Long distance walking in Nepal

“Time really does pay,” says Gordon Steer of our Nepal walking specialist World Expeditions, when we talk about long distance walking in Nepal. “The longer you explore, the higher you get, the closer to the bigger mountains you get,” he explains.

By long distance trekking in Nepal, we mean walking for ten or more consecutive days. These are big trips – do it once and then talk about it forever trips – that transcend their ‘holiday’ label and start to feel more like life-changing experiences.

This country has lots of big hitters – Everest Base Camp, the Annapurna Circuit, the Manaslu circuit – and the longest of them all, the Great Himalaya Trail, which takes 150 days and traverses the country. There are peaks to reach and high passes to weather – but these long distance treks aren’t just about the high-altitude destinations. They are about the journey, spiritual as well as physical, that you undertake to get there.
When it comes to long distance treks, Nepal’s are literally head and shoulders above other countries’ – there’s so much choice, and so much beauty
“I think that’s why I love Nepal so much – it’s not just a trek. It’s not just going to a mountain. Even if you went to a trek and discovered after two or three days that you couldn’t make it all the way, you would still have a great experience,” says Gordon.

You’ll find that you’re not alone on these treks – you’ll walk through villages all the way, perhaps stopping in tea houses for refreshments. On the Annapurna circuit a tea house is never more than 10km away. The Nepalese people are with you as you go, or making their presence felt – there are prayer wheels spinning in the rivers, and prayer flags fluttering across the path. And your walk is helped by local porters and guides, who make everything possible.

Why is Nepal famous as a long distance trekking destination?

"Nepal’s Himalayan range has eight out of the 10 highest mountains in the world," says Sarah Puttman, regional product manager for our partner, Exodus Travels, "Arguably, it has one of the best infrastructures for hiking trails in the world with Government managed trails and ample teahouses/lodging along the routes to support the local economy."

Nepal is roundly recognised as the world’s premier long distance trekking destination, with more long treks of note than some entire continents.

Walks here reward those with time on their side. Simply put, the longer you have, the deeper you can go, the wilder and higher you can get. It is true of any mountain range that after a while, the roads give out, and the only way in is through walking. Whilst roads and infrastructure are improving all the time, at the moment it is still the case that if you want to see some of Nepal’s most famous natural sights – Everest Base Camp, or the Thorong La Pass on the Annapurna circuit, you do need to do multiple days of trekking.

Which Nepal trek should I choose?

There are two main regions for trekkers in Nepal: the Annapurna region and the Everest region, and there are a number of long distance walks you can do in each. Which you should pick is dependent on experience and fitness.

"The Annapurna Circuit is a relatively well-trodden popular trail (although heavy on the steps in places), manageable for a regular hill walker with good fitness levels but, it is a long trek in terms of number of days walking and the altitude reached so can make it challenging for some," says Sarah Puttman, of Exodus Travels. But in the same region, there's also Manaslu, which is a "shorter, lower altitude trek by contrast," – Sarah again, "But the terrain and changeable over the seasons due to monsoon-induced landslides. As such the trails are less defined and can be much more challenging to navigate in areas for less experienced hikers."

If you're an experienced trekker, then picking a trek might be a question of rinsing your annual leave: how much time do you have? And can you spare any more?

“If you’ve got two weeks in Nepal, that will limit you,” says Gordon. “If you’ve got three weeks it increases options immeasurably and there are some trips that need four weeks.” You have to factor in time either side of the walk for getting in and out, as well as the walking.

Next: how high do you want to go? Nepal has lots of high-altitude trekking. The country is 75 percent mountain, and 15 percent of it falls within the upper Himalaya region – over 4,000m above sea level. Everest South Base Camp sits at a cool 5,364m, Annapurna’s Thorong La pass is at 5,416m. For every ascent you do, you need to acclimatise – and the higher the altitude, the slower you’ll walk and the longer the overall walk will take.

