Is it time to go back to Nepal?

On 25 April and 12 May 2015, deadly earthquakes struck central Nepal, causing catastrophic damage to Kathmandu and the surrounding valleys. Harrowing pictures of magnificent temples turned to rubble and concrete hotels collapsed on their foundations were beamed around the world. Five months on from the disaster, Nepal has declared itself open for tourism, but is now the right time to come back to Nepal, and what exactly will you find when you get here?

ADB photo

Image by Asian Development Bank

Assessing the damage
Media images at the time of the earthquakes made it look as though Nepal was completely destroyed, with its astonishing cultural heritage in ruins. The truth makes for less sensational headlines: while 130 historic temples collapsed across the country, only 14 of Nepal’s 75 districts suffered damage, and many of Nepal’s most famous sights escaped completely unscathed.

Even at the height of the disaster, travellers were relaxing in the resort town of Pokhara, unaware of the destruction to towns just 50km away. In Kathmandu, the vast majority of hotels reopened within days of the earthquakes, with just a handful of historic heritage hotels remaining closed for repairs.

This is not the first time Nepal has faced an earthquake of this scale, and as in 1934, Nepalis have stepped in to save what can be saved, and are now rebuilding for the future. How quickly this can happen will depend to a large degree on how quickly tourists return to the country and invest in the local economy.

Here is an overview of how different parts of Nepal are recovering after the disaster.

Kathmandu suffered the full force of the earthquakes, and damage was extensive, but localised to specific parts of the city. Four of the iconic temples in the UNESCO-listed Durbar Square collapsed completely including the multi-tiered Maju Deval Temple, one of Kathmandu’s most famous landmarks but the majority of temples still stand and the square is once again open to sightseers.

The royal palace of Hanuman Dhoka remains closed due to structural damage to the southern courtyards, but work is underway to reopen the museum and palace chambers. Perhaps the most photographed casualty of the earthquake was the Bhimsen Tower, which collapsed completely for the second time in its history (it was also destroyed in the 1934 earthquake). Today, it stands as a ruined plinth, but developers have pledged to rebuild it.

Other major World Heritage Sites such as the magnificent Buddhist stupas at Swayambhunath and Bodhnath were only mildly affected; restoration work has repaired the most obvious damage and the most tangible evidence for the disaster is some lingering scaffolding. The sacred Hindu pilgrimage site of Pashupatinath saw a terrible tide of funeral cremations following the earthquake but the site itself was mostly undamaged.

Patan krishna Mandir

Image by Rene C. Nielsen

Patan, Bhaktapur & the Kathmandu Valley

Despite the loss of some landmark monuments, including the famous Char Narayan and Hari Shankar temples, Patan’s Durbar Square and its stunning Patan Museum are open as normal. The quakes took a heavy toll on the traditional brick buildings of Bhaktapur, but here too, most of the medieval temples are still standing, including Nepal’s tallest, the five-storey Nyatapola Temple.

Elsewhere in the Kathmandu Valley, the damage was patchy. Some places escaped with minor cracks, while towns like Sankhu and Bungamati saw temple after temple crumble to rubble. While the valley is definitely open to travellers, it’s worth checking with locals before heading off from Kathmandu to be clear on which areas are still off-limits due to reconstruction following the disaster.

pokhra-nepal

Image by Mike Behnken

Across the country

Looking beyond the Kathmandu Valley, the historic towns of Nuwakot and Gorkha and their fortress-palaces were particularly badly affected due to their proximity to the epicenters of the two tremors, and the quakes caused extensive damage to the road to the Tibetan border and the Langtang Valley. However, away from the center of the country, there are few signs that the earthquake ever happened.

The east and west of the country were not seriously affected by the disaster, and most damage is restricted to trekking routes in remote areas. The tourist and trekking hub of Pokhara was effectively untouched and the trekking routes around it have been surveyed and declared safe. Despite damage to some villages along the trails, trekking in the Everest region has also been declared safe.

