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Advice for Nepal..? Trekking, sightseeing this October
I’m heading to Nepal for 3 weeks on the 1st Oct, with a plan to explore Kathmandu for a bit, then head over to Bandipur and Pokhara, before heading off to walk the Annapurna Circuit.
I’ve spent a lot of time backpacking independently around Asia, but never been to Nepal before. Do you have travel tips or advice on where to go, or perhaps better alternative itineraries?
The Annapurna Circuit looks an obvious choice, and I’ve been wanting to do it for the last 20 years! But it is often described now as ‘commercialised’ or busy. To be honest, some of the YouTube videos I’ve seen of it actually make it look a bit bleak, barren and rocky!
Are there some better choices to be made here?
I bikepacked round Annapurna just before Covid. It’s stunning. Yes there’s a dirt road and yes the trekkers avoid most of it. My first day was slithering over a slowly moving 1km land slide that had smashed 2 jeeps and a house into the river so not that commercialised yet. Annapurna Sanctuary is a great shorter trek to get into the mountains. Jiri to Lukla the old Everest route very quite and interesting. If you’ve always wanted to do it the answers yes. But I do like the Himalayas.
I’d walk the circuit first then end in Pokhara for chill time/massage etc. Public bus or hire a jeep to the start from Kathmandu as it’s on the road to Pokhara. Kathmandu is also a great city. Dirty, polluted, crowded for sure but amazing sites to see. KTM guesthouse in Tamel the original one has very relaxing gardens to chill out in and will come and get you from the airport which is nice.
If you plan on internal flights factor in planes and airstrips can be closed for weeks due to weather which can mess up your trip.
Get your visa in advance as easy to do and again saves loads of hassle on arrival.
I’m just organising 6 weeks around the Khumbu in November / December.
Kathmandu is great, as noted above. I’ve walked up to the Annapurna Sanctuary and climbed in there – it’s a lot of walking through the jungle to get there but the view is superb at the end.
If you’re only going to Nepal once, why wouldn’t you go up to the Everest region? It’s one of the most spectacular places on Earth once you’re past Namche Bazaar. It’s easy to do because all the services are there. If I was only going on one mountain trip that’s what I’d do, via the 3 passes route avoiding the busier straight up base camp route.pk13Full Member
Smile and be nice to the locals I’ve met a lot of Nepalese and genuinely never encountered a bad one generous to the last.BadlyWiredDogFull Member
If you’re set on Annapurna, I’d consider doing the Annapurna Circuit first, then popping over and doing the Sanctuary trek, though you might be pushed for time, it took me just over three weeks I think – bear in mind the acclimatisation demands limit the distances you can manage, four weeks is better if you can manage it. Because you’re already acclimatised, you can bomb up there in a day and half. My take, fwiw, is that the Circuit feels like you’re going around the mountains, even on the climb of the Thorung La, the Sanctuary feel like you’re in them.
I also kind of preferred the Everest region. It’s just stunning. Oh, more generally, stay at tea houses, cheap and cheerful, really good food, relatively speaking, mostly.
As far as the Circuit being rocky and barren, yes, some of it is, but equally a fair bit isn’t, depends how high you go. Walking into Everest Base Camp for Jiri is nice because it takes you right from relatively low cloud forest, right up to the fringes of the Khumbu ice fall.
But it’s all good. Great place to trek and travel.augustuswindsockFull Member
I did the sanctuary trek, independently, about 20 years ago, didn’t have time for the circuit, but it was outstanding.
Then did a three day rafting trip down the Kali Gandaki river, equally brilliant, arranged this in Pokhara.
It’s my fantasy pipe dream to go back and do the Yak attack and the Everest marathon (extremely unlikely given that I haven’t run for 14 years and they’re about 6 months apart!!).
Strongly recommend travelling independently staying in tea-houses rather than a western tour group, but hire a porter-guide, that way puts money directly into local economy.
Yep 3 passes is great. What did you climb up in the sanctuary supernova, I’ve thought of doing self organised for Tent Peak as very easy access for shorter trips.julesf7Free Member
First timer’s answer here, but we are heading to Nepal mid-October… planned for many years, but postponed for equally many after parental illness and then, oh, this pandemic thingummy. I am fortunate to know a few people who have guided professionally in Nepal, including organising 8000m expeditions as well as guiding to Everest summit, and so asked their advice on what to do.
