Statistics show that roughly 4 out of 10 foreign visitors to Nepal go on one trek or the other during their stay here. It’s a high percentage by any standards, and goes to show the global popularity of trekking in Nepal. What makes the country such a favorite for trekking? It’s a combination of many things—abundant natural scenery, fantastic ecological diversity, ancient culture, friendly people—all these and more go to make Nepal an extremely popular destination. What’s more, there are any number of trekking routes to choose from, depending on your age, the time at hand, your physical shape, and the challenges you are willing to undertake. As they say, there’s something for everyone. However, listed below are some of Nepal’s top five treks, in reverse order.
5. Ghalegaun Village Trek: If you want to see the villages of the honey hunters of Nepal made famous by the documentary by photo journalists Diane Summers and Eric Valli, you got to go on this trek. It’s a 10-day trek during which you’ll be hiking through some spectacular landscape that includes inspiring views of the Annapurna range. You get to interact with local Gurung families and experience their simple but hospitable lifestyle. First you drive down to a small town called Besisahar from where the trekking begins, the trail going along the lovely Marsyangdi River to Khudi, nd then its uphill for some 4-5 hours to Ghalegaun (2,016 m). Here, you get to stay with locals, and are treated to a beautiful sunset view of Annapurna and Manaslu. Sunrise, in the early morning, is as absorbing, but you got keep moving, and so, now you hike down to Ghanpokhara and Bhujung (1,500 m), where the waterfalls are simply wonderful, and the rhododendron forests, lovely. Then you got some climbing to do again (3 hours or so) before arriving at a hilltop called Khumre Danda (2,000 m). Then onwards, it’s all downhill to Pasgaun, then the Mandi River, and on to Pakhrikot and Thumsikot, and finally, Pokhara.
4. Imjatse (Island Peak) Trek: This is one trek where you can fulfill your desire to climb an authentic Himalayan peak. Not only that, it’s a trek that will provide you with a fantastic view of Everest. The adventure begins with a 45-minute flight to Lukla (2,800 m), the flight and the landing itself being an adventure by itself, what with the Lukla airport, as well as the descent path, being somewhat of an adrenaline rush. Once you have landed, and sent a thank you to the gods for having done so safely, you start your trek. A trek that will take you across high valleys and glaciers of the exciting Himalayan region; your trek takes you along the Dudh Kosi River, meeting long yak caravans on the way, which will generally be carrying equipments and supplies for some climbing expedition or the other, before reaching Phakding (2600 m).
The next destination is the famous Namche Bazaar (3,450 m), heartland of the Sherpas. You’ll be resting here for a day to allow for acclimatization, and then carry on to Tangboche (3,860 m), then to Dingboche (4,400 m), where you get another rest day to further acclimatize. You’re in the higher stratosphere now, so it’s better not to take any risks. Your next port of call is Lobuche (4,900 m), and then Kala Patthar (5,545 m), from where the view of Everest is legendary. Trekking back again to Lobuche and then Dingboche, you carry on to Chhuking (4,750 m), and finally to Imjatse Base Camp (4,970 m). From her, first you reach High Camp (5,600 m) and then Imjatse Summit (6, 189 m). There, you’ve done it; climbed a Himalayan Peak. Returning the same way you came, you catch a flight back to Kathmandu from Pokhara, and once again are treated to another adrenaline rush.
3. Mustang Trek: Mustang is an arid region in western Nepal that still appears to have retained some degree of mysticism. It was a kingdom in its own right for quite some time. Bordering the great Tibetan plateau, the region is heavily influenced by Tibetan culture and religion. First you drive down to Pokhara (915 m) from Kathmandu (1300 m), and then take a 20-minute flight to Jomsom (2,720 m) from where the trek begins. Your first destination is Kagbeni (2,900 m), known as the gateway to Mustang, which should take around three-and-a-half hours or so. Then it’s onwards to first Tangbe, then Chele (2,900 m), Ghiling (3,510 m), and Charang (3,650 m). Each of these villages is reached in 5-6 hours, and that’s the time you’ll be trekking each day.
