Nepal is blessed with an incredible diversity of natural beauty and a consequent opulence of cultural varieties. The most exhilarating titles with which Nepal has been admired and praised by various renowned travel writers in recognition of her cultural richness, viz., Living cultural Museum, Shangri-La, Roof of the World, Birth place of the Apostle of Peace, Country of Living Goddess, City of Golden Pagodas & Parasols, Nature amphitheatre, Melting pot of Hinduism & Buddhism, Land of Mysticism & Exoticism, Land of non-stop festivals etc. are explicit and self-explanatory. They tell the world about Nepal’s incomparable and prosperous cultural heritage.
Hinduism followed by Buddhism, constitute two major religion of Nepal. Both these co-religionists are bound together by a sense of fellow feeling and bonhomie particularly displayed in their worship of common deities and joint celebration of many festivals belonging to either religion or culture. Kumari, the Virgin Hindu Goddess, for instance, is selected from a Buddhist clan and worshipped by Hindus. Nepal is a secular country and all religious faiths now receive equal treatment and protection from the State.
The exquisite architecture and artistic embellishment of the Nepalese pagodas that enshrine the bronze and stone images of great beauty and, more often than not, treat antiquity, are a unique feature of Nepal.
The temples and stupas are rich repositories of woodcarving, metal work, terracotta and stone sculpture. In their uniqueness they add glory and grandeur to the cultural scene of the Kingdom and tell a long history of native genius.
Nepal is undoubtedly one of the few countries having rich cultural heritage endowed with age-old historical monuments. Having ten world heritage sites in the country and among them 7 sites within 20 kilometres radius itself is something that we should be proud of. It has eight national parks, four wildlife reserves, three conservation areas and one hunting reserve with 2% of all the flowering plants in the world; 8% of the world’s population of birds (more than 848 species); 4% of mammals on earth; 11 of the world’s 15 families of butterflies (more than 500 species); 600 indigenous plant families; and 319 species of exotic orchids.
Nepal offers economical yet exhilarating opportunities for all tourists. In fact, it is affordable for all tourists with different interests and economic status.
The Kathmandu Valley contains three ancient cities, including the nation’s capital. Each of them is an enchanting urban work of art, filled with statues, temples and medievalaces. They provide the setting for an exotic culture highlighted by vibrant festivals and a level of piety rarely encountered elsewhere. Over the centuries, the Valley’s indigenous Newar inhabitants developed a refined civilization, based on a unique synthesis of Hinduism and Buddhism. The cultural heritage is so rich that UNESCO has designated eight of the monuments as World Heritage Sites. Hanumandhoka(Durbar Square), Pashupatinath Temple, Boudhanath Stupa, Swayambhunath, Krishna Mandir, Achheswor Mahavihar, Golden Temple, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Nyatapol Temple, Changu Narayan Temple are a few prominent places of tourist interest.
Pokhara(200 km west of Kathmandu) is an enchanting city nestled in a tranquil valley known as a gateway to the world of adventure. Its natural ambience, which allows enjoying lakeside tranquillity and breathtaking views of magnificent Machhapurchre (Fish Tail) peak (6993m), has transformed Pokhara into a Paradise of Earth. Col. Jimmy Roberts, a veteran paratrooper of the Burma Campaign, and more famously known as the father of international recreational trekking and adventure vacationing in the Himalayas writes, ”No other mountain view in the world is equal to Machhapuchhre [the “Fishtail” Mountain], with Annapurna, hanging there in the sky above the green Pokhara plain.” At the altitude of 2,700 feet (900-plus meters), this resplendent and verdant valley is a tropical destination of many scenic and azure lakes in the foregrounds of sudden green hills and majestic snowy mountains. Inhabited by diverse Nepalese ethnic and caste peoples, the soil is richly fertile for rice, tangerines, poinsettias, and dotted with chautara resting places. The epicentre of mid-western Nepal, Pokhara leads the way to the Chitwan National Park, Bhairahawa and Lumbini in the south and southwest while the northern routes lead to the highest points in the Himalaya and the Tibetan Plateau via Kagbeni. Marpha, Mukti Nath, Jomsom, Manang, Mustang, Thorung-La, the Annapurna Circuit, the Annapurna Sanctuary and the Kali-Gandaki Gorge, the deepest in the world.
Lumbini(250 km south-west of Kathmandu) is the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautam, who was destined to become the Buddha, the enlightened one. Nepal has been a sacred ground for Buddhists. It is a small town in the southern terrain plains of Nepal where the ruins of the old city can still be seen. The Ashoka Pillar in Lumbini erected by Indian Emperor Ashoka to mark the birthplace of Lord Buddha and ruins of stupas and monasteries can be found all over Lumbini. The main attraction of the Lumbini remains the sacred Garden spread over 8 kms and possessing all the historic area. The Mayadevi temple is also the main attraction for the pilgrims to archaeologists alike. Here is the image of Maya Devi, the Buddha’s mother giving birth to him. It is accessible by drive and flight as well.
