Boasting eight of the top ten highest summits in the world with landscapes only reachable on foot, trekking in Nepal is one of the most exhilarating experiences. Within the lowest point at Kechana Kawal at 58 m and Mt. Everest at 8848.86 m, Nepal features six distinct and diverse vegetation zones ranging from Tropical to Alpine with much trekking diversity to offer. So, the only question you need to ask is what kind of trek do you want? A backpack carrying the supplies you need and going into the wilderness will connect you to the natural world and gives you time away from the busy lifestyle.
There are many reasons why trekking in Nepal will make the most exciting experience for you. Some of these reasons are:
Picturesque landscape: Nepal offers plenty of scenic landscapes along its trekking routes. From the mountains’ panoramic view, lush forests, and rhododendron bloom to quaint villages, plenty of trek to Nepal has to offer. Admire the mountain ranges up close, exploring pristine waterfalls and springs along the way. Why not peer into serene lakes or admire the spiritually rich and tranquil adventure adorned with many religious, cultural, and natural virtues.
Get acquainted with local culture: Nepal is home to unique cultures and customs. As you will be trekking through Nepal, you will be more aware of Nepal’s culture. Nepal is a multicultural, multiethnic, and multilingual country and presents the variation in culture and tradition on various trekking routes.
Just a simplistic example, trek in the high mountains and get exposed to a mixture of Buddhism and animism in the form of Sherpa culture, in the hills familiarize themselves to a fellow Gurung the brave soldiers serving the Gorkha battalion, in the plains blend yourself into the culture of the Tharu.
Local and affordable food: Dal Bhat and Tarkari is the staple food of Nepalese, but Nepal offers many food adventures. Various ethnic groups have food specialities. Enjoy Dhindo prepared from buckwheat or millet flour (also made with wheat and corn flour) and Gundruk; a fermented leafy green vegetable served as curry in the Dhindo. Or why not have a Newari Khaja set. The varieties offered are many that a separate blog for Newari food alone is required. Still, the typical food is Chiura (beaten rice), bhuttan (deeply fried gut), Kachila (raw marinated minced meat), Hakuchoila (grounded spiced and broiled meat), and Takhaa (jellied soup). There are so many culinary delights on offer here.
Design your own experience: Nepal offers many trekking routes, and there is always something new to try and see. You can take the road less travelled albeit with caution, or take popular trekking routes. Customize your treks as you desire, enjoy detours and side trips.
Main Trekking Areas in Nepal
Everest and Annapurna are the two most popular trekking regions in Nepal. The Everest region is famous for the highest peak in the world. Still, there are other alternatives here, such as the Gokyo Lakes Trek, Three Passes Trek, and Arun Valley to Everest Base Camp Trek. The Annapurna boasts a lot of options for trekking, from easy to difficult grades. Take the easier treks to Ghorepani & Ghandruk or Khopra Danda or grade through Annapurna Base Camp Trek or the Annapurna Circuit Trek.
But other trekking areas have much to offer. Mustang trek offers a unique, dry high altitude landscape. The Langtang region takes you right to the mountains’ foot and provides a more cultural experience at relative ease.
The Far West offers very remote and unspoiled beauty, much like the Far Eastern region. Dolpo, Shey Phoksundo National Park, the Limi Valley, the Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, and the Api Nampa Conservation Area are excellent trekking destinations in the Far West.
There are tea fields and gentle hikes in the Far East with bird watching around Ilam, the challenging treks to and around Kanchenjunga, the third-highest mountain in the world, or the Lumba Sumba Pass Trek.
The Kathmandu Valley itself also boasts trekking areas for a short time and ease. You will have distant views of the snowy Himalaya peaks and gain an excellent feeling for the local culture and villages.
Types of trekking in Nepal
Tea house treks and camping treks are the two types of trekking available in Nepal. The tea house trek is the most popular form in which trekkers stay at a local lodge and have wholesome foods and a comfortable bed. The tea house treks are beneficial so that you can hike at your own pace and schedule and experience the life of a rural area through the arrangement of food and accommodation.
Team members fully support the camping trek, on the other hand, with the supply of all necessities from tents, sleeping mats, and food. Tea House is mostly available in regular and most popular routes such as Annapurna, Everest, and Langtang. In places where there are no tea houses available, camp treks are the only option, such as in the Manaslu region.
Duration of Trekking in Nepal
The trek duration can vary, with the shortest treks taking around three days. The short treks are generally possible for tea house treks as food and lodging arrangements have been made. For instance, the Poon Hill trek takes 3-5 days to complete.
The camping treks are longer and mostly opted when tea house trek is not possible. The duration can vary on average 8-24 days. The Upper Dolpo Trek is an example of this trek. Here the tourism infrastructure is nearly non-existent, and visitors have to undergo camping trek. Such treks help to experience the authentic real life of local inhabitants and raw natural beauty.
