One of the most beautiful countries on the planet, Nepal’s towering peaks are nirvana for adventurers across the globe. For all its immensity however, trekking here is not as daunting as you might think, with the hospitality of the country’s teahouse lodges offering an entirely new level of comfort to what will be a life-changing experience. Here is our guide on how to make the most out of trekking in Nepal.
Who can do it?
Most trekking trips in Nepal are not technical, however the difficulty can vary according to factors like physical fitness, pack weight, weather conditions and your experience. There will still be long days of walking resulting in aching muscles and sore feet, however the good thing is that most treks are paced to give you adequate time for both rest and acclimatisation. You just need to choose one that suits your fitness level, and train adequately before you attempt it!
If you’re an experienced backpacker trekking a popular route, you’ll probably be fine without a guide as the tracks are well-marked. If you’re hiking independently, make sure you’ve done some prep work and have a good map, guidebook and the proper permits before you set out.
‘Teahouse trekking’ is a popular option for a lot of people wanting to hike Nepal. Teahouses are basically small mountain lodges that are frequently spaced along the popular trails. They’re great places to eat a home-cooked meal, get a good night’s sleep and, of course, meet other like-minded travellers.
Group trekking tours are also a great option for travellers looking to link up with other hikers, and if you really want to up the comfort level on a solo trek, consider hiring a guide and/or a porter to assist you. Your guide will take care of everything from safety and logistics to food, accommodation and transport, and your porter will carry all your heavy gear for you!
Plus, you’ll also gain the benefits of travelling with people who know the local culture and customs, which is ideal if you’re a little nervous about tackling the adventure on your own.
Where to go
There are so many amazing trails in Nepal, however the teahouse trekking routes are all exceptional hikes and suit a variety of timetables and fitness levels. For those with seven to 10 days to spare, the Langtang Valley route is worth considering, as although hit hard by the 2015 earthquake, it is on the mend and perfect for those keen to escape the crowds.
The Annapurna Base Camp will take a similar time to conquer, and as a lower elevation hike, may be better for those worried about altitude issues or hiking in the off-peak season. Both offer stunning views of the Himalayan amphitheatre of mountains.
The Gokyo Lakes trek offers some of the country’s finest views from Gokyo Peak. The always-popular Annapurna Circuit will take around 12 to 16 days to accomplish, and offers lots of variety combining spectacular mountain scenery with Tibetan-influenced culture.
Then there’s the most popular trekking route in Nepal, Everest Base Camp. Not for the faint-hearted, this trek will allow you to trace the footsteps of some of the world’s most famous explorers, and view spectacular Everest views from the peak of nearby Kala Patthar.
When to go
Nepal has something unique to offer hikers throughout the year, however consider travelling during autumn (September to November) if comfort is a priority. At this time of year the monsoon season is over, the temperature is ideal (so the sweat factor will be reduced), and receding cloud cover will ensure you get the clearest views from the trails.
Spring (March to May) is your next best option if you’re somewhat of a beginner. Temperatures are mild, so it’s a great opportunity to view wildlife and blooming foliage, however the down side is that you’ll probably be sharing the trail with heaps of other trekkers, especially on the more popular routes.
What to pack
In terms of what gear to take, it really depends on the type of trekking you’ll be doing. The gear you’ll need for teahouse trekking for example will be a lot less than what you’ll need for a full-on solo expedition.
In terms of clothing, the key is not to over-pack. Of course you’ll need a decent pair of hiking shoes (well worn-in of course), but make sure you also pack quick-wick pants, shorts and T-shirts that you can layer up or down as you need. It’s also worth packing a quality rain jacket and pants, a down or fleece jacket, sleepwear like thermals and a hat and gloves.
Other basics you’ll need include a sleeping bag, water bottle, sun protection, a headlamp, insect repellent, travel-size toiletries, a basic first aid kit, and a decent backpack to carry it all in. Keeping your packed weight under 15 kilos will also ensure a more enjoyable adventure!
What to eat
Thanks to a booming tourism industry, indulging in a variety of delicious food throughout your trekking adventure is now fairly easy to achieve in Nepal. Not only are there a variety of shops and bakeries along many routes, most teahouses offer hearty menus including westernised noodle dishes as well as Nepalese staples like momos (dumplings) and dhal bhat (a bean, rice and vege curry).
If you’ve got a sweet tooth you’ll be a-OK here too – most villages have bakeries that stock delicious locally-made treats like apple pie, choccie cake, rice pudding and cinnamon rolls.
And of course staying hydrated while hiking is critical, particularly if you’re gaining elevation on your trek. Most experts would recommend carrying at least two litres of water during the day (and filling up as often as possible). You’ll also need to make sure your water is purified via a water filter, UV steriliser or water treatment pills.
Bottled water is available from teahouses as well, however it’s obviously an environmentally unfriendly option and not something you really want to do when exploring one of the world’s most spectacular ecosystems!
Trekking in Nepal often involves heading into fairly remote areas far from reliable hospitals, so it’s important to take every precaution you can before setting out. Avoid trekking alone, pay close attention to weather conditions as storms can develop quickly, and leave a detailed itinerary with an emergency contact.
You should also educate yourself on acute mountain sickness (AMS). This can occur when a person spends time at an elevation of over 2500 metres, and symptoms include fatigue, nausea, headaches and in extreme cases, breathlessness and fluid in the brain or lungs. Prevent AMS by staying hydrated and taking advantage of the prescribed acclimatisation days on high-altitude hikes.
In the event that something does go wrong, it’s handy if you have travel insurance, as you’ll most likely require an emergency evacuation, possibly by helicopter!