Chitwan National Park, Nepal’s first of its kind, was established in the wildlife-rich sub-tropical inner Terai lowland, known as Chitwan, as close as possible to the capital valley of Kathmandu itself. And, UNESCO later designated it as a World Heritage Site in 1984. Situated 120 kilometres southwest of Kathmandu, the main attraction of Chitwan National Park. This is one of the Nepal’s largest forest regions with a wide range of wildlife-the rare great one horned rhinoceros, several species of deer sloth bear, leopard, wild boar, fresh water dolphin, crocodile, more than 350 species of birds and the elusive Royal Bengal Tiger. Visitors to Chitwan may view game of elephant back excursions nature walks, canoe trips, from window and on jungle treks.
Nepal is a rare destination in the world where you can climb the highest mountains in the world, trek in the scenic countryside with the icy pinnacles always-on horizon or enjoy jungle safari in tropical forests. The best way to experience Nepal’s unbeatable combination of natural beauty and cultural riches is to walk through them. One can walk along the beaten trails or virgin tracks. Either way, you are in for an experience of a lifetime. Along with forests of rhododendron, isolated hamlets and small mountain villages, birds, animals, temples, monasteries and breathtaking landscapes, you will also encounter friendly people of different cultures offering fascinating glimpses of traditional rural life.
Rafting: Besides above-mentioned experiences one can also enjoy Rafting, Kayaking and Canoeing to explore the typical cross section of natural as well as ethno-cultural heritages of Nepal. There are numerous rivers in Nepal, which offer excellent rafting and canoeing experience. You can also glide on calm jade waters with magnificent scenery all around you or rush through roaring white rapids. All these are done in the care of river experts employed by the Govt. authorized agencies. Few countries in the world offer the thrill of white water Fin such an impressive setting: on rushing rivers flowing through tropical jungles with snow-capped peaks in the distance. White water rafting offers the same rewards as trekking, but with less physical effort. It’s a wilderness experience available to all and a nice alternative for those of uswho just don’t feel like tramping UP the trail.
Bird Watching: Bird Watching is another attraction for bird lovers. Nepal is a paradise for bird lovers with over 848 species – almost 8% of the world total of birds. Among them, almost 500 species are found in Kathmandu Valley alone. The most bird watching spots in Kathmandu are Phulchoki, Godavari, Nagarjun, Bagmati River and Taudaha.
Jungle Safari: National Parks, located specially in the Terai region in Nepal attract visitors from all over the world. A visit to these parks involves game stalking by a variety of means – on foot, dugout canoe, jeep and elephant ride. Rhinos, wild boars, sambar deers, spotted deers, sloth bears and four-horned antelope are usually seen here.
Mountain Flight: This is one of the highlights for the visitors coming to Nepal. Mountain flights offer the closest possible aerial views of Mt. Everest, Kanchanjunga, Cho-Oyu, Pumori, Nuptse and the Tibetan Plateau. Mountain flights have become a popular tourist activity in Nepal. For those who are restricted by time or other considerations from going trekking, these flights offer a panoramic view of the Himalaya in just one hour.
Cable Car: This is a recent phenomenon in Nepal and has become extremely popular with the locals and tourists alike. The 10 minute cable car ride from Cheres takes the visitors to the temple of Goddess Manakamana – an active shrine of pilgrimage on a hill, which lies 125 km to the west of Kathmandu.
Casino: Casinos are probably the only nightlife for foreign visitors in Kathmandu. Operating for 24 hours a day, they provide hours of non-stop entertainment to the clients. Casino Nepal has been a centre of attraction for tourists, who choose indoor activities to spare some time while in Kathmandu. Here you can wine and dine, play and relax whatever you like. Darkness rules everywhere in Kathmandu as night falls, but not in the casinos where night becomes even more enjoyable in a thrilling atmosphere.
Roulette, Baccarat, Blackjack, Pontoon, Flush, Tri-Flush and Marriage are some of the interesting games available at the casino. The latest in the list are Caribbean Stud Poker and Mini-flush. Flush and Paplu tournaments are also organized occasionally.
Ultra-Light: Ultra-light aircraft take off from Pokhara and offer spectacular views of the lakes, mountains and villages. This is an ideal way to see life from a new perspective. The choice of the Pokhara valley for Ultra-light aircraft is appropriate chiefly because of the proximity of the mountains, and the scenic lakes. For those who wished they could fly like birds when growing up, this flight is a must.
Paragliding: Paragliding in Nepal gives an opportunity for aerial view of the Himalayas. Pokhara offers paragliding from Sarangkot to see the Mahabharat range. You can experience unparalleled scenic grandeur as you share airspace with Himalayan griffin vultures, eagles, and kites, while floating over villages, monasteries, temples, lakes and jungles, with a fantastic view of the majestic Himalayas.