Nepal is world-renowned for trekking. From short treks around Kathmandu and off the beaten track treks to luxury tours in Nepal, this country is one of the best places for scenery, people and mountains!
There are many adventure activities available – from mountain biking in Nepal, climbing such peaks as Mera Peak and Island Peak to name just two, to bungee jumping and paragliding. Then there are the more relaxing activities such as short treks around Pokhara, Nepal yoga retreats, homestay treks in Nepal and Everest mountain flights. In this blog, I want to concentrate on longer treks – those of 3 weeks and over. These treks are generally pretty tough going, often camping treks, and involving a lot of stamina as well as good fitness. Read on if you dare!
Best Treks in Nepal in 3 Weeks or More
West Nepal – The Hidden Valley of Dolpo
Upper Dolpo Trek / 23 days
Dolpo lies in the north-west of Nepal near the Tibetan Plateau. Upper Dolpo is the upper part of the region which is a remote and restricted area. As such, only a few trekkers are allowed into this area every year. Since this area is in the rain-shadow of the Dhaulagiri mountain range, you don’t need to worry about the best season to visit Nepal as you can come here even during the summer monsoon when other trekking routes are slippery and unpleasant. Being so close to Tibet, culture and lifestyle is Tibetan Buddhist. There are also the last remaining practitioners of the Bon religion in this area. On this long trek with its difficult trails, high altitude, steep and sometimes unstable paths, you will be rewarded with monasteries, quaint villages, stunning views of Dhaulagiri and Crystal Mountain, and be trekking through the Shey Phoksundo National Park with the beautiful Phoksundo Lake. This is a camping trek and tough on the body. Be prepared for that. But also be prepared for the trip of your life!
Upper Dolpo to Jomson Trek / 26 days (extendable)
If you want to push yourself even more, you can extend your Upper Dolpo trek to include ending in Jomson, in the Mustang region. This involves extremely tough trails and camping. This trek, like the regular Upper Dolpo Trek, starts at with a flight to Nepalganj from Kathmandu then another flight from Nepalganj to Jhupal. But unlike the Upper Dolpo Trek, you end by coming out of Dolpo, over the Sangda La Pass (5,240m) into Mustang, and down to the Jomson Valley. From Jomson you can fly out to Pokhara or continue to trek down through Mustang. If you decide on the latter, you can then swap your tent for a quite comfortable lodge accommodation. But all this will have to be arranged in advanced of course. This trek goes through Shey Phoksundo National Park, the largest national park in the country. There is plenty of bird and wildlife, and it is home to the rare Snow Leopard.
Treks Starting at Kathmandu, Ending at Pokhara
Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek / 21 days
This tough trek starts with a day’s drive from Kathmandu to Beni, and ends with a flight from Jomson to Pokhara and then a fly or drive back to Kathmandu. You can, of course, extend your trip in Pokhara to relax and unwind. It is a mix of camping and staying in teahouses (lodges) which is an ideal way to taste both experiences. You will pass two of the highest massifs in the world – Mount Dhaulagiri and Mount Annapurna. And you will experience many more mountains over 7,000m. Aside from these huge giants, you will be in the deepest gorge in the world that site between the two before mentioned massifs. There are a couple of passes to test your endurance. And your balance, as there most probably will be ice on the trail. Passing through the French Col, you may be required to use ice picks and crampons. Dhaulagiri Base Camp, The French Camp and the Hidden Valley are some of the places you will visit. With the many passes to traverse there is a rest day to explore the Hidden Valley before ending the trek in the cobblestoned village of Marpha – famous for its apples and apple brandy, and the bustling market town of Jomson. In both these locations, you will have lodge accommodation and a wider range of menu items. And perhaps some beer or brandy?
Karma Trek / 29 Days
This trek takes you through Manang via Kathmandu and ends at Mustang and on to Pokhara. One of the highlights of this trek is that it takes you into the Hidden Kingdom of Lo, more commonly known as, Upper Mustang. And although it is a long and, in parts, difficult trek, it does not involve camping. This unique trek combines the Manaslu Circuit Trek, the Annapurna Circuit Trek and takes you to Lo Manthang, the ancient home of the King of Lo in Upper Mustang. The majority of this trek takes you through areas which are Tibetan Buddhist in culture and traditions and once in Upper Mustang, the land itself takes on a very Tibetan look and feel. In actual fact, the Karma Trek combines three of the most popular and famous treks in the world. And it is not many people who have actually undertaken this trek (as one trip) so you will be almost a pioneer! It starts with a drive from Kathmandu and ends with a flight out of Jomson to Pokhara, after which you can drive or fly back to Kathmandu. It takes in all the high mountains in the Annapurna range and takes you over the Thorong La Pass which links Manang to Mustang. From there you turn north towards Lo Manthang in the restricted area of Upper Mustang. This area is famous for its sky cliffs. Homes or places of worship were placed high up in cliffs and we are not sure by whom or why or even how they managed to climb up so high!
