If you’re looking for wild adventure in one of the most breath-taking (literally!) places on earth, Nepal has your name on it. Home to the majestic Himalayas and to 8 out of 10 of the world’s highest peaks, this kingdom steeped in tradition is both a trekker’s and culture lover’s paradise.
Fancy spending your days exploring the bejewelled temples, hiking winding mountain paths and spotting exotic wildlife on the roof of the world? My quick adventurous guide to Nepal will help you navigate one of my favourite destinations on earth. Nepal is also a wonderful place if you’re backpacking on the cheap and cheerful side – travellers on a budget can still experience fabulous food, explore a wealth of history and trek iconic routes on a shoestring.
The adventurous guide to Nepal
Pining for wild spaces? A trek into the rugged mountains of Nepal is just what you need, and it’s easy to get it sorted once you’re in-country. A multi-day trek through the mountains is a must for any visitor to the roof of the world, and there are many tours to choose from (solo trekking was recently banned, so a guide is now often essential to take on official trails).
Adventure Alternative’s brilliant local guides will take you exploring the peaks, forests and lakes of Nepal on routes up to 22 days long. Reach Mount Everest’s base camp, tackle the iconic Annapurna Circuit or walk the remote Upper Mustang – this is the stuff that a hiker’s bucket list is made of. Food, travel and accommodation in comfortable lodges is all provided, so you don’t need to worry about anything else other than reaching the next stunning view.
Mountain Kingdom’s website has an extremely tempting choice of treks, tailored for most abilities and reaching into real wilderness where most hikers never set foot. As well as hardcore hiking, Mountain Kingdom offer cultural tours around Nepal’s beautiful ancient cities and monasteries and unusual adventures such as running the world’s highest marathon or joining Sherpa guides who have summited Everest on treks.
Fancy a Guinness? How about a hike to the highest Irish pub in the world (in the village of Namche Bazaar, tucked under Mount Everest at 3,400 metres above sea level? Part of the joy of trekking in Nepal is meeting and staying with locals along the way in teahouses, homestays – and pubs.
Water lover? Take a trip to Shey-Pokshundo Lake, the deepest lake in the world, where bright blue waters are set against a dramatic backdrop of rugged mountains. Or catch a bus from Kathmandu to visit Lake Phewa, where you can glimpse the magical temple situated in the middle of the waters.
Nepal is one big cultural haven. Temples are a given, with jaw-droppingly beautiful sites such as The Golden Temple, Pashupatinath and Lumbini Peace Park (the birthplace of Buddha) to wander around. Base yourself in Kathmandu to lose yourself in the authentic bazaars of Asan or Baglung to seek out traditional food, clothes and spices and spot elaborate street art all around the city – Kupondole is a hotspot. The Patan Museum, a World Heritage Site, is as beautiful as the arts it displays. And Chitwan National Park is famous for the over 600 one-horned rhino found there, or delve into the jungles of the Bardia National Park which is much less visited and where you might even spot a tiger.
Nepal isn’t huge, but it is very mountainous, with poor roads and many communities that are cut off unless you choose to fly into them or trek to reach them. That said, there are still affordable ways to explore – public buses may not be super comfy but they are cheap and easy to hop on and off. In cities, renting a motorbike is popular, but you do need to know what you’re doing as the roads can be dangerous for inexperienced riders. Rickshaws and taxis are good choices in the cities as they are cheap and convenient. If you can afford a few treat journeys, take in the views on the Manakamana Cable Car that spans the Chitwan National Park and takes you to a stunning temple in the mountains, and book a seat on the iconic flight from Kathmandu to Lukla, which flies past views of Mount Everest and lands on a tiny strip that is the only vehicle approach to the Everest Base Camp trek.
IS NEPAL SAFE FOR SOLO FEMALE TRAVELLERS?
The short answer is yes, but like any destination, make sure you do your research and check government guidelines before you travel. Petty theft is common in some cities in Nepal, especially during festivals and events, and there are regular demonstrations and strikes. Solo woman should read up on local customs and gender roles – Nepal is a conservative country so modest dress is advised at some sites. Follow normal safety precautions such as watching your drinks when out and about and keeping friends and family up to speed with your travel plans. If in doubt you can always join group tours an treks. In general, though, Nepal is a friendly and fulfilling country to explore solo – and a few words in Nepali go a long way.
WHERE TO STAY
After somewhere cheap and cheerful? Mount Fiji Homestay offer stunning views near Fewa Lake and Devil’s Falls and a friendly welcome, all from a paltry £4 per night.
To be in the centre of things, book a room in the heart of Kathmandu through Airbnb from just £8 per night.
Cheerful trekkers stay at the Happy Lemon Tree Lodge. If the name of this site doesn’t persuade you to stay here, then the gorgeous wooden huts and stunning riveside location will. The lodge is just outside Chitwan Park, so you can spot wildlife right from your bed. Even better, Happy Lemon is an eco-friendly option. From £12 per night.
Stay in a quirky hut on stilts that overlooks the Rapti river at Bamby Chilling House, which rents out bikes and offers dorm beds from just £8.
To really feel like you’re part of local life, try a few nights in a traditional thatched-roof hut run by local women in Chitwan. Baruali community homestay can organise jungle safaris and village tours. From £40 per person per night.