Home Across Asia Sara’s Travel Story: Connecting with Communities in Nepal

Sara’s Travel Story: Connecting with Communities in Nepal

by Sara Wells

This story was written by Asia specialist, Sara, on her latest off-piste adventure in Nepal.

There’s so much more to Nepal than mountains and trekking (though these are pretty amazing). For one, connecting with the wonderfully welcoming communities that call it home was a real highlight of my adventure. Nepali hospitality is some of the warmest I’ve ever experienced, as people live by the Hindu philosophy Atithi Devo Bhawa (‘Guest is God’) and treat you as family. I know this sounds corny, but it’s true!

The absolute best way to interact with the lovely people here is by slotting in with their way of life, and staying at a homestay.

Smiling elderly man with traditional hat sitting outside a brick house and a cheerful woman in a vibrant red dress with a goat on her lap in a remote village in Nepal

The Network of Community Homestays in Nepal

There’s an array of community homestays throughout Nepal, giving you the chance to choose from a variety of environments – whether it’s the subtropical lowlands, the Himalayan foothills, tiny little towns, or very remote countryside. Scattered around these regions are several different ethnic groups, each with their own distinct customs, dress, food, and dialects.

Each community offers multiple households for homestays. While the standards are similar, the layout of accommodation and demographic of the host family may vary. I had the pleasure of staying with two communities in the Kathmandu Valley – one in Nagarkot and one in Panauti – with friendly and attentive Newari families.

Traditional house in Nepal with women in vibrant red attire offering a warm welcome to visitors arriving at the community homestay.

Cultural Experiences at Homestays

Both communities welcomed me warmly with a coloured powder tika (spot) daubed on the forehead, and a garland of marigolds as a kata (greeting scarf). There are great immersive cultural experiences to be had at all the community homestays – you learn from your host mothers as they share their heritage and handicrafts, and it’s a wonderful way of connecting with them as these activities transcend language barriers (and are great fun!).

Sara Wells receives a warm traditional welcome with garlands and greetings from Nepalese women in red attire.

During my stay, my hosts treated me to performances of traditional songs and dances from their region and gave me cooking lessons: in Nagarkot, I learnt to cook on an open fire stove and in Panauti, I tried my hand at making momos (stuffed steamed dumplings). I also loved creating topari (bowls made from leaves, stitched together with bamboo thread), and learning about Ranjana Lipi (the ancient script that decorates most of the prayer wheels found around the Himalayas). To break up the journey between the homestays, I stopped off in a lovely little town called Thimi, known for its ceramics – where I was welcomed into a potter’s home to have a go on the wheel.

Sara Wells engaging in a pottery workshop with a local artisan, capturing the authentic cultural exchange and hands-on experience offered by Experience Travel Group.

Outdoor Adventures in Rural Nepal

There are plenty of opportunities to get out and about into the fresh air here, too – it’s an especially good destination for yogis, hikers, and cyclists. While staying in the Nagarkot region, my hosts took me on many adventures throughout the scenic surroundings, where pristine pine forests give way to tumbling waterfalls and paddy fields. We laced up our walking boots and headed into the hills to visit the beautiful Buddha Peace Park, and a picturesque Hindu temple with several deities to make offerings to Ganesh, which involved filling my topari with powder and petals. En route, we passed many farms and traditional villages of the Tamang people, who’re originally from Tibet.

Traditional Tamang villagers working in the lush, terraced fields of Nagarkot, Nepal, with colourful homes and scenic hills in the background, showcasing the authentic cultural experience offered by Experience Travel Group.

This Buddha Peace Park is the go-to serene setting for a morning yoga session, (but as it was raining, we used the community hall instead – where we enjoyed a fun session, which included doing ‘lion roars’ for throat health!). From the park, the route down to Panauti town makes for a challenging but captivating mountain bike ride as the foothills are full of hairpin bends, bumpy roads and suspension bridges linking farming villages together. Cycling was a real highlight of my time here, as you see so much more detail and you have the chance to interact with passers-by along the way. It reminded me why we’re such fans of slow travel here at ETG.

Golden Buddha statue at Buddha Peace Park in Shanti Danda village, Nepal, surrounded by lush greenery and adorned with colourful prayer flags – a serene stop on a luxury adventure tour with Experience Travel Group & Sara Wells cycling across a suspension bridge in Nepal, enjoying a thrilling and scenic ride through dense forest – an exclusive adventure with Experience Travel Group.

Recommendations for an (Extra) Memorable Stay

I’d recommend staying a minimum of 2 nights at a community homestay, so you have enough time to properly connect and build trust with your hosts. Forsaking creature comforts and luxury to learn from your hosts is a worthwhile trade.

I have so many special memories from my stay: from listening to the daughters of the household singing to me, being shown family photo albums, having henna painted on my hands, eating all together, and even chatting to family members over Zoom that were working overseas for remittance…! l left feeling as though I’d been genuinely accepted into the fold.

(If you prefer a higher level of comfort, there are luxury hotels in Kathmandu within easy reach of these communities. You can then take day trips into the valley to meet some families and enjoy this level of cultural immersion).

Sara Wells, Asia specialist at Experience Travel Group, enjoying a homestay experience with henna art alongside a local woman in Nepal, showcasing cultural immersion and authentic connections.

Boosting Local Economies with Thoughtful Tourism

Far from just enjoying a cultural exchange, tourism is a powerful force for good in this part of the world. When you choose a homestay, your money goes directly to the heart of the community – the mothers who run these houses. As Nepal is a patriarchal society, this empowers women and formalises an already supportive culture. Regular meetings in the communities make sure that everyone benefits: improvements are discussed, finances are transparent, and guest assignments are rotated for an even share.

My host in Panauti, Shila, exemplified this. With 12 years of experience, she not only ran her homestay but also visited and trained communities setting up their own.

What’s more, 20% of the homestay fee is invested in community development projects, like scholarships and sanitation training, to improve the overall standard of living for everyone. Also, the benefits are far reaching and support other villagers, from shuttle drivers and cooks to dancers and even people working on new restaurant initiatives.

Professional imagery courtesy of Amir Shrestha.


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