For time poor individuals, one of the real highlights is to arrive at the 18000 ft. high Everest base camp by helicopter! Here you will get a view of four of the world’s six highest peaks – Everest, Makalu, Lhotse and Cho Oyu.
Accompanied by a Sherpa guide, who has reached the summit and who can explain every detail to you, this is simply spectacular! Fly on to the next point, Lukla, for a champagne breakfast or even better still overnight there – providing you have acclimatised first! This is entirely private – whether for one or four.
For those who want to explore the Nepal highlights by helicopter, you can include (at the right time of year), Chitwan, Pokhara and Bandipur and for those who truly want to get off the grid, then take a helicopter to do a short trek in Mustang.
In Kathmandu, you can go right off the beaten track, to monasteries, where you can meet with the monks and learn some meditation with them. Perhaps, if you are interested in local music, your private guide can take you to a place where they play for locals. For us, it was about having an insight into a place which is simply not on the tourist trail!
After a few nights in Kathmandu and after having flown to Everest in a helicopter, you can then enjoy a gentle trek in the Annapurna Mountains. Treks are available from three days to as many as you would wish for – we found five days to a week to be the perfect answer as it allows you to spend more than one night in some of the truly idyllic places.
This is an entirely private affair, with just your party (whether two or more) and your fabulous guide who will reveal the splendours of this country. Spend time chatting through your guide with the local people in the rural farmland, finding out how they manage in this harsh but utterly beautiful environment and how they preserve their own culture, eschewing westernisation where possible.
Greeted by peaks each morning, the walking is invigorating and achievable by everyone with no prior fitness regime! It’s the gentleness of the people and the country which is all encompassing and the most wonderful way to experience a country – at a grass roots level.
The accommodation is really good, mostly tea houses and lodges that are simple but have every conceivable comfort required, with en suite private bathrooms with hot water showers and flush toilets, to comfortable beds and clean linen and of course, a warm welcome wherever you go.
The main accommodation area generally comprises a sitting room and dining room with bukhara’s or wood burners to keep everyone warm and happy hour to chat about the day’s activities. Without doubt, it’s the most wonderful way to get under the skin of the country – with chance visits to the local people a real highlight where we were as interested in them as they were in us!
Take time to walk through the terraces and rhododendron forests, watching the colours change hue on the mountains. If you really want to go even more off grid, then a trek can be arranged for you for you, which no one has ever heard of or been on before. Only the most experienced guides know where these places are and there are no lodges, so it will be simple camping. The envelope of possibilities can be pushed as far as you would like to stretch them!
Finish off with a visit to Chitwan – where especially if you visit during April and May, you will have the finest opportunity of seeing a tiger – without the crowds – and almost entirely to yourself. Chitwan remains one of the most beautiful parks imaginable – and now there is a truly magical safari style lodge which offers some of the best guiding in the country, with wonderfully luxurious rooms and food which is second to none.
Of course, having a private vehicle, allows for a more flexible and private experience. With elephant back riding being now quite rightly frowned upon, one can still have a delightful close up elephant experience, and spend time with them each day, learning about their behaviour, walking with them and understanding more about them – this is a truly privileged experience in the Tharu region on the edge of Chitwan. What more could one want and I can’t wait until the next time?