This article article is part of a series entitled The Wild and Wonderful Nepal:
- The Wild and Wonderful Nepal: Festivals you shouldn’t miss
- The Wild and Wonderful Nepal: Boudhanath Stupa – the largest Buddhist monument outside Tibet
- The Wild and Wonderful Nepal: Trekking in Nepal
General trekking tips
Nepal has some of the world’s best trekking paths – extremely high mountains, dazzling landscapes, a huge range of plants and animals, and a surprising ease through which you can discover all of this. Many people visit the country just to trek, and the country is well prepared to handle all the incoming tourists – you’ll find people speaking English everywhere, a decent infrastructure and reasonable prices (usually). There’s something for everyone – a myriad of trekking styles and destinations to choose from.
The most common type of trekking in Nepal is teahouse trekking – basically you walk on the main paths, from teahouse to teahouse; the term refers to cottages or lodges where you can eat, sleep, and of course, have a cup of the famous Nepalese tea. This is the traveling type which requires minimal preparation and effort, with the teahouses varyin from something like a hotel to a very rustic lodge. However, be aware that you need a trekking permit issued by the Department of Immigration in order to trek in any part of Nepal, aside for the most popular areas of Annapurna, Khumbu and Langtang/Helambu. But even in those areas, you need a TIMS (Trekker Information Management System) card, which is only available through the Nepal Tourism Board offices and the Trekking Agents Association of Nepal office. Pay special attention to this, as the fines are heavy, and any attempt to bribe the police or the personnel will get you in more trouble than you think.
If you want to go for the real Nepalese adventure and choose to camp, you can do it more or less everywhere in the country – but do this only if you really know what you’re doing, and you have a lot of experience camping in the mountains (though the Himalayas are unlike anything on the planet). Camping trekking is fully organized and supported with a team of guides, cooks, sherpas and porters to accompany you.
Here’s a few things you should be aware of:
Altitude sickness. Most people don’t have it, but especially if you’re not fit or you have breathing or circulatory problems, you should be aware that this can be a problem. In order to be sure, contact your doctor and ask about this.
Water. Although you’ll see locals drinking from many streams in Nepal, it’s not advisable that you do this. Bottled water is not a good option either, so the best thing you could do is carry some means to purify water, like iodine or some fine ceramic filter.
Money. This is a country which lives off of tourism (mostly), and you’ll almost inevitably find some people who want to trick you. Most notably, even though there’s no “official” justification for the old practices of “taxing” trekkers, you might have to give a “donation” in order to trek in some areas. This is a rather common practice in some areas, and it’s better to just pay the tax and spare yourself of any future problems. Also, keep an eye out for scammers (though the vast majority of the Nepalese are really awesome people).
Mingle! This is not a problem, but a big plus – people who come to Nepal are usually like minded, friendly people, who enjoy the company of other pleasant people. You’ll probably see them from Kathmandu, and all across the paths and the teahouses. Especially if you’re alone or in a small group, making new friends to share your vacation with is definitely an experience you shouldn’t miss on.
Here are the main trekking areas:
It’s almost impossible to talk about trekking in Nepal and not discuss Everest. Of course, it’s the highest mountain in the world, but it’s more than just reaching the peak – its famous astonishing peaks and the unique experience of the arduous routes. It is also about the people. Besides being popular for their friendly, welcoming attitude when it comes to tourists, most of them know basic English and over a half of them speak it fluently. This is why the fear of getting lost on your way to Everest has almost no foundation at all, and even if the ways from a village to another are not always very clear for the tourists, all it takes is asking a local. The Sherpas, as they are called, are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever find around the world.
Concerning the recommended periods for the journey, the best times to visit are from the beginning of March to mid May and from the beginning of September to mid November.
The summers are really wet and rainy and because of the fog most of the spectacular landscapes cannot be seen. By contrast, during the spring the trees bursting into bloom seem to emphasize the utter beauty of the Rhododendrons, which is a national Nepalese symbol. And if you’re a fan of mythology, Pangboche Monastery is believed to have in its possession a real scalp of a yeti, one of the astounding Himalayan legends. The most common trekking programs are Base Camp, Panorama, Base Camp Gokyo cross Chola La, Gokyo Ri, Gokyo Valley via Renjola Pass, Everest Trek via Jiri, Everest High Pass Trek.
While this last one lasts for twenty days, the others trails only require 14 to 15 days. Even if you don’t reach the peak, which can be pretty demanding, and, perhaps even more important, expensive, there’s plenty of more accessible paths you can follow, both physically and financially.
While the trek is one of the most popular in the entire world, the danger that’s following it is the road construction threatening its reputation. Nonetheless, there’s no argue that the 17 to 21 days treks are breathtaking and stupendous. The diversity of flora, fauna and panorama make it not only splendid, but distinct and specific at the same time. Nature lovers will find it a trekking paradise – admiring over 440 species of animals and birds along with the marvelous views of the mountains.
Going all the way to the peak is no easy feat – the Annapurna peak is one of the hardest in the entire world, and you really shouldn’t even consider it unless you really (really!) know what you’re doing. That being said, there’s farm more to the Annapurna area than the peak.
The unusual thing is that even covering such diverse climatic zones in a very short period of time might be even more challenging that the pass crossing itself, because of the extremely fast changes that might make you feel weakened. There are four regions covered on the main trek: Lamjung, Manang, Mustang and Myagdi. While the first two regions are mostly Hindu, the last ones are entirely Buddhist. One of the notable monuments along the route is Braga, one of the oldest monasteries in the region. A notable place is the village of Muktinath, a holy site for both Buddhists and Hindus.
Langtang National Park
It is Nepal’s first Himalayan National Park covering an area of over 1, 7 thousand square km. The natural diversity is impressive under the criterion of climatic variousness, partly because of the maximum altitude of over 7200 meters high. Famous for its flora and fauna, the site is the third most popular trekking area in Nepal after Everest and Annapurna.
Even if the locals talking about the yetis you can find on the surroundings of the mountain are not really trustworthy, you can see spectacular fauna specimens, such as red pandas, Himalayan tahrs (very similar with goats) and black bears. One of the must-sees of this trekking destination is the high mountain lake Gosaikunda at 4,380 meters altitude. Although this is the most popular glacier lake of the site, there are dozens of other smaller ones adjoining it.
There is also a perfect time of year to come here on holiday and this is in August when thousands of Hindu pilgrims visit the place for a full – moon festival. The legend says the lakes are the creation of god Mahadev who, devastated by the death of his wife, felt thirsty because of all the crying. This is when he hit the stone with his holy stick and the lakes arose out of nowhere. The followers also think that the expression of the god is reflected in the water during the holy season. The festival which marks it (Gosaikunda festival) is definitely not something to miss if you’re in Nepal during that period.
The very few people living here resemble very much to the Tibetans, although not all of them are Buddhists. But the cultural behaviors, the traditional lifestyle and their genuine kindness makes them look a lot like Tibetan monks.
But the most important reason for which you shouldn’t miss trekking in Langtang National Park are the astounding landscapes depicting during the route. It is so different from a minute to another that it seems you’re traveling ten distinct trips at the same time. When the clouds cover the sky, it sometimes looks like you’re above them and the panoramic view only lets above the fogginess some end of rainbow mountain peaks – the breathtaking glimpse of Everest and Annapurna.