PLACES TO VISIT IN NEPAL
Kathmandu, the capital and the largest city of Nepal, derives
its name from Kasthmandap or "house of wood" a pagoda-style
temple. A few steps away is the Temple of the Living Goddess,
where the clients may catch a glimpse of the Kumari at one
of the open windows overlooking the inner courtyard. All around
the splendour of historical monuments is the hustle &
bustle of the market place. Vegetable vendors, trees of flutes,
salesmen with their wares displayed on their person, souvenir
hawkers, street shop selling imported goods and tucked away
in a quiet corner the glittering bead market for custom made
Patan is also known as Lalitpur or the "city of fine
arts" and is the oldest city in the valley. This Buddhist
City is said to have been founded by Emperor Ashoka in the
3rd century BC. Patan is the cradle of arts and architecture
of the valley, a great center both of the Newari Buddhist
religion and of traditional arts & crafts with 136 bahals
or courtyards and 55 major temples. Well known among these
are the Krishna Mandir, Hiranya Varna Mahavihar, Kumbheshwar
temple, Jagatnarayan temple & the Mahabouddha temple.
Patan is enclosed within 4 Buddhist stupas set on the four-corners
of the outer boundaries of this ancient city. A tour of Patan
would also include a visit to the Tibetan refugee village
to witness the hand weaving of Tibetan carpets using age-old
methods of dyeing and finishing. Three or four persons at
each loom weaving traditional designs, chatting & singing
can also be seen here.
Bhaktapur or Bhadgaon meaning the "city of devotees"
lies 14 km east of Kathmandu. It is the home of medieval art
& architecture and still retains its rich medieval aroma.
A city of farmers, Bhaktapur is also known for it's pottery
and weaving. Bhaktapur is the most charming and the best preserved
of the valley’s three cities. The intricately carved
temples, alleyways and timeless atmosphere of this place is
simply intriguing. The major sightseeing places in Bhaktapur
include Durbar Square, the Golden Gate, Palace of 55 windows,
Bell of the barking dogs, Nyatapole Temple, Bhairavanath Temple,
Dattatrya Temple, Pujari Math etc;
The stupa of Bodhanath lies 8 km east of Kathmandu. It is
the biggest Stupa in Nepal and is located on flat land and
encircled by houses & monasteries, where Rinpoches reside.
This colossal Stupa is set on concentric ascending terraces
in the powerful pattern of a Mandala. Around the base of this
strikingly enormous and simple stupa is a ring of 108 images
of the Buddha and 147 insets containing prayer wheels.
Bungmati & Khokana
The twin villages of Bungmati & Khokana date from the
16th century and are located south of Kathmandu, down a rutty
road dotted with Chaityas. Bungmati is the winter home of
lord Rato Machhendranath, the protector God of Patan. The
shrine of Karya Binayak is located between the two villages.
At Khokana ancient oil presses can be seen at work in village
9 km north of Kathmandu in a small pond at the foot of the
Shivapuri Hills lies the half-submerged massive black stone
statue of the reclining Vishnu resting on a bed of snakes.
Worshippers strew the sleeping Vishnu with offerings of flowers
& rice. It is a monumental sculpture from the Lichhavi
The hike to the top of Champa Devi (2,278m), the highest peak
on the Chandragiri Ridge south west of Kirtipur, affords a
panoramic view of the west Kathmandu valley, back dropped
by the snow covered Himalayas. Either starting from Chovar
or from Pharping the trail climbs steeply to join at a saddle
close to the top. A Hindu shrine and a white stupa mark the
Champa Devi summit. Several return routes are possible. Staying
close to the ridge continuing west, a trail descends from
the second saddle north to Kirtipur. Another descends from
the third saddle and reaches Kisipidi.
Chandeshwari shrine is located north of the sprawling trading
town of Banepa near Dhulikhel. A track leads northeast past
the town hospital to the temple on the bank of a forested
gorge. The temple is dedicated to Parvati, whom they called
upon to slay ‘Chand’, the most fearsome of the
demons. It thus became known as Chandeshwari, "the slayer
of Chand". The main attraction is a remarkable fresco
of Bhairav, painted on the western wall of the main structure.
The torana and struts of the three-tiered temple are richly
carved with the eight Astha Marikas, or "Mother goddesses"
and eight Bhairavs.
