Looking for an opportunity to savour the rich cultural heritage in the Himalaya? Nepal can be your dream destination. After all, Nepal is not just about mountains. Nepal, country of long history, fascinating art, distinctive and varied architecture is highly diverse in its cultural representation. Nepal is a home to about 101 ethnic groups with more than 129 dialects living from southern plains of Terai region to the foothills of the world’s highest peaks. Unique culture and tradition are the parts of everyday life of Nepali that will surely make you bedazzled. So, cultural tours in Nepal can be the best opportunity to explore the hidden gems of the country that offers unforgettable experiences of cultural bequest. These cultural tours do not only take you to the holy pilgrimage sites, historical monuments, UNESCO world heritage sites but also rejuvenate your mind, body, soul and makes your trip memorable one.
Nepal, especially Kathmandu Valley is one of the rarest places on Earth that showcases the exemplary fusion of Buddhism and Hinduism. This makes Nepal rich in cultural diversity with variety of gods and goddess, numerous temples of different styles, stupas, monasteries portraying the deep faith of people. The cultural tours provide you with the most satisfying experience of guided excursion and roaming in the old historic towns like Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan providing live display of medieval art and architecture in its wonderful durbar squares. The insight of eye catching design of durbar squares glorifies the miraculous relation of Gods and humans that adds excitement and rejuvenate you spiritually. Also, the 3rd century Boudhnath Stupa, Swoyambhunath temple and the biggest Hindu temple in the world- Pashupatinath Temple allure you towards their pristine beauty.
Not just in Kathmandu Valley, wherever you travel in Nepal, you with encounter with various groups of people with different culture and lifestyles. Nearby places along the rim of Kathmandu Valley like Nagarkot, Dhulikhel and Namo Buddha, offer insights on the mid-hill life of Nepal with the eye catching views of the Himalayas. In the eastern and central parts of Terai, resides a Mithila culture center, which is related to the great Hindu epic, Ramayana. The capital of ancient Mithila kingdom is present in heart of Mithila, Janakpurdham, where you can experience the touch of Mithila culture through different temples, ponds, foods, art, architecture, and cultural monuments there. The famous and only Hindu-Mughal style temple ‘Janaki Mandir’ is really mesmerizing and the numerous sacred and beautiful ponds there crown it as “City of Ponds”. Lumbini, Birth place of Lord Gautam Buddha is an important spiritual site and attracts thousands of Buddhist pilgrims from around the world. Other destinations to experience both natural beauty and cultural magnificence are Pokhara, Bandipur, Palpa, Nuwakot and Gorkha as well as Chitwan where you can also enjoy wildlife experiences.
Nuwakot Seven Stored Palace (Sattale Durbar)
Well, the list is long and choice endless. A wide variety of ethnic groups, all speaking their own language and practicing their own way of life is what makes Nepal unique from rest of the world. You can be rest assured that these places is tantamount to invaluable insight, unspoiled beauty through the enriched culture, charming people with varied lifestyle and valued customs and traditions. So, why wait?
COVID-19, a virus that was first detected in Wuhan of China in late 2019, has put the entire world in uncertainty and chaos. The challenges faced by people during covid-19 crisis is uncontestable. This global pandemic has become one of most notable crises to challenge the health sector, economic sector and wellbeing of people all over the world. With the passing of almost one and half year since the virus was first detected, the world is still crippling, with the onset of second wave in different parts of the world.
Tourism industry is one of the major sectors that has been deeply affected by this deadly pandemic. The overwhelming impact caused by this virus on almost every part of global tourism is a burning issue now. Many governments have imposed severe and strict measures to stop the spread of this deadly virus which includes borders and airway closures along with lockdowns and countless travel restrictions that directly have affected the tourism industry, which in turn is causing a great economic downturn.
Tourism not only provides high volume of jobs for low skilled workers, together with high skilled jobs but it also generates foreign exchange, and drives regional and local development. The travel restrictions affected every sector of tourism, from hotels, or other types of accommodations, restaurants, museums, to small scale tourism businesses. The unprecedented effects on tourism jobs and business has led to near-complete cessation of tourism activities around the world.
