Nepal (नेपाल), 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. Its crowning glory is Everest, but there is so much more. Exploring the network of well-trodden trails across Nepal is certainly worth experiencing for an adventure of a lifetime.
Kathmandu (काठमाडाैँ), the capital and starting point for a holiday in the Himalayan foothills, is a city abuzz with the bustle of local life and a constant trickle of Gore-Tex clad hikers bound for the mountains. Shops sell all manner of hiking equipment, from last-minute essentials to entire kit bags. Nepalese cuisine is a tasty nod to its cultural diversity, while a range of restaurants spans an international culinary repertoire. Shaken by the 2015 earthquake, Kathmandu is still reconfiguring to restore the capital to its former glory. The palaces and temples of Durbar Square, in the heart of the city, still bear witness to the sheer scale of the devastation, yet much rebuilding is testament to the incredible resilience of the Nepalese people and it’s 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 snow-crested peaks takes you to the spiny stitch that separates Nepal from Tibet. Stepping foot on the very ground where some of the most revered expeditions in history began is a moment to remember.
The hiking itself is 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 waterproofs 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. During the months of April, May, October, and November, blue skies and sunshine prevail, though. 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.
Paths are studded with glittering stūpa (स्तूप; conical Buddhist prayer towers) 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 are rewarded with incredible views, long days of hiking are offset by hearty meals, and any hesitations are ironed out by the friendly faces of expert guides, who are 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.
One recommended trail is to the foot of Everest and the vast sand-swept bowl of Gorak Shep (गोराशप), a boulder-strewn expanse of Everest Base Camp at more than 5,100 metres altitude, and then on to the high summit of Kala Patthar (काला पत्थर) at 5,640 metres, the hiking trails of Nepal are by no means just about following in the footsteps of climbers Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary. 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 namaste greetings, convoys of docile yaks, and seemingly endless bowls of heart-warming lentil dal, you are sure to be lacing up your boots for the next adventure in the mecca of all mountain-topped terrains.