By Usha Wagle Gautam
Nepal, the South Asian country wedged between China and India, introduces itself as the land of Mount Everest, Earth’s highest mountain above sea level. This cliché of introduction glooms the scintillating varieties of landscape, architecture, ecology, people and culture.
Nepal remained almost closed to foreigners until 1951. When Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa conquered the Everest in 1953, foreigners started getting curious about the mountain and desired to scale the same. During insurgency, from 1996 to 2006, number of tourists declined, and, hiked again after the end of insurgency and restoration of democracy in 2006. As the country gets embroiled in frequent political instability, there is less focus on promotion of quality tourism compared to its real potentials.
Nepal is renowned for budget tourists, a cheap destination for western travellers. As a traveller lands at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu, he or she has much more to ramble around the valley before going beyond to the mountains or lush national parks. The Kathmandu Valley contains three Durbar Squares belonging to three medieval states. These three Unesco-listed Squares are quite rich in architecture. There are modern palaces including Narayanhiti Palace Museum, residence of royal family until 2006, and hundreds of temples and monasteries in the Kathmandu Valley. An iconic Buddhist temple of Swaymbhunath, Hindu’s famous temple of Pashupatinath and Kasmiri Mosque in Kathmandu dates back to the medieval period and establish religious co-existence and tolerance which is continuing for hundreds of years now. In the outskirts of the valley, there are historical towns including Kirtipur, classic village of Bungamati, serene Nagarkot Hill Station and Chandragiri.
Pokhara City, the west of Kathmandu, is the gateway to Mount Annapurna and Mount Machhapuchhare. On Fewa Lake exists museums including International Mountain Museum and Sarangkot wherefrom panoramic glimpse of mountains is viewed. The Pokhara City orients itself to tourism, with well-constructed streets and accommodations. Pokhara is also a gateway to world famous Annapurna Trek that extends to Mustang and Lo Manthang.
On the southern plains, there are two national parks, Chitwan National Park and Bardia National Park. In Chitwan National Park, while riding elephants, one can view the Royal Bengal Tigers and one-horned rhinos, which are well kept as tourist attraction. Further west of Chitwan National Park, there is Lumbini, a place where Siddhartha Buddha was born in 563 BC, Maya Devi Temple along with many other monasteries. Further south, there is Bardia National Park, wildlife rich opportune.
Dolpo Valley is located on the northwest of the country. It’s the same place where Eric Valley, French Director, made Oscar nominated films including Caravan and Honey Hunters in Nepal. An avid traveller would think the best place in Nepal would be the north of Bardia National Park but the place is still rustic because of less tourist attractions. East of Chitwan National Park, there is Ram Janaki Templ, recently built in 1912 on the site which claimed to be the palace of mythical King Janak.
Pakhora is an ideal place for paragliding, kayaking, rafting and boating. But, I would suggest you to go for The Last Resort that’s located in between on the way from Kathmandu to Tibet through Araniko Highway. This place provides an ultimate adrenaline experience of bungee jumping, swinging, rafting, trekking, mountain biking, canyoning and rock climbing.
In Nepal, one can experience trekking like nowhere else. The treks provide the breathtaking experience of nature. The most famous trekking routes in Nepal include Everest Base Camp Trek which takes more than fortnight. The route starts and ends at Lukla Airport and passes onto the Everest Base Camp while elevating as much as 5,545m. Close to Kathmandu Valley, Langtang Trek walks up Langtang Valley to Syabrubesi at around 4,000m.
The Himalayan Shangri-La is a mosaic of diverse ethnic, linguistic and cultural heritage. One can come across different languages and cultures while journeying through the country.
Nepal is one of the colourful destinations which can come as close to nature as possible.
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