Tamang Heritage Trail
If you’ve ever so much as googled “trekking in Nepal,” you’ve undoubtedly discovered the majestic beauty of the Annapurna Circuit and the heart-pounding challenge of the Everest Base Camp treks. While the vast majority of trekkers in Nepal end up hiking one of these two trails, many other lesser-known hikes await those eager to get off the beaten path. One of the newest additions to the Nepali trekking options is the Ruby Valley Trail, which offers the perfect combination of incredible scenery and cultural immersion that you might be hoping to gain from your trip to Nepal.
The Tamang Heritage Trail is located in the beautiful Langtang region of Nepal near the country’s northern border with Tibet. At many points along the trail, you can see China! This region of Nepal has extensive geothermal activity, including popular hot springs. The hot springs were the original attraction for tourists in the area; sadly, many of the hot springs were stymied or destroyed by the 2015 earthquake. Today, the Tamang Heritage Trail is the primary reason for visitors to come to the area, allowing tourists to experience the local Tamang culture and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Despite all the attractions, the trail is definitely off the beaten path! When I trekked there during high season (Octobber), I only saw five other tourists in the course of a week.
The village of Thuman
The Tamang Heritage Trail is a perfect trek for people who want the beauty of the Himalayas without the grueling high elevations associated with some of the more popular treks in Nepal. The trail offers a panoramic view of the Langtang portion of the Himalayas, including Langtang Lirung, which measures over 23,000 feet! If you came to Nepal to see snowcapped mountains, you won’t be disappointed, as the tallest peaks are covered in snow year-round. There are also views of the mountains on the Tibetan side of the border, as well as villages peeking out from the mountains and valleys along the way.
Taking in the view of Tibet from Nagthali
For those who are interested in trekking off the beaten path but aren’t quite ready for a true local homestay, the Tamang Heritage Trail might be the perfect fit. Western-style hotels in Syabrubeshi give way to teahouses and lodges in the smaller villages along the trail, and there is tons of available accommodation in each village, so you’ll have your choice. Each teahouse and lodge offers private rooms with basic amenities like mattresses, locking doors, and electricity (the basics, but still amenities in Nepal!), and some even have western toilets in addition to the standard squat toilet. You’ll be able to take a hot bucket shower for a fee if you choose, too. While these lodges won’t feel anything like the hotels you’re used to staying in at home, they are a comfortable and safe way to trek. You will probably still feel like you’re outside of your comfort zone without taking too big of a leap.
At my lodge in Thuman
You might be surprised to find that the Tamang Heritage Trail offers a huge range of food options for trekkers staying in the local lodges. While some off-the-beaten-path treks, such as the Ruby Valley Trail, revolve around homestays with only one or two meal options, the teahouses and lodges on the Tamang Heritage Trail offer huge menus. The menu at each lodge is virtually the same and includes standard Nepali fare plus a ton of western options like pasta, pizza, and hamburgers. Breakfast options include pancakes, omelets, and more, so you’ll have plenty of choices. Most lodges also sell beer and rokshi (the local liquor), so you can unwind with a cold one (or two!) at the end of a long day of trekking. Desserts are available, too, as well as the Coca-Cola products that are pervasive throughout every Nepali village.
The Tamang Heritage Trail is definitely doable without a guide if you prefer to trek on your own. The routes between villages are very straightforward and obvious, and there is really no way to get lost. The lodge owners speak at least basic English, and each lodge has an English menu as well. While you may get more out of the experience by having a guide who is able to communicate with the local people and explore local customs with you, it is entirely possible to do the trek on your own.
My guides added so much to my experience! It wouldn't have been the same without them.
The trekking portion of the Tamang Heritage Trail is manageable for anyone with a moderate level of a fitness. While there are some steep uphill and downhill portions of the trail that are very challenging, the distances between villages are relatively short, allowing trekkers to take their times. The numerous villages along the trail offer ample opportunities to stop for lunch, lodging, or a short rest, and the entire trail takes just five days of trekking to complete at a rate of about 4-5 hours of trekking per day. Trekking poles and sturdy hiking boots are recommended for all trekkers. It’s also important to dress in layers, as the temperature can change quickly from the lower elevations to the tops of the mountains you’ll be climbing, and the sun is strong. Overall, this is a great trail for people who want to experience trekking in Nepal but do not want to commit to a long trek or overly strenuous route.
You'll go from the riverbed to the summit of the mountains!
