With its high Himalayan Mountains and deep valleys, lush jungles, and exotic wildlife, Nepal imbibes within itself diverse origins, cultures, and life styles. Apart from these, the beauty and serenity of the place and the simplicity of its people have always attracted visitors to delve into this mystic country. Be it trekking, rafting, or enjoying panoramic views, Nepal forms a perfect destination for tourists.
Wedged in between China to the north and India on the other three sides, Nepal has a long roughly rectangular shape with an extension of around 885 km east-west and 145-241 km north-south. Altitude ranges from near sea level to 8848 m above it. The contrasting topography of Nepal can be divided into three different geographic regions based on altitude.
Himalaya Region: With an inclusion of 8 of the 14 highest summits in the world, this region ranges between 4877 m and 8848 m. Here, the culture and religion are in compliance with that of Tibet.
Hilly Region: Lying as a broad belt between the Terai and the Himalayas, the hilly region is the most densely populated part of Nepal. It covers 64% of the total area of Nepal including Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Terai Region: This narrow strip of subtropical Gangetic plains extends through the entire southern part of the country. It has an altitude of less than 100 m above sea level, mostly covered with forests and fertile farming fields.
Nepal holds a rich history of strength, valor, and nobility. From the Kiratis, Lichhavis, and Mallas to the present Shahs, each dynasty has contributed to Nepal’s culture, tradition, and artwork. After the reunion of Nepal in 1769 by King Prithvi Narayan Shah, Nepal was controlled by a powerful clan, Ranas, from 1846 till 1951. After which dawned democracy; a democratic revolt of 1990 restored the multi-party democracy with constitutional monarchy.
RELIGION AND CULTURE:
With the majority of Hindus and Buddhists, Nepal houses Muslims, Christians, and Jains to a smaller percentage. Nepal, the world’s only Hindu Kingdom, demonstrates artistic architecture in temples and pagodas, enhanced by woodcarvings, metalworks, and various artworks.
Because of its varying topography Nepal encounters climatic extremes depending upon the altitude of the place. However, in general, Nepal has four climatic seasons:
- Spring (March-May) – mornings and evenings are cool while days are warm
- Summer (June-August) – hot with occasional evening thunderstorms
- Autumn (September-November) – dry and mild
- Winter (December-February) – mornings and evenings are very cold
ENTRY TO NEPAL
By Air: To fly directly to Nepal, Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu is the only international airport in Nepal. The TIA has direct links with Hong Kong, Lhasa, Dhaka, Doha, Abudhabi, Bangalore, Osaka, Shanghai, Dubai, Bangkok, Karachi, Amsterdam, Vienna, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Varanasi and Paro. Apart from Royal Nepal Airlines (RNAC), Thai Airways, Austrian Airlines, Martin Air, Qatar Airways, Gulf Air, Pakistan International Airlines, Indian Airlines, Druk Air, Air China, and Biman Bangladesh carry most of the travelers to Kathmandu. By Land: You can travel overland to Nepal from India or Tibet. Our private coaches, buses, vans, and cars can pick you up from any entry point.
The entry points at the Nepal-India Border are Kakarbhitta, Birgunj, Belhiya (Bhairahawa), Nepalgunj, Dhangadi, Sunauli, and Mahendranagar.
The entry point at Nepal-China Border is Kodari and Kerong
- Passports and Visas: Except for Indians, all tourists must carry valid visas. Passports have to be carried by all visitors. A visa can be obtained at any Royal Nepalese Embassy or Consulate Office (for 60 days). The visas can be extended at the Department of Immigration, Bhrikuti Mandap, Kathmandu (Tel. 4222453, 4223590, Fax: 4223127) or on arrival at TIA and at the border entry point.
- Customs Formalities: All baggage must be cleared through customs at the point of entry. Import and export of antiques, precious stones, gold, silver, horns, wild animals’ skins, and narcotics are strictly prohibited.
