With eight of the top ten highest summits in the world and some of the most beautiful landscapes which are only reachable on foot, trekking in Nepal is one of the unique experiences of Asia.
Trekking is the most popular activity in Nepal, and travellers will be bombarded on the streets of Kathmandu and the trekking hub, Pokhara, with guides, organised tours and gear for sale or rent. The huge variety of options allows for people of many ages and capabilities to attempt a trek in the country. While you could spend a year planning an expedition to wild and lofty places that few would dare attempt, you could also arrive in Kathmandu with no plans and be on the trail in a matter of days.
Despite what many may perceive, trekking in Nepal is not necessarily wandering alone through an uncharted wilderness. As they walk along the well-marked trekking paths, travellers will often discover quite the opposite; hundreds of locals passing through each day as they haul food, water and other odd necessities back to their tiny villages, along with dozens of fellow trekkers. The regularly-spaced villages and teahouses allow trekkers good opportunities to rest and recover, either for a few minutes or the night. The strong culture and unreserved friendliness of the Nepalese people can also be witnessed as one traverses the hill tracks.
When to go
The best seasons for trekking are the dry and warm seasons, March-June and September-November. During these times, the temperature is bearable and skies are usually clear, although the skies are foggier and the rain begins in May-June. It is possible to trek out of season, but expect lots of rain and leeches during the summer monsoon season and severe cold and closed passes during the winter months. See also the Nepal climate section.
Thousands of tourists come to Nepal every year to go trekking/climbing in these trails to explore the geographical phenomenon of Nepal. You can surely visit Nepal at any time of the year, but keeping in mind what activities you want to do: it’s best if you schedule it accordingly to the best time to visit Nepal. Touring cities during the monsoon can give you tough time or not getting to see the views due to fog can be a real bummer. Therefore it is best to find out what the ideal time for your travel is and take off. Generally, we do not categorize any season as the ‘worst’, but we do consider two seasons to be the best seasons for visiting Nepal. The spring and autumn months that occur from March to May and mid-September to November are the ideal months to travel to Nepal. You will witness a pleasant climate with clear skies. For trekkers and climbers, the trails are dry and easier to walk on. Here are further details on why you should visit Nepal during these seasons.
Experience and fitness
There are treks suitable for a wide range of experience and physical fitness. If you can walk uphill for a few hours each day, then you can find a suitable trek in Nepal. An easy trek with Nepali support (guide and porter) and teahouse accommodation is quite attainable for anyone who is reasonably fit. Longer treks, crossing high passes and into remote regions demand a higher degree of endurance. For trekking peaks, i.e. summitting a mountain of 5,650-6,500 m, it is desirable to have some alpine climbing experience.
Equipment and supplies
It is best to take only what you need and leave the rest behind. Your needs while trekking will be simple.
It is possible to buy or rent everything you need in the Thamel neighborhood of Kathmandu and Pokhara, although it is better to use footwear that is already broken in. Good bargains can be had on fleeces and down jackets but the knockoffs of brand name goods sold in Nepal are not good quality.
The main essentials to bring are sturdy and comfortable hiking boots, a sleeping bag (depending on your accommodation), a daypack, and a few changes of clothes for the varying temperatures. For cold weather, hiking pants, thermals, gloves, neck warmer or scarf, beanie, a warm inner jacket and a windproof and waterproof outer jacket are essential. Other items to bring include a hiking stick or two, waterproof case, fabric bandages such as moleskin, a headlamp, water purification supplies, altitude sickness and other medication, a camera, and binoculars.
On the popular trekking routes, everyday supplies, such as toilet paper, soap, chocolate bars, and even basic hiking supplies can be purchased along the way, though prices rise dramatically as you go higher in elevation. Try to stock up lower down and buy locally-produced products such as fruit, coconut biscuits and bon bon biscuits.
Maps are easy to find in Nepal, although they may not be totally accurate.
For the more difficult treks involving mountaineering, crampons and ice axes may be required.
Guided vs. independent treks
Whether to join an organized group, trek unguided with other independent travelers, or to hire your own guide and/or porter is a personal decision to be based on the difficulty of the trek and available budget.
Guided treks legally must be organized through TAAN registered trekking agencies in Kathmandu and Pokhara. No one else — no hotel, no street broker, no nice person you just met, not even a trekking guide — is legally authorized to organize a trek. During the main seasons, the agencies run regular group treks, and it is generally easy to find a group doing the trek of your choice. All the necessary trekking gear, food, fuel and other goods are carried by the porters. The cook will prepare all the meals during the camping trek. Trekkers carry only a small bag as required for the day. At night, tents for dining, sleeping and washing are provided and set up. Mattresses, sleeping bags, tables and seating are arranged by staff. For large group treks, a Sirdar (chief guide) is employed to pre-arrange and then to oversee the entire program. A Sherpa (assistant guide) is also hired to lead the staff and assist the Sirdar. All land transportation, local permits, taxes, porter insurance, port dues and entrance fees to National Parks or sites that are part of the trip are arranged by the agency.
When signing up with an agency, you should speak with several and make detailed inquiries about the differences in service besides just the base cost. Recommendations from others you might know who have used the services of guides or trekking companies can be very helpful. Some guides or trekking organizations provide better and more professional services than others. This could affect merely your convenience and comfort or, when significant altitude gain or a difficult route is involved, could become a real safety issue. Having someone along who is experienced, professional and attentive could be very important.
If you are employing the services of guides and porters, it is customary to present a tip to the head guide at the end of the trip. This will be divided up between the various people employed in your group. Like most tips, the amount will vary depending on the quality of services provided, but it could be between 5% and 10% of the total cost of your trek.
Independent trekking is quite easy in the main trekking areas.
If hiring staff independently and without an agency, be mindful of your responsibilities to ensure that your guide is suitably equipped for the job and stays safe. Also know that foreigners on a tourist visa are not legally allowed to hire any staff directly.