A living cultural museum…!
Nepal is a small landlocked country with a diversity of natural and cultural wealth you will find in few places on earth. The land rises abruptly from the sweltering Terai plains in the south at 60 meters above sea level to the freezing heights of the Himalayan in the north well above 8000 meters culminating in the highest point on earth, Mt. Everest at 8848 meters - with lush sub-tropical forests, green hills and valleys in between - within a distance of a mere 200 km. The country with the great and beautiful Himalayan range which stretches from east to west has mystified the entire world for centuries with its unique landscape, fascinating beauty and gateways to endless adventure. This varied landscape offers a fascinating array of cultural experience, sightseeing and adventure opportunities.
Nepal is one of the most marvelous countries and it truly defies description. It can also be called a living cultural museum where the past exists comfortably with the present. Nepal is an intricate and beautiful tapestry formed by the interweaving of Hinduism, Buddhism and other beliefs. Nepal is the birthplace of enlightened Gautam Buddha ‘light of Asia’. Religious tolerance and harmony found in Nepal, is perhaps a unique example to the world. Nepal is a land where the arts culture are as well preserved as the valleys and forests-temples enriched with woodcarving and bronzes, millennium-pled statues standing along the wayside, songs and dances unchanged for centuries and entire cities preserved in their medieval splendour. It is a place where craft traditions are as vital as they were a thousand years ago, a place where one can buy woodcarvings, statues, gems and weavings similar to those of the ancient world. The tale of the country dates back to the time when the Gods and goddesses communed with the mortals. Religion and festivals are an integral part of every day life here. People still respect century's old culture and tradition and history still lives on here among the numerous beautiful temples, monuments and palaces of exquisite art and architecture. Nepal is also endowed with a wide variety of flora and fauna. It has more than 848 species of birds, 600 indigenous plant families, 10 out of worlds 14 tallest mountains, jungles teeming with wildlife and deep river gorges besides numerous lakes, glaciers, mountains and lush green valleys. All these attributes make Nepal a prime tourist destination. The country has also managed to preserve some endangered species of Asia in its extensive parks and protected natural habitats.
There are numerous world heritage sites in Kathmandu to explore, there is beautiful lake city of Pokhara for a relaxing holiday and ever popular view points of Nagarkot or Sarangkot to enjoy breathtaking mountain views in a total comfort. You can have an exciting elephant back safari in Chitwan national park and conclude your tour with a thrilling rafting trip in a Himalayan river or an enchanting mountain flight.
Nepal has rightly been a favourite destination for travellers for many years. It is now entering a new era of democracy but retains its friendly and chaotic charm, and there has never been a better time to take a holiday in Nepal. This forbidden land until 1950 drew explorers and mountaineers in the beginning and later general tourist and trekkers, and the hippies at one time. Since then it has been drawing a lot of attention throughout the world.
Geography of the country has influenced the culture and religion of many ethnic groups. In the north residents are Bhotia (Tibetan) origin this includes Sherpas who live in the vicinity of Mt. Everest. The Sherpas of Eastern Nepal follows primarily Buddhist religion; and in Far Western part there are many followers of Bon Po - a pre Buddhist religion. Kiratis known as Rais and Limbus whose ancestors established Kathmandu valley in 7th century BC and ruled the valley for 1000 years lives in the middle hills of Eastern part of Nepal. Their culture and religion have been greatly influenced by Hindu religion. The Kiratis basically practice animism - worship of ancestors. Like Sherpa they are descendents of Tibeto-Burman group. The other major ethnic groups from Tibeto-Burman stock are Magar, Gurung and Tamang. Magar inhabit central region around Gorkha and mid west, and Gurung in the western region on the foothills of Annapurna and Lamjung. Tamang villages are located mostly around Kathmandu valley. Newars are dominant ethnic group in Kathmandu valley. They practice mixture of Hinduism and Buddhism with reflection of tantrism and animism. Far - west is the origin of Bahuns and Chettri, who are known as Khas. They are Hindu. Their presence is spread all over the middle hills of Nepal. The inhabitants of Terai (plain) belt are Tharu. Though animism is practiced widely but their culture is very much influenced by Hindu religion and culture of neighboring Indian states.
Nepal offers unique pleasure for everyone - a tourist, trekker, river runner, wildlife enthusiast, poet, artist, writer, scholar and those in search of a personal Shangri-La. Nepal is a land for all seasons-year around there is a myriad places to go, people to meet and sites to see. Year around there are exciting adventure activities; trekking, white water rafting, biking and jungle safaris. And year round there is a delightful, never ending procession of colourful festivals. A visit to this region is a step towards paradise that promises you the most fascinating holiday of your life. Explore the beauty of the snow-capped mountains, the extraordinary flora and fauna and the fascinating culture of people from several diverse ethnic groups. 'Nepal and Beyond' will help you plan your holidays making sure you experience every aspect of our magical world.