The heart of the country, Kathmandu Valley comprises three major cities, Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur. These three regal cities demonstrate culture, tradition, and outstanding artworks preserved from the medieval period. The Durbar Square, an enchanting ensemble of ornate palaces, artistic courtyards, and spectacular temples, forms an exclusive part of each city. Apart from this, the major places of interest are:
- Swayambhunath Stupa: One of the world’s most glorious Buddhist stupas situated about 77 m above the level of the valley.
- Pashupatinath: A sacred temple of Lord Shiva, famous among Hindus
- Boudhanath Stupa: Built on an octagonal base, it is the largest stupa in the valley.
- Budhanilkantha: This colossal seventh-century statue of Lord Vishnu is located 9 km north of the city.
- Changunarayan: One of the finest artistic pagoda-styled temples of Changunarayan is a portrayal of artworks of the Licchavvi period
- The Golden Temple: Also known as Kwa Bahal, it is a monastery renowned for its rich repousse art and artistic perfection
- Mahaboudha: A 14th-century Buddhist Monastery made of clay bricks with thousands of images of Lord Buddha engraved
- Godawari: A botanical garden embracing a marvelous view of the valley
- Kumbeswor: One of the only three temples of the valley with five roofs, dedicated to Lord Shiva
- Surya Binayak: A shrine of Lord Ganesh, a revered god of the Hindus. It is also a good picnic spot flanked by many attractive landscapes.
- Tachapal Square: Famed for its innumerable Hindu Monasteries called Math.
- Potter’s Square: It is known as Potters’ Square because of the many potters seen here molding wet clay into different kinds of earthenware. It has a display of fresh pottery left out to dry in the open square
- Nyatpola Temple: Built at the time of King Bhupatindra Malla in 1702 A.D., this five-story pagoda stands on a five-terraced platform.
POKHARA VALLEY: The city, 200 km west of Kathmandu Valley, has become a center of adventure. Not only is the city the starting point of many treks but it also offers panoramic views of famous Himalayan peaks creating an environment to relax and enjoy nature. Pokhara is slightly warmer than Kathmandu, however, the monsoon is very wet; in fact Pokhara records the highest rainfall in the country
CHITWAN: Chitwan is the best place for a visit to the Terai. The main attraction of the place is the Royal Chitwan National Park. It provides a great wildlife experience with its rich flora and fauna
LUMBINI: Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, is situated at the Terai plains of southern Nepal. This World Heritage Site preserves a stone pillar erected by Emperor Ashoka of India in 249 BC
JANAKPUR: The native country of Goddess Sita, wife of the Hindu God Ram, Janakpur has been named after the legendary King Janak. The city has become a great pilgrimage site for Hindus and is also the center for the revival of the ancient Mithila art and craft
TANSEN: Tansen, an ancient hill town, is the most popular summer resort of the western Nepal providing exotic views of the Himalayas and a peek into genuine Nepalese culture
GORKHA: Situated to the west of Kathmandu, Gorkha has major historic importance in Nepal. The Gorkha Durbar, with a fort, a palace, and a temple offers enticing sceneries of the surrounding valleys and the Manaslu Range
- Maghe Sankranti: Maghe Sankranti is the beginning of the holy month of Magh, usually the middle of January. It brings an end to the ill-omened month of Poush when all religious ceremonies are forbidden. Even if it is considered the coldest day of the year, it marks the coming of warmer weather and better days of health and fortune.
- Shree Panchami: The day marks the advent of spring and is devoted to Goddess Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of Learning. Devotees throng to the shrines of the goddess on this day. The festival falls around January/February.
- Maha Shivaratri: Shivaratri is the grandest festival in honor of Lord Shiva. Pashupatinath Temple is visited by hundreds of pilgrims. They stay awake the whole night there, singing praises of the lord and keeping vigilance.
- Holi: Also known as Fagu Purnima or the Festival of Color, Holi is celebrated by throwing colored water and smearing colored powder at each other. The day marks the victory of Lord Vishnu over the Demoness Holika.
- Ghode Jatra: Ghode Jatra, the Horse Racing Day falls in mid-March or early April. A grand horse parade takes place at Tundikhel, the central point of the city, reputed to have been in the former days the largest parade ground in Asia.
