It was mountaineering that first opened up Nepal to the outside world. Of the world’s 14 highest peaks above 8,000 m, eight of them crown Nepal’s north, including the highest Mt. Everest. Not surprisingly, the fascination of scaling these physically demanding peaks draws crowds of visitors from abroad year after year without let up.
The mountains are open for climbing in all the four climbing seasons:
Autumn (September-November) and
The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation issues permits for the bigger mountains while the Nepal Mountaineering Association issues permits for the smaller trekking peaks between 5,587 m and 6,654 m.
That one in four visitors to Nepal go trekking should say something about the popularity of this activity in the Himalayan country. Most treks go through altitudes between 1,000 and 4,000 meters, while some popular parts reach over 5,000 meters. It’s not only the stunning landscapes on the trail that captivate the trekkers but also the people from different ethnic groups with whom they meet on the way – a rare opportunity to experience Nepal’s rich cultural diversity. And what better way than walking to see and experience it.
The most popular trekking routes have traditionally been the Everest, Annapurna and Langtang regions. But now the Kanchenjungha in the extreme east and Dolpo in northwest Nepal are gaining ground as new popular destinations. More recently, the government has developed a number of heritage trails in different parts of the country where you can combine a trek with a peek into the cultures of the local communities. And for those with the time and the stamina, there is The Great Himalayan Trail that stretches 1,700 km from Kanchenjungha in the east to Humla in the west – a trek that will take months to accomplish.
All trekkers are required to obtain the TIMS card before embarking on their trip. To trek in protected areas region one must acquire the entry permit by paying Entry Fees to enter the particular National Park or Protected Area. To get access to the areas restricted by the Government of Nepal, one must acquire the Trekking Permit to the area.
Rock climbing is a challenging sport for outdoor lovers. Most of the areas for rock climbing are situated towards the north of Kathmandu in the Nagarjun forest and Shivapuri National Park. Hence a trip to these places can be combined with hiking, bird watching, nature tours and other activities. In Pokhara, an artificial climbing wall named after French alpinist Maurice Herzog, the first mountaineer ever to summit an 8,000 m peak – Annapurna I – in 1950, is open at the Mountaineering Museum. It is 23 m tall.
Rafting / Kayaking / Canoeing
Nepal boasts some of the best whitewaters in the world, thanks to its mountainous steep terrain. What really makes a rafting trip worthwhile is the magnificent vistas of traditional houses on hillsides, terraced paddy fields, deep gorges, valleys and flat plains that you encounter on the way. While exploring the rivers, you can either go paddle rafting as a team or go kayaking and canoeing alone.
The rapids are graded on a scale of one to six depending on their ferocity. Trips range from one or two days to two-week expeditions, and often combine some trekking to get to the remote rivers in the first place. Rafting trips are usually planned in the dry seasons from October through mid-December and March through early May.
The Trishuli River (grade 3+) is the most popular among raftable rivers. Close to Kathmandu, the trip takes you down all the way to the Chitwan National Park. Other popular rivers include the Kali Gandaki (4-4+) near Pokhara, Bhote Koshi (4-5), Marshyangdi (4-5+), Karnali (4-5) and the Sun Koshi (4-5), which runs 270 km and requires 8-10 days.
The tropical jungles of Nepal’s Terai preserve some of the best wildlife habitats of South Asia. Some of the wildlife attractions of Nepal’s jungles include the rare one-horned rhinoceros, the elusive Royal Bengal tiger, snow leopard, red panda and musk deer. Jungle safaris can be enjoyed on elephant back or in jeeps at Chitwan National Park, Bardia National Park, Parsa Wildlife Reserve and Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve, all located in the Terai. The national parks provide a wide range of tourist facilities in and around the areas.
Licensed hunting is allowed in the Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve in the western part of Nepal. Dhorpatan is the prime habitat of the blue sheep, ghoral, serow, Himalayan tahr, black bear, pheasant and partridge. Endangered species here include the cheer pheasant and red panda. Hunting is allowed only after acquiring a license from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) in Kathmandu and is restricted to certain times in a year. Most hunting trips are planned in spring and the onset of autumn, from February through April and August through October respectively.