Tourists holding a valid passport can obtain Nepal visa at the airport or borders upon arrival (except for few African nationals). They need to submit the application form with one recent photograph to obtain the visa. The visa application forms are available in the passport control room. There is no visa fee for tourists from SAARC countries for stay up to 30 days. Indian nationals do not require visa to enter into Nepal.
PLACES TO VISIT
Kathmandu is the largest city and the capital and heart of Nepal. Once thought to be the fabled and inaccessible Shangri-La, Kathmandu is now a hub for independent travellers as well as a growing vacation spot catering to all budgets. In the distant dawn of unrecorded time, so legend tells us, the valley of Kathmandu was a turquoise lake with a wondrous lotus flower resting on it. Majushree (Padmasambav), a patriarch saint from China sliced the valley wall with his flaming sword of wisdom at Chovar and let the dry land appear. The lotus flower settled on the valley floor over which Manjushree built the great stupa of Swoyambhunath.
Situated at an altitude of 1,336m above sea level, Kathmandu is the cradle of Nepalese civilization and culture. It is a living museum of ancient temples, palaces, shrines, squares and courtyards. It is also the fairy tale land of kings, queens, princes, princesses and living goddesses - still worshipped today. The valley comprises the three ancient Royal cities of Patan, Bhaktapur and Kathmandu having their own palaces and ornate palace squares each listed as World Heritage sites. There are cobbled lanes of the palace squares with a fascinating maze of temples, shrines, market places and the life revolving around it. The square also houses interesting artistic pieces that can easily divert one’s mind. Tourists can accumulate a sense of calm and tranquility with these medieval work of art, forgetting the hullabaloo of the bustling city close by.
The Kumari Devi is a young girl worshipped at the Taleju temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square as the incarnation of the Goddess Durga until she begins her menstrual cycle and loses divinity. 32 strict requirements identify a Kumari and many stringent tests confirm her status. Her palace known as Kumari Bahal has beautifully carved window frames, some of them carved in the shape of peacocks while the central one is covered in gold. The goddess appears out of the windows in the courtyards sometime and it all depends on your luck whether you can see her or not.
Swoyambhunath is the world’s most glorious Buddhist Chaityas built 2000 years ago is situated on a hillock about 77 meter above the level of the Kathmandu valley. The Temple of Pashupatinath is Nepal’s most scared Hindu shrine and one of the four most important sites in the world for Shiva worshippers. Visitors can clearly see the temple and the activities performed in the temple premises from the eastern bank of the Basmati river. Bodhnath, a colossal and ancient Stupa is the biggest in the world of its kind. It is located on flat land and encircled by houses & monasteries, where Rinpoches reside. It is also known as `little Tibet’ because of its unique atmosphere resembling old Barkhor marketplace in Lhasa. Dakshinkali temple is regarded as one of most important Hindu goddesses. Pilgrims visit this temple to offer their prayer and animal sacrifices to the goddess. Changu Narayan temple is richly decorated with sculptures and carvings. It is situated above the level of Kathmandu valley and provides a beautiful view of the landscape around. Budhanilkantha temple situated at the base of Shivapuri hill is a remarkable colossal statue of Lord Vishnu, reclining of the bed of snakes. This fifth century statue is in the middle of a small pond and seems to float in water.
The medieval towns of Bungmati & Khokhana are worth visiting to have the glimpse of Nepalese village life. The shrine of Red Machhindranath, the deity of rains is the highlight of Bungmati. At Khokana ancient oil presses can be seen at work in village houses. They produce manufacturing high quality mustard oil through traditional way. The shrine of Karya Binayak is located between the two villages. Sankhu, a legendary village is worth visiting, because of its old houses, beautiful wood-carved temples and old stone water taps. The famous temple of Goddess Ugratara Bajrayogini is situated at a 45 minute walking distance from here. Kirtipur town straddles two hills and a pond in between. At the bottom of the two hills, where they meet is the three-tiered Bagh Bhairab Temple, which is holy to both Hindus and Buddhists. Chovar is the site of a gorge where the water drains from the valley. It is situated 6 km southwest of the city and there is a small pagoda of Adinath on the top of the gorge. The Tibetan Camp situated on the outskirts of Patan has several souvenir shops offering authentic Tibetan handicrafts. Tibetan refugees can be seen weaving carpets by hand.
