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A Short Stay In Kathmandu
Experience the beauty of the Annapurna region of Nepal
Volunteering In Nepal: An Unforgettable Experience

Experience the beauty of the Annapurna region of Nepal   by Julien

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Annapurna Travel guide

The Annapurna region lies in central Nepal. Named after the Hindu goddess Annapurna (the bestower of food), who is regarded as a manifestation of goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva. The chief mountains in this region include the Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manaslu Himal. The Annapurna Himal, which lies between the Kali Gandaki and Marsyangdi river valley, forms a solid mountain bastion. It covers a distance of 40 miles and encompasses within its range some twelve peaks that rise to an elevation of more than 7000m and numerous other lesser peaks.

Climate, Flora & Fauna

The climate in the Annapurna region varies from subtropical to alpine. The southern slopes of the area has the highest rainfall rate in the country- 3000mm per year, whereas the northern slopes lying in the rain shadow has the lowest rate - less than 300mm per year.
 The difference in the climatic conditions in this region is responsible for its varied flora and fauna. The Annapurna region possesses a variety of flora and fauna. It stretches from the subtropical lowlands and the high temperate rhododendron forest in the south, to a dry alpine steppe environment in the North. The Southern lowlands are lush with subtropical forests consisting of chirpine and alder. In the Northern highlands temperate forests of oaks, rhododendron, fir, and blue pine are found. The wet regions yield a variety of bamboo species. The higher altitude further North give rise to forests of birch, blue pine and juniper trees, which are replaced by juniper and rhododendron in the far North. In the semi-desert rain shadow region, behind the Himalayas, bushes of caragana and juniper species are evident. It has several species of wildlife. 
Bridge on Ama Dablam, Nepal
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There are around four hundred and seventy-four species of birds, and around a hundred species of mammals. The Annapurna region serves as an excellent habitat for rare and endangered mammals like the snow leopard, musk deer, blue sheep, red panda and many of Nepal's brilliantly plumaged pheasants
Mt. Everest from Kala Pattar, Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal
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Annapurna peaks 

The Annapurna massif contains six major peaks over 7,200 m: Annapurna I(8091m), Annapurna II(7937m), Annapurna III(7555m), Annapurna IV(7525m), Gangapurna(7455m) and Annapurna South(7219m). Annapurna I, standing at a height of 8,091 m, is the tenth highest summit in the world. It is located east of a great gorge cut through the Himalaya by the Kali Gandaki River, which separates it from the Dhaulagiri massif Annapurna was the first 8000m peak scaled by a climber. Till 1948, Nepal was closed to all foreigners. It was in the year 1949 that the kingdom opened its doors to mountaineers .In that year two foreign teams received permission to enter the country, one Swiss and another American. In 1950, a French mountaineering team led by Maurice Herzog succeeded in climbing Annapurna, an 8000m peak. They had no information about the peak they would climb. With little or no information, they decided to take on the Annapurna. On 3rd June, Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenel reached the summit of Annapurna I, after climbing for eight hours. 

They had to suffer from severe frostbite which cost Maurice Herzog his toes and fingers. Herzog has written about the climb in his book The Conquest of Annapurna 1950.

In 1957 Wilfred Noyce and David Cox climbed Machapuchhre (6997m) to within 50m of its summit. After this attempt, the government prohibited further climbing on the mountain. So technically Machapuchre remains unclimbed.
Annapurna II, the eastern anchor of the range, was first climbed in 1960 by a British/Indian/Nepalese team led by Jimmy Roberts, via the West Ridge, approached from the north. Annapurna III was first climbed in 1961 by an Indian expedition team led by Mohan Kohli. The summit party comprised Mohan Kohli, Sonam Gyatso, and Sonam Girmi. They climbed from the Northeast Face.

Tharpu Chuli (Tent Peak), shaped like a tent, at 5663m is an ideal peak for a short expedition. Lying across the Annapurna glacier, the peak offers excellent views of its neighbouring peaks from its summit. Pisang Peak (6091m) forms part of the Manang Himal. Towering above the Marshyangdi valley, this peak was first ascended by J.Wellenkamp, a German climber, in 1955.

Peaks of Annapurna II at Sunrise, Gandaki, Nepal
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The start of the ascent to this peak starts at a village which shares its name: Pisang.

