Nepal is a country of hidden mysteries, from its remote ancient temples to its insurmountable peaks. Alluring and exotic, the nation draws visitors to the beautiful cities of Kathmandu and Pokhara and on into the verdant valleys and foothills of the Himalayas for the matchless scenery and wildlife. What better way to explore this amazing part of the world than on foot, armed with a camera – hiking by day and sleeping amid nature by night. Today we’re rounding up our favorite hikes in Nepal.
For the chance to take in Nepal’s unique tapestry of flora and fauna, trekking in its national parks and vast valleys can’t be beat. Get a taste of authentic and classic Nepal as you hike along the banks of the river that runs through the UNESCO World Heritage Park of Chitwan, the natural playground of elephants and Bengal tigers. The city of Pokhara, meanwhile, is surrounded by breathtaking scenery: a hike through Pokhara Valley leads you to the crystal waters of Phewa Lake, in the towering shadow of Machapuchare, or down to a village to meet the locals and learn about their indigenous ways of life. Not to be outdone, a hike through Kathmandu Valley takes you to the perfect viewing point to catch the most exquisite sunrise. In the light of the Himalayan dawn, you can continue your journey through a charming agricultural village of thatch-roofed stone houses and all the way back to Nepal’s ancient capital.
Villages and monasteries
Get a new perspective on Nepal when you fly just 20 minutes from Pokhara up to the tiny remote town of Jomsom, the starting point for some of the country’s most unique treks. You can take the two-hour trail to the the pretty village of Thakali and explore its charming streets and apple orchard, or a three-mile trek to Thini, past the sacred waters of Dhumba Lake. Alternatively, take the scenic drive from Jomsom to Jharkot, then hike to secluded Muktinath, which sits at just over 12,000 feet. There’s both beauty and culture surrounding the mountain villages of Gangtey and Paro: it’s a half-day hike from Gangtey to the top of the 10,500-foot-high Lalawa Pass, but the views are worth it. Fill your lungs with the mountain air at Paro and take your pick from the many trails that begin here, including the journey to the famous, mystical Tiger’s Nest Monastery: here, if you’re lucky, you might catch a Himalayan Singing Bowl Meditation ceremony.
Scaling the heights
To explore Nepal’s wild wild west, you want to set out on the adventurous trail from Jumla. This trek takes you through pine forests, fields and villages, and through mountain passes with views of snow-covered peaks. Camp overnight in sleepy Chhetri villages with gorgeous panoramas and resume your ascent ever higher as the dawn breaks each day. Finally, you’ll reach Rara Dah mountain lake, where you’ll find yourself surrounded by wildflowers with nothing but the open sky overhead. For those who like a challenge, the trek to Annapurna Sanctuary takes you from Pokhara through charming hill villages, where you can meet the locals and join them for hot tea and sustaining meals. You need the sustenance to make it to Machhapuchhre Base Camp at 10,825 feet, before reaching your final destination, where you can gloat over your achievement with a night spent at Annapurna Base Camp.
The journey to the base camp of mountainous behemoth Everest just might be on your bucket list, and for good reason. Towering over the border of Tibet and Nepal, its awesome stature has to be seen to be believed, but the peak is just one of many wonders along the way. Plunge into an unforgettable adventure on the northwest trail starting from the Phakding river, through wild, stunning and varied scenery. Days of trekking take you through fertile pastures, lush forests and sleepy sherpa villages into the territories of pheasant, snow leopards and Nepal’s national bird – the Danphe. Imagine the feeling of accomplishment at finally making it to Everest Base Camp, standing on top of the world and having the stunning pictures to prove it.
Alternatively, some prefer to marvel at the King of the Himalayas from the points of view afforded by a trek through its gorgeous foothills. A hike that begins alongside the Sagarmatha River takes you through peaceful villages and into Sagarmatha National Park, along trails and suspension bridges that convey you through jaw-dropping natural scenery. An experience arguably comparable with climbing to the base camp is gazing upon Everest from the vantage point at Syangboche.
Unforgettable Annapurna experience
But the ultimate adventure, and by far the most challenging and rewarding, is the 24-day trek all around the Annapurna mountain range, taking in every conceivable terrain from rice paddies and villages to waterfalls and bamboo forests. Part of the adventure is stopping in remote mountain settlements to break bread with the locals to fuel your onward journey or soak in natural hot springs. This expedition truly showcases the wildly-diverse landscapes of Nepal, from tropical forest to sprawling valley, lush pasture to blooming rhododendron forests and across suspensions bridges to sacred Hindu temples.