Teri La Pass Trek / 20 days extendable
This is a relatively new and exciting trek which takes you off the beaten track and into the Hidden Kingdom of Lo. Otherwise known as Upper Mustang. From the lowland forests to dry, Tibetan-like landscapes this trek is something different. You will also be camping which adds to the excitement and expedition feel. Upper Mustang borders Tibet so you can expect to see gompas, stupas and monasteries and thousands of prayer flags sending up prayers on the wind. You will visit the old palace at Lo Manthang and cross a number of passes including Makar Pass (4,259m), Day-La Pass (3,950m), Chogo La Pass (4,280m), Nyila Pass (4,010m) and Ghemi La Pass (3,765m). So be fit and prepared before you arrive. The mountains, including Teri La, are of course stunning – white against the blue skies. In Upper Mustang there is a day to explore the Choser Cave. This is part of a unique and puzzling cave complex known as the Sky Caves. There are around 10,000 manmade caves carved into the side of cliffs. Mummified bodies and skeletons over 2,000 years old have been found along with Buddhist paintings, manuscripts and artefacts from the 12th to 14th century. But actually, no one knows why the caves are there. Interesting indeed! The trek ends at Jomson where you can fly down to Pokhara and then onward to Kathmandu. Or extend your stay in Pokhara.
East Nepal – Everest Region
Arun Valley to Everest Base Camp Trek / 18 days
This trek is actually less than 3 weeks but it is such an interesting twist on the usual Everest Base Camp Trek it is worth putting it here. The trek begins with a flight to Tumlingtar where the start of the trek takes you through terraced fields and green pastures. The Arun Valley is the deepest valley in the world. It falls between Mt Everest and the Makalu-Barun National Park. Less crowded than the Khumbu Valley, it’s a great trek for those who like something a bit different but don’t want to miss out on the main features of the Everest Base Camp Trek. The mountains are a big feature of this trek - Everest, Makalu, Mera Peak, Baruntse, Mt. Lhotse, Nuptse, Amadablam, and Thamserku being just some you will see. The flora and fauna around the National Park are also stunning. There are 47 different types of orchids and 800 types of butterflies! And, if you are lucky, the shy red panda. On day 8 this trek joins the EBC trek at Pakhding, and on up to Namche Bazaar for an acclimatization day before hiking higher. Then it follows the classic route of Tengboche Monastery, Kala Patthar (or Everest viewpoint as it is sometimes called), Gorakshep and Everest Base Camp itself. The trek ends with a magnificent and breathtaking flight out of Lukla.
Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek / 26 days
Kanchenjunga is the world’s third-highest peak at 8,400m! Interestingly, for a long time, it was thought to be the world’s highest mountain. Since this is considered a sacred mountain, mountaineers cannot stand on the actual summit; but mountaineers can climb it. This trek will get you close to the mountain, right up to its base camp. Again diversity of fauna and flora is a highlight of this trek. Glorious pine and Rhododendron forests fill the first few days of the trek, along with rugged trails, raging rivers and suspension bridges to cross. From cardamom farms to mountain panoramas and the Yalgung Glacier this trek has lots to offer. This is a great trek for those who want to get away from it all over a longer period of time. However, this is a high altitude trek with some long trekking days and therefore not to be taken lightly. A great level of fitness is required to successfully complete the trek. The trek starts and ends at a lowlands airport in the east of the country which connects with Kathmandu. This unusual trek will certainly be a great talking point among other trekkers who did not even know it existed!
Lumba Sumba Trek / 19 days
Again this trek falls a little short of the 3 weeks mark but the mountains, culture of the local peoples and the trail itself make up for this ‘shortfall’! Only having opened up in 2012, this trek lies between Mt Kanchenjunga and Mt Makalu. It is actually part of the Great Himalayan Trail – a trek that goes all the way across the country from east to west and takes around 150 days to complete. Now that is some trek! Meantime, the Lumba Sumba Trek takes you through two conservation areas, Kanchenjunga and Makalu, and through Limbu, Sherpa, Rai, Tamang, Gurung, Magar and Newar villages. This trek follows the trails that connect these two conservation areas. Red pandas and Snow Leopards are just two of the rare species that live there. The mountains you will witness – and photograph – include those in the Makalu Himals and the Kanchenjunga Himals. To reach this area we fly to Bhadrapur in the south-east of the country, then drive to the starting point of the trek. On the way, we drive through Ilam, which is the tea plantation centre of Nepal. This unusual trek will certainly be a great talking point among other trekkers you meet back in Kathmandu and your home town.
I know the experienced trekkers and adventurers among you will not be daunted but excited by the thought of weeks in the mountains! The rest of us… well don’t worry, you don’t have to head out into the wilderness with a tent for days on end to enjoy Nepal! We are often asked if Nepal is a safe travel destination in Asia. And at this time (2020) we are additionally asked about safe countries to travel in Asia in 2021. While no one can predict what will happen in 2021, we can say that Nepal is definitely a safe day to day destination. But remember trekking and travelling in the mountains always has some risk – mainly of missing the trail (if travelling solo) or due to the high altitude that your body needs time to adapt to. But with the best Nepal tour agencies – those who can give Nepal travel advice and safety regulations – there are few mishaps. Every visitor who comes trekking should be covered for trekking, and please ensure high altitude trekking is mentioned in your policy, and these days you should be covered for COVID-19 complications also. The Government of Nepal is currently recommending your insurance coverage should include a minimum of US$5,000 COVID-19 cover. If after reading this blog you think that trekking in Nepal is perhaps not for you – rest assured there are easy hikes from one day to several that anyone can do. Otherwise, there are lots of other activities such as wildlife spotting in Chitwan National Park, bird watching in Bardia National Park, rafting and even luxury tours in Nepal. And with the wonderful culture, heritage and architecture you will find in Kathmandu and beyond, Nepal really has something for everyone!