With the highest and most magnificent mountains on planet Earth, it is not surprising that this tiny country called Nepal attracts more and more visitors year on year.
Eight Popular Treks to consider in Nepal
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If you are visiting Nepal for the first time, trekking in the foothills of these majestic giants is unlike anything most people will have done before. But just what trek to do?. It is never easy to pick one, the magnificent Himalayas running spine like on Nepal’s Northern border provides an enticing array of trekking options. Keeping things simple, three main trekking regions cater for the vast majority of trekkers who visit Nepal.
The Everest Region, the Annapurna Region, and the Langtang Region. I have chosen to focus on the two major regions namely Everest and the Annapurna.
The Everest Region:
1) Everest Base Camp Trek
Recommended 12 to 14 Days from Lukla, 5545 Meters:
A trek to Everest Base Camp is a wonderful trekking experience as you follow in the footsteps once walked by the iconic mountaineers' Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Most people like to at least view Mount Everest when in Nepal; it is possible on a clear day to view a small speck in the far-off distance from The Kathmandu Valley rim. Some people choose the comfort of a plane seat on one of the many daily mountain sightseeing trips from Kathmandu. However, there is only one way for the ultimate Everest experience. A trek up to Kalapathar in the early morning before sunrise, when your muscles may be aching and the air is thin, and go stand face to face with the last earthly rung on the journey to the heavens. Without a doubt, a very special experience that more than makes up for any discomfort along the way. Mounts Everest, Lhotse, and Nuptse reaching out to touch and welcome you to their ice-clad party if just for a while.
The trek-up is not too demanding but it does have some “toughish” days. However, if you are reasonably fit E.B.C. is very possible. It is a high-altitude trek so make sure you take two days to acclimatize on the way up. One day at Namche Bazaar and one at Dingboche.
Getting there is often as important and enlightening as the destination itself. As you trek up towards your goal, you enter into the unique and colorful mountain world of Sherpa people. These people are truly hardy folk, weathered and shaped by the harsh mountain environment. Soak up their interesting monasteries and way of life. The abundance of wildlife and nature on the way, all go to add to a magnificent trekking journey.
Comment: A classic trip providing the ultimate trekking experience and one to tick off the Bucket List.
2) A journey to Everest Base Camp via Gokyo Lakes
Recommended 16 to 18 Days 5545 Meters:
This journey is more remote, although challenging and physically demanding at times, it takes you off the beaten Everest trail and provides the ultimate adventure experience in the region. A trek that promises spectacular views as you hike the grandest mountain scenery on this earth. The route goes even deeper into the heart of Nepal’s hardiest people with Sherpa culture at its best. Take time to visit the largest Buddhist monastery in the Khumbu region at Tyangboche and appreciate the beauty of both its gompa and its setting. The power of nature is so apparent here.
On the way to base camp, trek to the pristine blue Gokyo Lake to experience the breathtaking panoramic scenery the Cho La pass provides before heading on to Everest Base Camp. At your final destination, it is impossible not to be overwhelmed by the sight of the snow-capped giants dominating the skyline all around you. 8,000m peaks of Lhotse and Nuptse, and of course Mt Everest itself. A life-changing experience for many.
Comment: If you are looking for a challenging trek away from the crowds with amazing scenery, this trek is well worth considering.
3) The Three Passes Trek taking in Everest Base Camp
Recommended 17 to 18 Days 5545 Meters:
This is another challenging and often strenuous off-the-beaten-track trekking experience that meanders through remote valleys and over high passes with superlative scenery every step of the way. All three passes are over 5,000m, each offering amazing scenery and views. The trek links both the Everest Base Camp and the Gokyo Lakes trek with two additional trails to the east and west of the region. It is very important to acclimatize so build in acclimatization days as you go and the key to the success of any high-altitude trek is steady ascents on the way, especially up the three long and demanding pass trekking days. Many hardened trekkers rates this trek to be the best to do in Nepal.
The best time to do the trek is spring (March-May) and autumn (October-November). It is possible to do it in the monsoon season (June – early September) however the weather is less predictable. Some people choose this time as it fits better with their vacation schedule. The Winter season (December – February) it is quite cold and there is a good possibility that snow may block the passes. It is best to do the Three Passes trek counter-clockwise. Although it is possible to do this trek clockwise, due to the steep altitude gain of crossing the Renjo La first, it is not recommended. Make sure to add an extra day to visit the remote Gokyo Lakes farther up the glacial valley.
Comment: Both challenging and strenuous at times so you need to be fit and resilient given its high pass crossings. It is much more challenging than a trek to Everest Base Camp, but not quite as challenging as summiting a trekking peak such as Island Peak or Mera Peak.
The Annapurna Region:
4) Annapurna Base Camp
Recommended 8 to 14 Days 4130 Meters.:
The Annapurna Base Camp Trek is a beautiful and very rewarding trek in the Annapurna Region. It provides stunning mountain vistas with exceptional views of some of the highest mountains on earth. It is a great introduction to trekking along with Nepalese mountain culture at its best. The trek winds through picturesque villages, and dense forests of Oak and Rhododendron which contain a wide variety of wildlife. The scenery changes dramatically as you gain altitude with much more rugged terrain on the push-up to Base Camp. The final destination Annapurna Base Camp lies deep in the heart of Annapurna. Known also as the Annapurna Sanctuary, it is a huge ice-clad amphitheater situated at an altitude of 4130 m. Be prepared for a magical experience with the mountains towering almost vertically above you. Breathtaking views of Annapurna I (8091 m), Annapurna III (7937m), Annapurna IV (7 525m), Gangapurna (7455m), and Machhapuchhre (6993m).If you consider this trek make sure you combine it with a visit to Pun Hill for perhaps the best sunrise anywhere in the world.
