Nepal is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on earth. From the mesmerizing views of the mountains to the abundance of natural and historical sights, Nepal has a lot to offer. Despite being a small country sandwiched between two giants, it is rich in its natural beauty, cultures and traditions, and diverse landscapes. Here are some of the reasons you need to add Nepal to your list of places to visit in 2019.
The Government Has Declared It, “Visit Nepal Year”
Guests are Treated Like Gods
The people of Nepal are reason enough to visit this amazing country. As the saying goes “Atithi Devo Bhawa,” which translates to “Guests are Gods”. People will welcome you with a huge smile and open arms. Locals are known for their hospitality, friendly nature, and respect towards tourists. While tourists are considered annoying in some parts of the world, they are considered family here. It is not uncommon to be invited into someone’s home and offered a cup of hot masala tea. It’s also easy to become lifelong friends with anyone from your trekking guide to your waiter.
You Can be the First to Summit a Virgin Peak
While most people opt to complete the popular Everest Base Camp Trek or the Annapurna Circuit, there are tons of unexplored “Virgin Peaks,” waiting to be summited. While this isn’t a task for the faint of heart, it is an incredible opportunity for a thrill seeker or trailblazer. In 2013, the Nepali government opened 602 peaks up for mountaineering. As of 2017, 188 of those peaks remained unclimbed. It’s one thing to climb a peak, it’s another to be the first person to ever step foot there.
Spotting a Ghost Cat Just Got a Little Easier
If wildlife is at the top of your list when picking a destination, then Nepal is a great choice. While wildlife is abundant, it’s the snow leopard that has made the list of reasons to visit this year. In 2017, the snow leopard took a giant leap from being “endangered” to “vulnerable”. Nepal has approximately 500 snow leopards living in the Himalayas, giving it a tenth of the world’s population. Snow leopards are notorious for being hard to spot, and have therefore earned the nickname ‘ghost cats’. Seeing one is no easy feat, but with the population of this once endangered species on the rise, your chances of spotting one just got a little easier.
Glaciers are Disappearing Faster Than You Think
While most people might not consider climate change as a reason to visit a country, it has a massive impact on the tourism in Nepal. For instance, most of the major trekking routes cross glaciers. If you’re into nature or trekking, walking across a glacier is not only exciting, but also a great privilege. Even seeing one from a distance makes an impression. Nepal has a total of 3,808 glaciers covering 3,902 sq km. Since glaciers are disappearing at an alarming rate, scientists believe that they could be gone by the year 2100. There’s no time like the present to see one up close and in person, since they are getting smaller and smaller every year.
It’s extremely Affordable Right Now
While many countries require a large bank account, Nepal is easy to enjoy on a tight budget. Your money will go a long way here, and you can get by on $10 a day. If you enjoy the local cuisine, meals cost as little as $1, while lavish or western meals might cost $10. A nice hotel can be as cheap as $20 a night, while a hostel room could be as little as $3. Shopping is also a great experience inside the valley where you can buy clothes, souvenirs, artworks, and handicrafts for fair prices. Even when it comes to trekking, you have the freedom to choose from luxury services or budget-friendly options.
You Can Still Help the Economy Post Earthquake
While the major earthquake that hit Nepal happened nearly three years ago, its effects are still lasting. A lot of Nepal is unchartered territory for tourism, but there are many areas that rely heavily on the tourist industry. After the earthquake, tourism decreased exponentially, and it has just started to pick back up in the last year. Those who live in small villages along trekking routes rely on tourists to stay in their teahouses and eat at their restaurants. Without tourism, the economy in these areas suffers. Visiting these small villages not only helps the locals who live there, it also allows them to rebuild the areas that were previously damaged.
It’s one of the Safest Countries in the World
Although crime does exist, the crime rates in Nepal are very low compared to other countries. The majority of crime committed here is non-violent. You don’t have to travel in fear of getting robbed or worse. Nepali people are generally very accepting of others, therefore violence based on race or religion is extremely rare, and you will feel welcomed wherever you go.
Getting off the Beaten Path is Easy
In most countries, getting off the beaten path takes effort. Have you ever been to a place no one’s heard of? A place you barely find any information about online? In Nepal, most people flock to Kathmandu or Pokhara. Drive an extra hour in any direction, and you’ll feel as though you’re the first foreigner to visit. It’s not every day that you get to explore quaint villages and beautiful mountains that haven’t been touched by the tourism industry. Seeing and experiencing the authentic culture and traditions that haven’t been affected by westernization is a gift.
