It’s no secret that Nepal is the gateway to the Himalayas – hundreds of thousands of travellers come to the Asian country every year, some to challenge the mythical Everest, others just to look at its mesmerising height and sight from above or the surrounding Kathmandu Valley.
Although best known as the hub of Himalayan Adventure, Nepal caters so many wonderful facets and “once in a lifetime” experiences – it genuinely has something for everyone. Nepal is a country of amazing extremes. Here are five of the country’s lesser known gems.
Adventure – not just for the trekkers
Nepal is the known hub for trekking and peak climbing adventures. However, many may not be familiar with the extreme aerial, water and wildlife adventures Nepal caters. The country that hosts the highest altitude skydiving in the world also caters adventures like bungee jumping, ultra-light flights, paragliding, zip flying and mountain flights. The country with more than 6,000 rivers and rivulets also offers diverse water adventures like white water rafting, cannoning and kayaking.
Diversity – of culture and nature
Nepal is one of the most diverse countries culturally and naturally. Despite having a total land area of just below 150,000 square kilometres, it manages to enjoy three very different geographical regions: the lowland (Terai), the mid-hills and the high mountains (Himalayan). These offer great diversity in more than one way: topography, nature, scenic views, climate, vegetation, life styles, etc. The altitude of the Himalayan region ranges between 4,877m to 8,848m. It includes eight of the highest 14 summits in the world, including the world highest mountain: Sagarmatha (Mount Everest). The mid-hills region accounts for about 64% of total land area, whilst the lowland Terai occupies about 17%. Nepal’s altitude variation also explains its climatic diversity: conditions range from the sweltering heat of the Terai in the lowland to the freezing cold in the Himalayan highland.
Nepal’s socio-cultural diversity is even greater than its natural/geographical variety. More than 100 ethnical tribes of different heritage, customs, traditions, religions and languages live here harmoniously, a rich and unique cultural mix seen nowhere else. Nepal’s cultural heritage has evolved over the centuries, mostly influenced by Indian, Mongolian and Tibetan culture.
This multi-dimensional heritage manifests in more than one way, but one that is truly exciting is Nepal’s vibrant festivals and celebration. Did you know that Nepal celebrates more festivals than the number of days in the calendar? In fact, folklore and festivities are an integral part of Nepalese society. Predominantly a Hindu and Buddhist nation, Nepal’s festivals mostly take place during post-monsoon season. However, each festival celebrated here is completely different to another, and portrays the different facets of Nepal with music, food, dancing, singing and a lot of energy. Tours or treks in Nepal during the festivals are a unique and fascinating experience.
Nepal is also home to all manner of rich and diverse wildlife. Although covering less than 0.1% of the earth’s total land surface, Nepal has 35 types of forest, 14 protected parks, nearly 5% of the world’s mammal species and 10% of the world’s bird species. The lowland Terai region is not just the agricultural hub of the country, it is also home to lush jungles inhabited by some of the most exotic and endangered animals in the world. The rarest animals include mammals like the one-horned rhinoceros, the Bengal tiger, the leopard, the four-horned antelope, and the Indian elephant; reptiles like the Burmese python and the Gharial crocodile; and birds like the Black stork, the Hornbill, and the Bengal Florican. Taking a jungle safari in well-preserved Chitwan and Bardia National Park is a great way to experience the wildlife first-hand.
Unique & authentic luxury stays
Nepal caters to every traveller’s taste and budget. For those willing to pay a little extra, top-end accommodation includes luxury jungle lodges, converted traditional mansions and wonderful rural retreats. Some of these unique and authentic luxury stays include Dwarika’s in Kathmandu; Traditional Homes – Swotha and The Inn in Patan; Tiger Mountain Lodge and Temple Tree Resort & Spa in Pokhara; and Kasara Jungle Resort and Barahi Jungle Lodge in Chitwan.
Nepal is a country rich in diversity – of people, culture, adventure, experiences, landscape… Make sure not the miss the above next time you visit. And keep looking – there are so many more hidden gems in Nepal!