It’s no exaggeration to call Nepal otherworldly. This landlocked mountainous land, sandwiched between China and India, boasts not only the birthplace of Lord Buddha at Lumbini and the Hindu Lord Sita at Janakpur, but living goddesses (or Kumari), legendary warriors (the Gurkhas) and, of course, Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world.
While the security situation has been of concern in the past, the Foreign Office states that the situation has improved. Nepal’s people are poor and tourism is of great importance to the country. They are welcoming and friendly.
Kathmandu is capital and home to Trivuwan International at which flights to Nepal land. The city has almost weekly festivals – the most important are Dashain (September-mid October) a festival of lights, and Tihar. Fagu Purnima or Holi is the festival of colours.
The Kathmandu Valley alone boasts seven of Nepal’s eight World Cultural Heritage Sites: Durbar Squares of Hanuman Dhoka (Kathmandu), Patan and Bhaktapur, the Buddhist stupas of Swayambhu and Bauddhanath and the Hindu temples of Pashupati and Changu Narayan. Nepal is also home to the Natural World Heritage Sites of Everest National Park and Chitwan National Park.
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Nepal has a variety of climates, depending on the altitude. Summer temperatures range between 19 and 27 degrees while winter temperatures climb from 2 to 20 degrees with occasional rain.
Unsurprisingly for this mountainous kingdom, the higher you go, the colder it gets. The best times to search for cheap flights to Nepal and visit are between September and November and from February to March when temperatures range between 24-28 degrees Celsius and there is little rain.
The main festivals of Dashain and Tihar occur during these months. Dashain, Nepal’s most important festival, commemorates the gods’ victory over demons. The celebrations are reminiscent of Christmas; homes are decorated, families get together and gifts are given. Tihar follows Dashain. This festival – worship of the Hindu Goddess of Fortune – lasts for five days and is all about celebrating one’s siblings and friends.
In March, the festival of colours (Fagu Purnima or Holi) takes place. This Hindu festival is marked by the throwing of coloured water or coloured powder.
Between November and March, temperatures at night can be close to freezing and heavy snows can block mountain passes. Conditions during May and June can be unpleasant – hot, humid and very wet.
Nepal Airlines offers a good range of domestic Nepal flights. It links Kathmandu to several cities including Janakpur, Biratnagar and Pokhara. Buddha Air also links Kathmandu with cities around Nepal such as Dhangadhi and Simara. Gorkha Airlines and Yeti Airways also provide services throughout Nepal.
Use local buses for the authentic Nepalese experience – crowds of people, standing-room only and animals. Don’t expect punctuality here. Buses often won’t set off until they are full. There are tourist buses, which are more comfortable however.
Tempos (three wheeler auto-rickshaws) can be flagged down on the streets.
It’s possible to rent a car in Kathmandu, driver included. Renting a motorbike is also possible.
(prices quoted are from London)