trousers, sunglasses, and access to a blanket and pad above the snowline.
o Leaders and trekkers provide the same standard of medical care for porters they would expect themselves.
o Porters must not be paid off because of illness without the leader or trekkers being informed.
o Sick porters are never sent down alone, but rather with someone who speaks their language.
o Sufficient funds are provided to sick porters to cover the cost of their land rescue and treatment. Also, we select strong and experienced porters!
o All trekking porters should have provision for security, personal protective equipment including shoes and clothes, depending on the weather.
Rafting trips for various durations and all levels of experience leave from Kathmandu and Pokhara. For detailed itineraries visit the Nepal Association of Rafting Agents . The main rivers are:
* Bhote Koshi
* Kali Gandaki
* Sun Koshi
It is also possible depending on the river to practice Kayaking and canyoning.
Mountain biking in Nepal is fun and at times challenging event. There are many popular biking routes in Nepal that are in operation at the moment. They are:
* The Scar Road from Kathmandu starts from Balaju towards Kakani to Shivapuri ending in Budhanilkantha in northern Kathmandu.
* Kathmandu to Dhulikhel starts from Koteshwor in Kathmandu to Bhaktapur to Banepa to Dhulikhel. You can also continue from Dhulikhel to Namobuddha to Panauti to Banepa.
* The Back Door to Kathmandu starts from Panauti and heads to Lakuri Bhanjyang and then to Lubhu in Lalitpur ending near Patan.
* Dhulikhel to the Tibetan Border starts in Dhulikhel and follows the Araniko Highway with a night stay on the way.
* The Rajpath from Kathmandu starts from Kalanki in Kathmandu and follows the Prithvi Highway up to Naubise. Then Tribhuwan Highway route is taken with overnight stay in Daman. From there, ride downhill to Hetauda, with the option of heading towards Narayangarh or the Indian border.
* Hetauda to Narayangarh and Mugling starts from Hetauda and heads along the Mahendra Highway to Narayangarh. You could take a detour to Sauraha near from Taandi.
* Kathmandu to Pokhara starts from Kathmandu and traverses through Naubise, Mugling to Pokhara.
* Pokhara to Sarangkot and Naudanda starts from Lakeside Pokhara and heads towards Sarangkot and from there towards Naudanda. From there, ride downhill towards the highway.
The best time to go for biking is between mid October and late March, when the atmosphere is clear the the climate is temperate - warm during the days and cool during the night. Biking in other times of the year is also okay but great care should be taken while biking during the monsoon season (June to September) as the roads are slippery. Biking can be done independently or can be organized through biking companies of Nepal.
You can rent mountain bikes from simple indian made to real good ones locally, but remember that if your'e going on a longer or harder ride, at least your own saddle would be a good option to bring. Rent goes from anywhere (november 2009) 3 (simple bike) to 30 US Dollars (western bikes with suspention).
Nepal's geography and climate makes for some of the best motorcycling roads in the world. The traffic is a little chaotic, but not aggressive, and the speeds are low. Be aware that you need an international driving licence in Nepal, even though you might never be stopped by the police as a tourist on a bike.
Perhaps the best and most original way to explore the country is by motorcycle. Kathmandu should be avoided by beginners, but the rest of Nepal is simply amazing. Hearts and Tears Motorcycle Club in Pokhara is run by a European couple with experience on the race track and around the world. They specialise in teaching and touring, and have a great collection of custom bikes. It's a professional set-up with imported safety equipment, structured training, and well organised group tours.
Royal Chitwan National Park offers elephant rides, jungle canoeing, nature walks, and birding, as well as more adventurous tiger and rhino-viewing. There are also many other less visited parks like Bardiya and Sagarmatha.
"The Last Resort", near the Tibetan border, has frequent Full Moon Trance Parties, lasting 2-3 days. Watch for posters and check music shops. Pokhara has started featuring its own brand of Full Moon raves and interesting Western takes on Nepali festivals.
Mountain Madness Trance Festival is located on the top of Lubu hill overseeing the Himalayas & Kathmandu valley which is 1 ½ hour drive from Thamel.
