Each of us has a country we’ve visited which did a little more than just steal our hearts. For me, Nepal goes deeper than any other country. Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that I was named after one of its mountains, or my long fascination with Tibetan Buddhism, or the wonderful people I have met while trekking and living in the country’s cities. But for whatever reason, Nepal is something else. And I’m not the only one who says so, I’ve met countless other travellers whose hearts and minds were transfixed by this tiny landlocked country full of mountains, monks and momos (dumplings).

Just over a year ago, Nepal suffered a devastating earthquake which killed over 8,000 people and left many temples, homes and roads in ruins. The disaster also unfortunately saw tourist numbers plummet, as many trekking routes were in need of clearing and transport in and out of the country was a mess. But one year on, Nepal is ready to have you back. If you’re thinking of an Asian getaway for 2016, you couldn’t choose a better country to visit at this time than Nepal, and here’s why…


1) Mountains, mountains, mountains….

Nepal is the centre of the Himalayan mountain range. Eight of the fourteen peaks over 8,000m are here, including Mount Everest. If you love mountains, Nepal is a must. There are few experiences more awe-inspiring than waking up and being greeted to a view of snowcapped peaks outside your tea house accommodation. Even in Kathmandu, the country’s busiest capital, you can see mountains shimmering on the horizon, and in Pokhara, they dominate the city, on a clear day reflecting perfectly into the waters of Phewa Lake. Take a mountain flight, strap up your trekking boots or just admire the views from your hotel window, whatever way you do it, you can’t go to Nepal without being transfixed by the Himalayas.


2. Friendly locals and beautiful village life

Alongside the mountains, one thing which keeps me coming back to Nepal is the Nepali people. Often with a quiet, gracious nature, they are incredibly accommodating, welcoming and generous. The best way to experience the rural life of the Nepali’s is by heading out on a trek, where you’ll pass many traditional villages. Alternatively you can do a homestay in a village around Kathmandu or Pokhara. I recommend Bhattedanda Homestay near to Dhulikhel on the outskirts of Kathmandu. The Tamang family are very welcoming and the accommodation is comfortable and clean. Each morning you can awake to sweeping views of the Himalayas and enjoy a day of peace and quiet outside of the capital.


3. World class trekking

The best way to experience the mountains of Nepal is to strap on your trekking boots and head out into the mountains. Nepal has a huge number of trekking routes, the most popular being the Everest Base Camp Trek and the Annapurna Circuit. Treks range from a few days to over a month (or even longer if you plan to tackle the Great Himalayan Trail!). Each offers a slightly different experience, but all will expose you to breathtaking views and the kindness of the Nepali people. On the main tourist treks, you will stay each night in a teahouse, basic accommodation owned by Nepali’s at various points along the trek. Often here you will pay $1 a night for a simple bed and shared bathroom, and the family will offer a range of food for you.

Trekking in Nepal is one of the most memorable experiences of my life, and I’ll never forget waking up each morning to clear skies and huge towering Himalayan peaks, and sitting down to a steaming bowl of banana porridge and a cup of chai before starting the journey to the next stop.

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4. Lakeside Living in Pokhara

Pokhara is the second biggest city in Nepal, but the change of pace here from Kathmandu is huge. After a few days in busy, polluted Kathmandu, you’ll feel endless peace arriving in Lakeside Pokhara, on the stunning banks of Phewa Lake. Pokhara doesn’t really feel like a city at all, just an overgrown village with just about every tourist comfort you could want. Pokhara is the starting point for treks in the Annapurna range, and even in the city you can see stunning panoramic views of the mountains on a clear day. Other than preparing for your trek, there’s tons to keep you occupied in Pokhara. Visit the excellent International Mountaineering museum, hike up to the World Peace Pagoda, cycle round the banks of Phewa Lake, and feast on delicious international cuisine in Lakeside. Pokhara is one of those heavenly places you’ll never really want to leave…


5. Understand and study Tibetan Buddhism

One of my main intentions for visiting Nepal was to learn more about Tibetan Buddhism. The exact number of Tibetan refugees living in Nepal is unknown, but their culture is evident everywhere. The hub of Tibetan life is in Boudha, a suburb of Kathmandu which unfortunately saw some of the cities worst earthquake damage. Here you can enjoy traditional Tibetan foods, and explore the monasteries in the hills around.

