A Guide to Trekking in Nepal

Trekking in Nepal
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Trekking in Nepal is an adventure of a lifetime, but also more accessible than many people realize. Nepal is a bucket list destination for hikers around the world. Every year, thousands of trekkers venture to the country to experience dramatic Himalayan landscapes, sacred temples, remote villages, glacial lakes, and dense jungles. In this guide, we’ll cover what you need to know to plan an unforgettable trekking holiday, including:

  1. When to go trekking in Nepal
  2. Budget and expected costs
  3. Required visas, permits, and insurance
  4. Getting around Nepal
  5. Teahouse trekking vs. camping trekking
  6. Guided vs. independent treks
  7. Popular teahouse treks
  8. Solo vs. group trekking
  9. Food and water
  10. What to pack for trekking
  11. How to prepare
  12. Safety and other tips

When to Go Trekking in Nepal

One of the first steps in planning your trip to Nepal is deciding when to go. In most regions, trekking is best from March to April and October to November. Below are more details about what to expect in each season.

Spring (March to April)

With mild daytime temperatures, blooming flowers and rhododendron trees, and ample opportunity for wildlife viewing, spring is an excellent time to go trekking in Nepal. While spring mornings are mostly clear, afternoons can be hazy with rain showers. Since spring is the second most popular time to visit Nepal for trekking, you can expect the trails to be slightly less crowded than they are in the fall.

Summer / Monsoon Months (May to September)

Except for arid regions like Mustang, Manang, and Dolpo, trekking in Nepal from May to September is not recommended. Temperatures are hot and humid, making trekking uncomfortable. Additionally, the heavy monsoon rains make travel very challenging in most areas, with risks of landslides and leeches on muddy trails.

Fall (October to November)

October and November are the most popular times for trekking in Nepal. With mild to warm days and cold nights, the weather is very comfortable, and the clear, dry days make for incredible mountain views. If you choose to visit Nepal in the autumn, expect crowded trails and teahouses, especially along the more popular trekking routes.

mountain in nepal

Winter (December to February)

Trekking in Nepal in the winter months is generally not recommended for most people. However, trekkers with winter hiking or mountaineering experience who are searching for quieter trails and lower prices may prefer to visit outside of peak season.

While sunny days are possible, winter visitors should expect extreme cold, winter storms, and potential avalanches. In many areas, guesthouses close for the season because of the cold temperatures and few travelers, and numerous popular trails are inaccessible due to heavy snowfall.

Budget and Expected Costs

Costs vary slightly from one region to the next in Nepal, with the Everest region being the most expensive. In general, teahouse trekkers should plan to spend between US$25 and US$30 per person per day for daily expenses, including food, accommodation, showers, charging electronic devices, and transportation.

The cost of your trip will be significantly higher if you choose to hire a guide and a porter. A private guide typically costs between US$25 and US$30 a day, depending on the group’s size. Guided tour packages with included meals, accommodation, and transportation usually start around US$600 (not including flights).

If you hire a porter, you can expect to spend an additional US$20 to US$25 a day for someone who will carry as much as around 20 to 25 kilograms of gear.

Some companies offer group discounts for guides, porters, and other services. If you’re traveling alone or with a partner, consider linking up with another group to save money.

Visas, Permits, and Insurance

Nearly all trekkers require tourist visas, permits, and travel insurance when visiting Nepal. More details about what you need, how much it will cost, and where you can get it are below.

Visas

Tourist visas are required for entry into Nepal. Most travelers can obtain a visa ahead of time at a Nepalese Diplomatic Mission or upon arrival in Nepal. This is possible at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu or at the border if you are traveling overland.

Visa costs for travelers are as follows:

  • 15 days Multiple Entry Visa – US$30
  • 30 days Multiple Entry Visa – US$50
  • 90 days Multiple Entry Visa – US$125

Keep in mind that visa regulations and guidelines may change suddenly, particularly during the pandemic. For the latest policies and procedures, check with the Government of Nepal.

Permits

Nepal requires all trekkers to obtain a Trekkers’ Information Management Systems (TIMS) Card before beginning a trek. The card costs 2,000 Nepalese Rupees (NPR), approximately $17, for an individual and 1,000 NPR if you are trekking with a group. You can get your TIMS Card at the Tourism Board Offices in Kathmandu and Pokhara or the Trekking Agencies’ Association Nepal (TAAN) Office in Maligaon. Make sure to bring your passport, two passport-sized photos, and your insurance information.