There have been massive cancellation of hotels and tourist bookings followed by widespread unemployment, loss of income and threatened livelihoods for millions of people from every corner of the world. According to WTTC, The Travel & Tourism sector has suffered a loss of around 4.7 trillion US dollar in 2020, with the contribution to GDP dropping by a lurching 49.1% compared to 2019. The highest tourist generating countries like Costa Rica, France, USA, Greece, Morocco, Portugal, and Thailand are among the hardest hit with losses in tourism exceeding 3 percent loss in national GDP.
The consequences of COVID-19 in low and middle income countries like Nepal which rely on small number of service industries are deeply worrying. Without exception, like all the countries of the world, tourism of Nepal has also been decimated by this global pandemic. Around 2,00,000 people who are directly employed in hotel, restaurants, trekking, mountaineering, airlines and other tourism subsectors have been directly affected by the restrictions due to pandemic. Considering coronavirus and its health impact, Nepal Government had to cancel the ambitious campaign “Visit Nepal Year 2020” which aimed to bring 2 million tourists in Nepal. The total 1254 registered Hotels (tourist standard), 29 international airlines flying to Nepal, 20 domestic airlines, 2649 registered trekking agencies have been directly impacted and many tourism businesses among them can no longer sustain.
Domestic tourism is assisting to soften the blow, at least partly, and Nepal government is also coming up with plans and actions to restore and revive the sector, protecting business and jobs. In this time of crisis, people from every part of the world have shown unanimity to fight together to rebuild and reemerge. Many countries including Nepal are now developing measures to develop a more sustainable tourism economy post COVID-19 which includes preparing plans to support the strategic recovery of tourism.
Himalayan beauty often comes at a cost! You have to stretch your comfort zone, ramble on the rocks, pump your heart and do a bit of huff and puff. However, there is a way out! You can experience the Himalayan giants including Everest in style and comfort. Yes, we are talking about Everest Heli Tour.
When it comes to exploring Everest region and getting a bird’s eye view, nothing beats the experience you get from a helicopter ride! You can enjoy the breath taking heavenly landscapes along with the world’s gigantic mountains including Mount Everest (8848 m). It is the best and easiest way for the travelers who wish to reach the lap of astonishing highest mountains but have very limited time. You get an experience that is worth every penny and it’s quite likely that the time you spend in air will turn out to be one of the most thrilling minutes you will ever have in your life.
Everest Heli tour is not just about flying to Base Camp and returning back. It comes with different side tours like visiting Kala Patthar (5545 m), the historic site of World’s Highest Cabinet meeting and stopping at Kongde, World’s highest Resort where you can stop for a celebratory meal. So, without straining yourself and spending longer trekking days, you can marvel at the panoramic views of astonishing mountains, tranquil valleys, glittering snow peaks, Khumbu glacier of Nepal’s North East Himalaya region and many more. It not only gives you the thrill of being in the air, but offers you the whole new level of experience. So, welcome abroad to have the exclusive escape to one of the world’s most challenging landscapes.
If you are thinking of some great Himalayan adventure, Mera Peak climbing can be a wonderful start. Situated in the Makalu Barun Valley next to Khumbu Valley, Mera Peak (6476m) is the highest trekking peak of Nepal. You can see the awe-inspiring views of majestic mountains like Cho Oyu (8201m), Lhotse (8516m), Makalu (8463m), Kanchenjunga (8586m), and Mount Everest (8848m) from the top of Mera Peak. The adventure can be done in relatively shorter period of time and is less strenuous compared to serious mountain climbing as Mera Peak is not a technical mountain. Nevertheless, its 6000m+ Himalayan peak and it comes with some challenges. So, here is some information that will help you if you want to embark on this amazing adventure.
Why climb Mera Peak ?
Climbing Mera Peak doesn’t just come with a sense of achievement but also with the amazing experience of stunning mountain views, picturesque villages, wonderful forests, diverse culture, beautiful landscapes and many more. It’s a full package that offers all aspects of a Himalayan encounter. Although this trip is physically demanding, it requires relatively little climbing technique and can be climbed by beginner who is physically fit.
Is it difficult to climb Mera Peak?
Mera Peak (6476m) is the highest trekking peak of Nepal. But it doesn’t consist of steep technical climb like other expedition peaks. So, even if you are a beginner then climbing this peak isn’t that strenuous for you. But, due to altitude, snowy condition and geographical extremities, it’s not a piece of cake. You still need some basic alpine skills and be able to use gears such as climbing boots, crampons, climbing helmet, ice axe etc. You don’t need to worry about this as you will have enough time at the Base Camp to learn these skills. Just make sure that you hike gradually, hydrate well, and eat healthy food to reach the summit in best physical condition.
