I had a few days available, only two weeks but there were two things I wanted to do was a safari and trekking on the roof of the world. Nepal is a trip for those who love adventure, the diversity of culture and adapt willingly to the habits of other people. The scenic flight in the Himalayas alone is worth the trip! Maybe it's a bit strong as a statement, but one is able to look down on all of these 8,000 meters of the Himalayas, and is not something to be seen every day. From this vantage point we can see Everest in all its grandeur.
After arriving in Kathmandu, we choose a random taxi among the thousands around us, we begin to focus the gaze here and there of what surrounds us amidst a cacophony of sounds and colors that wraps in a deafening swirl. It took me a day to acclimatize, and put myself in the journey. Yes, there is a difference in what we are used to. But as the days went on I realized gradually that Nepal is an extraordinary country. The first evidence of a settlement date back to the second century BC, in the course of its long history. The merger between India and Tibet is very evident in the architecture, where there is a strong influence of Buddhism and Hinduism.
Kathmandu from this point of view is a little gem. Not surprisingly all seven monuments were awarded jointly the title of World Heritage by UNESCO. These are palaces in Durbar Square Hanuman Dhoka, Patan and Bhaktapur, temples of Pashupatinath and Changunarayan and stupa of Swayambhunath and Boudhanath. Kathmandu also has excellent museums like the National Museum of Nepal and a vibrant culinary scene.
I had not booked anything except the flights. I found a small hotel in Thamel. All around us is so different, so colorful and so noisy, which is taking place simultaneously, and each scene seems unaware of what surrounds it and the intoxicating feeling of freedom that comes here and now as well without anything by default and without clocks to mark our time.
The single deadline is the return flight date and this is one of the aspects of the trip that I love the most. Walking in the center of Kathmandu is diving into life, even though we will discover soon, on the road in Nepal, that the city is different from the rest of the country.
Around us we begin to perceive stories, scenes and situations. All together, but each in its own. We head to Durbar Square, the heart of the old town, although to tell the truth, the whole city looks like an old town in the open.
We go for the discovery of the stupa of peace, way up high above the city through an uphill path to reach it, and a feeling of peace between the meadows and the flowers. To reach the trail we cross a lake and a series of small colorful boats awaiting tourists. In the most remote villages in the mountains, as in the city, it is very very cold, especially in the morning.
We breathe the clean mountain air, one to which we think immediately at the sight of a photo of the Himalayas, appears almost impossible for the entire month of stay in Nepal. We reach a temple going up in a cable car with stunning views and climb the gondolas as they call them. Here we see animals sacrifices of chickens, roosters, hens, goats and sheep. Amidst countless people in an indescribable chaos in which, between humans and animals, you see everything.
The day when we have surpassed ourselves, we pitted a wedding. This, too, on the road in Nepal. We meet the couple in the street, and as we stop to take pictures they invite us to the temple and make us even dance with them. Aside from the absurd embarrassment was fantastic living with them for a few hours, to enjoy this slice of life.
We leave Kathmandu to explore its valley, which is a leap in time where you can observe trades that we no longer see even in pageants. Nepal becomes a dive into history. It's all very colorful, traditional and charming, beautiful to photograph. We take the opportunity to discover the towns in a surreal calmness, no motorbikes and scooters everywhere, without their noise and their travels.
THE BEAUTY OF NEPAL LIVES IN POKHARA
Pokhara is the second largest city of Nepal and one of the most important tourist destinations in the country, thanks to its breathtaking scenery between sky and earth.Located in the center of Nepal , about 200 kilometers from the capital Kathmandu , Pokhara is the second city in importance of the country and must see every trip to the region. Pokhara was built along an ancient and neuralgic Trade Street between China and India, which has been losing importance in the second half of 1900.
From Kathmandu, after a relaxing day, I took the local bus to Pokhara. By itself, that single 9 hour trip to 200 km is an experience. Arriving in Pokhara I settled with my guide in a guesthouse run by two mountain guides. So together with them we decided the trek. We took ??the taxi from Pokhara to Nayapul, then from there walk up to Gandrukh, and from there to Jhinu Danda, and the visit to Tatopani, the hot springs in the mountains. Annapurna circuit trekking has been absolutely wonderful.
