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Holidays in Nepal

Understanding Nepal

Geography

Elevation Zones

Nepal can be divided into elevation zones, south to north:

  • Outer Terai - Level plains, a cultural and linguistic extension of northern India Nepali is spoken less than Awadhi and Bhojpuri dialects related to Hindi and Maithili Lumbini, Buddha's birthplace and Janakpur, Sita's birthplace are in this zone Other cities -- Dhangadhi, Nepalgunj, Bhairawa, Butwal, Birgunj, Janakpur and Biratnagar -- are transportation hubs and border towns more than travel destinations Nevertheless the Terai may offer opportunities for intimate exposure to traditional Indian culture that have become less available in India itself
  • Siwalik Range or Churia Hills - the outermost and lowest range of foothills, about 600 m 2,000 ft high Extends across the country east to west but with significant gaps and many subranges Poor soils and no agriculture to speak of No developed tourist destinations, however the forests are wild and the sparse population of primitive hunters and gatherers is unique
  • Inner Terai - large valleys between the Siwaliks and higher foothills to the north The Dang and Deukhuri valleys in the Mid West are the largest, offering opportunities to experience Tharu art and culture Chitwan south of Kathmandu is another of these valleys, known for Royal Chitwan National Park where tigers, rhinos, crocodiles, deer and birds can be observed Originally these valleys were malarial and lightly populated by Tharus who had evolved resistance and developed architectural and behavioral adaptations limiting exposure to the most dangerous nocturnal mosquitos Suppression of mosquitos with DDT in the 1960s opened these these valleys to settlers from the hills who cleared forests and displaced and exploited Tharus Nevertheless remoter parts of these valleys still have a Garden of Eden quality - forests broken by indefinite fields, lazy rivers, fascinating aboriginal peoples
  • Mahabharat Range - a prominent foothill range continuous across the country from east to west except for narrow transecting canyons, with elevations ascending up to 3,000 m 10,000 ft Steep southern slopes are a no-man's land between lowland and Pahari hill cultures and languages, which begin along the crest and gentler northern slopes Given clear skies, there are panoramic views of high himalaya from almost anywhere on the crest Underdeveloped as a tourist venue compared to India's 'Hill Stations', nevertheless Daman and Tansen are attractive destinations
  • Middle Hills - Valleys north of the Mahabharat Range and hills up to about 2,000 m 6,500 ft are mainly inhabited by Hindus of the Bahun priestly brahmin and Chhetri warriors and rulers castes who speak Nepali as their first language Higher where it becomes too cold to grow rice, populations are largely Magar, Gurung, Tamang, Rai or Limbu, the hill tribes from which the British recruited Gurkha soldiers while the soldiers' families grew crops suited to temperate climates Men in these ethnic groups also work as porters or may be herders moving their flocks into the high mountains in summer and the lower valleys in winter Trekking through the hills is unremittingly scenic with streams and terraced fields, picturesque villages, a variety of ethnic groups with distinctive costumes, and views of the high himalayas from high points
  • Valleys - Kathmandu and to the west Pokhara occupy large valleys in the hills The Kathmandu Valley was urbanized long before the first europeans reached the scene and has historic neighborhoods, temple complexes, pagodas, buddhist stupas, palaces and bazaars Its natives are predominantly Newar farmers, traders, craftsmen and civil servants Newar culture is an interesting synthesis of Hindu and Buddhist elements Unfortunately a range of hills north of this valley limit views of the himalaya Pokhara has fewer urban points of interest but outstanding views of the nearby Annapurna Himalaya Pokhara's Newar population is confined to bazaars Elsewhere upper caste Hindus dominate, whose ancestors probably were Khas peoples from far western Nepal Both valleys offer excellent opportunities to experience Nepal without strenuous trekking Narrower valleys along streams and rivers are important rice-growing centers in the hills There is a limited amount of this land and most of it is owned by upper caste Hindus
  • Lekhs - Snow occasionally falls and lasts days or weeks in the winter above 3,000 m 10,000 ft, but melts away in summer below about 5,500 m 18,000 ft Treeline is about 4,000 m 13,000 ft This zone is used for summer pasturage but not year-round habitation
  • Himalaya - North of the lekhs, the snowy high himalayas rise abruptly along a fault zone to peaks over 6,700 m 22,000 ft and even over 8,000 m 26,000 ft Himalaya means 'abode of snow', which is uninhabited Valleys among the peaks are inhabited, especially along trade routes where rice from the lowlands was traded for salt from the Tibetan Plateau along with other goods Trade has diminished since China annexed Tibet in the 1950s but catering to trekkers and climbers has become an economic engine People living along these routes have Tibetan affinities but usually speak fluent Nepali
  • Trans-Himalaya - Peaks in this region north of the highest himalayas in central and western Nepal are lower and gentler, mostly around 6,000 m 20,000 ft Valleys below 5,000 m 17,000 ft are inhabited by people who are essentially Tibetan and have adapted to living at much higher elevations than other Nepalis Roads have not yet penetrated this far and travel is expensive by air or arduous on foot Nevertheless, it is a unique opportunity to experience a very significant and attractive culture in spectacular surroundings

