THE BEST TREKS IN NEPAL …

THE BEST TREKS IN NEPAL …

HOW TO CHOOSE A TREK IN NEPAL?

Nepal is a true trekking paradise. The country has 8 of the 10 highest peaks in the world, its nature is still relatively untouched and its landscapes are incredibly diverse. Over the years, Nepal has developed a tourist industry based on the exploration of the beautiful Himalayan trails. And few places in the world have  such thrilling treks.

Enthusiast about Nepal, I explored its trails for months and have done trekking its  3 most famous treks (Everest, Annapurna and Langtang) as well as one of the most remote trek (Kanchenjunga).

So after enjoying these marvelous treks I sat on a desk and started working on a guide to help you choose the trek that fits you the best. I personally did these 4 treks but analyzed a lot of other treks in Nepal. So at the end of this article I include information about other treks based on my analysis and comments received from other trekkers (I only included treks for which I received feedback from someone who had done it).

Enjoy your reading!

 

  • Everest BASE CAMP (EXTENSION: EVEREST 3 PASSES)

Certainly the most prestigious trek with great views of the top of the world (8.848 m). This trek is recommended to those looking for high mountain landscapes. Following the steps of the world’s greatest mountaineers, you’ll reach the mythical Everest base camp. The preferred vantage point for observing the highest mountain on earth is supposedly Kalapathar (5.545 m). Ask for my opinion, and I’d rather send you to Gokyo Ri (5.483 m, located in the neighboring valley of Gokyo). To date, it is still my best mountain view ever (I actually set Gokyo Ri’s panorama as homepage picture of this blog 🙂

To get to Gokyo Valley, you must cross Cho-La (a mountain pass at 5.350 m). It is part of the classic extension to the Base Camp: Everest 3 passes. The other 2 passes are Kongma-La (5.535 m, with great views of the Lhotse wall) and Renjo-La (5.388 m, offering a viewpoint similar to Gokyo-Ri. Well, that’s what I was told since I had to cross it in a snowstorm). Consider that the 3 passes can be tricky especially if covered by snow!

If you make it to Jiri on the way up or down (6-7 extra days each way) you’ll enjoy the local life of beautiful Nepalese villages (90% of hikers start from Lukla, accessible only by airplane).

 

Trek highlights:

  • Mountain landscapes (one of the best views in the world from GokyoRi)
  • You’ll see 4 of the 10 highest mountains in the world in a single panorama (Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho-Oyu)
  • Cultural trek (between Lukla and Jiri)

 

Trek downsides:

  • Highly visited (25,000 trekkers per year)
  • Quite expensive (flight to Lukla costs $160 per way and high altitude teahouses are very costly)
  • The access is not easy (10 hours of a hell of a journey from Kathmandu to Jiri then 6 days min to get to Lukla… or the only alternative: flying from Kathmandu)
  • High altitude (you’ll stay above 5,000m in Gorakshep)

 

Practical information:

Max elevation: 5, 545m (Kalapathar)

Days: Min. 12 days (7 more days if you want to do the 3 passes and another 6/7 days to/from Jiri)

Difficulty: Medium to difficult (Jiri-Lukla and 3 passes part is much more difficult)

Access: The trek is not isolated as per the number of trekkers but no land access at less than 7 days from Lulka

Cost: Medium- min. 20 to $30 per day (trekking on your own)

Best season: March to May and October to November (avoid 3 passes during winter months).

Restricted area (special permit): No

Required permits: TIMS ($20 solo trekker and $10 per agency) and Sagarmatha Park ($35)

The incredible view of Everest (and Lhotse) from Gokyo Ri (5.483 m)

 

  • ANNAPURNA BASE CAMP (EXTENSIONS: TILICHO LAKE? POONHILL AND ANNAPURNA SANCTUARY)

Nepal’s most famous trek. In its classic version, a 14-day circuit around the Annapurna range. This trek is the most diverse: there is a strong contrast between the fertile valley of Manang and the arid lands of Mustang, both separated by the highest point of the trek (Thorung-La 5.416 m). Unfortunately, the area is so renowned that a road was built until Manang and from Muktinath (which means only a few days of the entire trek are not accessible to vehicles!). Along the way, you can make great side trips (Ice Lake, Milarepa cave and Tilicho lake, all accessible from Manang). If you have enough time ahead of you, crosscut to Ghorepani and Poonhill to reach Annapurna Base Camp (this trek is called “Annapurna Sanctuary”)

 

Trek highlights:

  • Great landscape diversity and mountain views (all the Annapurna range)
  • Iconic small Tibetan villages and monasteries
  • Low cost and a full range of food options available in the teahouses
  • Great side trips available
  • Easy access from Pokhara

 

Trek downsides:

  • Nepal’s busiest trek (100,000 trekkers per year, i.e. half of the total number!)
  • Motorable road that covers a large part of the circuit
  • Thousands of stairs to get to the base camp of Annapurna (on both way!)