The road access to Changunarayan, 18 kms east of Kathmandu
is from behind Bhaktapur. Alternatively, it is a 45 minutes
walk up from the Sankhu road, across the Manohara River, using
the old pilgrim’s route or a pleasant half-day hike
along the ridge from Nagarkote on the eastern valley rim.
The lavishly decorated two-tiered temple was rebuilt after
a fire in 1702, but the earliest inscription in the valley
dated 467 A.D. testifies to the considerable talents of the
Licchavi King Mandeva I, Nepal’s first great historical
figure. The temple stands in a spacious courtyard, littered
with priceless stone sculptures from the 4th to 9th century
A.D. (Licchavi period). This golden age of classical Newari
art produced masterpieces that were entirely religious in
A rough track to the south of the Kathmandu Valley winds steeply
downhill, through intricately terraced fields of reddish brown
soil to the ancient Lichhavi village of Lele, on through terraced
mustard fields and bamboo groves to Chapagaon. An important
tantric temple of Vajra Varahi is located here in a sacred
grove of trees, built in 1665 – however, the site is
much older. Various naturally sculpted stones strewn about
are regarded as images of Ganesh, Bhairav and the Ashta Matrika.
Carved out of a hillside, the Chovar gorge is the only outlet
for all the waters of the valley. Legend has it that Manjushree,
an ancient saint cut the mountain with his magical sword,
to drain out the water from the Kathmandu Valley which was
then just a lake. There is a small but picturesque temple
of Adinath on the top of the hill with a magnificent view
of the snow capped peaks. Just beyond the gorge is a temple
of lord Ganesh. The main image of the shrine is a massive
rock, naturally carved.
Dakshinkali is 45-minute drive south from Kathmandu. Located
in a dark valley at the confluence of two streams, the shrine
of Dakshinkali is the most spectacular of all Kali temples.
Animal sacrifices are offered to this deity signifying fertility
and the procreative powers of the Female, every Tuesday &
Saturday. The animals are presented to the priest who will
ritually decapitate them with a khukuri knife & bathe
the black stone image of Kali in blood.
30 kms east of Kathmandu lies the small resort town of Dhulikhel
set on a hill top, enveloped in copper soiled terraces with
magnificent views of the central Himalayan peaks. Dhulikhel
is well known for its sunrise views and a number of day trails
lead along the north ridge of the town. A good way to get
a glimpse of Nepalese village life.
18 kms south of Kathmandu lies the Royal Botanical Gardens
at Godavari. With its rushing streams and shady meadows it
is a popular picnic spot. It also has a notable collection
of orchids, cactii & ferns. A quiet path leads to the
Godavari Kunda, a spring where the sacred water of the Godavari
river pours from the mountains.
The village of Kakani lies 29 kms north west of Kathmandu
City. Famous for magnificent views of the sun setting over
the north western Himalayan range; the Ganesh Himal massif,
Gaurishankar (7,134 m), Choba Bhamare (6,016 m), Himalchuli
(7,893 m), Annapurna (8,091 m). The drive to Kakani &
back along the Trishuli Road is scenically rewarding with
green forest & mountain grandeur on one side and fertile
river flats and terraced hillside cultivation on the other.
Perched on twin hillocks and clinging to a saddle about 5
km south west of Kathmandu lies the village of Kirtipur. A
long flight of steps leads up to Kirtipur from the valley
floor & a motorable road goes part way up the hill. Steep
paths link brick houses built on terraces. The villagers dressed
in traditional costume work on ancient looms. The people are
well known for their strength and valour. Many historical
battles were fought and won by the inhabitants of Kirtipur.
A center of Mahayana Buddhism was established in 1969 by two
Lamas; Lama Thupten Zopa Rinpoche & Lama Thupten Yeshe.
Since its inception the center has been responsible for introducing
thousands to Buddha's teaching through meditation courses,
lectures & retreats.
The tiny settlement of Nagarkot clings to a hilltop 36 kms
east of Kathmandu at an altitude of 2,099m. It is one of the
best vantage point to view the peaks - from the Annapurnas
to Everest, the peaks seem no more than a day's walk away.
It is also possible to do a day hike from Nagarkot to Dhulikhel
along the valley rim.
