Almost a year has passed since a devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal. The Himalayan country is on the mend, however, and working hard to bring visitors back. Pre-quake, 800,000 tourists visited Nepal each year, supporting 1 million jobs and contributing $1.6 billion to the economy (8.9 percent of GDP). Officials predict that 2015 tourism visits would are down 65 percent—a hard hit to an already ailing country.
Yet much of Nepal is open for business and eager for travelers to return. Go now—when sleepy streets devoid of tourist feet beckon with a magical quiet that might not last for long. Here’s how to find high adventure and help the country rebuild:
Dive into Kathmandu: You have to see the organized chaos of Kathmandu to believe it—markets, traffic, temples, shrines, palaces and architectural art. Many of its UNESCO World Heritage Sites were damaged or destroyed but the city’s frentic charm is no less diminished.
Trek in Everest’s shadow: Fly to Lukla, then follow the sound of yak bells through the high Himalayas and stay in teahouses or lodges. Highlights include the bustling trading center of Namche Bazaar, views of Ama Dablam’s pointy peak, colorful Tengboche monastery and Everest Base Camp. Allow at least two weeks. greathimlayatrails.com
Do a fly by: If you’re short on time and have extra cash to burn, sip champagne while jetting on a scenic flight past the world’s highest peak. yetiairlines.com
Paraglide in Pokhara: Northwest of Kathmandu, laid-back lakeside Pokhara is one of the top paragliding destinations in the world, with primo conditions year-round. aviaclubnepal.com
Mountain bike the Mustang: Dodge donkeys while ogling 8,000-meter peaks in the high, dry Himalayas just south of Tibet. Mountain biking is quickly gaining momentum here, in what was once primarily a trekking domain. nepalbiking.com
Go on a meditation retreat: Master your mind and discover deep inner peace by sinking into a seven- or 10-day Buddhist retreat at Kopan Monastery in Kathmandu. kopanmonastery.com
Track tigers: Tigers are the prize, but seeing rhinos is an extra treat in Chitwan National Park, west of Kathmandu. No matter what, you’ll be wowed by the wildlife in this subtropical hotbed of biodiversity. chitwannationalpark.gov.np
Raft rapids: Float for eight days and camp on white sand beaches along the San Kosi River from near the Tibetan border to the Ganges. It’s one of the world’s top 10 river trips. grgadventurekayaking.com