Himalayas, the "abode of snows", extends from Assam in eastern
India west to Afghanistan. It is a chain of the highest and youngest
mountains on earth and it encompasses a region of deep religious and
cultural traditions and an amazing diversity of people. A trek in Nepal is a
special and rewarding mountain holiday.
If you have the time and energy to trek, don't miss the opportunity to
leave Kathmandu and see the spectacular beauty and the unique culture of
Nepal. Fortunately for the visitor, there are still only a few roads
extending deeply into the hills, so the only way to truly visit the remote
regions of the kingdom is in the slowest and most intimate manner - walking.
It requires more time and effort, but the rewards are also greater.
Instead of zipping down a
freeway, racing to the next "point of interest," each step
provides new and intriguing viewpoints. You will perceive your day as an
entity rather than a few highlights strung together by a ribbon of concrete.
For the romanticist, each step follows the footsteps of Hillary, Tenzing,
Herzog and other Himalayan explorers. If you have neither the patience nor
the physical stamina to visit the hills of Nepal on foot, a helicopter
flight provides an expensive and unsatisfactory substitute.
Trekking in Nepal will take you through a country that has captured the
imagination of mountaineers and explorers for more than 100 years. You will
meet people in remote mountain villages whose lifestyle has not changed in
generations. Most people trust foreigners.
is traditionally a crucial element of any wilderness experience but in Nepal
it is impossible to get completely away from people, except for short times
or at extremely high elevations
While trekking you will see the great diversity of Nepal. Villages embrace
many ethnic groups and cultures. The terrain changes from tropical jungle to
high glaciated peaks in only 150 km. From the start, the towering peaks of
the Himalaya provide one of the highlights of a trek. As your plane
approaches Kathmandu these peaks appear to be small clouds on the horizon.
The mountains become more definable and seem to reach impossible heights as
you get closer and finally land at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan Airport.
Major Trek Routes of Nepal
There are many criteria that might influence your choice of a trek. If you
have the time and are in reasonably good condition, the Everest walk-in
trek, which allows you a glimpse of both lowland villages as well as the
high Himalaya, is the best choice. If time is a constraint, check the
various that are less than a week long, or if you don't want to trek to a
high elevation, look at the treks listed under low altitude treks. If you
are an experienced trekker, and want to go to one of the newly opened
regions of Nepal, such as Mustang, look at the list of restricted area
Treks by Region
The Everest Region
The Khumbu or Everest region is the most popular trekking area in Nepal. It
would probably be the most popular destination, but it is more difficult to
get to Solu Khumbu than to the Annapurna area. To get near Everest, you must
either walk for 10 days or fly to Lukla, a remote mountain airstrip where
flights are notoriously unreliable.
Solu Khumbu is justifiably famous, not only for its proximity to the
world's highest mountain (8848 metres), but also for its Sherpa villages and
monasteries. The primary goal of an Everest trek is the Everest base camp at
an elevation of about 5340 metres. But you cannot see Everest from the base
camp, so most trekkers climb Kala Pattar, an unassuming 5545-metre bump on
the southern flank of Pumori (7145 metres).
Everest Expedition Route
This is the best way to do an Everest trek. It follows much of the old
approach route followed by Everest expeditions from the 1950's through the
70's. It provides a good opportunity to see the densely populated middle
hills and the high altitude splendor of the Khumbu, or Everest, region. The
portion of the trek from Jiri to Lukla is often uncrowded, and therefore
much better trekking country. From Namche the trek follows the Lukla to
Everest base camp route and then flies out from Lukla.
If your time is limited, you can fly in to the remote mountain airstrip at
Lukla and trek to the Sherpa capital of Namche Bazaar, the monastery at
Tengpoche and the high yak pasture of Dingboche. This trek provides an
overview of Sherpa culture and excellent views of the high Himalaya.
