The recorded history of Nepal is centered on the Kathmandu valley and begins with the Kirantis who are said to have ruled for many centuries beginning from the 7th or 8th Century B.C. with their famous King Yalumber who is even mentioned in the epic, ‘Mahabharata’. Around 300 A.D. the Lichavis arrived from northern India and overthrew the Kirantis. One of the legacies of the Lichavis is the fabulous Changu Narayan temple near Bhaktapur that dates back to the 5th Century. In early 7th Century, Amshuvarman, the first Thakuri king took over the throne from his father-in-law who was a Lichavi. The Lichavis brought art and architecture to the valley but the Golden age of creativity arrived with the Mallas who came to power around 1200 A.D.
During their 550-year rule, the Mallas built an amazing number of temples and splendid palaces with picturesque squares that are lined with architecturally beautiful temples. It was also during their rule that society and the cities became well organized; religious festivals were introduced and literature, music and art were encouraged. Sadly after the death of Yaksha Malla, the valley was divided into three kingdoms: Kathmandu (Kantipur), Bhaktapur (Bhadgaon) and Patan (Lalitpur). The rivalry among these kingdoms led to the building of grand palaces and the uplifting of the arts and culture. Around this time, the Nepal as we know it today was divided into about 46 independent principalities.
One among these was the kingdom of Gorkha with the ambitious King Prithvi Narayan Shah in power who embarked on a conquering mission that led to the defeat of all the kingdoms in the valley by 1769. Instead of annexing the newly acquired states to his kingdom of Gorkha, King Prithvi Narayan Shah decided to move his capital to Kathmandu establishing the Shah dynasty which ruled unified Nepal from 1769 to 2008 when the last Shah ruler, Gyanendra relinquished his power to make way for total democracy under the rule of a Prime Minister.
Covering an area of 147,181 sq.km, Nepal shares a border with India in the west, south and east and with the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China in the north. Kanchan Kalan in Jhapa district is the lowest point at 70m above sea level and the summit of Mt. Everest at 8,848 m is the highest. From east to west, Nepal is 800 km long and only 230 km wide from north to south. Within this narrow stretch of land, there is incredible diversity in topography ranging from a sub-tropical climate in the Terai (plains) to Alpine conditions in the Himalayan regions. Mountains, mid hills, valleys, lakes and plains dominate the landscape of this landlocked country. Nepal has eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains including Mt. Everest, the highest in the world.
Nepal also has an abundance of rivers most of which originate in the Himalaya while some flow down from Tibet. They all flow on to India, many of them joining the holy Ganges. Large tracts of forested land have been preserved as national parks and wildlife reserves where endangered species like the Royal Bengal tiger and the Greater one-horned rhinoceros roam freely along with an amazing variety of mammals and reptiles. Nepal is home to almost 10 percent of the world's bird species among which 500 species are found in the Kathmandu valley alone.
Nepal offers some of the best trekking in the world and has attracted mountaineers from all over. It is an ideal destination for people who thrive on thrill and adventure, you can experience the thrill of rafting down raging rivers, soar high amongst some of the world’s highest peaks, trek along serene villages and landscape or just immerse yourself in the panoramic views of the mighty Himalayas and the abundance of scenic tranquility, the country has to offer.
The hotels used in Nepal are of 3-star (or higher) standard. All are modern, clean and comfortable and offer friendly service. Most of the hotels have swimming pools but you should also be aware that swimming pools at the hotels are often unheated and so can be cold in the winter months or even closed. While on a trek the accommodations are usually Tea House lodges along the trekking route. The rooms and services in these areas are minimal, catering to the basic needs of the guests. This provides a good feel of the local life. Because of the electric shortage, some places provide solar powered hot shower.
Climatic conditions within Nepal vary from one place to another in accordance with the geographical features. In the north, summers are cool and winters severe, while in the south summers are sub-tropical and winters mild. The monsoon that brings rain from June through September affects most of the country except those that lie in the rain-shadow areas like Mustang which is within Nepal but a part of the Tibetan plateau.
The climate changes rapidly from the sub-tropical Terai to the cool dry temperate and alpine conditions in the northern Himalayan ranges within a short span of 200 km. In the Terai, which is the hottest part of the country, summer temperatures rise above 45°C. The climate here is hot and humid. In the middle hills, the summer climate is pleasant with temperatures around 25°C - 27°C.
The winter temperatures range from 7°C to 23°C in the Terai and sub-zero to 12°C in the mountainous regions, hills and valleys. The northern Himalayan region has an alpine climate with temperatures reaching below -30°C. The valley of Kathmandu has a pleasant climate with an average summer and winter temperatures of 19°C - 27°C and 2°C - 12°C respectively.
