Trekking through the Himalayas is Nepal’s key attraction, and is often a life-changing experience for travelers from all over the world. This article is a primer to trekking in Nepal and attempts to help answer key questions many travelers have asked us.
Trekking means a multi-day hike on trails through the Himalayan mountains and foothills. Treks typically take you through areas where hiking is the only means of transport since the mountains are too steep and remote to build roads. Most treks take you through villages that have been around for centuries and the trails you hike on have historically been used by locals.
Trekking along the mountain trails of Nepal is a special experience. The Himalayas are unlike any other region in the world. The vastness of the Himalayan mountains, the awesome views, the friendly people and the slower pace of life when movement happens on foot all contribute to the fact that many travelers who come to Nepal for the first time describe their experience as life-changing.
Most popular treks are along trails with lodges (often referred to as teahouse trekking). Lodges are simple hostels that cater to trekkers. More remote treks that pass through areas where there are no villages or lodges require camping. These treks involve more logistics and are more expensive since all food, cooking fuel, tents have to be carried by porters.
The trails of Nepal take you along villages that can’t be reached by cars. Think of these trails as highways in an era without roads and cars. Therefore, the “trail traffic” has many interesting variations including porters carrying vegetables, timber wood, or even live chickens, kids walking to school, herders and their yaks, just to name a few. Be prepared to be surprised and inspired by the variety of the local trail traffic.
The scenery during your trek varies day-by-day, and valley by valley. Depending on which trek you choose you will hike through dense rhododendron forests, terraced vegetable paddies along steep slopes, open pastures and snow fields and you will cross spectacular suspension bridges.
The villages range from a couple of houses, to expansive settlements consisting of hundreds of homes strung along hillsides. Some of the villages have a lot of character and are sometimes located on spectacular locations.
Your trekking days typically consist of around 3 hours of hiking in the morning, and 3 hours in the afternoon. You will stop for lunch in villages and sometimes pack a lunch in case the villages are spread out too far apart.
There is a wide variety of food you can choose from in teahouses, especially on the more popular trekking trails. Common items on the meny include fried rice, fried chicken, spaghetti bolognese, and many other dishes. However, it is often best to stick with the local specialty Dal Bhat since it's what locals best know how to make.
There are two main popular regions for trekking in Nepal: The Annapurna region and the Everest region. Additionally, there are many other areas that all have their specific characteristics, including Manaslu, Mustang and the Kathmandu valley.
The Annapurna Region, near the city of Pokhara, is home to one of the all-time most popular treks in world, the Annapurna Circuit (also known as the Around Annapurna Trek), which circles the Annapurna. This trek has lost a bit of its attraction because of new roads that were built and have shortened the “unspoiled” parts of the trek. Another great trek is the trail to Annapurna Base Camp (also known as the ABC trek). The foothills around Ghorepani and Ghandruk offer shorter treks, typically ranging from 3 – 10 days.
The Everest Region (also known as the Solu Khumbu region) is home to Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain. The most popular trek in this area is the Everest Base Camp trek, which has several variations, including the Three Passes Trek and the Gokyo Lakes Trek. Most travelers start their treks in the Everest Region from Lukla, which is an airport town with a spectacular short landing strip.
The Manaslu Circuit Trek, which circles Manaslu, the world’s 8th highest mountain is spectacular trek that has recently become more accessible since there are new lodges that now make it possible to hike this trek without bringing tents. Despite the trek gaining in popularity it is still fairly unspoiled and feels very wild and remote.
Upper Mustang is a remote area near the Tibetan border which offers a unique, dry high altitude landscape similar to Tibet. Treks to Mustang require camping and special permits.
If you are short on time, the Kathmandu Valley offers some good short treks as well. Additionally there are several great short treks, ranging from 2 - 7 days all across Nepal. Here's an overview of some of the best short treks.
Due to Nepal’s seasonal weather pattern there are 2 seasons that are best for trekking. The spring season, from March to May, and the autumn season, from September to November.
Trekking in Summer is challenging due to the Monsoon (rainy season) causing landslides and reduced mountain views. However, the Upper Mustang area is in the monsoon shadow and offers great trekking during summer.
Trekking in winter is getting increasingly popular. It’s colder, and higher passes may be closed due to snow, but the weather tends to be clear with great views.
Weather conditions vary by season and trek. And even on the same trek, temperatures vary significantly depending on the elevation. For example, it is not unheard of that temperatures at the start of a trek are around 30 Celsius / 85 Fahrenheit while dropping to well below freezing when crossing a high pass on the same trek.
Most trekkers hire a guide and one or more porters to help carry their personal belongings. On some well documented treks it is possible to trek without a guide, however we don’t recommend it. Reasons to hire a guide include:
- Safety: While trekking on the more popular hiking trails is generally safe, it’s safer to have an expert with you who knows what to do in case something goes wrong. Accredited guides are well-trained and typically speak English.
- A guide knows the way. While most trails are fairly well-marked, situations where the trail is unclear do occur, and a guide will help you not get lost.
- Cultural: Nepalese guides, often members of the Sherpa people, tend to be incredibly nice people. Many trekkers develop friendships with their guides that often last a lifetime.
- By hiring a guide you support the Nepalese economy by providing jobs for locals.
Permits are required for most treks. Rules vary by trek. Some treks require a guide and have minimum group sizes. We recommend working with reputable local trekking companies who can organize your entire trip to Nepal including all local transport, trekking permits, guides, porters, etc.
Nepal is back to normal after the earthquakes of 2015 and trekking is as safe as it was before the earthquakes. Lodges in some areas were damaged or even collapsed but a year after the earthquake the vast majority has been restored to their original state. A few areas still show large landslides, including Manaslu, but the trekking routes are open. The Langtang area is the only major trekking area where trails and lodges are still being rebuilt. Visitor numbers are on he way back up, are expected to be back at usual levels in the autumn of 2016.
Nepal Trekking Guidelines
Best of Nepal Trekking
Nepal Trekking Information
If you have any question about Trekking in Nepal, Permits, Trekking Seasons or need any assistance to plan your Nepal Trekking Holiday, simply send us an email and we will get back to you right away.