What are the trainings required for Mera Peak?
It all depends on how often do you hike and trek in the Himalaya or high altitude conditions. If you are a regular trekker, then climbing Mera Peak isn’t that strenuous for you. However, it doesn’t mean that it is all easy to reach the summit. In order to ascend Mera Peak, you need to build good core and length strength along with endurance power. You have to put in the right training schedule and follow it every day before the trip. Lunges, squats, step aerobics, cardio vascular trainings are some of the physical activity that you can include in your daily practice. It is also equally important to have prior experience of altitudes. And yes! Always remember mental preparation is a must which keeps you focused and confident to achieve whatever your goal is.
On the way to Mera Peak
What to eat and where to stay during the trip?
You need comfortable accommodation and healthy food to stay fit and energized during the trip. For that, you can find lodges or teahouses strewn along the trail. Camping can also be a good option for overnight stay if you want to unplug and enjoy the simplicity of nature. But, it is not preferred much nowadays due to the availability of teahouses. You can find many options of foods like potato dishes, noodle dishes, rice dishes, dal bhat, egg dishes that are perfect for the hungry trekkers who need calorie replenishment.
Clothing and Gears
It is mandatory that you have the required gear and equipment for the trip. You have to seek advice for climbing equipment, boots, harness etc. from the company that’s helping you for the trip. You can either buy or rent them. Not just climbing gears, you also need to have proper clothes for trekking and climbing. You need to have clothes and sleeping bag that can keep you warm in a -30-degree centigrade weather. A comfortable footwear is a must both for climbing and trekking. Make sure that you have worn them both prior to your trip.
Which is the best season to climb Mera Peak?
Well, each trekking season has its own excitement and atmosphere, but if you want to have some assurance about the weather conditions during the trek, be sure to stick to high seasons. Among the four seasons, Spring ( March – May ) and Autumn (Sep – Nov) can be considered as the best seasons to ascend Mera Peak as the skies are clear and temperature is favorable during these months. It is very difficult to climb in summer as the temperature is high and there is a high risk of falling of stones and melting glacier. And you can’t also be able to see the expansive views due to fog and rainfall in this season. In winter, temperature goes below -15 degree celsius which leads to the heavy snowfall and risk of avalanche in the trip.
What permits do you need to climb Mera Peak ?
If you want to trek in Nepal, permit is compulsory for you. Following permits are needed in order to climb Mera peak.
TIMS ( Trekking Information Management System ): Every trekker trekking in Nepal requires TIMS card. Tims card is for the safety and security of the trekkers.
Makalu Barun National Park entry fee: Since Mera peak lies in Makalu Barun National Park, you need to pay park entry fee before trekking in the area.
Mera Peak climbing permit: You need to pay certain amount in order to climb Mera Peak. Mera Peak permit is different in each season. Since Spring and Autumn are considered as high trekking seasons, the charge for climbing the peak during is about USD 250 and USD 125 respectively. Whereas in low Season i.e. Summer and Winter, the permit for climbing the peak is around USD 70. Nepal Mountaineering Association issues the permit to ascend Mera Peak.
How to avoid altitude sickness?
It doesn’t matter where you go in the Himalayas of Nepal, you are likely to encounter serious altitude. During Mera Peak climbing also, altitude sickness is a concerning matter due to thin air and less oxygen. So, in this condition if you don’t take the right precautions. it can ruin your trekking experience. Better be prepared than feel sorry! Here are some of the tips to avoid altitude sickness while you climb Mera Peak.
Climb slowly: Always remember, climb slowly while you ascend Mera Peak. Climbing slowly can help you adjust the level of oxygen in your body and there is a less chance that you gain altitude sickness.
Acclimatize properly: You should consider rest for 1 or 2 days if you are trekking in high altitude areas. Acclimatization helps you to adapt to the high altitude environment and assist you to avoid altitude sickness.
Drink enough water: If you stay hydrated, it may prevent you from altitude sickness. But don’t drink too much water as it dilutes your body’s sodium level that may lead to weakness or nausea which is similar to AMS.
Be psychologically prepared: If you are too worried that you might get altitude sickness while trekking in high altitude then sometimes the psychological factor may lead you to get altitude sickness. Always stay positive and enjoy the great views during the trip.