The best long distance treks in Nepal

Annapurna circuit

“A wonderful trek,” says Gordon. “It’s so complete, starting from a relatively low altitude where its warm to Thorong La – high, cold, desolate and then you come back down through this beautiful valley – that was my first trekking experience in Nepal – and it was incredible.” Famous and beloved for a reason, the Annapurna circuit takes over 12 days, longer depending on the route you take, and gives you a total mountain immersion. Over half of travellers to Nepal will take on part of this amazing route.

The Great Himalaya Trail

Washing your clothes in the river and camping on glaciers, jumping between boulders and encountering wild yak – the 150-day, 1,700km Great Himalaya Trail trek goes past Everest and Annapurna on its traverse of the country. Close to the Tibetan border you’ll find yourself walking in the shadow of 5,000m-high peaks so remote that they don’t have names. This is Nepal long distance trekking at its most epic.

Manaslu circuit

Nearby Annapurna is better known, but Manaslu, the world’s eighth-highest mountain, has a famous walking route around it that follows the Buri Gandaki River in its horseshoe-shaped course around the mountain. Less visited and less known than Annapurna works in its favour – it feels wilder, but it doesn’t have as much infrastructure; the villages you pass are more remote, with more basic provisions. The highest point of the trek is Larkya Pass (5,130m), which, although lower than Annapurna’s Thorong La pass, is often more challenging to summit. A circuit takes around 13 days of continuous walking.

Nepal hike to Everest base camp

For those with their eyes on Everest it takes 12-14 days to trek up to North Everest Base Camp (5,545m) and back. Even better, you could extend the route into a 15-day round trip to see the lakes in the Gokyo valley and negotiate the high, stark Cho La pass. Or throw in another two 5,000m-plus high passes: Renjo La, and Kongma La on a 17-day Three High Passes trek.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Long distance walking or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.


People often visualise walking in the snow in the Himalayas – but the reality is that most trekking is done in the spring and autumn, and the terrain is rocky and below the snowline. If you’re walking in the Annapurna region, you’ll start at a lower altitude and see more lush scenery before ascending into the characteristic high Himalayan terrain, whilst the Everest region is uniformly higher and starker.

Mountain treks need to account for bad weather – flights may be delayed in or out of the destination so trips usually add free days on the beginning and end of the trip to allow for a buffer – and it means you get a chance to do some sightseeing in a city before you get trekking.

The food will be variations on a theme, and that theme is usually dhal bat, Nepal’s rice and lentil staple.

Bathrooms on the trails are found in the villages and teahouses and may use squat toilets. You’ll likely need to bring your own toilet paper – it’s not commonly used in Nepal and has to be thrown out rather than put in the toilet.

Keeping it responsible

Porters’ rights

Most Nepal walks involve the use of porters, but on long distance walks you’ll value the support even more. Every step you take is mirrored by support staff who are carrying the bags, cooking, and looking after you on the trek. Our responsible partners provide their porters with equipment and medical insurance and follow governmental guidelines about pay and weight limits.

Keeping it clean

Many long distance treks involve the use of tea houses. These are locally run places to stay in the mountain villages, where you’ll meet other hikers on the trail and get a simple hot meal. Though practices are improving, some tea houses still use unsustainable or polluting fuel sources. Some walking holidays now eschew tea houses altogether in favour of camping, so they can bring their own clean fuel. Others will only go to tea houses which are operating sustainably.

Everest Base Camp is a busy trail with a reputation for litter – the sheer volume of hikers striking out for base camp (up to 500 a day in peak season) mean there’s more chance of waste and pollution, as well as erosion along the footpaths. Responsible operators will know about these problems and be vigilant about making sure their trips do not contribute.
Written by Eloise Barker
Photo credits: [Page banner: Frontierofficial] [Intro: Sam Hawley] [Annapurna circuit: Trekity] [Manaslu circuit: Petr Meissner] [Porters’ rights: Bo Jorgensen]