Over the decades, the city has become a tourist attraction due to its proximity to the great mountain ranges of the area. Pokhara is in fact the starting point of the trekking routes on Annapurna and surrounding mountains. The geography and the ecosystem of the Pokhara region is extremely rich and diverse, with an altitude varying from 1,000 to 7,500 meters. The landscape that opens your eyes is breathtaking, with facts views of green valleys, rivers and lakes and majestic mountains as the Machhapuchhare , the sacred peak for Hindus and therefore inviolate.
The courses and bodies of water are a constant of Pokhara. The city is bathed by Seti Gandaki River, which over the centuries has shaped the terrain shaping gorges deep even hundreds of meters. There are also numerous lakes, the main of which is the Phewa Tal. But Pokhara also has a very interesting architecture, which can be seen in the many temples like Tal Barahi, the Bindhyabasini and Sitala Devi. Pokhara is conveniently connected to Kathmandu and the main towns of the region by land and through the local airport.
It was a moment of incredible intensity with her profile silhouetted against the cobalt sky. She walked proudly, on a ridge of rock and stones, along the course of a glacial river. She looks at us, with the round ears, alert and upright tail. Then she disappears beyond the rocks, on the other side of the ridge. Meet the snow leopard, which is such a rare privilege that perhaps it would be great just to make my journey in Dolpo. Yet it is not so.
Because this remote region of Nepal, bordering Tibet, has been able to give emotions so strong as to be difficult to describe. I am reminded of the words of a friend that trips are made, not told. I'll try the same, however, to tell you about this expedition, which isolated me from the known world for 25 days to immerse myself, along with my fellow adventurers, in a place of spacetime suspension in an magical enchantment in a place where nature has the absolute upper hand and where the few humans seemed to met the survivors of a lost world.
So we decide to live these days in the only way possible, adapting to the immensity that surrounds us. The pace of our hours are dictated by nature. We get up when see the light of the dawn and not of the sun, that will come later to warm our shivering bodies peeping through the peaks and after removing the tents, we start walking. And it continues until dusk, when the sky turns into an astronomical observatory.
Not even the intense ghostly moonlight fails to obscure the milky way and billions of stars that shine with cold light, like the air around us. No need to dream. Every moment here is a dream. Like when, after passing through forests, skirting, and wading through rivers on rickety bridges and streams, we climbed deep gorges, dug between rocks eroded by water and wind, and we see, on the horizon, a turquoise nestled in the mountains of the Phoksundo lake with its incredible unique colors.
It seems you can touch it. In reality it will take many hours of walking to reach it. Hours up and down these wild valleys. And here we are on its banks. The intensity of its color shades is enhanced in the light of sunset. Pure magic. We decide to visit the ancient Bon monastery on its shores. Maybe we seek a blessing. Tomorrow we will have to walk the path of demons, that runs along the entire lake, the one that will take us to the sacred Shey Gompa with its Crystal Mountains.
The mind goes back to the images of the countless films filmed right here. I see the yaks that falls into the lake, I see that spectacular but treacherous path, perched on these deep waters. The demons, fortunately, have mercy on us and allow us to go unscathed. Yet their ethereal presence is felt, in the most difficult and steep, in the flight of an eagle, in the rustle of the wind, the dust that rises with every step, and that covers everything. But to achieve one of the most mystical and remote places of the world, we still walk and toil.
Addressing a step, the Kang-there, at 5350 meters, climb vertical gorges, across desolate landscapes and arid valleys of multicolored rocks, over which loom hanging glaciers. Only Baral herds keep us company, with their shy glances, while grazing the sparse vegetation among the rocks. The walls inform us that the goal is reached.
With their enigmatic etchings, it introduce us into the Shey Gompa valley. Here, among yak-hair tents, stone houses, and prayer mills moved by water of the river, lives secluded Tibetan communities by a deep faith. They run towards the few children, the elegant and smiling women in traditional dress, men with their red decoration on blacks and long hair.
We stop for a day, to rest and to enjoy this atmosphere, where time does not proceed. What is most amazing is the divine silence around us, when the wind dies down. A silence that gets in the blood and helps to find ourselves. But we are not even halfway through our trekking days as it still lie ahead infinite spaces, villages out of time, to get on and off of rocks to overcome steps beyond the 5000 meters.
