That one in four visitors to Nepal go trekking should say something about the popularity of this activity in the Himalayan country. Most treks go through altitudes between 1,000 and 4,000 meters, while some popular parts reach over 5,000 meters. It’s not only the stunning landscapes on the trail that captivate the trekkers but also the people from different ethnic groups with whom they meet on the way – a rare opportunity to experience Nepal’s rich cultural diversity. And what better way than walking to see and experience it.
The most popular trekking routes have traditionally been the Everest, Annapurna and Langtang regions. But now the Kanchenjungha in the extreme east and Dolpo in northwest Nepal are gaining ground as new popular destinations.
Far West Nepal
The sight of a white-turbaned Dhami, a shaman, with silver bangles on his arms and gold rings in his ears, will indicate just how far west you are of the modern world. Yet Hinduism and Buddhism blends with animism in local devotions, the most famous object of which was the Khaptad Swami, the renowned ‘eco-saint’ who lived to well over 100 years of age.
Humla is the most remote district in Nepal, and one of the poorest. There are few tourists, and those you meet will most likely be headed to the border town of Hilsa, a stepping-stone to Mount Kailash in Tibet.
Rara and Jumla
More species of birds (236) nest around Rara Lake than people visited in 2010 (170). Yet the largest lake in Nepal, ensconced within its smallest national park, is only three hours walk from an airstrip. It’s a beautiful, calm haven surrounded by forests, and a paradise for bird watchers.
Until recently, what little the outside world knew of Dolpo was gleaned from artistic and spiritual accounts from early visitors. The region was only opened to foreigners in 1989, and receives a fraction of the visitors thronging other parts of Nepal. With more trekking agencies venturing into Inner Dolpo – allowing access beyond Phoksundo Lake to the 800-year-old Shey Gompa – a truly remarkable natural and cultural experience is there for the taking (even in the monsoon!). Look out for views of mighty Dhaulagiri (8167m), once thought to be the highest mountain in the world.
Mustang which means fertile plain in Tibetan Language. Mustang was once an independent kingdom before 17th century. Mustang is the former kingdom of Lo but now its the part of Nepal in the North central part since 18th century. By the order of the Government of Nepal its monarchy ceased to exist on october 7, 2008. But there is still current unofficial king called Raja. The kingdom of Lo, the traditional region and Upper Mustang are one and the same, comprising the northen two- thirds of the present day at Mustang District.
Annapurna, attracts the largest number of trekkers in Nepal. Here you will find everything the Himalayas have to offer, accessible along a selection of well-maintained trails that snake in and around the 55-kilometre Annapurna massif, separated from the gargantuan Dhaulagiri (8167m) by the Kaligandaki, the deepest gorge in the world.
Manaslu lies north of the historic fortress town of Gorkha, from where the last kings of Nepal ventured forth to conquer the rest of the country in the 18th Century. The Manaslu Circuit has recently become a teahouse trek, opening up the misty wood-shingled villages of the Nupri Valley. But hikers are free to explore the many other trails being forged right now. The Tsum Valley trek has beautiful views of the four 7000m peaks of the Ganesh massif, and visitors can experience the distinct Tibetan-influenced culture of the Tsumba people, who prohibit the slaughter of all living beings. No doubt this enhances the protection afforded to such endangered species as the Snow Leopard and the Red Panda.
The snowy south face of Langtang Lirung(7227m) peers right over the looming green mass of Shivapuri, and presides over the closest trekking area to the Kathmandu Valley. Here you may join Hindu and Buddhist devotees on a full moon pilgrimage to the high-altitude lakes around Gosainkund, explore the unfrequented passes overlooking Tibet up from the flower-scatteredalpine meadows of the Langtang Valley, and enjoy the heartfelt hospitality of Sherpa and Tamang households. Rhododendrons blend into moss-hung pine giants, yaks trundle down pastures on their way home, and in the monsoon, the blanket of clouds filling the lower valleys transports you a world away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city, Kathmandu.
The Khumbu region boasts a range of highly organised teahouse trails that get busier every year, and for good reason. The views on the Everest Base Camp trail are simply unbeatable. The hospitality of the local Sherpas is legendary, and cultural celebrations such as October’s Mani Rimdu mask festival are life affirming.
Makalu is a rarely visited gem. It’s considered one of the toughest 8000m peaks to climb – even the great Edmund Hillary failed twice. But the wilderness around it is just waiting to be explored by the intrepid trekker prepared to forgo the comforts of teahouse treks. The camping trail to Makalu Base Camp from the south is considered one of the tougher routes in Nepal, and you’re more likely to have the company of birds than fellow hikers.
In Tibetan, ‘Kanchenjunga’ means ‘the five treasure houses of snow’, which gives you some idea of what to expect should you visit this area. At 8586 m, massive Kanchenjunga is the world’s third highest mountain, and marks the eastern border of Nepal with the Indian state of Sikkim. The conservation area that surrounds it extends into protected areas in Sikkim and Tibet, and comprises a beautiful, unspoilt wilderness. This is Snow Leopard territory, but the reclusive predator shares the unbounded forests with the Himalayan Black Bear and the Assamese Macaque, among others. Cascading waterfalls, lush vegetation and thousands of species of plants await those who take the long trail to Kanchenjunga Base Camp, the main route which has been described as ‘untrekked’.