Nepal is the trekkers pilgrimage, bordered by the Himalayas some of the highest peaks on the planet, it’s easy to see why. But what does Nepal have to offer those who don’t scramble on a pair of hiking boots at the site of even a climbing frame or the less able bodied among us?
Firstly it must be said that you do not need to be super fit, a climber or in fact the steadiest on your feet to enjoy a trek in Nepal. The Annapurna region in particular offers a range of short and easier treks. Reputable guides will help you every step of the way, taking into consideration your capabilities, what you want to get out of the trek and the current terrain conditions.
Once you’re in Nepal there is no need to worry that you’re going to miss the ‘Himalaya experience’ if you don’t walk up them. Every moment spent in Nepal you will bask in the surroundings of these incredible giants of nature no matter which way you look. (Well unless you’re staring at the ground of course). Just waking up to a view of the Himalayas is a once in a lifetime experience in itself. Since Nepal first opened its borders to outsiders in the 1950s visitors have stared in awe at these mountainous wonders of nature, which are so immense it’s hard to imagine a world beyond.
If seeing them from the comfort of a rooftop restaurant isn’t enough, several companies offer 45-minute flight tours that take in the most well know mountains including Everest for around $200 (2012).
In the Kathmandu valley bargain in Thamels’ narrow market streets. From Yak wool shawls, to replica Ghurka knives, handmade Nepali papers and Buddha statues in every size and material imaginable Thamel is the tourist centre and perfect for picking up gifts that will remind you of treasured memories. It’s important to employ a strict rule of bargaining, being aware that the first price you’re quoted can probably be reduced to about a 3rd if your skills are up to the game. Do your research and pay a price you think is fair.
When you’ve filled up on gifts, Kathmandu’s famous Durbar Square is only a short walk from Thamel. It’s possible to take an interesting journey by foot or rickshaw through the colourful winding streets of Thamel straight into the heart of Durbar Square in less than 20 minutes. Once there you’ll experience a complex square of temples, the palace and government buildings in this world heritage site once the heart of the Kingdom of Nepal. A 10-minute walk in the opposite direction will lead you to the Edwardian style Garden of Dreams. During spring this peaceful space is blooming with varieties of flowers, shrubs and trees. It’s an ideal places to relax and refresh away from the hustle and bustle of the larger attractions.
The name Durbar square is given to a plaza, which sits opposite the royal palace. Nepal used to consist of small kingdoms and so it’s worth also paying a visit to the Durbar Squares in Patan and Bhaktapur to get a true sense of the history. Bhaktapur itself is one of the more expensive sites to visit but continually receives good reports and is worth the $15 entrance fee. Whilst many of the temples suffered damage during the great earthquake of 1934 it is still possible to see great detail and culture enjoying the Golden Gate, Royal Palace and Taumadhi Tol. The latter containing Nepal’s tallest temple the Nyatapola Mandir. At 30 metres high with 5 roofs, this temple houses incredible statues which offer testament to the strength of the Malla wrestler from the Malla dynasty 12th – 18th Century.
To understand more about this friendly country, which prides itself on smiles, no visit to Nepal would be complete without trips to religious sites. Within Kathmandu a trip to Bodhnath Stupa one of the largest stupas in Asia is perfect at sunset. It’s worth making the journey to spend a few days in Pokhara where you can visit The World Peace Pagoda. Constructed by Buddhist monks from the Japanese Nipponzan Myohoji organization it is situated on a ridge offering breathtaking views of the Anapurna region and Pokhara town itself. Elsewhere in Pokhara natural waterfalls such as the remarkable Devi’s falls with it’s underground vanishing point stream, a host of Yoga classes and retreats as well as dozens of highly recommended restaurants and steakhouses make Pokhara the place to truly unwind in Nepal.