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Nepal

Embark on an epic hike through Nepal's thrilling Himalayan trails.

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Nepal's Annapurna Circuit


By Tara Isabella Burton

The Situation on the Ground: Although Kathmandu—and Nepal—have long attracted adventurous travelers, the country’s April 2015 earthquake, which killed 8,000 and wrought about $10 billion (half of Nepal’s GDP) in damages, decimated the country’s tourism industry. Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, a UNESCO-listed compound of palaces dating back as far as the tenth century, was partially destroyed, as was another of Kathmandu’s iconic structures: the 19th-century Dharahara tower.

A year later, however, Nepal’s situation is, if not what it once was, then nonetheless stable. And although several of Kathmandu’s most famous tourist structures have been damaged or destroyed by the earthquake, others—like the fifth-century Pashupatinath Temple and the relic-containing stupa of Boudhanath, now undergoing restorations—remain largely, if not entirely, intact.

Why Go Now: Power may not be a constant (nor are paved roads) but for travelers willing to sacrifice a degree of comfort for a sense of adventure, Nepal’s draw remains. Nepal’s economy, deeply reliant on the tourism trade, is more in need than ever of visitors. While the earthquake has damaged Nepal’s man-made structures, its mountain trails—including the legendary Annapurna Circuit through the snowcapped shadow of the Himalaya—remain accessible. Only two of Nepal’s 35 listed trails have been rerouted as a result of earthquake damage, and as early as last summer, all of the Annapurna trail’s bridges were successfully tested for safety.

Don’t Miss: If you’re not up to a seven-day trek in the Himalayan wilderness, Kathmandu has a range of more sedate activities on offer. The tradition of the Himalayan singing bowls—bell-like structures historically rung before, during, or after periods of Buddhist meditation—has a long history in Nepal. Cultural centers like the Kathmandu Center of Healing offer three-day intensive bowl workshops (from $300) where you can learn the art of playing the bowls to make them “sing.”

Practical Tip: While trekking in Nepal has been relatively unaffected by the country’s earthquake, extreme travel isn’t without its dangers. Altitude sickness is a very real risk on the Annapurna trail, which ascends to up to 17,762 feet above sea level. Plan ahead, pacing your increases in altitude and taking rest days along the way to acclimatize. Though mild responses to altitude increase are normal, more severe cases can be fatal. Descend immediately if you show any severe signs of acute mountain sickness, including shortness of breath while at rest, decreased consciousness, or coughing up blood.


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