As our operations were closed this Spring, a small team of office staffs decided to do Annapurna Circuit Trek crossing Thorong La at 5416 meters in April. The motive of the trek was to assess the route, check the services, make pictures & videos and also to break the monotony of being shut down for so long.
Annapurna Circuit Trek was one of the most popular treks in Nepal and is still among the favorites of many international trekkers visiting Nepal. It is a beautiful trek that passes through the Marshyangdi Valley and offers great scenery and cultural diversity. The hike up is very scenic with amazing mountain views of Himalayan giants like Annapurna, Gangapurna, Tilicho Peak, Pisang Peak and the Chulu range. Besides the natural beauty, the area is also very culturally rich with ancient traditions of the Gurungs and the Manange people, beautiful and old monasteries and quaint settlements of the locals. For the wildlife, Himalayan Thars, Monals, Musk Deer and even the elusive Snow leopard can be spotted while on the trek.
Lower Pisang Village
In terms of difficulty, the trek is a fairly challenging trek and the major highlight of this trek is crossing the Thorong La Pass at an altitude of 5416 meters and arriving in Muktinath, a religious town following the Kali Gandaki Valley. Overall, Annapurna Circuit trek is a classic trek and one of the most diverse treks in Nepal. The extensions of the roads have cut the trek short but the trek is without doubt one of the most fantastic trekking experiences in the world. If you are planning to embark on this beautiful journey, the following tips might come in handy to you.
Annapurna Circuit Trek Itinerary:
The main logic behind a standard itinerary for a Himalayan trek is not to miss a single highlight and yet get well acclimatized at the same time for a successful trip. The development in Nepal has resulted in road construction even in the remotest parts of the country and affected many treks in Nepal. Similar is the case in Annapurna Circuit trek as well. The trek which used to take 22 days in the past can now be done in half the time with an extension to Tilicho lake, one of the highest glacial lakes in the world. To skip the roads, not miss any major highlights and get well acclimatized while trekking up, we suggest you the below itinerary and tips:
Day 1: Drive to Chame (Approx. 2650m) via Besisahar
Drive time: 10 – 11 hours (4 -5 hrs black topped road and 5 hrs off road)
Lodge: Hotel New Shangrila
Tip: It is always good if you leave Kathmandu early after breakfast. Though local transportation is available, it is good to hire a private vehicle, especially for the off-road section.
Day 2: Trek to Upper Pisang (Approx. 3300m)
Walk time: 5-6 hours
Lunch: Dhikur Pokhari
Lodge: Hotel Manang Marshyangdi
Day 3: Trek to Ngawal (Approx. 3650m)
Walk time: 5-6 hours
Lodge: Hotel Mountain View
Tip: Ghyaru and Ngawal are both beautiful old settlements of the local people. To enjoy these villages, take the upper trail via Ghyaru and get inside the village to explore more.
Day 4: Trek to Manang (Approx. 3519m)
Walk time: 5 hours
Hotel: Hotel Tilcho
Tip: After your lunch, take a visit to one of the oldest and the most beautiful monasteries in the region. The monastery is more than 600 years old with large number of Buddha statues and offers a great view from the top.
Day 4: Acclimatization day at Manang (Approx. 3519m)
Walk time: 4 hours
Hotel: Hotel Tilcho
Tip: Go for walk to the Gangapurna Lake and follow the trial up to the top of the hill at 4300 meters, a perfect acclimatization day. If you want a longer day, one can also go for an excursion to the Ice Lake.
Day 5: Trek to Tilicho Base Camp (Approx. 4200m)
Walk time: 4 hours
Lunch: Sri Kharka
Hotel: Hotel New Himalaya
Tip: Watch out for landslide and rockfall sections after Sri Kharka and hour before reaching the Base Camp.
Day 6: Trek to Tilicho Lake and back to Sri Kharka (Approx. 4080m)
Walk time: 8 hours
Lunch: Tilicho Base Camp
Lodge: Himalayan Hotel
Tip: Start the day pretty early before sunrise with a light meal. After getting back from Tilicho Lake, rest at the Base Camp while enjoying your breakfast.
