Nepal is the sacred temple of mountaineers. While probably only Mount everest would ring a bell to anyone who hasn’t before donned Ice boots and glacial axes, there are a ton of summits, treks and mountain passes worth exploring in Nepal, even for the common man. That said, Nepal is still home to 9 of the world’s 10 highest mountains, so while being accessible is true, the average ‘common man’ will probably not cut it. With a little training, acclimatization and crucial help from the locals, you should be able to conquer most of the non-technical treks in 3-4 weeks. And that will be an experience you never forget. So they say you will only hear about the best mountains to go if you hear it from a Nepalese who offers you yak butter tea, but we say you’ll hear it best from the Nepalese who offers you yak butter tea in the backstreets of Nepal! Here goes(*in no particular order):
1. Rara Lake Trail
One of the still very much untouched circuits even in Nepal, the Rara circuit is prized for its diversity. Departing from just the ‘usual fare’ of snow capped mountains and alpine meadows, the Rara circuit will bring you through lakes, valleys and the chance to spot elusive animals like the Himalayan black bear, the musk deer and even Nepal’s national bird – the Danfe (Impeyan Pheasant).
Located in the far western region of Nepal, it is the smallest National Park in the country. The Rara lake is however the country’s largest and one of the highest in the world at 2,990m.
2. Jomsom to Mustang
Historically a part of Tibet and geographically still part of the Tibetan plateau, Mustang is a truly magical place. With an average altitude of over 4000m, the desolate landscape strikes at your heart, but the resilience of the buildings in these desolate landscape is what will warm it. With the region opening up only in 1992, not many have ventured this far up north, and most towns and villages remain relatively untouched, preserving the natural beauty and serenity of the area.
3. Annapurna Circuit
One of the most all-round treks in Nepal, the Annapurna circuit is very accessible and popular with travelers. Between 17-21 days, this trek winds through 4 areas, namely the Lamjung, Manang, Mustang and Myagdi regions, allowing a peek into different cultures, landscapes and the people you meet. Even the altitude ranges widely from 5416m to 1200m. Not to be confused with the Annapurna Base Camp Trek, this is more strenuous and less ‘teahouse’, though still relatively comfortable and entry-level.
4. Kanchenjunga Base Camp
Another lesser known trek on the Eastern end of Nepal, Kanchenjunga sees only around 1,000 trekkers a year. You can literally walk for miles without seeing another soul, and have the whole world to yourself. Amenities are basic, but the views are well, majestic to say the least. The third highest mountain is not to be beaten in terms of the view and what it offers! For the less adventurous, recent developments have even made possible a ‘teahouse trek’ in smaller circuits, making it much more accessible to entry level trekkers and boosting tourism.
5. Numbur Cheese Circuit Trail
Sounds like an amateur trek, yes we know, but it is anything but! Both in terms of difficulty and experience. Difficulty wise it is not technical, but more on the strenuous side, though completely doable with a bit of conditioning and willpower. The experience here is wildly different from the other trekking routes, with cheese taking centre stage as the name suggests. Yak cheese is in production in villages throughout this circuit and you would probably have the good fortune to taste a large variety of them offered by friendly locals, unless you look really fierce and unapproachable.
This trek focuses much more on the little towns you can visit while trekking so if you can’t take the loneliness of months of walking alone, or just your partner and guide, this is ideal. Its also one of the shortest multi-day treks that doesn’t deprive you of the experience, ranging from 10-18 days depending on how much you push yourself and which sights you go to.
Langtang Valley Trek by traveladventuresjunkie.com
Langtang Valley trek is a great introduction to new trekkers or those looking for conditioning and building up their confidence in the mountains. Offering trips as short as 5-6 days and possibly below the 4,000m altitude mark, you get to see the same mountain towns and glacial wilderness with grazing yaks for company.
7. Everest Base Camp
The one that most people come for, if not for the experience then the bragging rights. Starting either from Lukla or Namche Bazaar, you will take around 18-22 days for a return trip. This classic trip will allow you to see most of the famous Sherpas hometown and lots of contact with them, either as villagers or your guide or porter. This treks ends at the Everest Base Camp at 5380m.
8. Annapurna Base Camp (Annapurna Sanctuary)
Annapurna is the mountain with the highest fatality rate in the world. BUT. Not to worry because that’s only for mountaineers attempting to conquer its peak. It’s much nicer to trekkers who just visit its foot to pay respects. So much that there are even teahouse treks available. You don’t even have to pitch tents or hide in your sleeping bag as there are lodges available every night with hot food cooked in proper kitchens. A more relaxed trek, but no less amazing as you get to see the mighty Annapurna in all its glory at the end of it, trekking through numerous regions across culturally diverse Nepal.
9. Manaslu Trek
Recent developments have turned the famous Manaslu Circuit into a teahouse trek, making it more accessible and comfortable for trekkers. Ranging from 14-24 days, you can get to see glaciers, mountain passes, walled Tibetan towns and villages, and of course a buffet of snowy peaks.
10. Three Passes
An alternative to the Everest Base Camp trek, the three passes trek also brings you to the base camp, but a number of alternative views on different sides of the mighty mountain. You will also get to see the 3 remote mountain passes on a single trip. Glaciers, highland lakes, Sherpa villages and all the good things in Nepal will all be served on a platter to you, as long as you work hard for it.
One of the more challenging treks, the Dhaulagiri traverses the world’s seventh highest mountain passing through 2 Himalayan mountain passes. With the highest sleeping points above 5,000m of all the classic circuit treks, it is considered to be a tough one even among the local trekkers, but the rewards of course are proportionately greater. Prior mountaineering experience is generally required for this one with equipment like ice axes part of the packing list.