Nagarjun, a prominent forested hill, west of Kathmandu topped
with a Buddhist stupa with superb views of Ganesh Himal, Langtang
and the Kathmandu valley. A dirt road winds to the top (2,096m)
though a trek would take two hours. A return trail descends
the southwest side of Nagarjun to Ichangu Narayan and reaches
Kathmandu via a dirt road that eventually comes out behind
Namo Buddha meaning "hail to the Buddha" a sacred
site, where according to legend Buddha sacrificed his body
to feed a starving tigress & her cubs. A carved stone
slab at the main stupa depicts the moving story. A dirt road
(suitable for 4 wheel drive vehicles) leads up to Namo Buddha
from Dhulikhel. A different trail returns descending south
through a forest heading west up a long vale for a round trip
walk of six to seven hours, or 2 to 3 hours to Panauti.
Located at the confluence of the Punyamati & Roshi Khola
rivers, Panauti was once an important staging post on the
Tibet trade route with pre-Lichhavi origins. The banks of
the river are now crowded with temples, shrines and cremation
ghats. Across the river lies the recently restored Brahmayani
temple. The Indreshwar Mahadev temple is a 15th century Newari
structure with exquisite woodcarvings especially on the roof
It is situated 5 kms east of Kathmandu on the banks of the
sacred Bagmati River. The temple of lord Shiva, Pashupatinath,
with a tiered golden roof & silver doors is famous for
its superb architecture. Entrance to the temple precinct is
forbidden to non-Hindus. The best view is from the terrace
on the wooded hill across the river. The large gilded triple-roofed
temple was built in 1696 AD though 300 years earlier there
was a structure on this site. The Bagmati River is lined with
dharmasalas and cremation ghats including a royal ghat reserved
exclusively for members of the royal family. There is usually
a cremation in progress on one of the platforms by the river,
regarded as holy as it flows into the sacred Ganges. There
are many occasions when the faithful take ritual purificatory
baths in the river. One of the most colorful is the women's
festival of Teej when dressed in their finest red and gold
saris hundreds of women, laughing and singing converge on
The triple peaked hill of Phulchowki the "flower-covered
hill", is highest on the valley rim at 2,762m. Lying
20 kms south east of Kathmandu, a road winds its way to the
top where a small shrine is built to the mother of the forest,
Phulchowki Mai. The trail up to the top takes about 4 hours
through lovely rhododendron & oak forests crossing the
motorable road a couple of times. Enjoy a breathtaking view
of the white peaks from Himalchuli to the Everest. There is
a trail connecting Phulchowki to Pharping on one side and
Panauti on the other.
Hills surround the sleepy village of Sankhu, once on the trade
route east to Helambu. Forests above the village hide an important
temple to the tantric goddess, Bajra Jogini. Follow the wide
stone path north of the village and walk up the steps to the
temple, flanked with smaller shrines, stupas and statues.
The main structure is 17th century and has a fine golden torana
above the door. Behind the temple there are other shrines
Shivapuri, at a height of 2,732m, allows one a 360 degree
view of the Himalaya in the north & the Kathmandu valley
in the south. The trail up to Shivapuri hill leads through
small farming villages & a protected forest of Rhododendrons
& orchids with little mountain streams running through
it. This can be made into a most enjoyable full day's programme.
Atop a green hillock west of Kathmandu stands the great stupa
of Swayambhunath, a site over 2,500 years old marking the
point where the legendary patriarch Manjushri discovered the
lotus of the ancient Valley lake. For centuries an important
center of Buddhist learning, the painted eyes of the Buddha
gaze out from all four sides of the monument. Constructed
to specific rules each with a symbolic meaning, the stupa
of Swayambhunath is a model of its kind. Its’ dazzling
white hemispherical mound represent the ladder to nirvana,
itself symbolized by the umbrella on the top. The whole is
hung with multi-colored prayer flags whose every flutter releases
holy prayers. The faithful circumambulate the stupa clockwise,
turning the banks of prayer wheels and even prostrating full-length
A name derived from the world "Chhemi" meaning "Capable
people" is well known for its colourful painted masks,
dolls & for its terracotta work including delightful peacock
& elephant flower pots and imaginatively moulded candle
stands & ashtrays. This village of Thimi lies on the old
road to Bhaktapur from Kathmandu.
A Shiva shrine of an altogether difference register is located
at Tika Bhairav near Lele, where Shiva is portrayed in his
terrible form as Bhairav. To reach this unusual shrine, the
client must travel outside the Kathmandu Valley to the adjoining
Lele Valley to the south. This monumental, multi colored fresco
is an abstract close-up of Bhirav's face painted on a huge
brick wall, barely sheltered by a tin roof.
The Four Ganesh Temples
Ganesh, the elephant-headed god, is one of the most favored
divinities in Hinduism and is certainly the most favored in
the Kathmandu Valley. The god of good luck, who casts aside
obstacles is believed to be the son of Shiva & Parvati.
