There’s a saying: only a fool goes to Nepal once. And you see the sense of it before you even arrive: the aerial view from the plane is mind-boggling – endless spikes of snowy mountains, with little meadows, valleys and lakes here and there breaking the parade of soaring peaks. First time I saw Nepal from above, my jaw hit the floor. Second time – exactly the same response. Of all the Himalayan routes I’ve followed, all the treks I’ve puffed along, Nepal’s Gokyo Lakes have a strong claim to be my favourite part of the region. Here, some 4,500 metres above sea level, a vast glacier running alongside the shore, are jade-green lakes of piercing colour and translucent brilliance. Walking the trail here takes in views of Everest and Lhotse, among other grand peaks. This is as big as the world gets – some of the highest lakes nestling under the tallest summits and fiercest glaciers, all under the clearest of blue skies. There’s nowhere else like it. Annapurna is another highlight, or rather another load of highlights. You can get up-close with Annapurna and the other high mountains, but I really like the quiet days you can have here where forests and foothills, cultivated fields and friendly locals are the focus, and the range’s big peaks form the beautiful backdrop. Think of Nepal and I think of the mountains – in particular the 360-degrees view from Island Peak comes to mind – but it’s a country that’s more varied than a lot of people think. Pokhara is a perfect place to beach out after trekking – a glassy lake for boat rides and great food makes whiling away time here very easy. And further south Chitwan National Park is the flip-side to icy wastes – here there are lush rainforests with big game, elephant rides and canoe trips. It’s a lovely area to spend some time, and a fantastic place to explore a lesser known side of Nepal. Tibet has a similar magnetism as Nepal, but for different reasons. It really is a meditative place. Visiting the monasteries that are set high up on the arid plateau, watching the monks living their lives of devotion, looking on at the austere, rugged mountains around you – the combined effect is hypnotic, calming. Exploration here is a serene adventure, and all the more compelling for that. I haven’t visited Bhutan yet, and I’m really looking forward to going. Anywhere that’s banned plastic bags and traffic lights has got to be worth investigating! Some of the buildings – particularly the Tiger’s Nest monastery – look sensational. I hope to visit soon, and no doubt will be planning another trip to Nepal again as well!
"The scope and scale of this country is not something that can be gathered from either photos or stories. It is something that truly has to be seen to be believed"