[add listing] Buy
There are banks in Kathmandu, Pokhara and in several other major cities that will allow you to retrieve cash from ATM or credit cards. You may be charged a service fee, depending on your bank. There are quite a number of ATMs now in those cities that are open round the clock. Although Indian currency is valid in Nepal (at an official exchange rate of 1.60 Nepalese rupees to 1 Indian rupee), the Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 currency notes are not acceptable. Carrying 500- and 1000-Indian rupee notes is a punishable offence in Nepal. Be sure to keep all currency exchange and ATM receipts as they are required at the airport bank to convert back to your original currency. If you don't have them, they will refuse to convert your currency but they will suggest going to the Duty Free shop upstairs, even though it isn't a licensed money changer. Traveller's checks may be useful outside of the major cities.
[add listing] Eat
The Nepali national meal is daal bhaat tarkaari. It is essentially spiced lentils poured over boiled rice, and served with tarkari: vegetables such as mustard greens, daikon radish, potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, squash etc, cooked with spices. This is served in most Nepalese homes and teahouses, two meals a day at about 10 AM and 7 or 8 PM. If rice is scarce the grain part may be cornmeal mush called Ato, barley, or chapatis (whole wheat 'tortillas'). The meal may be accompanied by dahi (yogurt) and a small helping of ultra-spicy fresh chutney or achar (pickle). Traditionally this meal is eaten with the right hand. Curried meat -- goat or chicken -- is an occasional luxury, and freshwater fish is often available near near lakes and rivers. Because Hindus hold cattle to be sacred, beef is forbidden. Buffalo and yak are eaten by some but considered too cow-like by others. Pork is eaten by some tribes, but not by upper-caste Hindus. And like in India, some communities and tribes are vegetarians and do not eat meat of any sort.
Outside the main morning and evening meals, a variety of snacks may be available. Tea, made with milk and sugar is certainly a pick-me-up. Corn may be heated and partially popped, although it really isn't popcorn. This is called "kha-ja", meaning "eat and run!" Rice may be heated and crushed into "chiura" resembling uncooked oatmeal that can be eaten with yogurt, hot milk and sugar, or other flavorings. Fritters called 'pakora' and turnovers called "samosa" can sometimes be found, as can sweets made from sugar, milk, fried batter, sugar cane juice, etc. Be sure such delicacies are either freshly cooked or have been protected from flies. Otherwise flies land in the human waste that is everywhere in the streets, then on your food, and so you become a walking medical textbook of gastrological conditions.
Because of the multi-ethnic nature of Nepali society, differing degrees of adherence to Hindu dietary norms, and the extreme range of climates and microclimates throughout the country, different ethnic communities often have their own specialties.
Newars, an ethnic group originally living in the Kathmandu Valley, are connoisseurs of great foods who lament that feasting is their downfall (whereas sexual indulgence is said to be the downfall of Paharis). In the fertile Kathmandu and Pokhara valleys this cuisine often includes a greater variety of foodstuffs -- particularly vegetables -- than what are available in most of the hills. As such, Newari cuisine is quite distinct and diverse relatively compared to the other indigenous regional cuisines of Nepal, so watch out for Newari restaurants. Some of them even come with cultural shows...a great way to enjoy good food while having a crash-course in Nepalese culture.
The cuisine of the Terai lowlands is almost the same as in adjacent parts of India. Locally-grown tropical fruits are sold alongside subtropical and temperate temperate crops from the hills. In addition to bananas ('kera') and papayas ('mewa') familiar to travelers, jackfruit ('katar') is a local delicacy.
Some dishes, particularly in the Himalayan region, are Tibetan in origin and not at all spicy. Some dishes to look for include momos, a meat or vegetable filled dumpling (similar to Chinese pot-stickers) often served with beer, and Tibetan Bread and Honey a puffy fried bread with heavy raw honey that's great for breakfast. One delicacy that you do not want to miss while in Nepal is the dried meat (it especially complements with beer/alcoholic beverages. Up in the Himalayan mountains, potatoes are the staple of the Sherpa people. Try the local dish of potato pancakes (rikikul). They are delicious eaten straight off the griddle and covered with dzo (female yak) butter or cheese.
Pizza, Mexican, Thai and Chinese food, and Middle-Eastern food can all be found in the tourist districts of Kathmandu and Pokhara. If you are on a budget, sticking with local dishes will save a lot of money.
Note that many small restaurants are not prepared to cook several different dishes; try to stick with one or two dishes or you will find yourself waiting as the cook tries to make one after another on a one-burner stove.