The desert of the Tibetan high altitude lies below us, amidst chains and mountain ranges. The sky is blue, the sun is strong, with no cloud on the horizon. The breathtakingly beautiful landscapes. It is almost afraid to look around. It's all too vast, too high. A panorama for the gods, not men. In fact, human beings will really meet just a few. Rare villages are located in the valley (between 3500 and 4000 meters) on terraced hills where for centuries is grown buckwheat. In these days they're beating.
We remain spellbound watching these people that singing makes atavistic gestures, in an ancient dance, to secure livelihoods in the coming months, when snow and ice cover everything. Figures seem to emerge from a time that was, but whose memory has remained unconsciously in all of us. We continue on our journey between red and white stupas and mani walls, colored flags that flutter in the impetuous wind Himalayan, on each step, on any deck. Up and down, up and down. Following a path which passed (and still spend) the yak caravans which bartered Tibetan salt with groceries.
Here then silhouetted on the horizon before the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna then. Giant rock and ice, towering sentinels that seem to protect these endless valleys and partly unexplored. Who knows what these places hide away from the few trails. Those who go down from Tibet and that we are taking us to return to our world. Legend has it that it was Guru Rimpoche, the one who spread Buddhism throughout the Himalayas, to discover the Dolpo and to mark it as hidden land, or "beyul". And the indication is still valid.
We leave the Dolpo, exceeding the last three steps, it points to over 5000 meters. We are now in Mustang, where we will spend the last days to reach Jomsom from where a small plane will take us back to Kathmandu. And when I see the first jeep, past the bridge over the Kali Gandaki river that I realize that the adventure is over. I do not know if I will miss more landscapes or the few people I met.
I do not know if the snow leopard will remain in my fondest memories or if I will have more nostalgic for mules that carried our loads, or yak looking at me when I crossed their path. Certainly the one I will never forget is the feeling of deep serenity that I have tried on several occasions during this expedition. Looking at the landscape, smiling at a child, visiting a monastery, touching the stone of a mani wall. A serenity born from the conviction of having lived, even for a short time, in a place of the soul.
DISCOVERING THE CHITWAN NATIONAL PARK IN NEPAL
Nepal is not only the mountains, or the highest mountains in the world. If you miss the experience of the jungle, you will miss a lot in my personal opinion. I have been in Chitwan National Park, and regret having stopped only three days and at a resort on the outer boundary side of the river. The thing that I recommend, once you arrive by bus from Pokhara or Kathmandu (about 5 hours), is to settle in one of the many resorts outside but if you have money to spend, do not miss the Tiger Top. You will see countless animals and you will have fewer tourists around.
Chitwan is home to rhinos, deer and monkeys and is one of the last refuges of the Bengal tiger. Hidden in the thick vegetation there are also leopards, elephants and bears.
MUSTANG, AN EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY
Mustang is one of the most remote places on the planet, a fascinating land that for centuries was kept outside from the outside world. If you want to discover unique attractions, Mustang is the right place for you. Mustang is now a district located in the northwest of Nepal, but for centuries it was a kingdom whose name derives from the Tibetan Mun Tang, meaning fertile plain.
The reigning dynasty is the same for 25 generations and dates back to the fourteenth century. The current king, Jigme Bista Parbal, maintains a purely honorary role, but is much loved by the local people. The Kingdom of Mustang, also known as the Kingdom of Lo, is a fascinating place in many ways. For centuries it was isolated from the outside world, opening doors to foreigners only in 1992 but with a limited number of arrivals per year.
Although part of Nepal, the natural and cultural level is deeply linked to Tibet from which it borders. It is in fact an extension of the Tibetan plateau and the population is entirely of Tibetan origin. Mustang is spread between average heights of between 3,000 and 4,000 meters. No doubt a trip to Mustang requires adaptability, largely offset by the extraordinary thrill of visiting a magical and mysterious place The landscape is a succession of arid deserts, deep canyons and hills of a thousand colors. The nature is dotted by small villages and simple, beautiful monasteries and prayer walls.
The Kingdom of Mustang, the ancient Kingdom of Lo, since 2008 has become an integral part of Nepal, while maintaining peculiarities and traditions entirely local. Mustang is a harsh and complex land made of big mountains and deserts, plateaus and fertile valleys. It can be reached by plane from Pokhara, the second largest city of Nepal, with a flight that lands in the small airport of Jomsom. From here you can start to explore the beauty of the region, through streets and dirt roads that require adaptability.