Connectivity and Electricity
As you might expect, connectivity is limited in such a rural area. The Ruby Valley itself has no mobile phone reception whatsoever and no WiFi, so don’t expect to be able to contact loved ones at home. Some villages do have a (single) landline, but they only work for local numbers. Mobile reception is not available until a day and half’s walk past Pangsang Pass, so come prepared to unwind.Electricity, however, is more prevalent than you might expect. Several villages have wired electricity for several hours per day (although few have any place to charge your devices), while the others have solar lights. Headlamps are certainly useful, but you may have more light at night than you expect.
Traditional Tamang clothing
Connectivity and Electricity
Electricity along the Tamang Heritage Trail is pervasive. Every village has electricity, and every lodge should have power (double check first!). Many lodges even offer outlets inside the room where you’ll be able to charge your electronics with an adapter, and some even have flushing western toilets! Nearly every lodge and teahouse will advertise available free Wi-Fi, but in all my time on the trail, I never encountered Wi-Fi that actually worked, so don’t get your hopes up. However, there is cell phone service on the local carriers, so if you have a local SIM, you’ll be able to use the phone. Some lodges even have TV, so you might be able to get a feel for the Nepali news and television shows!
Tamang women weaving
Communication and People
As the name implies, the Tamang Heritage Trail showcases the unique culture and heritage of the Tamang people. The Tamang people originally lived in Tibet and many later moved from Nepal, carrying their traditions with them. Thus, many customs are the same in Tamang communities in Nepal as they are in Tibet! Religious festivals are extremely common in Nepal and occur throughout the year, with villagers of all religions coming together to participate. If you happen to be trekking during a festival, you may be invited to participate or witness a traditional dance or celebration! Unfortunately, I was not so lucky, as I happened to do this trek in the one week between two festivals – talk about bad timing! The teahouse-based nature of the Tamang Heritage Trail means that trekkers will have to work a little bit harder to make connections with the locals than you would if you were doing a homestay. However, because many lodge owners speak at least some English, you may find yourself engaged in a delightful conversation with them and learning about their families and culture, even if you are trekking without a guide. Take the time to speak with your lodge owner and learn about them! Many have fascinating life stories. One owner I met had worked in Afghanistan as a cook at a U.S. military base, which is where he learned to cook western meals!
If you get lucky, you'll get to play cards with the local kids!
Sanitation and Water
While the lodges and teahouses aren’t likely to provide you with the same comforts that you’re used to at home, they do offer a good level of cleanliness and sanitation compared to what you would find even farther off the beaten path. Food is prepared safely and served piping hot, while bedding (when provided) is clean. Some villages do have bottled water available for sale, but it is still recommended that you bring a filter and water bottle in the event that you stay somewhere that does not have it. Additionally, if you need to refill your bottle at a mountain stream during the hike, you’ll be prepared! Western tourists will not be able to drink the water anywhere in Nepal without carefully filtering it first (or purchasing bottled water), but you also can’t brush your teeth (or rinse your toothbrush), wash your hands with open cuts, etc without filtering the water. There are many ways to get sick while traveling in Nepal, but water is the most common. There are many types of filters that do the trick, but make sure you purchase one that kills not only bacteria and protozoa, but also viruses.
Local boy, Spotted at the lunch stop
Planning Your Trip
The Tamang Heritage Trail is a great option for trekkers looking to get off the beaten path without totally sacrificing comfort. If you want to experience the snow-capped Himalayas while also learning about the rich culture of the local people, this is the perfect trail! Additionally, it can be done without a guide because the trail is easy to follow and accommodations are easy to find. However, never underestimate what a guide can add to your experience! A guide will know the best places to say, be able to arrange your transportation to and from the trail, and will help you communicate with the local people and learn about the culture. After all, that’s why you’re visiting, right? Book your trek through UpEverest and let the experts lead you!
About Danielle Cemprola
Danielle Cemprola is a freelance journalist and the writer behind the running and travel blog
The T-Rex Runner. She is a 50-time marathoner, world traveler, and Mexican food enthusiast whose main goal is to encourage other people, especially women, to pursue their dreams in the face of obstacles. Danielle loves finding off-the-beaten-path adventures that are still accessible to the average traveler and seeks to engage with the local community as much as possible. The more adventurous and active her trips are, the better!
Danielle fulfilled a lifelong dream by visiting Nepal in October 2016. She opted to trek the Ruby Valley Trail and Tamang Heritage Trail in order to get off the beaten path and experience Nepali culture as authentically as possible through local homestays. Her time getting to know the wonderful people of Nepal and hiking the stunning mountains is among her fondest travel memories.
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