Dhorpatan is a 4-day trek from Baglung which is 72 km from Pokhara. Accommodation facilities include tented camps or a village house.
Nepal’s varied elevations support more than 850 species of birds, or about 10 percent of the world’s total species. Migratory birds are seen in winters. The spiny babbler is unique to Nepal as it has yet to be spotted outside this country. More than 450 species of birds have been spotted in Chitwan National Park, while the Koshi Tappu Wetlands have been designated Asia’s finest bird watching site. The Mai Valley and Tamur Valley in east Nepal, Lumbini in central Nepal, and Dang Valley and Ghodagodhi Lake in the west are also good locations to sight exotic birds. As bird watching becomes immensely popular, specialized bird-watching tours are offered in the different national parks and wildlife reserves.
Paragliding / Ultralight / Cable Car
Paragliding is a relatively new adventure sport in Nepal, and is the simplest, safest and least expensive way of discovering the joys of flying alone to experience the aerial views of the magnificent Himalayas. Sarangkot, at 1,592 m above Lakeside in Pokhara Valley, is the jumping off point for paragliders. From here, one can take in stunning views of three of the world’s Eight Thousanders, namely, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manaslu.
Ultralight aircraft takes off from Pokhara and offers spectacular views of the lakes, mountains and villages. This is an ideal way to see life from a new perspective. Flights are operated almost throughout the year except during the monsoon (June through August). Flights take place from sunrise to 11 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to sunset every day, provided there are no rains. During the half- hour flight, one flies over Pokhara city, Phewa Lake, Sarangkot Hill and gets close to the Machhapuchhre mountain. Another option is to explore the Annapurna range from 12,000 feet or higher in an hour.
The only cable car in Nepal takes you on a pilgrimage tour, up to the abode of the wish-fulfilling Goddess Manakamana, from Kurintar in Mugling.
Mountain flights offer the luxurious option of a Himalayan experience. The one-hour mountain flight from Kathmandu takes one close to the highest peaks, including Mt. Everest.
During the flight, you get to see Gosaithan (also called Shisha Pangma), Dorje Lhakpa, Phurbi Chyachu, Choba Bhamare, Gaurishanker, Melungtse, Chugimago, Numbur, Karyolung, Cho-Oyu, Gyachungkang, Pumori, Nuptse and, of course, Everest. Mountain flights are offered by several airlines in the morning from the domestic airport in Kathmandu. Flights from Kathmandu reveal the Eastern Himalaya, while flights from Pokhara take you on a bird’s eye view of the Western Himalaya.
Nepal’s diverse terrain makes it one of the best for mountain biking. Bike through the country and discover villages and small towns in the midst of rural serenity. Time permitting, it is even possible to explore the entire length and breadth of the country on a mountain bike. Bikes can be hired in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Bungee Jumping / Canyoning
The ultimate thrill of a bungee jump can now be experienced in Nepal – 12 km from the Nepal-Tibet border, a three-hour bus ride from Kathmandu. The bungee jump was designed by one of New Zealand’s leading bungee consultants, and is operated by some of the most experienced jump masters in the business. The jump takes place from a 166 m wide steel suspension bridge that joins two sides of a deep valley over the raging Bhoti Kosi River. The place has spectacular scenery with dense forests covering the top of the cliff. One can overnight here and go rafting and rock climbing, too.
Canyoning is basically a sport where you travel down canyons and waterfalls using a variety of techniques such as walking, scrambling, climbing, abseiling and swimming. It is one sport that will get you completely off the beaten track, but it does require quite a good level of fitness
Boating / Fishing / Angling
Boating is a common form of transport in the lowlands and the Terai in Nepal. Leisure boating can be done at various locations. Pokhara with its many lakes is the most popular for boating activities. The city’s beautiful lakes – Phewa, Begnas and Rupa – provide enough space for numerous boating experiences. Traditional canoe-style boating can be done in the Narayani and Rapti Rivers in Chitwan.
