Kathmandu Valley

Katmandu is the capital city of Nepal. Placements can be located in the city or in rural areas. Rural areas may be mountainous. All of the placement villages in this area are within a two hour drive from the city centre. Generally, they will have established infrastructure, including roads and accessible running water. You will most likely be able to make local and international phone calls from somewhere in your village, however, access to Internet is not common.

Explore the wonders of Kathmandu

As well as the capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu is also its largest city, located in the Kathmandu Valley. It is situated in a valley in the heart of Nepal. The city has a rich history dating back over two hundred years ago. Kathmandu attracts travellers from across the world from volunteers and trekkers to pilgrims visiting its truly sacred places.

It is thought that Kathmandu was founded in AD 723. According to legend, the area was a lake in the past, but was cut open in the south allowing water to flow out, making the region habitable.

The city is known for its numerous Hindu and Buddhist temples including in Durbar Square, built in the 16th century in the elaborate, wooden Newar style. Durbar square is home to Nepalís Kumari, a small girl who is chosen to be the living incarnation of the Hindu goddess.

Durbar Square is also home to the old Royal Palace which sits at the traditional heart of Kathmandu.

General Kathmandu Volunteer Information


Volunteers in Kathmandu will stay with a host family or in an orphanage if they are working in an orphanage home placement. People in Nepal are incredibly hospitable so you will be looked after well but may need to adjust the basic Nepali style accommodation. Toilets will probably not be Western, sit-down toilets and showers may not be running water but will come from water pumps. Electricity cuts take place every day in Nepal for an extended period of time which may also take some getting used to.


The Nepali staple food for families and in orphanages is "dal bhat" which is made up of rice (bhat), lentil soup (dal), vegetable curry (tarkari) and sometimes meat (masu) accompanied by a small amount of pickle/sauce (achar). You may also find a lot of curries, potato and bread based foods influenced by India and Tibet.


There is a lot to see and do in Kathmandu depending on what youíre interested in. The Monkey Temple, Pashupatinath and Bouddhanath are some of the popular sites to see; otherwise you can spend hours bargaining, shopping, eating and drinking in Thamel.


Chitwan is located approximately 150km from Kathmandu, in the Terai region of Nepal, a flat and fertile area on the border of India stretching out along the entire southern end of the country. Volunteers in Chitwan will be located nearby the city Narayanghar and will live with local host families. They will be able to travel into the town on the weekends to eat and socialize as well as access phone and internet services which may not be available in the village. You will be working in a school, community centre, orphanage home or health post.

The Chitwan region is predominantly made up of Tharu people, who often exist on very low income. The Tharu people are known for their farming abilities and unique traditional performance art including dancing and singing.

The Royal Chitwan National Park is the most popular tourist destination in the region home to an elephant breeding centre and various jungle species living in the wild. On an elephant safari through the park, you may see rhinos, hippos, deer, a variety of bird species and if you are lucky, the endangered Bengal Tiger.

General Chitwan Information


Similar to Kathmandu, volunteers in Chitwan will stay with a host family or in an orphanage if they are working in an orphanage home placement. You will need to adjust to the basic Nepali style accommodation. Toilets will probably not be Western, sit-down toilets and showers may not be running water showers but water pumps. Electricity cuts take place every day in Chitwan too. In your host family you will be encouraged you to get involved with traditional activities around the house like cooking and washing. You will gain an incredibly unique insight into the rich culture and traditions of rural Nepal.


The food is much the same as traditional family meals in Kathmandu - dal bhat twice a day, every day.


The main tourist attractions in the area are jeep and walking jungle safaris, elephant riding and elephant bathing in the national park, canoeing, bird and animal watching, biking and animal breeding projects.


Pokhara is about 200km west of Kathmandu and is about a five hour bus ride from the capital. Pokhara is Nepalís second biggest city and is very beautiful. There are plenty of things to see and do there. Lake Phewa, the second biggest lake in the country, the Annapurna mountain range and its views and the Peace Pagoda, are all situated in Pokhara. Pokhara is the starting point for some of the major trekking points in the Nepal, including the Annapurna Circuit, Jomson and Sarangot. As Pokhara remained undeveloped up until the 1960s, when the first major road from Kathmandu was constructed, it is a relatively modern city although does not boast as many historical and cultural attractions as Kathmandu. Pokhara is mostly made up of trekkers on their way to the Annapurna Base Camp and makes a very welcome change from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu due to its open spaces and natural beauty. There are also many temples to visit as well as boating to be done in the Phewa Lake.

