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Top Gear sets out on perhaps its toughest road trip ever - a high-altitude voyage from Kathmandu, capital of Nepal, to the Forbidden City of Lo Manthang, a secretive kingdom perched high on the Tibetan plateau, on the far side of the Himalayas. It is a five-day expedition through the highest mountains, deepest gorges and harshest terrain on the planet.
On their journey, the Top Gear presenters battle river crossings, mudslides and dizzying mountain passes on a trip that would test even the hardiest new 4x4s on the planet to the limit. But Paddy, Freddie and Chris aren’t crossing the Himalayas in new 4x4s. They are crossing the Himalayas in a very small old Peugeot, a very small old Renault and Nepal’s first (and only) home-built car.
On his recent visit to discover "Hidden Nepal" with Snow Cat Travel and Etihad Airways, travel photographer Ben Read shot some amazing images of Nepal. Here's a selection for you to enjoy!
If you like high, wild, remote and authentic then the village of Charang in the former Kingdom of Mustang, Nepal more than ticks these "becoming harder and harder to find" boxes.
Sometimes spelled as Tsarang, the Tibetan influenced village of Charang lies at an altitude of around 12,000 feet on the sparsely populated Tibetan Plateau of Upper Mustang.
In early April 2019, renowned Travel Writer Simon Parker and Professional Travel Photographer Ben Read visited Nepal for the very first time.
Their brief was to produce an article about Nepal away from the main tourist trails for the prestigious ATLAS IN-FLIGHT MAGAZINE for ETIHAD AIRWAYS, one of the world's leading, luxury airlines. The Atlas Magazine is estimated to be read by up to 20 million people!
For the forthcoming Autumn 2019 season flights to Lukla will NOT be from Kathmandu. This will adversely affect the Everest Base Camp Trek and other Everest Treks including Luxury Everest treks.
We have been advised by the Nepal Civil Aviation Authority that all flights to Lukla will instead be from Manthali Airport.
This is BAD NEWS for anyone intending to trek to Everest Base Camp
The Snow Leopard has a special role as Messenger between the realms of the Gods and the realms of Man....just how can you see a wild snow leopard? The best snow leopard sighting I had was just a complete fluke.
These two circuit treks have "prima facie" a lot in common. But, they also have some differences too.
So, which to choose? The Annapurna Circuit Trek or the Manaslu Circuit Trek?
Both classic Himalayan treks, both "circuits", both challenging, both spectacular, both involve crossing a 5,000+m pass
I'm in the Tibetan influenced village of Kagbeni, as far as you can go into Upper Mustang without a special and rather costly permit (which I have) and am heading for the fabled "city" of Lo Manthang.
Mustang (formerly the Kingdom of Lo) was famously "off limits" until 1992. Lying "behind" the Himalayas on the high Tibetan Plateau, it remained culturally intact and is very different to the rest of Nepal.
His mission was to find out more about the mysterious Yarsagumba, half caterpillar, half fungus it's worth more than its weight than gold!
Author of Lonely Planet Trekking in Nepal and Rough Guides Nepal Stuart Butler recently travelled to Nepal with Snow Cat Travel.
Stuart undertook the amazing Manaslu Circuit Trek, which offers a dramatic circular trail with dramatic views in varied landscapes and to get a close-up view of one of the most strange and valuable natural products on earth.