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Nepal’s Year of Tourism

Buzz Poole
02/01/2011 - 12:19

Having dubbed 2011 Year of Tourism, Nepal is campaigning to attract more than one million visitors this year. According to the website, “the government is placing high priority on the tourism sector in its new economic development policy . . . With the slogan ‘together for tourism,’ representatives from political parties, tourism, economic sector, private sector, sports, entertainment and ethnic communities participated in the rally and the official ceremony.”

 

Of course, the mighty Himalaya, ridged with eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains, has attracted scores of climbing and trekking enthusiasts since the days of Sir Edmund Hillary (who in 1953 was the first to summit Mt. Everest). But Nepal is more than just mountains; it has five distinctive climatic zones: tropical, temperate, cold, Arctic, subarctic. The landscape’s diversity is home to almost 850 species of birds and 500 species of butterflies. Officially a secular country, and though most Nepalese are Hindu, the country also contains important Buddhist pilgrimage sites since it is believed that Buddha was born in Rupandehi, Nepal.

I’ve never been, but Kathmandu, the capital, has always struck me as more mythical than real, like Timbuktu. The reason for this association, I think, is because when I got interested in “travel writing” as a literary genre, I read several Jeff Greenwald books; he lived in the city for a period and has written extensively about it (like here). I know it is a growing, crowded city, but as the gateway to the top of the world I’m sure it is a spectacular city crowded with mystics.

Clearly, tourism is Nepal’s largest industry, but aiming to attract one million people over the course of this year shows that the government wants visitors interested in more than the mountains. Adventure Center offers a whole range of trips to Nepal, ranging from elephant rides through the jungle to non-trekking explorations of villages in the foothills of the Annapurna region. And there is plenty of high-altitude fun, too!

Who out there has been to Nepal? What were your favorite places?

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