 

Practical information:

Max Elevation: 5.416 m (Thorung-La)

Days: 14 days for the classic circuit (extensions: Ice lake and Milarepa are day trips, Tilicho 2 days, Poonhill 3 days, Annapurna Base Camp 4 extra days. The entire trek took me 28 days at a moderate pace)

Difficulty: Medium (apart from Tilicho that is partially along a landslide path and the way to Annapurna base camp filled with stairs)

Access: The trek is not isolated as per the trekkers’ number and easily accessible from Pokhara

Cost: Low-count 15 to $25 per day (on your own)

Best season: March to May and October to November

Restricted area (special permit): No

Required permits: TIMS ($20/$10) and ACAP ($20)

View from the Anapurna base camp… With Annapurna I (8.090 m) and Fishtail (6.997 m)

 

  • LANGTANG VALLEY (EXTENSIONS: TAMANG HERITAGE & GOSAINDKUNG TREKS) 

The best option for those who only have a week but still want to feel the essence of the Himalayas. Although its starting point is located only 100km away from Kathmandu, the bus ride is a nightmare.

You start with 2 days of gradual ascent to reach Kyianging Gompa (3.700 m), your headquarter for the exploration of the neighboring summits of Kyanjing Ri (4.700m) and Tserko Ri (4.980m). Both offer an exceptional view of the surrounding mountains. Mountains are not as high as in other treks (but remember that these are the Himalayas: Langtang Lirung is 7.245m high!). I was suprised by the beauty of the landscapes (this trek was my last one). You can also get a closer look to the Langtang Lirung Glacier (facing a 3000m ice wall) or meet the Yaks in Langshisha Kharka.

When you are done with the trek, you have several options: head towards the Chinese border by visiting Tamang communities (a low altitude cultural trek). If you found that the bus ride on the way up was too harsh, you can get closer to Kathmandu by hiking the Sacred lakes of Gosaindkund (great views of Ganesh Himal and Manaslu) or even get back to the city if you trek Helambu!

Finally, I need to say that trekking to the area has a really positive social impact. Langtang was devastated by 2015’s earthquake. Almost every local I met had a sad story about this tragic event. And the entire area was avoided by tourists for an eternity. Your contribution is vital to them.

 

Trek highlights:

  • Great landscapes and mountain views in a short trek
  • Less frequented than Everest and Annapurna but equally comfortable
  • Locals are exceptionally kind

 

Trek downsides:

  • Same way up and down from Kyanjing Gompa
  • The bus ride from Kathmandu is simply horrible!

 

Practical data:

Max Elevation: Tserko Ri (4.983 m)

Days: 2/3 days to get to Kyanjing. Consider at least 2-3 days to explore the surrounding area. Plus 5 extra days for Tamang, around the same for Gosaindkung

Difficulty: Easy to Medium (Tserko Ri)

Access: The trek is not isolated as per the number of trekkers and not far from Kathmandu

Cost: Low – 15 to $25 per day (on your own)

Best season: March to May and October to November

Restricted area (special permit): No

Required permits: TIMS ($20/$10) and Langtang permit ($30)

View of Langtang Lirung from Kyanging Gompa

 

  • KANCHENJUNGA BASE CAMP (NORTH AND SOUTH BASE CAMP)

An exceptional trek in one of the most remote areas of Nepal for those who want to enjoy the most beautiful mountain scenery without the crowds. Located on the border with Tibet and the ancient kingdom of Sikkim (India), this trek goes gradually up until you reach the foothill of the 3rd highest mountain in the world, Kanchenjunga (8.586 m). En route, you can share the local’s daily life and enjoy unspoiled nature. Kanchenjunga has only been converted into a “teahouse trek” for a few years, and its shelters are quite rustic. But what you lose in comfort you will gain in authenticity (most lodgings are actually local families’ home). And what a mountain scenery! Beside the huge Kanchenjunga, you’ll face incredible peaks: Jannu, Kambachen and the Kabrus, all at nearly 8,000 m. The trip to Taplejung is very long and grueling, but you will be rewarded for your efforts!

I recommend you take advantage of this trek that is the least visited teahouse trek in Nepal (less than 2,000 trekkers a year) before it becomes another Annapurna.

 

Trek highlights:

  • Stunning mountain scenery (views on Kanchenjunga and Makalu)
  • few trekkers
  • authenticity: inhabitants and nature are still unspoiled

 

Trek downsides:

  • Very isolated (reaching Taplejung is a hell of a journey… Even if you fly, you still have a 12h road trip)
  • Shelters are verybasic
  • Expensive trek

 

Practical data:

Max Elevation: Lapsang La (5.160 m)

Days: 21 days in its full version (north and south B.C.)

