The Himalayas Calling: Off to Nepal and Bhutan!

Posted on November 14, 2013 by

Namaste from Nepal! I know it’s barely been two weeks since my trip to East Africa and here I am, in the opposite end of the world.

This time, I’m in an area that I know very little about and is completely new to me so I’m really looking forward to discover and learn. The Himalayan nations of Nepal and Bhutan have always intrigued me with the layers of cultural traditions and multitudes of outdoor activities. They seem to offer exactly what I look for as a curious traveler and I’m just bursting with excitement to see and explore as much as I can here.

For the first part of the trip, I will be joining G Adventures on the Nepal Adventure trip, a 10-day journey that will bring me through the highlights of the country. As some of you may know, I’ve been working with G Adventures closely since 2011, joining a few of their trips each year as one of their Wanderers in Residence. I’ve traveled to Antarctica, the Arctic, and Southern Africa with them, and have thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of the trips so I’m quite sure this trip will rank high on my favorite journeys.

Before hopping on the tour, I’ll have a few days to explore the pagodas, temples, and alleys of Kathmandu on my own and hopefully I’ll be able to soak up all the undercurrents of the Nepali capital in such a short period of time. My base will be the gorgeous heritage hotel, Dwarika’s Hotel Kathmandu, well known for its impressive architecture modeled after the palaces of the Newar Kings. I’ll also have the privilege of experiencing the newly opened Dwarika’s Resort Dhulikhel, a holistic lifestyle retreat surrounded by the magnificent Himalayas.

558-Old man feeding birds pigeons in Bhaktapur Durbar square Dec 15, 2011 7-12 AM 4208x2723Flickr image by BJ Graf

Buddhist Temples, Wildlife and Mountain Treks

From Kathmandu, we’ll head over to Pokhara, the adventure capital of Nepal. Pokhara, at an altitude of 827m, lies on a once vibrant trade route extending between India and Tibet. To this day, mule trains can be seen camped on the outskirts of the town, bringing goods to trade from remote regions of the Himalaya. The enchanting city has several beautiful lakes and offers stunning panoramic views of Himalayan peaks – and I hope to explore its temples, Tibetan shrines, and quaint streets.

The highlight of my trip will probably be the three-day Annapurna foothills trek. It’s a pity I haven’t got more time to go on a proper trek (and probably also because I’m seriously unfit these days), but I’m hoping this hike will give me a good glimpse of the Himalayas and its mountain communities and rugged scenery. According to the trip details, we’ll be visiting monasteries and temple along the way, and passing waterfalls, crossing icy rivers, hot springs and high mountain passes. Can’t wait!

ABC Trek in NepalFlickr photo by Nepal gateway trekking

After the Annapurna trek, we’ll be continuing on to the UNESCO World Heritage site Royal Chitwan National Park. Known as the Terai Tarai (“moist land”), the landscape here will be completely different. This area is a belt of marshy grasslands, savannas and evergreen and deciduous forests fed by silt deposited by the yearly monsoon floods. Here, we’ll be watching out for the endangered Indian rhinoceros, as well as elephants, Bengal tigers, bears, leopards and other wild animals.

The Happiest Country in the World

The second half of the trip brings me to Bhutan, a country that’s famed for its Gross National Happiness (GNH) development policy. It’s been lauded as the happiest country in the world – all thanks to the government’s efforts – and I’m determined to come and find out why/how it’s earned that title. I’ll be traveling with Bridge to Bhutan, a reputed local tour operator with a strong emphasis on meaningful connections and preservation of Bhutanese culture. Bhutan’s national carrier, Druk Air, has kindly subsidized my flight from Kathmandu to Paro, Bhutan. I’ve heard that we’ll be able to see spectacular views of Bhutan’s snow capped peaks upon descent on the flight, so  expect some aerial shots from me.

Chomolhari, Holy Mountain Bhutan (2) Flickr photo by Michael Foley

On the seven-day Glimpse of Bhutan trip, we’ll start off at Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital. Some of the spots we’ll visit include the nunnery temple of Drubthop Lhakhang, the Bhutanese Indigenous Hospital, Traditional Painting School, and the Simtokha Dzong (fortress), the first Dzong in Bhutan built in 1624. Thereafter, we’ll head out on a long drive, climbing through a forest of pine and cedar near Dochula pass and eventually descending along a series of hairpin bends to the fertile valley of Punakha. The following days bring us on hikes through the rice fields surrounding Chimi Lhakhang temple as well as the steep slopes that lead to Namgyel Khamsum Yuely Chorten.

One of the most well-known attractions in the country is the Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s lair). Built in the 1600s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. It is believed that, in the 8th century, Guru Rimpoche, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tigress to subdue a demon. I’ve heard that the hike up there is worth the journey on its own – so I’m really looking forward to that.

Perspective 2 on Tiger's Nest Monastery, Bhutan.Flickr photo by Michael Foley

On this trip, I’m going to focus on learning the Himalayan cultural heritage, and hopefully get to meet locals and share their stories with you here. I’ll be writing more about what I find here over the next few weeks, so please stay tuned!


Disclaimer: This trip was made possible by G Adventures and Bridge to Bhutan. All opinions expressed above are my own.

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About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is the co-founder of WildJunket. As a professional travel writer with a special interest in offgrid destinations and adventure travel, she scours through the world in search for a slice of undiscovered paradise. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Guatemala, swam with sealions in the Galapagos and built a school in Tanzania.

9 Responses to “The Himalayas Calling: Off to Nepal and Bhutan!”

  1. slioy November 14, 2013 11:12 am
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    Soooooooo jealous! Nepal has been one of my favorite hiking destinations, and Bhutan is on the closest thing I have to a Bucket List. Looking forward to your reports from both!

    • Nellie November 15, 2013 11:07 am
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      Cheers Stephen! I\’ve been in Nepal for just one day and am already giddy in love with it. Will definitely write more about it here!

  2. Ranzan Hamal November 14, 2013 12:46 pm
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    Am Nepali and newly launched touring company owner with the name of de-Mark Himalaya tours &Treaks Pvt.Ltd. My site is being developed and will launched soon. I would love to have a some time and want to welcome u in my home to show u the real taste and culture of Nepalese Family. I would also love to show you around Kathmandu valley on the back of motorbike, am sure it might be an unique experience for u and u love it. Wish I will get a chance to meet you… Grace

    • Nellie November 15, 2013 11:06 am
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      Thanks for the very kind offer! I would love to meet you and your family and experience the real side of Nepal for sure, I will send you an email. ;)

  3. Ivana November 15, 2013 10:15 pm
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    Enjoy it and looking forward for more photos from there :)

  4. Raj Kumar Jonnal November 18, 2013 8:11 am
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    Hey Nellie, great write up about Nepal and Bhutan. I'm one of the luckiest person to visit these places and as you mentioned they are wonderful places.

  5. kristy November 20, 2013 1:23 am
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    The third picture is too pretty. It looks like I can touch the clouds there.

  6. Shailesh Jangra November 27, 2013 12:29 am
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    I have been to Leh-Ladhaak with my group on bikes and really one can enjoy plenty of beauty by visiting Himalaya.

    • Nellie December 13, 2013 6:24 am
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      We\’ve always wanted to go to Leh, have heard so much about that part of India! We\’d actually planned to go there a few years ago when we were in India but had to cancel our plans at the last minute due to flashfloods. Hope to return soon!