In the lowlands, the towns and national parks of the Terai were almost entirely unaffected. Wildlife safaris in Chitwan National Park and Bardia National Park continue as normal and the number of tigers in Nepal is actually on the rise, bucking the regional trend. The birthplace of the Buddha at Lumbini – an increasingly popular stop on the overland route between India and Nepal – also escaped unharmed.

lukla-airport

Image by Chris Marquardt

Travelling to Nepal after the earthquake

The key thing to note is that infrastructure for tourists was remarkably unaffected by the disaster. Airports are operating as normal and almost all of Kathmandu’s tourist hotels and restaurants remain open, or will reopen for the winter tourist season, though business is currently slim. Kathmandu’s traveller district of Thamel is much as it was before the disaster, and transportation around the city, the Kathmandu Valley and the country continues as normal.

The main roads across Nepal are open to traffic (or as open as they ever were!), and the Arniko Hwy/Friendship Hwy to Tibet and Everest’s North Base Camp (in Tibet) is due to reopen for the 2015 winter season. However, roads are still cut off in some rural areas, where earthquake damage has been worsened by monsoon landslides. This situation is likely to persist for some time, so it pays to confirm that roads are clear and that accommodation will be available before leaving Kathmandu.

local

Image by Wonderlane

So should I go ?
In August, the US and UK lifted their country-wide travel advisories against travel to Nepal, meaning that travellers and companies can once again get travel insurance for upcoming trips. Most western travel companies plan to run trekking trips as normal for the 2015/16 winter and spring seasons and some companies are even offering special reconstruction treks, though it’s now more important than ever to do some research and partner with a reliable NGO that has long-established links with the country.

Of course, Nepal still has its problems – including a fuel shortage caused by a political stand-off with India over the new Nepali constitution – but these kinds of issues are part of the landscape when travelling in the subcontinent. Despite these problems, in many ways now is a great time to visit Nepal.

The infrastructure that travellers need is in place, but tourism is down by over 50%, which means fewer crowds on the popular trekking routes and discounts for hotels and airfares. More importantly, the money you spend when hiring a guide or porter, staying in a lodge or hotel, or eating in a restaurant will directly help local people. Given that 500,000 Nepalis work directly in tourism, the country needs travellers more than ever to rebuild its economy and bounce back stronger for the future.

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Source: www.lonelyplanet.com

Kathmandu-Varanasi direct bus service begins

  • ANNAPURNA BASE CAMP TREK - 15 DAYS
    ANNAPURNA BASE CAMP TREK - 15 DAYS
    This trek is the one of best views of annapurna range, nilgiri , Dhaulagiri , Tukuche peak , Dhampus peak , Hiunchuli ,Machhapuchhre , Gangapurna, Lamjung Himal other many more greatest views of mountains you never seen before.
  • KATHMANDU-POKHARA-CHITWAN TOUR (BY FLY/LAND)- 07 NIGHTS 08 DAYS
    KATHMANDU-POKHARA-CHITWAN TOUR (BY FLY/LAND)- 07 NIGHTS 08 DAYS
    Nepal, the land of splendid nature and rich culture is waiting for you exploration through its different facets.
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    DAMODAR KUND TOUR BY HELICOPTER - 05 NIGHTS 06 DAYS
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    08 DAYS 07 NIGHTS NEPAL TRIP: KATHMANDU 3N, CHITWAN 2N, POKHARA 2N
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    EVEREST BASE CAMP TREK - 17 DAYS
    Sagamartha (Everest) Base Camp trek takes us into one of the most spectacular regions of Nepal where the Sherpa culture thrives amongst the highest peaks in the world.
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    KAILASH MANSAROVAR YATRA BY OVERLAND - 14 DAYS
    Mt. Kailash (6714m) is the most sacred mountain in Asia.
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    KAILASH YATRA BY HELICOPTER VIA NEPALGUNJ/SIMIKOT/HILSA/TAKLAKOT - 11 DAYS
    Mt. Kailash, the sacred mountain and the abode of the Hindu god Shiva is one of the world's greatest pilgrimage destinations especially for Hindus, Buddhist, Jains and others.
  • MUKTINATH TOUR BY LAND/FLIGHT
    MUKTINATH TOUR BY LAND/FLIGHT
    Muktinath is one of the most ancient Hindu temples of God Vishnu.

