Solene is our specialist of Tibet, Nepal and Bhoutan. Fascinated by these regions, she often goes there to find new places to discover, new monasteries and new villages which can bring to your trip authenticity and adventure.
Nepal, decorated with the Himalayan mountain range where the highest summits tower above ground, is such an exciting and charming country that one trip would never be enough to unmask all of its secrets. Its history, the rich culture and traditions of its ethnically diverse community coupled with the beauty of its landscapes are the perfect setting for creating some of the best memories and realising some of the best treks in the world.
Temples and palaces surround you on one side and on the other side mountains encircle the valley of Kathmandu, another “kingdom” in the sky. The “abode of snow” (Himalaya in Sanskrit) attracts mountain climbers, adventurers and dare devils indiscriminately.
Nepal’s climate runs the conventional gamut of spring, summer, monsoon, autumn and winter. Altitude plays an influencing role; northern summers are cool and the winters are harsh, while the summers in the south are warm and winters mild.
The monsoon showers descend upon Nepal in mid-June and carry on till September. Muddy roads, landslides, clouds obscuring the Himalayas and flooded rivers render this season inopportune for excursions.
he first civilisations in Nepal prospered around the 6th century B.C. and were concentrated in the Kathmandu valley where today’s capital is located. In circa 563 B.C., Prince Siddhartha Gautama was born in this very region and went on to become the founder of the Buddhist faith.
In the mid-18th century the Gorkha king Prithvi Narayan Shah, who had fled India following Mughal subjugation, unified what is now present-day Nepal as his kingdom. Under Shah and his successors, Nepal’s borders expanded as far west as Kashmir and as far east as Sikkim (now part of India).
Nepalese cuisine, known as the food of the Himalayas, is a culmination of the country’s diverse topography, ethnicities and climate. The traditional Hindu eating etiquettes are still heavily instilled in the countryside, albeit not much among the educated and urban Nepalis. Guests and tourists should try and conform to the traditional dietary customs, unless told otherwise by their hosts. Eating with your right hand and not touching other’s utensils are common practices.
Nepali food is simple and subtle in flavour and is prepared by a unique fusion of common ingredients and spices. The Nepali staple consists primarily of rice, wheat, corn, lentils coupled with fresh vegetables and meats.
The 26.6 million population of Nepal is as intricate and eclectic as its topography. Nepali or Nepalese are descendants of migrants mostly from India, Burma, Tibet and Yunnan. A multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, Nepal was said to have more than 100 castes and ethnic groups according to its 2001 census. Each caste is proud of its heritage and has distinct culture and traditions.
The mountainous highlands are sparsely populated, while the outer Terai region and a part of the midlands house a large chunk of the country’s inhabitants. Kathmandu in the midlands is the capital of the country and despite being a small area has the highest density of population.
Religion and its manifestations are ubiquitous in the Nepali society. Mythologies of Hindu gods and goddesses abound in this country and cultural values are grounded on the doctrines of holy epics such as the Gita and Ramayana. With several shrines dotting the villages and the chimes of temple bells resounding in the crisp mountain air, the aura of piety is resplendent. Women, men and children flock to their neighbourhood worship houses and offer prayers by chanting lyrical hymns and lighting heady incense sticks.
Most of the festivals celebrated in Nepal are religious Hindu occasions and may last from one day to several days. The festivities revolve around dance, music and decorations as well as a variety of local delicacies.
Dashain is the longest and most pivotal festival of Nepal. A 15 day grandiose affair, it is the most auspicious festival in the Nepalese annual calendar. It falls around September to October, starting from the bright lunar fortnight and ending on the day of full moon. Dashain is also popularly referred to as Dushhera in India. Following Dashain, another significant celebration is the festival of Tihar (Diwali in India). Known as the “festival of lights”.