Machhapuchhare (fish tail) (3700m) Machhapuchre lies in the center of the Annapurna Himal. Machhapuchhre possesses the rare beauty that makes it one of the world's most photographed peaks. Poon Hill(3193m)is the westernmost crest of a spur that juts into the Kali Gandaki. The hill is named after the Magars called Poon, who live in that area. To watch the sunrise over the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna Himal from this hill is an experience of a lifetime.

People & Places

The Gurungs form the largest group in the Annapurna region. They come from Tibeto burman stock. Although essentially Buddhists some Gurungs have converted to Hinduism. They inhabit the higher northern slopes of the Annapurna, Lamjung,Chuli and hills around Ganesh Himal. A large number of Gurung men serve in the British and Indian armies. The immediate vicinity of Pokhara is largely populated by Chettris and Bahuns (Brahmins).
Tibetan Buddhist Monk Reading Scriptures at the Boudha Stupa at Bodhanath, Kathmandu, Nepal
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They also live around the historic site of the old Gorkha kingdom. The Magars inhabit the lower trail between Baglung and Dana. They live high on the steep ridges along the tributaries of the Kali Gandaki.

Another ethnic group of this region is the Thakalis. Known throughout the country as accomplished hoteliers and skilled traders, they are noted for their aggressive trading spirit. They make up one of the few richer groups of people in Nepal. The Jomsom trek passes through Thak Khola, the Thakali homeland.

In the valley of the Muktinath live the Baragaun Bhotiya. Their lifestyle is similar to that of the Tibetans. Another group of people who share a close affinity to the Tibetans are the Lopa people of Mustang, north of Kagbeni. Some of them practice the ancient pre-Buddhist religion of Bon which is infused with animistic and shamanic belief and ritual. The people living in the upper Marshyandi valley are generally known as Mananges. The Nyeshang area, under which fall the villages of Manang, Braga and Ngawal. The people are of Tibetan origin. But their language Nyeshang is not a Tibetan dialect. This area is popularly known by the name of its largest village Manang.

Pokhara [827m] Pokhara is the main town in central Nepal. It is the starting place of most of the major treks in the Annapurna region. Situated at an altitude of 827m, it is warmer and humid than Kathmandu. This town is known for its picturesque spots like the Phewa Tal(lake), on whose clear water you can see the reflection of the Mt.Machhapuchhre and the Annapurna Himal, Rara Lake and Begnas Lake. Pokhara is one of the major travel destinations in Nepal.

Muktinath [3,710m] Muktinath, a sacred place both for Hindus as well as Buddhists, is located at an altitude of 3,710 m at the foot of the Thorong La pass in Mustang district. The Hindus call the place Mukti Kshetra, which means the "the place of salvation", while the Buddhists call it Chumig Gyatsa, Tibetan for 'Hundred Waters'. For Tibetan Buddhists Chumig Gyatsa is a place of Dakinis, goddesses known as Sky Dancers. Jwala Mai Temple, Vishnu Temple, Marme Lhakhang and Gompa Sarwa are some of the religious shrines to visit. The springs from the Gandaki River spurts out of the 108 waterspouts near the Vishnu temple, from where the Hindu pilgrims take ritual bathe. One item that is unique to this place is the Saligrams (Ammonite fossils). These are black stones that when broken open, reveal the fossilized remains of prehistoric ammonites formed about 130 million years ago. The old specks that appear on many saligram are pyrite (fool's gold). Hindus believe that the saligrams represent the god Vishnu.
Jomsom [2713m] Jomsom serves as the centre for Mustang valley. It lies on the banks of the Kali Gandaki River. There is an airstrip here with scheduled service to Kathmandu. The increase in the frequency of flights has brought more tourists to this area. Jomsom has a bank, post office, telecom office, a hospital and numerous hotels and lodges.

Manang [3520m] The Manang area was only recently opened to trekkers .The dry and arid region of Manang called Nyeshang lies at an altitude of 3520m. There is an abundance of large chortens and mani walls .The people of Nyeshang were granted special trading privileges by the King of Nepal hundred years ago. The businessmen from these parts are reputed to be both keen and astute. 

Mt. Machupuchare in the Annapurnas Range, Nepal
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The tall peaks of the Himalaya - Annapurna II, Annapurna III, Annapurna IV, Gangapurna [7455m] and Tilicho Peak [7134m] are visible from this place. There is also a Himalayan Rescue Association [HRA] aid post in the village which makes an interesting and educational visit.