Many national parks and conservation areas require additional permits, which you can purchase along with your TIMS card at the Tourism Board Offices. The price of these permits varies depending on where you’ll be hiking. On average, each permit costs about 3,000 NPR (around US$25).

If you book a guided trek, the tour company should take care of the permits and other logistics for you.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential when trekking in Nepal and is required to obtain national park permits and your TIMS card.

Some trekkers have said they were not asked to show proof of insurance when applying for permits. Still, travel insurance is highly recommended when visiting Nepal and will help protect you from possible injuries or ailments like altitude sickness.

Since most of Nepal’s trekking routes are far away from hospitals, a helicopter evacuation is often the only way to reach medical facilities if you are sick or injured. This procedure costs a minimum of US$5,000, making insurance a very wise investment. Make sure to choose a policy that covers trekking at high altitudes and helicopter evacuations, such as World Nomads travel insurance.

Trekkers in Nepal at Mountain Peak

Getting Around Nepal

Most hikers fly into Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. The city is an excellent starting point for your trip and will allow you to obtain all your permits, exchange money, and finish any remaining preparations.

You’ll then need to take a bus ride, flight, or private jeep transfer to the starting point for your trek. Flying is the fastest and most expensive way to get around the country. Local buses and jeeps are the cheapest modes of transportation, but private jeeps and tourist buses are a more comfortable and reliable option.

Many roads in Nepal are not paved, making traveling even short distances very slow. No matter which option you choose, expect possible delays and cancellations and be sure to allow a few extra days for travel in case of any unforeseen circumstances.

Teahouse Trekking vs. Camping Trekking

Most hikers opt for teahouse trekking, where travelers stay in mountain lodges known as teahouses along the route. Teahouse trekking is the most affordable way to experience Nepal’s trails, with each night costing US$3-5 per person.

Typically, teahouses are simple stone or wooden buildings with basic bedrooms, a communal area for eating, a kitchen, and bathrooms. Bedrooms usually have two single beds and access to a shared bathroom down the hall, but some teahouses have more expensive premium rooms with attached bathrooms. Although teahouses usually provide blankets, trekkers should plan to bring their own sleeping bags.

The facilities and services available vary from one teahouse to another. Wi-Fi, outlets to charge your electronic devices, and hot bucket showers may be available for a fee. Keep in mind that internet connection is unreliable, and power outages frequently occur in Nepal, so you should charge your devices whenever you have the chance.

Because accommodation is so cheap, it’s expected that trekkers eat meals at the teahouse where they are staying. You can choose from a variety of snacks, drinks, and hot meals like momos, rice and noodle dishes, and dhal bhat, a traditional Nepalese lentil curry. Prices tend to get more expensive as you go up in elevation since it’s harder to get the food to these areas.

Overall, teahouse trekking is a popular, affordable, and accessible way to experience Nepal’s natural beauty. You won’t need to carry much gear, and you will meet many other travelers along the way.

If you are willing to spend more money on your trip in exchange for a more wild, solitary experience, a camping trek could be a good option for you. Camping treks are often more expensive than teahouse treks and necessitate additional logistical planning and travel. Since camping treks often occur in places with few or no facilities, they also require hikers to carry more gear and navigate remote areas.

As a result, you may need to hire support staff, such as a guide or porter. While it’s possible to plan a camping trek on your own, many people opt to book through a trekking agency in Kathmandu or Pokhara or with an international adventure travel agency.

Guided vs. Independent Treks

Travelers to Nepal can choose between doing a guided tour and an independent trek, each of which has its advantages and disadvantages. The best option for you will depend on your budget, time, experience, personal preferences, chosen route, and interest in trip planning.

Most people – even first-time trekkers – can do the more popular trekking routes without a guide’s assistance since the trails are well marked, and teahouses are plentiful. However, if you don’t have time to plan a trek or feel more comfortable letting someone else figure out the logistics for you, there are numerous options to hire a private guide or join a group tour.

