There are many trekking routes in Nepal and I haven’t done them all by a long stretch but a few years ago Kirsty and I lived in Kathmandu for several months and as part of a project I was working on for a local company, I undertook a number of treks in different regions of the country.

 

Here are my top five treks in Nepal in descending order, ending with my personal favourite.

5. Gokyo Lake Trek

Trekking route
Kathmandu – Lukla – Phakding – Namche Bazaar – Phortse Tenga – Dole – Machhermo – Gokyo – Phortse Tenga – Namche Bazaar – Lukla – Kathmandu

Minimum duration/Best time to trek
13 days/October to May

Gokyo trek. Gokyo | Top five treks in Nepal

What’s to like about this trek?

  • Goyko Lake receives fewer trekkers than Everest Base Camp.
  • Incredible mountain views from Gokyo Ri (hill) (5483m).
  • Great coffee and cakes in ‘cosmopolitan’ Namche Bazaar.
  • The flight from Kathmandu to Lukla: it’s one of the most exhilarating flights in the world.

What’s there to dislike about this trek?

  • The flight from Kathmandu to Lukla: it’s one of the scariest flights in the world.
  • Being stuck for hours (sometimes days) at Kathmandu airport waiting for your flight to Lukla to take off.
  • Having to build contingency days into your itinerary because of the uncertainty of the Lukla/Kathmandu flight.
  • The region (but not necessarily Gokyo Lake) gets extremely busy with trekkers in high season.
  • There are potential problems with altitude sickness (AMS) on this trek (don’t ignore the importance of building acclimatisation days into your trekking schedule).
  • Costs are higher here than in any other trekking region of Nepal.
  • The complacent attitude of some of the teahouse owners, especially the younger ones, can be annoying.

Gokyo trek. Gokyo. Ngozumpa Glacier | Top five treks in Nepal

Trekking in the Solukhumbu is generally tougher than in Langtang or the Annapurna region. This is mainly because all treks in this region bar one (*) start at Lukla which is situated at 2860m. This means your fitness levels are already challenged by the relatively high altitude before you even begin to start walking. Once you get into the swing of it however, you will soon see why this is one of the most popular trekking regions in Nepal.

I like the trek to Goyko Lake because it is not as busy as the Everest Base Camp trek plus there are great views along the entire route. Furthermore, for those with good fitness and plenty of time, there are options for turning this great trek into an incredible one. For example, Gokyo Lake can be linked with Everest Base Camp via the Cho La Pass. Using the Renjo La pass to get back to Namche Bazaar via Chhule and Thami is another interesting diversion.

(*) The only trek that doesn’t start in Lukla is the Jiri-Lukla trek. There are no two ways about it, this is a tough trek that is only good for two things – building up fitness and for helping with acclimatisation. Jiri lies at an altitude of 1905m above sea level and as mentioned above, Lukla is situated at 2860m. If you decide to walk this route, be warned: you will spend 5 to 7 days going up, then down and then back up again and so on until you reach Lukla. It’s ‘Nepali flat’ at its worst and you don’t even gain 1000m in elevation!

Gokyo trek. View from Gokyo Ri | Top five treks in Nepal

You can read a detailed account of my trek in the Everest region including Gokyo Lake here.

4. Upper Mustang trek

Trekking route
Pokhara – Jomsom – Kagbeni – Chele – Samar – Ghemi – Lo Manthang – Garphu – Drakmar –
Jomsom – Pokhara

Minimum duration/Best time to trek
10 days/ September to November and March to May

Upper Mustang. Dhakmar | Top five treks in Nepal

What’s to like about this trek?

  • The high price tag for the trekking permit keeps the trekking masses away (also see dislikes).
  • Upper Mustang is well and truly off-the-beaten track.
  • The remoteness of the region.
  • Stark, Tibetan-like scenery.
  • The ancient walled city of Lo Manthang.
  • There is no need to take a full trekking crew as there are teahouses along the entire route.
    Fantastic photo opportunities.

What’s there to dislike about this trek?