The shrew is his vehicle and he especially likes offerings
of food. Ganesh has numerous shrines throughout the Valley
but four are particularly sacred. The Chandra Binayak is in
the middle of the village of Chabahil, 200m behind the Chabahil
stupa. This small Ganesh is enshrined amidst rich brasswork
& is believed to cure diseases and external bodily injuries.
The simple stone Ganesh at the Surya Binayak is halfway up
the foothills south of Bhaktapur. The path heads uphill to
the little shrine, considered able to give the power of speech
to young children who are slow to talk. In a forest preserve
between the villages of Bungmati & Khokana lies the Karya
Binayak. From the road linking the hamlets, a path leads up
to a beautiful clearing and the walled compound of the shrine.
Here Ganesh is an elephant-shaped stone and is believed to
help complete difficult tasks. Those seeking strength of character
go to worship the Ganesh at Jal Binayak, just beyond the Chovar
Gorge. A beautiful brass shrew faces the massive rock that
represents Ganesh in this triple roofed temple constructed
in 1602 AD.
Pokhara & Begnas
Pokhara valley is a scenic 6-hour mountainside drive or a
25 minute flight west of Kathmandu. It is famous for its lakes
and its location beneath the towering Annapurna massif. It
is highly recommendable to visit this scenic valley, stay
in small resort hotels with views of the magnificent Himalayan
peaks, go boating on the calm waters of the Phewa and the
Begnas lakes or go on tours or day hikes in the nearby hills
or if time permits, on a well organized trekking holiday.
Further 12 km east of Pokhara at the end of a road that turns
north from highway to Kathmandu lies the Begnas Lake offering
the perfect nature retreat because of its relative seclusion.
Splendid hiking, boating and fishing opportunities can be
found here. The Begnas Lake Resort, located on a hillside
of unspoiled forestland with guest rooms built on rice terraces
close to the lake offers magnificent views over tranquil waters
of the Begnas, beautiful ethnic villages on the opposite hillsides
and the snowy mountain peaks from every room.
Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve (175 sq. kms)
Just 1 hour flight towards east from Kathmandu to Biratnagar
and 2 hrs drive, the Kosi Tappu is one of the best places
in Nepal to view migratory and native water fowls; waders
and shore birds during the winter months. Many species not
recorded elsewhere in the region have been found here. Thousands
of birds congregate here in January, February and March before
they migrate north when the warm weather begins. Well-qualified
nature guides take clients out on walks, jeep drives and boat
rides to look for birds and the Arna, wild buffalo found only
here in Nepal. We recommend to combine this tour with treks
in the eastern hills or with a tour to Bhutan & Sikkim
or with a Sunkosi rafting trip.
Royal Chitwan National Park (932 sq. kms)
Just a 5 hour drive from Kathmandu or a 4 hour drive from
Pokhara or a 20 minutes flight from Kathmandu, Royal Chitwan
National Park is proud to be called Asia’s best managed
park and is home to over 50 species of mammals, 55 species
of amphibians and reptiles and 525 species of birds. Wildlife
that thrive here include; the great one-horned Asian Rhinoceros,
Gaur, wild Bison, sloth Bear, four different species of Deer,
the Rhesus Monkey and the black-faced Langur, the spotted
Leopard, Royal Bengal Tiger, the fish-eating Gharial, the
flesh-eating marsh Crocodile and the Gangetic Dolphin among
many others. The birdlife too is very rich and varied and
a delight for Ornithologists. A number of jungle lodges &
camps operate inside and on the periphery of the park. They
offer activities such as; elephant back safaris through the
jungle in search of wildlife, nature walks, jungle drives
to spot animals, canoe rides to see crocodiles & water-birds,
tribal village visits etc; In the evenings, slide shows on
Nepalese flora & fauna and Tharu tribal folk dances are
Royal Bardia National Park (968 sq. kms)
Royal Bardia National Park situated in western Terai of Nepal
is one of largest undisturbed parks in the region. The park
is the home of many endangered animals, reptiles and birds
- including the elusive Royal Bengal Tiger. A few years ago,
under a successful wildlife project several young one-horned
rhinos where translocated here from Royal Chitwan National
Park. Over the years, Bardia has also been a good place for
tiger viewing - a rare event anywhere. Recently sightings
of a group of wild elephants have further enhanced the wildlife
experience possible in this beautiful and unspoiled sanctuary.