The effects of altitude can be felt by anyone at anytime above a height of 8000 ft. Statistically two-thirds to three-fourths of those going to high altitudes (above 14,000ft.) will have mild symptoms of A.M.S. (Acute Mountain Sickness) but less than 2% will develop serious illness. Fitness does not affect acclimatization. Generally older people acclimatize better and teenagers are at the most risk and need to be extra cautious. This may be because older people are often slower and going slower helps your body have a chance to adjust.
The best precaution to altitude sickness is drinking a lot of water. Avoid being dehydrated; you need to drink slowly and often. Be sure you are eating enough in small amounts throughout the day.
Also it is very important to take time to acclimatize. Altitude sickness starts from mild symptoms such as; headache, nausea, loss of appetite, mild shortness of breath with exertion, sleep disturbance, breathing irregularity, dizziness or light-headedness, mild weakness, slight swelling of hands and face, lethargy, malaise etc. Any symptoms should not be ignored and must be reported to your group leader.
We do not expect any problems in the trip but it is better to take precaution. AMS is only applicable for those trekking in higher altitude.
Originally known as a Hindu Kingdom, Nepal became a secular state in 2006. About 80% of the population follow Hinduism, making Nepal a country with the highest percentage of Hindu followers. Buddhism, though a minority is also an important religion in the country because of a historical link to the country. Siddhartha Gautama, the man who was enlightened to be the Buddha was born in a small village in Nepal. These two religions have co-existed down the ages and many Hindu temples share the same complex as, Buddhist shrines.
Apart from Hinduism and Buddhism, many other religions like Islam, Christianity, and Bon are practiced here.
The population of Nepal is approximately 27 million. This population comprises of more than 100 multiple ethnic groups who speak about 93 different languages and dialects that are further divided into different castes. The distinction in caste still plays a significant part in a Nepali’s life when it comes to marriage.
Some of the main ethnic groups are:
Gurungs and Magars who live mainly in the western region; Rais, Limbus and Sunwars who live in the eastern middle hills; Sherpas, Manangbas and Lopas who live near the mountains of Everest, Annapurna and Mustang respectively; Newars who live in and around the Kathmandu valley; Tharus, Yadavas, Satar, Rajvanshis and Dhimals who live in the Terai region; and Brahmins, Chhetris and Thakuris generally spread over all parts of the country.
In Nepal, the staple food is Dal Bhat that comprises of rice, lentil soup, freshly cooked vegetables and meat of choice. In Kathmandu the range of restaurants is quite outstanding - from French to Japanese and Indian to American! Even the best restaurants are fairly inexpensive compared to western standard. Food in Pokhara is wonderful as well.
At the teahouses, there is little or no meat.
Unboiled water is NOT safe to drink anywhere in Nepal. Always stick to bottled water. Uncooked vegetables are also not safe to consume, unless properly treated by soaking in a solution of iodine. Always peel your fruit.
It is considered auspicious to make donations at sacred sites like monasteries and temples. However, the donations and the amount to be donated are not obligatory.
Begging is a normal practice. While giving to the needy and the physically handicapped is a good practice, we do not encourage begging. There is no need to feel pressured to give, even if crowds of beggars approach you and struggle to get your attention.
You will be surprised by the power of bargaining. Bargaining is a way of life throughout Asia. It is important that you do not over pay for anything. Your guides can make recommendations about what a fair price is. Never suggest the price for yourself in the beginning. Wait for the storeowner to quote a price before you start bargaining.
The language in Nepal is Nepali, but English is widely spoken in the tourist areas.
There are many important customs in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions. Any Buddhist temple or stupa should be circumambulated clockwise. It is customary to eat, handle food, gifts money, etc. with your right hand. It is considered impolite to point the soles of one's feet at anyone or towards alters, holy objects, people or a family’s fire. It is okay to be affectionate (but not demonstrative) with a same-sex friend. It is important to dress appropriately while visiting monasteries and temples. Full sleeves shirts and trousers are a must.
Please do not take photographs of people without asking permission. It is also important to ask permission before taking photographs in a monastery. Some monasteries may ask you not to use the flash on your camera. This is important for the preservation of the wall paintings.
Following local customs to a certain extent just shows good manners and your consideration is much appreciated.
Clothing should be simple and consist of layers, which can be added or removed as the temperature varies during the day. During autumn the night temperatures in the mountains often dip below freezing, making warm gear essential. In summer the days can be hot, requiring light cotton clothing. Good wet-weather gear is recommended during the rainy summer months. A warm windcheater and stout comfortable shoes are especially recommended.
