Nepal is back on the tourist map, ready to show the world its rich cultural and natural attractions. From the national parks of Everest or Chitwan to the UNESCO sites of the Kathmandu valley, these years has been earmarked for tourism growth, be it cultural tours, jungle safaris or trekking. There are great hotels and lodges, affordable shopping and activities for every taste and age group.
Mr Khagendra Thapa Magar, known as the Little Buddha, was chosen as Goodwill Ambassador for the year in 2011. On his 18th birthday, he became the world’s smallest man in the Guinness Book of Records and with the support of his family, has accepted his new role as a great honour.
Kathmandu Valley, Nepal Tourism Year 2011, World Heritage Sites
The Kathmandu valley claims seven World Heritage monuments within a radius of 20 km. Top of the list is the Durbar Squares in Kathmandu and nearby Patan and Bhaktapur. Ancient temples glow deep red in the setting sun, holy men offer blessings on the steps and the air smells of marigolds and votive lamps. On the squares and neighboring streets, every other building displays some old carving or sculpture, worn by time but stunning nevertheless.
The Hindu temples of Pashupatinath and Changu Narayan are also on the UNESCO list, alongside the impressive Buddhist stupas of Sawyambhunath and Boddhanath. The former, or monkey temple, sits on a hilltop overlooking the city, the other is the place where Tibetans come to worship, circumambulating and spinning prayer wheels at dawn and dusk.
Everest to Chitwan, National Parks and Conservation in Nepal
Nepal has seven national parks, including two on the UNESCO natural world heritage list: Chitwan in the southern jungle, home to one-horned rhinos and tigers, and Sagarmatha, the breathtaking Everest region to the east. There are also three wildlife reserves and three conservation areas, Manaslu, Kanchenjunga and Annapurna, the largest, covering over 7600 sq. km.
With altitudes rising from 60 to 8848 metres, in just 150 km, Nepal boasts one of the world’s richest biodiversities. Mammals range from tigers to snow leopards and there are 500 species of butterflies and 848 of birds. Add 600 indigenous plant families, 319 species of orchids, medicinal herbs and masses of rhododendrons blooming in the spring and Nepal’s natural world comes into its own.
Nepal Trekking and Outdoor Activities
Hikers will find a fabulous choice of trekking trails, from easy to rigorous, from a day to several weeks. Some wind quietly through the foothills, past villages and scenes of rural life, others head for remote areas or high altitude peaks where slow acclimatization is essential. All promise an unforgettable experience, Himalayan scenery and culture all in one.
With eight of the world’s highest peaks, mountaineering is seen as the ultimate sport but remains truly challenging. Among other activities are white water rafting, at its most exciting during the snowmelt, canyoning and paragliding. Softer options include elephant safaris in Chitwan, village tours or boating on the beautiful Phewa lake in Pokhara.