River Basins

are also important geographic divisions The Mahabharat Range is a major hydrologic barrier in Nepal and other parts of the Himalaya South-flowing rivers converge in candelabra shapes to break through this range in a few narrow gorges Travel is usually easier within these candelabra drainage systems than between them, so high divides between river systems became historically important political, linguistic and cultural boundaries

Karnali-Seti-Bheri

The Karnali system in the far west is the birthplace of Pahari 'hill' culture It was settled by people called Khas speaking an indo-european language called Khaskura 'Khas talk' that was related to other north indian languages, all claiming descent from classical Sanskrit

East of the Karnali proper, along a major tributary called the Bheri and further east in another basin called the Rapti lived a Tibeto-Burman people called Kham Khas and Kham people seem to have been allies and probably intermarried to create the synthesis of aryan and mongoloid features that especially characterizes the second-highest Chhetri Kshatriya caste It appears that Khas kings recruited Kham men as guards and soldiers Khas and Kham territories in the far west were subdivided into small kingdoms called the Baisi, literally '22' as they were counted

Nepal has one of the world's highest birthrates because Hindu girls usually marry by their early teens, causing their entire reproductive potential to be utilized Furthermore, men who can afford it often take multiple wives This may trace back to Khas culture, explaining relentless Khas colonization eastward as finite amounts of land suitable for rice cultivation were inevitably outstripped by high birthrates

Rapti and Gandaki

The Rapti river system east of the Karnali-Bheri had few lowlands suitable for growing rice and extensive highlands that were not attractive for Khas settlement but were a barrier to migration However the Rapti's upper tributaries rose somewhat south of the Himalaya Between these tributaries and the Dhaulagiri range of the Himalaya, a large east-west valley called Dhorpatan branching off the upper Bheri provided a detour eastward, over an easy pass called Jaljala into the Gandaki river system further east The Gandaki is said to have seven major tributaries, most rising in or beyond the high Himalaya They merge to cut through the Mahabharat and Siwalik ranges In this basin elevations were generally lower and rainfall was higher compared to the Karnali-Bheri and Rapti basins There was great potential for rice cultivation, the agricultural base of the Khas way of life A collection of small principalities called the Chaubisi developed Chaubisi literally means '24', as these kingdoms were counted Not all were Khas kindoms Some were Magar -- a large indigenous hill tribe people related to the Kham Other kingdoms were Gurung and Tamang Several Gandaki tributaries rose in the transhimalayan region where inhabitants and rulers became increasingly Tibetanized to the north

  • 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 AD 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, ie 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

Koshi

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

Containment by British

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: aCastes originating from Hindu groups b Newars c the ethnic groups or janajati d Muslims eOthers

Hindu Groups

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

Newar

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

Indigenous peoples

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 structure2 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, eg Raute, and some are forest dwellers, eg Chepang and Bankaria Most of the indigenous nationalities rely on agriculture and pastoralism and very few are cosmopolitan, eg Newar

Religion

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 806% and other religions are 194%

Climate

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 3 provides a reference point for analyzing the climate trend

Talking in Nepal

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 trekkingAs 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

See: Nepali phrasebook,

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!

See: Sherpa phrasebook, Tamang phrasebook, Thami phrasebook, Majhi phrasebook

What to see in Nepal

  • Anibare bay where there are tropical beaches
  • The Government buildings in Yaren
  • The Buada lagoon a tropical body of water

What to do in Nepal

Trekking

A total of 101,320 trekkers visited Nepal in 2007 Out of total 60,237 594% visited Annapurna area while those visiting the Everest and Langtang regions accounted for 26,511 265% and 8,165 81% 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 - North of Pokhara, from lush middle hills into high mountains

  • 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

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 13 and ILO-EMPLED 14 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

Remote Treks

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 15

  • 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 16 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:
    • 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
    • Leaders and trekkers provide the same standard of medical care for porters they would expect themselves
    • Porters must not be paid off because of illness without the leader or trekkers being informed
    • Sick porters are never sent down alone, but rather with someone who speaks their language
    • Sufficient funds are provided to sick porters to cover the cost of their land rescue and treatment Also, we select strong and experienced porters!
    • All trekking porters should have provision for security, personal protective equipment including shoes and clothes, depending on the weather