What we were looking for was a 10-14 day trek, avoiding busy and commercial routes but most importantly getting as much of an experience of the country and people as we could in a relatively time compressed fashion (about 3 weeks available with some time in KTM). We are heading off to do the Manaslu circuit, starting a bit lower in the valley than normal since it is very beautiful too and taking a few extra (acclimatisation) days to visit a monastery and Manaslu base camp (but not heading into Tsum). Other highly recommended options were the Sanctuary and 3 Passes, also Langtang, but the one on which all agreed was Manaslu.
Happy to share info and contacts if it might help, but there’s some great advice above so may be irrelevant.ampthillFull Member
We did the Everest region. It was stunning. Loads of options for quiet side routes. But even busy isn’t busy. It was an amazing cultural experience too
Thanks all… some useful pointers here! I will give this some further thought. Cheers!markgraylishFree Member
I flew from KTM to Lukla then trekked to Kala Patthar (minor peak which overlooks Everest Base Camp) but this was back in ’93 or ’94 so my knowledge will be waaaay out of date now.
I did it independently but got very ill from eating some dodgy “chicken” at one of the tea houses I stayed at (luckily it was on the way back).
Make what you want of that. I have no idea whether hygiene standards have improved but my advice would be to stick to vegatarian meals!
(Naturally, the scenery is spectacular)gazzab1955Full Member
Did the Everest base camp trek in 2016 but we went via Gokyo Lakes on the way out rather than the straight up and back route. Flying in and out of Lukla was interesting!
Would definitely advise going veggie while there. Having seen a “butchers” shop in KTM and while on the trek a travelling butcher in a remote village with all the meat hung on the back of his Yak, then chopping up the piece a local lady wanted on her garden wall, I wouldn’t touch the stuff.
Also take a decent water filter with you and use it for all your drinking water. We (4 of us) were walking for 18 days staying in tea houses and we never had any stomach problems.
Butchers shop in KTM
We went for a month about 15 years ago, I think it was October/ November. Stayed with friends in Tansen for a few days then up to Pokhara for the Annapurna circuit. We actually got caught in a blizzard as we went over the Thorong La pass and got stuck in a mountain village for a few days. In the end a big group of us managed to charter a Soviet-era helicopter to get back to Pokhara – quite the adventure! My gloves froze solid and I have permanent nerve damage in one finger, so have a think about the clothing you’re taking in case of bad weather.
After that we went back to Kathmandu then on to the Chitwan for some jungle trekking and wildlife spotting, which we both enjoyed
Do take the advice about acclimatisation seriously – it’ll feel like (if you’re reasonably fit) that you’re not walking very far on some days, but it’s for good reason.
Not sure what flights are like these days – we had to go via Delhi so stayed there for a few days first to take in the sites and go to the Taj Mahal.gallowayboyFull Member
Many years ago now, but I spent a couple of months in Nepal in 1997/8. Did the Annapurna Circuit and while the scenery was wonderful my overall impression was of there being a daily race to find tea houses with space at the desired overnighting villages. It was possible to walk out of sync with the rigid timetable followers and stay in lone teahouses between villages. What was shocking was the behaviour of some trekkers which was insensitive and condescending to locals. Also trekked through Helambu, over Gosainkund and into Langtang which was wonderful, much lower key and quite close to Kathmandu. Three years later I went back for six months with my partner on a volunteering scheme, and had some time at the start and end to trek. We did part of the annapurna circuit, to Jomsum and back, and went back to Langtang. It was a beautiful and fantastic experience. When I went, trekking was quite restricted to Everest area, Pokhara area and Langtang area….consequently a lot of trekkers were concentrated in these areas and there was tension and unhappiness among some local communities over tourist dollars and the impact on seasonal subsistence economies. Do your research on how your cash can best benefit the local subsistence economy and unless things have changed in twenty plus years be prepared for and challenge some of the shitty patronising attitudes of fellow trekkers. If I went back i’d do the Helambu/Gosainkund/Langtang trip again.
