Nepal is economically one of the poorest countries in Asia, but all the richer for it in spirituality and hospitality. The relatively small country is about the size of Austria and Switzerland combined. Even in terms of landscape, there are certain similarities to the European Alpine countries. 40% of Nepal’s surface lies at an altitude of over 3000 meters. It is no coincidence that this makes Nepal the paradise of mountaineers, trekking enthusiasts and outdoor fanatics.
Nepal is not for the faint of heart. Anyone who decides to travel to Nepal should bring a good dose of adventurous spirit. This applies to the extreme natural beauty, first and foremost the Himalayan mountains with their 14 eight-thousanders, of which Nepal can claim 8 here. Among them is Mount Everest. But even without climbing the mountains, the journey to Nepal is exciting. The roads and infrastructure are often in less than ideal conditions and the cities are chaotic. All of Nepal’s airlines are listed on the EU’s community list of unsafe airlines.
Nepal is a destination for intrepid nature lovers, people on a spiritual quest, the curious and the adventurous.
The capital of Nepal: Kathmandu
Kathmandu is located in the heart of the Kathmandu Valley and, with a population of one million (1.3 million people live in the entire metropolitan area)is not only the capital, but also the largest city in Nepal. Characterized primarily by narrow often single-lane roads, where traffic is for both vehicles and pedestrians, chaos is inevitable. Due to the basin location in the valley, air pollution from the ever-increasing traffic has become a real problem in recent years. Only slowly is motorized two-wheeled traffic being converted to electric motors, which will certainly improve the situation in the long run.
The city center, with its carved windows and ancient buildings, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A colorful jumble of houses, stores, traveling merchants, temples and theubiquitous prayer flags make Kathmandu a place you’ll remember with nostalgia for a long time.
The top 5 sights in Kathmandu
Thamel and Mandala Street
The wonderful alleys, stores and inviting little eateries and restaurants have a special charm. Strolling aimlessly around here for a few hours is definitely worth it
Boudhanath or Bodnath Stupa
The landmark of Nepal is truly impressive and visible from afar. Damaged in the 2015 earthquake, Nepal’s landmark is now restored to its former glory. Especially at sunrise and sunset, this landmark is worth a visit.
Hindu Temple Pashupatinath
The Bagmati River, a tributary of the Ganges, flows through this temple complex. Here families say goodbye to their dead and there is a solemn atmosphere. The bodies are burned after ceremonial ablution in the river on specially erected pyres.
Swayambunath Temple, the Monkey Temple
From the temple, a dreamlike view extends over the city on (smog)clear days. The many cheeky macaques living here know no shyness of people. Nevertheless: petting forbidden!
Swapna Bagaicha “Garden of Dreams”
After the chaos of Kathmandu, you’re probably dreaming of a peaceful place to relax. It actually exists in the middle of the city! Elegant restaurants and coffee shops and the beautiful manicured garden, shielded from the noise of the streets, invite you to linger.
Culture and Religion in Nepal
The Flag of Nepal
The flag of Nepal deserves special mention as it is very different from other national flags. It is the only flag in the world that has more than four corners and consists of two triangles joined together. More than 100 years ago, this flag was created by uniting two pennants. The two corners of the flag represent the peaks of the Himalayan Mountains.
Religion in Nepal
80% of Nepal’s inhabitants are Hindu, 10% Buddhist, 4% Muslim and just over 1% Christian. One of the most beautiful characteristics of Nepal is the peaceful coexistence of the different religious affiliations. Hindu temples stand next to Buddhist temples, contributing to the colorful overall picture of the country. Discrimination or violent religiously motivated attacks are not the order of the day.
The language in Nepal
The official language is Nepali, with 123 different languages and dialects in use in the country. In larger cities, you can usually get by with English. Otherwise, pantomime skills are in demand. The people of Nepal are extremely hospitable, relaxed and patient. 68% of the population lives from agriculture, especially among the younger generations, school education is now highly valued.
The weather in Nepal and the best time to travel
Nepal has different climatic zones due to its particular geographical location. In the south, the climate is subtropical with high humidity and average annual temperature of 25 degrees. In general, it can be said that the best times to travel for trekking vacations are October and November and from February to April.