A stay in this park is recommended with the combination of
a short raft trip down the Karnali and Bheri rivers or with
a trek to Dolpo and the Rara lake area in far western Nepal.
Tansen, a colourful hill town is situated at an altitude of
1,450m. It is the most popular summer resort in western Nepal
on account of its location and climate. It has the most extensive
views of the country’s chief attraction the Himalaya;
from Dhaulagiri in the west to Gaurishankar in the north east.
Walking around Tansen town is interesting or short day hike
to Ridi can be a rewarding experience. It takes just five
hours by car from Pokhara to reach Tansen or just a couple
of hours drive from Lumbini.
Lumbini, the birthplace of lord Gautam Buddha, is the pilgrimage
destination of the world’s millions of Buddhists. The
main attraction at Lumbini remains the sacred garden spread
over 8 sq. kms and possessing all the treasures of this historical
area. The Mayadevi temple (under reconstruction) is the main
attraction for pilgrims and archaeologists alike. This site,
identified by the Indian Emperor Ashoka’s commemorative
pillar is listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO. To the
south of the pillar, we find the sacred pond Puskarni, where
Queen Mayadevi had her bath just before giving birth to the
Buddha. Other attractions include the various monasteries
and stupas erected by different Buddhist countries.
For those seeking the ultimate pan Himalayan view, Daman is
the place to visit. Located 80kms southwest of the Kathmandu
valley, Daman (2,400m) offers the only unimpeded view of the
entire Himalayan range. Daman is located on the Tribhuvan
Highway between Kathmandu and the town of Birgunj. There is
a view tower fitted with long range telescopes.
The name of Namche Bazaar is generally associated with that
of Sagarmatha or Mt. Everest, the highest point on earth.
It is the entrance to the Everest region and is 241 kms from
Kathmandu and located at an altitude 3,440m. Trekkers cover
this distance in 9 days from Jiri town. As the largest settlement
in the Everest region Namche Bazaar now boasts of its own
electricity generated from the Dudhkoshi river. One can also
reach Namche Bazaar by flight to Lukla and then a 2 days trek
The word "Himalaya" is Sanskrit for "abode
of snow". This region has an altitude ranging between
4,877 m to 8,848m. It includes eight of the 14 highest summits
in the world that exceed an altitude of 8000 m, including
the highest of them all, Mt. Everest (8,848 m). Only 8% of
Nepal's population live in this region.
The region's culture and religion are closely linked to Tibet,
and the traditional economy was (and sometimes still is) based
on trans-border trade with its northern neighbour.
One can enjoy the magnificent Himalayas of this region in
three different ways: take a mountain flight and enjoy the
splendid view of snow capped Himalayas from the safety of
the presurrized aeroplane cabins, or gaze at the panorama
from popular mountain viewpoints such as Nagarkot and Dhulikhel
around the Kathmandu Valley and Sarangkot in Pokhara or take
the direct approach and trek to the mountain base from where
you can actually touch them and feel the Himalayas.
Indeed, the best way to experience Nepal's unbeatable combination
of natural beauty and culture riches is to trek through them.
One should know that trekking means walking and is a process
rather than a destination. As one gets into shape, it's easy
to fall into walking-machine mode. Though trekking demands
a physical challenge, a trekker should remind himself/ herself
to stop at teashops, admire the views, splash in a stream
and play with local kids. Walking and nothing, but day after
day, provides illuminating insights of Nepal's diversity in
terms of geography, people, religion and culture. The main
precaution to be taken while trekking is not to go up too
high too fast. The body should be given plenty of time to
acclimatize. Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) refers to the effects
of the thin air at high altitudes which can be very dangerous
and may even result in death. If you get initial symptoms
like nausea, dizziness, swelling of the face and breathlessness,
descend to the lower elevation immediately and seek medical
help. Check out Travel FAQ for more details on trekking in
Trekking is possible at any time of the year depending on
where one is going. The most popular seasons are spring (February
- May) and autumn (September-November). Winter is very cold
above 4,000m and high mountain passes may be snowbound but
it is good for trekking at lower altitudes. During the monsoon
season (June-August) you can trek in rain-shadow areas of
the northern areas of regions like Mustang, Upper Manang and
Dolpo. These places are out of reach of the rain clouds because
they lie beyond the high mountains whcih block off the monsoon
Some of the interesting trekking places to visit
in this region:
The Annapurna Circuit
The Annapurna Circuit attracts a relatively
high number of trekkers in Nepal. As the name itself suggests,
this trail goes on a circuitous route around the entire Annapurna
massif, visiting the Tibet-like country on the northern slopes
of the Himalaya and the dramatic Kali Gandaki gorge. Much
of the trek is through lowland country, but there is one high
pass, "Thorung La" (5,380m). The trail over the
pass is steep but in good shape and not hard to follow. This
is the one point of the entire circuit where you really feel
you are amidst the mountains. However you should be aware
of altitude sickness and be prepared for weather extremes
as the Thorung La is notorious for changing its moods. The
pass is usually snowbound and un-crossable form mid-December
The Kali Gandaki gorge is another spell
binding part of this trip. Known to be the worlds deepest
river gorge the trail upto the Jomsom (and Upper Mustang)
actually goes side by side with the river giving the lonely
trekker company and groups something to talk about. Thus the
Annapurna circuit is an extraordinary trek, truly one of the
world's best. It requires at least three weeks. But due to
the popularity of this route it can sometimes tend to be crowded.
