Five Trekking and Climbing Destinations In the Nepalese Himalayas
Back in October, Nepal reopened exclusively for trekkers and mountaineers. While much of the world remains closed as governments grapple with a second wave of COVID-19 infections, there has never been a better time to head out and explore the heart and home of the Himalayas.
Generally speaking, the most popular times to trek or climb in Nepal coincide with the country’s dry seasons. These run from September to November and March to May. However, late November and December are still great months to head out and explore the country.
While arriving in November puts some of the country’s most prized targets out of reach – think climbing via Everest’s South Col or Ama Dablam – there is still plenty of time to explore some of the country’s top treks and other climbing gems.
It is also never too early to begin planning your first (or next) big expedition to one of the country’s most iconic destinations.
1| Everest Base Camp trek
Perhaps the quintessential Himalayan adventure, the Everest Base Camp trek – EBC trek, for short – is the perfect way to see some of Nepal’s stunning natural beauty and experience its unique mountain culture.
Over the course of two weeks or more, trekkers will slowly ascend from the Himalayan foothills surrounding Lukla up into the heart of the world’s tallest mountain range. En route, trekkers will pass through diverse and dramatic scenery, stopping in traditional Sherpa villages to stay in local tea houses each night.
The highlight of the trip is generally one of two moments: arriving at Everest Base Camp, which sits at a lofty 5,364 metres (17,598 feet), or watching the sunrise from the summit of Kalapathar (5,545 metres/18,190 feet) the following morning.
Keep reading: Everest Base Camp Guide: What to Know Before You Go
The start of what is very often the adventure of a lifetime begins in Kathmandu, where most guides opt to rendezvous. After completing last minute shopping, trekkers and guides will make the short but scenic flight to Lukla. From here, the real fun begins.
The trek begins with a steady ascent through the thickly-vegetated subtropical valleys around Lukla up into the alpine mountain passes of Sagarmatha National Park.
Enjoying Nepal’s unparalleled natural beauty is the main objective, but there is plenty of time for cultural appreciation as well, with extended stops in the Sherpa towns of Namche Bazaar and Dingboche for acclimatisation purposes.
For people dreaming of climbing Everest, but lacking in the funds or technical abilities to do so, the EBC trek is a great substitute. A high level of physical fitness is required as much of the trek takes place at high altitude and includes plenty of climbing and descending. However, next to no technical ability is required. (In the shoulder seasons, such as December, some snow and glacier climbing experience is needed.)
In spite of the added technical difficulty required on a late season trek, heading to Everest Base Camp in November or December provides an excellent chance to enjoy some peace and quiet on the much-travelled route; taking in spectacular views of the world’s highest peak and enjoying the sublime solitude only the mountains can provide.
- Duration: 2 weeks
- Difficulty: Intermediate
- Starting point: Lukla
- Best period: September to November and March to May
2| Everest Three Pass trek
Passing through ancient Sherpa villages, traversing picturesque mountain passes and enjoying panoramic views of the world’s highest peaks are among a few of the highlights of heading on the Everest Three Pass trek.
Just like the aforementioned EBC trek, the Everest Three Pass trek takes adventurers to the foot of the world’s highest mountain. However, instead of steadily climbing through lush Himalayan valleys to reach EBC, the Everest Three Pass trek opts to take a longer, slightly tougher, but incredibly rewarding path.
After arriving in Kathmandu and transferring to Lukla, trekkers follow the same path as the EBC trek up until Dingboche, enjoying the stunning scenery of the Himalayan foothills and receiving the first incredible views of Everest from Namche Bazaar.
From Dingboche, however, trekkers turn east toward Chukkung and proceed to traverse the first of the three high passes: Kongma La (5,345 metres/18,430 feet). From atop Kongma La, trekkers are greeted with unforgettable panoramic views, before continuing on to the base of Lobuche.
The next stop on the adventure is Gorekshep, from which trekkers have the chance to climb Kalapathar to enjoy the same sublime sunrise that is seen on the EBC trek.
Shortly thereafter, the trek passes through base camp before continuing westward to the ChoLa Pass (5,368 metres/17,612 feet) before arriving in Gokyo and getting the chance to visit the area’s iconic lakes.
The trek concludes after traversing the Renjo La (5,360 metres/17,580 feet), enjoying the last panoramic views of Everest and the rest of Sagarmatha National Park before descending back down to Namche Bazaar and continuing on back to Luka.
- Duration: 3 weeks
- Difficulty: Upper Intermediate
- Starting point: Lukla
- Best period: February to May, September to December
3| Annapurna Base Camp trek
While the EBC trek may be one of Nepal’s most popular, the Annapurna Base Camp trek is certainly not far behind.
Since the inception of commercial trekking in Nepal in 1965, outdoor enthusiasts from around the world have travelled to the central Annapurna Conservation Area to enjoy some of the Himalayas’ most spectacular scenery.
Situated about 300 kilometres (185 miles) west of Everest, the Annapurna massif boasts a diverse array of landscapes to explore and plenty of incredible places to visit. Most commercial companies offer trips that last around two weeks and take various different routes, making Annapurna’s base camp the perfect destination for first-time trekkers to the region.
The adventure usually starts from Pokhara, Nepal’s second city. From the idyllic lakeside settlement, trekkers strike out north into the rolling hills and elevated pasturelands of the Himalayan foothills.
