January 6, 2017 10:19 AM NPT
By: Isha Bista
One of my goals this year is to travel more within Nepal. I have a foreigner colleague who knows more about Nepal than I do and sometimes I feel ashamed at how easily I say I want to go to Greece and Rome and plan for it while having no idea about the beautiful getaways in my own country.
So this year, I’ve decided to visit at least four to five places within Nepal that I haven’t been to before. Therefore, Pokhara and Sauraha – the popular destinations – don’t make it to the list (though Pokhara somewhat makes it to the list as a starting point to another destination). As sad as I was about not getting to revisit old favorites, I did some research and narrowed down the top five places that seemed really interesting. Now, I’m quite excited about all that seems to be in store for me, travel wise, this year.
I have never been to Langtang despite its close proximity from Kathmandu. And so this year, on the top of my list is this place that I heard is beautiful, though still in the process of recovering from the earthquakes of 2015 (Langtang village had been completely wiped away by a massive avalanche after the earthquakes). The Langtang National Park is located in the area and the park also contains the Gosainkunda lakes, sacred to Hindus. Another spiritual site is the Buddhist monastery Kyanjin Gompa. Popular activities for tourists in the park include trekking, climbing, and white-water rafting. I plan to do some sightseeing as well as indulge my adventures side a little once here.
Lukla, a town in the Khumbu area of the Solukhumbu District, is a popular place for visitors to the Himalayas near Mount Everest. Lukla literally is the gateway to Mount Everest, the highest point on earth. The place where most people start their trek to the Khumbu and Everest Base Camp, this little town perched on the side of a mountain has a small airport servicing the region and we all have heard about it being the most dangerous airport in the world. I have read many accounts of how scared people have been during landing and take off, and I want to experience it for myself. From Lukla, a two-day trek will take you to Namche Bazaar and I want to make this trip as well. A historic trading hub, famous for its homemade yak cheese and butter, Namche is situated on the slope of an arch-shaped mountain, which allows you to oversee the sights of glorious mountain peaks throughout the valley, day and night.
Straddling the Kali Gandaki, Jomsom located at 2760 meters above sea level is the place from where you travel onwards to Upper Mustang and Muktinath. Many buildings here were apparently damaged in the 2015 earthquake, including the historic wooden bridge across the Kali Gandaki, but restoration work is underway and the town is open to trekkers. At the end of town, a concrete stairway leads to the Mustang Eco Museum, which, I heard, is worth a visit for its displays on Tibetan herbal medicine and its recreated Buddhist chapel. A few friends who have been to Jomsom say that taking the bus or flying here brings you very close to the peaks. With a few days to spare, you can even walk south to Marpha or go northeast to Kagbeni and Muktinath.
Dhampus hiking route is also a gateway to Annapurna conservation area. The place also serves as one of the main entry points to Annapurna base camp and to other trekking trails of Annapurna region. The journey to Dhampus begins from Phedi village, nearly a 15 minutes drive from beautiful lakeside city of Pokhara. From here, you can trek alongside the view of the Annapurna mountain range and it will take you approximately two hours to get to Dhampus. You can enjoy magnificent rhododendron forest with various species of birds along the way. A colleague who has been here says it’s simply heartwarming. When you reach Dhampus, you will get to see a marvelous view of Mount Machhapuchhare.
Many people I know went to Rara Lake last year and by stalking their profiles on Facebook and lusting over photos on Instagram, I have lived vicariously but a huge part of me wants to experience the thrill for myself. Apparently, a journey to Rara Lake is one of the most incredible and fascinating treks in all the Himalayan range. The route will give you glimpses of cultures and scenery very different from the rest of Nepal. I have been told the clear, high altitude lake of Rara, which mirrors the snow capped Himalayas is a sight to behold. The ideal time to go would be in the summer months when the rainfall is low. The national park here is one of the best places in Nepal to see wildlife: musk deer, leopards, Himalayan black beer, and the rare red panda. During November and April many species of birds also visit it during their seasonal migration making it a bird watchers paradise.