Park Village Resort Burhanilkantha
KATHMANDU (regional info)
LUMBINI (regional info)
POKHARA (regional info)
Maruni Sanctuary Lodge Sauraha
Kathmandu Guest House Thamel
Nepal forms the very watershed of Asia. Landlocked between India and Tibet, it spans terrain from subtropical jungle
to the icy Himalaya, and contains or shares eight of the world's ten highest mountains. Its cultural landscape is every bit
as diverse: a dozen major ethnic groups , speaking as many as fifty languages and dialects, coexist in this narrow,
jumbled buffer state, while two of the world's great religions , Hinduism and Buddhism, overlap and mingle with older tribal
traditions - yet it's a testimony to the Nepalis' tolerance and good humour that there is no tradition of ethnic or religious strife.
Unlike India, Nepal was never colonized, a fact which comes through in fierce national pride and other, more idiosyncratic
ways. Founded on trans-Himalayan trade, its dense, medieval cities display a unique pagoda-style architecture, not to mention
an astounding flair for festivals and pageantry. But above all, Nepal is a nation of unaffected villages and terraced hillsides -
more than eighty percent of the population lives off the land - and whether you're trekking, biking or bouncing around in packed
buses, sampling this simple lifestyle is perhaps the greatest pleasure of all.
But it would be misleading to portray Nepal as a fabled Shangri-la. One of the world's poorest countries (if you go by per capita
income), it suffers from many of the pangs and uncertainties of the Third World, including overpopulation and deforestation;
development is coming in fits and starts, and not all of it is being shared equitably. Heavily reliant on its big-brother neighbours,
Nepal was, until 1990, run by one of the last remaining absolute monarchies, a regime that combined China's repressiveness
and India's bureaucracy in equal measure. It's now a democracy , but corruption and frequent changes of government have led
to widespread disillusion and spawned a simmering rebel insurgency; political freedom has changed little for the average
struggling Nepali family.
Travelling in Nepal isn't a straightforward or predictable activity. Certain tourist areas are highly developed, even overdeveloped,
but facilities elsewhere are rudimentary; getting around is time-consuming and sometimes uncomfortable. Nepalis are well used
to shrugging off such inconveniences with the all-purpose phrase, Ke garne ? ("What to do?"). Nepal is also a more fragile country
than most - culturally as well as environmentally - so it's necessary to be especially sensitive as a traveller.
Topography is obviously a key consideration when travelling in Nepal. Generally speaking, the country divides into three altitude
zones running from west to east. The northernmost of these is, of course, the Himalayan chain , broken into a series of himal
(permanently snow-covered mountain ranges) and alpine valleys, and inhabited, at least part of the year, as high as 5000m.
The largest part of the country consists of a wide belt of middle-elevation foothills and valleys , Nepal's traditional heartland;
two ranges, the Mahabharat Lek and the lower, southernmost Chure (or Siwalik) Hills, stand out. Finally, the Tarai , a strip of flat,
lowland jungle and farmland along the southern border, has more in common with India than with the rest of Nepal.
OTHER POPULAR DESTINATIONS IN ASIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST