Nepal is landlocked by China and India and is a new republic resulting from the merging of 72 different kingdoms/communities. It has 123 recognised languages, and the majority of the population isn’t Buddhist (as many would think), but Hindu instead. It’s mostly associated with mountain trekking and climbing activities, home to eight of the ten highest peaks in the world. However, did you know that Nepal is a destination filled with a variety of activities, from radical sports to yoga retreats?
Come along and check out the six reasons why you should consider booking a trip to Nepal as your next travel plan!
Pokhara: Capital of Adventure
With perfect conditions during all months of the year, Pokhara is not only the starting point for those exploring the Annapurna range but is mostly known as the adventure capital of Nepal. Here you can experience countless extreme sports activities, from paragliding to zip-lining. Excellent for both beginners and expert levels, the surroundings are breathtaking. From Lake Phewa, overlooking Machapuchare, paragliding is the most common sport practised here. Take the opportunity to visit the World Peace Pagoda, also known as the Shanti Stupa, the first peace pagoda built in Nepal. From there you can have the best view of the lake and the Annapurna range.
Tibetan Refugee Camps
After the invasion of China into Tibet, many sought refuge in the neighbouring countries, with Nepal being the most common one. In different places in Nepal, we find Tibetan refugee camps, which are more like small villages rather than campsites. Here, Tibetan culture remains true to itself, and although almost 70 years have passed, these Tibetans have never been able to return to their homes. It is well worth a visit to these communities, spend the day with them listening to their stories, getting to know their culture and perceiving Nepalese hospitality. Most of these communities live along the border, such as in the Annapurna area.
Chitwan National Park
If your idea of Nepal is only Himalayas, snow-capped mountains and trekking, think again: Chitwan is your Nepalese antithesis. Dense tropical forests, populated by rhinos and tigers, temperatures increasing all the way up to 40ºC and above, humid climate. The Chitwan National Park was Nepal’s first recognised National Park, a protected area designated since 1973, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984. Although not as famous as the Himalayas or bigger cities, Chitwan is a favourite for those who love to have a closer look at the wildlife of some of the most incredible species on the planet. A visit to Nepal without visiting Chitwan is an unfulfilled trip!
The best way to travel is probably through the palate, and Nepal has a lot to offer when it comes to taste. Rich and intense flavours, with many Indian influences, the national dish is dal bhat – in many souvenir shops you will find t-shirts with the slogan “Dal Bhat Power, 24 Hour”, such is the popularity of the dish, mainly amongst those who go trekking, for being a dish with a lot of energy and good carbs. But Nepali food is not just about dal bhat: momos are probably the most famous dish internationally. In Nepal are commonly cooked with buffalo or pork meat, and in the Himalayan regions with yak or lamb meat instead. Thukpas are also a must: rich soups with noodles, lots of chilli and masala. These soups are also found in the Himalayas since their origin is Tibetan. And in all homes, you’ll see families cooking chapatis, the popular flatbread that gets sauce soaked, and sometimes serves as a replacement for cutlery as well. In the Bahktapur region, yoghurt is the star ingredient, and here you must taste juju dhau, the buffalo milk curd, sweetened with Himalayan honey and served in a clay pot.
In many places in Nepal, you will find Yoga retreats, many of them combining with spiritual/silent retreats. Most common ones are 10-day retreat programmes, where you will be completely disconnected from the digital world, and you embark on a journey through your inner self, learning how to meditate, enjoying and exercising in spiritual communion with nature. It is easy to get carried away on this journey, especially when surrounded by the magnetic Nepalese landscapes.
On April 25th, 2015 the earth shook in Nepal. More than three million people have lost their homes, and since then volunteer work has made a huge difference, helping rebuild remote villages, creating new jobs through the implementation of new factories, cultural support, and, above all, education. Tourism is still the most significant source of income in Nepal, and just by travelling in Nepal, you’ll be helping the local economy. But you can also get involved with more projects and have more active participation by volunteering. For my programme in Nepal, we support the “Dreams of Kathmandu” project, which has been helping relocate the surviving families affected by the earthquake. “Dreams of Kathmandu” is a project founded by Pedro Queirós, a fellow Portuguese traveller who was in Nepal when the earthquake happened, and has lived it all in the first person. We also support the NGO orphanage “Operation Nepali Children”, spending some time with the children and the amenities, where we can experience the impact of the traveller and the volunteer work on these special occasions.