On April 25, 2015, Nepal was rocked by a 7.9 magnitude earthquake, flattening villages, damaging landmarks, and triggering a major avalanche on Mount Everest. Nearly a year later, even the most adventurous spirits are still leery of heading to the “Roof of the World.”
Since many Zegrahm travelers have expressed their concerns about visiting the Southeast Asian country, we reached out to our local tour operator, Nima Tashi of Last Frontiers Trekking, for insight. His advice: Not only is it safe to visit Nepal now, it is vital to the country's rebuilding efforts.
“Tourism is the largest industry in Nepal,” says Tashi. “In 2015, the drop in travelers was dramatic—down about 45 percent compared to past years. So the Nepalese have been doubly hit, despite the fact that the vast majority of tourism and trekking infrastructure is operating as normal.”
Indeed, last October the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) sent numerous travel writers to Kathmandu and along the Great Himalaya Trails. “Their reports emphasized that the earthquake did little harm to tourism facilities including hotels and restaurants in the capital, and that Nepal is still safe for travelers.” What's more, Tashi continues, those same journalists were able to see firsthand the important role that tour operators and other travel partners have played in the rebuilding effort. For example, Tashi’s father personally led a writer from Outside magazine on an expedition to the Everest region to learn about their initiative to build a relief shelter at the NamcheBazaar.
Asked specifically about attractions featured on Zegrahm's upcoming journey to Nepal*, Tashi states that, while guests will notice some effects of the earthquake, both Swayambhunath—the iconic, 2,000-year-old hilltop shrine—and Kathmandu Durbar Square with its astounding palace are open to visitors. “The magnificence of these sites should waylay any worries.”
Despite the recent downturn in tourism, Tashi remains optimistic. Intrepid travelers are once again making inquiries into expeditions to Nepal, and those who have visited over the past year have made giving back an important part of their journeys. To that end, Tashi has connections to get guests involved with various charitable organizations, including the Early Childhood Development Centre in Kathmandu, founded by CNN hero Pushpa Basnet.
*Tibet & Nepal: Heart of the Himalayas, departs April 9, 2016.