Nagarkot (2,165m) which literally means "Fort of City" is the most popular hill station near Kathmandu. Famous for sunrise and sunset views, Nagarkot offers the overwhelming panorama of the major peaks of eastern Nepal Himalayas. The place is surrounded by the terraced hillside and most beautiful scenery. Dhulikhel hill hown (1,650m) is an ancient Newari town situated east of Kathmandu and has spectacular views of the central Himalayas. Dhulikhel has a glorious past, which can be seen in many beautiful buildings and in intricate woodcarvings in the shop. The town offers a complete panoramic view of the snow-capped ranges from Karyolung in the east to Himalchuli in the west. These hills are a popular place to take a break from the hectic city life. Phulchowki hill (2,762m) is the highest on the valley rim. Lying 20 kms south east of Kathmandu, a road winds its way to the top where a small shrine is built to the mother of the forest, Phulchowki Mai. The trail up to the top passes through through lovely rhododendron & oak forests. Champa Devi (2,278m) is the highest peak on the Chandragiri Ridge south west of Kirtipur, affords a panoramic view of the west Kathmandu valley, back dropped by the snow covered Himalayas. Namoboudha (1,800m) meaning 'hail to the Buddha' is a very sacred site. Hike uphill to Namoboudha through charming villages affords some excellent mountain views and is a delightful way to see the picturesque countryside. Kopan Monastery in Kathmandu is a center of Mahayana Buddhism was established in 1969 by two Lamas; Lama Thupten Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Thupten Yeshe. Since its inception the center has been responsible for introducing thousands to Buddha's teaching through meditation courses, lectures and retreats.
Shivapuri (2,732m) is the second highest hill among the hills surrounding the Kathmandu valley. Lying in the transition zone between the subtropical and temperate climatic zones, its diverse vegetation is composed of pine, oak, rhododendron and others. Popular as trekking, hiking and recreation area, the Shivapuri National Park offers the nearest retreat away from the hubbub of city life. The wildlife found in the national park includes Himalayan black bear, leopard, jungle cat, and rhesus monkeys. The park is home to over 177 species of birds including 9 endangered species, over 100 species of butterflies including rare and threatened. The park is an entrance of the trekking routes to Gosainkunda, Helambu, Kagarkot and the Langtang National Park. The park is a spiritually significant for the popular shrines and meditation centers in the natural surroundings. The park consists of several religious and cultural heritage sites for the Hindus as well as Buddhists.
Pokhara (900m) is a remarkable place of natural beauty. Situated at 200km west of Kathmandu valley, the city is known as a center of adventure. Pokhara valley is one of the most picturesque spots in the world. The enchanting town has several beautiful lakes and offers stunning panoramic views of Himalayan peaks. The serenity of lakes and the magnificence of the Himalayas rising behind them create an ambience of peace and magic. This is also an ideal place for relaxation and outdoor activities such as swimming, boating on the Phewa lake, pony treks, short hikes and bicycling. Locally known as Patale Chhahgo, Davi’s fall is an awesome waterfall lying about 2km south-west of the center on the highway to Tansen. Pokhara’s traditional old bazaar is colorful and is ethnically diverse. Newar architecture and craftsmanship is expressed in its temple and windows. At an elevation of 1590 metres, Sarangkot is perched on a high ridge to the northwest of Pokhara and has panoramic mountain views from Dhaulagiri and across the Annapurnas to Manalsu, as well as south over the Pokhara Valley. A short hike to the view point is for those who cannot opt for long, challenging ones. World Peace Stupa is situated on the top of a hill on the southern shore of Phewa Lake. It has four images of Buddha facing in four directions. The pagoda is an impressive sight and its hilltop location commands great view. It is a great vantage point which offers spectacular views of the Annapurna. Mahendra Cave is a large limestone cave, locally known as the House of Bats, is another nature's wonder in Pokhara. The centre of attraction in Pokhara is the Phewa lake - the second largest lake in the country. It is the largest and most enchanting of the three lakes that add to the resplendence of Pokhara. Here, you can sail or row a hired boat across to the water or visit the island temple in the middle. Built in the middle of Phewa lake, Barahi temple is dedicated to the Goddess Ajima - the grand mother. The universal protector is the boar manifestation of Goddess Shakti. She is often worshipped with the sacrifice of animals.
Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park stands today as a successful testimony of nature conservation in South Asia. This is the first national park of Nepal established in 1973 to preserve a unique ecosystem significantly valuable to the whole world. The park covering a pristine area of 932 sq. km is situated in the subtropical inner Terai lowlands of southern central part of Nepal. The park has gained much wider recognition in the world when UNESCO included this area on the list of World Heritage Site in 1984.It is a home to over 50 species of mammals, 55 species of amphibians and reptiles and 525 species of birds. Wildlife that thrive here include; the great one-horned Asian Rhinoceros, Gaur, wild Bison, sloth Bear, four different species of Deer, the Rhesus Monkey and the black-faced Langur, the spotted Leopard, the fish-eating Gharial, the flesh-eating marsh Crocodile and the Gangetic Dolphin among many others. It is also one of the last refuges of the Bengal tiger. The birdlife too is very rich and varied and a delight for Ornithologists.
