September marked the start of the new trekking season in Nepal, following the devastating earthquake in April that claimed 9,000 lives and affected millions of others. Intrepid Travel, one of the country’s largest tour operators, recently collaborated with the Nepalese government and a team of experts to assess the damage. The conclusion? This landscape of snowy Himalayan peaks and jungle-covered plains is secure and ready for visitors to return. “We’ve already completed our first successful trip between Everest Base Camp and Kathmandu this year,” says Geoff Manchester, Intrepid’s director and co-founder. Intrepid tells AFAR why it’s never been a better—or more crucial—time to visit this sublime and culture-rich destination.
1. It’s safe to go. Shortly after the earthquake, Intrepid worked with the Nepalese Government and earthquake engineering specialists Miyamoto International to assess the damage, testing 30 bridges, 250 buildings, and numerous popular trails. While a few paths needed to be rerouted away from potential hazard areas, the Annapurna and Everest regions have been given the greenlight for trekkers.
2. You’ll help the recovery effort. Tourism is Nepal’s largest source of foreign income, so it’s crucial to the region’s economic recovery that travelers return. While the country has a long and complex road to stability that extends well beyond the tourism sector, the return of travel will have a notable impact, especially as outfitters step up to the plate. Intrepid Travel will be donating all profits from 2015 and 2016 Nepal itineraries back into rebuilding efforts.
3. The crowds are smaller. Nepal welcomed 800,000 visitors last year, but the government is anticipating a 50% drop in the 2015-2016 season following the earthquake. The silver lining for visitors: this could be your chance to see this iconic trekking destination when it’s less jammed with tourists. “At times it may feel like you have the Himalayas all to yourself,” says Manchester.
4. Fall is the best time to go. Not only is trekking at its most magnificent between September and November—the city of Kathmandu is also abuzz with some of the year’s most important cultural events. The Indra Jatra street festival (Sept. 22-29) honors Indra and Jatra, two Hindu deities; Dashain (Oct. 14-27) celebrates the victory of good over evil; and the five-day Tihar festival of lights (Nov. 9-13) illuminates the city’s streets with decorative lamps and candles.
Want to go? Check out our guide to Nepal!