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Six Nepal Treks – But Which to Choose? - Part One

Six Nepal Treks – But Which to Choose? - Part One

Apr 28, 2022
Langtang Ri Trekking
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What one person considers the “best” of something will commonly differ from the judgement of others.  The answer to “which is best” is a case of personal judgement.  Here we try and help you make a comparison and judgement of six of Nepal’s favourite trekking routes.

So, which trek in Nepal is the “best” for you?  It depends upon what you consider appealing and important in a trekking journey.  While there are lots of criteria by which to compare and judge a trek, we have found from 30 years’ experience of guiding adventurers through the high Himalayas, there are nine criteria our clients often ask us about before confirming their trek booking.

  • Trek time.  How many days does the trek take to complete?  And how does that fit with available vacation time? Remember to add some extra arrival and departure days in Kathmandu for sightseeing and contingency.
  • Access and time.  How much extra travel time must be added to a Nepal visit to account for the start and end point locations of a trek and the time and effort needed to reach them?
  • Highest altitude.  People often consider this factor from two perspectives.  Some enjoy the thrill and challenge of achieving a thin-air altitude thousands of metres above sea level.  Others consider high altitudes as a risk and somewhat daunting.  You need to consider both perspectives when evaluating a trek itinerary.
  • Difficulty.  This can have multiple aspects, including altitude and medical implications; remoteness from services; long days of constant hard ascent; trekking trail quality; exposure to sudden weather changes and trail closures.
  • Scenery.  Most visitors to the Himalaya want to get up close, and be surrounded by, stunning snow-capped mountain peaks.  So, does a trek itinerary deliver? 
  • Cultural experience.  Just about every valley in Nepal is home to a unique ethnic and cultural community.  Historical ethnic origins; religious beliefs; traditional dress styles; language; songs; ancient stories; farming practices; and architectural styles differ widely across Nepal.  Some trekking routes offer more cultural diversity than others.
  • Serenity.  Some trekking routes are known the world over and attract lots of visitors in peak season.  Others are less well trod and you may have the trail to yourself.
  • Accommodation and facilities.  This factor is somewhat associated with Serenity.  The less visited trekking routes can have fewer facilities and comforts for trekkers.
  • Wow-factor.  What is the standout feature of this trek itinerary that grabs your attention and will have you sharing stories and photos with friends when you return home?

You will have to make your own mind up on these criteria.  However, our table below is how we see it.  And then please read-on for our short review of what we consider six of the best treks in Nepal.

Three of the Six Treks Compared:

Criteria

Everest Base Camp

Annapurna Base Camp

Annapurna Circuit

Trek time

13 days

7 or 14 day options

15 days

Access and time

Short flight to Lukla start point, and return. No extra travel days.

One hour flight or one day bus trip, each way to Pokhara. 2 extra travel days.

One day drive to start. Return flights Jomsom-Pokhara-Kathmandu, or bus return.  2 extra travel days

Highest altitude

5,500m Kala Patthar vantage point

4,130m Annapurna Base Camp

5,416m Throng La Pass

Difficulty

Moderate to strenuous.  Guide essential

Strenuous – rapid altitude gain. Guide essential

Strenuous. Long distance and high altitude. Guide essential

Scenery

Spectacular on most days

Spectacular mountain peaks every day

Highly varied, valley to Himalaya summits.

Cultural experience

Limited but still good

Good in the lower valley villages

Varied ethnic cultures and very good.

Serenity

Often busy trail

Often busy

Can be somewhat busy

Accommodation & facilities

Excellent, many options

Excellent, many options

Excellent, many options

Wow-factor

Abundant wow. Mt Everest and stunning mountain peaks.

Spectacular scenery, particularly at Base Camp surrounded by icy peaks

Stunning mountain scenery.  Accomplishing a challenging high pass and rapid descent

Who should attempt this trek?

Just about everyone with reasonable fitness. A life’s bucket-list experience

Anyone with a good level of fitness.  Steep trails and altitude gains can challenge.

Anyone with a good level of fitness.  High altitude can challenge. Another bucket-list trek

 

But you will probably need additional information to help you finalise your trek evaluation.  Below is a short overview of each trek, plus links to more details to help you decide which trek is best for you.

Everest Base Camp

This is one of the world’s premier treks – and justifiable so.  To stand at Everest Base Camp, or atop Kala Patthar, and view Mount Everest towering above you is profound.  Mount Everest - 8,849m of Himalayan rock and human struggle to summit. 

This trek offers so much.  The scenery is fantastic at all times from the flight to Lukla and every subsequent day.  Pack extra camera batteries and memory cards.  The initial days trek up the valley to Namche Bazaar is beautiful as you walk through forests, across suspension bridges and higher to the head of the valley and Namche.  This is an opportunity to unwind and let the Himalaya forests, valley and villages refresh you.

From Namche you enter the Himalaya Mountains proper as you pass multiple beautiful peaks – Kangtega, Tobuche, Ama Dablam, Island Peak, Mahlangur, Lhotse, Hungchi and many other as you progress toward Mount Everest itself. The walking trails are excellent and there are many opportunities to rest and take tea at guest houses along the route. A visit to the famous Tengboche Monastery is essential for some cultural and religious emersion. View the yeti paw and consider your belief in the Yeti.

The challenge of this trek is the altitude and seasonal conditions. There are plenty of teahouses in which to take shelter and rest, but the cold can be biting and the altitude saps energy due to the thin air. Take your time. Take rest days. Take the advice and guidance of your Guide – and the trek is achievable and the rewards immense.

