Our 3 weeks journey in Nepal was mainly dedicated to our Workaway project in Kathmandu Valley, so we did not really get to know the country close enough to become aware of many facts and habits. However, there is a lot to say about this incredible country and its amazing people.

Nepal is one of our top destinations to travel for culture, food and the spirit of the people. We really enjoyed our time there. Our special highlights were the stay at the family’s house of the Sunrise Farm and the visit to Chitwan National Park.

Here we listed some curious facts about Nepal.

Fact #1 Streets

We left Tibet, where new modern streets were built, and after reached Nepal, where we had the feeling that proper streets do not exist. What we could call „streets“ were usually roads that turned into mud puddles as soon as it started to rain a bit. Due to the fact that the conditions of the roads is so bad, it can take up to 10 hours for driving just 100 km. No joke! Several times it took us more than 10 hours to reach destinations that were maximum 200 km far.

Not only the streets were responsible for these delays, but also the traffic didn’t help. Sometimes there were strikes or construction work going on, therefore it happened that for several hours streets were closed without any prior notice. So you better don’t plan any flight the same day you are traveling to the airport on these roads.


Fact #2 The Flag of Nepal

Do you know how the flag of Nepal looks like? It consists basically of two triangles placed on top of each other. Nepal is the only country in the world that has this kind of shape which symbolizes the peaks of the Himalayas. The colors are red and blue with the star and half-moon symbols on one half and a sun in the other one. The red is the national color and the blue represents peace.


Fact #3 Mountains

The small country of Nepal, covering a bit less than 150.000 km², is home to 8 of the 10 highest mountains in the world including the highest mountain, Mount Everest. The beautiful landscapes of Nepal are absolutely marked by these massive mountains. Here is a list of all of them:

  • Mt. Everest – 8.848 m
  • Kangchendzönga – 8.586 m
  • Lhotse – 8.516 m
  • Makalu – 8.485 m
  • Cho Oyu – 8.188 m
  • Dhaulagiri – 8.167 m
  • Manaslu – 8.163 m
  • Annapurna – 8.091 m

Photo by Ananya Bilimale on Unsplash

Fact #4 The scooters

Like in many Asian countries the streets of Nepal are full of scooters. Crazy scooters. What is very interesting to see and shocking at the same time is that only the person that drives the scooter is obliged to wear a helmet. But on the same scooter, you can see also children or women without a helmet, as it is usually the man who’s driving.


Fact #5 The time zone

The time zone of Nepal is UTC +5:45 and it is the only one in that zone. In total, there are only 3 areas with an offset of +45min. (Chatham Island UTC +12.45 and the unofficial Australian Central Western Time UTC +08.45).

Did you learn something new from our list of facts? Pictures of Nepal you find here.

At the beginning of our stay in Nepal, we wanted to spend our time mainly in Kathmandu, but once again things happened to be different than we previously planned. Inspired by the “Very Hungry Nomads” (two brave women traveling to every country in the world), we decided to include also Chitwan National Park in our itinerary.
The Chitwan National Park is located around 160 kilometers from Kathmandu which, as we learned on our first day in Nepal, meant spending several hours on the road to reach our destination.



Traveling to Chitwan National Park

So we found ourselves at 5.00 clock in the morning at the bus station from where we took a “tourist bus”, which would take us to Sauraha. Approximately 11 hours later we finally arrived and, despite exhaustion and tiredness from the long drive, the first impression awoke a big excitement for the upcoming day.

From the bus stop, it was only a 15-minute walk to our hostel, Evergreen Lodge, an Eco-Hostel specializing in eco-friendly tourism. It has been one of the nicest accommodations we have had on our trip.

The hostel served delicious food and our bamboo hut with hammocks proved to be a perfect place where we could forget quickly about the long drive. Tours were also organized here and we were informed about possible options in the same evening. We quickly realized that the hostel and the entire region valued eco-tourism, so we decided to go for a walking safari that would not bother the animals too much (compared to the jeeps) and lasted the whole day.

Chitwan National Park

The park is located in the Terai lowlands in southern Nepal and was founded in 1973 under the name Royal Chitwan National Park. It covers 932km² and is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984. Unfortunately, the area has been strongly and continuously affected by poaching.