The Khumbu Traverse
This trek offers an alternative to the traditional trek to Everest base
camp. Climb past the Sherpa villages of Namche Bazaar and Khumjung to the
Gokyo Valley and the Ngozumpa Glacier, the largest in the Nepal Himalaya.
From Gokyo Ri four 8000-metre peaks (Cho Oyu, Everest, Lhotse and Makalu)
are visible at once. Descend to Phortse, make a high traverse to the village
of Pangboche and climb on towards Everest Base Camp. The return route leads
through Dingboche and the monastery of Tengpoche before descending the
Khumbu Valley to Lukla.
Central Nepal is dominated by the Annapurna Himal and the village of
Pokhara. There are three major trekking routes in central Nepal: to Jomsom,
to Annapurna Sanctuary, and a circuit of the Annapurna Himal itself. Pokhara
is also a good starting place for short treks of one to four days, including
the "Royal" trek, which is described here. Mustang is also
geographically a part of the Annapurna region.
About two-thirds of the trekkers in Nepal visit the Annapurna region. The
area is easily accessible, hotels in the hills are plentiful, and treks here
offer good scenery of both high mountains and lowland villages.
The views of the mountains are spectacular, and the route actually crosses
to the other side of the main Himalayan range for some unusual views of the
northern flanks. The entire route remains below 3000 metres, though the trek
is still strenuous enough to be stimulating (see the Route Profile for the
trek around Annapurna). This is a good trek if you wish to avoid high
The route to Annapurna Sanctuary (Annapurna Deuthali in Nepali), the site
of the Annapurna south face base camp, is a spectacular short trek. Though
it has some steep climbs, the trek is not difficult. The major problem with
this trek is that it can become impassable because of snow and avalanches in
winter and early spring. It is the only major trekking route in Nepal that
has significant avalanche danger, so you must inquire locally whether the
trail is safe. Some trekkers have died because of avalanches, and others
have been stranded in the sanctuary for days. The sanctuary trek traverses a
variety of terrain, from lowland villages and rice terraces to glaciers, and
offers outstanding high mountain views. This trek is a fine opportunity to
surround yourself with Himalayan peaks in a short time, without having to
contend with the altitude and flight problems of the Everest region
A visit to the Langtang Valley offers an opportunity to explore villages,
to climb small peaks and to visit glaciers at a comfortably low elevation.
Because there are good opportunities for moderate climbing excursions here,
allow an extra day for exploration of the extensive glacier system.
Trek back from Langtang to Kathmandu via the holy lakes of Gosainkund at
4300 metres. Thousands of Hindu pilgrims visit the lakes during a full moon
festival in August. The lake is also sacred to Buddhists.
To the north-east of Kathmandu lies a chain of peaks called Jugal Himal,
which includes Dorje Lakpa (6966 metres), Madiya (6257 metres) and Phurbi
Chhyachu (6637 metres). The trek starts from the large bazaar of Chautaara
(1410 metres), descends to the Balephi Khola, then follows a ridge to
Bhairav Kund, a holy lake at 3500 metres. The route then makes a circuit
around the head of the Balephi Khola Valley to Panch Pokhari ("five
lakes") at 3600 metres. From Panch Pokhari, the trail leads to Tarke
Gyang in Helambu, then back to Kathmandu. This is a remote and unfrequented
region, despite its proximity to Kathmandu. Treks in this area involve a lot
of climbing on narrow trails. There are few villages and no hotels on this
route and water is very scarce on the ridge.
