Top Destinations for 2017: Nepal
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Nestled at the foot of the youngest and highest mountain system, and home to a captivating culture, Nepal is certainly a traditional destination for mountaineering enthusiasts and those who want a truly unique cultural experience. While preparing for what will certainly be a life-changing journey, it’s important to make note of when exactly it’s best to visit. The optimal time would be in autumn (the high season), as clear skies and warm days make perfect weather for trekking (and pictures). Between late September and late November, however, as thousands of people take the trails in the Everest and Annapurna regions, accommodation costs in the capital Kathmandu go up, and it’s harder to find a room. The second best time to visit is in the shoulder period, between March and April, when spring brings warm weather and the rhododendron blossoms. It’s also the best time to enjoy Nepal’s diverse wildlife, despite the increasing heat. The disadvantage to that time is that haze can hide the mountains from lower elevations (although it’s possible to trek above it), and stomach bugs are more common. The pre-monsoon (mid-April to early June) and monsoon (usually mid-June until late September) seasons are possibly the most inconvenient time to travel to Nepal. The monsoon makes the fields come alive with rushing water and green shoots, and that’s when Nepal is at its most Nepali. But despite the clean air, blooming flowers, butterflies, and abundant fresh produce, the weather makes it very inconvenient to travel. Mountain views are rare, leeches come out on some trekking routes, landslides block roads and paths, and flights may be cancelled. With that out of the way, now it’s just a matter of choosing the path you would like to take in Nepal – oftentimes literally. Where to go Most visitors’ journeys start at Kathmandu, as flights land in the Tribuvan International Airport. The city of Kathmandu boasts an incredibly diverse historic architecture with stunning Newari architecture, centuries-old Hindu and Buddhist religious sites along with tourist-friendly accommodation and restaurants. The capital is located in the Kathmandu Valley, which envelops two other beautiful cities - Patan, and Bhaktapur, which were once independent countries ruled by the Malla kings. Bhaktapur, the City of Devotees, is the perfect representation of what the whole valley looked like in the Middle Ages, while Patan is home to the valley’s finest craftsmen who have preserved ancient art techniques. But it is in Kathmandu that trekkers need to acquire their permits and other documentation, either from a trekking agent or from the appropriate offices. These documents will be checked along trekking routes. For those who can’t afford a lot of time to go mountaineering, there are half-day hikes from Kathmandu to witness breath-taking Himalayan views. For those interested in trekking, the Everest region (also known as Khumbu) will definitely be on their list of places to visit. The standard trek, passing through the legendary Sherpa villages, is a mix a deeply cultural and spiritual experience in addition to the physical one. In fact, many have described it as a journey close to Nirvana. If you are taking a direct flight from the capital, the journey to Everest or Everest Base Camp, begins from Lukla. Taking a flight saves time, but the alternative route, starting from ethnically diverse and flora-rich Jiri, provides the opportunity to truly enjoy the experience. The option from Jiri will take around ten days to reach the famous Sherpa village Namche Bazaar. Namche Bazaar (3,500m) would be the staging point for most expeditions to Everest and other Himalayan peaks in the area. A historic trading hub, famous for its homemade yak cheese and butter, Namche has now made its name as a prosperous market town selling anything from Tibetan artefacts to trekking and climbing equipment. It’s situated on the slope of an arch-shaped mountain, which allows you to oversee the sights of glorious mountain peaks throughout the valley, day and night. Another place to definitely visit is the Sagarmatha National Park in the Khumbu, with some of the rarest bio-diversity on earth. A ten-12 day trek through Solu to the Khumbu and the Sagarmatha National Park is an excellent itinerary both for acclimatisation and experiencing the changing local customs. For those looking for some real trekking, the Everest Base Camp trek is quite simply the classic trek in Nepal. Starting from Lukla, the “Gateway to Everest”, the path takes you to Namche Bazaar, follows the Imja Khola valley.
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