Travelling in Mustang is to discover extraordinary testimonies of faith and devotion, like the monastery of Kuchup Teranga , near the village of Thini Gaon, characterized by refined interior decoration. The more mystical soul of the Mustang is absent from monasteries of Tashi Lha Khang and Ani, which hold secrets of the Nyingma sect, the oldest of the four schools of Nyingma Buddhism.
One of the most beautiful religious structures in the region is the monastery of the village of Marpha, which is absolutely unique and tied to the Mahayana Buddhism. The oldest monastery of the Mustang is the monastery of The Gekar, located in the village of Tsarang to over 3,500 meters high. In the East Valley of the capital of Mustang, Lo Manthang, are rather numerous Tibetan temples of great charm, to be discovered by hiking routes.
A trip to Mustang is above all a journey into the heart of the most authentic spirituality of Himalayas, its traditions and its millenary history.
BANDIPUR, THE MEDIEVAL HEART OF NEPAL
Bandipur is a pretty little town in the heart of Nepal which preserves the ancient medieval heart of the village, a jewel to be discovered.We are in the center of Nepal , about 140 kilometers from Kathmandu and 80 kilometers from Pokhara , the two main cities of the country. Bandipur is a picturesque village perched on a hill, where some of the buildings more beautiful in the whole region. The town is perfect testimony and open-air museum of Newari culture , the most important of Nepal and play golf in the economic and cultural life of the Kathmandu Valley .
For a long time Bandipur was an important transit point between India and Tibet, in particular from the mid 1800 to the middle of 1900. It was during this period that the town experienced its heyday, with the construction of beautiful neoclassical buildings that still can be admired in all their beauty. In recent decades it has become a tourist destination and a must for every visitor to Nepal, thanks to the many interventions of restructuring that affected the buildings of the old town.
And it is truly a pleasure to stroll the streets teeming with life and humanity, stop in small bars housed in historic buildings and look around the shops of artisans. An experience of pure culture that allows us to understand closely the history and traditions of the Himalayas.
Nepal was my journey to excellence through culture, nature, landscapes, mountains, food, people, etc. It was a meeting with a country as unknown as it was extraordinarily interesting. But it was above all an encounter with myself. With that part of me that in the frenzy I had never known. It was a journey certainly spiritual, an introspective trip where I was able to measure myself against the limits of my character and discover hidden facets until that moment in my soul.
It is fair to say, it was a difficult journey. An experience that has put a strain on my body, especially during the grueling trekking around the Annapurna, and that has forced me to give up all those certainties of the modern world.
Here you will find practical information on how much we spent, about the climate, if Nepal is safe, is it family friendly or for women traveling alone and much more.
1) How much is the cost of trip to Nepal?
It is a journey that can be done with smaller budgets as in general, a trip to Nepal costs very little. Much of the budget will be spent in the flight ticket. The local currency is the rupee and € 1 is equivalent to about 120 Nepalese Rupees. The eating and the hotel costs will be very little on your trip. In restaurants you eat with less than 5 € per meal and on the street with 1-2 €.
In the city you can find low cost hotels between 5 to 10 € per night. You will not find high quality standards, even if you take a 4 star hotel. In short, if you want to go to Nepal put on your heart in peace, and put everything in motion from your spirit of adaptation.
Cost of Trekking in Nepal
First of all know that sleeping and eating in the lodges in the villages can cost very little. You can sleep even with just $ 2 a night and have lunch with $ 1. One important tip that I can give is to buy or rent all the equipment you need from clothing backpacks to the water bottles. Guides and porters enrich the experience of trekking and inevitably offer enhanced security. Usually the guides are locals. Making use of them allows us to enjoy more freedom of travel and to learn more about the local culture. Finally, one of the costs of Trekking in Nepal is that of access permissions. Permits are required in Nepal for trekking and visiting remote areas, such as Mustang, Dolpa, Naar-phu, etc.
Generally you will need permission from TIMS (Trekking Information Management System) for each area you intend to visit in trekking, that you will get in the TIMS offices in Kathmandu and Pokhara and the cost is $ 20. You need a copy of your passport and two photos. To facilitate, one was opened in the tourist area of Thamel in Kathmandu that is open from 6 am to 6 pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 1 pm.