Bardiya National Park
Spread across an area of 968 sq.kms, Bardiya National Park is situated in the mid-Far Western Terai, east of the Karnali River. The park is the most undisturbed wilderness area in the Terai. About 70% of the park is covered with dominantly sal forest with the balance a mixture of grassland, savanna and riverine forest. The park provides excellent habitat for endangered animals like the rhinoceros, wild elephant, tiger, swamp deer, black buck, gharial crocodile, marsh mugger crocodile and Gangetic dolphin. Endangered birds include the Bengal florican, lesser florican, silver-eared mesia and crane. More than 30 different mammals, over 200 species of birds, and many snakes, lizards and fish have been recorded in the park's forest, grassland and river habitats.
Lumbini is the place Lord Buddha-the apostle of peace and the light of Asia was born in 623 B.C. Located in the flat plains of south-Western Nepal and the foothills of Churia range, Lumbini and its surrounding area is endowed with a rich natural setting of domesticable fauna and favourable agricultural environment. Historically, the region is an exquisite treasure-trove of ancient ruins and antiquities, dating back to pre-Christian era. The site, described as a beautiful garden in the Buddha's time still retains its legendary charm and beauty.
Situated approx 12kms east of Pokhara, Begnas Lake is the second largest lake of Pokhara Valley. The lake is known for its clear spring-fed water and pristine lush surroundings. The surrounding forest is very rich in flora and fauna and is the habitat of more than 150 species of other birds. The forest is rich in mammals where abundant leopards roam majestically. The pride of this forest is that it is the home of some endangered flora and fauna. You can also enjoy boating and fishing in this lake.
Bandipur hill town
Bandipur lies midway between the capital Kathmandu and Pokhara and situated on a hilltop above the highway town of Dumre. Bandipur is a picturesque town and famous for its own culture and natural beauty. It is an ancient trading town of quaint streets and charming atmosphere. It is situated on a ridge top south of Dumre which lies 135 km out on the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway. While the other trading posts of the Nepali hills have modernised, Bandipur retains its age old cultural attributes. It still has its temples, shrines, holy caves and a Newari architecture that harks back to the Kathmandu valley of old.
Balthali, located just beyond Panuti town and Kopasi is one of the rich cultural village destinations. It offers a sun rise in the east, speculating Himalayan range from Manaslu to Mt. Everest in the north, innumerable rice terraces in the west and the huge bodied green forest of Mahabharat range in the south.
Daman (2,400m) is situated 80kms south-west of Kathmandu. For the view of the breathtaking grandeur of the world's highest peaks extending in one glittering are from far-west of Dhaulagiri to far-east of Mt. Everest, there is no better place than Daman. There is a view tower fitted with long range telescopes.
Janakpur is the capital of the ancient state of Mithila. Situated in the eastern part of Nepal, Janakpur is another important pilgrimage site for the Hindus. It is the birthplace of lord Sita, the wife of lord Rama. Thousands of pilgrims assemble here throughout the year to pay homage at the Janaki Mandir, Ram Sita Bibah Mandap and Hanuman temple.
Tansen (1,450m) is a small ancient hill town located on the way from Pokhara to Lumbini. Major attractions here are the ancient culture, excellent mountain views, serene atmosphere and friendly people. The weather here makes it a pleasant place to visit in any season. On clear days Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Manaslu, Gauri Shankar and other peaks can be seen.
Muktinath is one of the sacred dhams of Hindu religion. It is believed that all miseries and sorrows are relieved once a person visits the temple. Mukti means "Nirvana" or emancipation, "Nath" means God. Both the Buddhists and Hindus hold the temple in high esteem. There are several pilgrimage sites bearing cultural and religious values. For western tourists, a trip to Muktinath not only provides a trek of a lifetime amidst the barren valley and lofty Himalayan Ranges, but also gives them an opportunity to see the homogeneity of Hinduism and Buddhists in the same place.
Gorkha (1,000m) is a scenic hill-town with great historical significance. King Prithvi Narayan Shah, who unified the Nepal during eighteenth century, was born in the township of Gorkha. Gorkha offers panoramic view of snow-fed mountains. Gorkha Durbar is a historical palace is situated on the top of the fortified hill above the township, about one hour's walk uphill from the bazaar. On the west side of palace is the temple of Goddess Gorakhkali.
The Manakamana temple (1,302m) located on a prominent ridge near Gorkha overlooking the river valleys of Trisuli (south) and Marshyandi (west). The unique location of the place is dramatised during winter when the ridge appears as island above the sea of morning mist. People believe the Goddess here, fulfils the wishes of her devotees, thus she is regarded as Manakmana, the wish fulfilling deity. The temple can be reached by a short cable car ride from Kuringtar on Kathmandu-Pokhara highway.
World Heritage Sites in Nepal
Kathmandu Durbar Square
Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Patan Durbar Square
Everest National Park
Chitwan National Park