Food and accommodation during the trekking in Nepal
Nepali staple food as Dal Bhat and Tarkari is mostly served in the trekking trails. Many varieties of local/western cuisine are also served depending on where you have been trekking. Some tea house treks also serve local bakery items or Western food.
The accommodation is provided in a tea house trek. In the lower elevations, tea houses can be multi-story concrete buildings featuring private rooms and western-style bathrooms. As you trek at a higher elevation, the accommodation gets more basic. At the base camps itself, dorm-style shared rooms are available. In the camping trek, however, an experienced cook is hired, and they can make food as per the desire, albeit limitations persist with what can be carried. In such treks, camps are set up for resting all by the staffs hired.
A trekking permit is required to trek in Nepal. Depending on the area you have chosen to trek, various kinds of permits will be required. If trekking in a national park or conservation area, then a National Park Permit/Conservation Area Project Permit is required.
For trekking in all other areas except controlled areas, a permit known as the Trekkers Information Management System or, in short, TIMS is required. This permit has been implemented to ensure the safety and security of trekkers and to control illegal trekking. You can apply for both these permits in the Nepal Tourism Board office in Kathmandu or Nepal Tourism Board Service Center near the trek area.
If you have decided to trek in areas near the borders such as Mustang, Dolpo, Manaslu, then a special permit is required. At least two participants are required for this kind of trek accompanied by a licensed trekking guide. These permits must be acquired from the Department of Immigration, Kalikasthan Kathmandu. A newer kind of permit has also been recently introduced known as the Rural Municipality fees. This is issued by the designated area’s rural municipality and issued in the Everest and Makalu region. You can get this permit from the starting point of your trek.
Cost of trekking in Nepal
The cost of trekking in Nepal widely varies. You can trek on a budget in Nepal, but trekking in restricted areas can be very expensive. With budget treks, you are given a fixed schedule, and everything is pre-arranged upon your arrival. Camping treks are more costly than teahouse treks as more staff are required to carry tents, food, gears, etc.
Transportation in Nepal
For transportation, local buses, tourist buses, and local flights are available. Getting around Kathmandu, you can opt for local buses or taxis. Flights connect major cities in Nepal, although long-distance buses are also available. Flights are more expensive than buses, but it is a more convenient option. However, if you want to view different landscapes, chat with the locals, and familiarize yourself with Nepalese culture, then buses.
In the trekking route itself, you are mostly on your feet. Mules and horses are also available on some routes. Some horse riding treks are the trek to Everest Base Camp, Upper Mustang, Everest Panorama, Annapurna Panorama, and Langtang Valley.
Trekking is an adventure of a lifetime, but you never know when a hazard strikes. It is better to be insured and compulsory in some cases. The insurance must cover the cost of helicopter evacuation and repatriation if necessary. You can be insured with global suppliers.
Altitude Sickness during trekking in Nepal
If you plan to trek at high altitudes generally above 3500 meters, you need to consider altitude sickness. As you trek to a higher altitude, the air pressure lowers so does the oxygen level. You might develop symptoms such as headache, fatigue, nausea, etc. however, some severe symptoms such as fluid buildup in the lungs or brain can also develop. These cases can be life-threatening.
So before your trek, you need your body to acclimatize to the surroundings, and in case you start developing these symptoms, you should move back to a lower altitude to rest. You can also take medications to help your body get used to a higher altitude. Ibuprofen is taken six hours before the climb and taken every six hours while climbing, for instance, known to prevent altitude sickness. But you should consult your doctor before taking any medication.
Trekking gears and other lists
You will need various items for trekking. You can either buy them or rent them. Almost anything you need for your trek can be found in Kathmandu, especially in Thamel, the city’s tourist hub. You can find internationally recognized brands or knock-off gears. The equipment you will need includes:
Trekking boots: Investing in the right trekking boot will serve you well for trekking, especially if you plan to trek in the snow.
Down Jackets: You cannot hike at high altitude without a proper jacket. Down jackets are essential for cold weather. If you do not have these, they can be easily rented.
Trekking pants: Excellent lightweight zip-off trekking pants will make your trek a lot easier. If it gets hot or wet, choose to wear shorts or add base layer pants if it gets cold.
Waterproof jacket and pants: Trekking, especially at higher altitudes, can sometimes get windy, accompanied by snow or rain. So, to stay dry, you will need a waterproof jacket and pants.
Sleeping bag: A suitable sleeping bag will give you proper sleep and will keep your body warm in freezing temperatures. You can easily rent it in Nepal.
Sunglasses: Sunglasses are essential if you don’t want snow blindness.