- Nepalese New Year: In Nepal, the Bikram Era (Bikram Sambat-BS) is brought into use in the calendar. It is accredited to King Bikramaditya of India who started the calendar some two millenniums before. The New Year is celebrated on Baisakh 1 with festivities and feasts.
- Rato Machechhendranath Jatra: The most popular and biggest procession in Patan, the Rato Machechhendranath Jatra is carried on for months for the final celebration. In this festival, the deity, Rato Machechhendranath is journeyed in a wheeled chariot through the city.
- Buddha Jayanti: This day is dedicated to the enlightenment of Lord Buddha, the Founder of Buddhism. The festival falls on the full moon of the month of Baisakh.
- Janai Purnima: Celebrated on the full moon of the month of Shrawan, Janai Purnima is the day when the Brahmin men change their Janai, the sacred thread they wear on their chests. People also tie sacred threads on their wrists. The Newars call the festival, Gunhi Punhi. As a trend, they also cook Kwati, a soup of nine different sprouted beans on this day.
- Gai Jatra: On this day, the family who has lost a member in the past year, parades kids as cows and ascetics in the festival route. The cow is believed to help the departed soul to travel to heaven. The day also portrays a comical aspect as people engross themselves in humorous and satirical items on Nepalese social and political life.
- Krishnastami: The day is celebrated as the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna, a renowned incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Devotees throng the Krishna Mandir at Patan, chanting holy hymns and lighting oil lamps in his honor.
- Teej: Teej is a festival dedicated to Hindu women. On this day, women flock towards the Pashupatinath Temple, singing songs and dancing. While the day before they engross themselves in luscious foods, they fast that day. The married ask for the long life of their husbands and the singles ask for a good husband.
- Indra Jatra: This festival falls at the end of Bhadra (August/September). Both Hindus and Buddhists unite to celebrate the festival of Indra Jatra with great enthusiasm.
- Dashain: During the month of Kartik in the Bikram Sambat Calendar (late September and early October), the Nepalese people indulge in the biggest festival of the year, Dashain. It is the longest (for fifteen days) and the most auspicious festival celebrated by Nepalese of all castes and creed throughout the country.
- Tihar: Tihar, the Festival of Lights is one of the most dazzling of all Hindu Festivals. In this festival, Goddess Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth is worshipped. The festival is celebrated for five days; each day with its own importance.
- Yomari Punhi: Yomari Punhi, one of the popular Newar Festivals is observed every year during the full moon of December. The chief delicacy of this festival is Yomari, a confection of rice flour (from the new harvest) dough shaped like a fig and filled with brown cane sugar and sesame seeds, which is then steamed.
Trekking in Nepal
The best way to experience Nepal’s exotic combination of natural beauty and cultural diversity is to walk through it. Nepal is a country with a difference, where the rhythm of life is elegantly slow and the way of life is traditional, cultured, and unsophisticated. Nature has bestowed Nepal at her best with high mountains, green lush valleys, and mighty rivers. So explore Nepal, perhaps the only country of its type in the world with Shiva Treks and Expeditions–the country’s immense contrast in altitudes and climate–an equally spectacular mix of lifestyles, vegetation, diversified culture, and traditions of various ethnic groups of the country.
There is no country in the world more apparent in diversity, more cultured, varied, and interesting than Nepal. Trekking in Nepal follows the similar trails that have captured the imaginations of mountaineers and explorers for over 5 decades. Most of the trails follow a range between 500 to 3000 m and pass through the cultivated landscapes and unchanged village settlements, which offers a glimpse of Nepal’s fascinating culture and unchanged customs and traditions. Trekkers will have the privilege to closely observe the remote mountain villages that embrace many ethnic groups. Trekking in Nepal obviously means being accompanied by picturesque valleys, beautiful terraced landscapes, and the majestic snowcapped mountains. And always in the background, the icy pinnacles of the Himalayas loom over the scenery.