Nepal has long attracted travelers of every genre; from those seeking spiritual enlightenment amidst the gompas to the adrenaline junkies who aim to conquer the world’s highest mountains. With its welcoming hospitality and stunning scenery, there really is something for everyone in this country nestled between India and China. After the devastating earthquakes that rocked Nepal in April this year, tourists abandoned the country, contributing to its economic devastation. Thankfully it’s now safe to return, and the hills are beckoning with welcome arms. If you need more convincing, perhaps these highlights of Nepal, one of my favorite countries, will persuade you.
Kathmandu is home to 7 UNESCO World Heritage sites, and while some have been damaged in the earthquakes, they are still enchanting places to visit. They blend Hindu and Buddhist culture together in seamless synchronicity. From the 2,500 year old Boudhanath Stupa that watches over the town to the medieval Durbar squares. The city has three Durbar squares, Bhaktapur, Kathmandu and Lalitpur, each displays craftsmanship in both wood and stone in the magnificent temples that remains unsurpassed. While there are visible scars from the earthquake, the restoration program is in full swing, bringing these ancient treasures back to their former glory.
One area that was relatively untouched by the earthquakes was Chitwan National Park, located at the foothills of the mighty Himalayas. This World Heritage Site provides refuge to some endangered wildlife including the single-horned Asiatic rhinoceros and the Bengal tiger. The park is breathtakingly beautiful, located in the lowlands of the Terai region, its landscape blends steep cliffs, river terraces and thick riverine forests. The ecosystem has been largely untouched by human intervention, providing the unique opportunity to see the flora and fauna in its natural state. It’s the perfect place to breathe in the crisp air, relax and enjoy a safari, by either Jeep or elephant for the adventurous.
While the Nepalese jungle is beautiful, it’s impossible to visit Nepal without exploring its mountainous terrain. While Everest looms high in the sky, the Annapurna region provides the perfect opportunity to experience mountain life without too much strenuous activity. Gentle treks will take you through villages, rice terraces and fields of rhododendrons, where people have lived off the fruits of the land for centuries. The backdrop is the spectacular Annapurna range that provides endless panoramic photo opportunities.
The region is also rich in Tibetan history, providing the opportunity to visit traditional monasteries, run fingers over prayer wheels and amble around the Mani stones. In Pokhara, the launching pad for the region, the World Peace Pagoda dominates the hillside. The walk up to the Buddhist stupa has views over the Annapurna, the city of Pokhara and the lake below.
These are just some of the highlights of a country that is rich in history, tradition, spectacular natural beauty and untouched terrains. There is much to love about Nepal, a country that I keep coming back to again and again.