If you want to spend longer studying Tibetan Buddhism, Kopan Monastery runs several courses a year designed to introduce foreigners to the religion. It’s a wonderful experience, where you’ll learn meditation practices, live alongside monks and have the opportunity to debate and discuss Eastern philosophy with people from around the world.

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6. Feast on delicious Nepali, Tibetan and Indian cuisine

Nepali food is pretty much unknown to the rest of the world, and perhaps rightly so since it mostly consists of the one dish- Daal Bhat; a Thali style plate of rice, daal, vegetable curry and pickle. It’s delicious though and the perfect meal after a long day of mountain trekking. If you fancy something else, the country luckily has an abundance of Tibetan foods- momos (dumplings), Thukpa, Thenduk (both noodle soups) and others are staples on any Nepali menu. Indian food is also done very well, particularly in Kathmandu. If that wasn’t enough, in Pokhara and Kathmandu you can find pretty much any international cuisine you might be craving after a few weeks in the mountains- Italian, Israeli, Chinese and German bakeries are all waiting for you on your return to the city.

7. Explore Kathmandu’s stunning stupas

Kathmandu is busy, congested and polluted. On arrival, you will probably hate it, but give the city some time and it’s full of hidden gems, delicious food and quick getaways into nature. The highlight of the city is exploring the stupas all around, the most stunning being Monkey Temple, a mixture of Buddhist and Hindu temples perched on top of a hill within walking distance from Thamel (the main tourist hub). From here, you have sweeping views of the city and the white peaks in the distance. It’s also a great place to watch local people worship, as monks circle the stupa and Hindu’s place candles under statues of their gods.

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8. Volunteer with an organisation supporting earthquake repair

The repair of earthquake damage is ongoing and there’s no better way to spend your time in Nepal than to volunteer your time and skills to help rebuild the country. If you have a few months and skills in medical, building or environmental practice, then you can be an invaluable addition to an NGO working within the country at this time. Do some research and make sure you choose a reputable organisation which will use your personal skills and which doesn’t ask for large fees.


9. From the mountains to the Jungle…

Nepal isn’t all mountains, the south of the country is rather dry and full of wildlife parks and flat farm land. The Terai as it’s known, is home to two of Nepal’s most popular destinations- Chitwan National Park and Lumbini. The latter is famous for being the birthplace of the Buddha, and is full of Temples and stupas. Chitwan is home to wild elephants, Bengali tigers, leopards and rhinoceros. Unfortunately there are many elephant safari programmes in the park, many which abuse the animals. Choose to stay in an ecolodge such as Evergreen Ecolodge and instead of an elephant ride, opt to do a jungle walk where you might be able to see the stunning creatures in the wild.

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10. You couldn’t use your tourist dollars more wisely…

If you’re looking for a holiday which is going to do some good, then you couldn’t pick a better destination than Nepal. Every dollar you spend in this country is helping Nepali people rebuild their lives and recover from the devastating earthquake. Nepal is a safe country to visit, and one of the world’s most wonderful destinations. It’s such a shame to see people bypass visiting this country because of the events of last year. Nepal really is ready to have you back, so what are you waiting for?


Tips for Travelling to Nepal

Do you need a visa for Nepal?

Visas for Nepal are available on arrival, both in the airport and on the land borders from China and India. You can opt for a two week, one month or three month visa and extending once you are in the country is easy. Take US dollars with you to pay for the visa.

What Time of Year is best to visit Nepal?

The main two seasons in Nepal are September-November and February-April. These times have the best weather and the best conditions for trekking. During October and March prices rise considerably and Thamel (Kathmandu) and Lakeside (Pokhara) can be very busy.

How to get to Nepal?

Many international airlines fly into Kathmandu from around the world. By land, the border from India can be complicated and if possible it is advisable to take a short flight from an Indian city to Kathmandu.

How to get around Nepal?

Buses in the country are extensive but road conditions can vary and if you get travel sickness it is advisable to take a taxi when travelling into the mountains. You can also take many internal flights from Kathmandu to Pokhara, Lukla (For Everest) or Jomson (for Annapurna). Flights can be expensive but the views from the plane are priceless.

What should I wear in Nepal?

Nepal is much less conservative than India and many young Nepali’s in Kathmandu and Pokhara will wear Western clothes. It is advisable for women to cover their knees and shoulders and while trekking, avoid wearing short shorts or layer with leggings.