The Annapurna Sanctuary
This is probably the most ideal trek: lovely, short and intense,
a direct route into the heart of the Himalaya. Spectacular
mountain vistas and easy access make it among the most popular
treks, with over 10,000 visitors per year. The sanctuary is
a hidden pocket of meadow, moraine and glacier, ringed by
magnificent sheer-walled 6,000 - 8,000 meter peaks: the Annapurnas,
Gangapurna, Machhapuchhare, Himchuli.
The trek requires ten to fourteens days and begins from Pokhara,
passing through lowland villages and rice terraces to mountain
glaciers. The trail rises nearly 2000 m in the last 8 km and
one needs to plan for acclimatization. The trail is frequently
slippery and there's danger of avalanches in few places, so
early spring and winter trekking is unlikely. Accommodation
in the lower portion (at least in Chhomrong) are deluxe; the
upper stretch is understandably simple - no body lives up
there for long time.
Easily accessible via a 20-minute flight from Pokhara, Jomsom
lies nestled beneath the splendor of Mount , Nilgiri. For
those of you not inclined to make it to the mountains the
hard way, i.e. slogging it on foot step by step in a gradual
process, taking the US$ 50 flight to Jomsom from Pokhara is
the ideal alternative. Jomsom, at an altitude of 2,700 meters
lies tucked in between two giant mountain ranges, the Annapurna
and Dhaulagiri- both reach out to the sky beyond 8,000 meters
at their highest points, and although these ranges are around
35 kilometers apart, consider yourself to be technically positioned
at the bottom of the world's deepest gorge, the Kali Gandaki
Valley with a spectacular view of Mt. Nilgiri looming ahead
like a huge snowy pyramid.
From Jomsom, one may venture on to leisurely treks for a
day or two northwards to Kagbeni or southwards to Marpha,
Tukuche, and Lete-Kalopani all of these places can be reached
with effortless walking on an almost leveled surface. On the
other hand, should the rarefied mountain air hinder your walking
ability; you may choose to explore the area on a pony that
can be made available by your hotel at a reasonable price.
Food and board around Jomsom could probably be described as
being the best among all the trekking regions of the country.
All the better hotels provide cosy rooms that come with attached
bath with running hot water. With three to four flights coming
in from Pokhara every day, the larders of most restaurants
are well stocked with fresh meat and vegetables.
This major Himalayan highway follows the gorge of the Kali
Gandaki River, crossing from subtropical jungle to high-altitude
desert in less than one week. Mixed in the stream of international
trekkers are Hindu saddhus (ascetic) walking to Muktinath
and jingling mule trains heading down from Tibet loaded with
bales of wool. Both are reminders of the trail's status as
a major trade and pilgrimage route, an important cultural
corridor across the Himalaya.
The end point is the ancient shrine of Muktinath (3,170 meters),
one of Nepal's holiest pilgrimage sites. There's no real village,
but lodges around the lower portion (Ranipauwa) put up pilgrims
and trekkers. The ancient holy site is a typically confusing
blend of natural, Buddhists and Hindu beliefs. The little
Newari-style pagoda to Lord Vishnu is a relatively recent
addition. Muktinath has been sacred for over 2000 years; the
Hindu holy book Mahabharata mentions it as Shaligrama, "Place
of the Shaligram,"the black fossil stones sacred to Vishnu
and found in abundance in the Kali Gandaki valley. Its holiness
stems from flickering blue flames of natural methane gas burning
on water, stone and earth, and now enclosed in the shrine
of Jwala Mai below the Vishnu temple. Near the pagoda, there
is 108 spouts, shaped like bulls' heads, where devout pilgrims
bathe in the freezing water to purify their sins and earn
mukti or spiritual liberation.