Extra components can be added to this trek. If you have time. We recommend adding the side-trek into the Gokyo Valley to visit the Gokyo Lakes and stunning 5,357m vista point of Gokyo Ri that offers some of the best mountain views in Nepal. Another extension is the climb to the summit of 6,160m Island Peak. This is a true, but manageable, Himalaya climbing experience with ropes and crampons. Another bucket-list experience for the adventurous.

Return home with an amazing personal achievement, countless photos and stories to tell. For additional information to help guide your trek choice, click through to more itinerary details.

(view of Mount Everest from Everest Base Camp Trek)

Annapurna Base Camp

This trek is often referred to as the queen of Nepal treks. While it lacks Mount Everest, it has an abundance of snow-capped peaks, beautiful scenery and cultural experiences all its own. The maximum altitude is also significantly less, making the trek less challenging. 

The journey essentially begins and ends in Pokhara, apart from a short drive to and from Nayapul. Even the flight or one-day drive between Kathmandu and Pokhara is part of the experience. The flight offers beautiful views of the Himalaya while the drive be car or bus is part of the full Nepal experience. A bit slow, a bit bumpy, but a must-do.

The trekking route follows a well-maintained trail up the valley into the Annapurna Sanctuary, across scenic swaying suspension bridges and through beautiful villages. The lower valley forest scenery is beautiful especially during spring Rhododendron flowering season. This is a very popular trek so the facilities and accommodation options are good and readily available. Take your time and enjoy the scenery and teahouse hospitality along the way.

One of the scenic features of the trek are the beautiful peaks of Annapurna South and sacred Machhapuchhre. Climbers are not permitted on Machhapuchhre. These mountains tower either side of the valley and require frequent camera stops and time for contemplation.

The trail becomes steeper as you approach Machhapuchhre Base Camp and so becomes more strenuous. However, the heavier breathing is worth the now magnificent mountain views of snow-capped Hiunchuli, Annapurna South, Annapurna I, Annapurna III, Gangapurna and more. You start to understand the “pull” of these mountains and why climbers and trekkers are drawn here. The trail finally turns west and into the valley of Annapurna Base Camp and its encircling mountains. Make sure the camera batteries were fully charged ready for today.

The descent back to Nayapul is equally enjoyable as now you have extra time to explore the many villages, chat with the local people and visit more teahouses. 

Many people add an extension to the front of this itinerary and take the side-trek to Ghorepani and the vista-point of Poon Hill. This adds some extra days to the trek but delivers stunning sunrise and sunset views of Annapurna South, Machhapuchhre, Nilgiri, and massive Mount Dhaulagiri to the west. This is another bucket-list photo location.

The 7-day Annapurna base Camp trek is manageable by anyone with good fitness, but take your time ascending towards Machhapuchhre Base Camp and on to Annapurna Base Camp. Adding the Ghorepani extension can make this trek tougher as it brings extra days of ascent and effort, but very much worth every ache. The choice is yours – 7 days or 14, the outcome is an amazing trek either way. Click through to more itinerary details.

(Night view of of Mountain Range and Stars from Annapurna Base Camp)

Annapurna Circuit

This is another classic Nepal trek. However, it brings the challenges of greater distance and more strenuous walking days plus a high-altitude pass to cross.

In the Annapurna Base Camp trek, you essentially walk to the base of the mountain and return.  On this trek you circumnavigate the mountain and get to see it from all sides, but not up so close. The appeal of this trek is it takes you to new locations every day and delivers changing stunning mountain scenery as you progress from village to village. If you choose to return to Pokhara by flight from Jomsom you also get to enjoy beautiful views as you fly over the Annapurna Sanctuary. You could extend your trek and walk back to Pokhara, but that is another trek entirely.

As you near Manang the Himalaya peaks become closer and more inspiring. There are plenty of peaks begging to be photographed and teahouses along the way where you can rest and take in the view. The rest day in Manang is rarely that restful as most people opt to visit nearby vista points or perhaps a frozen lake. More excellent photo opportunities.

The trek beyond Manang takes you into the bare rocky mountains as you gain more altitude each day. The villages are replaced by scattered teahouses as the altitude is too high for local people to grow crops or graze animals. You are now high in the Himalaya. 

The final two days take you to lower or upper Phedi where you try and catch some sleep before a pre-dawn start to reach and cross the 5,416m Thorong La Pass. This is the ultimate achievement of this trek. It is hard but manageable if you take it slow and take the advice of your Guide. After a rest, cup of tea and lots of photos at Thorong La Pass you descend rapidly to Muktinath to and next day further down to Jomsom. But, make sure to visit the sacred Hindu monastery in Muktinath, and consider taking the walk beneath the soul-cleansing fountains too.

From Jomsom, most people choose the easy and scenic option and fly back to Pokhara, and next day after a little sightseeing, onward to Kathmandu. Click through to more itinerary details.

There are two side-trek options you might also consider. One option is to trek north into a remote region of the Himalaya to the ancient villages of Naar and Phu to experience some largely unchanged Tibetan village culture. A second option is the take a side-trek from Manang to Tilicho Lake, considered the highest lake in the world at an altitude of 4,919m.

(View of Manang village)

The remaining 3 treks is continued on the next vlog. please click the link below to continue to the next vlog: https://www.langtang.com/en/blog/six-nepal-treks-but-which-to-choose-part-two

 

 

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