A regular Kathmandu Varanasi bus service was flagged off amid a function in the Capital on Thursday. The Nepali registered ceremonial bus will follow the Kathmandu-Bhairahawa-Sunauli-Azamgarh-Varanasi route. The bus would be covering about 600 kms during its journey of about 12 hours. The bus service has been started under the provisions of Motor Vehicle Agreement between Nepal and India during the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Nepal during the 19th Saarc Summit in November last year.

Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Bimalendra Nidhi and Ambassador of India to Nepal Ranjit Rae flagged off the bus service.  The flag-off ceremony was conducted from a spot near Dashrath Stadium, Kathmandu. Another regular bus operated by Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (UPSRTC) from Varanasi to Kathmandu through the same route was also flagged-off from Varanasi by the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav on Wednesday.  UPSRTC has fixed the ticket cost of Varanasi to Kathmandu bus at about Rs 2,100. “The start of regular bus service between Kathmandu and Varanasi is expected to enhance people to people contact and further strengthen ties between people of India and Nepal.

banaras-bus

The bus service is also likely to have a positive impact on the tourism industry as both Kathmandu and Varanasi are popular tourist destinations,” said a statement issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. Regular bus service on Kathmandu-Delhi route is already operating since November 25 last year. In the next phase Pokhara-Delhi route would be made operational for which consultation process between the officials of the two governments is already underway, added the statement. To discuss the issues related to implementation of bilateral Motor Vehicle Agreement for regulation of passenger traffic, an Indian delegation from Ministry Of Road Transport & Highways participated in a meeting with their Nepali Counterparts in Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport on Wednesday.

The implementation of this bilateral agreement would facilitate seamless and hassle-free movement of people between India and Nepal, said the Indian Embassy statement.

Along with the launching the bus service, flagging-off ceremony of Kathmandu-Varanasi service coincided with the flag-off of the first Indo-Nepal Friendship Motor Rally which was conducted on the same day at the same function.

Minister of Youth and Sports Purushottam Paudel and Indian Ambassador Rae flagged off the Motor Rally.

Source: Ekantipur

Tourists from 120 countries trekked Annapurna Circuit in 2014

Tourists from 120 countries enjoyed the Annapurna Circuit Trek in 2014.

Junu Pun, tourism assistant at Dharapani check post of Annapurna Conservation Area project (ACAP), said the popular trekking trail received visitors from 120 countries from across the world in 2014. Last year, the trail had received visitors from 86 countries. “The popularity of Annapurna Region is growing with each passing year. We are getting visitors from across the world,” she added.

Annapurna Region

Data compiled by ACAP shows a total of 20,694 foreign tourists enjoyed the Annapurna Circuit Trek in 2014. The trek begins from Besishahar of Lamjung and concludes in Jomsom after crossing Thorong La Pass (5,416m). Last year, 21,207 tourists had completed the trek.

Tourism entrepreneurs say the popular trekking route is attracting visitors from across the world. “Not only the conventional markets, we have started receiving guests from new markets,” Ram Chandra Sharma, president of Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) Western Regional Association, Pokhara, said.
Tourists from Sri Lanka, Syria, Pakistan, Mongolia, Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, Dominican Republic, Cambodia, Bolivia and Paraguay enjoyed the Annapurna Circuit trek in 2014.

“Word of mouth publicity is the biggest advertisement. It is good to note that tourists from new countries are coming here and promoting our products and services in their countries,” added Sharma.

France (2,702), Israel (2,687), Germany (2,042), United States (1,441), United Kingdom (1,317), Australia (1,095), Russia (859), Spain (849), Netherlands (812) and South Korea (691) were the top 10 countries in terms of number of visitors completing the Annapurna Circuit Trek in 2014, according to ACAP.