Hikers Taking a Break at a Stupa in Nepal Mountains

Guided Treks

Guided tours are an excellent choice for those interested in learning more about the local culture, history, religion, geography, food, and more. They also improve safety and security in remote and high elevation areas since you’ll be traveling with a trained professional at all times.

Trekking with a guide has its disadvantages. It’s usually much more expensive than an independent trek, and there is less flexibility to set your own pace and decide where to eat and stay since you’ll likely be traveling with a group.

Independent Treks

On the other hand, independent trekking tends to be less expensive and allows for more freedom to move at your own pace. However, it requires careful planning and preparation. If you decide to do your trek independently, you must have all the necessary permits, a good guidebook, map and navigation skills, and basic wilderness first aid and survival skills.

Popular Teahouse Treks

With so many stunning trails to choose from, it’s hard to select the best treks in Nepal. The ideal trek for you will depend on your desired length and level of difficulty, budget, personal preferences, and what time of year you’re visiting.

Here are 10 of the best and most popular teahouse treks in Nepal to get you started planning your trip. Unless otherwise specified, the best time of year to hike the below routes is March to April and October to November.

Everest Base Camp

  • Length: 14-16 days
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging
  • Region: Everest
  • Start/finish: Lukla to Lukla
  • What to expect: Everest Base Camp is one of the most famous and sought after treks in the world thanks to its Sherpa culture, magnificent views, and rich history. Although it can get crowded, the trek offers some of the most picturesque scenery in the Himalayas.

Mountain Range around Mount Everest

Three Passes Trek

  • Length: 18-20 days
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Region: Everest
  • Start/finish: Lukla to Lukla
  • What to expect: If you have time to spend three weeks on the trail and are up for a physical challenge, the Three Passes Trek is an incredible way to experience the Everest region. Highlights include the Gyoko Lakes, sections of the Everest Base Camp Trek, and three mountain passes over 5,000 meters.

Pikey Peak

  • Length: 5-7 days
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Region: Everest
  • Start/finish: Dhap to Shivalaya
  • What to expect: This short trek offers the opportunity to experience Sherpa culture, traditional villages, Buddhist monasteries, stunning sunrises and sunsets, and panoramic mountain views. In fact, some say Pikey Peak offers the best view of Mount Everest available in Nepal.

Gyoko Lakes Trek

  • Length: 10-16 days
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging
  • Region: Everest
  • Start/finish: Lukla to Lukla
  • What to expect: This trek is much less crowded than Everest Base Camp and is an excellent choice for those seeking Everest scenery with more solitude. Located at 5,000 meters above sea level, the turquoise, glacial-fed Gyoko Lakes are the world’s highest freshwater lake ecosystem and an unforgettable sight in Nepal.

Annapurna Circuit

  • Length: 12-16 days
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging
  • Region: Annapurna
  • Start/finish: Bhulbule to Jomsom
  • What to expect: With over 100,000 trekkers each year, the Annapurna Circuit is one of Nepal’s most popular treks. The trek crosses the world’s highest mountain pass – Thorong La Pass at 5,416 meters above sea level – and is known for its diverse landscapes ranging from dense jungles to soaring mountains.

Trekker in Annapurna Region

Annapurna Base Camp

  • Length: 7-10 days
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Region: Annapurna
  • Start/finish: Nayapul to Nayapul
  • What to expect: This trek is a great alternative to the Annapurna Circuit for those seeking a shorter and less challenging experience. The trek is lower in elevation but still features diverse cultures and stunning views of snow-capped peaks.

Poon Hill

  • Length: 3-5 days
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Region: Annapurna
  • Start/finish: Nayapul to Ghandruk
  • What to expect: This easy trek is well-marked and has many guesthouses and restaurants, making it accessible to inexperienced trekkers. It is also an excellent acclimatization trek for those planning to attempt a more challenging, high elevation route nearby, such as Annapurna Circuit or Annapurna Base Camp.

Upper Mustang Trek

  • Length: 10-12 days
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Region: Mustang
  • Start/finish: Jomsom to Jomsom
  • What to expect: Unlike the others on this list, the arid Upper Mustang Trek is best hiked between May and October when many other regions experience monsoon rains. The Mustang region has close ties to Tibet and features the ancient Kingdom of Lo Manthang and stunning desert and mountain scenery. Since the area is restricted, hiking Upper Mustang requires an expensive permit (around US$500) and a licensed guide.