Angling is gaining popularity in Nepal as a water sport. Approximately 118 varieties of freshwater fish are found in the Himalayan rivers ranging from the much sought after Mahseer to the mountain stream trout varieties. Fishing trips on white waters are generally organized before and after the monsoons from February through April and October through November.
Horse Riding / Pony Trek
The remote areas of Nepal are still not connected by road. So to get to these places you can either walk or go horseback riding. Horses are a means of transportation especially in the trans-Himalayan region, i.e., behind the tall mountains or the southern rim of the Tibetan plateau. You can go horse riding in any part of the country. It can be arranged for a few hours or a month-long journey to suit oneself.
Pony treks can be arranged on the Jomsom-Muktinath, Panauti-Nagarkot, Pokhara-Sarangkot and Pokhara-Jomsom-Marpha routes
Nepal offers some of the finest golf courses in South Asia. They are: Gokarna Forest Golf Club and Nepal Golf Club in Kathmandu, Himalayan Golf Club and Fulbari Resort Golf Course in Pokhara, and Nirvana Country Club in Dharan. The best time for a play is during the dry season between October and March. Golf clubs in Kathmandu and Pokhara offer excellent courses with magnificent views of the Himalayas. Some of the golf clubs also offer other luxurious facilities like spa and ayurvedic treatments
Nepal has several ancient pilgrimage sites. Each temple is attached to a legend or belief that glorifies the miraculous powers of its deity. The Kathmandu Valley is home to the famous Pashupatinath Temple, Swayambhunath Stupa and several other famous temples. Hundreds of famous temples are located in and around the Kathmandu Valley.
Some well-known pilgrimage sites are: Barah Chhetra, Halesi Mahadev, Janakpur, Pathibhara and Tengboche in east Nepal; Manakamana, Gorkha, Lumbini, Muktinath, Gosainkunda, Tansen and Kathmandu Valley in central Nepal; and Swargadwari and Khaptad Ashram in west Nepal.
Explore the cities of the Kathmandu Valley steeped in culture, history and art. Visit the Durbar Squares of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, the palatial residences of the ancient royals, that are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Then visit the other World Heritage monuments – Pashupatinath, Swayambhunath, Bauddhanath and Changu Narayan. Step into the museums of the valley to learn about Nepal’s kings, history, ethnic groups, art and culture. Go shopping. Try your hand at rummy or blackjack at one of the five-star casinos. Savor authentic food at one of the many restaurants. There are countless things to do in Kathmandu. Pokhara, the famous tourist city, provides equally superb cultural tours and activities with its beautiful natural setting, several museums and innumerable restaurants and cafes.
Nightlife / Clubbing
Kathmandu, which is generally a quiet city after twilight, bustles with life till the wee hours of the morning in the narrow alleys of Thamel and other selected places. Bars and pubs, many of which feature live music, stay open till late night while discotheques function to keep boredom at bay for the young Nepali crowd and tourists out for the night. Frequent private parties are also organized at various places especially during weekends and public holidays
Kathmandu offers dining experiences that range from the exotica of five-star menus to the roadside café experience. The best part is that a variety of international cuisines are offered within walking distance or short drive by world-class restaurants and the price range does not burn a hole in the pocket. Indian, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Japanese, Mexican, Continental, you name it. You’ll find them all here.
Visitors can also enjoy the authentic taste of indigenous cuisines in the ethnic ambience of Nepali restaurants. Restaurants and food joints in the nooks and corners of Thamel are especially popular among western visitors. Many restaurants of Kathmandu and Pokhara offer traditional song and dance performances by local artists.
Shopping for handicrafts and souvenirs in Nepal is a delight, with shop after shop offering a choice even for the most discerning. It’s because of their fine craftsmanship and supreme quality that Nepal’s handicrafts have been coveted items since ancient times. Popular buys among tourists are hand-knotted woolen carpets, jewelry, pashmina shawls, woolen knitwear, embroidery, thanka paintings, wood carvings, statues and decorative metallic house wares, ceramics and pottery, and rice paper products such as writing pads, calendars and lamp shades. Tea and spices are other popular gifts to take back home.
