Hermits, Sherpas, yaks and yetis--Nepal is both a kingdom and a state of mind. Located on the highest heights of the Himalayas with none other than Mount Everest as its tallest icon, Nepal is the ultimate destination for pilgrims venturing to the most remote Buddhist and Hindu temples and monasteries.

Nepal is the original home of Buddhism, as Lumbini is where Siddartha Gautam, the Buddha, was born in 623 BCE. He grew up in a palace in the nearby village of Tilaurakot. For many Americans it’s also a wonderland of adventure for avid hikers who want to explore the Everest region. High villages and Sherpa hamlets as well as ancient monasteries offer experiences at the literal top of the world. Chitwan National Park remains one of the best places to spot a tiger or a rhino, and in recent years the Nepalese have grown their adventure portfolio to include white-water rafting, kayaking and other adrenaline-inducing activities.

It’s been said that Krishna himself cut the Kathmandu Valley out of the rock with a divine sword. That would explain its multitude of Hindu and Buddhist temples. Nepal has always been a place where the smoke of history mingles with the mists of myth and religion. Civilization in the Kathmandu Valley dates back at least 2,300 years; as visitors explore the lost kingdoms in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur they walk the very seam of history and prehistory. In Kathmandu where travel in Nepal begins, everything starts in the ancient square of Dubar. Many temples and the Kumari Palace are clustered around the square. About 120 miles away, the second-largest city, Pokhara, is a subtropical area of lakes, rivers and steep verticality with difference of 1,000 to 7,000 meters within a short distance from each other.

The Nepalese, while among the poorest people in the world, are not impoverished as their rich culture provides them with what they consider a proud endowment. Consequently, despite the palace turmoil of recent years, they are known to be hospitable to visitors. Dhal, chutney, chapatti and other Indian mainstays are common throughout Nepal, but the dishes change depending on the region and the religion preparing the meal. Goat, chicken, fish and the occasional buffalo will sometimes find their way onto the menu, but vegetarianism is widespread. Nepal is a long way from its first Michelin star, but visitors will find memorable experiences from mingling with the people in humble eateries.

You can’t fly directly to Nepal from the U.S., but such carriers as British Airways, Dragon Air, Gulf Air, Indian Airlines, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways offer service out of their respective hubs. Unless you’re traveling by private car, most visitors get around the country by bus. Temperatures in Kathmandu range from the 30s to the 80s depending on the time of year. It’s hottest from April to October and rainiest from May to September.