Trekking In Nepal: An Essential Guide

The Best Treks In Nepal

The Best Treks In Nepal
By Stuart Butler

With countless regions and routes to choose from, Nepal has a trek for everyone and virtually every ability.

The Nepal trekking experience ranges from a gentle amble from village to village in the richly fertile Middle Hills, meeting yak herders in the high summer pastures, visiting holy lakes and a myriad of temples, slogging over snow-bound passes, drinking butter tea with Buddhist monks in a setting that’s more classically Tibetan than Tibet itself, and dawdling through stands of old-growth forest on the way to a high mountain basecamp.

A Nepalese trek can be as hard or as easy as you like. Those who want it challenging can set off with a backpack, guide and camping equipment for an exploratory trek along trails generally only trodden by nomads and snow leopards.

For the rest of us though, the going can be much easier. There are innumerable trails where comfortable trekking lodges line the route, getting lost is almost impossible, and there’s the reassurance that at the end of the day a hot meal awaits. Whichever type of trek you choose, be warned: this is an experience that will mark you for the rest of your life and leave within you an insatiable urge to return.

Here are a handful of Nepal's best treks.

Nepal_Trekking Regions

The best treks in Nepal

The best treks in Nepal

Nepal's top trekking and hiking routes

Nepal everest base camp trek

The emblematic photo for many a Nepal trek: en-route to Everest Basecamp (EBC)

Everest basecamp trek

Best trek for: Everest views, ultimate bragging rights

Difficulty: Moderate to hard

Trek duration: 12 days+

Max. elevation: 5,545m

Accommodation: Trekking lodges

Start / end point: Lukla

This is one of the most popular treks in Nepal, and for good reason. Over two weeks you will hike through green foothills, past Buddhist monasteries, through stone-walled, slate-roofed villages and right into the heart of the mountains to arrive among the moraines of Everest base camp.

Facilities on this trek are as good as anywhere in the Nepalese mountains. Most lodges have varied menus, heating, separate rooms, electricity, hot showers and even wi-fi. There are genuinely luxurious lodges available. On the flip side, you’ll never walk alone on this route. Tens of thousands of trekkers walk this trail each year and sometimes local culture can be overwhelmed by international trekking culture. If you're looking for peace and solitude, look elsewhere.

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Nepal Treks

Nepal's best treks and hikes

The mighty Himalaya have occupied a special place in the imaginations of adventurers and intrepid travellers for generations. And nowhere more so than the nation of Nepal: land of the Sherpa and home of Mount Everest (plus eight of the world’s other 10 tallest peaks!) A country that embodies the allure and romance of these unimaginably vast mountains.

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Annapurna-Circuit

Thorong La; 5,416m, the highest point on the Annapurna Circuit

Annapurna Circuit trek

Best trek for: Legendary routes, unbeatable scenery

Difficulty: Moderate-hard

Trek duration: 12-18 days

Max. elevation: 5,416m

Accommodation: Trekking lodges

Start/end point: Besi Sahar or Bhulebule/Jomsom or Naya Pul

This, one of the world’s classic treks, takes you through virtually the whole range of Nepalese landscapes: From sub-tropical valleys where banana plants and gushing, murky jungle rivers are the defining features, through gorgeous woodlands, and across Alpine meadows and conifer forests, to the rock and ice wastes higher up.

Facilities along the Annapurna Circuit are excellent with comfortable trekking lodges and good, varied food. Many lodges have hot showers and wi-fi. It’s busy in high season and the demand for beds can exceed supply.

You can avoid the problem by joining an organised camping trip, and miss the crowds by overnighting at midway points between the major stops.

Langtang-Valley-view

The Langtang Valley, hard to believe it's a stone's throw from Kathmandu

Langtang Valley trek

Best trek for: Accessible trekking from Kathmandu

Difficulty: Moderate, the trail climbs quite rapidly so there is a risk of altitude sickness

Trek duration: Six days from Syabrubesi but allow another two to three days for side trips from Kanjin Gompa.

Max. elevation: 3,860m

Accommodation: Trekking lodges, camping required for any overnight trips beyond Kanjin Gompa

Start/end point: Syabrubesi

Before the earthquake, this was one of Nepal’s most popular trekking routes. The trails have been repaired or re-routed and trekking lodges reconstructed. And despite the obvious damage this is still one of the most delightful walks in Nepal.

The Langtang trek is a fantastic place for those with limited time, with the shortest routes taking just a week (or even slightly less) including travel time from Kathmandu. There are also many ways of combining treks to create routes lasting several weeks.

Classic view of Annapurna range from Poon Hill

Classic view of the Annapurna range from Poon Hill

Annapurna Sanctuary trek

Best trek for: Easy-going & comfortable trek

Difficulty: Easy-moderate

Trek duration: 10 days

Max. elevation: 4,130m

Accommodation: Comfortable trekking lodges

Start/end point: Naya Pul or Dhampus

Probably just beating Everest base camp for the title of most popular trek in Nepal, the Annapurna Sanctuary trek is a 10-day extravaganza of non-stop mountain vistas culminating in a great cirque of massive mountain peaks seven to eight kilometres high.

If you’re looking for a short, relatively easy and simple to organise trek that doesn’t venture too high (4,130m), and with unusually comfortable accommodation, then the Annapurna Sanctuary ticks all the boxes.