Langtang Trek

  • Length: 6-9 days
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging
  • Region:  Langtang Valley
  • Start/finish: Syabru Besi to Syabru Besi
  • What to expect: Before the 2015 earthquake, this was one of Nepal’s most popular treks. While it’s bouncing back, the trail remains uncrowded despite being within easy reach of Kathmandu. Highlights of this shorter trek include the gorgeous Langtang Valley, Tibetan culture, winding rivers, subtropical forests, and soaring Himalayan peaks.

Manaslu Circuit

  • Length: 16-18 days
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging
  • Region: Gorkha
  • Start/finish: Soti Khola to Besisahar
  • What to expect: This off-the-beaten-path trek is seeing more visitors than in the past but is a much less crowded alternative to the popular Annapurna and Everest treks. The remote trail passes Mount Manaslu – the world’s eighth highest mountain – Hindu and Tibetan villages, ancient monasteries, and snow-covered peaks along the border between Tibet and Nepal.

Solo vs. Group Trekking

Trekking in Nepal is possible on your own, as a couple, or as part of a group. Trekking with a partner or group is generally more affordable and safer than solo trekking. Even if you decide to trek alone, you’ll have plenty of chances to meet other travelers. Popular trails are very social, with many opportunities to hike portions with other groups or socialize at the teahouses.

Nepal is considered to be a safe country for travelers, but you should still take precautions whether you’re traveling alone or with a group. You can read more about how to travel and trek safely in the Safety and Other Tips section below.

Food, Drinks, and Water

Teahouse menus are mostly similar wherever you go, with some minor variations. On popular trekking routes, teahouses have slightly more diverse menus with traditional Nepalese dishes as well as Western foods like pizza and pasta. Teahouses in more remote areas usually have fewer options and higher prices.

Meat and fish are a rarity in many parts of Nepal, with most dishes being vegetarian. The most common meat available is yak, and it is usually quite pricey compared to other options on the menu. If you eat meat, you can try yak jerky called sukuti, yak burgers, or yak steak.

Alcohol tends to be very expensive, with beers costing around US$7 at teahouses. If you’re looking to trek on a budget, avoiding alcohol is a great way to save money.

Water filtration is essential in Nepal since the tap water is not safe to drink. Bottled water is available at teahouses but costs as much as US$2 per liter. It will be much more economical and eco-friendly if you bring your own water purification system, such as a water filter, UV sterilizer, or water treatment tablets.

What to Pack for a Trekking Adventure

Most Nepal treks are accessible for a range of hikers and do not require any mountaineering equipment like crampons, ropes, or ice axes. While the gear list below is not exhaustive, it is a great place to start when determining what equipment you’ll need to bring on a trek in Nepal.

  • Backpack and waterproof cover: For teahouse trekking, a lightweight backpack with a capacity between 40 and 50 liters should be sufficient.
  • Sleeping bag: For high elevation treks, you’ll want a warm sleeping bag rated to around 15 degrees F. If you’re sticking to lower elevation areas in spring or fall, you will probably be fine with a 30-degree bag.
  • Hiking boots or trail running shoes: Unless you’re expecting to encounter a lot of snow, lightweight trail running shoes are an excellent choice for trekking in Nepal.
  • Water purification system: Bringing your own filtration system will help you avoid buying bottled water and is better for your budget and the environment.
  • Winter traction devices: Hikers going on high elevation treks should consider bringing these in case of icy mountain passes, but most trekkers do not need them.
  • Maps, guidebooks, and navigation system: You can purchase a detailed map of your chosen route in Kathmandu, as well as a guidebook to assist you with planning your trek. Although popular trails are well marked, you’ll want to bring a compass in case you get lost or end up on a poorly marked trail.
  • First aid kit: This is an essential piece of gear on every hike, and trekking – even in well-traveled areas – is no exception.
  • Emergency and gear repair kit: This is another crucial addition to every backpacker’s packing list. Items like matches, fire starters, emergency shelter, whistle, and more will help protect you in a crisis.
  • Headlamp, batteries, tools, and accessories: A multitool and pocket knife are always useful, and you’ll want a headlamp for trips to the bathroom at night.
  • Clothing: Make sure to bring plenty of layers and avoid any unnecessary weight. You’ll need a base layer, rain jacket shell, lightweight down jacket, fleece, hiking pants, rain pants, hiking shorts, quality hiking socks like Silverlight socks, t-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, underwear, hat, gloves, and pajamas.
  • Personal toiletries and medications: In addition to your basic toiletries, you should pack biodegradable soap, wet wipes, and toilet paper (many teahouses do not provide any).
  • Sun protection and insect repellent: The sun is powerful at high altitudes, so make sure to bring adequate protection. Insects are only an issue at lower elevations in Nepal.
  • Power bank, cords, and adapters: A power bank will help you keep your electronic devices charged since power outages are common and not all teahouses have the option to charge your devices.