@ransos how was Tansen? we taught in a school there for 5 months…..school trips to rhanighat, giant swings for dashain festival, many happy memories!tetrodeFull Member
I did the AC in October 2016 and it was the one of the best things I’ve ever done. Absolutely stunning, the people are incredibly welcoming and kind, the scenery is immense, the culture and villages are lovely and all I’ve wanted to do since is go back, and probably do the three passes trek around the Everest region.
In 2016 people were decrying the AC as being too commercialised and having a road, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. You can avoid the “road” (it’s a dirt track) for the vast majority of it by following the NATT trails which are arguably even nicer than the original route which is now the road. The villages are catered towards the trekkers but it never feels commercial, and the amount of wilderness and nature you get is amazing.
The higher elevation parts of the circuit are tundra and can be quite barren yeah, but in a good way. The great thing about the AC is that you start it at relatively low elevation (~800m) and you get to gradually hike higher as the days go on through jungle, pine forests, tundra, high himalayas and more. It always changes and it’s always interesting.
Seconding the advice to go vegetarian though! Dal bhat power 24 hour!jamesoFull Member
If you’re only going to Nepal once, why wouldn’t you go up to the Everest region? It’s one of the most spectacular places on Earth once you’re past Namche Bazaar.
I’ve been twice, first to Annapurna BC and then Chitwan in S Nepal (incredible contrast), then another trip past Namche Bazaar to Renjo La and also to Gosinkund and Langtang.
Annapurna circuit looks a little more travelled and better surfaced in places compared to 10-20 years ago but it’s still stunning. I loved the Gosinkund and Langtang areas, it was quite different – different people / far fewer westerners, less infrastructure and more remote feeling but the mountains are less dominant there compared to higher up in the Sagarmatha NP.
The ‘3 passes trek’ looks stunning but tough. You can go NW up the valley at Namche Bazaar then get off the more crowded Everest BC route and go towards Renjo La pass, we went that way last trip. Very quiet there, really lovely route. The views of Everest from Renjo La are beautiful as you’re far enough back to see the whole area and high enough to see most of the upper dark section of Everest. Then you can descend from Renjo La to Gokyo lake and either return to Namche B or head over the Cho La and onto the EBC route.
There isn’t a trip in Nepal that won’t be incredible though, it’s genuinely stunning. I’d just recommend a plan that doesn’t rush things, it suits having the time to reflect and take it all in as well as the altitude kicking your ass if you try to go too far too soon. And don’t miss the sunrises, so worth getting up early every day.
RE vegetarian tips, tbh I ate whatever was offered both times and maybe I was lucky. I had no problems. The water they wash veg in may be more likely to give you the shits than the meat. Take iodene drops for tap water or boil it well rather than drink it from plastic bottles that end up in the rivers and just be careful.KahurangiFull Member
I’m fortunate to have spent 3 months in Nepal, we hiked the Manaslu Circuit & Tsum Valley and MTB’d round the Annapurna Circuit, riding as much of the tech on the walking trail as we could.
(we rode with Tangi, who runs enduro-mtb-nepal)
It’s all brilliant, it’s all different from each other and you’ll have a blast. Spend your money freely and make friends. Any specific advice I could give won’t be much use as there were a couple of big earthquakes while we were there and there was massive damage to the Manaslu and Langtang areas.
We did use a USB rechargeable Steripen through the trip and stayed healthy. Much more pleasant than iodine!!!JermFull Member
I think the problem with your initial proposal is time. If you are spending a few days in Kathmandu and another couple travelling to and from Pokhara, you are leaving precious little time for trekking. I haven’t done the circuit but I thought that was about three weeks on its own. You want to enjoy yourself rather than cram things in. I have done both Annapurna Sanctuary and Everest Base Camp from Lukla and would thoroughly recommend either. Everest was much more spectacular. My highlight was going over the Cho La to Gokyo. Whatever you do, it will be fantastic and you’ll want to go back.
@ransos how was Tansen? we taught in a school there for 5 months…..school trips to rhanighat, giant swings for dashain festival, many happy memories!
Our friends were missionaries working in the hospital… quite the eye opener and they ended up having their first child there. We too were there for dashain, can’t say the slaughtered goat was overly appealing and I’m not sure my eyesight has recovered from the raksi!
