TRAVEL WATCH: NOVEMBER 8, 1999 VOL. 154 NO. 18
Perched at a spot where Asian and Indo-European cultures converge, Nepal is home both to paddy fields on the Terai plains and to the roof of the world: 8,848-m-tall Mount Everest. Such diversity makes it perfect for trekkers of all ages and abilities. Tour operator Tiger Mountain, (977-1) 411-225, was among the pioneers of Himalayan travel and can create a trip to match your desires. Its 10-day West Nepal Adventure is an excellent introduction to the country. Visitors fly to Pokhara, a trekking center at the foot of the Annapurna Range, and set off on the four-day Royal Trek, named to commemorate a visit by Prince Charles.
If you'd like to sweeten the adventure with a taste of Katmandu, London-based Western & Oriental, (44-171) 313-6601, offers two-week trips that include a few days in the Nepali capital. After exploring the ancient city's temples, visitors fly to Pokhara for a four-day trek that promises amazing views of the Dhaulagiri Range. Then it's off to Royal Chitwan for three days of game-watching by jeep and elephant. Travelers stay at the luxurious jungle lodge. The trip costs $2,850 a person.
If this still sounds like too much work, other options provide the great views without all the walking. Royal Nepal Air takes passengers to the top of Everest the easy way: on an early morning sightseeing flight, which costs $95 a passenger. Balloon Sunrise Nepal, (977-1) 424-131, offers more romance: a one-hour, hot-air balloon trip ($195 per person) over the rice fields and temples of the Kathmandu Valley. On a clear day you can glimpse eight of the 10 tallest mountains in the world, before touching down in the old city of Bhaktapur.
So let the hard-cores grapple with the leeches, mosquitoes and freeze-dried food. You can get many of the same stunning views without risking your tastebuds or spinal cord.
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