Currently, the park is hosting 700 different species of animals, including the Indian rhinoceros, Bengali tigers, sloth bears, crocodiles and gharials, elephant bulls, rhesus monkeys and over 500 species of birds. The largest part of the forest consists of salvia trees and about 20%  is covered with grass, the elephant grass. Another species of plant found here is the Kapok, the tree with silk cotton.


After a pleasant night in the bamboo tree house, we were introduced early morning at 07.00am to our guide Sandy, a funny guy who made our day unforgettable.

We started with a short walk to the riverside where we had already our first highlight. Even before we got our instructions on how to behave in the canoe that would bring us to the start of our walking route through the jungle, we could observe a rhino taking a bath. We stopped breathing for a moment when we saw the big animal and a short time later we noticed the crocodiles relaxing under the morning sun. At that moment I realized what to expect from that day. We boarded the canoe and went for a cruise on the river, me, Alex and 3 other girls, surrounded by wild birds and predators.


The first 15 minutes in the shaky boat nobody moved or said anything but I could feel the tension that mixed with the excitement for the adventure that we signed up for. Sandy, instead, was quite relaxed and happily explained to us about the flora and fauna in the National Park. After a while, everyone got used to the fact that we were out in the wild and the mood became more relaxed. We observed many different birds, other crocodiles, peacocks and farmers who did their work along the river. About one hour later we reached a water hole. Here we left the canoe and were allowed to observe the rhinos again. Being so close to these giant animals was amazing. We’ll never forget that incredible experience.

Into the wild

It was here where our adventure had its real starting point. Our guide explained the different behaviors we should adopt, for example, when we would encounter a bear, a tiger, an elephant or a rhino. At that moment, I no longer knew if I really wanted to continue and if I would “survive” that day. Of course, Sandy and his companion, who joined the group, were trained and certified tour guides. They made us understand that we were dealing with wild animals and we needed to be careful at all times. We liked a lot their attitude towards their homeland and the awareness that the welfare of the animals is always a top priority.



The walk took us through high grass into the forest. Here we observed another rhino, different birds and interesting beetles. After a while, our guide stopped and showed us a gray moving point in the distance. He said to us: “This is Ronaldo!” As we had learned before, Ronaldo was a wild elephant bull who was attracted by the elephant ladies of the retreat center in the village and always reacted very aggressively towards humans. I was very glad that he was on the other side of the river, but a look through the binoculars showed me that he was huge and moving incredibly fast. We continued for a while longer when we recognized more elephants heading straight towards us.

Elephants in Chitwan National Park

At first, I guessed that these are tourists who were riding elephants, but the fast-approaching herd was led by only a few people. Our guide explained to us that they were government elephants. In this region, because of the request of the tourists, elephant riding was offered but not actually supported by the local community.

In Nepal elephants are divided into “privately-owned” and “government-owned”. The privately-owned elephants are used for elephant riding during jungle tours. But the persons that take care of these elephants can not be convicted, as they live off this “business” and sleep under harsh conditions with the elephants in the stable. You can only blame the tourists who support these activities. Some people are unaware of how the animals are treated and therefore there is a lot of need for education on this matter.


The elephants we came across were on a mission to track injured animals and to protect the park (for example, because of the danger of poaching). According to our tour guide, these animals were rarely used to ride (always without a chair) and only because it was easier to get to other animals for counting or for providing medical care than with a noisy jeep.

Tigers, deer and other animals

The path led us deeper into the forest when Sandy suddenly stopped and gave his colleague a frightened look. He whispered to us that he recognizes a strong smell of cat urine. And again, the tension and the disturbing silence were back. We slowly moved on. A sudden rustle made us turn our attention to some bushes where we could spot something of an orange color moving fast… a deer. Everyone was probably glad that it was actually “only” a deer, but everyone secretly hoped to spot a tiger. A little further we saw the scratch marks of a tiger on a tree and here I knew that I didn’t want to meet the king of the jungle that day. The deep tracks on the tree helped us guess what a big cat it must have been.


