Nepal, home to the Himalayas and some of the world’s most iconic scenery, is somewhere quite extraordinary. The world’s most documented massif is home to many of the Earth’s highest peaks and whilst its crowning glory is of course Everest, exploring the sprawling network of well-trodden trails across Nepal is certainly worth dusting off your walking boots for. Website Assistant, Stephanie, explains why.
Kathmandu is the obvious starting point for a vacation in the Himalayan foothills. The city is abuzz with the bustle of local life and a constant trickle of Gore Tex clad hikers bound for the mountains. Shops burst at the seams with all manner of hiking equipment selling everything from last minute essentials to entire kit bags and the foodie scene is certainly not to be sniffed at. Nepalese cuisine is a tasty nod to its cultural diversity and fascinating heritage whilst a range of restaurants spanning the culinary gamut ensures all taste buds are catered for in the city. Undoubtedly shaken by the 2015 earthquake, but not completely stirred; Kathmandu is rising from the rubble and mammoth construction works are underway to restore the capital to its former glory. The palaces and temples of Durbar Square, in the heart of the city, are a haunting reminder of the sheer scale of the devastation yet a testament to the incredible resilience of the Nepalese people and well worth a visit.
A few days spent navigating the narrow laneways and market lined streets of Kathmandu is only the beginning though and it is the crisp, clean air of the Himalayas that is perhaps Nepal’s greatest appeal. A short flight across plunging ravines, over rural villages and towards the snow crested peaks of the Himalayas takes you to the spiny stitch that separates Tibet from Nepal. Stepping foot on the very ground where some of the most revered expeditions in history begun was a moment I’ll never forget.
The hiking itself is of course challenging but waking up every day to uninterrupted views of the world’s most magnificent mountain range is well worth a blister or two. It goes without saying though that no matter what time of year, preparing for the trip with the right gear is essential. Staying warm and dry is key and layering technical clothing is vital for head to toe comfort. By stuffing a waterproof in your rucksack, you can guarantee that come rain or shine you’ll be ready for the rapidly changing weather typical of the higher altitude. A pair of sturdy boots will be your salvation on the trickier terrain and a lightweight down jacket is perfect for both long days on the trail and staying snug once the clouds roll in. The weather is of course unpredictable, yet during the months of April, May, October and November, blue skies and sunshine prevail.
Paths are studded with glittering stupas and inviting tea houses, which make for perfect pit stops along the route. Whether it’s refuelling with a well-deserved Nepali tea, or hunkering down for the night in a cosy lodge, the stunning backdrop of the Himalayas is just as awe inspiring by day as it is by dusk. Early starts will be rewarded with incredible views, long days of hiking offset by hearty meals and any hesitations ironed out by the friendly faces of expert guides who stay with you every step of the way. Leaving self-doubt at sea level and heading to the Himalayan foothills will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
Whilst my trek took me to the foot of Everest, to the vast sand swept bowl of Gorak Shep, boulder strewn expanse of Base Camp and the dizzyingly high summit of Kala Patthar, the hiking trails of Nepal are by no means just about following in the footsteps of Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hilary. Taking on a section of the Annapurna Circuit, conveniently interspersed with luxury lodges and tea houses, makes for a fantastic adventure and can be seamlessly combined with the rest of Nepal or destinations further afield.
Falling under the spell of the Himalayas is dangerously easy to do. From the moment you leave behind the friendly chatter of a thousand namastes, convoys of docile yaks and seemingly endless bowls of heart-warming lentil dahl, you are sure to be lacing up your boots for the next adventure in the mecca of all mountain topped terrains.