The Top 3 Treks in the Himalayas
Did you know that out of the top 10 highest mountains in the world, 8 of them are located in Nepal? Of all the mountains I have laid my eyes on in my travels there is just something special about the Himalayas of Nepal. They tower over you and fill the horizon with a rare majestic beauty. For those trekkers, climbers, and mountaineers out there, it’s like they almost whisper and dare you to climb to their mighty summits. Have you ever dreamed of trekking on these mighty giants? If you have, you need to go to Nepal. Nepal happens to be one of the best trekking destinations on the planet. Below are the Top 3 Trekking Destinations in the Himalayas!
Top 3 Best Treks in the Himalayas
- Everest Base Camp
- Annapurna Circuit
- Upper Mustang
1 – Everest Base Camp
- Max Elevation 17,590 feet
- Trekking Distance: 80 miles (roundtrip)
- Duration: 19 days (14 Days Trekking)
Who hasn’t dreamed of standing on the summit of Mount Everest?? I know I have! However, not everyone has $75,000+ to do the climb, 3 months of vacation, and the desire to risk everything to stand on top of the world. However, there is an alternative, the Everest Base Camp Trek! While you do not stand on the summit of Mount Everest, the Everest Base Camp trek is a great way to experience the Himalayas that offers spectacular mountains views and provides you with deep insight into the lives of the Sherpa people. In addition to this being a spectacular adventure, a rich cultural experience awaits you as you pass through the numerous Sherpa villages on this epic journey.
If you are planning to do the Everest Base Camp trek you will need approximately 21 days for the entire trip. Roundtrip from Kathmandu and climbing to base camp will take 19 days in total and you will need another 2 days for flights from your home country.
Trail to Everest Base Camp
From Kathmandu, you will then board your flight to the city of Lukla which is nestled in the Khumbu area. Once you have taken in the beauty that surrounds you, your Nepal trekking guide will lead you to Everest Base Camp. On Day 1 of your trek, you will stop a Phakding village, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Phakding will provide you with perspective of what the Himalayan villages you encounter on this adventure to Everest Base Camp will look like.
The village which is a favorite among trekkers is Namche Bazaar. Namche Bazaar is the first location along the trek which you will have an opportunity to see the mighty Mount Everest and is a great place to get any supplies that you might still need for your trek. In addition to the many shops, this cobble stoned village has markets, cafes, and bakeries.
One of the highlights of the trip is Tengboche. Tengboche is located high on a ridge and offers magnificent panoramic views of Mount Everest. It is one of the most tranquil and inspiring places in the world. In the village is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery named Tengboche Monastery, which is a place where many people in the local Sherpa community worship.
The last overnight stop before reaching Everest Base Camp is Gorak Shep. Gorak Shep is a small village at an elevation of 16,942 feet. From Gorak Shep you can climb Kala Patthar which offers incredible views of Mount Everest.
Everest Base Camp, Nepal
Everest Base Camp is the launching site for those who climb Mount Everest. Many trekkers don’t know that you cannot see the summit of Mount Everest from Base Camp. If you are a seasoned mountaineer and brave enough to attempt the climb you are halfway there.
2 – Annapurna Circuit
- Max Elevation 17,768 feet
- Trekking Distance: 128 miles (roundtrip)
- Duration: 8 to 25 days (Trekking – Days dependent on trekking plan)
Annapurna Circuit in Nepal
The Annapurna Circuit trek is known as the granddaddy of all treks! If you are thinking of going mountain trekking in Nepal, think no further. Over 40,000 trekkers from across the world do the Annapurna Circuit trek each year. It is also one of the oldest treks in the Himalayas and was first open for trekking to foreigners in 1977. The Annapurna Circuit season sees it’s maximum number of trekkers in March, April, October, and November.
The Annapurna Circuit trek follows an ancient Himalayan trade route. Over the centuries, goods were transported over the Thorung La pass, which at 17,768 feet in elevation, is the highest point on the Circuit. The Trek begins in Besi Sahar which is a 6 to 7-hour drive from Kathmandu. Depending on the route and how quickly you would like to complete the trek, it can be done anywhere from 8 to 25 days. The average time which trekkers complete the journey is 14 days. A majority of trekkers do the route going counter clockwise as by going this direction the altitude gain is much more gradual and the terrain is less technical.
Hiking the Annapurna Circuit
What is so extraordinary about this Himalayan Nepal trek is its diversity in climate, terrain, and culture. As you begin the trek, the altitude will be under 3,000 feet and you will feel as if you are in the tropics. At first, you will be trekking through jungle-like terrain and as you climb higher you will encounter rice fields, canyons, lush forests, and rushing waterfalls. Soon the entire Annapurna mountain range will unfold itself before you on this epic journey. From various spots along the Circuit you will be able to view the Himalayan giants: Macchupucchre, Dhaulagiri Langtang Himal, Manaslu, Gangapurna, Annapurna I,II,III and IV. As the elevation reaches above 17,000 feet the temperatures can drop below freezing.
The trek passes through peaceful Hindu and Buddhist villages where locals welcome you with food and handcrafted gifts for purchase. Many of the villages on the Annapurna Circuit are home to the ethnic Gurung people, where you get to experience their fascinating culture and lifestyles.
En route to the Thorung La pass is the holy Buddhist and Hindu site of Muktinath. Legend says that the “Second Buddha” spent time here in meditation during his journey to Tibet in fighting demonic spirits. We will talk about Guru Rinpoche later in more detail.
