No Mountain High Enough
The magical kingdom of Nepal is, without a doubt, one of the most storied destinations in the world, and a mecca for adventure travelers of every stripe. What better way to see this exotic land than on a mountain bike? Well, actually, there is a better way—on a mountain bike that’s transported by helicopter to a highland pass, allowing you to cruise downhill through some of the most spectacular terrain on earth. You can now ride through Nepal’s magnificent scenery while avoiding the lung-busting uphill rides that would make the trip impossible for all but a handful of oxygen-carrying elite athletes.
Heli-Biking in Nepal
Most trips to Nepal begin in Kathmandu, the country’s capital and largest (and noisiest) city. Heli-biking programs organized by qualified tour operators who know the terrain are definitely the way to experience this activity; some operators have relatively short 1-day packages, while others offer longer excursions of several days. Thrill-seekers opting for longer tours are able to stop in remote teahouses for breaks, and stay overnight in lodges nestled in isolated villages.
If what you seek is adventure on the road less traveled, you’ll find it here. Many of the spots visited by heli-bikers are tiny hamlets, difficult to reach even by four-wheel-drive vehicles. The landscape is rich and varied: Icy, snow-capped mountain ranges give way to dense alpine forests, semi-arid steppes, surging rivers, lush farmland, and golden rice paddies. And for sheer death-defying thrills, try crossing a swinging suspension bridge on a windy day with a full pack and a mountain bike—not for the faint of heart.
It’s not all hard work and sweat, however. Bikers make frequent stops to sample local foods and teas, including the region’s apple ciders and brandies. In addition, there are hot spring pools along some routes that allow bone-weary riders a chance to soothe their aching bodies. And at the end of your journey, the sights and sounds of Kathmandu are yours to explore. —ML
Black Tomato ( 877/ 815-1497; www.blacktomato.co.uk).
Himalayan Mountain Bike Adventures ( 977/ 1/ 421-2860; www.hmbadventures.com).
When to Go: Oct–Nov.
$$ Kantipur Temple House, Chusyabahal, Jyatha Tol, Thamel, Kathmandu ( 977/ 1/ 425-0129; www.kantipurtemplehouse.com).
$$ Hotel Courtyard, 67/27, Z-St., Thamel, Kathmandu ( 977/ 1/ 470-0648; www.hotelcourtyard.com).