Nepal features eight of the top ten highest mountains in the world, so it’s no wonder that people travel there from all over the world to trek. It’s a once in a lifetime experience. It offers great variety, from lush forest to terraced fields, rocky moraine to high altitude glaciers. In remote areas like Dolpo and Mustang there are ancient kingdoms to visit, strongly influenced by Tibetan culture and Buddhism, while the lowlands offer Hindu peoples and several sacred shrines.
The traditional seasons run from October to November and March to May, the former best for air clarity and views, the latter for spring flowers and rhododendrons. December and January are very cold at high altitudes but with the advent of lodges and tea houses, and a move away from camping, the cold is less of an issue. Always check that the accommodations are open before setting out for one. June to September is the monsoon when most trails are slippery and infested with leeches. Its a good time to visit Mustang and the other valleys of the High Himalaya, situated in the rain shadow of the mountains and kept dry. Its also a great time in the Kathmandu valley, lush vegetation and the pollution and dust kept down by the rains.
Remember, never trek alone. These are remote places with steep sided trails. If you are alone and slip from the trail, chances of rescue can be slim.
So which trek to do? Here are some of the best you can choose between..
Everest Base Camp
Everest is the tallest mountain in the world at 29,029 feet (8,848 m). Climbing Mount Everest is the ultimate ambition for many climbers, and with commercial climbing companies offering places at US$50,000 its climbed by many people every year, conditions permitting. For those with less experience it is possible to make the trek to the base camp at the foot of the mountain, situated on the Khumbu Glacier. Not only will you get to see the mountain up close, but you also get to see some amazing sights on the way. There are Sherpa (the local, indigenous people now synonymous with climbing guides) villages such as Khunde, Pangboche and Namche Bazaar to explore, Buddhist monasteries like Thangboche and Khunjung to visit.
It’s not an easy trek to make, as you climb to 17,600 feet so you will need to be fit and have some experience of trekking before starting. You’ll need to allow around 15 days for the trek in total, starting and finishing at Lukla, a small town with a spectacular airstrip high in the Khumbu region. If you have longer you can walk into Everest from the road heads, wither near Jiri or Phaphlu, adding about 5-6 days to the trip but giving some great views of the foothills and villages.
Whilst Everest is the most famous mountain in Nepal, the Annapurna Circuit is the most well known trek. You’ll pass through a number of different types of terrain, including jungle, alpine, and lush valleys. You’ll also see the deepest gorge in the world the Kali Gandaki that cuts between Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Himals, not to mention passing through beautiful villages. The northern part of the circuit is in the Buddhist Manang valley, the southern through the lush Hindu foothills. You also visit Muktinath, a sacred place for all Hindus with an eternal flame at one of the sources of the Ganges, hot springs at Tatopani and pass through stunning rhododendron forests in the spring.
It’s still a difficult trek, but it’s easier to acclimatise to the altitude, and is therefore a bit more easy going than Everest, even though you will reach the height of 17,769 feet when crossing the Thorong La pass. It can take up to 21 days to complete, depending on which tour you go on or where you start your trek, although with the construction of roads and jeep tracks it can be done much quicker. It used to be considered the best trek in the world for scenery and variety, until the roads cut into ite remoteness. This mantle has passed in Nepal to Manaslu.
For a more remote trek, the Manaslu Circuit is a good choice for travellers. It’s less crowded compared to other treks, and circumnavigates the eighth tallest mountain in the world, Manaslu at 26,759 ft (8,156 m). You will reach around 17,000 feet, and will trek from jungle to high altitude mountains. As its more remote, and you need to go with at least one other person and preferably a guide, plus get the necessary permits for the trek and any side areas yoiu may wish to detour into – there are some remote Tibetan influenced areas to see. Allow around 15 days to complete the trek, From Kathmandu, you’ll need to make your way to Soti Khola, which takes around six hours in a jeep.
If you’re not an experienced trekker, and want something a bit easier, then the Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek is an excellent trek. It’s much shorter in duration, just five days, and you’ll reach just under 10,000 feet. Even though it’s a less demanding trek, the scenery is no less beautiful. It’s recommended that you complete this trek in March to May, as then you will see the Rhododendron Forest in full bloom, which is an amazing sight. However, the highlight of this trip is seeing the sun rise over the Annapurna range from the famous view point at Poon Hill, a huge vista of Himalayan peaks from Dhaulagiri in the west to the entire Annapurna Massif including the spectacular Machapuchure, the fishtail mountain.
The trek starts in Nayapul, and you can take a bus there from Pokhara. The accommodation is excellent, ranging from local tea houses through to some luxury lodges strategically placed along the route. Some of the best, confortable and traditional are the Ker and Downey Lodges.
Another scenic trek is the Gokyo Ri Trek. You’ll pass by gorgeous lakes – three in total, siad to have been made by the trident of Shiva., the biggest glacier in Nepal, and see snowy mountains. You actually get a better view of Everest from the viewpoint at Gokyo than you do on the Base Camp trek, Based in the Khumbu region, you’ll have to cross over several suspension bridges, and make your way through forests, which makes this trek a bit more adventurous. It’s also a lesser known trek, so isn’t as busy as others in Nepal. It’s moderate in difficulty, and takes around 12 days to complete. The recommended time to do this is March to May or October to November, and you’ll reach the height of around 17,500 feet. You’ll need to fly from Kathmandu to Lukla, which takes around 40 minutes.
These are a few of the treks available in Nepal. here are plenty more, from visiting the base camps of Makalu or Kanchenjunga, to the far west of Nepal and the remote Humla region with its untouched feel and strong Tibetan flavour. If your time is limited consider the Langtang region, due north of Kathmandu and offering exceptional trekking, especially for those interested in peoples and culture.
Whichever one you choose, you are guaranteed an unforgettable experience, breathtaking scenery, and a sense of accomplishment when you reach the end point.
The perfect place to relax after any trek in the Annapurnas, or enjoy stunning views of the Himalayas for those who prefer not to trek is Tiger Mountain Lodge. Traditional architecture, peaceful setting, stunning view, friendly service, excellent food.