Blessed with natural beauty and magnificent sights, Nepal often makes it to the list of ‘must-visit’ destinations in the world. With eight of the world’s highest peaks and a chain of mountains stretching from east to west, the country is a paradise for trekking and climbing enthusiasts. Nepal is also home to ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Book a Nepal cultural tour package and discover ancient world heritage sites. Explore the tropical jungles of Terai plains. Take a helicopter tour and experience the Himalayas from up above. There’s so much to do in Nepal!
Though the ideal seasons are Spring and Autumn, you can explore Nepal anytime of the year. While most of the trekking trails (Everest Base Camp, Annapurna Base Camp, Annapurna Circuit) remain unapproachable during the summer or rainy season, treks to the Trans-Himalayan region of Mustang and Dolpo are possible during this time. These areas lie under the rain shadow and receive no rainfall during monsoon. Cultural tours to Kathmandu, Pokhara, Lumbini etc. can be taken anytime of the year. Winter is ideal for wildlife safaris as the popular wildlife spotting national parks are situated in the tropical zone.
There is so much to do in Nepal, that you’ll be spoilt for choice. While Trekking in Nepal is the most popular activity, visitors also find other outdoor activities equally engaging. Activities on offer include short day hikes, cultural tours, food tours, photography tours, adventure activities like rafting, bungy jumping, mountain biking, paragliding, rock climbing etc.
It depends on where you want to go and what you want to do. If you want to explore only Kathmandu, you can do it in a day or two. If you want a multi-city tour, Kathmandu-Pokhara-Chitwan for instance, you need at least 4-7 days. Treks can be of shorter or longer duration. It all depends on your choice. Ghorepani-Poonhill Trek is one of the shortest and easiest treks. It takes only 3 days (starts and ends in Pokhara) to complete the trek. Popular treks like the Everest Base Camp trek, Annapurna Circuit Trek or the Manaslu Circuit takes at 2 to 3 weeks to complete.
By Air : There are many international airlines linking Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal to major international hubs. Some of the major international airlines operating flights to Nepal are Etihad, Qatar Airways, Thai Airways, Turkish Airlines, Air Arabia, Biman Bangladesh, Air Asia, Nepal Airlines (Nepal’s flagship carrier), FlyDubai, Korean Air, IndiGo, etc.
By Land: You can enter Nepal overland by crossing the border from India or Tibet (China). Nepal shares its eastern, western and southern borders with India and its northern border with China. The entry points from India to Nepal are Kakarbhitta, Birgunj, Belhiya, Bhairawa, Nepalgunj, Dhangadi and Mahendra Nagar. You can get into Nepal from Tibet (China) via Kyirong, the point of entry. Passport is a must if tourists want to enter Nepal by land.
For getting around the country, there are excellent domestic air network and helicopter charter services as well as deluxe tourist coaches.
Upon your arrival in Nepal, you can easily obtain visa at Tribhuwan International Airport. The process is very simple and quick. You can also opt to obtain your visa online or from Nepalese Diplomatic mission stationed in your country. If you choose to do this then please keep in mind that you will have to enter Nepal within six months from the visa issued date.
If you are entering through the land border of India or Tibet, the visa can easily be obtained at the border immigration office.
Please Note: Passport holders of countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Cameroon, Swaziland, Iraq, Ethiopia, Liberia, Palestine, etc do not get the visa from the immigration entry points of Nepal.
Here are a couple of requirements if you are planning to obtain a visa at the airport :
A valid Passport (it should have the validity of at least 6 months)
The application form for a visa is available at the airport. Please fill them up.
At least two passport size photographs
You should have a little cash (preferably dollars) handy as you need to pay the visa fee in cash.
For Indian nationals, no visa is required. If you are an Indian ciytizen and you enter Nepal via air, you will have to show a valid identification certificate (passport/citizenship certificate). Children under the age of 10 need not show identification certificate.