You’ll have observed all those Tibetan-styled flat roofed houses on the way, many with sheep’s horns over their doorways, and numerous monasteries, as well as large Tibetan mastiffs tied near doorways. You’ll also see apple orchards, for which the area is famous. Apple pie and apple brandy are specialties you’ll get to taste on the way. Next, you’ll arrive at Charang (3,650 m) before reaching Lo Manthang (3,730 m), the seat of an ancient kingdom. It’s an interesting place to explore, what with its houses made of sun-baked pale colored mud bricks, its narrow alleys, and the palace of the kings of yore. Marang La (4,353 m) comes next on your rout, and from her, its downhill all the way to Ghimi, Samar (3,700 m), and Kagbeni, and then to Muktinath (3,750 m), where you’re likely to meet plenty of pilgrims visiting this holy site. Ay your prayers, pay your respects to the gods at Muktinath, and then continue downwards to Jomsom from where you fly back to Pokhara.
2. Annapurna Circuit Trek: This is regarded as one of the most popular treks by many trekkers to Nepal, and it begins with you taking a 7-hour drive down to Besisahar (via Dumre), the starting point of the trek. You hike along the Marsyangdi River and pass through many Gurung and Tamang villages on the route. Your trek takes you to Bahun Danda (1,310 m), Chamje (1,430 m), Dharapani (1,860 m); the hiking is not that difficult and very, very enjoyable. On day six or seven of your trek, you reach Chame (2,670 m), from the sight of Annapurna is spectacular. You start off for Pisang (3,200 m) the next day, walking through barley fields and apple orchards, and eventually come to a narrow gorge, through which you make your way into upper Mustang. Come morning, and you’re off to Manang (3,540 m). You’ll come across chortens and mani walls everywhere, and in Braga village, you’ll see an impressive looking gompa on the hillside above a number of Tibetan style houses below. Your spirits uplifted by the imposing view of Annapurna II (7,937 m), III (7,555 m), and IV (7,525 m). A day’s rest at Manang is called for now to allow for acclimatization. Having done so, you hike to Leder (4,260 m), then to Throng Phedi (4,450 m), and finally reach Throng La (5,416 m).
After Thorung La, the trek is much easier, taking you down to Muktinath (3,800 m), Jomsom, Tukche (2,590 m), Ghasa (1,970 m), and Tatopani (1.189 m). You’ll go through the Kali Gandaki gorge, and that’s something, since it’s said to be the world’s deepest ravine. The next day, you climb up to Ghorepani (2,750 m), nearby which is Poon Hill, from where the sunrise and sunset views are fantastic. From here, you stroll down to Pokhara.
1. Everest Base Camp Trek: This trek is the one most in demand for trekking in Nepal, more so since it has been touted as “one of the things you must do before dying” by some popular magazine. Lukla is your starting point, which you reach after a 45-minute flight from the capital. It’s trek that will take you through astounding mountain scenery that consists of pretty Sherpa villages, verdant fir and colorful rhododendron forests, and walk over high and swinging suspension bridges, while on the way you’ll come across picturesque caravans of yaks and zobkyos (yak-cow crossbreeds), their backs loaded with equipment and supplies of climbing expeditions.
Your first destination is Phakding (2,600 m), which is a 5-hour hike, and after that, Namche Bazaar (3,450 m), which also takes 5 hours to reach from Phakding. One day’s rest is mandatory here, so as to acclimatize to higher altitudes, and you can use this day to explore Thame Valley. Then it’s on to Tengboche (3,860 m) and then Dingboche (4,400 m), where again you get a rest day that you can use to visit the lovely Chhukung Valley. Near Tengboche, look out for a line of rock formations, some rocks having metal plaques on which are inscribed the names of mountaineers and trekkers (some as commemoration of their visits, and some in memory of those who had died here).. Then you trek to Lobuche (4,900 m) and Gorakshep (5,150 m), before reaching Everest Base Camp at 5,337 meters. On the way to Lobuche from Thukla, at Dughla, you’ll see similar memorials, which are also present around Gorakshep and at upper Pangboche on a ridge. They serve as poignant reminders of the risks involved as well as the joys of trekking and climbing the high Himalayas.
That, then, constitutes some of the most popular trekking routes in Nepal. All promise adventure and a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is unparalleled by any other sporting activity in the world. Trekking in Nepal demands the best from you physically and mentally, and it promises you excitement and discovery.