Trekking through the Himalayas is Nepal’s key attraction, and is a life-changing experience for many travelers, regardless of whether they are experienced hikers, or novices. This article is a primer to trekking in Nepal and answers frequently asked questions.
Trekking generally means a multi-day hike in the mountains — in this case, on trails throughout Nepal's Himalayan mountains and foothills. Treks typically take you through areas where hiking is the only means of transport since the mountains are too remote to build roads. Most treks take you through villages that have been around for centuries and the trails you hike on have historically been used by locals.
Trekking along the mountain trails of Nepal is a special experience. The Himalaya is unlike any other region in the world. The vastness of the Himalayan mountains, the amazing different viewpoints, the friendly people and the slower pace of life when movement happens on foot all contribute to the fact that many travelers who come to Nepal for the first time describe their experience as life-changing.
There are two main popular regions for trekking in Nepal: The Annapurna region and the Everest region. Additionally, there are many other areas that all have their specific characteristics, including Manaslu, Mustang and the Kathmandu valley.
Most popular treks are along trails with lodges (often referred to as teahouse trekking). Lodges are simple hostels that cater to trekkers. More remote treks that pass through areas where there are no villages or lodges require camping. These treks involve more logistics and are more expensive since food, cooking fuel, tents have to be carried by porters.
The trails of Nepal take you along villages that can’t be reached by cars. Think of these trails as highways in an era without roads and cars. Therefore, the “trail traffic” has many interesting variations including porters carrying vegetables, timber wood, or even live chickens, kids walking to school, herders and their yaks, just to name a few. Be prepared to be surprised and inspired by the variety of the local trail traffic.
The scenery during your trek varies day-by-day, and valley by valley. Depending on which trek you choose you will hike through dense rhododendron forests, terraced vegetable paddies along steep slopes, open pastures and snowfields and you will cross spectacular suspension bridges.
The villages range from a couple of houses to expansive settlements consisting of hundreds of homes strung along hillsides. Many of the villages have lots of character and are often located on spectacular locations.
Your trekking days typically consist of around 3 hours of hiking in the morning, and 3 hours in the afternoon. You will stop for lunch in villages and sometimes pack a lunch in case the villages are spread out too far apart.
Due to Nepal’s seasonal weather pattern there are 2 seasons that are best for trekking: The spring season, from March to May, and the autumn season, from the end of September to November.
Trekking in summer is challenging due to the Monsoon (rainy season) causing landslides and reduced mountain views. However, the Upper Mustang area is in the monsoon shadow and offers great trekking during summer.
Trekking in winter is getting increasingly popular. It’s colder, and higher passes may be closed due to snow, but the weather tends to be clear with great views.
Weather conditions vary by season and trek. And even on the same trek, temperatures vary significantly depending on the elevation. For example, it is not unheard of that temperatures at the start of a trek are around 30 Celsius / 85 Fahrenheit while dropping to well below freezing when crossing a high pass on the same trek.