Tilicho Lake (4919m)
Day 7: Trek to Yak Kharka (Approx. 4018m)
Walk time: 5 hours
Lunch: Yak Kharka
Lodge: Hotel Dream Home
Day 8: Trek to Thorong Phedi (Approx. 4533m)
Walk time: 5 hours
Lunch: Thorong Phedi
Hotel: Thorong Basecamp Lodge
Tip: Watch out for rock fall section about 30 mins before reaching Thorong Phedi.
Day 9: Cross Thorong La (5416 m) and trek to Muktinath and drive to Jomsom(Approx. 2743m)
Walk time: 9 hours, drive 1 hr
Lunch: Packed Lunch
Lodge: Tilicho Lodge
Tip: Make an early start so that you are at the top of the Pass before noon. Get yourself a packed lunch from the hotel to enjoy at the top of the Pass. Keep you crampons ready and trekking poles handy for the descent.
Also, coordinate with your Agent/Guide to have a vehicle standby at Muktinath to drive to Jomsom.
On the way to the top of Thorong La Pass
Thorong La Pass (5416m)
Day 10: Fly to Pokhara (Approx. 822m)
Tip: If you have a day or two to spare, spend it in Pokhara basking in the beauty of this amazing lakeside city – you won’t regret!
Day 12: Fly to Kathmandu (Approx. 1400m)
Things to Know
As Annapurna Circuit Trek is one of the oldest and well-connected trekking areas of Nepal, finding accommodations is not a problem during this trek. There are abundant lodges in all the stops with price ranging from USD 10 to USD 120 depending on the level and standard of the services provided. It is only in Thorong Phedi and Thorong High Camp, the two small settlements before the Thorong La pass, accommodations might get a bit tight due to limited availability and the high number of trekkers visiting the area. Just make sure you carry a sleeping bag (-20 Celsius) for a cozy sleep and double check with your agent if they have confirmed the rooms for you.
Like accommodation in the Annapurna Circuit Trek, the food availability during the trek is also not a problem. All the lodges will have full menu with food ranging from Nepali, Indian, Italian and continental. We suggest you to be an eggetarian during the trek though meat is available through out. Talk to your guide for the best food to eat as he will have access to the Kitchen. As the popular trekking saying goes, “Dal Bhat Power 24 hour, noodle power only half an hour”, go for local foods especially Dal Bhat, a good mix of carb and protein.
Water can be refilled pretty easily in all the lodges and there are water sources/taps along the trail. We discourage the purchase of bottled water (as it contributes to plastic waste) and therefore suggest to use purification tablets or water filtration systems. One can also buy hot water in the lodges from USD 5-10 depending on how high you are.
Electricity and Charging
Compared to other trekking areas in Nepal, electricity is not a problem in the area. There are good charging facilities in all the lodges and the charges for it is also nominal. It is only at Tilicho Base Camp, Thorong Phedi and Thorong High Camp, there might be some issues with charging as the settlements are on solar back up. Make sure you have a good power bank especially for the nights in these places.
Annapurna area is well connected in terms of telecommunications and internet facility. You can find mobile network easily to Khangsar and internet connection throughout the trek. There will be a charge for the usage of internet, which will also be higher as you trek higher.
One needs regular trekking gears like boots, hiking pants, good base layers, Dri Fit t shirts, down jackets, Poncho and wind cheater. Sunscreen, sunglass and hats are also very important for the trek. On the technical side, it will be a safe bet to carry ins step crampons and trekking poles which come in very handy for snowy trail and descent after Thorong la pass.
You will need two governmental permits to complete the trek – Annapurna Area Conservation Project fees (ACAP) and Trekkers Information System Management System ( TIMS). Your Travel Agent will easily sort both these permits for you.
You can hire a jeep straight to Chame from Kathmandu. Options of local transport to Besishar is available and you have to change another vehicle for Chame.
For Muktinath-Jomsom section , local jeep options, both sharing and private hire are available. You can also take a 20 minutes’ flight to Pokhara or take local transport to Pokhara, both available on full hire or individual basis.
Best Time to Travel
Spring season from March till May and the Autumn season from September till December is the best time to visit the region. During Spring, the sky is clear, days are warm and the views open up really good. Autumn season also has clearer days, good views but is slightly drier and colder compared to Spring.
Winters are also okay to trek if you can cope with the cold. Just make sure you have enough warm clothes.
The area receives slightly lesser rain compared to other areas due to its topography, especially Manang and upper areas. Hence, once can also trek the area during monsoon.