Antiques, however, cannot be taken out of the country. To be on the safe side, visitors should have all antiques examined by the Department of Archeology and obtain a certificate from the office before leaving Nepal. Nepal is also a shopping destination for designer products such as Christian Dior, Gucci, Yves Laurent, Chanel, Nike, Givenchy and many more brand names. And thanks to lower overhead costs, Nepal’s department stores and malls offer them at unbeatable prices.
Events / Festivals
One of the interesting ways of understanding the beauty and richness of Nepali culture is through its festivals. Participating in the local festivities gives visitors an insight into the life of the Nepali people and makes their stay in Nepal more colorful. Everything festive in Nepal traditionally begins with something religious and moves with a spontaneous spirit into a pleasant family feast.
Most of the festivals celebrated in Nepal are religious. However, they can be generally divided into: religious, historical, agricultural, seasonal and legendary. Festivals in Nepal involve cultural dances, songs and performances, making them interesting and entertaining. Please click here for a list of our festivals and dates.
MICE (Meeting, Incentive, Conference, Exhibition)
Nepal stands popular as an international meeting destination in the world’s business community. Conference halls and top hotels provide excellent meeting facilities at par with international standards, while professional groups that include hotels and tour operators have eased the process of organizing and managing these events.
The International Conference Center in Kathmandu is a state-of-the-art convention facility, consisting of numerous halls of different sizes with seating flexibility to cater to various needs. The largest hall can accommodate as many as 1,046 people. Convention centers apart, numerous standard conference facilities have been built into the luxury hotels in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Kathmandu’s connectivity to several cities of Asia and Europe by direct flight makes the mesmerizing capital, with its many attractions, an ideal MICE destination. This gateway to the Himalayan nation offers superb options for work and recreation to go together. Delegates from around the world can enjoy in Nepal a Himalayan holiday even while at work.
Ayurveda dates back to the Vedic period. Ayurveda, the natural way of living, is also the oldest authentically recorded science in existence today. The objective of Ayurveda is to achieve the highest goal of life – inner and outer dynamic harmony. There are several Ayurveda clinics in and around Kathmandu and in different parts of Nepal to help you achieve the different dimensions of health – physical, sensorial, mental and spiritual.
Meditation rejuvenates one’s energy level and zeal, so you can feel enlightened – far from the metaphysical world. A meditation course will help you explore in-depth and find a new human within you. There are specialized centers in Kathmandu, Lumbini and other places around the country that offer meditation courses.
Yoga classes will contribute to the development of a healthy body, a healthy mind and a healthy thought. It also helps one achieve balanced, harmonious and integrated development of all aspects of one’s personality. Yoga is a pathway to a true, happy and healthy living. Yogic training eventually prepares one for spiritual awakening, the supreme aim of human life. There are many yoga centers in Kathmandu and other tourist cities in Nepal.
Nepal is also becoming a popular destination for spas. Spa is associated with water treatment and is believed to be curative. Day spas, which are quite popular among tourists, offer personal care treatments. The emphasis is on nurturing and pure pampering. Regular spa treatment is said to promote good health and prevent diseases. It also aids in relaxation and rejuvenation. This is achieved by the fusion of traditional healing practices and modern holistic healthcare in generating the self-healing powers of an individual.
Wrapped in innumerable myths and legends, Nepal is a land of magic and mystery. The cult of faith healing in Nepal dates back to pre-historic times, with the Jhankris, or shamans, who, with the garlands of tiny bells around their necks tremble and chant at the beat of a drum which they play during the invocation and possession of spirits. Sometimes their elaborate performance runs for the whole night. Often their ritual also involves the sacrifice of either a rooster or a black goat, depending upon the nature of the complication.