For the latest information on tourist visa fees and other details do log on to the Department of Immigration’s website http://www.nepalimmigration.gov.np/page/tourist-visa.
Airport Customs Duty - For a comprehensive list of what you can bring into the country without paying duties and tax, do click on this link https://www.customs.gov.np/en/
Do note it is illegal to carry antiques or things of cultural or religious value that are 100 years old out of Nepal. If you want to buy an old statue or painting you need to get a clearance certificate from the Department of Archeology stating that the item you have purchased is not a valuable antique.
Since Nepal is a landlocked country, a network of pitched highways connects the various cities and provinces. The only international airport in the country is located in Kathmandu. Domestic airports in most of the major towns and regional headquarters offer air connectivity. High mountainous areas where there are no roads can be accessed via mountain flights. You can use public transport (buses or mini vans) or hire a car or a cab to get around the cities. If you have booked your trip with an agency then they will manage the transportation for you (as per your itinerary).
Nepal lies in South Asia, nestled between two of Asia’s biggest nations China and India. Some of Nepal’s immediate neighbors, apart from India and China, are Bhutan and Bangladesh. The country’s total land area is 147,181sq. km. Its geographical coordinates are 28°00’N 84°00’E. Geographically Nepal is divided into three regions- Himalayan or high mountains, middle hills and Terai lowlands. The highest point in the country is the summit of Sagarmatha or Mount Everest at 8848 metres while the lowest point is 60 metres at Kechana Kalan, a small village in the Terai region. The country has eight of the fourteen highest peaks in the world, all above 8000 metres.
The highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest, lies in this country. There are more than 1000 mountains of varying sizes in Nepal. This makes this country the best destination for mountaineers and trekkers. The natural wealth and beauty of Nepal is beyond compare. The country is filled with snow covered peaks, fast flowing Himalayan rivers, placid lakes, green hills and forests which are home to some of the endangered Himalayan flora and fauna and tropical jungles.
The weather pattern in Nepal and Europe is pretty similar. The seasons in Nepal are completely opposite of the Australian seasons. While January is the coldest month, July remain the hottest. The climate of Nepal can be considered moderate. The winters are dry and summers are hot and wet. As there is diversity in landscape and altitude, climate in Nepal differs significantly. Monsoon lasts from around the end of June to the end of August. About 80 percent of the rainfall occurs during this period throughout the country but the remainder of the year is dry. March to May is spring and September to November is autumn and they are also the most pleasant seasons. During winters (December, January and February) temperatures drop down with a high level of snowfall especially in the high mountain areas.
While Spring and Autumn are taken to be the best seasons for Nepal travel, one can plan a visit to this picturesque destination anytime of the year. You only need to know where to head to in which season. As opposed to popular belief, Nepal is not only covered with mountains. The country is divided into three regions - Himalayan or high mountains, mid-hills and Terai region. Each of these region has a different seasonal weather patterns. To find out which is the best time to plan your trip to Nepal please read our Best Time to Visit Nepal guide.
Nepal has a very rich and diverse culture. There are more than 120 ethnic groups living in Nepal. Each of these ethnic groups has its own distinct cultural tradition and dialect. Kathmandu Valley is home to the ethnic Newari community with a unique hierarchical caste system. In the high mountains live the Sherpas and the Bhotias who are culturally closer to Tibetan Buddhists than to Nepalese Hindus.
In the middle hills you will find indigenous groups like the Gurungs, Limbus, Rais, Magars, Tamangs etc. as well as the villages of high caste Brahmins and Chettris. In the Terai lowlands, you will find ethnic communities like Tharus, Cheppangs and Maithilis. Most of the people in Nepal follow a religion that’s a blend of Hinduism and Buddhism. It’s not surprising to find Buddhist shrines next to Hindu temples. Nature worship or animism is also prevalent among indigenous groups.