The Major Treks

Royal Trek: This is a magnificent trek stretching across two different river valleys. It encircles the Annapurna massif and goes through the Thorong La [5416 m.] the highest pass on this trek. The trek begins at Besisahar in the Marsyangdi river valley and finally concludes at Kali Gandaki river valley. This is a moderate to challenging trek which sometime requires a walk up the steep mountain path. This trek can be done anytime of the year except during monsoon and winter.

Ghorepani Trek: This trek is well suited for beginners or for those who have limited time. The trek starts from Phedi. The trail passes through rhododendron forest and traditional Gurung villages. A comparatively easy trek, it takes you up to an elevation of 2775 m at Ghorepani. The trip can be done anytime of the year except during monsoon.

Pokhara - Jomsom - Muktinath: Beginning from Nayapul, the trail passes over the Ghorepani pass and descends down to Kali Gandaki valley. Watching the dawn breaking over the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna peaks from Ghorepani is one spectacular scene that you get to witness on this trek. Once you reach Jomsom you can either continue trekking to Muktinath or explore the villages around Jomsom. This is an easy trek that can be done any time of the year except during monsoon.
Ama Dablam from Near Tengboche on Everest Basecamp Trek, Everest Base Camp, Sagarmatha, Nepal
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Annapurna Base Camp Trek: The route to the original Annapurna Base Camp was discovered by Maurice Herzog and his team in 1950. The Annapurna Base Camp trek leads to a natural amphitheater that is used as the base camp from which climbers start on their way to conquer the Annapurna peak. The peak reaches 8091 meters above sea level, and the base camp's altitude is 4130 meters above sea level. The trek into the area below the massive south face of Annapurna, known as the Annapurna Sanctuary, is one of the most popular treks in Nepal. The trek begins in Pokhara and leads up through the breathtaking Modi Khola gorge into the vast mountain ringed amphitheatre of the Sanctuary. The trail passes through bamboo and rhododendron forests with superb views of the Annapurna range. 

The high glacial basin is the site of the Annapurna south face base camp. This is a classic trek, which allows access to the high mountains of the Himalaya within a reasonable time frame. This trip can be done anytime of the year except during monsoon.

Annapurna Circuit Trek: It is a picturesque valley, first discovered in 1957 by Jimmy Roberts. Ten peaks of 600-800m rises from it. Machhapuchhare looks breathtaking from this viewpoint as also the south face of Annapurna. The Sanctuary falls within the area managed by the Annapurna Conservation Area Project. The Annapurna Circuit is the popular name for a 300 km trek in the Annapurna mountain range. The trek reaches an altitude of 5,300m on the Thorung Lapass, touching the edge of the fabled Tibetan plateau. The magnificent mountain scenery, seen at close quarters includes Annapurna, Dhauligiri, and Machhupuchhare. This is a moderate to challenging trek which sometime requires ascending and descending the steep mountain path. This trek can be done anytime of the year except during monsoon and winter when the Thorong pass gets blocked by snow.

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About the Author: Explore Himalaya TRekking and Adventure

Volunteering In Nepal: An Unforgettable Experience   by Alex Landin

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Nestled in the heart of the Himalayas, the mountain kingdom of Nepal with its beauty can hold anyone spellbound but if you look deeper, you will instantly see that the country needs some of the basic necessities like education, health and financial aid. Volunteering in Nepal is popular among the youth mostly because people get attracted to the idea of visiting the "Mt. Everest Country" and learning about a new alien culture. Nepal, for a long time has, enchanted and fascinated tourists and trekkers, mountaineers and scholars with the sheer beauty, mysteriousness and the mystical chants that arise from the monasteries in the deeper realms of the Himalayas.
In the recent past, Nepal has seen an increase in environmentally destructive activities and hence needs more and more volunteers to come forward and help in reducing the negative impact that tourism has left in its wake in this Asian country. The higher regions closer to the Everest base camp and other base camps and glaciers have also been negatively affected by such rampant growth in tourism.

Volunteering in Nepal to spread awareness on the environmental issues is gathering momentum. Overseas volunteer work is being seen by many people, as an opportunity to satisfy their need to participate for a good cause while gaining an invaluable experience.