The place has ancient association for Buddhists as well;
Guru Rinpoche is said to have passed through here en route
to Tibet, leaving his footprints in a rock. There are many
old Buddhist temples around here.
The entire trek to Muktinath remains below 3000 meters. One
should figure at least two weeks to walk in and out, allow
a few extra days for exploration- the upper region in particular
is lined with fascinating villages. Flying into Jomsom and
walking back down is possible, but one should remember to
acclimatize before climbing to Muktinath. One can fly from
Jomsom to either Kathmandu or Pokhara.
THE EVEREST REGION
The classic walk through the Sherpa homeland of Solu-Khumbu
is a tough trek with a clearcut goal - to see Mt. Everest,
the highest peak of the world. There are many ways to trek
in this area. One can either walk all the way up and back,
or walk one way and fly out on the way back, or fly in and
out depending on the time at hand and inclination. The first
requires a month, the second just about three weeks and the
third at least two weeks.
Most Everest trekkers avoid the hardest walking by flying
in and out of Lukla airstrip. If you have got time and energy,
the walk in from Jiri through the Sherpa's traditional homeland
is worth the extra effort. It passes through the lovely region
called Solu and the narrow gorge of the Dudh
Kosi (Pharak) to reach the high mountain
region of Khumbu in a little over a week. Khumbu is exceptionally
at high altitude with trekking routes going up to 5,400 meters.
Solu can be trekked year around while Khumbu's trekking season
is limited. October-November and March-May are the busiest
trekking season of Khumbu. Besides good weather, this period
offers the five-day Dumje festival (usually April) and the
masked Mani Rimdu dances held at major monasteries in spring
and fall. Khumbu is a good region for a monsoon trek. High
pastures are full of wildflowers and grazing yaks, and the
people are relaxed, taking a well-deserved break from trekking
and expedition work.
Namche Bazaar (3,446 m), the modern Sherpa
capital, is the nerve center of upper Khumbu: from here the
trails branch out to explore at least four separate high valleys.
It's a cosmopolitan little village, a good place to pick up
tips on trails and conditions from descending trekkers. Food
prices skyrocket above here, since all supplies must be carried
in from a distance; budget extra for this trip.It is the entrance
to the Everest region Situated in the lap of the Khumbu Himal
range,Namche Bazaar is about 24 km from Kathmandu and the
distance is generally covered within 15 days by trekking.
This place is the home of the legendary Sherpas, who have
won international reknown as the world's most sturdy climbers
with an indomitable will to scale peaks. One can fly from
Kathmandu to Lukla and Syangboche in the Everest region. At
Lukla accommodations are available in Sherpa huts and lodges
Lukla is the most popular base for trekking in the Khumbu
region. Days could be spent hiking and visiting the Sherpa
villages, Thyangboche Monastery, Khunde Hospital, Khumjung
Hilary School and trekking towards the Everest Base Camp.
Accommodations are available at Thyangboche, Debuche, Pheriche,
Pangboche, Lobuche and Gorakhshep.
Phaplu Another scenic place that is also
easily accessed via air is Phaplu which has direct flights
from Kathmandu. Phaphlu is in the eastern district of Solu-Khumbu,
famous for its Sherpas. From here, you can hike into little
known corners of Sherpa territory, and bask in the mountains'
glow, yet return at night to the warmth of the Sherpa Lodge
in Phaplu bazaar.
The trek up the Langtang valley is another of those finest
mountain treks. Situated directly north of Kathmandu, this
region has three relatively short yet interesting treks: Langtang,
Helambu and Gosainkund. The regions are usually visited separately
but can be combined in as 16-day trip. Lower regions like
Helambu are perfect for winter treks and in springtime this
region's rhododendrons are especially beautiful.The people
are a mixture of Tamang, Sherpa and Bhotia. Food and lodging
are easily available along the main routes.
