Nepal is a landlocked country in the Himalayas in South Asia, bordering India and the Tibet autonomous region of China. It has eight of the world’s 10 highest peaks, including Mount Everest, the world’s tallest, on the border with Tibet, as well as Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. In 2008, Nepal was declared a republic and abolished its monarchy.

  • Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world is probably Nepal’s most famous sight, and much of the country consists of very high mountains.
  • There are four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Nepal

  • The Kathmandu Valley, obviously including the capital but also the cities of Bhaktapur and Patan.
  • Sagarmatha National Park.
  • Chitwan National Park.
  • Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha.

Trekking
101,320 trekkers visited Nepal in 2007. Of that number, 60,237 (59.4%) visited Annapurna area while those visiting the Everest and Langtang regions accounted for 26,511 (26.5%) and 8,165 (8.1%) respectively.

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“Tea-house trekking” is the easiest way to trek as it doesn’t require support. Tea houses have developed into somewhat rustic full-scale tourist lodges with showers, pizza, pasta and beer. The day’s hikes are between lodge-filled settlements or villages: there’s no need to take tents, food, water or beer. All those things, plus luxuries such as apple pie, can be purchased along the way. Physical requirements range from easy to strenuous.

Facilities available in remote areas are less extensive than in the more popular areas thus these areas are often visited in organised groups, with guide, porters and full support. Manaslu, Kanchenjunga, Dolpo, Mustang and Humla require Restricted Area Permits, requiring a minimum of two foreign trekkers plus a registered/qualified guide. Progress is being made however, and tea-houses are becoming more available in all of these areas. Before setting out on any trek, make sure you find out what the current facilities are in that area, as they are changing every year.

Annapurna region treks
Annapurna – North of Pokhara, from lush middle hills into high mountains.

Annapurna Circuit: A 2-3 week trek around the Annapurna mountains, leads up the Marsyangdi river to Dharapani, Chame, Manang, over Thorung La (5,400 m) to the Hindu temples at Muktinath and (possibly) ending at Jomsom. Down the Kali Gandaki on the Jomsom trail (the last week of the Annapurna Circuit which is done by itself in the opposite direction). Known as the “Apple Pie Trek” partly for crossing the apple growing region of Nepal, and partly for being one of the easier treks, enjoying Gurung and Thakali hospitality. Up through spring rhododendron blooms to Poon Hill for a dawn Himalayan vista. Another shorter but spectacular mini-circuit is the Nayapul-Ghandruk-Ghorepani-PoonHill-Nayapul route.
Annapurna Sanctuary: A trek up into the very heart of the range provides an awesome 360 degree high mountain skyline.

Everest region treks
Everest lies in the region known as Khumbu – To get here, take a bus to Jiri or fly to Lukla then hike up to Namche Bazzar, capital of the Sherpa lands at the foot of Everest. Main “teahouse trek” regions, in each of these areas there are a number of trail options, there is plenty of scope for short treks of less than a week to much longer if you have time and wanderlust.

  • Everest Base Camp Trek: Lukla to EBC, stunning scenery, wonderful Sherpa people. The most popular trek is up to Everest Base Camp and an ascent of Kalar Patar. Visit the Buddhist Tengboche monastery for the Mani Rimdu festival in November.
  • The ‘Classic Everest Base Camp Trek’: Jiri to EBC
  • Gokyo: Lukla to the sacred lakes of Gokyo. Explore the Gokyo valley with its sacred lakes and stupendous views of four 8,000 m peaks. Or a circuit of the region crossing the high passes or Cho La and Renjo La.
  • Numbur Cheese Circuit: Trek through the largest cheese producing area, via the sacred lakes of Jata Pokhari and Panch Pokhari to Numburchuili base camp.
  • Island Peak Trek in the Everest region takes in some of the most spectacular scenery in the Himalayas.
  • Pikey Cultural Trail
  • Dudh Kunda Cultural Trail

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and hiring a local company will benefit the local economy, however the involvement of travel agents in Kathmandu must be approached with caution. The numbers of travel, trekking and rafting agencies registered in 2007 were 1,078, 872 and 94 respectively. The rapid growth in tourism in Nepal coupled with the absence of a self-regulating code of conduct has helped to grow unhealthy competition among travel agents with regular undercutting in tariffs. Such undesirable actions take away benefits not only from trekking guides and porters but also from others engaged in supplying goods and providing services to the tourists. By paying lower tariffs tourists may save money but directly at the expense of local communities. Try to use ‘socially responsible’ tour operators that promote proper porter treatment and cultural and environmental sensitivity among their clients in line with the UN-WTO Sustainable Tourism Criteria.

Organised group trekking or independent trekking?
While organized groups from “western tour operators” from overseas drain the operational profit out of the country, organized groups hire a larger amount of local workforce from porters to guides. With “local tour operators” most of the operational profit remains in the country. Groups are more likely to go remote areas, and rely as much as possible on local resources to minimize transport cost and hire maximum local porters.

In comparison, individual travellers are concentrated on the main trails with lodges and usually a lower budget. These trekkers usually use simpler lodges with lower costs. They may venture less often into remote areas, as that would mean more expense or very basic local services which most try to avoid. They generally spend less than organized travellers on same trails simply because they often have more restricted budgets.

Safety and comfort are higher with organized tours. There is a full range of choice for any demand, just be sure to think about what trekking means for you. For the hard core trekkers, no porter will ever carry, while for others, to carry a 15-18 kg backpack might be more than they would want.

  • Keep working conditions and wages in mind when selecting a trekking company. For visitors from the west, hiring guides and porters is affordable and an extra few dollars can make a big impact in the life of a guide or porter. In order to feed themselves and their families, porters take on the job of carrying heavy loads to high elevations. Some of the problems porters face are underpayment, inadequate clothing and gear, being forced to carry excess weight, insufficient food provision and poor sleeping facilities. Sometimes these issues leave porters open to illness and neglect on the mountain. Nowadays most companies care better due to past awareness campaigns to their staff, however, some backpackers employ (illegally) porters and guides and there continue to be reports that some tourists pay less than the going rate.
  • There are a number of websites that facilitate direct contact with recommended trekking guides and porters. By law this is not permitted, as foreigners on tourist visa are not allowed to employ any kind of workforce, but only legal registered companies as use in most countries around the globe. So unless you want to break the law, do not employ yourself any kind of porters or guides and ensure to hire only through legal companies, in case of an accident it may bring severe problems to have employed illegally staff.
  • The International Porter Protect Group’s (IPPG) was set up in response to these issues, to improve health and safety for the trekking porter at work in the mountains and reduce the incidence of avoidable illness, injury and death. This is achieved by raising awareness of the issues among the trekking community and travel companies, leaders and sirdars. The IPPG recommends the following guidelines:
  • Adequate clothing is made available for protection in bad weather and at altitude. This should include adequate footwear, hat, gloves, windproof jacket and trousers, sunglasses, and access to a blanket and pad above the snowline.
  • Leaders and trekkers provide the same standard of medical care for porters they would expect themselves.
  • Porters must not be paid off because of illness without the leader or trekkers being informed.
  • Sick porters are never sent down alone, but rather with someone who speaks their language.
  • Sufficient funds are provided to sick porters to cover the cost of their land rescue and treatment.
  • All trekking porters should have provision for security, personal protective equipment including shoes and clothes, depending on the weather.
  • Nepal information from wikivoyage.

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