This trek was officially opened to tourists in 1991, but mountaineering
expeditions have long had access to the area. In 1950 a party led by H W
Tilman trekked from Thonje to Bimtang and Colonel Jimmy Roberts crossed the
Larkya La looking for an interesting mountain to climb. Manaslu (8156
metres) was attempted by Japanese expeditions every year from 1952 until
1956, when the first ascent was made. Having become known as a "Japanese
mountain", much of the information about the area was available only in
Japanese. The Japanese continued to dominate the climbing scene on Manaslu
Trekking goals in eastern Nepal include Makalu base camp, an eastern
approach to Everest, and the area near Kanchenjunga. There is endless
variety in this part of the country. Most ethnic groups are represented and
many villages, such as Dhankuta, Khandbari and Bhojpur, are large,
prosperous and clean. The area has hot, rice-growing districts and also
encompasses the cooler tea-growing region of Ilam. The heavily populated
Middle Hills are gouged by the mighty Arun River which has cut through at an
elevation of less than 400 metres. The Arun is flanked by the major mountain
massifs of Kanchenjunga and Makalu. Treks here tend to be more expensive,
since you and your gear must travel to eastern Nepal by bus or plane. The
treks are also longer because it requires two weeks to travel from Dharan to
the high mountains. Flying to STOL airstrips at Tumlingtar and Taplejung can
shorten the time, but increases the expense.
One of the most spectacular peaks in the region is Jannu (Khumbakarna), at
7710 metres. The Nepalese renamed this peak Khumbakarna in 1984 when a
committee Nepalised the names of many peaks. Jannu was also called "Mystery
Peak" and "Peak of Terror" by early expeditions. A French
team made the first ascent of Jannu in 1962.
East of Everest
This trek provides an interesting approach to Solu Khumbu (the Mt Everest
region). Tilman, the first foreign visitor to Everest base camp, used this
route in 1950. It traverses the width of the country, from the jungles of
the terai to the high Himalaya
Kanchenjunga South Baes Camp
The lowland portion of this region is culturally intriguing, but there are
few good mountain views. Once the trek reaches the high country south of
Kanchenjunga, the mountain scenery is some of the most spectacular in the
world. The Kanchenjunga region is the home of the Limbus. Relatives of the
Rais, Limbus dominate the region east of the Arun River and few live
elsewhere. Limbu men wear a distinctive talltopi, a Nepalese cap that is
much more colourful than that worn by other Nepalese
Makalu Base Camp
The trek to Makalu base camp visits one of the most remote and unfrequented
areas of Nepal. The Barun Valley is part of a huge international protected
area under an agreement between Nepal and China. The trek crosses several
high passes as it climbs into the remote Barun Valley at the foot of Makalu,
the world's fifth highest mountain
Many people describe western Nepal as "unexplored", but
Westerners have a bad habit of assuming that what is unknown to them is
unknown to everyone. Western Nepal has a large population of both Hindus and
Buddhists, and the countryside is crisscrossed by trails in all directions.
It is remote and unknown from the Western viewpoint because of its relative
inaccessibility and its distance from Kathmandu.
The history and anthropology of western Nepal is complex and fascinating.
The region is predominantly Hindu. Tibetans make up only a small part of the
population, yet they have had a significant influence on the area through
trading. Most of the homes are Tibetan style. Their flat roofs covered with
packed earth are well suited to the semiarid conditions of the region behind
Jumla to Rara Lake
Rara Lake is the focal point of Rara Lake National Park and is a good
destination for a trek in western Nepal. The route is very much "off
the beaten track" and affords glimpses of cultures and scenery very
different from that in the rest of Nepal. Rara is a clear, high altitude
lake ringed with pine, spruce and juniper forests and snowcapped Himalayan
peaks. In winter there is often snow on the ridges surrounding the lake.
Except for the army assigned to the park, nobody lives at the lake because
the government resettled all the people of Rara and Chapra villages when the
area was declared a national park.
Jumla to Dolpo
Dolpo is a remote region of Nepal that has been bypassed by development
and, until recently, by tourism. Although a few anthropologists and
geographers had explored the region, the entire district was closed to
trekkers until 1989 when the southern part of Dolpo was opened to organised
trekking groups. This trek traverses the interesting trade route from Jumla
to Dunai, then visits Phoksumdo Lake and the Tibetan style inner Dolpo
region of Tarap before flying back from Dunai to Nepalgunj.