Tips on Trekking in Nepal by Laura Szanto

A hiker strikes a yoga pose en route to Everest Basecamp.

A hiker strikes a yoga pose en route to Everest Basecamp.

Nepal boasts incredible views ranging from towering peaks in the Khumbu valley to desert kingdoms in Mustang. With hundreds of trails stemming in each direction, it is no secret that trekking is the number one sought after activity in Nepal. It is a country that, after visiting two times myself, I still often dream about. 

So you've bought your flight and are ready for an incredible adventure. What now? Where do I start? Here are some tips below to help you make some decisions!

1) Which trail do I hike?

A hiker takes enjoys sunrise views over Poon Hill at 3,210m.

A hiker takes enjoys sunrise views over Poon Hill at 3,210m.

As there are thousands of kilometres worth of trails to choose from, this is definitely an overwhelming consideration. From my own experience, I have gone trekking in the Annapurna circuit, Everest Basecamp and Mustang Region. These three treks are all equally satisfying and are sure to leave lasting impressions on us all. 

1) Annapurna Circuit - 2 to 3 week trek.
Highlights include:
Tilicho Lake 4919m (the highest lake for its size in the world)
Thorung La Pass 5416m (the highest pass on the trek)
Poon Hill 3,210m (popular sunrise viewing spot)
Manang 3,519m (fascinating landscape)
Muktinath 3,710m (sacred site with interesting temples)

2) Everest Basecamp - 2 to 3 week trek. 
Highlights include:
Everest Basecamp 5,364m (you have seen this so many times in your life, even more incredible in person)
Cho La Pass 5,420m (*guide suggested, high alpine glacier pass)
Gokyo Ri 5,357m (incredible views of Gokyo Lake and surrounding glaciers)
Namche Bazaar 3,440m (popular village nestled amongst towering mountains in the valley)
Kala Patthar 5,643m (sensational views of Everest, Nuptse Nup II and Changste)

3) Mustang Region (500$ tourist entrance fee - yes, not pocket change for most)
Highlights include:
Lo Manthang 3,840m (incredible place to experience friendly, native culture) 
Chuksang 2900m (discover ancient caves once inhabited thousands of years ago)
Tangye 3540m (From this small, friendly village - hike to Luri gompa cave for a fascinating look at old temples in caves)
Choksar caves (Visit ancient historical temples in a variety of different caves)

Incredible views from Cho La Pass 5,420m.

Incredible views from Cho La Pass 5,420m.

2) Do I need a guide/sherpa?

I would argue that if you pack strategically you will not need a sherpa. My suggestion is to pack light! When I hiked for three weeks, I only brought two pairs of trekking pants and three t-shirts. Lets face it, you'll smell as good as your friends so there is no need to worry about high alpine laundry. As for a guide, following the signs are relatively easy. If you are doing a glacier crossing or any high passes at Everest Basecamp, then a guide would be useful. Otherwise everything is very clearly marked on the map and if you are unsure or run into any complications then there are plenty of tourists and guides to show you the way!

3) How can I save money?

Bring your own water purification tablets or purifiers. Buying bottles of water is not only expensive but wasteful. Nepal unfortunately has a big pollution problem, so this is a small adjustment that will make a positive impact on their waste reduction. Taking showers on your hike will also be expensive. You can save money by buying wet towels - which were my road to some sort of clean salvation. Also, get your trekking permit in advance! It is normally more expensive to have it printed while already on the trail. 

A trekker rides a horse in Upper Mustang Region in Nepal. 

A trekker rides a horse in Upper Mustang Region in Nepal. 

4) How much money should I bring?

Aim to spend about 20-30$ a day. It depends on what you eat and where you stay, but hotels are very cheap (sometimes even free!). Dal Bhat is the best bang for your buck, as you can ask for as many refills as you want. 

5) Are there packing essentials that I need?

- Comfortable hiking boots are a must! Bring a pair that you have already broken in and used. It is an absolute pain to sort out hiking boots midway up a 200km trail.

- Warm jacket and sweaters (a sleeping bag, however is not necessary and will add weight to your pack).

- Hiking poles are very helpful and will significantly reduce the pain and pressure on your legs.

- Bring sunscreen and glasses! As you gain altitude your UV exposure increases rapidly, and you become much more vulnerable to the sun.   

- Lastly, bring a first aid kit and pain killers. You will end up using one or both at some point in your trip.

6) How do I avoid altitude sickness?

A Nepalese woman tends to her harvest in lower Annapurna Circuit trek.

A Nepalese woman tends to her harvest in lower Annapurna Circuit trek.

The key to avoiding altitude sickness is to have proper amounts of acclimatization days and to hike only as far as your body allows you. Determine your level of fitness and the appropriate trekking distance daily. As you climb higher, it will be harder to breath and more challenging to hike. After above 3000m, it is not wise to hike more than 300m incline per day. If you are experiencing any symptoms of altitude sickness that aren't going away, descend lower. 

7) What can I do to get the most out of my trip?

Talk to the locals! Practice your nepalese and learn about their culture and way of life. Nepalese people are some of the most generous, friendly and interesting people in the world! The more you learn about Nepal, the greater appreciation you will have for the mountains and everything in between.

If you have any further questions do not hesitate to contact me. Happy Trekking!