As far as possible, eat only Nepali village products. Do not eat junk foods like biscuits, noodles etc. If you take only village product foods, it will help to rise their economic life.
[add listing] Drink
* Raksi is a clear liquid, similar to tequila in alcohol content. It is usually brewed "in house", resulting in a variation in its taste and strength. This is by far the least expensive drink in the country. It is often served on special occasions in small, unbaked clay cups that hold less than a shot. It works great as a mixer in juice or soda. Note that it may appear on menus as "Nepali wine".
* Jaand (Nepali) or chyaang (Tibetan) is a cloudy, moderately alcoholic drink sometimes called Nepali beer". While weaker than raksi, it will still have quite an effect. This is often offered to guests in Nepali homes, and is diluted with water. For your safety, be sure to ask your guests if the water has been sanitized before drinking this beverage.
* Beer production in Nepal is a growing industry. Some local beers are now also exported, and the quality of beer has reached to quite international standards International brands are popular in the urban areas.
* Cocktails can pretty much only be found in Kathmandu and Pokhara's tourist areas. There you can get watered-down "two for one drinks" at a variety of pubs, restaurants, and sports bars.
Tea: Although not as internationally famous as Indian brands, Nepal does in fact have a large tea growing industry. Most plantations are located in the east of the country and the type of tea grown is very similar to that produced in neighboring Darjeeling. Well known varieties are Dhankuta, Illam, Jhapa, Terathhum and Panchthar (all named after their growing regions). Unfortunately over 70% of Nepal's tea is exported and the tea's you see for sale in Thamel, while they serve as token mementos, are merely the scrapings from the bottom of the barrel.
* Chay is a tea drink with added milk and also sometimes containing ginger and spices such as cardamom.
* Suja. Salty tea made with milk and butter - only available in areas inhabited by Tibetans, Sherpas and a few other Himalayan people.
* Herbal teas. Most herbal teas are made from wild flowers from the Solu Khumbu region. In Kathmandu, these teas are generally only served in high class establishments or those run by Sherpas from the Solu Khumbu.
Water: Problematic due to lack of sanitary facilities and sewage treatment. It is safest to assume water is unsafe for drinking without being chemically treated or boiled, which is one reason to stick to tea or bottled water.
[add listing] Sleep
Budget accommodation in Nepal ranges from around 250 NPR to around 750 NPR for a double. Cheaper rooms usually do not have sheets, blankets, towels, or anything else besides a bed and a door. Most budget hotels and guesthouses have a wide range of rooms, so be sure to see what you are getting, even if you have stayed there before. Accommodations will often be the cheapest part of your budget in Nepal.
* Yoga & Meditation
- The Himalayan Buddhist Meditation Center (HBMC) for Tibetan Buddhist studies is an urban center in Thamel for meditation, study, and spiritual practice. The Center hosts daily yoga classes (9AM-10AM 300NRs) and evening meditation classes. -Nepal Vipassana Centers. Vipassana Meditation as taught by S. N. Goenka. - Osho Tapoban International Commune and Forest Retreat Center located in the dense forest of the Nagarjun Hills in the Outskirts of Kathmandu holds regular Osho meditations with weekend, monthy 1 to 7 days meditation events.
- Foot Fetish (9851032715) Proprietor Liza and friendly staff in Thamel offers reflexology (600NRs) Thai Massage (700NRs) and Ayurvedic Massage (1200NRs). - The Healing Hands Center . Classes in Ancient Massage / Thai Massage. Five-day course, ten-day course and one-month professional course every month.
* Motorcycling Professional training with Hearts and Tears Motorcycle Club in Pokhara
- Kopan Monastery  offers an extensive library with books in several languages as well as an audio and video library. Full board and accommodation is available to visitors throughout the year at a very reasonable cost. The income generated through this form an important part of the income of the monastery, and help in providing free facilities to all the monks and nuns. - Rangjung Yeshe Institute . An international institute for Buddhist higher studies in Boudhanath, Nepal, modeled on a traditional Tibetan Shedra.
* Thangka Painting
Art School offers a professional Thangka Painting Course. A minimum study period of 3 months a year for 3 years is recommended.Due to the sacred nature of this art form, those who wish to study here must have taken refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and consider themselves to be Buddhist. There are no boarding facilities offered at the Art School for foreign students. The school fees are 1,600 Nrs per month. Basic drawing and painting implements are required and can be purchased in Nepal.