If you love Nepal, now’s the time to consider returning to this spiritual, friendly, thrill-seeking and karma-inducing country. Here’s the latest…
After the earthquakes that devastated areas of Nepal in April 2015, income from tourism has been undeniably battered. Incredibly resilient Nepalis have been steadfastly rebuilding their lives and they need tourist dollars to return to this wonderful country.
Things are on the up. Last week, nine Sherpa guides used a spell of good weather to scale Mount Everest from the Nepali side, for the first time in two years. According to the Nepali Department of Tourism, more than 700 foreign climbers will attempt to scale Himalayan peaks from this side in 2016.
The authorities are set to honour unused permits issued in the last two years to draw even more climbers back to the region. For the first time, helicopters will be allowed to carry ropes and gear up a section of the mountain. This is so climbers do not have to tackle the perilous Khumbu Icefall – which is even more dangerous following the quakes.
But Nepal is not all about the snow-capped mountains. The stunning ancient architecture of Kathmandu literally left me speechless last time I visited. Since the 2015 disaster, it’s been reported that despite the damage, the warren of alleyways, latticed woodwork balconies and open squares remain enchanting. It’s impossible not to feel immersed in history and you have to resist believing you’re in a film set.
When you’re ready to escape the bustling and – it has to be admitted – somewhat polluted city, a day trip to Kopan Monastery outside Kathmandu will restore your inner peace. Designed as a centre of Buddhist study and a meditation retreat in the 1960s, Kopan runs courses and offers serious study retreats to Himalayan monks and nuns as well as foreign visitors. It has beautiful gardens and views over Kathmandu valley, and a super vegetarian café too.
The holiest and most famous Tibetan Buddhist temple in Nepal is the awe-inspiring Boudhanath near Kathmandu. Its huge golden stupa which cracked during the earthquake is being rebuilt, which unfortunately does make seeing the full glory of the place tricky, but it’s still worth a visit. The rebuild is likely to be completed by November this year. If you do go, aim to be there around 5pm when local residents go to pray.
In Pokhara, miles from the epicentre of the earthquake, the tourism market is definitely suffering and it shouldn’t be. It’s a place of opposites, catering both for thrill seekers and weary travellers in need of chill time and a good meal. Go there for the most stunning paragliding in the world, epic whitewater rafting and of course the famed Annapurna trekking circuit. If you’re looking for downtime, Lake Pokhara is a tranquil expanse, framed by views of snow-capped mountains in the distance and peppered with brightly painted wooden boats.
Nepal has everything you could want from an adventure – arresting landscapes, adrenalin boosting thrills, rare wildlife, friendly people and inner peace thrown in for free. Now all it needs is you.