What are the best treks and hikes in the Himalayas?
What are the best treks and hikes in the Himalayas?
Abode of snow is what Himalaya means in Sanskrit, and perhaps it is the purity of these peaks that draws both monks and mountaineers to its summits. At the border of the Indian subcontinent and the Tibetan Plateau, this famous range of mountains has been both explored and revered for centuries. For Hinduism, these mountains represent the birthplace of the Ganges and the father of mother goddess Parvati. In Bhutan, it was the birthplace of Buddhism. It is also home to many migrating cultures, each with their own strong belief system and rituals.
But even before culture, there were the mountains themselves with their glittering green lakes, feral wildlife and blooming rhododendrons stretching up high into the sky. So high in fact that Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, is located in Himalaya, or the Himalayas or Himmaleh as it is also known. And it’s certainly not the only tall mountain in the region: in fact, many of the world’s “eight-thousanders” are also found here.
However, you don’t need to be an expert climber to have an incredible journey in this stunning mountain region. What you do need is to find the right guide and the right circuit.
Given its many landscapes, cultures and peaks, exploring the Himalayas is no easy task. Altitude will be the first, but not the only thing to consider. There is also the issue of logistics which you must keep in mind, permits, terrain, weather and possible routes and tours. Therefore, it is essential for anyone who wishes to visit Himalaya to be properly prepared and to go with a good guide. Furthermore, a good guide will not only be able to show you some of the most stunning spots, they will also be able to give you a worthy explanation of all the different aspects of Himalayan culture. Prayer flags, Himalayan people, Buddhism, the Yeti and more are things you might want to learn about on your trip. Last, but certainly not least, a guide will be able to arrange logistics, and also, establish the pace of the trek to ensure safety and proper acclimatization.
A typical guided tour in the Himalayas takes somewhere between two weeks and a month. In general it’s best to take a longer tour because, not only will you get the chance to take it all in, but you will also have more time to acclimatise. Also, when choosing trip dates, you will want to go outside of Monsoon season. The best time of the year to travel is October through May with the coldest months being December, January and February.
At Explore-Share we are dedicated to finding the best certified mountain guides. The Himalayas are no exception. So, if you’re planning a trip to this breathtaking and unique destination, read on to find out our pick of best treks and hikes in the Himalayas.
Everest Base Camp Trek
At 8,850 m., Mount Everest is the tallest mountain on Earth. Climbing Everest is a major mountaineering challenge, only reserved for super-trained climbers. However, you don’t need to reach its summit in order to visit this spectacular mountain.
Another option, slightly friendlier and a lot cheaper (but still a thrilling challenge, we promise) is the famous Everest Base Camp trek. Everest South Base camp in Nepal is at an altitude of 5,364 m., whereas Everest Base Camp in Tibet is at 5,150 m. Unfortunately, visa requirements and restrictions in Tibet make it more difficult to travel there which is why most tours are on the Nepalese side. It is not impossible however, and you can check out this 5-week Lhakpa-Ri expedition if you want go up really high and also explore the Tibetan Himalaya.
Now, if you’re thinking that 5,364 m. doesn’t sound like much (compared to the Everest summit), don’t underestimate altitude. It is true that you can do this excursion in approximately 14 days, but most trekking expeditions take around 20 days. On this 20-day Trek to Gokyo Valley and Everest Camp for example, you also get the chance to visit the beautiful Gokyo Valley with its turquoise colored lakes. Plus, most tours begin in Kathmandu and on the longer programs you also get more time to explore this stunning city.
In terms of what this trip requires of you, first and foremost a very good level of fitness. Usually, it is a good idea to train prior to travelling, specially for tours in which you will have to take packs. Ideally, you will also have some trekking experience. Also, the right clothes and gear are essential. In terms of accommodation, on Everest tours you will mostly stay in Tea Houses. These are typical small Bed and Breakfasts and not resting spots to stop for some Earl Grey. Another plus of hiring a guide in this respect is that they will be able to give you pre-trip recommendations on all of these aspects.