The Locals Still Enjoy a Simple Way of Living
Most of Nepal’s population is involved in agriculture, and even though there has been a lot of urbanization in the country, most people still live in rural areas. When traveling in Nepal, you can get a taste of the lifestyle, which has been untouched by modernization. In small villages, you can stay with locals, see how rice is cultivated, and learn about traditions that date back to medieval times. Getting to experience a culture as authentic as this is something you can’t experience anywhere else.
There are Over 100 Different Ethnic Groups
Nepal has a fair share of diversity in terms of cultures and traditions. It’s home to more than 100 ethnic groups who live in harmony, and some of these ethnicities can’t be found anywhere else in the world. It’s also a very religious country. The majority of its citizens follow Hinduism among other religions like Buddhism, Muslimism and Christianity. One can truly get a taste of the different and unique lifestyle of the people and get insights into their traditions and customs.
You Can Celebrate an Array of Festival
With so many different ethnic groups comes a multitude of festivals. The festivals in Nepal are endless, and are known for being vibrant and colourful. While most of the festivities have religious importance or follow beliefs of ancient mythology, all of them have their own significance. The biggest and longest lasting celebrations are Dashain and Tihar. In addition to the major festivals are jatras and melas. However, the most appealing festival among tourist is Holi, which is a festival of colours.
You Can Commemorate the Year 2075
Nepal has a unique calendar called Nepal Sambat, which uses lunar months. This means that they are 56.7 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar that is used in western countries. April 14th is New Years Day, and in 2018 it will be 2075! Which means, in an odd way, you can celebrate the future. The best place to do this is in Bhaktapur where thousands of people come to celebrate Bisket Jatra for nine days and eight nights. During this lengthy festival, there is chariot pulling and a dramatic tongue piercing ceremony that is said to bring good fortune to the entire village. You can also take a bath in the Hanumante River, which is believed to keep you healthy throughout the entire year.
The Unique Blend of Cuisines
Nepal is sandwiched between India and China, which gives it a unique blend of foods. The most popular dish among Nepalese is dal baht. Dal baht is an Indian dish which features steamed rice, lentil soup, and a curried vegetable. There are a lot of variations, and each dal baht is slightly different. One of the most popular dishes among tourists hails from Tibet in the form of a dumpling. Momos come in all shapes and forms including vegetable, fish, buffalo, and apple for dessert. Not only is the food incredible, the teas are also a specialty. The most popular are milk tea and masala tea which can be found everywhere.
It’s a Place of Peace, Serenity, and Healing
The holy places, breath-taking mountains, stunning valleys and lush green forests make Nepal a very sacred place. In addition to the many beautiful locations, it’s also the perfect place to go on an inner journey. It is believed that yoga was founded in Nepal over 28,000 years ago. It’s also the birthplace of Buddha, who grew up in Lumbini, making it a popular destination for those interested in learning to meditate. Not to mention, there are plethora of other things to try like natural Ayurveda and shamanic healing.
The Amount of Adventure Sports Available is Limitless
Nepal is the perfect place for adrenaline junkies and thrill seekers. There are plenty of adventure sports one can indulge in. Trekking, mountaineering, and safaris are a must for those interested in nature. However, if you want to feel your heart pound out of your chest, you can go rafting, bungee jumping, paragliding, or zip lining. Even some of the roads and domestic flights can be adrenaline inducing. Taking a motorbike ride through the mountains or landing in Lukla Airport (The Most Dangerous Airport in the World) is sure to give you a rush.
The Geographical Diversity & Natural Beauty are Unparalleled
Nepal is a geographically diverse country that has a large variety of landscape. The highest mountains, the most beautiful lakes, the vast forests, and the countless rivers only add to the beauty of the country. It’s home to Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world, and has eight out of the ten highest peaks in the world. Besides the highest mountain, it’s also home to The Kali Gandaki Gorge, which is known as the deepest gorge in the world. With the mountains come the rivers and the lakes. There are over 200 lakes in Nepal, which are known as the jewel of the country. Many of these lakes hold religious significance and have pilgrims coming from all over the world. Nepal also has some of the highest lakes in the world like the Tilicho Lake (4949m) and Rara Lake (3200m), which will take your breath away, sometimes literally.
It’s possible to be the First to Catch a Yeti
While this might be a stretch, it’s still possible to be the first person to catch a Yeti. While the Yeti is believed to be a mythical creature by some, others take its existence very seriously. It is actually illegal to kill a Yeti in Nepal, however, you are allowed to catch it or take its picture. If you find yourself in Khumjung (along the Everest Base Camp Trek), you can see an alleged 300-year-old yeti scalp which is kept in the local monastery. While several explorers have spent decades searching for one with no luck, it’s still possible that the Yeti is out there.
-written by Michelle Della Giovana from 'full-time explorer'