After this moment of shock, we continued to our rest stop. Here we enjoyed the view from a high seat and ate our lunch, which we got from the hostel. It was lovely, watching deer and water buffaloes while listening to the sounds of the jungle. Some members of the group took also a nap, but for me it was not an option as the adrenaline was still in my blood.


Relaxing lunch break

After a long break, the walk led us out of the forest into the bushes. Our guide received information during the lunch break about a tiger that was seen by a group of tourists earlier in the same morning. It was hot but the monkeys in the trees and the rhinos that we observed in the water holes kept our excitement high and made it easy to forget about the heat.

Our trip continued to be exciting. We discovered the footprints of a tiger in the sand and places where he marked his territory. Later in the afternoon, we could spot more different birds, deer and a mongoose.


We returned to the starting place at the river, from where we left in the morning. Here I remembered the crocodiles that were probably hiding somewhere in the bushes. Although our tour guide told us that at this time of the day they were not on this side of the jungle, I was not convinced enough to calm down.

One more time we crossed the river by boat. Here we found again the crocodiles and I realized what an adventure we experienced that day.

On the way back to the hostel we met another huge elephant on the street. But at that point we were more excited for the cool shower and the delicious dinner back at the hostel. That night we slept unexceptionally good and the next day woke up with the chirping of birds. It has been a perfect way to end our jungle adventure, before traveling to Pokhara, where, unfortunately, we only had one day to discover the surroundings.

Click here for more pictures from Chitwan National Park.

The biggest city in Nepal and the capital of the country, Kathmandu is not just the political, historical, artistic and cultural center of the little country hidden at the base of the Himalayan Mountains, but also the access gateway to Nepal’s diversity of experiences.

The city did not look like it evolved much in the past decades. Streets were as dusty as they probably always been. There was little order in the traffic, but drivers always showed good reflexes so we never witnessed any accidents.

The largest part of Kathmandu is represented by its urban agglomeration across the Kathmandu Valley, which includes the towns of Lalitpur, Kirtipur, Madhyapur Thimi and Bhaktapur. The most chaotic part of Kathmandu, but also the most colorful and the most alive is its touristic center, the Thamel. The streets here are filled with stores, supermarkets, restaurants and coffee places offering an exotic atmosphere that attracts both regular tourists and backpackers.

We chose to be far from the boisterous streets of Thamel and spent our first night in Kathmandu at a homestay. Still, the entertainment and the good coffee that we always found in Thamel called us back here several times in the following days.


The Swayambhunath Temple

From the group that we were part of during the journey in Tibet, few of us planned a longer stay in Nepal. So, we decided to reunite with the others for the last evening and visited together the Swayambhunath Temple (known also as the Monkey Temple). It is a large Buddhist temple on one of the hills that surround the city. Several statues and stupas mark the entrances into the temple. But the most impressive part is found at the end of the long staircase that leads the path towards the top of the hill, where a large stupa decorated with praying flags is part of the impressive landscape that visitors can admire.


We decided to remain for dinner, as a few restaurants up there offer the chance to enjoy tasty food while marveling at a spectacular sunset.


The ancient streets

The city offers access to a high number of Hindu and Buddhist temples to both tourists and pilgrims. Tourism is probably the most important and fastest-growing industry in Nepal and more and more tourists are expected to visit the country each year. So do not expect to experience much enjoyment for free. A small entry fee will is requested for most attractions and much higher prices are being paid for food in the touristic areas. We tried both touristic and local restaurants and, while we couldn’t feel the difference of taste, we surely felt the difference in price.


The best examples of architecturally notable buildings of the recent era can be seen in Durbar Square, as well as in Patan Durbar Square and Bhaktapur Durbar Square.


The view from many rooftop bars will add to the enjoyment of a refreshing drink. Just always remember to ask for the source of the water when having iced drinks, as the quality of the water in Nepal is bad and people are advised to not consume it. Bottled mineral water is usually available in most stores.


Minivans are part of a complex transportation network in Kathmandu. While routes are not indicated on any website or application that tourists can use, it is enough to know where you are going. The “cashier” of each one of these vans always screams out the direction that the car is going in. Prices for the ride are low and convenient (we usually paid between 15 and 20 Nepalese rupees, which was less than 15 euro cents), but most of the time it can get really crowded inside the vans. Sometimes you might even see people hanging outside.