Source: Republica

Places to hang out in Kathmandu Valley

There seems to be no place in the Kathmandu Valley that hasn’t been breached upon by the ambitious will of a domestic adventurer: That funky restaurant? Oh no, you went there last time with your peeps. That cool place to hang out? Nah, went there for a funny photo shoot with colleagues. Sometimes, it feels as if the Valley is the same old assortment of familiar people and even more familiar settings. But worry not. I guess looking for a needle in the haystack is even better for the true adventurer at heart. The Week, as usual, comes to your aid.

Newa Lahana, Kirtipur
This restaurant is famous for its spot on Newar delicacies and drinks.newa-lahana-kirtipur

To reach there, go past the Tribhuvan University Heights and take a right turn. With two and a half stories dedicated solely for food lovers, also find the place apt for hanging out with your friends and family. The views from the rooftop are ones that you shouldn’t miss. Look forward to a great experience at Lahana.

Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur
traditionally known as the city of devotees, Bhaktapur is always a supreme place to hang out in. With its old brick houses and lanes, any place you go there will be a treat to your eyes and senses. Take a look at the potter’s village, or even sign up for a pottery class! If you are in your walking shoes, then you can go for hiking around the famous Changu Narayan Temple. Although Bhaktapur is the smallest city among the three in the Valley, it still has a string of temples and places that are waiting for the right kind of visitors.

Bungamati/Khokana

bungamati_khokana
A bus from Lagankhel for 30-45 minutes – depending on the crowd in the vehicle – and you’ll reach this beautiful Newar village of Bungamati. Bungamati has grown to become a local tourist destination, with extended cultural events on auspicious days, and traditional music in full swing and the locals clad in traditional wears. If not, go for an evening to watch the sunset, from where you can also watch the Khokana valley in the right. Stroll around in the ancient hamlet where it seems time has decided to rest. This evening will definitely be memorable.

Nag Daha, Dhapakhel
Nag Daha is a big pond which, from afar, looks like a snake. It’s a haven for nature seekers: The pond with gentle water ripples surrounded by greenery is quiet and perfect for solace. To reach there, take a public vehicle from Lagankhel to Dhapakhel, and walk for a few minutes. The place even has a modest number of eateries if you’re looking to enjoy the place with food. If you’re lucky, you can even get a chance at boating. This will be a good opportunity for the legend seeker in you. This legendarily rich place may have some stories that you can share later on.

The Sankata Temple, New Road
If you’re tired of hanging around Basantapur and are looking for something less crowded, then you could give the Sankata Temple a visit. It has a big courtyard dedicated to it, and one can easily find a ‘chiya pasal’ along with a few other snacks. If you are really in the mood for local food, then seek the Sankata Restaurant which is hidden in a busy alley to the north of the temple. Aside from serving the regular lunchtime snacks, they have yummy baras that are worth dying for. The area is pretty big, with people doing their usual businesses. Sneak in for a laidback time with your buddies.

Source: Republica

Shivaratri is celebrated as birth-night of Lord Shiva.

This day is the celebration dedicated to the Lord Shiva which falls on the Trayodashi of the month Fagun (February/March).

Maha-Shivaratri-pashupatinath

Nepal is the only Hindu kingdom in the world and thus the land of Lord Shiva, Lord of all Lords, for here you can feel his presence everywhere. Even in the sacred texts of the Hindus it has been stated that Mt. Kailash in the Himalayas is the abode of Lord Shiva or Mahadeva as he is also known. Shiva the Destroyer of Evil is among the most praised and worshipped of all the gods in the Hindu religion. Hindus all over the world know him through different names and forms. The country has thousands of idols and monuments, which glorify his name, the most common one being the Shiva Linga or the phallus of Shiva that represents him. For it is the Shiva linga that Hindus regard as the symbol of creation, the beginning of everything. Shiva Ratri is the night of Lord Shiva when He himself was created by His own Divine Grace and Hindus all over the world celebrate this day with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm. Shiva Ratri literally means ‘ the night consecrated to Shiva’. This auspicious festival falls on the fourteenth day of the waning moon in the month of Falgun, (February – March in the Gregorian calendar ). The temple of Pashupatinath in Kathmandu which is considered as one of the holiest shrines of the Hindus, glorifying Lord Shiva, thus receives more than 100,000 worshippers during the festival of Shiva Ratri. These worshippers come from far and wide to pay their respects and homage to Mahadev on his sacred day.