Gloves: Fingers are particularly susceptible to cold. You can easily buy hand warmers in Thamel.
Hats: It is required for warmth in higher altitudes and for keeping the sun off your face.
Bottle, backpacking water filter, and tablets: Carrying a reusable water bottle with a filtration system will enable you to drink water straight from any source.
Trekking poles: As the ascent or descent gets steeper, the poles will help you take some stress off your joints.
Hand Sanitizer: Maintaining hygiene, especially in cold weather, can be difficult. So, it is wise to pack a hand sanitizer.
Medical Kit or First-aid Kit: If you are trekking through an agency, you will probably have a guide carrying a first aid kit, but it is advisable to carry a small supply of first aid items, including antiseptic creams, rehydration salts, etc.
Money and Exchange
You will need local currency to get by in Nepal. So you will need to exchange foreign currency for Nepalese Rupees. Money exchange is easy in Nepal. Kathmandu has a large number of exchange centres. You can also exchange your foreign currency at the airport itself or in banks. The easiest access is through ATMs. The ATMs have maximum cash withdrawal limitations of approximately between USD 100 and USD 340. Each time you use your ATM cards, you will be charged an exchange rate and service charge. It is always wise to carry cash in a small denomination while trekking.
Health and hygiene during the trekking in Nepal
Hygiene is an important concern while trekking. Trekking in a cold climate makes it difficult to take showers every day, and not that hot water is available everywhere. In the tea house, toilets are available, especially squat toilets, and may not be flushable, so you might need to pour water to flush it manually.
With regards to drinking water, the trekking trails mostly have ample springs and river flowing by. But you should not drink the water directly. It is essential to buy water purification straws or tablets. In the tea houses, you can purify the water by boiling. Most tea houses also sell bottled water, which is both bad for the environment and wasteful. So, it wise to carry a reusable water bottle.
Best time for trekking in Nepal
The best times for trekking in Nepal are autumn (September – November) and spring (March-May). In the autumn, days are warmer, and the weather is stable and sunny with clear skies. But better weather also brings many travellers, so popular trails can get crowded during this time.
During spring trekking, the temperature is pleasant and warm. Winter snows have melted away, clearing paths for high mountain passes. The sky is clear, and there are much fewer chances of flight cancellations. However, as it gets closer to summer, trekking can get hot and sweaty at a lower altitude. Afternoon clouds can bring clouds and brief downpours.
Some trekking trails are available throughout the year, and there is something to be achieved while trekking in different seasons. For instance, summer or monsoon treks (June – August) can be fascinating for botanists for viewing the blooms of wild orchids.
Top 3 trekking in Nepal
Nepal’s top three trekking spots are the Everest Base Camp Trek, Annapurna Base Camp Trek, and Langtang Valley Trek. Each of these treks has unique features that make it appealing to different travellers.
The Everest Base Camp Trek is the most popular and iconic trekking destination in the Himalayas. Here you will explore challenging trekking routes, and you will get to experience high altitude trek. The thrill of getting close to the highest peak in the world is exceptionally enticing enough. The trek takes you through lush forests, alpine lakes, and glacial plains. Here you will get acquainted with the Sherpas and get a chance to explore Buddhist monuments. Along the way, you will encounter boulders etched with Buddhist mantras, spinning prayer wheels, and prayer flags at the backdrop of lofty snow-covered mountains.
The Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) Trek is famous for the view of Annapurna Massif. This trek is for low to moderate-grade trekkers travelling on a budget with time constraint. Here you will walk through the largest rhododendron forests in Nepal, cross numerous brooks and rivers through wooden bridges against the backdrop of the snow-covered peaks. You will encounter Gurung and Magar villages on your way. ABC region serves as a living museum of their culture and tradition. Additionally, you get to cover two base camps at the cost of one. You will also pass through Machhapuchhre Base Camp on your way to ABC.
The Langtang Valley Trek is famous for its expansive views with a relatively gentle pace and accessibility from the capital. It is one of the shorter hiking routes in Nepal. Here, Langtang Lirung, the Langtang Himal’s highest peak, dominates Kyanjin Gompa village’s skyline. You get to see snowcapped mountains from the first day of the trek. This trek can comb with the Tamang Heritage Trail. The trail offers trekkers an insight into ancient Tamang and Tibetan culture. Along this trail, you will find ancient Tibetan monasteries and Mani walls.
Trekking in Nepal will be one of the most exciting experiences in your life. You will cherish the memories you will make here, whether the view of the picturesque landscape during the day, the relief of watching a sunset at the end of your trek, or getting familiar with the local culture. But should always take safety and precaution, and insurance should be handy. Whether you decide on staying in a tea house or a camp, there is something serene about taking off-beaten roads or hiking trails under your energy to attain a goal.