Are you looking to travel somewhere that offers amazing scenery, fascinating culture, friendly locals and the opportunity of having the experience of a lifetime? A trekking holiday in Nepal meets all of these requirements and much, much more.
I think a lot of people dismiss the idea of trekking mountains in Nepal (or anywhere for that matter) because it sounds really intimidating. They have visions of mountaineers, weighed down with heavy equipment, scaling sheer cliffs and battling snowstorms.
The reality of course couldn’t be any more different (although this kind of more extreme adventure for experienced mountaineers is available in Nepal too – approximately 5,000 climb Everest every year).
There are treks in Nepal that are suitable for even the most unfit and inexperienced hikers. Children can trek, the elderly can trek, overweight people can trek – you get the picture! And if you’re not a person who’s into sports or active holidays, a trekking holiday might sound like your idea of a nightmare but give it a go and it could change your opinion and your life.
Get fit, see amazing sights, have an adventure
I think a lot of people are attracted to the idea of travel because they think it will make them cooler, thinner, more tanned and so on, rather focusing on the actual travel itself. Well, trekking in Nepal will actually do all of these things! I guarantee that on even a short trek you will lose weight, feel amazing, increase your confidence and start to believe you can do anything.
Misconception number 1 – you need to be fit to go on a trekking holiday
In fact you can start from a very low fitness level and increase it in a very short period of time. I would go so far as to say that a trekking holiday is the fastest way to get fit and lose weight.
I was kind of middle of the road when I did my trek in Nepal. I walked to work quite often but I was not a serious hiker by any means. I’d dabbled in jogging and going to the gym in the past but most days I sat at my computer nearly all day and although not technically overweight, I definitely had a spare few pounds.
After my short 5-day trek, my clothes were all dropping off me. You use up so much energy from hiking up mountains that you could eat all day and still lose weight. I also felt amazing, full of energy and wishing I’d signed up for a longer trek. Like many forms of exercise, trekking can be quite addictive.
Hiking up mountains is not easy, and this is definitely not a no-work solution to losing weight and getting fit but it’s the closest you’re going to get to an intensive fitness program that you can’t opt out of and has guaranteed results.
It’s also easy – you have a trekking guide and a porter to carry your backpack, there are restaurants and guesthouses along the way and awe-inspiring views to spur you on and climb that last few hundred metres.
How to plan a trekking holiday in Nepal
There are a few different ways you can go about planning your trek in Nepal.
The first is to buy your plan tickets, book a couple of nights accommodation in Kathmandu and plan your internal travel and find a guide and porter when you get there. This is perfectly possible and lots of people do it but it’s probably not the best option for inexperienced travellers.
Another option is to book yourself on to a group trek, which organizes everything for you. This is a great option for nervous solo travellers as not only does it take all the hassle out of planning, but you also have some ready-made travelling companions in the form of your trekking group.
There are some downsides to trekking in a group however. As everyone in the group has to be accommodated, you won’t have the option of changing your itinerary half way through. Also if you end up with a group of people that you don’t really get along with, you’re stuck with them until the end of the trek.
The third option is sort of a compromise between the two and is what I decided on – a private trek organized through a trekking company. This way you have the option to tailor the trek exactly to your requirements and have full flexibility, but it’s also a really easy option for newbie travellers and trekkers. No need to worry about trekking on your own either – trekking guides make excellent companions and you’ll meet up with lots of people along the way in the guesthouses you stay in over night.
If you do choose to arrange your trek through a company, take the time to research properly and make sure that they are committed to responsible travel. You want to ensure that your guide and porter are getting a fair wage and your trek has minimal impact on the environment.
What to pack for trekking in Nepal
What you need to pack will depend somewhat on the trek you are doing but if you are doing a short and relatively easy trek, you can get away with minimal equipment. Pretty much everything you need can be bought in the outdoor equipment stores in Kathmandu for very reasonable prices so rather than bringing everything from home, you may just want to spend a couple of days shopping in Kathmandu before you set off.
In general, keep your supplies down to the absolute minimum. Yes, Nepalese porters can carry huge loads but that doesn’t mean you can take advantage of them. Also bear in mind that they may be carrying the equipment of several people on a group trek.
- A good quality backpack is of course essential. Your porter will probably carry this, although of course you have the option of not hiring a porter (I would recommend to do so as it provides jobs and brings money into the area).
- You’ll also need a daypack to carry your water, sunscreen etc.
- Keep your clothing to the minimal amount possible and don’t bring multiple changes of clothes. Long trousers or a long skirt are essential (it’s not culturally appropriate to wear shorts in Nepal although many trekkers do) and you’ll want a t-shirt and long-sleeved shirt. Look for tech fabrics that wick sweat away from the skin.
- Hiking boots are another essential item – try to get them broken in before you start your trek and pair them with some good quality cushioned socks.
- Rain jacket – hiking in wet clothes is miserable so you’ll want to make sure to stay as dry as possible
- Fleece or down jacket – aim for lightweight but warm.
- Sleeping bag – it gets cold in the mountains. Although my trek was not particularly high altitude, I was so cold some nights wearing all my clothing, fleece, two pairs of socks and thin sleeping bag that I couldn’t sleep. Try and invest in a good quality warm sleeping bag.
- Sunglasses – the sun is very strong at high altitudes and you need to protect your eyes.
- Sunscreen – as above.
- Water bottle and purification tablets. The water in the mountains is not safe to drink. Even boiled water may contain bacteria and parasites, as it doesn’t boil at a high enough temperature once you go past a certain altitude. As an alternative to purification tablets, you can also buy a handheld UV light purifier, which can be very handy and is a great talking point with fellow travellers!
- Baby wipes – prepare not to shower for a few days. Most of the guesthouses have shower facilities but it is very bad for the environment to use hot water in the mountains and the cold water is COLD!
- First aid kit
- Flip flops or sandals for use in the evening around the guesthouse.
- A torch for nighttime trips to the toilet.
- Minimal toiletries.
- Camera, charger and spare batteries – this is one of those times when you really don’t want to be without a camera! Power supplies can be unreliable so try to bring spare batteries and charge them when you can.
Which trek to do in Nepal?
There are so many different trekking options to choose from depending on the kind of scenery you want to see, your experience level and how long you want to trek for.
The Poon Hill trek is a great short trek for beginners in the Annapurna. It usually takes only 5 days and yet you’ll get to see some amazing scenery and ascend to the highest point of 3,210m. There are some steep sections but at around 10km a day, you can take it easy.
For a longer trek, you might want to consider the Annapurna Circuit, which passes through diverse scenery over 16-20 days and reaches a height of 5,300m. The Annapurna Sanctuary trek is another popular option, taking you up to the base of Annapurna and usually taking between eight to ten days. More experienced trekkers might want to consider the Mount Everest Circuit which offers a range of different trekking options ranging from 2-3 weeks long. To trek in this area, you’ll need to fly to Lukla first.
All photos copyright Rachel Adnyana