Officially the highest country on Earth, lofty Nepal is commonly referred to as the “roof of the world.” That seems like a fitting moniker for this Himalayan nation, where soaring, snow-capped mountains disappear into the clouds like stairways to heaven.
Mount Everest is, of course, the star attraction. Tourists come in their droves to climb, hike and admire the world’s tallest peak, which flirts with the stratosphere at 8,848m (29,029ft).
However, this charming country is much more than just mountains. The birthplace of Gautama Buddha, Nepal is an important pilgrimage site for millions of Buddhists, who come from far and wide to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lumbini, a temple complex where Buddha once lived.
Temples are ubiquitous in Nepal, but not just the Buddhist variety; Hinduism has a strong foothold in the country and there are many Hindu temples scattered across the country.
If spirituality doesn’t arouse your interest, the Nepali capital, Kathmandu, should prove a welcome distraction. Encircled by mountains, this beautiful, bustling city stands at a cultural crossroads between India and China, whose influences can be seen in the architecture and tasted in delicious cuisine.
Kathmandu is the entry point for most travellers and is worthy of at least a few days exploration. As well as temples, gardens and a fantastic culinary scene, the city has a lively nightlife, particularly in the district of Thamel, which is a favourite for partygoers.
The city is also a good starting point for travellers venturing into the jungle at Chitwan National Park, a fantastic reserve which is home to Bengali tigers, crocodiles and one-horned rhinos, plus myriad bird species. Phewa Lake is another draw for tourists, as are the hiking trails in the Himalayas.
Wherever you go, though, wide smiles will be there to greet you; Nepalese people are amongst the friendliest in the world and it’s not uncommon to be invited into a strangers’ home for tea.
Sitting on top of the world, Nepal is just one step away from heaven – and for those who have discovered the country’s many charms, it feels like it too.