Yep 3 passes is great. What did you climb up in the sanctuary supernova, I’ve thought of doing self organised for Tent Peak as very easy access for shorter trips.
Yes, I climbed Tent Peak. Superb viewpoint for all the Annapurna summits on one side and Machapuchare on the other. Big walk up over the glacier, 50m head wall then a post holing stomp up to the summit, much like island peak and mera.footflapsFull Member
Whatever you do, it will be fantastic and you’ll want to go back.
I must be an outlier – I was very underwhelmed by Nepal.
The trekking was very dull I thought (compared to climbing in the Alpes etc). One whole day trekking through rice fields, two whole days in rhododendron forests where you can’t see anything but the nearest tree. Day or so of scree and then finally you might get a decent view. Another couple of days and you might get near a glacier. Then you have to repeat the whole thing on the way down. You can pretty much have the same 10+ day experience in 24 hours in the Alpes or 6 hours in the Lake District (bar glaciers) – ok you’re looking at Scafell rather than Annapurna, but they’re both lovely views.
Did the 3 day rafting trip down the Kalli Kandaki (sp), which was ok – got burnt to a crisp IIRC.
Did a bit of safari in Chitwan, which was actually the bit I enjoyed the most and had expected to enjoy the least.
Katmandu was interesting for about a day, after that I’m templed out. If I’m honest I prefer French chateaus – they have nice gardens.
Thanks again for all the advice.
I had an amazing time in Nepal and the trekking experience was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I settled for my original plan in the end – walking the Annapurna Circuit. The Circuit was a real adventure, particularly as the monsoon rains hadn’t shut off by the time I started, so the first 3 days were precipitous landslides and mud. Eventually, however, the weather cleared and the mountians began to reveal themselves. The Annapurna range is jaw-dropping in scale and rawness. Heading up over the climax – the 17,770 ft Thorong La Pass – at 5am with a headtorch will stay with me for the rest of my life, at times unexpectedy overcome with emotion and welling up at the thought of how much my late dad would have wanted to have expereinced this.
I followed up the AC with Annapurna Base Camp, somehow managing to tick that off in 2 1/2 days, having become well-adapted to the altitude by this stage. ABC had a completely different feel to it from AC. The tea houses seemed much less hospitable and commercialised, the experience felt less genuine and less of an adventure, the valley gloomy and steep, but maybe I was just in the wrong headspace comparing it to AC. I also wouldn’t recommend walking ABC in 2 1/2 days! I was pushed for time so had to do it quickly, but it was a pretty brutal packmarch for 8 hours a day. I got very sick straight afterwards.
My one piece of advice (something I hope to take on board next time – and I must revisit Nepal aagain!), is to take things a bit slower, relax and enjoy things. The AC was over almost too quickly, becasue I was so focussed on where I had to get to, rather than appreciating where I was. A lesson for life there, I think also.
One whole day trekking through rice fields, two whole days in rhododendron forests where you can’t see anything but the nearest tree. Day or so of scree and then finally you might get a decent view
… sounds like precisely how I would describe the ABC trek! AC was a world of difference.RustySpannerFull Member
‘Er indoors signed up for the Gokyo Ri/Renjo La circuit with Roland Hunter/The Mountain Company earlier this year.
She contracted Covid and had to be evacuated by helicopter (Yellowtail) the day after summiting Gokyo Ri.
The medics at Gokyo were fantastic and Roland was absolutely amazing.
She was so well treated after being blue lighted to hospital back in Kathmandu.
Another member of the party contracted Covid earlier at Namche and was very well looked after.
The Mountain Company and Roland get a huge thumbs up for helping to save her life.
Yeah, she’s going back. 🙂
DO NOT GET INSURANCE VIA TRAILFINDERS/ALLIANZ.
Liars and useless bastards. I spent days on the phone trying to get them to acknowledge they would cover the medical bills.
We’re still trying to get things resolved via the insurance Ombudsman.
Insurance companies are pretty wary of helicopter evacuations now because so many people are persuaded to use them by local guides who get a cut of the fee. It’s often possible to walk out without any health complications other than general miserableness and the insurance companies may well expect you to do so. Annoying, but the system’s been abused for years and now they’re clamping down.
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