  • The cost of the trekking permit: US$500 for the first 10 days and US$50 per day thereafter.
  • The relentless wind – it stays with you for the entire trek.
  • The trek is dusty (mainly as a result of the relentless wind).
  • The precarious ridges between Kagbeni and Chele.
  • You have to more or less trek up to Lo Manthang and return to Kagbeni along the same route from the start point at Jomsom/Kagbeni.
  • It is questionable whether the trek is worth the money as there are plenty of other great treks in Nepal that don’t require a hefty fee for the trekking permit.

Upper Mustang. Ghemi | Top five treks in Nepal

This is a tough trek that involves a number of hard slogs but the stark beauty of the region and the local population (primarily Lhoba/Tibetan) make it a fascinating place to visit. There is no getting away from the fact that this trek is a ‘ticker’. The more you trek in Nepal, the more you will hear about this ancient kingdom and the more you will want to add it to your ‘to trek’ list. In fact, isn’t US$500 to trek in one of the remotest places on earth a bargain when you think about it from that point of view?

Upper Mustang. En route Syangboche to Ghemi | Top five treks in Nepal

You can read a detailed account of my trek in the Annapurna region including Upper Mustang here.

3. Around Annapurna (anti-clockwise as far as Jomson)

Trekking route
Kathmandu – Besi Sahar – Bhulbule – Ghermu – Tal – Thanchok – Pisang – Manang – Letdar – Thorung Phedi – Muktinath – Kagbeni – Jomsom – Pokhara

Minimum duration/Best time to trek
14 days/October & November and April & May

Around Annapurna. Kagbeni | Top five treks in Nepal

What’s to like about this trek?

  • Crossing the Thorung La Pass (5416m). It’s a great sense of achievement.
  • Easy access from Kathmandu and Pokhara.
  • Eating and drinking in Pokhara after the trek.
  • Rest days in Pisang or Manang (or both), which provide the opportunity to go off and explore nearby peaks and scenic spots.
  • Exploring medieval Kagbeni.

What’s there to dislike about this trek?

  • Crossing the Thorung La Pass (5416m) – it’s bloody hard work.
  • The many false summits on the Thorung La Pass.
  • The fact that there is now a road that can accommodate vehicles between Jomsom and Pokhara which has effectively killed the second half of the circuit.
  • In season, this is a very busy trek.

Around Annapurna. Kalopani (mountain views) | Top five treks in Nepal

Along with Everest Base Camp, this is your classic Nepalese trek. I have trekked it before and after the development of the road and for sure it was better before the road was there, but don’t let that put you off doing this trek. The views between Pisang and Muktinath in particular are outstanding and crossing the Thorung La Pass is an incredible achievement. It is also quite comforting to have in the back of your mind that if you’ve had enough after crossing the Thorung La, transport is not that far away and you can be sitting in a bar in Pokhara by nightfall, drinking cold beer and chomping on spicy chicken wings!

Around Annapurna. Thorung Phedi | Top five treks in Nepal

You can read a detailed account of my trek in the Annapurna region here.

2. Annapurna Base Camp trek (with a side trip to Poon Hill)

Trekking route
Pokhara – Thedi – Dhampus – Landruk – Chhomrong – Himalaya – Machhapuchhare Base Camp (MBC) – Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) – Dovan – Chhomrong – Tadapani – Ghorepani – Tirkedungha – Naya Pul – Pokhara

Minimum duration/Best time to trek
12 days/October to April

Annapurna region. Annapurna Base Camp back to Machhapuchhare Base Camp | Top five treks in Nepal

What’s to like about this trek?

  • The incredible mountain views from ABC.
  • Witnessing sunrise from ABC.
  • The ascent from MBC to ABC.
  • The superb ridge walk from Tadapani to Ghorepani.
  • The sunrise view from Poon Hill near Ghorepani
  • Easy access from Pokhara.
  • Eating and drinking in Pokhara after the trek.
  • No serious altitude-related issues.
  • If you have the cash, treating yourself to an overnight in the luxurious Ker & Downey lodges at Dhampus and Landruk

What’s there to dislike about this trek?

  • The stepped ascent just after leaving Chhomrong.
  • The bitter cold at ABC (I was there in early January).
  • Snow on the trails, which is quite common.
  • The never-ending steps just after leaving Thedi – not a great way to start a trek.