Fascinating Places of Langtang Valley
Langtang, at 3,307m above sea level, extends from north of
Helambu to all the way up to the Tibetan Border. It is the
largest village of the region despite its small size. Its
upper valley is a grazing paradise, rich in flowers and grass
and dotted with stone huts used in the summer time for butter
making. Sewn in skins and exported to Tibet to flavor tea
and fuel monastery lamps, butter was once the region's major
It is generally a thirteen day trip, counting transportantion
time and a day above Kyangjin and Gosaikund, the sacred lake
devoted to Lord Shiva.
The trek to Helambu is one that remains open for twelve months
of the year. It is the most easily accessible of all trekking
regions. Helambu is below 3000 meters and creates few altitude
problems. The trek provides a sudden, dramatic contrast between
higher and lower areas of Helambu. The higher region consists
of pleasant forests, interesting Sherpa villages and offers
stunning mountain views. The lower valley is comparatively
dull and depressing hot much of the year.
Beyond the aforementioned "Big Three" trekking regions
of Nepal, Nepal is basically a virgin territory for trekkers.
Trekking off the main paths is not only possible, but can
be immensely rewarding, though you need a sense of adventure
and an increased ability to deal with the unexpected. The
treks range from teahouses to wilderness hikes. Frequently
they combine both aspects by crossing over one or two uninhabited
You need extra time to get beyond the standard routes, however,
as said rewards are great - not just mountain views, but increased
contact with a wide range of Nepalis, and the chance to glimpse
a completely different way of life.
The best known of the many isolated high Himalayan valleys
across the northern Nepal, Dolpo preserves one of the last
remnants of traditional Tibetan culture. Legend says it's
a bayul, one of the "hidden valleys" created by
Guru Rinpoche as a refuge for devout Buddhists in troubled
times. Surrounded by high mountains including the Dhaulagiri
massif to the southeast rand cut off by high passes closed
by snow half the year, Dolpo's easiest access is from Tibet,
where its' people emigrated from perhaps thousand of years
Upper Dolpo shelters about 6,000 people,
whose lives revolve around Buddhism, barley, and yaks; their
villages (over 4,260 meters) are among the highest settlements
on earth. A large portion of Dolpo has been set aside as Shey-Phoksumdo
National Park, at 3,555 sq.km. The park shelters blue sheep,
Himalayan black bear, leopards, wolves and the elusive snow
Largely thanks to "The Snow Leopard" book and Oscar
nominated movie, "Caravan," Dolpo is the best known
of Nepal's remote northern border regions. One needs to get
trekking permit from Department of Immigration in Kathmandu
or Pokhara to visit this fascinating region. Check out travel
faq for more information on this.
Phoksumdo lake at 3,627m is the most fascinating
part of the whole trek in Dolpo. The lake is a basin of unearthly
turquoise blue ringed by rocky crags and forest, framed by
Rara lake, the largest lake of the country, is a major destination
among the treks in western Nepal. The lake, located within
the Rara National Park, is perched on a high shelf, encircled
by gray ridges and pine forested hills inhabitated by beers,
jungle cats and deer. The trail leading to the lake was built
as a horse trail for His Majesty King Mahendra's 1964 visit
Access to Rara Lake is from Jumla, which can be reached by
flight or by walking for around ten days from Surkhet in western
Nepal. A trip to the lake and back to Jumla takes just about
Kanchanjunga, referred as "Five Great Treasures of the
Snows", is the third highest mountain of the world that
lies at the eastern border of Nepal at an altitude of 8,586m.
It takes at least two weeks' walk to reach the destination,
Khangchenjunga base camp. There are two
Kanchanjunga base camps - north and south,
and the usual trek involves reaching either of them. It is
possible to visit these both camps, but it takes a much longer
time and moreover both are very difficult to cross.
This region requires a trekking permit from Department of
Immigration from either Kathmandu or Pokhara. The trekking
fee for one person per week for the first four weeks is US$10
and US$ 20 per week thereafter.
Upper Mustang - Kingdom of Lo
Upper Mustang, an arid barren land with pockets of fertile
oases, is very different from any other parts of Nepal. In
fact, the kingdom of Lo share similar culture and geography
of Tibet. The lifestyle of Lo, people of Lo, is also unique
and to date remains untouched by modernity.
The trek to Upper Mustang requires a trekking permit from
Department of Immigration of Kathmandu or Pokhara. The trekking
fee is around US$ 700 per person for the first ten days and
US$ 70 per person per day thereafter. You should remember
to get trekking permit only through the registered trekking
agencies. The trip to the capital of Mustang and back takes
around two weeks and can be done by partly retracing the way
in or by taking a circuitous trail through the outposts of
this ancient pilgrimage.