As the trek continues, adventurers will navigate thick rhododendron forests, pass incredible waterfalls and reach various scenic vistas, which offer panoramic views of the Annapurna massif and surrounding mountains.
While the best times to head on the Annapurna Base Camp trek are the two dry seasons in spring and autumn, the trek is doable throughout the year. Heading to the region – to which an estimated two-thirds of trekkers visit in Nepal – during the shoulder seasons is a great way to experience the region’s majesty while avoiding the worst of the crowds.
However, the springtime is also a great time to visit. When the rhododendron forests of the region blossom, the Himalayan foothills erupt in a bright array of colours and transform the normally verdant valleys into a kaleidoscope of reds, pinks and white.
As trekkers get closer to the base camp, the landscape begins to change. The forested valleys give way to alpine pastures and panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains. The basecamp itself provides a jaw-dropping view of the sleep slopes of Annapurna’s mighty southern face.
On the way back (or to, depending on the company), trekkers will get the chance to climb Poon Hill. From the top of this 3,210-metre (10,530-foot) viewpoint come some of the best views of the trip, with five of the summits of the Annapurna massif, Dhaliguiri I and Machapuchare all coming into view.
Most guides will opt to wake up nice and early to see a sublime sunrise from the spot. Whether comes at the beginning or end of the trek, the sight is sure to whet any trekker's appetite for further Himalayan adventures.
- Duration: 2 weeks
- Difficulty: Intermediate
- Starting point: Pokhara
- Best period: January to May, August to October
The world’s eighth highest mountain towers over the rest of the Ghurka massif in west-central Nepal. Rising to 8,163 metres (26,781 feet) in elevation, Manaslu is one of the world’s 14 eight-thousanders and a coveted mountaineering destination.
While climbing any peak that reaches into the ‘death zone’ is incredibly challenging, Manaslu is considered to be one of the easiest 8000ers and the perfect mountain to prepare for more challenging ascents, such as Everest.
Even though the autumn climbing season for Manaslu has already ended, it is never too early to begin planning a springtime ascent of the spectacular mountain peak.
As with any trip into the Nepalese Himalayas, most guides headed to Manaslu opt to meet in Kathmandu before providing transport to Samagaun, a small village just east of the mountain. From here, climbers proceed to make a fairly straightforward trekking approach to the mountain’s north-eastern slopes.
Along the way, climbers will pass through the beautiful and the diverse Manaslu Conservation Area, which is home to 140 species of birds, mammals, reptiles and butterflies.
The easiest of the six main routes leading up to the top of Manaslu is the northeast face, which makes it the most popular. The climb begins with a long and gradual ascent of the terraced slopes until finally reaching the high camp.
From the high camp, the ascent becomes more technical and requires some intermediate-level snow and ice climbing to reach the summit. Views from the top are spectacular, with especially great views of the Annapurna massif to the west.
In spite of only requiring some moderate snow and ice climbing experience, an ascent of Manaslu is still quite tough. Climbers will need to be in a very high level of physical fitness and should have previous experience at about 7,000 metres (23,000 feet).
However, the long slopes of Manaslu provide the perfect environment for acclimatisation and allow mountaineers to test themselves before matriculating on to tougher climbs.
- Duration: 4 to 6 weeks
- Difficulty: Advanced
- Starting point: Samagaun
- Best period: April to May, September to October
Island Peak (Imja Tse)
Situated just 7 kilometres (4.3 miles) south of the mighty Mount Everest, Island Peak casts an imposing shadow over the Khumbu Glacier and Sagarmatha National Park.
For most mountaineering and trekking enthusiasts, Island Peak is considered to be an independent mountain. However, technically speaking, the summit is an extension of the southern ridgeline of Lhotse Shar.
At 6,189 metres (20,305 feet) in elevation, Island Peak is classified by the Nepalese government as a ‘trekking peak’. But in spite of this classification, the final summit push of the peak does require some technical mountaineering ability along with an extremely high level of physical fitness.
Most trips to Island Peak follow the same route as the Everest Base Camp trek and deviate at Dingboche, the town from which the mountain was first seen (by Westerners) and named by British explorers. (The peak was later renamed Imja Tse, which translates into ‘island peak’ in the local language.)
As a result of the commonality of the routes and due to the peak’s extremely remote location, many guides offer an ascent of Island Peak as an extension of the traditional EBC trek or coupled with a climb of Makalu.
Island Peak can be steadily climbed from the Pareshaya Gyab base camp, which sits just north of the mountain. From the base camp, climbers make a steep hiking ascent up to the north ridge, before arriving at one of the glaciers that enshroud the mountain’s summit.
Once at the foot of the glacier, crampons and ice axes come out and climbers make the final snow and ice climbing ascent to the top of Island Peak. From the summit, climbers will enjoy stunning views of Lhotse and Makalu among others (incidentally not Everest though as Lhotse blocks the view!)
- Duration: 3 to 4 weeks
- Difficulty: Intermediate
- Starting point: Lukla
- Best period: April to May, September to November
Book Your Next Himalayan Adventure Today
Nepal’s borders have reopened and its government is once again issuing trekking and climbing permits. While so many other world-class destinations remain out of reach, there has never been a better time to head on a Himalayan climbing or trekking adventure.
From first-time adventurers seeking to get a taste of what the marvellous mountain nation has to offer to experienced climbers looking for their next adventure, check out ExpedReview to compare verified trips from certified guides.