Annapurna region.Chhromrong | Top five treks in Nepal

If you want incredible mountain views in a relatively short space of time, look no further than the Annapurna Base Camp trek. Literally an amphitheatre surrounded by huge peaks, Annapurna Sanctuary (as it is also known) is mind-blowing and it almost made it as my number one trek.

The walk from Chhomrong across to Ghorepani for Poon Hill is a great diversion and the overall easiness of this trek means you can spend your time enjoying the views rather than concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other.

If you want to get to the mountains quickly there is no better trek than Annapurna Base Camp.

Annapurna region.Tadopani | Top five treks in Nepal

You can read a detailed account of my trek to Annapurna Base Camp here.

1. Langtang Trek (with a side trip to Gosainkunda)

Trekking route
Kathmandu – Syabru Besi – Lama Hotel – Langtang – Kyangjin Gompa, (day trek to Langsisa) – Bamboo – Sing Gompa – Gosainkunda – Dhunche – Kathmandu

Minimum duration/Best time to trek
10 days/October to May

Langtang region. Kyanjin | Top five treks in Nepal

What’s to like about this trek?

  • Easy access from Kathmandu and no expensive or risky flights necessary.
  • This trek is perfect for those on a tight schedule.
  • There is no need to factor in contingency days.
  • By Nepalese standards, this is a pretty easy trek.
  • Only minor altitude issues to contend with.
  • Langtang is cheaper than the Everest or Annapurna regions.
  • Lots of yaks along the route.
  • Diverse scenery and culture (Tibetan and Tawang).
  • Compared to Everest and Annapurna, there are very few trekkers.
  • The stunning lake at Gosainkunda. It’s well worth the diversion.

What’s there to dislike about this trek?

  • The big climb up to Sing Gompo. It never seemed to end.
  • The teahouses are pretty basic in Langtang and the food menu is limited.
  • If you don’t include the side trip to Gosainkunda lake, you trek up and down the same route from the start point.

Langtang region. Kyanjin | Top five treks in Nepal

Langtang is Nepal’s best-kept secret when it comes to trekking. Some say the mountain views are not as impressive as on other routes, but I beg to differ. Furthermore, culturally the region is very interesting indeed. Easy walking, huge peaks, friendly locals, yaks and hardly another trekker in sight – what more does anyone need on a trek?

And the best thing of all, it will remain Nepal’s best kept ‘secret’ for a while yet as most trekkers still overlook the region in favour of the more well-known Solukhumbu and Annapurna regions.

Langtang region.Gosainkund | Top five treks in Nepal

You can read a detailed account of my trek in the Langtang region here.

UPDATE: Unfortunately the Langtang region of Nepal was one of the most severely affected during the April 2015 earthquake. It may still be possible to trek in this area although detours could be necessary and accommodation options and other infrastructure are much more limited than in previous years. Do check the latest before heading to Langtang. For a recent account of trekking in the Langtang region (February 2016) take a look at this post from the Unusual Traveler. 

Just before I sign off, here are a couple of tips in case you are considering a trek soon

  • Consider trekking in early December, just after the beginning of the season but before the Christmas/New Year’s rush. The weather is great and the trails are not as busy.
  • Thamel in Kathmandu is a great place to rent and buy trekking gear but getting a fair price from shop owners is difficult. I got everything I needed from a guy called Bhesh Badhur Rai (Kalapathar Trekking Store tel: 984 126 3414). His shop is tucked away in the middle of Thamel and a little difficult to find but give him a call if you need anything and he will give you directions to his shop (standing outside Kathmandu Guest House – turn left, go past Pilgrim Book shop until you get to the end of the road. Turn left and then left again at the T-junction. Bhesh’s shop is on the left-hand side opposite a small restaurant that specialises in momos (which are very tasty)).
  • On the popular Everest and Annapurna treks always try and stop short or head beyond the Lonely Planet recommended overnight stopping place. Teahouses in these places get more than their fair share of trekking business and in some cases the owners have become complacent. Stopping short or heading beyond ensures you share the wealth. The owners are also more grateful for your business and to boot, you will also get a better night’s sleep (less trekkers = less heavy boots = less noise).

Langtang region. Kyanjin | Top five treks in Nepal

Happy trekking!


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