Nepal was hit by devastating earthquakes in the year 2015 while 8 of the 30 million Nepalese were affected. How can you help the country sustainably? ‘By going there’ – mountain climbers Katja Staartjes, Robert Eckhardt, and Menno Boermans replied, ‘Most hiking areas are easily accessible and by supporting tourism you ultimately help prevent the population from further slipping into poverty’. They give their personal tips: 10 beautiful hikes in Nepal.
Table of Contents
- 1. Humla trek with Limi Valley – Far-west
- 2. Traverse over Lumbha Sambha, Eastern Nepal
- 3. Eastern Nepal Kanchenjunga Trek
- 4. Western Nepal, Dolpo without permit
- 5. Southwest of the Annapurna
- 6. Myagdi and Rukum districts
- 7. From Okhaldhunga district to Solu Khumbu
- 8. The Terai
- 9. Khumbu – Gokyo Trek
- 10. Manaslu Circuit
1. Humla trek with Limi Valley – Far-west
A beautiful trip through the far north-west of Nepal. We walk on an old trading path along with one of the main rivers of Nepal. A loop is made through the ‘hidden’ Limi Valley. Via a pass of 5000 meters, you pass through a few authentic Tibetan Buddhist settlements. Only a few dozen tourists come here every year.
Best time: mid-May to late June and September. Although it is monsoon season in Nepal in the summer, Humla lies in the Himalayas rain shadow. The flights to and from Nepalgunj may be delayed by heavy rainfall.
Duration: home and away 26 days, travel 20 days, of which 13 walking days—highest point 4990 meters.
Characteristic: Humla is the most northwestern district of Nepal. An ancient trade route leads to western Tibet from the provincial town of Simikot – which can only be reached on foot or by plane. This route also builds up to the sacred mountain of Mount Kailash, making it one of the rare stretches of the Far West where some tourists come.
The border post at Hilsa is the endpoint (or starting point) of the Upper Great Himalaya Trail in Nepal. The area is located in the Himalayas rain shadow and is, therefore, a lot drier than the rest of Nepal.
Accommodation: tents are needed for the loop through the Limi Valley. The route between Simikot and Hilsa follows a good and wide path, where simple overnight stays are possible in the teahouses. The local people speak hardly any English, and overnight stays are only possible with a small group.
Mount Kailash: The border with Tibet at Hilsa has been closed in recent years, but talks are being reopened. This clears the way to cross the border from Hilsa and take the jeep to Taklakot trading center. From this place, it is a 3-hour drive to the famous Manasarovar lake. Then Mount Kailash is 4 hours away. Every year thousands of pilgrims (Hindus, Buddhists, and Bonpos) walk the hike around this holy mountain (3 days).
From Western Tibet, it is possible to drive back to Kathmandu in Nepal in 3 to 4 days, assuming that the border post at Kodari is open again.
NB: in case the extension with Tibet is not done, the original tour through Limi can also be reversed, so first to Hilsa and then back to Simikot via the Limi Valley. This is slightly more favorable in terms of altitude acclimation.
Maps and guides
💠 Trekking Map 100 Series NP110 – Far-West Great Himalaya Trail (1: 150,000)
💠 Nepa maps Trekking Map 500 Series NS503 – Kailash, Manasarovar (1: 200,000)
💠 Finnish Meteorological Maps No. 2981 04, No. 3081 15 and No. 3081 14 (1: 50,000)
2. Traverse over Lumbha Sambha, Eastern Nepal
Rugged journey through the far east of Nepal through a variety of landscapes: green meadows and rice fields, jungle, high mountains. It starts in the heat of Tumlingtar in the Makalu area, and a few days later, the Great Himalaya Trail is started towards the Kangchenjunga area in the east, a challenging journey through the wilderness. The highlight is the Lumbha Sambha mountain pass of 5160 meters.
Best time: April / May and October / November.
Duration: home and away 25 days, travel 19 days, of which 13 running days—highest point 5,160 meters.
Characteristic: the Lumbha Sambha massif forms the link between the areas Makalu and Kanchenjunga in the east of Nepal. It is flown in at the airport of Tumlingtar (Makalu area) and driven by jeep from Taplejung (Kanchenjunga area).
From Tumlingtar, we first walk north for a few days on a good trade path. The traverse to the east begins in Hongon. The Upper Great Himalaya Trail is followed for a week by extremely rugged terrain. The jungle hits one of the most isolated villages in Nepal: Thudam.
People are faster in Tibet than they are in the civilized world of Nepal. There is no water, electricity, and no school, and they only speak their local language.
Conditions to the Lumbha Sambha pass can be very challenging with large amounts of snow. In good weather, there is a beautiful view on this day towards the striking mountain Jannu and the eight-thousanders Makalu and Kanchenjunga.
NB: Alternative route: If you are unable to cross Lumbha Sambha, there is an alternative. You then walk back to Thudam and then head south via the Thangla Pass (4800m) and the villages of Topkegola and Papung, towards Taplejung.
Overnight stays: this route can only be organized with tents. It is a challenge to find the route at various points. The locals hardly speak English.
💠 Trekking Map 100 Series NP101 – Kanchenjunga Region (1: 100,000)
💠 Trekking Map 100 Series NP102 – Makalu Region (1: 100,000)
💠 Finnish Meteorological Maps No. 2787 03, No. 2787 07 and No. 2787 08 (1: 50,000)
3. Eastern Nepal Kanchenjunga Trek
This is the route from the south to the Kangchenjunga. The trek to the Kanchenjunga is perhaps the most beautiful in Eastern Nepal. The unspoiled nature at the foot of the third highest mountain in the world (8,586 m) is of overwhelming beauty. The standard trek is around 21 (walking) days. You can extend the route to Jannu base camp and to Pathibhara, a fascinating Hindu pilgrimage site on top of an almost 4000-meter high hill.
