What do we think of when we mention the mysterious and cultural wonder of Nepal? No doubt you will think of Everest and it being little else than the base camp for people conquering their inner demons, pushing through barriers and achieving life goals. Well, it turns out that you don’t need to climb Everest to discover oneself in Nepal. Nepal provides the perfect backdrop to some self-discovery and to a deeper understanding of this truly incredible country.
It’s worth noting that when considering the whole concept of ecotourism, Nepal should be at the top of the list. After a devastating earthquake flattened villages and many sacred world heritage sites in 2015, killing thousands, Nepal is still picking up the pieces of the ruins caused by nature. The country also largely relies on tourism and international aid, being certified as one of the globes financially poorest countries. However, Nepal is rich in culture, history and the strength of its loving citizens so, a visit to Nepal should be on any conscientious travellers dream bucket list.
We are so stoked to be launching some amazing operators in Nepal and to celebrate, we wanted to put together a starter pack, a list of what one should know when planning a trip to this most inspiring country. Nepalese culture, sites to visit, activities to do, food and drink plus how to pack!
Landlocked by China and India and closed off until 1950, we still don’t know much of our southern Asian friends, however with a cultural history as deep as Nepal’s, secrets have got out and we are glad they did. Modern Nepal has been shaped by its ethnic, tribal and social differences, add to this melting pot the art, dance, religion, folklore, literature and philosophy and you have a feast for the senses.
According to the 2001 census 80.6% of the population is Hindu. Buddhism accounts for 11% of the population (however many labelled Hindu or Buddhist often practice a blend of Hinduism, Buddhism). Islam is practised by 3.2%, 3.6% of the population observes the indigenous Kirant religion. Christianity is practiced by less than 0.5%. It important to observe local religions when thinking about dressing around sacred temples and holy places.
Dance and music is deeply rooted in the nepalese culture and it's a wonderful juxtapositions between the calm and mindfulness around aspects of Buddhism for example, to the stark contrast of the lively and animated nature of the traditional dances! Many of the famous nepalese dances center around admiration for the ore inspiring mountains of course; when visiting local tribes be sure to stick around at the local halls for the Tandava and Dishka dances!
Sites to See
When researching places to visit, there was one place in particular that captivated us- The Living Goddess. “Welcome to Nepal, the land of living gods and goddesses. Kumari is derived from the Sanskrit word Kaumarya, which means princess. Learn the historical significance of worshiping a girl as a goddess; be a part of the tradition that dates back to the 17th century where two of the world’s oldest religions Hinduism and Buddhism interlink” Welcome Nepal. If you are lucky enough to be visiting between August and September, you will be able to visit during the Indra Jatra festival, a most vibrant and colourful celebration.
Another inspiring place to visit is the Kapan Monastery. “One of the most popular monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism is the Kapan Monastery which is perched on a hill not far north of Boudha. Each year a large number of foreigners arrive here to study Buddhism and meditation”, Welcome Nepal. There are many courses available if you wish to explore all the possibilities of the human mind through meditation. More info can be found with our friends at Welcome Nepal. Click here for more info. If not, the Monastery itself is a real sight to see, with incredible views over the city.
Lumbini Nepal, The Birthplace Of Buddha is a must see, without doubt, a place for those who wish to seek enlightenment. “One of the world's most important spiritual sites is home to the historic birthplace of the Buddha. Today you can visit over 25 international Buddhist monasteries, study Buddhism, meditation and visit Buddha's birthplace itself within the sacred Mayadevi Gardens!” Welcome Nepal. There are few places in the world that can fill you (no matter your religious affiliation) with a sense that the world holds so many secrets. With a place as spiritual and Lumbini, it’s the perfect opportunity to switch your phone off, take a minute to internalise and absorb all of the incredible sensations around you.
“Trek through the hidden valleys of Dolpa, visit the ancient Shey Gompa (The Crystal Monastery), touch the icy waters of Phoksundo Lake, see yak caravans cross high-Himalayan passes, visit some of the highest settlements on earth like the Dho-Tarap valley; Dolpa will never cease to amaze you”, Welcome Nepal. For your inner hiker this is heaven, imagine the sun rise over these snow capped mountains, taking in the rugged surroundings. The Dolpa people settled at altitudes of 3,660 m to 4,070 m and are arguably one of the highest settlements globally, how cool!
Can you imagine skydiving over the Himalayas? What an unforgettable thrill. Descend into the world’s highest drop zone at Gorak Shep, Kala Patthar. The skydiving takes place in front of Mt. Everest (8,848 m), and the free fall takes place past some of the world’s highest mountain peaks. There are other drops available for the less daring amongst us or for the beginers. However, we are inclined to believe there is little in the world that could match this experience.
Photo Cred- Welcome Nepal
Dangle some 600 meters above the ground, hurling forward at 140 km per hour or a distance of 1.8 km! The world's tallest and longest zipline, now how can you say no! Nepal now offers the rush of extreme zip lining, the first of its kind in the whole of Asia, the ultimate adventure experience. The launch pad is situated at the peak of Sarangkot, Pokhara, offering most spectacular views of the Annapurna mountain range and the Pokhara Valley below.
Food And Drink
Nepal's most famous dishes are dal bhat (rice and lentils) and momos. Besides the international dishes from continental to Asia, Nepal has a huge variety of local dishes to discover. What better way to understand Nepal and the Nepali people, than through their kitchen. It is said that Nepal doesn’t have a “signature” cooking style; although food habits differ depending on the region. Nepali food is influenced by Indian and Tibetan styles of cooking. Authentic Nepali taste is found in Newari and Thakali cuisines. Most Nepali people don’t use cutlery but eat with their right hand, which is also customary in India.
Street food is a popular way of eating in Nepal. Most of us know, eating street food in Asia isn't one for the faint of stomach, there are no regulations but everything is generally lovingly prepared and totally delicious! Grab your eating mitt and dive in!
How To Pack
Light is the key word here. Pack smart and pack light to ensure you don’t have a superfluous of items, the whole mentality of being light is one that goes hand in hand with Nepal, light of mind, light in the backpack, eating light and so on. Sounds a little wishy washy but Nepal brings out your melancholy side. The weather is every changing in Nepal when hiking, heat and blistering sun to cold temps and snow capped mountains. You will be moving around a lot, even when you arrive at a base camp so think a 40L backpack for the full trip and then a day pack such as a 25L. Make use of the pockets and limited space with little tricks. Check out this video for more helpful hints. However be mindful of the products you take. Bare in mind you may be washing in free flowing water, think bio degradable, environmentally friendly and non toxic. You don’t want to leave any footprint of the places you travel whether that be via water contamination or litter.
So there you have a it. Just a small intro into this most interesting country. You will discover many things about yourself and this diverse land. Be sure to let us know how your trip goes or if you have already visited let us know what you thought!