Nepali is the national language, but since English language is a compulsory subject taught in schools (in private schools the medium of instruction is English), English is widely understood. If you speak English or Hindi you will not have face any problem communicating, as most of the Nepalese understand these languages. They may not be experts but most of them understand the basic words and phrases. Using Nepalese words like ‘Dhanyabaad’ (thank you) or ‘Namaste’ (hello) will earn you the locals’ approval and make you popular.
If you need a guide to show you around the country, then there are many trained Nepali guides who speak English as well as other languages, like French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Hebrew, Arabic etc.
Nepal’s currency is Nepalese Rupee (NPR). Most international currencies are accepted in Nepal. Hotels, travel agencies and airlines accept payment in USD, GBP, Euro, INR etc. Likewise credit card payments are accepted at most establishments. There are plenty of money exchange centres in Kathmandu and Pokhara. You will also find many ATM booths in cities (but not in rural areas) from where you can withdraw money using your debit or credit card. Most of the banks accept cards issued by the major international banking networks (Plus, Cirrus, etc).
One time maximum withdrawal amount at an ATM could be Rs 10,000 or NRs 30000 depending on the bank. The machines dispense cash in the local currency (NPR). Please do note when you withdraw money from an ATM kiosk, the bank charges a transaction fee. Credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, JCB and American Express are widely accepted by many tourist service providers. There is however a transaction fee for processing the cards (please note that this charge is enforced by the banks and not the merchants so it’s useless asking for a discount to remove this). The surcharge is usually around 4% or higher.
While trekking in the mountains or travelling in the rural areas it’s advisable to carry some local currency to buy stuffs you need en route. Make sure you exchange the local money that you have with your own currency as Nepalese rupees are not accepted in any other country.
There are a host of items that you can take back with you as souvenirs or gift items from your trip to Nepal. Nepalese artisans follow artistic traditions that have been handed down through generations for centuries. The items that they create have high artistic value and are very unique. Some invaluable items include Thangkas or Buddhist scroll paintings, statues of Buddhist and Hindu deities, Mithila art, wooden and papier mache masks. Hand woven carpets, ‘lokta’ or rice paper items, ‘Dhaka’ or Nepalese traditional textile, Pashmina shawls, ‘Khukuri’ traditional Nepalese blade and the weapon of choice of the famous Gurkha soldiers, singing bowls etc. are also a must-buy. Food items include Himalayan spices, tea, organic coffee and honey.
Nepalese traditional dishes may not be fancy but they are hearty, filling and packed with nutrients. Majority of the local dishes are made using local produce and spices. Dal, bhat, tarkari (lentil soup, rice and curry) is generally taken to be the national dish. The process of preparing curries and lentils maybe similar to Indian cuisine, but Nepalese dishes have less fat and spices and are easy on the palate. Dairy items like yoghurt, milk and cheese are widely consumed. If you want to taste traditional food you can order a Nepalese Thali at any of the traditional Nepalese restaurants.
If you are in Kathmandu, trying out the Newari cuisine is highly recommended. They have a wide range of savory and sweet dishes made from buffalo meat, grains, beans, lentils and vegetables. One food or snack that you should not miss out while in Nepal is momo, a dumpling made with meat, vegetable or cheese filling. Other than dal-bhat some popular local items include thukpa(noodle broth), sel roti(a deep fried bread made with rice flour), chowmein (fried noodles), thenthuk (vegetable broth) etc.
It won’t be wrong to say that the restaurants in Kathmandu have the most varied menu. You can find dishes from almost all over the world. Whether you want to taste Italian, Mediterranean, Mexican, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Sri Lankan or French cuisine you will always find a restaurant serving a cuisine of your choice at one of the nooks and corners in Kathmandu. Pokhara also has a wide range of restaurants serving international dishes.
While trekking in the mountains, the choices maybe limited. Everest and Annapurna trails are more developed and thus the teahouses in these regions offer a variety of items in their menu. Trekkers who have walked through these trails swear that they have tasted the best apple pie and brownies at some of the humble mountainside teahouses or bakeries.