Nepal travel guide

2 minute summary

There is no question that the Himalayas offer some of the best hiking in the world and this Nepal travel guide merely scratches the surface of the picturesque and soaring peaks that have challenged adventurers for decades. The Himalayas are a special place and its villagers a special people; Nepal is not only a trekking nirvana, but a cultural beauty too. Youíll stumble across little villages where you can hang out drinking tea with the locals, welcomed with stories of myth, migration and deep religious belief. An enchanting blend of Hindu and Buddhist mysticism, Nepal is a peaceful land - there is nowhere else in the world where two religions, so often a catalyst for unrest, co-exist so comfortably.
Whether you hike, bike, or raft your way around Nepal, you will come back a changed person, but to travel there is to travel with patience and things wonít often happen the way you think they will. Relax and you will relish your experience.
Read more about how to get the most out of your Himalayan adventure in our Nepal travel guide.

What we rate & what we don't

Our best & worst of Nepal vacations


Nepalís east and west Food Fairtrade Kathmandu Manaslu

Nepalís east and west

Really, the only way to get out to the east and the west of Nepal is by domestic air or very long road journeys, both of which the weather can play havoc with and delay for days. If you have time though, head out far west to Dhangadhi, an interesting homestay area with a committed afforestation policy and a restaurant where everything is made from banana.


Nepalese food is delicious and the ritual of food is a very important part of local life - there are over 100 ethnic groups in Nepal, so be adventurous and your taste buds will be richly rewarded. Newari dishes, of which there are over 200, are unique to the Kathmandu Valley and are heavy on buffalo; try chhoyla, spicy grilled buffalo meat, for energy with a kick.

Fairtrade Kathmandu

Kathmandu is extremely tourist driven, but not all of its shops are tourist traps. You can buy fairtrade goods in the capital, especially on Kupondole, a street full of shops belonging to Nepalís Association for Craft Producers. Try Mahaguthi for heritage and cultural products, and Dhukuti for authentic interiors and homeware.


Manaslu is an amazing high altitude trek that circles between Manaslu and Annapurna, the worldís 8th and 10th highest mountains. The isolated region has only been open to westerners since 1992 and is a natural paradise of alpine meadows, thick forest and huge glaciated mountains wrapped up in a rich culture thatís remained unchanged for thousands of years.


Nepalese people Annapurna Sanctuary Trek Chitwan National Park Everest Base Camp

Nepalese people

When tourists rave about Nepal, they rave about the Nepalese, which speaks volumes considering theyíre up against Everest. Without question one of the worldís friendliest nations, the localís fervour for handicrafts and their openness about how the community works outside of teahouses is both infectious and inspirational.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek

This incredible trek has peaks that stand at 7,000m, allowing you to visit the worldís roof and then climb all over it. The range forms a natural amphitheatre, reached via a testing combination of steep stone steps and forested hillsides ablaze with colour, and is circled by Himalayan giants like the Glacier Dome and the infamous twin-peaked Macchapucchare.

Chitwan National Park

Chitwan became a World Heritage Site in 1984 and covers a whopping 360sq-miles of subtropical lowland in south-central Nepal. Once youíve navigated your way through the throng of guides vying for your business, make sure you tell the chosen one that youíre not there just for rhinos and tigers; more than 500 species of bird, 150 types of butterfly and 56 mammalians also call it home.

Everest Base Camp

Probably the world's most renowned base camp, Everest Base Camp is a classic trek that takes walkers straight through Sherpa country past small villages and their amazing local markets, and up to incredible high altitude scenery including breathtaking views of Mount Everest, the highest mountain on Earth, after an essential photo stop at the iconic Base Camp rock.


Thamel nightlife Throwing litter away locally Flying Taxis in Kathmandu

Thamel nightlife

The nightlife in Thamel Ė if you can call it that: everything shuts at 10pm except the misplaced go-go bars Ė is all just a bit odd. Itís clear a lot of the dancing girls are performing their way out of poverty, which is uncomfortable, and, unless your idea of an authentic Nepalese night out is a warm pint of Guinness at an ĎIrishí bar, then itís best avoided.

