The Changing Face of Tourism in Nepal

Features Issue 215 Oct, 2019
Text by Jim Jones

The nostalgic view of the person who comes to Nepal is a young, energetic backpacker, who is eager to trek the high altitudes of the Himalaya, likes to chill out, and is notoriously reluct ant to spend much money. But when you look at who actually comes to Nepal, the profile these days is looking quite different.

Memories of Freak Street

The historic view of the tourist in Nepal is a holdover from the 1960s and ‘70s, when Nepal was a favored destination on the “Hippie Trail.” Back then, droves of young people, spurred by the cultural changes in the west (and a Beatles album or two), took to South Asia. At that time marijuana and hashish was legal in Nepal (a staunch Shiva country), which attracted young, shall we say, creative people, who came to enjoy Nepali culture. In the 1970s pressure from the west brought an end to that era, when the Nepal Government made it illegal, as it remains today.

That gave way to the tourists mostly focused on trekking and climbing the highest mountains on Earth. Mountain climbing and trekking, especially back then, was mostly a young man’s game, so the image of the young backpacker endured. These backpackers and climbers came mostly from the west and spent most of their time