Lord Shiva

We worship Lord Shiva with the maha mantra “Om Namaha Shivaya”.  The Mahamantra   “Om Namaha Shivaya” also known as shadakshari mantra. Each letter in this mantra has spiritual meaning. This mantra is also known as maha mantra.

Om alone is the sound of life. It is the endless vibration that flows through the universe and provides life in every living being. Chanting revitalizes the mind and body and settles the mind. Om is the beginning and it is the end. In Sanskrit, the meaning of Om is avati, or rakuati. Rakuati means one who protects or sustains. Om is the most powerful mantra.

(Om as made up of three parts.  These are and .  Our sound starts with “a”, when we speak go to “O” and end with M, so Om is the totality. It is a mantra which provides complete rest to our body and energy to our mind. )

Maha-Shivaratri

Meaning of each letters of the mantra

Main god of all the regions (loks)

One who gifts supreme and spiritual knowledge (dnyan) and destroys greatest sins

Shi: generous, calm and responsible for the beginning by Lord Shiva

va: Symbol of vehicle (Nandi) the bull and the Vasuki and Vamangi Energies (Shakti)

Y: Positive residence of highest heaven and Lord Shiva.

Maha-Shivaratri-pashupatinath1

The 10 Coolest Places to Visit In 2015

  • ANNAPURNA BASE CAMP TREK - 15 DAYS
    ANNAPURNA BASE CAMP TREK - 15 DAYS
    This trek is the one of best views of annapurna range, nilgiri , Dhaulagiri , Tukuche peak , Dhampus peak , Hiunchuli ,Machhapuchhre , Gangapurna, Lamjung Himal other many more greatest views of mountains you never seen before.
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    KATHMANDU-POKHARA-CHITWAN TOUR (BY FLY/LAND)- 07 NIGHTS 08 DAYS
    Nepal, the land of splendid nature and rich culture is waiting for you exploration through its different facets.
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    DAMODAR KUND TOUR BY HELICOPTER - 05 NIGHTS 06 DAYS
    Many Hindus from round the globe are dreaming to take a holy bath at least once in their life time in the sacred Damodar-Kund
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    08 DAYS 07 NIGHTS NEPAL TRIP: KATHMANDU 3N, CHITWAN 2N, POKHARA 2N
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    EVEREST BASE CAMP TREK - 17 DAYS
    Sagamartha (Everest) Base Camp trek takes us into one of the most spectacular regions of Nepal where the Sherpa culture thrives amongst the highest peaks in the world.
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    KAILASH MANSAROVAR YATRA BY OVERLAND - 14 DAYS
    Mt. Kailash (6714m) is the most sacred mountain in Asia.
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    KAILASH YATRA BY HELICOPTER VIA NEPALGUNJ/SIMIKOT/HILSA/TAKLAKOT - 11 DAYS
    Mt. Kailash, the sacred mountain and the abode of the Hindu god Shiva is one of the world's greatest pilgrimage destinations especially for Hindus, Buddhist, Jains and others.
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    MUKTINATH TOUR BY LAND/FLIGHT
    Muktinath is one of the most ancient Hindu temples of God Vishnu.

The world is enormous. And getting bigger. Every serious traveler I know says their wish list grows longer, not shorter, every time they visit a new corner of the world.

So how to prioritize? What’s newly safe or newly uncovered? What’s right at that sweet spot between sleepy backwater and developed destination? What are new takes on places we thought we knew? What must we see right now, before it changes forever?