June through September is the rainy season. The monsoon brings not only heavy rains, but also landslides, floods, and thus not infrequently the collapse of the road network.
Sights in Nepal
Nepal is a country that needs to be lived as a whole. To reduce it to its sights would be not to appreciate equally all that lies between them. At the same time, the people and the atmosphere in Nepal are at least as worth a trip as the Himalayan mountains. Nevertheless, of course, we don’t want to miss the opportunity to mention here our top sights in Nepal.
To explore the largest mountain range in the world at least once is on the bucket list of many trekking enthusiasts. But it doesn’t have to be an Everest climb. The infrastructure for trekking in Nepal is very good and there are many offers, not only for extreme athletes, but also for hikers who want to experience the Himalayan mountains on easy routes. Those who love the mountains will find here a paradise on earth.
Located on Mount Everst at an altitude of 3000 meters is the highest national park on earth. Admission to Sagarmatha National Park costs the equivalent of 10 euros and is reserved for athletic hikers alone, as the routes are not easy to walk.
Trekking to Annapurna Basecamp
This is one of the routes with the best infrastructure. Although a good level of fitness is mandatory, you don’t have to be an expert to tackle this route. The necessary equipment can be rented. The entire route has a length of 280 km and takes the hiker to places of breathtaking beauty. Not for those afraid of heights: the legendary rope bridges will stay in your memory for a long time.
Royal Chitwan National Park
The park is located in the subtropical Terai region, about 6 hours from Kathmandu, on the border with India. It is home to many protected bird species, armored rhinos and the Bengal tiger. In total there are about 700 animal species here. The area, which covers about 930 square kilometers, can be explored on the back of elephants.
With numerous temples and pagodas, the birthplace of Siddharta Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, is a destination of pilgrimage for many Buddhists. In 1997, Lumbini was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You should pay special attention to the Peace Park in particular.
The town, with a population of about 800,000, is located on Lake Phewa in central Nepal. Many of the trekking tours start from here, as the city lies directly at the foot of the Himalayas. Accordingly, everything here revolves around the infrastructures for mountain enthusiasts. The region is rich in other lakes and nearby is one of the most popular areas for paragliding in the world. The World Peace Pagoda offers unparalleled views of the city, Lake Phewa and the Himalayan Mountains from a hilltop.
Just 16 km from Kathmandu lies the third largest royal city in Nepal: Bhaktapur. The temple complexes and dwellings with typical wood carvings are unique and the city has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. Bhaktapur offers a wonderful opportunity for relaxation, as cars and motorcycles are not allowed here. However, an entrance fee must be paid. Numerous temples and museums are worth exploring for at least half a day
After Kathmandu and Pokhara, this is the third largest city in Nepal. It is predominantly Buddhist and has over 150 monasteries. Unfortunately, a lot was destroyed here in the 2015 earthquake. However, in some corners you can still sense the old splendor of the city. The Golden Temple is the most important monastery of Patan.
How to apply for a visa to Nepal
Under normal circumstances, it is not necessary to apply for a visa in advance. Upon arrival at the airport in Kathmandu, you will be issued a “Visa on Arrival”. For this you need a passport photo and of course a passport valid for at least 6 months with 2 free pages. Due to the sometimes simultaneous arrival of aircraft in Kathmandu, it can also come here to longer waiting times of up to 2 hours. This problem is also not solved by the vending machines for visa creation, which can now be found at the airport.
Alternatively, you can apply for an e-visa in advance or obtain a visa directly in person at the embassy in Germany. This is a bit more expensive, but will save you the waiting time at the airport in Kathmandu.
Corona: Traveling to Nepal
Generally, there is a ban on tourists entering the country at the moment. However, since October 2020, there is an exemption for this, which applies only to members of trekking organizations and expeditions. A visa must be applied for in advance in this case, as the “visa on arrival” has been suspended at the moment. In addition, a “preapproval/recommendation letter” must be submitted and a 14-day quarantine in the quarantine hotel must be observed. On the fifth day of quarantine, it is possible to have a Corona test performed. If this is negative, the quarantine can be shortened to 7 days.