Mt. Everest is not the only highlight of Himalaya. Another beautiful and adored option in the region is the imposing Annapurna Massif. Annapurna, which stands for the name of a Hindu Goddess of abundance, truly embodies its name. It has many peaks, in fact, it has over thirty, ranging from altitudes of more than 8000 m, to a few below 6000 m.
Of course, trekking options usually just cover a portion and don’t have the Annapurna I summit, which is the highest, as the objective. However, you will find different alternatives and routes, some which take you to the peaks of some of the lower mountains (still incredibly high!) such as this 18-day trek which explores the Thorong Peak at an altitude of 6144m. Other tours take you to the base camp of Annapurna, which at 4130 meters is both a challenge and enjoyable for fit people with a little less experience looking for a once in a lifetime adventure. Again, we recommend you choose longer 3-week tours over shorter 2-week options to allow for acclimatisation and a more full enjoyment of the experience. If, however, you are short on time, you can also consider this Annapurna Base Camp 11-day Hiking Tour.
As with Everest, most Annapurna treks start off from Kathmandu and give you the option of spending a day touring this lovely city. Another common pitstop on the way to the trekking route is the beautiful lakeside Pokhara city, known as the gateway to the Annapurna circuit. Don’t miss out the chance to discover this bountiful Himalayan massif!
Intellect or soul is the meaning of Manaslu, another stunning but slightly less frequented mountain than Everest and Annapurna. At 8163m it is still quite high, to say the least! But, as with Everest and Annapurna, getting to the summit is an option, more challenging, less common, and not the only alternative to discover this breathtaking Himalayan soul. A slow-paced option to discover some of its most stunning spots is this 21-day Manaslu trek.
A low base from which to start and a high peak to aspire to means that on the way, as you follow the Buri Gandaki River, you will encounter all sorts of different landscapes and climatic conditions. From an open blooming countryside to thick green forests to deep snow, you will get a chance to see it all. This makes for a great experience, also one for which you will need to pack carefully and really have a good logistic setup going on. Again, going with a seasoned guide who can handle all of these issues and give you adequate recommendations is key. This Manaslu region trek is a great option.
At 8,586 m, Kanchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world and the second highest in the Himalayas after Everest. Its name loosely translates to “five treasures of snow” because of its five beautiful snow capped peaks. The Limbu tribe of Nepal also believes it is the home of goddess Yuma Sammang. As such, this stunning “queen of mountains” is well worth exploring, and will take its time.
As with other Himalayan mountains, there are different routes and options to explore the region. Generally, the Kanchenjunga treks are longer than the previously mentioned Everest, Annapurna and Manaslu excursions. The average tour is approximately 26-days long. On this 27-day program for example, you can however reach the stunning icy summit of the Drohmo Peak at 6,855 m.
This trekking region has only been open to the public since 1980 so it is very well conserved and pristine. However, keep in mind that you will require special permits to explore Kanchenjunga and solo treks are not allowed. This is another reason why hiring a guide is so important. Not only will they keep you safe, they will also be able to handle and advise you on issues such as trekking permits.
For those who wish to explore a more remote Himalayan regions, Mustang is a good bet. Although the Mustang district is in Nepal, the influence is predominantly Tibetan. In fact, Mustang comes from a Tibetan word that means “plain of aspiration”. The strict regulations to access this region have contributed to its preservation, again it does mean special permits are required which this Trekking in the Mustang area tour takes care of.
Guided tours in this region can be two weeks long or up to one month long. On this 31-day trek you can both explore the Mustang region and reach the Teri-La Pass at an altitude of 5595 m. Here, the length of the tours will not be determined so much by acclimatisation needs but by the broad spectrum of beautiful Himalayan landmarks that you will be able to visit.
Himalaya is a place of unique discoveries. Whether you are heading to the Everest summit or want to delve into this incredible region to explore the landscapes, the wildlife and beautiful people and cultures that it embraces, it is well worth the journey. From whichever point or summit you decide to look at it from, you are sure to feel you are standing on top of the world.