I put those questions to Owen Gaddis, a luxury travel manager at the super-high-end experiential travel-planning company Absolute Travel. He knows what he’s talking about, having adventured through glaciers in Chamonix, deserts in Oman, rain forests in Nicaragua and rugged coastal areas in Western Africa—and retained a soft spot for nice linens, plush robes and a great bottle of burgundy. Like all the planners at Absolute, Gaddis has extensive global connections, firsthand knowledge of destinations he books, and a mandate to learn just as much about his clients’ interests and customize trips accordingly.

Here’s his hot list for next year.

Iceland
Aside from the new Eleven Experience property, Deplar Farm, opening in 2016, Gaddis says there’s a million other reasons Iceland tops his list (and has topped lists as the happiest place on earth). Largely uninhabited, Iceland is a place where trolls and fairies are rumored to wander the painted hills, jump the ice crevices, bathe in the natural hot springs and scale the misty cliffs. Somehow, once there, he notes, this seems entirely possible. “Traveling to Iceland is like being transported to a parallel world where every waking moment is filled with adventure, incredible landscapes, folklore and understated pleasures. It will make you believe in the magical again,” says Gaddis, adding that the country offers river rafting, fishing, diving snorkeling, surfing, caving and hiking.

Adventurous Morocco
By now, lots of us have gotten lost in the souks and relaxed in the riads of Marrakech. Absolute’s new itineraries showcase the country beyond shopping and design. Intrepid visitors can scale the sheer walls of the Todra Gorge for summit views of the rose valleys beyond; trek the Atlas Mountains, stopping at waterfalls and Berber villages as they climb (and then sleep in an opulent “tented suite” at Richard Branson’s luxurious Kasbah Tamadot); and head for the horizon to gloriously outfitted Bedouin tents rising from a sea of sand dunes in Erg Chebbi, the gateway to the Sahara. Along the way they speed down dunes on sand boards, zip line between mountain peaks, watch the sunset from camelback and perhaps learn the secrets of the desert from a local host over a cup of Maghrebi mint tea (a.k.a. Berber whiskey).

Vietnam Now: Seaplanes, Vespas and a New Aman Resort
From sleepy fishing villages to the rooftop discos of Saigon, age-old tradition meets cosmopolitan modernity in today’s Vietnam. Luxe new ways to explore what’s been a hip Asian destination for a decade-plus now: a recently launched seaplane experience over Halong Bay, which lets visitors take in the bay’s otherworldly limestone cliffs from a new perspective—that doesn’t require two days on a dodgy boat—and the brand-new Amanoi, Aman’s latest enclave of Aman-ness, on the dramatic cliffs of Nui Chua National Park on the country’s south central coast. Absolute’s trips may also include a nightlife tour of Saigon by Vespa and an opportunity to talk with a Vietnam War veteran.

America’s Serengeti: The American Prairie Reserve
In northeastern Montana, a major restoration effort is under way. Absolute is the only company to bring in guests to observe and assist—and it puts those guests up in high-end yurts, inspired by safari tents, at Kestrel Camp. The American Prairie Reserve is buying back private land, tearing down fences and undertaking one of the biggest conservation efforts of our time, with the goal of creating the largest national park in the Lower 48 and repopulating the abundance of bison, grizzlies, deer, beavers, elk and antelope that were described by Lewis and Clark.

Tantalizing Tasmania
For many in the U.S., Tasmania holds few associations beyond the famed devil. But for connoisseurs of the remote and the untouched, this lack of popularity is the Holy Grail. Travel innovators are beginning to take advantage of this diverse destination rich in stunning landscapes, a homegrown food culture, and wildlife adventures that rival the Galapagos, South Africa and New Zealand—combined. Absolute travelers can shuck the world’s freshest oysters; encounter platypus under the cloak of darkness with Craig Williams (a.k.a Bushy), Tasmania’s best (and quirkiest) guide; and follow the dramatic coastline in search of cloistered wineries and whiskey distilleries. There’s also a new boat tour intriguingly called the Tasmanian Seafood Seduction.