General Pokhara Information


Accommodation in Pokhara is similar to the areas in and surrounding Kathmandu and in the Chitwan region. Host families are located nearby to volunteerís placements. In Pokhara you are also likely to have access to breathtaking mountain views from your home. During your time in the home you will be encouraged to participate in activities around the home such as cooking, washing and generally caring for the house and family as if you where a member of the family. We believe this is best way to experience real Nepali life.


In Pokhara you will also eat "Dal Bhat" although in the mountainous regions, Tibetan foods such as thugba (noodle soup), momos, tsampa and Tibetan breads are also popular. Volunteers will often travel into Pokhara over the weekends because of the large variety of Western meals that are available there.


Activities in Pokhara include trekking, boating on the beautiful Phewa Lake, visiting the numerous Buddhist and Hindu temples, seeing museums and Yoga Ashram centres in the area.


Nepal is a land-locked country wedged between the two super powers, China and India. The immense mountains of Tibet to the north and the once disease ridden flat plains of the Indian terai region in the south, east and west mean that Nepal has remained relatively untouched by British colonization and Chinaís communist rule. Nepal is 147,181 square kilometers and the population is approximately 29 million (CIA 2009). The growth rate of Nepalís population is 2.2 % and the life expectancy is 59.8%.

There are a variety of ethnic groups in Nepal with the majority of the population belonging to the Chettri tribe followed by the Brahmin-Hill, Magar, Thauru, Tamang, Newar, Kami and Yadav groups. Almost 50% of the population speaks Nepali as their mother tongue language, the countryís national language. There are 20 other languages and many dialects spoken in Nepal. Approximately 80% of the population is Hindu, 10% are Buddhist and 10% are Muslim, Christian or other. Many Hindu and Buddhist Nepalese practice both faiths. It is quite common for a Hindu Nepali to worship at Bouddanath, Nepalís largest Buddhist Stupa, or for Buddhist Nepaliís (many of whom are from the Himalayan region or Tibetan refugees) to visit Pashupatinath Nepalís most famous and sacred Hindu temple.

The country can be divided into three topographical areas. The terai area in the south (closest to India) contains 23% of the countries land area and 45% of its population and is between 200 and 1000 feet above sea level. The hilly area where Kathmandu is found contains 42% of Nepalís land mass and 47% of its population and is 1000-16000 feet above sea level. The mountains to the north contain 35% of the land area and only 8% of its population and sit over 16000 feet above sea level. International trade is vitally important to Nepalís economy with its major trade partner being India and major commodities carpet, clothing, grain, herbal treatments, pashmina, oils and jute goods (Nepal Channel 2009). Agriculture provides approximately 90% of the countryís working population with employment. Tourism is also responsible for much of Nepalís foreign exchange earnings.

There is significantly more wealth in Kathmandu than there is in the villages of Nepal. Kathmandu is home to the Royal Palace, which housed the descendants of the Shah dynasty who ruled Nepal from 1769 until May 2008. Gyanedra (the last Hindu King) no longer lives in the palace since losing power to the Maoists after 10 years of civil war. The Palace has now opened its doors to the public and showcases 240 years of accumulated power in a museum revealing the immense gap between the rich and the poor in Nepal (Gregson 2002 p.1). While poverty touches almost every family in rural Nepal, the pockets of wealth in urban Kathmandu exist in stark contrast to the lives of the poor in the nationís capital. Nepal remains a predominantly agricultural society. Agriculture accounts for approximately 40% of Nepalís GDP and 76% of its population make a living from growing a range of produce such as tea, rice, corn, sugarcane and wheat.

Since 1996 the Maoist political party of Nepal have fought the Nepalese royal family and the Nepalese Army in an attempt to bring an end to the outdated monarchy and to establish a democracy. While the founding members of the Maoist party are mostly retired Ghurka soldiers from the British and Indian Army, the Maoist party is also characterised by its large number of female members and supporters as well as other ethnic groups like the Magars, Thaurus and Tamangs. Maoist leadership is mostly made up of Brahmins and Chettris. After the fall of the monarchy the Maoists agreed to a ceasefire and to cooperate with other political parties in developing a new democratic government (Nepal News 2009).

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Volunteers' Testimonials

6th / Dec / 2008

Take lots of things to do and read, as in the mountains there are less people to talk with, and if there is no school...

- Tegan Burnet

Sep / 2008

The Langtang area is very impressive, and waking up every morning with the view of the massive mountains...

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