Luxury comes in many guises. Travel to Nepal expecting Jacuzzis, turn-down service and white gloves and you will surely be disappointed. But what Nepal holidays lacks in glitzyhotels, it makes up for tenfold with charm, natural beauty and good old fashioned adventure; after all, sometimes getting back to basics is just the ticket for a work weary and perpetually ‘connected’ Westerner.
Rather like its neighbour Bhutan, Nepal has a recommended ‘circuit’ – but there are many ways to skin the cat. A couple of days’ spent exploring busy, dusty Kathmandu – bursting with vibrant Hindu colours and resembling the cities of India more than the tranquil Himalayan haven you may have imagined – is usually enough. From there the short flight to Pokhara will whisk you into the beauty and very welcome tranquillity of the Annapurna Range.
One of the great things about Nepal is the option to move around on foot, river raft, elephant-back and helicopter instead of tolerating endless car journeys. Simple but comfortable village lodges punctuate a stunning trekking route through this Himalayan massif, meaning you can begin virtually on arrival in Pokhara and need not see a vehicle for the next five days. The route meanders from lodge to lodge through small villages, rice terraces and forests, allowing you to meet the Gurkhas and see grazing buffalos and hard-working but healthy donkeys en route. The landscape is every bit as magical as you imagine, and though the lodges are simple their locations are absolutely priceless.
Pokhara’s Tiger Mountain Lodge is a lovely place to rest weary legs and absorb some culture without compromising on mountain views. From there a short drive will bring you to your new form of transport: a white-water raft on the gushing Seti River. This important tributary drains western Nepal and thunders with the memory of the monsoon throughout the winter, meaning an afternoon of fun in the company of multifarious birdlife. The remote Seti River Camp makes an atmospheric base for the night, with dinner served around the campfire to the sound of the wilderness.
It is well worth paying a visit to Chitwan National Park, which lies in the subtropical lowlands near the Indian border and shelters populations of Bengal tigers, leopard, sloth bears and one-horned Asiatic rhinoceros as well as gharial crocodiles, antelope, otters, cats, and monkeys; not forgetting the stunning variety of over 500 species of bird. Travelling by elephant back amongst the dense broadleaf forest in search of these elusive animals is completely unforgettable.
When you are waiting in Kathmandu for your return flight, why not end in style? Join an Everest summiteer for a spectacular helicopter ride over the Langtang and Jugal ranges, into Khumbu, and over Everest and Amadablan base camps before ascending to the Cho La Pass at an incredible 5,595 metres. Back on land, breakfast overlooking Everest will be the most fitting end to an exhilarating adventure that makes the trappings of five star hotels, quite literally, pale into insignificance.
Melissa Matthews is Director of Operations at Red Savannah.
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