If you are thinking of trekking in Annapurna, the Annapurna Circuit Trek is a must for any serious trekker. This Nepal Trekking adventure offers culture, diverse terrain, and the opportunity to meet other trekkers from across the globe.
3 – Upper Mustang Trek
- Max Elevation: 13,000 feet
- Trekking Distance: 18 to 55 miles (roundtrip)
- Duration: 10 or 17 Days (4 & 10, respectively)
- Upper Mustang Trekking in Nepal
The Upper Mustang region of Nepal is one of the best places to visit in the Himalayas. The government of Nepal restricted access to Upper Mustang to foreigners up until 1991. Still to this day foreign tourists need to pay a special Upper Mustang Permit Fee to get into the region. These restrictions have allowed the Upper Mustang region to retain its ancient culture which has remained largely the same for the past 2,000 years. A trip to Mustang is truly like traveling back in time and it is one of the best hikes in Nepal.
The Upper Mustang area of Nepal is very different from the other parts of the country. Many view the Nepal Mustang trek to this once forbidden land as something of a pilgrimage. This Kingdom of Mustang, also referred to as Lo, was once a part of the Tibetan empire. The last monarch, Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista, who ruled Upper Mustang still resides in the ancient walled capital city, Lo Manthang. If you are lucky, he does welcome guests from time to time at his home.
There are a number of options for a Himalayan adventure trek in Upper Mustang. For those pressed with time you can do a 10 Day round trip adventure from Kathmandu or if time is not an issue you can do the full Lo Manthang trek. The longer trek will take you 17 days roundtrip to and from Kathmandu.
Trekking in Upper Mustang
For the Upper Mustang Trek, trekking through the Himalayas will take you past snow-capped peaks, wind-carved canyons, and verdant valleys that dominate Nepal’s surreal and spectacular landscape. As you trek from village to village you will see prayer flags flying in the wind and venture past pasturelands where shepherds herd their flocks of sheep and goats. You will have the opportunity to explore ancient caves, such as the Rangjong Cave, also known as the “Guru Rinpoche Cave,” where the 2nd Buddha, Guru Rinpoche, spent three years in private retreat on his journey from India in the 8th century. After each day’s trek, you can visit villagers in their homes and practice ancient customs such as grinding herbs into powder or learning to make butter tea. It is truly one of the most special places to trek on Earth.
Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava)
One of my favorite legends is that of Guru Rinpoche and his battle with the demons of Mustang. Guru Rinpoche, fondly known as Padmasambhava, was an Indian sage called upon by King Trisong Detsen in the year 760 AD to subdue demonical spirits hindering the introduction of Buddhism in Tibet. According to legend, the King’s request spurred a heroic battle as Guru Rinpoche pursued these spirits throughout the Kingdom of Mustang and into Tibet, carrying with him the ‘great truth,’ or dharma, until finally, he prevailed. What is so fascinating about this story is that the legend of Guru Rinpoche and his battle with the demons is embedded throughout Mustang culture. Paintings of the great battle are on the walls of the Mustang Caves and you will encounter a Monastery which is built on ground that resembles a Demon’s heart. When we crafted our Upper Mustang trek itinerary we were able to meticulously weave in all of the special legends and stories of Guru Rinpoche and ‘The Battle’ into each day’s activities. It is truly a once-in-a-life adventure!
The Tiji festival
Each Spring, the Tiji Festival takes place in Lo Manthang. The Tiji Festival is a spring-renewal party that ushers in the monsoons while celebrating the triumph of good over evil in a ritual locals call “the chasing of the demons.” Tiji comes from the words ten che, meaning the “hope of the dharma prevailing in all worlds,” the message Guru Rinpoche carried through this region over a thousand years ago. This three-day ceremony is lit up with colorful custom dress, dancing, music, and reenactments from the story of a deity and his demon father. According to legend, the demon father kept water from falling in the already arid land. This dark sin was answered by Dorje Jono, his deity son, who soundly destroyed the demon and banished him from the domain forever. During the Tiji Festival, the town square fills with characters clad as demons in flamboyant robes and hideous masks dancing about, slashing at the air with their swords and intoning spells over onlookers.
Caves of Mustang
In recent years, a number of explorers have written about the spectacular sky caves of Upper Mustang. The well-known Luri Gompa and Tashi Kabum have walls adorned with exquisite murals of the Buddhist religion, dating back over 2,000 years old. There are nearly 10,000 caves in the area, many of them are still unexplored. These caves are deemed to be an archaeological mystery regarding their construction. It is still difficult to imagine, how people climbed up hundreds of feet on steep mountainside, in totally inhospitable terrain. Recent explorations have revealed that these caves served as burial chambers.
Nepal Mustang Hike
If you love history and dream of trekking in the Himalayas , the Nepal Mustang Trek is perfect for you. This Nepal Trekking adventure offers culture, history, and the chance to step back in time to one of the most mystical places on the planet.
I hope that you enjoyed our post on Trekking in Nepal. The Everest Base Camp, Annapurna Circuit, and Upper Mustang treks are the Best Treks in the Himalayas. The Himalayas of Nepal are truly a magical place and if you have not been then I hope one day you will get to explore this magnificent region of our planet.
I look forward to seeing you on the trail.
The Explorer’s Passage
P.S. If you are interested in seeing our Everest Base Camp Trek Itinerary or our Annapurna Circuit Itinerary you can CONTACT US HERE or if you are interested in learning about our Upper Mustang Trekking adventure click HERE.