Nepal

One of the top bucket list items for any global adventurer is a trek in the Himalayas. And the Mecca of mountain walking is Nepal, where Mt. Everest soars 29,032 feet (8,848 meters) to the top of the world. In fact 8 of the top 10 highest mountains on the globe are in this landlocked country. While Nepal was a secluded kingdom and isolated from the west for hundreds of years, the summiting of Mt. Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953 put it on the map. While Hillary and entourage walked overland from India with hundreds of porters carrying supplies, modern trekkers fly from around the globe to the exotic city of Kathmandu where your trekking journey begins and ends. 

A Nepal trek typically begins and ends in Kathmandu. Though you will need to fly or bus to your trek starting point. While one can travel overland from India directly to Pokhara and west Nepal avoiding Kathmandu, most pilgrims fly into Kathmandu from points across the globe. In Kathmandu, trekkers head directly to Thamel, a tourist ghetto, filled with shops selling everything you need for a trek. There is a surprising range of excellent restaurants; from steakhouses, Italian, French, Pizza, Vegetarian, Indian, Nepal, etc. Walking the streets of Thamel is an experience in itself; with street vendors selling fruit, vegetables, snacks, assorted trinkets and Masala(Chai) Tea. Kathmandu has a unique smell to it; a combination of burning incense, human sweat, and cow dung that is rather pleasant once you get used to it.  

Of course, a trek is the main reason for most visitors to Nepal and there are many to choose from, including but not limited to;

  • Everest Base Camp
  • Annapurna Circuit
  • Annapurna Base Camp
  • Manaslu and Tsum Valley
  • Langtang
  • Gosaikunda Lake
  • Helambu
  • The 3 Passes
  • Mustang Region

If this is a once in a lifetime holiday and you have limited time setting your trek up from home is advisable. However, if you have the time, Thamel is loaded with trekking agencies. Upon arrival visit 3 agencies, talk with them about local conditions and choose a trek. Then negotiate a final price of roughly $20-$25 per day for a guide/porter. $40-$45 if you include meals. These guide/porters at this price speak limited English but will make your trek easier and more enjoyable. Once you set up your trek you can leave the following day but a few days to enjoy Kathmandu at the beginning or end of your walk is worth it. 

If you prefer to set up everything in advance, after many years and treks in Nepal I have found a Hotel, Cafe/Restaurant, and Trekking Agency that I use exclusively as the owner is friendly and trustworthy and has developed a wonderful accomodating staff. Yala Peak Hotel, Yala Cafe, and Mouhttp://www.mounttrails.comnt Trails. Both the Hotel and Restaurant are rated in the Top 10 on Trip Advisor. Once you have your trek organized you have time to enjoy Kathmandu.

While Kathmandu has gotten more crowded and polluted over the past 35 years, it still has its charms. It is also a great walking city. Explore the streets beyond Thamel where you will experience 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Getting up early and walking up the 424 steps to Swayambhunath Buddhist Temple for sunrise with the scores of monkeys. Also going to Pashupatinath Hindu Temple Complex early is a deeply humbling experience. Be sure to walk across the Bagmati River which flows into the Ganges, looking back you will see the various funeral pyres and locals bringing their dead on stretchers for the burning rituals. 

For sunset I like to head for another UNESCO site Bodnath Buddhist Stupa to walk around  one of the largest spiral stupas in the world. This is a center for the Tibetan Buddhists and there are many monasteries and convents and an excellent place to experience a 10 Day Silent Meditation Retreat. I particularly enjoy eventually making my way to one of the rooftop restaurants on the square to just enjoy the changing colors of the Stupa as day fades into night. 

Then of course there is Durbar Square which was heavily damaged by the 2015 Earthqake but is slowly being rebuilt and still worth a visit to view several ancient temples. If possible a visit to the Living Virgin Goddess is interesting. She is replaced though after her first period. If you still have time a day trip to Bhaktapur Durbar Square with a similar complex of Temples is most interesting. 

