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7 Important Things You Must Know Before Traveling to Nepal

1509

Nestled between two giant nations, China and India, Nepal is a tiny yet tremendously unique country. Mountains, monuments, arts, and adventure – you name it and this small country shall hold no barrier to leave you awestruck. Although most of the westerners who travel to Nepal appreciate this land of wonders for its diverse landscapes and the jagged mountains, it is actually much more than that. Bustling streets, colorful cultures, diverse ethnicity, temples, monasteries, history and arts, Nepal seemingly resembles a timeless world in itself.

It is true that thousands of backpackers head off to their Destination  Nepal, to trek in the rustic Himalayas. However, a trip to Nepal can still be worthwhile if you’re not an avid trekker. It is the melting pot of adventures and the land of ultimate experiences.

If you’re planning to travel to Nepal or if it has been in your ‘to-go-list’ since forever, here are some important things you need to know about Nepal before traveling:

1. Unique Travel Experiences of Nepal

Nepal is undoubtedly one of the most unique travel destinations on earth. Often regarded as the ‘Shangri-La’ for backpackers and adventure enthusiasts, Nepal is fabled for the spectacular mountains, diverse terrains, ambient cultures, and natural beauty. Although it only marks as a tiny rectangle in the world map, Nepal’s diversity makes it an ideal destination for all kinds of travelers. Whether you’re an avid mountain lover, a wildlife enthusiast, a daredevil or fond of art and architectures, this tiny nation offers plenty of things to make your travel experience worth every penny.

unique-travel-experiences
Experience Cultures, Sherpa Villages, Himalayan nature together

 

Here is the list of things about Nepal that makes it one of the best travel destinations in the world:

Mountain Mecca

Home to eight of fourteen mountains above 8000m including the world’s highest mountain, Mt. Everest, Nepal is truly a Mecca for mountain lovers. Whether you only have a day or a whole week, the potential to relish the mountains in Nepal are perfectly adequate. While you can enjoy the mountain vistas from the hills around Kathmandu and Pokhara, the best way to indulge the mountain is by trekking in the foothills of the Himalayas for weeks. Trekking in Nepal is an incredible experience, a walk like nowhere on earth, surrounded by the mountains and ambient cultures. Some of the most spectacular trekking destinations in Nepal are:

View-of-Himalaya
View of Himalaya including Mt. Everest

Historical Cities and Heritage Sites

The historical cities and the heritage sites of Nepal will take you back in time. Culturally and architecturally rich, Nepal is a reflection of a timeless world. Strolling around the primitive alleyways and city squares of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Patan is an experience of cultural and historical diversity with colorful ambiance. UNESCO has enlisted 8 Cultural World Heritage Sites in Nepal, 7 of which are located inside Kathmandu Valley and the one outside the valley is Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha. If you’re spending a day or two in the historic city of Kathmandu, here is the list of places we recommend you to visit:

  • Kathmandu Durbar Square
  • Bhaktapur Durbar Square
  • Patan Durbar Square
  • Boudhanath Stupa
  • Pashupatinath Temple
  • Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple)
  • Changu Narayan Temple
Patan-Durbar-Square
Patan Durbar Square

Wildlife Experience

One fascinating thing about Nepal apart from the mountains is its geographical diversity. The southern part of Nepal resembles a completely different world of wilderness and isolation. Perfect for nature and wildlife enthusiasts, this dense chain of national parks and conservation area is home to exotic wild animals and bird species. Nature fanatics from all over the world can explore these subtropical woodlands on exotic jeep safaris, elephant safaris and also on foot. Here is the list of places we recommend you to visit to enjoy the ultimate wildlife experience:

Tiger-in-Chitwan-National-Park
Sight of Tiger in Chitwan National park

Extreme Adventure Sports

Whether you chose to jump off a suspension bridge, paddle over the white water rapids, pedal across the country in a mountain bike, or fly over the lakes with scenic mountain views, Nepal is the ideal destination for all kinds of extreme adventure sports. Every year, hundreds of adventure junkie make their way to Nepal to fulfill their dreams of flawless adventure. With the wide variation of terrain and landscape, the potential of adventure sports in Nepal is endless. Here are some of the most iconic adventure sports in Nepal:

