The best treks in Nepal
The best treks in Nepal are a veritable bucket list of amazing places, but firstly you should lower your expectations Ė not of the incredible landscapes youíll navigate, but of the time it will take you to get there. The countryís best trekking routes stretch elegantly in an east-west line across northern Nepalís Himalayan belt, but, this is Nepal, the roads are in bad condition and move slowly, and two hours late is considered on time. Youíll need a great pair of hiking boots, a lot of patience and a sound knowledge that conquering every trek you want to in Nepal will take more than one visit.
A whopping 55.8% of Nepalís 140,000 annual trekkers trek the Annapurna Circuit. Itís known for its diverse landscape, leading from jungle to alpine forest, and entails a 125km circumnavigation of the breathtaking Annapurna range. Despite controversy over road construction, the circuitís popularity is proof of its position as one of Nepalís greats.
Annapurna Sanctuary Trek
This incredible trek has peaks that stand at 7,000m, allowing you to visit the worldís roof and then climb all over it. The range forms a natural amphitheatre, reached via a testing combination of steep stone steps and forested hillsides ablaze with colour, and is circled by Himalayan giants like the infamous twin-peaked Macchapucchare.
Everest Base Camp
Everest, and the camp at its base that meets intrepid climbers as they begin and end their ultimate mountain adventure, needs little introduction, but deserves a lot of credit. A momentís reflection at base camp, standing breathlessly close to the mountain itself is a vision of awe, possible danger and ultimately, triumph, all rolled into one.
The Gokyo Lakes are a body of water so clear and turquoise-blue itís as if thereís a mirror reflecting the sky itself. The route to reach it takes trekkers through Sherpa heartland, stopping at the villages of Namche Bazaar and Dole before the ascent of Gokyo Ri, whose summit gives clear views of Everestís awesome bulk.
As with Langtang, you can literally walk out of Kathmandu Valley and into Helambu, a sacred and relatively hidden mix of valleys and ridges with a lot of up and down, but nothing over 3,200m, so no acclimatization problems. A green and peaceful land of pine forests and quiet villages, the local Sherpas who dwell here have a unique culture long separated from larger Nepali groups.
Sat right out east straddling Nepalís border with Sikkim and Tibet, wild and remote Kanchenjunga is one of the least populated regions in Nepal. Itís also the third highest peak in the world. The area is inhabited by Rai and Lumbu Nepalese of Tibetan descent, who live side by side with musk deer, red panda and blue sheep.
The Langtang Valley offers alpine trekking that runs from east to west, only whiskers from the Tibetan border. A shorter, easily accessible trek, the Langtang Trek itself can be done in a week and what it lacks in super high peaks, it makes up for in amazing scenery - think oaks and rhododendrons; soft moss and larch trees, and yaks plodding their way home.
A long and challenging trek thatís higher than Annapurna and making great strides as a relative new kid on the block, Manaslu is the eighth highest mountain in the world and a brilliant teahouse trek, taking in as much local culture as it does bright glacial terrain across dramatic mountain valleys with very few crowds.
Poon Hill is one of Nepalís least physically demanding treks and is a shorter, circular route through hot springs and friendly local villages. The highlight? Poon Hill itself, where you can wait and watch the sun come up revealing, like the curtains being drawn back on a stage, unparalleled views across soaring Himalayan peaks.
The Royal Trek
This trek is so named because Prince Charles graced it in 1980. Perfect for older, much younger, or beginner trekkers, the route is a short, four-day loop with a maximum altitude of 1,730m and no more than 5 hours walking a day, but still gives brilliant views of the Annapurnas and more than a taste of local culture.
Upper Dolpo (Dolpa)
The requirement of a restricted area permit and multiple days spent above 4000m are the stumbling blocks to this challenging trek through a magical, Buddhist pocket of Nepal, but the reward comes back threefold in the remote landscapes, the unbelievable views from 5000m passes and the experience of a deeply spiritual, untouched culture.
Upper Mustang only opened for trekking in 1992 and remains culturally sensitive, so youíll need a restricted area permit to trek there. A former desert kingdom, Mustang is a river valley that pours down from Tibet; the landscape of steep cliff walls is stark and dramatic, peppered with ancient monasteries and hidden caves.
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Nepal Trekking Itineraries
Langtang Valley (15 days): Kathmandu ► Himalaya ► Langtang Valley ► Kianjin Gompa ► Langshishha ► Karka ► Tsergo Ri ► Langtang Lirung (alternate, more remote route: Gosaindkund Lakes ► Helambu) ► Kianjin Gompa ► Kathmandu
Everest Base Camp (17 days): Kathmandu ► (flight) Lukla ► Phakding ► Kunde ► Kyanjuma ► Thyangboche ► Khumbu Valley ► Dingboche ► Lobuje ► Everest base Camp ► Kala Pattar ► Kyanjuma ► Phakding ► Lukla ► Kathmandu
Annapurna Sanctuary & Chitwan National Park (17 days): Kathmandu ► Pokhara ► New Bridge ► Chomrong ► Himalaya ► Mahcapuchare Base Camp ► Annapurna Base Camp ► Dovan ► Chomrong ► Tadhapani ► Ghorepani ► Poon-Hill ► Pokhara ► Chitwan ► Kathmandu
Where to trek in Nepal
RESPONSIBLETRAVEL.COM'S SUPPLIERS RECOMMEND
Richard Goodey from our supplier Lost Earth Adventures shares his pros and cons of different trekking routes in Nepal:
ďIf you do the more off-the-beaten-path treks like Langtang and Manaslu, you need to expect that your experience will be more authentic and adventurous. You will be eating local food and the lodges you stay in will be homely, but rustic. If you go on the more popular treks, Annapurna and Everest, they are much more advanced: you might have electric power and apple pies, but you wonít get as much tradition. The trade off is comfort for more adventure.Ē
Emma Garrick from our supplier Exodus shares her pros and cons of different trekking routes in Nepal:
ďThe two distinct regions in Nepal in terms of trekking are the Annapurnas and Everest Base Camp and the highlight for many going to Everest Base Camp is that you get to walk in the footsteps of intrepid summiteers, get to see where lots of other trekkers are walking up from and of course get to see Mount Everest, which gives incredible views, but the views are more barren in that area. If you trek in the Annapurnas, because youíre starting from a much lower altitude, youíll see a greater variety of landscape on your way up starting with rainforest, through alpine moorland and then finally you get to see the peaks too, so Iíd say the trekking in the Annapurna region is a bit prettier compared to that in the Everest region, which is incredible, but a bit more stark.ď