Welcome to the wonderland of Himalaya, snowy peaks proudly adorning the landscape of small and charming country of Nepal. Many of you have heard about powerful, enormous, rocky monsters standing in this land, to name a few: Mount Everest, Annapurna, Kanchenjunga, Manaslu or Dhaulagiri.
Himalayan range always was and continues to be the desired destination for mountaineers and trekking enthusiasts. No wonder why... To hike Mt Everest, the highest mountain in the world, with a total height of 8848m is a challenge and exhilarating experience for adrenaline-driven people.
But what about people who are not really into trekking but still want to experience the beauty of snowy tops?
In the last years, the tourism industry in Nepal has been rebirthing and expanding after the earthquake in 2015. Local companies compete in providing trekkers and holidaymakers with more and more sophisticated activities. What can you find here, are the ideas about how to admire the best of Himalaya without putting too much stress on trekking or walking.
1. HOT AIR BALLOON IN POKHARA
Pokhara, the second biggest city in Nepal, recently has grown its popularity among tourists due to beautiful location and attractions it has in the offer. The city placed in the valley, surrounded by green hills and rice fields is an amazing spot to stop and relax for a while.
2 years ago Pokhara launched the hot air balloon tours that enable you to see the peaks like Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Machhapuchhre or Mardi Himal. The tours run twice per day, all year round. However, the best seasons are spring (March-May) and autumn (October-December) due to great visibility. Prices vary, depending on the length of the flight. The shortest flight is 20 mins and will cost you around $90, while 1 hrs journey costs more or less $150.
As hot air balloon is a quite new activity in Pokhara, paragliding has been there for years. Pokhara is one of 5 most recommended destinations for tandem paragliding (paragliding with a pilot) enthusiasts. Simply because it has all ingredients for the perfect ride: stable climate, convenient starting off and landing zones, the safety of the lake and amazing view on the mountains, including Annapurna and Machhapuchhre peaks. Pilots used to observe the movements of eagles flying nearby and follow them to catch the right wind. Nowadays, of course, this sport is more professional and pilots hold international certificates. However, you should check with the company if they provide the insurance, just in case.
Recently paragliding became one of the attractions in Bandipur, a small city between Pokhara and Kathmandu. It also offers good conditions and spectacular view on Manaslu, Ganesh Himal and Annapurna.
3. OVERLAND VILLAGE TO VILLAGE JEEP TOUR
While coming to Nepal you can’t miss a chance to meet local people. What made me fall in love with this country is actually the kindness, hospitality and interesting nature of Nepalese. They are warm-hearted, smile a lot and make you feel welcome in every situation.
Walking from village to village, sleeping in local houses, eating traditional Nepalese food will let you experience unique trails of local inhabitants, as well as the diverse culture of Nepal.
This homestay trek requires less walking with the highest altitude 1675m. Besides, travelling by jeep gives you comfort and saves time during your holiday. Even though the tour passes only through lower elevations, you can still enjoy the impressive picture of Himalaya, including ranges from Kajiroba to Ganesh Himal.
4. SPIRITUAL RETREAT WITH HIMALAYA IN THE BACKGROUND
Nepal has something unusual in itself that makes it a perfect place for spiritual growth and inner discovery. People, nature, animals behave in slow motion way, creating the vibes of chill and relaxation, even you are stuck in the biggest traffic jam. This energy hits you right away after landing at the Kathmandu Tribhuvan airport. 'Whatever happens, it's ok'- the message is clear.
It could be the reason why so many people find Nepal as a gateway to personal development, meditation, yoga retreat, singing bowls workshop and other spiritual activities.
On top of that, you can find many centers, especially in Pokhara, with the view of Himalaya. From my own experience, there is nothing better than yoga in the morning on the green scent grass, with a fresh breeze of Phewa Lake and gaze on the blue sky and white sharp top of Machhapuchhre- the Fish Tail Peak.
5. HIMALAYA MOUNTAIN FLIGHTS
Buddha airlines offer Himalaya mountain flight from Tribhuvan Kathmandu airport. For this flight, only window seats are sold and aircraft crew gives information about ranges and peaks seen through the window. The flight costs around 180$ and can be booked directly on the Buddha Air website or through one of the local agency. This is a great option for people who want to see the mountains from high, take panoramic photographs or simply have a tight time schedule.
Helicopter flights are also available both, from Kathmandu and Pokhara and take you to chosen areas of Himalaya. Prices vary, depending on the time and destination, but generally, they’re higher than airplane flights.
6. MONASTERY STAY IN KHUMBU
Khumbu is located in northeast Nepal, on the Nepalese side of Mt Everest. It’s a very beautiful area, surrounded by Himalayan peaks, with small and charming Sherpas (mountainous ethnic group of Nepal) villages. Apart from many other attractions, there are a number of monasteries that you can stay for meditation or volunteering. The most famous and largest in Khumbu area is Tengboche Gompa (gompa- the name for a monastery in the Himalayan region), with a stunning view of Mt Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam.
To list a few others, Takshindo La monastery, Mu Gompa in Tsum valley, Lundang Gompa. They offer simple accommodation and food. Apart from these, there are a couple of small monasteries and nunneries near the trekking trails that you can ask for the possibility to stay. Spending your holiday in Himalayan gompa will let you experience the life of Buddhist practitioners, engage in meditation and self-discovery process. But it also means to act there with discipline and moderation and respect rules of the place.
7. CYCLING IN ANNAPURNA AND UPPER MUSTANG
While walking can be boring for some adrenaline seekers, cycling can give them doze of excitement, especially when done on the rocky paths of Himalaya. Though this option requires a good level of fitness, it can be an unforgettable way to discover mountains. Mountain cycling in Annapurna range is quite popular nowadays, although remains a good alternative to trekking.
For the people with bigger budget (cost of the permit in Mustang area) biking in Upper Mustang is a great option to dive into unique, rough and moonish landscape of that region.
8. ULTRALIGHT FLIGHT IN POKHARA
With ultralight flight, you can experience the Aerial view of Pokhara valley, Phewa Lake, World Peace Stupa and surrounding Himalayan Mountains. The flight uses very light aircraft, with no windows and only space for two people, pilot and passenger. There are few packages available, including flights from 15 up to 90 mins. The shorter flight will take you around Pokhara valley, Phewa Lake, around Sarankot hill, while the longer rides go closer to Annapurna range and Machhapuchhre peak.
9. CABLE CAR IN CHANDRAGIRI, KATHMANDU
Chandragiri is a 2,547m high hill located in Thankot, the western area of Kathmandu. Cable car system was opened there in 2016 and since then it gives an alternative for those who don’t want to do 3hrs hike up the hill. At the top, you can enjoy the 180-degree view of Langtang, Manaslu, Ganesh Himal, Gaurishankar, Annapurna range and even Mt Everest on a bright and clear day. There are few other things to do in Chandragiri (Bhaleshwor Temple, rich fauna and flora, restaurants and eating hubs, kids’ playground), so plan your trip for the whole day.
10. MT EVEREST SKYDIVE
If you have ever dreamt of flying and you aren’t afraid of height, this is an option for you. Since 2008 Nepal offers skydiving jumps over the Mt Everest. Skydiving is one of the most extreme aerial adventures, where a person jumps with a parachute from the plane and dives into the air. Skydive can be done in solo or in a group.
For the price of around 25 000$, you will be flying above the highest mountains in the world. It isn’t a cheap attraction, but definitely thrilling and gives unforgettable memories for the rest of life. Or until the next jump…