Astrology also has its origin in the Vedas, the primary texts of Hinduism written thousands of years ago. In Nepal, the moment a baby is born, the first thing they do is note down the exact time of birth. Then it is given to the astrologer, who according to the position of the different planets in the solar system at that precise moment, prepares a Cheena (horoscope). Astrologers are also consulted to set the date and auspicious hours for important occasions like weddings and important festivals.
Butterflies have been studied in Nepal for over 150 years, with much of the original study and collection done by the British, including one British diplomat in Kathmandu at the time. After 1950, the Japanese became involved in collection through scientific expeditions, and this resulted later in the establishment by Tribhuvan University of the Natural History Museum at Swayambhu in 1974. Records show that Nepal has 11 out of the 15 families of butterflies in the world, or over 500 species, and still today in the 21st century new species keep turning up.
To the geological world, the Shaligram is a coiled chambered fossil shell of the extinct Cephalopod mollusk, believed to have been formed during the emergence of the Himalayan heights from the depths of the Tethys Sea millions of years ago. The fossilized stones are, however, sacred to the Nepalis and embody Lord Vishnu, according to Hindu Scriptures. They are found in the Annapurna region up to Damodar Kunda, and also in the waters of the Kaligandaki River right up to Tribeni in Dolalghat. The most popular belt to look for Shaligrams is the banks of the River Kaligandaki at Jomsom where the pilgrims pass on their way to Muktinath.
Nepal now offers the rush of extreme zip lining, the first of its kind in the whole of Asia. ZipFlyer Nepal is not just another zipline; it is the world’s longest, steepest and fastest zip-line to give you the ultimate adventure experience. Just imagine the adrenaline rush as you zip down at speeds of up to 140 km per hour on a cable 1.8 km long! The launch pad is situated at the peak of Sarangkot, Pokhara, offering most views of the Annapurna mountain range and the Pokhara Valley below.
The ZipFlyer has been in operation since June 2, 2012. Safety is the leading criteria, and the system by Zip-flyer TM LLC, USA is designed with the most advanced technologies, and has delivered a state-of-the-art zipline. So get ready to experience the ultimate adrenaline rush!
Emerging as an extreme form of aerial adventure, Everest Skydiving is one of the adventure world’s unique experiences. Skydiving is done from a plane or a chopper onto the world’s highest drop zone at Gorak Shep, Kala Patthar. The skydiving takes place in front of Mount Everest (8,848 m), and the free fall takes place past some of the world’s highest mountain peaks. It is a unique way of experiencing the Himalayas from both above and below. Experienced pilots with skydiving ratings man the aircraft, so safety is guaranteed. Skydiving can be either a solo jump or in tandem.
Starting from Everest Base Camp at 5,356 m, the Everest Marathon reaches over 42 km of rugged Himalayan terrain to end at the Sherpa village of Namche Bazaar (3,446 m). The race is held every year on May 29 to mark the first ascent of Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on that day in 1953. The marathon retraces the traditional route to Everest and passes through monasteries, monuments, chortens, suspension bridges and stunning landscapes.
Annapurna Marathon (42.19 km), named after the Annapurna Himalayan range, starts from Annapurna Base Camp (4,395 m) and ends in Dhampus village (1650 m). It is held on June 3 every two years. The first Annapurna Marathon was held in June 2011 coinciding with Nepal Tourism Year. The marathon was also organized to celebrate the first successful ascent of the 8,000-m peak, Mt. Annapurna (8,091 m), by a French team led by Maurice Herzog on June 3, 1950.
In December of every year, the annual tournament of the World Elephant Polo Association is held at the Meghauli airfield near Chitwan in south central Nepal. The tournament was first staged in 1982, and has since become an annual event. Teams from all over the world including Scotland, Thailand, England and Hong Kong participate in the tournament.
Elephant Polo is similar to horse polo. Each team of four players plays on a marked pitch 140 x 70 m, using a standard size polo ball. The game consists of two 10-minute chukkers of playing time, with an interval of 15 minutes. Elephant Polo in Nepal and Thailand is played under the auspices of the World Elephant Polo Association which enforces strict rules regarding elephant welfare and game play.