  • Peak Climbing
  • Bungee Jumping
  • White Water Rafting
  • Paragliding
  • Canyoning
  • Rock Climbing
  • Mountain Biking
Paragliding-in-Nepal
Paragliding from Sarangkot hill in Pokhara

2. Nature and Climate of Nepal

Covering a total land area of 1,47,181 sq.km, Nepal mainly divided into three geographical regions; Himalayan region, Mid-hills (Midland) and Terai region. Mt. Everest at the elevation of 8,848m marks the highest point in the country while Kechana Kalan in Jhapa marks the lowest elevation point at 60m.

Himalayan region (above 3,000m) spreads a total of 16% of the land comprising alpine pastures, rugged mountains, and temperate forests. Mid-hills covers 65% of the total land with an elevation ranging from 600m to 3,500m. The hilly region comprises two beautiful valleys, Kathmandu and Pokhara. The Terai region covers 17% of the total land with an elevation varying from 60m to 305m.

The climate of Nepal is highly influenced by the massive geographical variations along with its location in the subtropical latitude. It ranges from subtropical monsoon in Terai region, a warm temperate climate between 1,200m to 2,100m, cool temperate climate in the higher elevation between 2,100m to 3,300m and alpine climate at the elevation of 4,200m to 4,800m.

Despite such massive variations, seasonal constraints are far less of an issue while traveling to Nepal. Even during the severe winter during December and January, the bright sun and magnificent views tend to accompany the travelers. However, Autumn (Sept. to Nov.) and Spring (March to May) are considered to be the best seasons to visit Nepal.

Despite stretching only 800 km east to west and 200 km north to south, Nepal is home to over 180 mammals, 640 species of butterflies, 6,500 flowering plants, 1,100 non-flowering plants and 862 types of birds. Since 1973, the Government of Nepal has maintained 20 protected areas that consist of 6 conservation areas, 10 national parks, 3 wildlife reserves, and 1 hunting reserve.

Following are the major natural tourist attraction in Nepal:

  • Chitwan National Park
  • Sagarmatha National Park
  • Shivapuri National Park
  • Shey Phoksundo National Park
  • Bardia National Park
  • Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve
  • Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve
  • Rara National Park
  • Langtang National Park
Bandipur-Village
Bandipur village in Hilly Region of western Nepal with majestic view.

 

3. Culture and Tradition of Nepal

Nepal is considered as the mixing pot of diverse culture and traditions. Although, a small country, Nepal is a land of multiracial, multi-religious and multilingual patterns. There are about 103 indigenous social groups speaking 92 different languages in Nepal. The caste system of Nepal has a great influence of prehistoric and orthodox Brahmin caste system which came into existence after the arrival of Indo Aryans. The four major castes of Nepal are Brahmins, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Sudra.

The early settlement of Nepal accompanied by the large scale migrants from Tibet and northern India makes Nepal a land of diverse ethnicity and linguistic pattern. Nepal’s Indo-Aryan ancestry dominate the majority of the population which includes Brahmin, Chhetri, Newar, and Tharu. The northern and eastern part of Nepal is inhabited by Tibeto-Nepalese including Tamang, Sherpa, Rai, and Limbu while the west is occupied by Magar and Gurung.

Religiously, the majority of Nepalese practice Hinduism and Buddhism. More than 80% of the people in Nepal are Hindus while the rest comprises of Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, and other local religions. However, Nepal has always maintained a great deal of intermingling among Hinduism and Buddhism making them two most dominant religious groups in the country. Additionally, the fact that Nepal has never had a conflict in subject to religion resembles religious tolerance and harmony throughout the country.

In Nepal, different tribes and ethnicity celebrate their own unique festivals and jatras on various occasions. The major festivals of Nepal are:

  • Dashain and Tihar
  • Chhat
  • Lhosar
  • Teej
  • Buddha Jayanti
  • Holi
  • Maha Shivaratri
  • Bisket Jatra
  • Indra Jatra
  • Janai Purnima
  • Gai Jatra
  • Ghode Jatra
Bisket-Jattra-in-Nepal
Celebration of Bisket Jatra

Culturally, hospitality and friendliness is a common phenomenon in Nepal. The Nepalese people live by the ancient Sanskrit code, “Atithi Devo Bhava,” which states, “Guests are our God.” Therefore, in Nepal, the tourists are considered equivalent to God.