Kanchenjunga_view-2

Views over Kanchenjunga

Kanchenjunga North

Best trek for: Challenging & remote with spectacular views

Difficulty: Challenging

Trek duration: 18 days

Max. elevation: 5,140m

Accommodation: Camping or basic herders' lodges

Start/end point: Taplejung

Way out in the east of Nepal a wall of rock and ice rises up over eight and half kilometres into the sky. This is Kanchenjunga and at 8,586m it’s the third highest mountain on Earth. The hike to the base camp of this daunting peak is one of the most exciting treks in Nepal.

There are two main Kanchenjunga treks and the three-week trek to the Kanchenjunga North base camp is the longest, hardest and by far the most spectacular. The views are as good as you’ll get without venturing into the realms of mountaineering, but the risk of altitude sickness is high.

Nepal-Ebc-Day-10-Khumbu-Glacier-From-Kalapather

The view of Khumbu glacier from Kalapather

Three Passes trek

Best trek for: Most challenging trek in the Everest region

Difficulty: Challenging

Trek duration: 18-20 days

Max. elevation: 5,535m

Accommodation: Trekking lodges

Start/end point: Lukla

For those with stamina and time the formidable Three Passes trek is by far the most exciting, rewarding and challenging trek in the Khumbu region. In fact, for sheer mountain awe this is perhaps the single best trek in Nepal for independent trekkers reliant on lodges.

Having said that, the nature of this trek makes it highly advisable to take a guide and porter as well as crampons, ice-axes, ropes and camping equipment because of the very real possibility of getting stuck out for the night due to bad weather.

Nepal Annapurna Poon Hill sunrise

The famous Poon Hill sunrise

Poon Hill trek

Best trek for: Easy going, classic views

Difficulty: Easy-moderate

Trek duration: five to six days

Max. elevation: 3,210m

Accommodation: Trekking lodges

Start/end point: Naya Puk/Phedi

Mixing heart-stirring mountain views with enchanting villages and beautiful forests with a thousand blooming rhododendrons, this is a fabulous introduction to trekking in Nepal.

The highlight is Poon Hill itself, an hour’s walk above the village of Ghorepani. Watching the sunrise from here is an almost obligatory Nepalese experience. As the first beams of light shine across a panorama that includes Dhaulagiri I (8,167m), South Annapurna (8,091m) and Nilgri (6,940m), it rarely disappoints.

The trailheads are only about an hour’s drive out of Pokhara and there are excellent trekking lodges along the route plus some luxury hotels. The trek can be done clockwise or anti-clockwise and it makes a good add-on to the more challenging Annapurna Sanctuary trek. It’s also an ideal first time trek for families and those who don’t want to go too high. But do keep in mind that there’s a lot of steep up and down.

Manaslu-circuit

Trekking the Manaslu circuit

Manaslu Circuit trek

Best trek for: Thrilling sense of journey

Difficulty: Difficult

Trek duration: 14-18 days

Max. elevation: 5,160m

Accommodation: Trekking lodges

Start/end point: Arughat or Soti Khola/Dharapani or Besi Sahar

When the Manaslu Circuit opened to trekking tourism back in the early 1990s it was an almost immediate hit. The first trekkers returned with tales of stupendous mountain scenery, fascinating and varied village life and challenging walking. It soon gained a reputation as the new Annapurna Circuit — and as that walk was long considered the world’s best trek, it was a big claim indeed. Now, after 25 years of trekking, the Manaslu Circuit continues to live up to expectations.

Nepal Mustang lowres

The Upper Mustang region

Upper Mustang loop

Best trek for: More exciting version of the Upper Mustang 'standard' route

Difficulty: Moderate-difficult

Trek duration: 12 days

Max. elevation: 4,380mm

Accommodation: Homestays

Start/end point: Kagbeni/Kagbeni or Muktinath

Kanchenjunga

Wild Kanchenjunga

Kanchenjunga North

Best trek for: Varied, challenging trekking

Difficulty: Difficult

Trek duration: 18 days

Max. elevation: 5,140m

Accommodation: Camping or very basic herders’ lodges.

Start/end point: Taplejung

There are two main Kanchenjunga treks and the three-week trek to the Kanchenjunga North base camp is the longest, hardest and by far the most spectacular. The trail drops down into forested valleys and climbs again over ever higher and steeper hills.

The one drawback with the trail is that once you’ve made it to base camp there’s nothing more to do but spin round and return the way you came.

Gul Bhanjyang Helambu Nepal

Gul Bhanjyang, Helambu

Helambu trek

Best trek for: Easy-going, accessible trekking

Difficulty: Easy

Trek duration: Seven days

Max. elevation: 3,640m

Accommodation: Trekking lodges

Start/end point: Kathmandu

The closest trek to Kathmandu — it starts from the northern outskirts of the city — takes you on a fairly gentle amble through terraced fields, wild forests, flower meadows and through lots of little villages with views of the mountains. The highest point reached on this trek is 3,640m, so it can be done as a mid-winter trek when higher routes might be snowed in.

You can make an enjoyable week-long circuit (a good option for those with little time and/or trekking experience), but most people choose to use Helambu either as a walk in or out route to Gosainkund and the Langtang Valley.

The Best Treks In Nepal

Stuart Butler

Stuart is the author of Lonely Planet’s Trekking in Nepal, the Rough Guide to Nepal, the Tibet chapter of the Rough Guide to China and the Bradt guide to Kashmir & Ladakh. He also writes widely about East Africa and conservation issues.

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