4 TRAILS FOR GETTING OFF-THE-BEATEN TREKKING TRACK IN NEPAL
Home to some of the world’s highest peaks, it’s no secret that Nepal is one of the world’s top trekking destinations. Its legendary trails access remote mountain villages and wildlife conservation areas, accompanied by breathtaking views of snow-capped peaks and rushing rivers at every turn. But with the word well and truly out, are there still trails where you can escape from the world and be immersed in Mother Nature? In this article, we’ll introduce four trails for getting off-the-beaten trekking path on your next Nepalese adventure.
The sun slowly casts its glow across the Himalayas
1. Manaslu Circuit
Exploring the spectacular landscapes that surround the world’s 8th highest peak, the Manaslu Circuit has seen a boost in popularity since teahouses were established along the route in 2010. The trek takes around 14 days, traversing magnificent rhododendron forests and crossing gushing rivers en route to the 5,135-metre-high Larkya Pass. It offers outstanding views of Mount Manaslu as it rises to 8,163 metres while being far less crowded than trails such as the Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Circuit. The start of the trail is a 6-8-hour drive from Kathmandu and there’s the option to extend the trek to visit the recently opened Tsum Valley. It’s important to keep in mind that the Manaslu Circuit traverses a restricted area, so you need to secure a permit and trek with a registered guide.
A local villager carries a woven basket across a suspension bridge
2. Upper Mustang
If you’ve already trekked one of Nepal’s classic routes, such as Annapurna or EBC and are looking for a complete contrast in landscape, then consider heading to the Upper Mustang Valley. It accesses the former desert Kingdom of Mustang where 16th-century monasteries perch on red-hued rocky outcrops and cave dwellings are etched into the cliffs. Over 10+ days, you’ll follow the banks of the Kali Gandaki River to the walled city of Lo-Manthang while discovering this mystical area’s unique Tibetan Buddhist culture. The region was only opened up to tourists in 1991 and a permit is still necessary to trek the Upper Mustang. It begins with a spectacular flight from Pokhara over the world’s deepest gorge to the trailhead in Jomsom, with a few teahouses now mushrooming along the way as an alternative to camping.
Prayer flags fly atop a mountain pass along the Upper Mustang trail
3. Mt. Kangchenjunga Circuit
Another trail that’s well off-the-beaten-track is the Mt. Kangchenjunga Circuit, which traverses an undeniably breathtaking region of Nepal near the border with Sikkim and Tibet. Over 20+ days, you’ll explore stunning landscapes beneath the summit of Nepal’s second highest peak, Mt. Kangchenjunga (8,586 metres), as well as small ethnic villages of the Rai and Limbu people. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife such as musk deer and red panda that can sometimes be spotted along the route, with the lack of people in this remote neck of the woods allowing them to thrive. The trail starts in Taplejung, which can be accessed following a flight from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur, with basic teahouse accommodation available along the trek.
Picture-perfect reflections on Rara Lake
4. Rara Lake
If you’re not keen to trek at really high altitudes (or know that you body doesn’t deal with it well), then the Rara Lake trek is a great alternative. This 8-day hike through the majestic Rara National Park accesses a sparkling lake of the same name, which is actually the largest and deepest lake in Nepal’s Himalayas. It’s surrounded by a photogenic scene of blue pine and spruce forest, with the snow-capped mountains perfectly reflected in the water. Aside from its natural wonders, the national park is renowned for its wildlife, with Himalayan black bears and illusive snow leopards inhabiting the region, not to mention myriad bird species. The trailhead can be accessed from Jumla (which is a one-hour flight from Kathmandu) and you’ll need to carry in all your own gear, including camping equipment.