4.   History of Nepal

The history and antiquity of Nepal as an ancient civilization begins around 7th or 8th B.C. Kiratis, the Mongoloid Hindu monarchs, were the first recorded rulers of Kathmandu Valley. King Yalamber, said to be their first of many kings, is also mentioned in the great Hindu epic, Mahabharata. Apart from that, very few are known from this period of time.

Later, in 300 A.D, Licchavis arrived from the northern part of India and took over the regime overthrowing the Kiratis. Around the 4th to 8th century, Licchavis maintained the luminosity of culture throughout the country. Their recorded legacy of monuments and chaityas still stands in the north of Bhaktapur at Changu Narayan Temple which is dated back to 5th century. The primeval stupas at Swayambhu, Boudha, and Chabahil is also believed to be initiated during the Licchavi era. During 601 A.D, Amshuverma succeeded his father-in-law to retain the throne from Licchavis to become the first Thakuri King. Although the trade relationship between India and China prospered during the Licchavis regime, Amshuverma consolidated the relationship by marrying his daughter, Bhrikuti, to Songtsen Gampo, the famous king from Tibet and his sister to an Indian prince.

The Mallas first came into power to rule over the valley around 1200 A.D. Although, Licchavis were the first to plant a seed of the cultural brilliance, the golden age of art, architecture and craftsmanship arrived during Malla Dynasty. Throughout their regime of 550 years, Mallas built some of the most iconic temples and places around Nepal. During this period, Mallas also introduced numerous religious festivals and also encouraged arts, music, and literature. After the demise of Yaksha Malla in 1482 A.D, the valley was further divided into 3 kingdoms, Kathmandu (Kantipur), Bhaktapur (Bhadgaon), and Patan (Lalitpur) among his sons. Furthermore, Nepal which we know today was fragmented into 46 independent states.

One among those divided states was the kingdom of Gorkha which was ruled by a Shah king. The ambitious king of Gorkha, King Prithvi Narayan Shah commenced on a mission to conquer Nepal. By 1769, Shah defeated all the kingdoms of the valley including Kirtipur to attain his dreams of unified Nepal. King Prithvi Narayan Shah later moved his capital from Gorkha to Kathmandu establishing the Shah Dynasty that lasted from 1769 until the end of monarchy in 2008.

ancient-Gorkha-Palace
Gorkha palace built back in 16th century

5. People of Nepal

In general, people of Nepal are regarded as one of the most amiable and hospitable people around the world. The most common way to greet each other in Nepal is by saying Namaste, which in Sanskrit is translated as, “the divine in me salutes the divine in you.” Although Nepal has a diverse culture and linguistic attributes, most people in the country speak their official language, Nepali. In recent years, more people in Nepal, especially the younger generation are heavily influenced by western society and culture. However, they have still managed to hold their cultural and historical ethics to themselves.

Due to the lack of sufficient resources and inadequate transportation facilities, there has been a massive impact on the growth and development of Nepal. However, globalization in the country is accelerating, especially in Kathmandu and other urban cities. The major infrastructures like roads, buildings, hospitals, schools, and colleges are being constructed around the cities and towns. Majority of the educational institution in Nepal encourage English as their primary language. Therefore, most of the people in Nepal can also speak fluent English.

The people who reside in the city are familiar with most of the infrastructures including internet access. However, in most of the rural areas, the development is slow-moving. The people living in villages and rural areas still have to face the consequences of lack of basic infrastructures like education, health, and road extension.

Sherpa-identity-Himalaya
Sherpa People of Nepal or Himalayan Hero

6. Products of Nepal

As a landlocked country, Nepal is substantially hampered by inadequate transportation facilities making it one of the least developed country in the world. The economy of the country heavily relies on the import of essential commodities like fuel, fertilizers, steel, and construction materials. More than half of the total population of Nepal are engaged in agriculture which is the major source of the country’s export income.

