In Nepal, land, sky, and sprit are inseparable. The nation’s ethereal landscapes have long drawn adventurers and outdoors enthusiasts, from expert climbers keen to dominate Everest to kayakers and rafters seeking white-water thrills. Wildlife observation is also popular with the Royal Bengal Tiger, the one-horned Indian rhino, and the Indian elephant among Nepal’s native species. ‘Tea-House Trekking’ refers to the popular practise of trekking between mountain lodges. Nepal has enough national parks, protected territory, and well-worn trekking routes to keep things as remote or connected as you like and accommodation runs the gamut from tents to rustic huts to five-star eco-lodges.
Nepal, like its neighbours India, China and Tibet, is a deeply spiritual place visited by yogis and wandering ascetics – a tradition immortalised some 2500 years ago when Prince Siddharta Gautama renounced his claim to royal power, devoted himself to meditation and attained enlightenment as Buddha. Today, Buddhists are concentrated in the isolated reaches of the north, close to Tibet, where the landscape conceals scores of sacred shines. Elsewhere, Hinduism remains the most practised religion in the country, although in effect, most Nepalese temples serve both Buddhist and Hindu worshippers.
If anything, Nepal is culturally diverse. Known collectively as Janajati, scores of distinct indigenous cultures, castes, and ethnic groups survive undisturbed in the remote highlands. Their world remains steeped in vibrant myths and colourful folklore, their collective histories complimented by traditions of evocative dance, music, art, and intriguing festivals. By contrast, Nepalese cities, mostly located in the lowlands of the south, are engines of modernity and social change. Politically, Nepal is undergoing profound transformations, having quelled its war with rebel Maoists and shifted from a monarchy to a democratic republic in 2008. There has never been a more interesting time to visit Nepal.