Comment: For Spectacular mountain views without too much effort A.B.C. is a really good option.
5) The Annapurna Circuit
Recommended 12 to 17 days 5416 Meters.
The Annapurna Circuit Trek is still highly popular despite the fact that access to each of the major valleys that cut through the Himalayas to the east and west of the Annapurna Massif improves each year as more sections of jeep road are completed. Although the road is not that busy, it is worth making the effort to avoid hiking on it as much as possible. Nowadays many people choose to fly back to Pokhara from Jomsom. It is still a journey full of surprises and in many ways encompasses the very best of what Nepal has to offer. The complete circuit from Dhumre took in the past between 18 and 21 days and without a doubt, it was a better trek then. However, the circuit still retains enough for any adventurous trekker to enjoy. The Manang Valley alone is well worth a visit; it is a very beautiful valley and one of many reasons to consider this trek. The valley is heaped in culture and tradition and remains devoutly Buddhist. Crossing the magnificent Thorung La 5416 mtrs is still the same challenge where you are rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the Annapurna’s, Manaslu, and the Dhauligiri massif. The pass is spectacular on a clear day with peaks all around you. Descend to The temple at Muktinath directly after crossing the pass for another highlight; it is an extremely important pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Buddhists. The Temple is surrounded by rugged mountain landscapes with unparalleled views of Dhaulagiri (8167m), the world’s 7th highest mountain. From here you have choices, either trek one day to Jomsom and fly back to Pokhara or continue on to Tatopani (either on foot or by Jeep good hot springs at Tatopani) and then from Tatopani perhaps trek up to Ghorepani (Poon Hill) to witness a beautiful sunrise over both the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Himalayan ranges.
Comment: Well worth the effort despite the changes fantastic views along with deep Buddhist culture.
6) Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek
Recommended 4 to 7 days Days 3210 Meters:
This is the most popular trek in Nepal and is ideal if you are short on time or have young children. The trek is an area of outstanding beauty and the lodges a very good. Pun Hill for sunrise over both the Annapurna Himalaya and Dhaulagiri Himalaya has to be the highlight of this short Himalayan journey, adding to what certainly is the most scenic short trek in Nepal. In a rush, it could be completed in three days but that would be such a waste, a much more leisurely six days and longer still if you want to chill out in beautiful Ghandruk for a day or two is much better. The lush sub-tropical forest rich with wildlife, and pretty villages with neatly terraced rice fields stands out. There are some great ridges that provide spectacular Himalayan panoramas to make up a great few days of trekking in a region of outstanding beauty.
Comment: An ideal introduction to trekking in Nepal, with great facilities, and good food.
7) Mardi Himal Trek
Recommended 6 to 10 Days 4500 Meters:
The Mardi Himal Trek is a good choice for people who are looking for an ‘off the beaten path trekking experience in the quieter parts of the Annapurna region of Nepal. It is a lovely journey up to Mardi Himal Base Camp and finally to the high camp. Some beautiful nature to appreciate on the way with verdant forests, interesting villages to stop in, and great views of the valleys, terraced farms, and dazzling rivers down below. The vistas are outstanding, especially Annapurna, Machhapuchre (Fishtail), and Hiunchuli. One benefit of this trekking route is that the trail makes a small circuit so that you don’t have to backtrack over the same terrain.
Comment: if you are short on time and you are looking for a more solitary experience appreciate the excellent hill and mountain landscape this trek provides both.
More Remote Region:
8) Upper Mustang Trek
Recommended 10 to 15 Days 4200 Meters:
Upper Mustang is set within arid and haunting wilderness amongst wind-eroded hills and cliffs on the border with Tibet. As it is situated within the Himalayan Rain Shadow, it makes for a great trekking experience during the monsoon from July to October.
The area was first opened to tourists in 1992 and with strict limits on the number of people allowed to travel there. The permit is pretty stiff at $500 for ten days but if you are looking for something very different in Nepal the trek certainly provides that.
The destination is Lo Manthang, the capital of Upper Mustang. The town was built on the orders of the first King of Lo in 1380 A.D.ThKali. A recent road has been built so to avoid this as much as the possible trek up The Gandaki Valley and look for the occasional excursions high above the valley walls. The region in the main is arid, settlements in Mustang are scattered with little sign of cultivation between villages. Not a particularly hard trek but one to test your stamina at times and Lo Manthang is a joy to behold. The town stands as a monument to Lo Manthang’s rich history and cultural heritage that flourished centuries ago due to its prominent position on the major ancient salt trade route from Tibet to Nepal.
Many gompas (religious shrines) and houses surround the king’s palace and Lo Mangtang itself is contained within the eight meters high and 700 meters long boundary wall. Along the boundary wall, there are a series of 14 guard towers, built to protect the town from its many envious enemies of the past.
Comment: The Upper Mustang trek is both fascinating and eye-opening in a very different setting than the more established trekking regions of Nepal.