Rafting

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 17 The main rivers are:

  • Bhote Koshi
  • Kali Gandaki
  • Karnali
  • Seti
  • Sun Koshi
  • Trisuli
  • Arun
  • Tamor
  • Marshyangdi
  • Bheri

It is also possible depending on the river to practice Kayaking and canyoning

Mountain Biking

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

Motorcycling

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

Jungle Safari

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

Trance Parties

"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

Buying stuff in Nepal

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 160 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

Food and eating in Nepal

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 showsa 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

Drinking in Nepal

Alcohol:

  • 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

Accommodation in Nepal

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

Working in Nepal

Volunteer in Nepal

Volunteering in Nepal can be a rewarding alternative to simple tourism Currently in Nepal, the tourism industry is far removed from the everyday village life of most of the population Trekking or package tours often move too quickly through the country to provide an appreciation of the natural beauty and diverse cultures Volunteering is sometimes the only way to see remote areas outside the Kathmandu Valley and well-trod trekking trails

Unfortunately, volunteer tourism has mostly become more profitable than real tourism Foreign operators and Nepali agents have found an inexhaustible supply of well-meaning but naieve people who will pay big money to "volunteer" in Thamel, Lakeside and Chitwan

Teaching English is a popular project for volunteers and is often combined with courses in computer literacy or health and physical education The Nepali school system, which many children only attend for a few years, requires English fluency so there is always a demand for native English speakers of all ages, races, and nationalities There are no prerequisites for teaching beyond English fluency and, in some programs, any university level degree

There are many options for finding volunteer opportunities Several international organizations will find you a project, room, and boarding - either at the school or with a local family - for a fee This fee can range from 500 USD to 2000 USD depending on the type and length of program Often only little of the money will go to the school and host family, often they are too poor even to support a volunteer, the bulk often goes however to the agency In some cases the agency will provide language and culture lessons as well as general teaching supplies and support Once you make a deposit on a particular program there may be limited options for change Programs can last from two weeks to six months, but keep in mind the longer stay is more rewarding for both you and the school, as it can take several weeks to get into the swing of things Above all, examine carefully how your money is spend and who really benefits

An alternative to paid placement is to find a local, grassroots program, or to contact schools directly in Kathmandu when you arrive Local hostels and restaurants usually have bulletin boards full of requests for volunteers More and more local groups are placing ads on the web as well These programs are more likely to charge only for room & board, but you will need to do some research to find out the specifics of each group and what, if any, support you will receive Waiting until you arrive also lets you get to know the areas you can volunteer in and allows you to shop around for a situation that best suits you These placements tend to be longer term 3-6 months, but this is always negotiable with a specific school or project

Cities in Nepal

baglung  banepa  bhadrapur  bhaktapur  bharatpur  biratnagar  birganj  butwal  dhangadhi  dhankuta  dharan  gaur  gulariya  hetauda  ilam  itahari  janakpur  jumla  kalaiya  kathmandu  khandbari  kirtipur  lahan  lalitpur  mahendranagar  malangwa  nepalganj  pokhara  rajbiraj  siddharthanagar  siraha  tansen  tikapur  tulsipur  waling  

What do you think about Nepal?

How expensive is Nepal?
(1 NPR = 0.01 USD)
Meal in inexpensive restaurant165.75 NPR
3-course meal in restaurant (for 2)721.5 NPR
McDonalds meal663 NPR
Local beer (0.5 draft)215.48 NPR
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 277.5 NPR
Cappuccino138.87 NPR
Pepsi/Coke (0.33 bottle)40.28 NPR
Water (0.33 bottle)17.96 NPR
Milk (1l)58.83 NPR
Fresh bread (500g)53.2 NPR
White Rice (1kg)74.58 NPR
Eggs (12) 136.11 NPR
Local Cheese (1kg) 613.92 NPR
Chicken Breast (1kg) 370.05 NPR
Apples (1kg) 155.04 NPR
Oranges (1kg) 92.86 NPR
Tomato (1kg) 58.64 NPR
Potato (1kg) 46.48 NPR
Lettuce (1 head) 24.13 NPR
Water (1.5l)34.26 NPR
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 588 NPR
Domestic Beer (0.5 bottle)180.77 NPR
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 243.18 NPR
Cigarettes128.7 NPR
One way local bus ticket14.7 NPR
Monthly pass for bus819 NPR
Taxi start45.5 NPR
Taxi 1km44.16 NPR
Taxi 1hour waiting271.22 NPR
Gasoline (1 liter) 118.9 NPR
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend) 455.1 NPR
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre 20.7 NPR
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