Keep in mind that – especially in November – on the north side of the Kangchenjunga, it can be very cold (and windy). This means that an extra sleeping mat, an expedition sleeping bag, and a down jacket are no unnecessary luxury.
NB: Dolpo and Kangchenjunga are long tours for experienced hikers. However, there are many easy, short hikes that are recommended and some of which can also be done in winter (December to February).
Duration: The standard trek is approximately 21 walking days.
Best time: March to mid-May; October November.
4. Western Nepal, Dolpo without permit
For a trek in (Inner) Dolpo, you need an expensive permit. In the valley of the Barbung Khola you could, and probably can, still now – without a permit, end up in the east of Inner Dolpo. The highlight here is the medieval village of Charkabot (4400 m). From that village, you can go even further east, to the valley of the Kali Gandaki. You can of course also take the standard Inner Dolpo trekking tours (for which you do need a permit).
Duration: 34 days, of which 28 walking days.
Best time: March to mid-May; June to August; October November.
5. Southwest of the Annapurna
During the Lespar – Chorpani – Ghandruk trek you walk the first five days through the virtually untouched area and through the authentic villages of Kyang and Lespar. In the last days, you come to the famous Chorepanitrek. Great to do in winter (between 8 and 11 days). In the spring and autumn, the Chorepanitrek is ‘overflowed’, so you literally walk-in line.
There are even more options on this side of the Annapurna Himal, which you can even expand with the Dhaulagiri area on the other side (west) of the Kali Kandakhi Valley.
Duration: 7 – 12 walking days.
Best time: December to February (Chorepanitrek is overflowing in trekking seasons).
6. Myagdi and Rukum districts
On our way to Dolpo, we traveled south of the Dhaulagiri Himal through the districts Myagdi and Rukum. Here are countless possibilities for approx. 14-day hike, also in winter. These are not standard tours. Here you have to find out how. If you walk from Rukum to Dunai and Juphal (both in Dolpo), this is also possible without a special permit. Not in winter, because you pass over an approx. 4500-meter high pass.
You can fly back to Pokhara from Juphal.
Duration: 14 walking days.
Best time: March to mid-May; October November; December to February
7. From Okhaldhunga district to Solu Khumbu
The starting point is the small airport of Rumjatar, a 45-minute flight east of Kathmandu. This is a trek through the Foothills that you can extend north to the Himalayas, where you will end up on the classic Everest trek. Pristine, no western tourists come here. You have to know exactly where to pull.
It is not easy to give directions, because the construction of roads sometimes changes the situation. Very interesting if you want to experience the people and agricultural life of Nepal up close.
Duration: 3 – 14 days.
Best time: March to mid-May; October November; December to February.
8. The Terai
The Nepalese lowland. Unspoiled area, great for mountain biking. With the most famous wildlife parks in Nepal: Chitwan and Bardia. And you will find one of the most special ethnic groups in Nepal, the Rana Tharu! Near the Bardiya park is a homestay run by a Nepali-Dutch couple (www.bardiahomestay.com).
Best time: Cycling: December-January; Game viewing: spring.
Duration: At your own discretion.
9. Khumbu – Gokyo Trek
The most famous and busiest trekking in Nepal. It offers a beautiful Nepal experience with amazing views of Ama Dablam and Mount Everest, among others. From Lukla, you walk in seven to ten days through famous villages such as Namche Bazaar and Thyangboche to the base camp of Mount Everest.
Kala Pattar is literally the highlight for most tourists; on this 5545 meters high “hiking mountain,” you imagine yourself on the roof of the world. On the way back, you will cross the Cho La pass to enter the quieter valley of Gokyo, where you will find six photogenic turquoise lakes. Via the villages of Machhermo and Phortse – where the Khumbu Climbing Center is – you walk back to Namche Bazar and Lukla.
Duration: 10-14 walking days for the “classic” Khumbu trek, 16-18 including Gokyo.
Best time: March-May and October-December.
Tip: Visit the Sherpa Culture & Everest Mountaineering Museum in Namche Bazaar
10. Manaslu Circuit
The Manaslu circuit is a very varied trek through an area that was closed to tourists until 1991. This has largely preserved the original culture and nature. In 14 days, you can walk clockwise from the village of Bhulbhule or counterclockwise from Arughat Bazar to the Manaslu, the highest massif in Central Nepal.
The tour takes you through the spectacular gorge of the Buri Gandaki, past dozens of settlements, and over the 5135-meter high Larkya La pass. You have a beautiful view over the Himalayas peaks Himalchuli (7893m), Shringi Himal (7187m), Ngadi Chuli (7871m), and of course, Manaslu (8156m).
Buddhist culture is strongly represented with many monasteries, temples, Gompas, and Stupas, and people here seem more Tibetan than Nepalese. This area was severely affected by the earthquake. Lodges and hiking trails have been destroyed.
A flexible attitude of the tourist is required and it is advisable to bring a tent. Spending the night and eating is often possible in people’s homes; it is a beautiful experience and directly supports the local population.
Duration: 14-18 walking days.
Best time: April-May and October-December.
Tip: From Samagaon, a spectacular five-hour climb takes you to the base camp of the Manaslu.
We enjoyed the real lifestyle of the Himalayas that could be observed in Limi. The three major villages trekkers encounter during Limi Valley Trek in Humla are Jang, Halji and Til, which clearly demonstrate the occupations, the people of Limi people have been involved into for their livelihood. Once is never enough to Nepal.