Colombia
For curious travelers seeking their next big adventure, Gaddis recommends luxury travel in Colombia, where “you can savor this South American up-and-comer’s charisma, authenticity and jugo de lulo(trust us, just drink it).” JetBlue’s new-ish five-hour flight from New York to Cartagena made Colombia more accessible than ever, a stable government made it safe, and a new breed of hoteliers and operators are making it luxurious. The country encompasses everything from pristine Caribbean coastlines, picturesque cobblestone streets in Cartagena, the exotic Amazon rain forest, seven UNESCO World Heritage sites, the buzzing metropolis of Bogotá and some of the world’s most vivacious people. Plus, one of Absolute’s favorite inns, Hacienda Bambusa, in the Coffee Triangle, is reopening in 2015.

Japan: Past and Present
A new bullet train linking Tokyo to Kanazawa virtually eliminates the need for air travel, meaning visitors can easily see more of the country in one trip. Food is serious business here (and a serious draw), with Japan leading in innovation and quality—Tokyo has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world, never mind the sushi delicacies that can’t be found anywhere else. Finally, highly anticipated new properties will open in the coming year, including the exquisite Aman Tokyo—Gaddis says a single night’s stay is reason enough to visit. Meanwhile, in a country that thrives on innovation, now is the time to see historical landmarks and experience traditional practices before they are permanently altered or disappear entirely. The famous Tsukiji Fish Market, for instance, is about to be significantly scaled down and moved as Tokyo prepares for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Argentine Patagonia
Chilean luxury Patagonia has been growing in popularity in recent years, thanks to lavish lodges like the Singular, Tierra, Explora and others. But the Argentine side was long overlooked by all but the most adventurous. Absolute Travel has solved the luxury-travel conundrum by designing a new itinerary around the beautiful, untouched landscape of glaciers, crystal pools and jagged mountain peaks. After a couple nights at the remote luxury lodge Aguas Arriba near El Chalten, guests trek along trails past Cerro Fitz Roy, Glacier Torre and Cerro Torre, staying at custom tricked-out camping posts, an eco-friendly six-room mountain cabin and Estancia Cristina, a former sheep-shearing station that’s reachable only by boat and home to world-class fly-fishing and one of the best local culinary experiences.

Nepal, Above and Beyond
Long beloved as a trekking paradise, Nepal is slowly emerging as a luxury destination. Absolute directs visitors to immerse themselves in Nepal’s astounding beauty and diverse artistic traditions, watch the sun light up the world as it rises over the Himalayas, stroll bucolic mountain valleys, visit ceramic and textile workshops, explore impressive temples and monasteries, and take a leisurely boat ride on Lake Phewa, whose calm waters mirror the snowy peaks that tower above. Go now to stay at the newly opened wellness-focused Dwarika’s Resort before it’s discovered by the crowds.

Rights Managed

Sri Lanka for Wildlife
Now that the country is at peace, Sri Lanka offers tremendous value but is still often overlooked. The Aman Resorts here are as pampering as those elsewhere, but for a fraction of the cost. Absolute also arranges insider experiences such as a tour of the secret gardens of Galle Fort with author Juliet Coombe. But the main draw, Gaddis says, is the wildlife: Elusive leopards, wild elephants, boar, sloth bears and dazzling bird life from peacocks to hornbills roam this surprisingly diverse island. “We can’t think of another country that has the variety of experiences that Sri Lanka does,” he adds. Yala National Park has been the longtime go-to, but he’s excited about the reopened Wilpattu National Park, which had been closed for years due to the civil war, and where, he says, many guests are able to enjoy their safari in private.

Getting There (or Anywhere)
The newly launched Absolute Air, directed by a million-mile-certified expert, helps clients use miles and points to book round-the-world tours in first and business class, charter customized private jets and save thousands of dollars on future flights with individualized award plans.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/