Stretching from the Himalayan mountain range to the sultry jungles of the Terai plains, Nepal is a nirvana for adventure lovers like me. Wedged between two giants – India and China – the Himalayan nation is a relatively small country and yet it surprisingly packs a punch with its dramatic landscapes and rich Hindu culture and traditions.
For two weeks, I travelled with G Adventures on the Nepal Adventure Tour and found myself falling for Nepal’s slew of colors and smells, boundless energy, and snowy peaks and monasteries. Our journey brought us from the dusty, atmospheric streets of Kathmandu, through the rugged trails in the Annapurna foothills, and finally to the wild jungles of Chitwan in the south. Each area of Nepal was so different to the next. We found one surprise after another.
Here is a selection of my favorite moments, from rhino-spotting to trekking through rice fields and getting lost in temples.
Trekking through the Foothills of Annapurna
The Himalayas have been drawing legions of trekkers to Nepal since the 1950s. Whether you’re a beginner hiker or an experienced mountaineer, there is a trail for everyone ranging from accessible day-hikes to the rugged trails up to Mount Everest Base Camp. On our tour, we did a three-day hike through the Annapurna foothills from Nayapul to Dhampus. The hike was around 45km in total and reached 2100m in altitude. Even though it was a short and relatively easy walk, we were able to get a taste of trekking in the Himalayas.
We rose early each day, walked through rice terraces, chatted with farmers, climbed up steep steps that seemingly led to the heavens, and feasted on incredible views of the Annapurna and Macchapuchare mountains. By night, we relaxed over momos (“Tibetan dumplings”) and raksi (“Nepali rice wine”), and enjoyed our time with our Nepali porters. This trek was definitely my favorite part of the trip and I can’t wait to hit the trails again — hopefully on a longer trek next time!
Spotting Rhinoceros in Chitwan National Park
The southern Terai lowlands of Nepal are home to the last remaining Asian rhinoceros populations in the world. Established as the first national park in Nepal, Chitwan is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a highly protected reserve.
We hopped on a dugout canoe and floated on the calm, glassy water of the Rapti River as the wispy clouds hung low in the dawn mist, in search of wildlife. That morning we caught sight of several gharials, crocodiles, and herons along the riverbank. In the afternoon, we headed out on a hike through the jungles in search of rhinos — but to no avail.
Finally, after a few hours of combing the grasslands with a 4×4 jeep, we saw the elusive rhino just a few feet away from us. Led by our local wildlife guide, I jumped out of the jeep and tiptoed along. Just when we got too close for comfort, the rhino looked up and stared straight at us as though it had only just noticed us. Our guide signaled for me to run and I sprinted for my life — thankfully the rhino simply sauntered away. A lesson learnt!
A Boat Ride on Fewa Lake, Pokhara
Pokhara town itself is a backpacker mecca filled with trekking shops and pizzerias, but the lake and stupas surrounding it are a whole different world. One of the best temples to visit in the area is Pokhara Shanti Stupa (“World Peace Pagoda”), poised high up on a hilltop overlooking the picturesque Fewa Lake. To head up there, we took a boat ride on the lake and soaked up views of the valley from the water — a very different angle indeed.
Wandering the Ancient Town of Bhaktapur
Chocked full of intricate carvings, temples, and ancient pagodas, Bhaktapur is the best preserved Newar town in the Kathmandu Valley. It was once the capital of Nepal during the great Malla Kingdom, and that’s why the artwork and architecture here are some of the finest in the country. We spent a day getting lost in its narrow alleys, combing through temples and weaving through neighbourhoods where locals still live today.
Admiring the Temples, Pagodas, and Stupas of Kathmandu
Kathmandu may be chaotic, dusty and loud on the surface, but head into its backstreets and you’ll find a world of ancient artistry, hidden temples, and courtyards. The atmospheric temples of Kathmandu offer a glimpse into spiritual side of the city. I recommend visiting the Boudhanath Stupa (one of the largest in the world), and Swayambunath Temple (“Monkey Temple”) found high on a hilltop and overlooking the Kathmandu Valley.
Eating Dal Bhat, Nepal’s national dish
Nepal’s national dish, dal bhat (lentils with rice) can be found everywhere from the teahouses in the mountains to lavish restaurants in downtown Kathmandu. It’s hard not to fall in love with its simplicity and rich, savory flavor. It’s usually eaten in a thali (a meal made of a selection of dishes served in small bowls and placed on a round tray). Here in this video below, our Nepali CEO Baikuntha Simkhada (or affectionately known as BK) introduces the Nepali thali to us.