Statue of Buddha on Svayambhu Hill in Kathmandu Valley, Swayambhunath, Bagmati, Nepal
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One such organization is KEEP or The Katmandu Environmental Education Project. From time to time, KEEP looks out for volunteering in Nepal and is considered as one of the leading non profit organizations in South East Asia. There are many similar organizations who are not only focused on the impending issue of creating a safe and healthy environment but also help in providing medical aid, creating infrastructure, imparting education in village schools, enabling communication through the Internet and other modes of communication between far off villages, teaching the locals and tourists about damages caused to the environment and about global warming, and many more.
Durbar Square Showing the Statue of Garuda, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal
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You can choose from a variety of volunteer programs that are aimed at different subject from protecting environment to eradicating poverty. 

Volunteering in Nepal is an interesting option because of the fact that you will get to travel to places, which are nestled deep in the heart of the mighty Himalayas, places which can be compared to paradise, places which are so remote that people there don't have any educational facilities, water & electricity or better schools.

Volunteering in Nepal is a great experience and most non profit organizations requiring volunteers provide the following programs:

Restoration of old buildings, cleaning up local villages and high altitude camps and protecting the biodiversity. As a part of this overseas volunteer work, you will be working with the existing staff in construction of local schools and restoration of the environment.

Teaching English overseas -- includes volunteering in Nepal and other backward countries in Asia and Africa. Far off villages and small towns in Nepal don't have the proper facilities to support the educational infrastructure. As a volunteer, you will get to teach different subjects including English so that it can empower the locals. You will be teaching English so that the locals are able to make a living by talking to trekkers, mountaineers and acting as tour guides within the tourism industry. Another section of teaching as a part of volunteering in Nepal includes learning how to provide first aid, information on health care, management skills and information related to conservation of forests and wildlife. Another non profit organization that offers plenty of opportunities for volunteering in Nepal is United Planet. They have around 20 to 25 opportunities that vary from working with orphans, street children and disabled to working with women and empowering them so that they are able to earn a decent living. They generally have programs that range from 12 weeks to 12 months.

If you love traveling and want to help the people of the plant then volunteering in Nepal is a good place to start.

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About the Author: Volunteer in Nepal expert Alex Landin is a project manager and contributes to Volunteer in Nepalese destinations programs.
A Short Stay In Kathmandu   by Jenny Lama
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Many people, especially expats with families living in Hong Kong, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing and Bangkok to name a few find themselves with a short period of holiday time and no idea where to spend it. The thriving Himalayan city of Kathmandu is a short flight form most of these cities and is an affordable, exciting and culturally rich holiday awaiting you in Kathmandu.

Kathmandu is the capital city of Nepal and the central tourist hub that acts as the gateway to the mighty Himalaya.
If you don't know what to do and where to go you could easily waste your precious time in the tourist traps, being hassled by touts and wasting money on expensive non-local arranged sightseeing tours. Kathmandu has a charm hidden underneath all the "tourist tinsel" and the best way to find it is by going local. Though doing it rough and ready is not ideal for most people travelling with young families, a little bit of preplanning and a good balance of organised and do it yourself touring can give you an amazing holiday in Kathmandu. And getting around is much easier than you think.

Hook up with a local tour operator and book yourself on a three day jungle safari in Chitwan. It's a good chance to get out of the city, see the country/jungle side and best of all the kids will absolutely love bathing the elephants, riding them and playing with baby elephants at the breeding centre. Interaction with these gentle giants will be a highlight talked about by them for years to come. Best of all at the standard price of US$80 per person for three days all inclusive of meals, accommodation, transport and jungle activities, it's a bargain....don't forget to ask for a discount for younger kids!

Pashupatinath Temple Near Kathmandu, Nepal
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Return to Kathmandu and get yourself to Nagarkot, one of the premier hill stations, here you will find a hotel for any budget and taste, there is plenty to offer and getting there is a synch, book a taxi or take the daily tourist bus which departs from Thamel at 7 am everyday in tourist season and on demand out of season. The big attraction to Nagarkot is what everyone comes to Nepal to see, the Mountains. From this hilltop town, views can be seen right from Annapurna in the west all the way down to Kanchengjunga in the east. If you are lucky a guide or one of the hotel staff will be able to point out the distant peak of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. Everest is seen most clearly at sunrise. The best time of year to see impressive views of the mountains is from September through to February. If you are heading up on a Saturday, pre booking a hotel is advised as the locals love this place too.
Street Vendor in Pushnupati in Kathmandu
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After an overnight stay in Nagarkot you can return by vehicle to Kathmandu, or if you have an active family, take the time to trek down through the hillside Tamang Villages to Changunayaran, the oldest and one of the loveliest temples in the whole of Kathmandu Valley. With an entry fee of just 70 rupees per person, it is certainly worth a visit. From here, it is easy to arrange a taxi down to Bhaktapur, the ancient walled city. I recommend staying a night here, make the most of the US$10 entry fee and spend a good amount of time exploring the cobbled lane ways of Bhaktapur, which at one time was a kingdom in its own rights! Tucked away behind the main square, you can find Potters Square which is where the locals still make by hand all forms of pottery for everyday and temple usage.