Difficulty: Medium to Hard

Access: Remote 

Cost: Expensive – expect to pay around $1,000 for 21 days (i.e. $40/day)

Best season: From March to May and October to November

Restricted area (special permit): Yes. Guide and Group of min 2 people mandatory

Required permits: TIMS ($10) and Kanchenjunga Conservation Area permit ($20) and Restricted area permit -RAP ($10 per week)

I look tiny in front of the third Summit of the world…

 

 

After this detailed presentation of the treks I’ve done, here is a description of other treks as per the information collected from other trekkers:

 

  • MANASLU CIRCUIT:

described as the new Annapurna (it is actually named “Anaslu”), it is a circuit around the 8th World Summit (8.163 m) that started to attract crowds a few years ago. A superb cultural trek, recommended for both its landscapes and its diversity.

A little extra: during a side trip, you can cross Tibetan border illegally 🙂

Practical Information:

  • Max Altitude: 5115m
  • Days: 15
  • Difficulty: Medium to Hard
  • Price: High (restricted area with mandatory guide)
  • Season: March to May and October to November
  • Permits: TIMS ($10), ACAP ($20), MCAP ($20), RAP ($70 the first week, $10 after)

 

  • MAKALU BASE CAMP

One of the most isolated and least frequented treks, actually quite challenging. trails aren’t easy and nature is wild. You will meet a few other trekkers en route and the shelters are scarce and basic (this is the last trek that was converted into a “teahouse” one). Avoid it outside season (lodges will be closed). One of the drawbacks: you have to go the same way there and back.

For adrenaline seekers, there is a possible extension that connects Makalu B.C. (4th Summit in the world – 8.468 m) to Everest BC trek at the height of Pangboche. WARNING this is mountaineering with the crossing of Sherpani Col (6.135 m) and West Col (6.143 m). You will need all the necessary equipment (spikes, rope, food, etc.). I inquired about it before giving up (lack of time and resources). But according to what I found and comments from other people it is one of the most beautiful mountain landscapes in the world (breathtaking views of Makalu, Everest, Lhotse, Kanchenjunga).

Practical Information:

  • Max Altitude: 5250m
  • Days: 15
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Access: Very isolated
  • Price: Average (not in a restricted area)
  • Season: March to May and October to November
  • Permits: TIMS ($20), Makalu Barun Permit ($35)

 

  • MARDI HIMAL

A new alternative to Annapurna Base Camp. Here you’ll get stunning views of the Machhapuchhre (also named “fishtail” after its shape, 6.997 m). You start sharing the itinerary of Annapurna BC before rising and following a parallel path. You’ll walk 1000m higher than the valley (which offers a much better view without the crowds). You’ll reach the foothill of Mardi Himal and Machhapuchhre, and will enjoy a great view of Annapurna. It can also be combined with other treks in the area (Annapurna circuit, Poonhill, etc.)

Practical Information:

  • Max Altitude: 4200m
  • Days: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy to Medium
  • Access: Easy from Pokhara
  • Price: Low (not in a restricted area)
  • Season: March to May and October to November. Thanks to the low altitude, also possible in winter.
  • Permits: TIMS ($20), ACAP ($20)

 

Finally, I also wanted to mention 2 beautiful cultural treks

  • Upper Dolpo 

One of Nepal’s gems with old Tibetan-like villages. Located in an unspoiled area in western Nepal, a true journey back in time. Aside from the cultural aspect, this is still a Himalayan trek:  you’ll have to cross 3 passes higher than 5,000 m.

Practical Information:

  • Max Altitude: 5.200 m
  • Days: 20
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Access: Very isolated
  • Price: High (restricted area and obligatory guide)
  • Season: March to May and October to November.
  • Permits: TIMS ($10), RAP ($500 for the first 10 days, $50 per extra day!)

 

  • Upper Mustang

The border between Mustang and Upper Mustang is located in Kagbeni, on the Annapurna circuit. From there begins the ancient kingdom of Upper Mustang. This cultural trek will reach its climax in the Forbidden City of Lo-Mangthang, next to the Tibetan border. This area is so close to the Annapurna circuit and yet so protected from tourism, you will discover a true ancient kingdom. Your guide will tell you about the many myths and legends that surround these places.

Practical Information:

  • Max Altitude: 4,000 m
  • Days: 10
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Access: Easy from Jomson
  • Price: High (restricted area and guide mandatory)
  • Season: March to May and October to November.
  • Permits: TIMS ($10), RAP ($500 for the first 10 days, $50 per extra day!)

Of course, with such a high permit cost, very few people can afford it (I only met a group of hikers who did each one of these circuits). I find remarkable the wish from the Nepalese government to protect these areas from mass tourism (a bit like Bhutan). Unfortunately, money is the only way, and I am part of those who cannot get there. But I am convinced that these treks are completely different and amazing!

 

I hope you enjoyed this article about Nepal trekking options. If you have any questions or you know any other itineraries (I confined my article to teahouse treks and my own experience), please feel free to comment 😉

Finally, now that you know which trek to choose the next step is to get ready for it. I’m currently working on an article giving you all the related information (equipment, formalities, how to find trekking partners, transportation, etc.). Let’s keep in touch and I’ll give an update asap.

In the meantime, enjoy your trek!

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