10 reasons why Nepal is the world’s best trekking destination
By: Elen Turner
1. Eight of the world’s tallest mountains are in Nepal:
In the whole world, there are fourteen mountains above 8,000 metres: Nepal is home to eight of them (Everest, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu and Annapurna). Mountain climbing itself doesn’t appeal to everyone—it takes a lot of training, preparation and dedication. But it’s possible to get very close to many of these enormous mountains just by trekking through Nepal. The Everest Base Camp trek and the Annapurna Circuit are the two most famous Nepali treks that will bring you within close range of these massive mountains. But lesser-known or more remote routes are just as beautiful. For instance, Dhaulagiri (8,167 metres) is visible from most Annapurna-region treks; Kanchenjunga (8,586 metres) is in Nepal’s far east, which is a less-touristed part of the country, meaning you will feel a bit like an explorer trekking here.
2. The comfortable accommodation you can stay in:
Nepal is renowned for its excellent trekking infrastructure, and its comfortable lodges and homestays, often known as ‘teahouses’. Unlike in many other mountainous parts of the world where trekking is an option, in Nepal you don’t have to camp or stay in makeshift bivouacs (although you could if you wanted to). Along many of the trekking routes in Nepal are teahouses that provide a warm bed, a bathroom and fresh, cooked food.
3. The great food you can eat along the way:
You can forget all about two-minute Ramen noodles and tinned beans on repeat, as most treks in Nepal don’t require camping. If you go teahouse trekking, the chances are you’ll be eating as well as you do in Kathmandu or Pokhara—think, momos (steamed dumplings), thukpa (noodle soup), Nepali thalis consisting of rice, lentils and vegetables (popularly known as Dhal & Bhat) , banana pancakes… even pizza, apple pies and cakes.
4. The cultural variety:
You may come to Nepal for the mountain views, but you’ll be amazed by the variety of cultural attractions you’ll encounter on a trek in Nepal. Nepal is one of the most ethnically diverse nations in the world, especially considering its small size. This is the result of migration from China/Tibet in the north and India in the south, over the centuries, and the isolation of mountain communities from one another. The language, religious traditions, dress and other customs of people from one part of Nepal can be very different from those in another.
For example, the Everest region (Solu-Khumbu) is home to the Sherpa people, who migrated from Tibet several hundred years ago. In this region you can see enormous colourful prayer wheels and Tibetan Buddhist prayer stones that imitate the shape of the mountains. You can even visit a well-preserved 150 year old traditional Sherpa home in Namche Bazaar. It’s also possible to plan whole treks themed around a culture that lives in a certain region. For example, the Tamang Heritage Trail takes you through the Langtang region, north-east of Kathmandu. The Tamang people are one of the ‘indigenous’ tribes of Nepal. It’s common here to meet small children and elderly people who do not speak Nepali, only their own Tamang language. On the Tamang Heritage Trail you can stay in homestays, to get to know these people and their traditional way of life a little better.
5. It’s still possible to have entire trekking routes to yourself:
While the most popular treks are often busy with trekkers during the peak seasons (and for good reason), there are many, many trails that are less visited. For example, the Annapurna Community Homestay trek passes through much of the same area as the very popular Poon Hill trek. But because the path is essentially one ridge and valley over, you will not experience the same steady stream of trekkers as on the Poon Hill trek. The views from the top of Mohare Hill (3,300 metres) are just as impressive as from Poon Hill—in fact, perhaps more so, because you have them all to yourself.
6. Pristine, remote lakes:
Rara Lake is a gem in the Mugu District of Western Nepal, and you can trek around its nine kilometre perimeter in three to four days. It is a little tricky to get to, but that means that only a couple of hundred people visit each year, leaving it almost untouched. It’s the biggest and deepest fresh water lake in Nepal, and a paradise for bird-watchers. The water is perfectly clear, and is surrounded by hills covered in pine, spruce and juniper trees.
7. You can visit an isolated Tibetan Kingdom:
Until 2008, the Mustang region of north-western Nepal was officially known as the Lo Kingdom. It was a dependency of Nepal, but became one of the country’s 75 districts upon the establishment of the Republic of Nepal. Travel there was restricted for a long time—and still requires a permit—which means that the traditional Tibetan culture of Mustang has been preserved relatively intact. Visit cave monasteries, see rock paintings, and shop for traditional souvenirs in the winding, mud-brick lanes of Mustang’s capital, Lo Manthang.
8. Sightseeing before and after in vibrant cities:
As the home to Nepal’s only international airport, it’s essential that the majority of visitors pass through the capital, Kathmandu. If you’re heading to the Annapurna region, it’s also necessary to go via the lakeside city of Pokhara. It’s just as well then that both cities offer so much of interest to visitors. In Kathmandu, check out the medieval palaces and pilgrimage temples, while in Pokhara, relax beside or on Phewa Lake, and enjoy some of Nepal’s best international food and cocktails.
9. It’s where trekking was born:
Sure, mountain people have been walking in the hills for centuries as their primary means of transport. But one theory has it that trekking as a leisure activity developed in Nepal in the mid-twentieth century when mountain climbers such as Sir Edmund Hillary passed through on their way to scale mountains. Where better to go trekking than in its birthplace!?
10. The friendly locals and safety of Nepal:
It’s often said about Nepal that you come for the mountains but you remember the people. Everywhere you walk you will be greeted with a warm ‘namaste’ and friendly locals who will point you in the right direction. Even though foreign trekkers are a common sight in most parts of Nepal, the Nepali people are still always pleased to see you.
About: Elen Turner
Elen Turner is a writer and editor based in Kathmandu, Nepal, who specialises in writing about travel in South Asia. She can usually be found either half-way up a mountain, or on/beside one of Nepal's beautiful rivers. She blogs at www.wildernessmetropolis.com
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