If you’re planning to do a camping trek, you’ll need additional gear, including a tent, sleeping pad, cooking stove and utensils, food, and more. For a more detailed guide of what to bring on a backpacking trip, take a look at our Backpacking Checklist.

Trekkers in Nepal

How to Prepare

Training properly for your trek is important for staying safe and having a pleasant trip. The level of preparation required will depend on your chosen route, hiking experience, and current physical condition.

A good place to start is improving your overall fitness with cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and core work. Going on some challenging day hikes in your area and doing lower body exercises like squats, lunges, and step-ups are excellent ways to prepare your leg muscles for the demands of a multi-day trek.

If you’re carrying your own gear, it’s also a good idea to wear your backpack while performing the above exercises and during your training hikes. To start, add just a little weight to your pack and increase it incrementally until you’ve reached the weight you plan to carry on your trek.

If you’re planning a high elevation trek, you’ll want to prepare your body for the lower oxygen levels at high altitudes. You can do this by increasing your VO2 max – the maximum level of oxygen your body can utilize during exercise – through aerobic activities.

For more advice and ideas about how to prepare for your trek, check out our Hiking Exercises article.

Safety and Other Tips

Altitude Sickness

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) can become a medical emergency and should not be taken lightly. Typically, AMS affects people above 2,500 meters and causes various symptoms, including headaches, shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and muscle aches.

It’s hard to predict whether or not you’ll experience altitude sickness, but generally, the faster you climb, the higher your risk. We recommend staying in Kathmandu for several days if you’re coming from a low elevation area. Although it’s only 1,400 meters above sea level, it will help your body adjust to the lower air pressure and oxygen levels and reduce your AMS risk.

Afterward, take it slow as you ascend to higher altitudes and consider doing a short acclimatization trek like Poon Hill before attempting a more challenging high elevation trek, such as Three Passes. Make sure to always stay hydrated and increase your intake of carbohydrates at altitudes above 3,000 meters.

Avalanches, Landslides, and Storms

Many areas in Nepal are prone to avalanches in the winter and landslides during the summer monsoons. Use extra caution when hiking in these areas and consider trekking with a guide to improve your safety.

No matter where you are hiking, you should monitor the weather to reduce your risk of being caught in a storm. This is essential in mountainous areas and on days when you cross a high pass since storms can roll in quickly.

On the way to Everest Basecamp

Money

The official currency of Nepal is the Nepalese Rupee (NPR). As of December 2020, 1 USD equals around 117 NPR. You’ll pay for everything in the local currency except for your visa, which is usually paid in USD. Kathmandu and Pokhara have many exchange offices where you can exchange major currencies for Rupees.

Most teahouses do not accept credit cards, and ATMs are a rarity in trail towns, so make sure to bring lots of cash for your trip. Always carry more cash than you think you’ll need and have a reserve in case of an emergency. Larger towns and cities have ATMs where you can withdraw money.

Leave No Trace

As is the case with any outdoor adventure, you should always follow the seven Leave No Trace Principles when trekking in Nepal:

  1. Plan Ahead & Prepare
  2. Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Cultural Differences

When traveling to a foreign country, it’s wise to familiarize yourself with local customs and respect the local culture and religion. In Nepal, this includes dressing conservatively, requesting permission before you take someone’s picture, minimizing public displays of affection, and respecting rules in temples and other religious sites.

Conclusion

Nepal is a trekkers’ paradise with countless opportunities for adventure. Whether you decide to visit the rugged Mustang deserts or the soaring mountain passes near Everest, we hope this guide helps you plan the trip of a lifetime!

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A Guide to Trekking in Nepal

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