Asia has become very popular destination for tourists, backpackers and expats of all ages. Yet, it seems that most people tend to choose a country in South East Asia. Adventurous backpackers may spend a few weeks or months in India, but Nepal is often missing from their list. I always wanted to go to Nepal and eventually made it four years ago. I enjoyed it so much that I came back, this time with my husband, to live there for a while. True, I came to realize that living in a country is way different from just visiting for a couple weeks. Nepal has its challenges that may leave you feeling frustrated. But overall it is a beautiful country that doesn’t deserve to be neglected. I am listing three reasons I often hear from people who love to travel but hesitate to visit Nepal. Read on to see for yourself if Nepal is a travel destination for you.
1) “Nepal is too cold for me”
Many people think Nepal is a super cold country. When I was moving, my friends and family were worried if I had enough warm clothes. Well, it is cold in winter, but mostly in the mountains. If you stay in the city, the days are rather pleasant. While it gets quite cold at night, the average day time temperature in January in Kathmandu is 60-65°F. In Pokhara, it is even warmer. In summer, it gets very hot and humid. From May until August it is the rainy season. Main trekking seasons are March/April and September till early November. My favorite month so far is December. We have many clear sunny days when you can walk around the city catching the sun and admiring beautiful views of the mountains and surrounding area. If you visit Nepal in wintertime, you will probably be coldest inside your apartment or guesthouse, because the buildings have no insulation and no heating. But that may be a good motivation to get out and explore!
2) “I don’t do trekking”
Who said Nepal was just for trekkers and mountaineers? Yes, there are some beautiful mountains out here and of course, the highest peaks in the world. But you don’t need to climb Everest to enjoy the nature of Nepal. There are many other popular areas. For example the Chitwan National Park has been listed among World Heritage Sites since 1984. It offers comfortable tourist stays with elephant and jeep safaris and it is easily accessed from Bharatpur Airport.
There is also a whole new tourist field in Nepal called “cultural trekking”. Many agencies offer easy tours around villages. The trips often include home-stays, visiting some local festival and learning about the history and culture. Nepal has an amazingly diverse population with more than 120 languages spoken as a mother tongue. Visiting Nepal could be like visiting many different countries at once!
3) “I can’t stand the pollution and the traffic is crazy”
Well, these may be valid reasons for not going. I realize that traveling to the so-called third world country is not for everyone. It is true that there is much pollution and the traffic in Kathmandu may seem intimidating and even shocking for a newcomer. But this doesn’t need to stop you if you still want to give it a try. Nepal is used to catering to tourists and you can choose a travel option that suits your needs. If you book a decent hotel, they will pick you up at the airport, and take you straight to your room. From there, you can arrange other trips and tours.
Another option is flying straight to Pokhara and staying at Lakeside. Pokhara is much smaller and more relaxed and it is easy to explore Lakeside on foot. The air is cleaner and on a clear day, you can see the Annapurna range right from the city streets. There are many safe and affordable restaurants and many interesting trips around Pokhara that can keep you busy for days or even weeks.
At the same time, many areas of Lakeside have maintained their local atmosphere. You will see tiny little potato fields squeezed among the buildings. Occasionally there is even a farmer ploughing the soil with his buffalos. In the morning, you can watch Nepali moms shopping for their milk and vegetables and small children playing in the streets before they go to school. Shop owners call out their “Namaste” but usually they are not pushy like street vendors in some other places. I would say Pokhara might be one of the easiest destinations to start your travels around Asian countries.
The list of reasons why people hesitate to go to Nepal can go on and on. Some worry that seeing so much poverty would be too disturbing. Yes, traveling to a country that is so much different from what we are used to is always a challenge. Sometimes, it can be a disturbing experience but I believe that the rewards usually outweigh the challenges. For me, living in Nepal has been definitely both challenging and rewarding. I think I have learnt as much about myself as about the country. After all, it is stepping out of our comfort zone that helps us grow.
Thinking about going to Asia? Put Nepal on your list – it is worth it!