Nepal ships nearly three-quarters of the total production within Asia while selling around 14% of the products to European countries. The most valuable exported products produced in Nepal are; tea and coffee (10.6%), staple fibers (10%), textile flooring (9.3%), clothes and accessories (7.9%), fruits and vegetables (6.1%), and iron and steel (5.8%).

However, if you’re searching for gifts and souvenirs, take a stroll around the alleyways of Thamel and the Durbar Squares. These touristic areas are packed with small shops and stalls that sell plenty of authentic products to take home from Nepal. If you’re still puzzled, here is the list of some famous products to buy in this amazing destination, Nepal.

  • Thangka paintings
  • Pashmina products
  • Handicrafts
  • Bead jewelry and pulses.
  • Woolen Carpets
  • Statues and carved masks
  • Khukuri
  • Nepalese paper products
  • Readymade garments
  • Tea, spices, and honey
Metal-Handicrafts-in-Nepal
Metal Handicrafts ready for export

7. Politics of Nepal

In recent years, Nepal is having to emerge through rapid political changes facing a multitude of social and economic problems as its major consequences. After the royal massacre in 2001, the country’s political condition encountered prolonged instability. In order to defend the monarchy, King Gyanendra took over the throne of his brother, Late King Birendra.

However, his regime came to an end in 2008 after the abolishment of monarchy in Nepal. The country was then declared as the Federal Democratic Republic, a major milestone in the political history of Nepal. With the change in the system, however, the country failed to maintain the stability and consistency in the political terms.

The long-awaited constitution kept on delaying for almost half a decade until the landmark constitution was passed in 2015. Historically known as the Hindu Kingdom throughout the world, Nepal was declared as the secular country under the new constitution. Even after the declaration of the new constitution, Nepal has failed to find the firmness in terms of political stability which has highly impacted the lifestyle of Nepalese people. The overturn of infrastructure development and economic growth has been the major issue in the country in recent years.

Q&As related to Nepal

1.   What is the best time to visit Nepal?

Autumn (October and November) is considered as the best time to visit Nepal. The weather is usually warm and dry complimented with the clearest visibility of the mountains. Two of the most popular festival, Dashain and Tihar, also fall during this time of the year. The second best season to travel to Nepal is Spring (April to June). The weather is comparatively warmer and the trails are far less crowded.

The temperature drastically drops during the Winter (December to February). However, this is a decent time to travel to low-lying areas like Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan, and Lumbini. With soaked roads and obscured mountains, Monsoon is considered as the least favorable time to visit Nepal.

 

2.   What are the best Nepal travel tips?

If you’re traveling to Nepal for the first time, the experience of the epic journey to the land of Himalayas can be bewildering. So, here are a few important tips to help you prepare for your trips to Nepal:

  • On-arrival visas are available at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu as well as on the border crossings if you’re traveling by land. However, it is recommended to bring a passport photo for visa procedures.
  • Make sure to avoid tap waters and raw vegetable for health safety.
  • Bring your own universal adapter and plugs.
  • Always carry a hand sanitizer and tissue papers.
  • If you’re planning to go trekking or hiking, make sure to bring decent trekking gears. If not, buy the gears in Kathmandu.
  • Do not scatter your rubbish on the trails. Dispose away the wastes properly on the bins along the trails or bring them back to the city.
  • If you’re trekking in the Himalayas of Nepal, make sure you have a trekking permit.
  • Before heading to the mountains, always consult your doctor and get a prescription for Diamox and other medications to battle the altitude sickness.
  • Tips for guide and porters are not mandatory but welcomed.
  • Before heading home from Nepal, make sure you exchange all your local currencies. It is actually illegal to take the Nepalese currency away from the country.

3.   What do you need to travel to Nepal?

Here is the list of things you need to pack before traveling to Nepal:

  • Travel Visa
  • Travel Insurance
  • First-Aid Kit
  • Water Purifier
  • Activated Charcoal
  • Hand Sanitizer & Tissue Papers
  • Sunscreen
  • Sun Glasses
  • Clothes
  • Hiking Boots
  • Rain Jacket
  • Backpack
  • Passport Pouch
  • Power Adapter
  • Portable Charger

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