Kathmandu and Beyond: An Insider’s Nepal Travel Tips
Sam Voolstra is an expert in yoga and sustainable adventure travel in Nepal.
Here, she tells us what she loves most about the country she calls home.
These are an insider's tips for making the most out of your visit to Nepal.
“Nepal has such a vast array of landscapes, culture, people and languages. It’s a small country when you compare it to its neighbours, but if you travel through Nepal, you’ll have a different experience every day, going from sea-level to 8,800 metres. What I love about the people is that they relate to you directly.
They are straightforward, with a sense of humour, and they’re very open and welcoming; I really like that. When I started living in Nepal, the country was still in a period of civil war, but in the last five or six years, they’ve had the peace process. It’s been peaceful for quite a few years, so there’s been a tremendous change. People have this enthusiasm.”
“When you go into the mountains there are a lot of different birds, small mammals like marmots, deer, blue sheep and wild boar, and in some parts of Nepal you’ll see bears. Snow leopards are hard to see but other leopard sightings are regular.
When you go down to the south of Nepal, you can see elephants, rhino, bears, deer, crocodiles and lots of birds, with migrating bird species like the Siberian crane.”
“The city is old meets new. A lot of Kathmandu is like an open-air museum. On each street, you’ll see temples, shrines and old houses that are all still in use. You can walk past statues that are 1,000 years old, and people are just placing a flower on it or lighting a candle. It’s just a part of their daily life. Early morning they’ll go to a temple, ring a bell, and say thank you for another day.
On the other hand, modern life is also here; it’s not like time has stopped. We have iPhones, coffee shops and fancy restaurants, alongside the old bazaars and temples. I think that makes Kathmandu very special.”
Where in Kathmandu
“One of my favourite places is Boudhanath, an enormous white stupa, with a walkway around it called a kora where the Tibetan and Sherpa communities walk around each morning. They meet there, do their prayers and walk around the stupa. There are lots of monasteries in that area, with no traffic, so it’s very quiet, as well as beautiful.”
“My other favourite place is Patan Durbar Square. Kathmandu used to consist of three different kingdoms and Patan was one of them. The old palace of the king has been turned into a beautiful museum, with a great exhibition about Hindu and Buddhist art and the history of Kathmandu. It’s done in such a nice way with a fantastic little cafe in an ancient courtyard, while the square in front of it has these pagoda style temples dedicated to the gods.”
“January and February is quite cold but very crisp and clear, so the views are beautiful. Then comes March and April, an amazing season to go into the lower mountains because the rhododendrons are flowering everywhere and there’s so much wildlife.
Towards May it gets hotter – especially in the south where it reaches 45ºC – just before monsoon, then the monsoon starts towards the end of May; this is a really beautiful time. At this time it’s usually clear in the morning, then it rains in the afternoon, but the good thing is that everything explodes with lushness. The rice terraces and landscape just become so fresh.
The rains end in September, then from October, but especially in November and December, it’s the best time for high altitude trekking as the sky is very clear. The nights get a bit colder but the views are fantastic with bright blue skies, crisp air and snowy peaks.”