Sandwiched between the Gangetic plains and Tibetan plateau, Nepal encompasses an extraordinary spectrum of landscapes, ranging from the terai grasslands and sal forests of its southern border with India to the vast wall of ice peaks marching along the Chinese frontier to the north – the legendary Himalaya, or ‘Abode of Snows’. Between these two extremes is cradled a lush, fertile valley that has been a centre of sophisticated urban civilization for more than 2,500 years, and where an unparalleled wealth of medieval palaces, Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples survive intact, along with the traditional religious cultures that gave rise to them.
To walk through the Durbar Squares of the Kathmandu Valley, flanked by their distinctive skyline of tiered pagodas and golden-spired, whitewashed stupas, is to experience a world as unique as it is exotic to foreign eyes. Until the 1950s, Nepal lay resolutely off-limits to outsiders. Only a handful of honoured dignitaries and mountaineers were permitted to set eyes on its ancient treasures, ensuring this most refined of mountain societies thrived in glorious isolation.
Driven by the needs of a rapidly growing, and grindingly poor, rural population – as well as four decades of mass tourism– development has preceded apace since then. However, enough of the country’s heritage endures to make any journey through this magical former kingdom an enticing prospect. The architecture is irresistibly exotic, the many and varied cultures of its people compelling and the Himalayas, whether glimpsed from the comfort of a palace hotel window or through the flap of a tent on a week-long hill trek, are quite simply breathtaking.
Moreover, with the Maoist insurgency that troubled the country for more than a decade now firmly a thing of the past, there’s never been a better time to visit Nepal.
All our Nepal tours, whether group or tailor-made, can also be extended with treks of varying lengths and grades, enabling anyone of moderate fitness and determination to experience at close quarters the ethereal world of the high Himalayas.
WHEN TO GO TO NEPAL
October and November are good months to visit Nepal, when the air is crisp and clear, and the country is lush and green following the monsoon. February to April is also a good time, when the weather is warming and many flowers are in bloom. Some haze does set in by April obscuring the mountain views. The weather is clear but chilly in December and January. May and early June are the warmest months, and the monsoon is prevalent from the middle of June to September. At 4000 metres, the Kathmandu Valley is relatively temperate. Chitwan in the Terai region is warm and can get quite hot by April.
There are no direct flights available from the UK to the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. One of the best options is on Qatar Airways via Doha (total flying time from London, including change at Doha, is approximately 14 hours) or on Gulf Air (via Bahrain). Alternatively, you can fly into Kathmandu from Delhi, Kolkata or Varanasi (India) or Bangkok (Thailand).
Another option is to enter by road from India.