Bhaktapur offers several quaint guesthouses to spend the night and have a hot meal. If you feel the need to explore the city at a great depth, local guides can be hired from any guest house or at the main gate.

Back in Kathmandu, be original and instead of joining up for the stock standard day tour of the big three, Pashupati, Durbar Square and Boulda, hail a local rickshaw or two and pile your family in for some fun exploring the back lanes, hidden temples and thriving local markets of old Kathmandu, ending your ride in Basantapur making sure you take some time to explore Durbar Square and the old royal palace. Get your driver to show you the best place to taste Chai, Nepal's famous sweet spiced milk tea. You should expect to pay your driver about 100 rupees per hour and if you are lucky to have a chatty one you will learn more about life and time in Kathmandu than you would from your average tour guide who just recites facts and figures learned from Lonely Planet!

So there you have it, you may have overlooked Nepal as a holiday destination for a short trip, thinking that you had to spend weeks on end travelling and trekking, it's not true, there is plenty on offer in and just around the Kathmandu Valley to make an affordable, rewarding and culturally rich holiday for your family in the kingdom of the Himalayas!

Have fun planning your holiday and enjoy what's right on your doorstep.

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About the Author: For more information about holidays in Nepal and getting around Kathmandu, check out D'Tours Original, a local tour operator more than happy to cater to your needs. -


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Crowne Plaza Hotel Kathmandu-Soaltee
Nestled in the Himalayas of Nepal, Soaltee Crowne Plaza is the leading five star deluxe hotel in Nepal offering a Resort atmosphere and is ideal for both business and leisure travel. Spread over 11 acres of lush green lawns, the hotel is located in the quiet green suburbs of the city with fabulous views of the mountain ranges. With 283 well appointed rooms ranging from Deluxe, Club to Suites the hotel proudly holds ground to its set of seven Regal Suites each with unique decor. The traditional grace of inherent Nepali culture, seamless service is not a dream anymore when you aspire to be a guest at the hotel.
Hyatt Regency, Kathmandu
Hyatt Regency Kathmandu is a luxury 5 star city resort hotel situated 10 Km from the city centre of Kathmandu, Nepal, on the road to Boudhanath Stupa - the most holy of Tibetan Buddhist shrines outside Tibet. The hotel is 4 Km from Tribhuvan International Airport and very close to the business district and shopping areas. The Boudhanath Stupa is within ten minutes walking distance from the hotel. The hotel is also host to Club Oasis Spa, a sanctuary of calm in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Kantipur Temple House, Kathmandu
Centered in Kathmandu, Nepal, the Kantipur Temple House, built in traditional architecture, is located in Thamel and is close to major sightseeing areas like Kathmandu Durbar Square, Swayambhunath Temple. Guests are close to the Hanuman Dhoka Square, where real monkeys live and thrive in the place built to honor the mischievous and courageous monkey god Hanuman. Against the backdrop of mountains, the hotel presents a traditional Nepali ambience with architecture, carved wood, brick walls, and fountains. A rooftop garden restaurant, which along with the main dining hall, offers Nepali, Indian, Chinese, Thai and continental fare and offers views of the mountains, Swayambhunath Stupa, and the city.
Park Village Resort, Kathmandu
An eco-friendly hotel with all-suit-room, built in duplexes and spread in 4 acres of woodland with lots of birds and butterflies at the foothill of Mountain Wildlife Reserve. A unique homely hotel that gives a sense of "Living in Pure Nature right in metropolis Kathmandu".  Spread in 5 acres of wooded land, Park Village Hotel offers 48 unique studio type accommodations with all modern amenities including fireplace in seven separate Bungalows namely Magnolia, Maple, Pine, Lavender, Orchid, Jacaranda, and Jasmine. Farmhouse cafe caters to speciality Nepali, Indian & Chinese cuisine. Earth Watch Restaurants serves the daily buffet with extensive menu. Waterhole Bar: a perfect setting for evening cocktails & getting togethers
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