Kathmandu is diverse and offers a range of exciting experiences, but as well do other places in the country. We tried to see also some of the wilder parts of Nepal, so we decided to reserve some time for visiting the National Park Chitwan. Read more about it here.

For more pictures from Kathmandu click here.

The Sunrise Farm in Kathmandu Valley is a really tiny one. It covers only the space around a house where, many years back, a Nepalese family of farmers started practicing permaculture. Their desire for a sustainable lifestyle motivated them to develop a system that would allow them to harvest most of the crops they need for daily use.

Permaculture is a widespread practice in Nepal, as the relief of the country creates the proper environment for it. There is even an association that brings all these little farms together, offering support and training for the farmers that are interested in upgrading from normal agriculture to a more sustainable way of living.

We stayed with the family at the Sunrise Farm for a week, together with other volunteers. The work happened to be little as the time when we were there was less busy for farmers. But we got to help a bit in the garden and understand what permaculture is about, interact with the other workawayers and get to know the family.

The best part of the experience was probably the food. The owner’s wife, a mother of three children, cooked wonderful and tasty local food for us every day of our stay. Occasionally, we helped in the kitchen and sometimes were invited to cook dishes from our home countries.

We got a deeper understanding of permaculture when a small reunion of farmers visited the Sunrise Farm during the time when we stayed there. The visit was part of an organized tour that included visiting other farms and we were invited to join them.


The one week at the little farm passed quickly, but we were happy to have experienced the time with a local family and share moments of their daily lives.


In the following days, we would explore more of the surroundings and get a chance to walk for longer on the old streets of Kathmandu.

We admired breathtaking landscapes and met beautiful people during the 30 days that we spent in China till the day when we reached the other end of the Himalayas. And everything was left behind us, as we passed through the customs control at the Gyrong border and made our first steps into Nepal.

The Nepalese Visa

The visa for Nepal, at the time when we were there, in May 2018, was 25 USD for 15 days. We planned a longer stay, so we paid 40 each for the one month visa. A passport size picture was required for the visa application form and needed to be prepared before the arrival in Nepal as there was no option to make one at the border.

While the visa procedure went quite fast and easy, the custom control on the Nepalese side took a while. The emigration officers weren’t using any technical equipment for checking the luggage, so the whole process was done in the traditional way and their fingers went through every small corner of our backpacks. After packing and unpacking everything three times in a row, our carefully organized luggage looked totally messed up. But other members of our group had an even unpleasant experience. Their nicely wrapped presents for the loved ones at home had to be carefully inspected as well.

The long drive to Kathmandu

Not just the custom control happened to be different, but also the landscape changed dramatically. We climbed down the white mountains in Tibet and continued driving through deep green valleys, during a 13 hours long ride that ended in Kathmandu. Gigme, our Tibetan guide, organized a jeep transfer for all of us and doing so was probably the best option as organizing a spontaneous transfer would have been an impossible task.

Nepal is well known for its poor infrastructure and the earthquake that struck the country in 2015 made things even more difficult. One of the two main access gates from Tibet into Nepal, Zhangmu Port, is still dangerous to travel through and the one that we arrived at, Gyirong Port (Rasuwa Port on the Nepal Side), reopened only in August 2017.



While driving through these valleys was indeed beautiful and fascinating, most sections of the road were quite crowded and dangerous to drive on. If you are an adrenaline junkie, this might be a destination for you. But there are of course many other reasons to visit Nepal. The kindness of the people here will make you feel welcomed and the food will excite any traveler in search of exquisite flavors.

It was already dark when we finally saw the lights of Kathmandu. Busy, crowded and dusty streets formed an image that would continuously repeat itself during our whole stay in the country. A warm “Namaste” from our host made us feel happy again, knowing that we could finally enjoy a warm meal and a comfortable bed.

We wanted to start our experience in Nepal with a deeper look into the local lifestyle, which brought us at the Sunrise Farm in the Kathmandu Valley, where we did our second Workaway project.