Namaste! Welcome to Nepal Lying along the southern slopes of the Himalayas, Nepal is a crossroads of culture on the roof of the world. A country higher than it is long, this enchanted birthplace of Buddha offers up treasures of culture, history and nature; the challenge of Everest, the elusive snow leopard and Royal Bengal tiger, living goddesses, Sherpa guides and Gurkha soldiers, singing bowls, brass prayer wheels and luxurious pashmina, green valleys with tumbling rivers, the glitter of golden stupas against an azure sky and snowy mountain peaks which blaze pink in the evening sunset.
Multi-cultural and multi-ethnic, close to a hundred languages are spoken in Nepal amongst thirty-six different ethnic groups. Hindu and Buddhist temples, shrines and monasteries are scattered throughout the country. Mountaineering and trekking at all levels form the backbone of the tourism industry, but more and more curious travelers come every year for the culture and history as well as the magnificent scenery. You don't have to trek Nepal to discover its beauty.
Within this narrow stretch of land, some of the highest peaks in the world dominate a terrain of sub-tropical lowlands, green meadows and deep gorges which climb to wind-swept arctic reaches. You can experience the exhilaration of Mount Everest Base camp, trek through the majestic Annapurna Sanctuary, raft down the Seti River, go on safari in Chitwan National Park or relax by lakeside cafés in Pokhara.
Pokhara, a charming town in a tranquil valley, is the starting point for many of Nepal's most popular trekking and rafting destinations. The Anapurna Massif circuit starts here, following terraced hills, forest, alpine pastures and rural villages. Pokhara is picture-perfect - surrounded by snow-capped peaks and dotted with pristine alpine lakes.
Two hundred kilometers east in the Kathmandu Valley is the capital city - Kathmandu – the cultural hub of Nepal. Legend has it that the valley was once covered by a lake until the Bodhisattva Manjushri raised his sword of wisdom and sliced a passage through the mountain walls, draining the water and creating the first settlements. Rich in history, several monuments in the Valley have been listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. The city of Kathmandu has more temples than homes and more festivals than days in the year! On its colorful and chaotic streets, historic squares and narrow cobbled lanes, palaces, temples and humble courtyards reflect its unique architectural heritage. There is color everywhere here – saffron and magenta monks' robes, bright blue and yellow saris, carved and painted doors and windows and red, white and golden temples. Shop the bazaars and streets for fabulous carpets, metalwork, and gorgeous coral, turquoise and silver jewelry. Nepal is renowned for its beautiful varieties of tourmaline gemstones. Storefronts virtually explode with the vibrant colors of Tussa silk garments, sacks of spices, pashmina wools, Thangka paintings and stocks of trekking gear.
Kathmandu's Durbar Square is the largest of the palace squares in the three royal cities. It has been designated a cultural asset by UNESCO. On this square you'll find the old palace, and some fifty temples and monuments of varying sizes, styles and faiths. In and around Kathmandu is a dizzying array of temples, stupas and museums. At the temple of Kumari, lives the Royal Kumari. This young girl is worshipped as the incarnation of a deity and her smile is a benediction as she acknowledges greetings from her window.
The town of Bhaktapur is the "the City of Devotees". This ancient town full of temples along the old trade route between India and Tibet still retains its medieval charm and visitors can experience the traditional life of the indigenous Newar people. Skilled artisans create pottery, weaving, jewelry and woodcarving. This is the home of the topi cap and the juji-dhau – "king of all yogurts". Nepalese food is as diverse as its geography, and its soups, stews and curries will warm even the weariest trekker. Be sure to try dal-bhat-tarkari – a spicy lentil soup served over rice with curried vegetables, achar (pickles) or chutney.
You can't truly experience a new culture until you've eaten at their table, and you're always welcome in Nepal. Come in, sit back and enjoy the tea, the warmth of the people, the cultural treasures and the dramatic landscapes that surround you in this most remote and beautiful country.