Your daypack needs to be large enough for a 1-litre water bottle and all other items you will need during the day. In it you should have:
Some essentials you need to bring with you:
This is an important item on your list if your program includes hiking. Make sure your boot is well broken -in. Ill-fitting boots can make your trek miserable. If you're buying a new pair, look for medium weight boots of fabric or a fabric/leather combination with a waterproof breathable membrane such as Gore-Tex. They should provide adequate ankle support but be comfortable in the Achilles area (a notch in the top of the rear ankle helps). Bring your thick woollen socks when you are trying on boots so you get the correct size. Short boots can jam your toes painfully during long steep descent. Makes sure you walk up and down an incline in the store.
We recommend walking shoes/boots, as comfortable shoes with good ankle support will make all walking more enjoyable. If your trip does not involve hiking/trekking and you do not own a pair of hiking boots, then trainers/sneakers will suffice.
Any person in reasonably good health is able to travel in Nepal. Those in good physical shape will no doubt enjoy the trip more. Please start to get in shape NOW! A good 30 minutes walk, jogging daily, stretching and regular exercise should put you in the right shape (concentrate on your heart and legs – Aerobics). During the hike it is recommended that you bring a good day pack and are fit enough to carry your day pack that would probably have filled water bottle/canteen, food/snacks, camera, film, map, fleece, sun hat, first aid kit, lightweight rain gear, etc. To ascertain your level of physical fitness take the Harvard Step Test online at http://www.brianmac.demon.co.uk/eval.htm
Medical facilities in Kathmandu Valley are sound. All kinds of medicines, including those imported from overseas are available in Kathmandu. Kathmandu Valley also offers the services of major general hospitals and private clinics. The government has set up health posts in different parts of rural Nepal. However, facilities are not on par with those found in Kathmandu Valley.
Additional medical information can be found online: The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta at www.cdc.gov and The CIWEC Travel & Medical Center in Kathmandu at http://www.ciwec-clinic.com.
Visitors do not need any particular immunization for visit. Vaccinations for cholera, meningitis, tetanus and diphtheria, typhoid and gamma globulin should be, however considered. It may be a good idea to get a complete check-up before departure.
A simple but adequate medical kit can be very useful while traveling. Please make sure you have enough medicines to last during your trip, as well as a copy of the prescription(s) or letter from your health-care provider explaining that the medication has been prescribed for you. Always carry medications in their original containers, in your carry-on luggage. Make sure to bring along over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medication (e.g., bismuth subsalicylate, loperamide) and an antibiotic prescribed by your doctor to self-treat moderate to severe diarrhea.
Yes, travel insurance is compulsory. Dharma Adventures asks, as a condition of accepting your booking, that you take out a comprehensive personal insurance policy, which covers you for sickness, accident, loss of baggage and trip cancellation (this may mean an extra premium). For trekking clients, it’s important that the policy covers you for the unlikely event of evacuation by plane or helicopter. If you have optioned rafting, the policy must cover this as well. We will provide you with a certificate, which should be accepted by your insurance company, if you need to claim.
When you are away, things might go wrong!
We do provide evacuation specialists and assistance specialists. Insured clients have 24 hours access to our doctors and nurses in the cities and towns, but can be organized at the earliest time in the mountain if paid for.
Existing medical conditions must be declared and will probably incur an additional premium. If you do not declare, claims will be refused.
Major banks, hotels and exchange counters at Tribhuvan International Airport provide services for exchanging foreign currency. Credit cards like American Express, Master and Visa are accepted at major hotels, airlines, shops, and restaurants. ATM is widely in use in Kathmandu.
Whilst the vast majority of travelers never experience anything untoward it is worth taking precautions particularly in urban areas. You should take sensible precautions in crowded areas such as street markets and airports, where pick-pocketing is a possibility, and keep clear of any street disturbances. Don’t wear jewelry, never leave your bags unattended, keep large amounts of money, cameras and cell phones out of sight when walking in town centers, and avoid venturing into quiet alleys and lanes after dark. Keep copies of important documents, including passports, in a separate place to the documents themselves, together with details of credit cards. Leave copies at home with a friend too. Safeguard valuables, important documents and cash and deposit them in hotel safes, where practicable.
Tipping is a recognized part of life and although at your discretion you will be expected to reward good service. Please remember that tipping should be a way for individuals to thank staff for good service. The amount is entirely a personal preference; you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip.
Electrical sockets (outlets) in Asia usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. If you are using an appliance with 110 and 120 volts then you need a voltage converter.
Charging your electronics such as mobile phones, cameras, music devices might not be frequently available during the tour. When camping it is often difficult to find a safe and secure wall outlet to recharge these devices, therefore we recommend that you bring extra batteries. When you are staying in hotels, your room will have an electrical outlet (just remember your international adaptor!).
Some restaurants and hotels offer free WiFi while some require a paid password protected system. The connection however may be slower than expected. While going to remote areas outside the main cities, WiFi may not be available.