If there’s one place where you would crave the tranquility of the Himalayas, it’s in the dust-choked chaos of Kathmandu – a convenient fact, since the capital of Nepal lies sprawled at the base of the world’s highest mountain range, and you can get from one to the other in just a few hours. I started out with a week in Kathmandu. Dodging reckless rickshaw drivers, I wandered through spice markets, the smell of turmeric and marigolds as pungent as the omnipresent cows. At the ancient Hindu temples, I fought my way to the altar through clouds of incense and troupes of territorial macaques. In the evening, I watched the pilgrims circumambulating Buddhist shrines, their rainbow of prayer flags blowing in the hot, subtropical winds. At sundown, pilgrims encircle the shrine, praying for peace, health, and prosperity. Occasionally the smog would lift, and snow-capped Himalayan peaks materialized around Kathmandu, beckoning me outward and upward.
You don’t have to be an experienced hiker or enjoy “roughing it” to have a fantastic time in the mountains. Although Nepal boasts many of the world’s most difficult technical climbs, I spent two weeks on a portion of the Annapurna Circuit where you don’t need crampons, oxygen, or ropes – though admittedly stronger quad muscles would have helped, and a Sherpa who often insisted on carrying my pack was no small godsend. We woke to pearly pink-and-mauve dawns, sipped hot black tea and devoured a hearty breakfast, then hiked through rhododendron forests and terraced rice fields until mid-afternoon, when we would stop in time for some leisurely hours of mountain-gazing and more tea. The guesthouses are clean and cozy, the beds feel like paradise after the hilly treks, and although the villages have limited or no electricity, somehow there is always hot food and cold beer.
There are many tour companies serving Nepal, but these two in particular emphasize responsible trekking, hire and promote local female guides, and are committed to environmental sustainability : One Seed Expeditions and 3 Sisters Adventure Trek.
Three weeks in Nepal was enough to sample the culture and chaos of city life, and then rejuvenate in the pure Himalayan air. But whether you have two weeks or two months or six months, you will not be disappointed. Begin your adventure now!
Photos and Written by: Rebecca Green