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Village Tourism

Village TourismNepal is a predominantly rural society, and its rich culture and ethnic diversity are best experienced in its villages. A growing number of programmes enable visitors to stay overnight in private homes in traditional villages far from the tourist trails.

Village stays (or village tourism, as this relatively new activity is called in the business) offer a unique opportunity for comfortable cultural immersion. The idea is that a tour operator contracts with a whole village to accommodate and entertain guests; rooms in local houses are fitted with bathrooms and a few tourist-style comforts, host families are trained to prepare meals hygienically, and a guide accompanies the guests to interpret. Participating villages tend to be located a couple of hours' walk from the nearest road - close enough to be easily accessible for less-than-fit visitors, yet far enough to be culturally intact and shielded from outside influences. (You'd never find these places on your own.)

Village tourism differs from trekking in a couple of important ways. First, although some walking is involved, and a trekking permit may even be required, exercise is secondary to the cultural experience: the whole point is to stay in one village and get to know its people, not to cover distances between villages. Second, accommodation is in an actual home, not a trekking inn filled with other backpackers, so the cross-cultural exchange is more authentic. And while participating villages obviously do get tourists, they get far fewer than even the most minor halt along a standard teahouse trek, and are completely uncommercialized.

Tourism and its economic benefits are far too concentrated in a few areas of Nepal, so village tourism is seen as a promising way to disperse visitors and spread thewealth. Under the best programmes, local people get to keep 50 percent of the proceeds - that's big money, given the high rates charged by operators - and since all food and services are locally produced, virtually all of the money stays in the community. However, if village tourism catches on, get-rich-quick operators can be expected to dive in with cut-price packages that give locals a much smaller portion of the cut, so if you're considering a village stay, question prospective operators closely about where the money's going.

So if you're an individual orcouple you should contact the companies well in advance and adjust your schedule to coordinate with already-scheduled departures.

A few language institutes and other recoganizations in Kathmandu also organize informal homestays with individual families in and around the valley. Most of these are intended specifically to provide Nepali language immersion, but at least one programme is set up for tourists just wanting to spend a weekend with a Nepali family