  • Everest Base Camp
  • Annapurna Circuit
  • Annapurna Base Camp
  • Manaslu and Tsum Valley
  • Langtang
  • Gosaikunda Lake
  • Helambu
  • The 3 Passes

Which trek to take can be a difficult decision. 

  • Everest Base Camp- A popular choice for once in a lifetime travelers but can be crowded at peak season. 12-17 days
  • Annapurna Circuit-The popular choice for overland travelers and budget travelers as you can walk it without a guide and get there by bus. Like EBC can be crowded at peak season and development and roads are encroaching. 12-17 days
  • Annapurna Base Camp-A wonderful shorter 10 day trek that requires back tracking.
  • Manaslu and Tsum Valley- Manaslu and the optional Tsum Valley requires a guide but a special trekking fee keeps the crowds down. 
  • Langtang-Excellent 7-8 day trek in the north of Kathmandu
  • Gosaikunda Lake 5 days
  • Helambu- 5 days. 
  • Langtang/Gosaikunda/Helambu can be combined in a 12 day trek which ends just a 45 minute taxi ride back to Kathmandu
  • The 3 Passes-Perhaps the most challenging of the treks including 3 passes from 5,300-5,500 meters.

All the treks are wonderful. The amount of time you have can limit your choices. Many once in a lifetime travelers choose the Everest Base Camp trek because of the name. Annapurna is also a popular choice for its loop walk, diverse scenery and cultures. Both of these are more crowded than the other treks. Manaslu and Tsum Valley are a nice option if you have the time. Though it has an extra fee and requires a guide, these restrictions limit the number of trekkers enabling a richer experience. If you have limited time; Langtang, Gosaikunda, offer outstanding views. Combined with Helambu they offer a diverse 12 day trek that has the added advantage of ending just a 45 minute taxi from Kathmandu.

The 3 Passes is probably the most challenging of these treks requiring the ascent and descent of 3 high passes of 5,300 to 5,500 meters. If you have the time you can also include Everest Base Camp as part of this trek.

Once you select a trek you can then enjoy Kathmandu for a few days. Most trekkers head for Thamel, a tourist ghetto, filled with hotels and shops selling everything you need for a trek. There is a surprising range of excellent restaurants; from steakhouses, Italian, French, Pizza, Vegetarian, Indian, Nepal, etc. Walking the streets of Thamel is an experience in itself; with street vendors selling fruit, vegetables, snacks, assorted trinkets and Masala(Chai) Tea. Kathmandu has a unique smell to it; a combination of burning incense, human sweat, and cow dung that is rather pleasant once you get used to it.  

While Kathmandu has gotten more crowded and polluted over the past 35 years, it still has its charms. It is also a great walking city. Explore the streets beyond Thamel where can experience 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 

Getting up early and walking up the 424 steps to Swayambhunath Buddhist Temple for sunrise with the scores of monkeys. Also going to Pashupatinath Hindu Temple Complex early is a deeply humbling experience. Be sure to walk across the Bagmati River which flows into the Ganges, looking back you will see the various funeral pyres and locals bringing their dead on stretchers for the burning rituals. 

For sunset I like to head for another UNESCO site Bodnath Buddhist Stupa to walk around  one of the largest spiral stupas in the world. This is a center for the Tibetan Buddhists and there are many monasteries and convents and an excellent place to experience a 10 Day Silent Meditation Retreat. I particularly enjoy eventually making my way to one of the rooftop restaurants on the square to just enjoy the changing colors of the Stupa as day fades into night. 

Then of course there is Durbar Square which was heavily damaged by the 2015 Earthqake but is slowly being rebuilt and still worth a visit to view several ancient temples. If possible a visit to the Living Virgin Goddess is interesting. She is replaced though after her first period. If you still have time a day trip to Bhaktapur Durbar Square with a similar complex of Temples is most interesting. 

For further information on a Nepal Trek:

Which Nepal Trek is best for you?

How A Nepal Trek Is Different From The Camino De Santiago.

Nature Cure Naturopathic Hospital Visit.

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