The restricted areas such as low and high Dolpo, Mustang, Kanchenjunga, Manaslu, Tsum, Humla, Rolwaling and other similar areas can only be visited on trek organized by an authorized Trekking agency and obtaining special permits from Ministry of Internal Affairs. The cost of individual permits varies according to the area from $ 75 per week up to $ 500 for 10 days in the high Mustang and the high Dolpo.
For the National Parks you have to pay an entrance usually 3000 rupees, while for Annapurna, Kanchenjunga and Manaslu cost is 2000 Rupees. The entry tickets can be obtained from the appropriate offices in Kathmandu and Pokhara, although you can also get them at the time of entry into the park. That, however, is not recommended because then for Annapurna, Manaslu and Kanchenjunga you have to pay double the entry fee.
2) What vaccinations do you need to go to nepal?
They are not mandatory.
3) When to go to Nepal? What is the best time?
October to January for the exceptional visibility and the verdant nature. Just after the monsoon season the air is clean and the forests they feed. Visibility is one of the essential requirements for the success of a trip to Nepal. Just equip yourselves with good clothing that will be able to neutralize the cold for the benefit of the other aspects of the trip of good visibility and low prices.
March-April for the temperature (about 30 degrees) and the flowers.
In general the climate works like this:
January, February is the dry season as it almost never rains with lower temperatures (0 to 20 degrees).
March, April, May is the dry season, but temperatures rise (from 15 to 30 degrees), and there is little visibility and its difficult to see the mountains from the valley.
June, July, August, September are the monsoon months with rains mainly in the Terai, high temperatures (20 to 35 degrees), very little visibility and therefore is not recommended for trekking.
With October returns the dry season, ending the monsoon season and the air is clear and clean, nature is very green, and is a very good period both for the city and for hiking with good temperatures (15 to 25 degrees).
November, December is the the driest time of the year and the temperatures will return to low (0 to 20 degrees).
4) What kind of transportation to choose in Nepal?
Let's start with saying what means of transport should be categorically excluded. Definitely avoid renting cars, bikes or scooters. They will certainly complicate life. In Nepal you can travel with local bus or private vans with drivers that are rented for individual excursions. Obviously the choice of the means to be used depends on the duration.
In cities, especially in Kathmandu, I recommend travel by taxi or on foot. While if you face long commutes you can take into account the domestic flight option.
5) Is it safe to visit Nepal?
I felt very safe at all times. The doors of the houses are almost always open, and people seem to have a lot of confidence in the neighbours. In general they are all readily available and smiling.
6) How to eat in Nepal?
Everything is fried and very spicy. Prefer basic rice, chicken and vegetables as in all Asian countries. My favorite dish is the steamed momo. They are usually stuffed with a mix of chicken, vegetables, onion and cumin. For vegetarians there are no problems, there are a lot of dishes without meat or fish. Nepalese dishes are often incomprehensible mix of ingredients.
7) How much does a visa for Nepal cost?
The visa is required to enter Nepal. You can apply at the embassy or you can do on arrival at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, or at the entrance to the Immigration Office in Nepal. Bring a photo ID. The visa allows you to enter more than once during the period of time that goes.
15 days> 25 $
30 days> 40 $
90 days> $ 100
It can be extended up to 120 days at the Immigration Department in Kathmandu.
8) Is Nepal suitable for children?
No. There is a lot of walking and a few places suitable for children. Nepal is also one of those places that you appreciate more on your own, after meeting the country's history, the history of Hinduism, Buddhism, the influence of the British and the Tibetan mysteries. It is a journey that we must be prepared for.
9) Is Nepal suitable and safe for women traveling alone?
In my opinion, yes. Nepal is a country of women. In the country they are working in the fields, in the houses, and you meet along the paths with their baskets full of harvest. In cities it is they who inhabit the markets, in front and behind the stalls. They sell, they choose, they buy. On the streets you meet more women than men.
10) The flights over Everest. Is it safe?
The plane takes off at 6:30 in the morning from Kathmandu after an hour of controls just as for international flights. The flight last about an hour. The first half hour we rode along the Himalayas looking amazed at the chain on our left. Then it made a U-turn and there we see all in reverse, this time from the right side of the plane. I saw for the first time Everest from there. In conclusion it is not scary at all.