Throwing litter away locally

Litter isnít a huge problem in the Himalaya, but itís one thatís growing. Up in the mountains, rubbish is often burned or buried and the bulk of it is made up of plastic water bottles and wrappers from packaged snacks. Take a spare bag trekking with you and throw all of your rubbish away at the end of your trip in Kathmandu where it will be disposed of properly.


Flying in the mountains is inherently dangerous because weather can close in quickly and unexpectedly. Airlines with poor safety records close yearly in Nepal and in December 2013 the EU banned every Nepal airline from flying to the EU on safety grounds. Crashing is by no means a certainty, but flying does carry a risk. Our tours typically donít involve flights into the mountains, although this is something you could request.

Taxis in Kathmandu

Smog in Kathmandu is 5 times the level that prompted Paris to ban cars and in 10 years the number of vehicles on the capitalís streets has increased threefold. To boot, the city sits in a bowl-shaped valley, so air pollution blown away during the day falls back in at night, which all equals a major problem; find your way round on foot instead of hopping in a taxi.

Food, shopping & people

Travel like a local on your Nepal vacation

Eating & drinking in Nepal

Rakshi: they call it wine, but itís more like homemade whiskey and will blow your socks off. Ask a local and youíll get pointed in the direction of the village distiller

Sukute = Dried buffalo fried in hot chilies, which you eat as a snack with your rakshi or a beer; beats peanuts.

Nepalís national dish is Ďdal-bahtí: soup of lentils and spices served over rice

Jand is Nepali home-brewed beer. Kinder on you head than rakshi

Nepali granny, Gyani Maiya Sen, is the only native fluent speaker of ĎKusundaí left in the world. The language she speaks has no alphabet.

People & language

Set against the backdrop of the Himalayas, Nepal is a melting pot of over 100 ethnicities and tribes divided only by altitude, not attitude. The country is a blend of Hindus and Buddhists; the Buddhists have come down from Tibet and the Mongolian Plateau and have a distinct look with a rounder faces than their Hindu neighbours who are taller, with very dark hair and oval faces. Races in Nepal donít mix too freely as their caste system is deep-rooted, but they co-exist in harmony and if you visit temples in Kathmadu, youíll see they are for both Buddhists and Hindus, who pray side by side.

Nepali is Nepalís official language, but there are 123 languages spoken as mother tongue in Nepal.

Donít greet people with a handshake or a hug, instead place your palms together, bow, and say Ďnamasteí.

Gifts & shopping

Prayer paraphernalia is everywhere in Nepal and is very pretty too; recreate your trip at home with prayer flags and a prayer wheel, which you spin to release prayers to heaven.

Buy a Nepali national flag for your family and dazzle them with this flag fact: itís the only flag in the world thatís not rectangular or square in shape.

Nepal is famous for its revered Gurkha soldiers and itís a mark of respect to buy a Gurkha knife as a souvenir; just make sure you buy it from a recognised handicraft shop.

Fast facts

In Nepal, nodding your head means Ďnoí, and bobbing your head from side-to-side as if bringing your ears down to your shoulders means Ďyesí.

How much does it cost?

Bus ticket: 200km £3.70

Bottle beer: £1.25 - £2.45

Kilo of fruit: £0.60p

Bike hire: £4.90 - £12.30

Basic lunch: £1.25

A brief history of Nepal

Though the god-fearing Newars are thought to have called Nepal home since the 4th century AD, settling there and developing a peaceful Hindu-Buddhist culture, the history of the country has not been without violence or bloodshed. Read more ▼
Photo credits: [Nepalís east and west : Dhilung Kirat] [Food: Prashant Shrestha] [Fairtrade Kathmandu : ShimmerGreen] [Manaslu: Zabara Alexander] [Nepalese people: A Vahanvati] [Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: ro431977] [Chitwan National Park: symmetry_mind] [Everest: McKay Savage] [Thamel nightlife: Francisco Anzola] [Throwing litter away locally: Andrew and Annemarie] [Flying: McKay Savage] [Taxis in Kathmandu: Wonderlane] [Dal bhat plate: Vera & Jean-Christophe] [prayer flags: jbobo7] [bananas:]
Written by Polly Humphris
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Photo credits: [Page banner: Olga Danylenko]
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