There are as many reasons to visit Nepal as there are the mighty ice-capped Himalayan peaks. In other words, quite a few, but let’s first talk about the most strikingly tall ones here.
- The Himalayas
The Himalayas has 10 of the highest peaks in the world, of which 8 are in Nepal. To refresh your mind, the 10 highest peaks are: Mount Everest (8,848 m), K2 (8,611 m), Kangchenjunga (8,586 m), Lhotse (8,516 m), Makalu (8,462 m), Cho Oyu (8,201 m), Dhaulagiri (8,167 m), Manaslu (8,163 m), Nanga Parbat (8,126 m), and Annapurna (8,091 m). Except for K2 and Nanga Parbat that are in Pakistan, the rest are in Nepal. The Himalayan range spans five countries: Nepal, China (Tibet), India, Bhutan, and Pakistan, running northwest to southeast in a 2,400 km-long arc. Three mighty rivers are Indus, Ganges, and the Brahmaputra, in the Himalayas.
- Mount Everest
Mount Everest, a.k.a. Sagarmatha and Chomolungma, is the tallest mountain on earth, and as a matter of interest, the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake of April 25, 2015, while shifting it some 3 cm southwest, didn’t raise or reduce its height. This was a reversal of its gradual northeasterly movement through the years, having moved 40 cm to the northeast over the past decade at a speed of 4 cm a year. In the same time period, it became 3 cm taller. Everest has been conquered by more than 4,000 climbers, with Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary being the first to do so in 1953. However, it still remains a most challenging endeavor, with fatalities of about 250 till date. 2014 and 2015 have seen no Everest ascents from the Nepal side because of the death of 16 Sherpas in an avalanche last year, and the massive April 25 earthquake this year, due to which at least 22 climbers perished.
- The Great Himalaya Trail (GHT)
The GHT is the longest and highest hiking trail in the world, was launched on the occasion of the 32nd World Tourism Day in 2011. It is about 2,800 km long, passing through Nepal, China (Tibet), India, Bhutan, and Myanmar, and allows you to see all of the world’s 14 highest peaks, also known as the eight-thousanders (Gasherbrum I: 8080 m, Broad Peak: 8051 m, Gasherbrum II, and Shishapangma: 8027 m in addition to those already mentioned above).
The Nepal section of the GHT is by far the longest, stretching for about 1,700 km, and amazing ecological and cultural diversity are givens when trekking on this fantastic trail, since you’ll be going from Taplejung in the easternmost part of the country to Humla and Darchula in the far-west. The GHT of Nepal has been divided into 10 ten connecting treks for the convenience of trekkers, who can complete one or some sections at a time, the time taken being n average of 2-3 weeks per section. Trekkers also have the option of choosing among two routes: the high route that winds through high mountains ranging from altitudes of 3000 to 5000 m; or the low route, during which you’ll will get to visit villages and experience local culture and lifestyles of different ethnic groups. Keep in mind that there are some 100 ethnic groups in Nepal, so expect great diversity.
- Everest Base Camp Trek
It is not only one of the most popular treks in Nepal, it is as popular around the world for all seeking true grit adventure and a close up view of Everest and other magnificent Himalayan peaks. It all begins with an exciting flight from Kathmandu to Lukla, which is reputed to be one of the most exhilarating flights ever. The landing at Lukla Airport is what will test your mettle. It has a pretty small runway, and what’s more, it inclines at quite an angle! At one end is a steep drop, down, down into the valley below.
Anyway, after having landed safely, you take the trail that goes through picturesque villages and lush forests, crossing several suspension bridges on the way (will remind you of some Indian Jones films). By and by you’ll arrive at the famous Namche Bazaar, as bustling a town as any. Onwards, and you’ll reach Tengboche, which is famous for its magnificent monastery, and then Gorakshep, from where the close-up views of Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, and Ama Dablam are just out of this world. Carry on to Kala Patthar (5,644 m); this is said to be the best place from where to get a panoramic view of Everest and other peaks. You carry on trekking above the tree line, and eventually, reach Khumbu Glacier and the Base Camp (5,364 m), perhaps one of the most famous places on earth right now on account of that avalanche during the April 25 quake, which somebody had filmed and which was shown all over the channels.
P.S. The routes that RMT operates on are in suitable condition.
- Annapurna Circuit Trek
This is another of Nepal’s most popular treks, and it takes you through some of the best scenery in the world. It is also not as arduous as the trek to Everest Base Camp; no wonder this trek is undertaken by so many tourists every year. Generally, you’ll be spending about 21 days in the great outdoors, covering anywhere from 160 to 230 km. That’s because some new roads have been built since the good old days, and so you have options. Anyway, whatever distance you cover, you’ll surely return home with an extra spring in your steps and color on your cheeks.
First, you take a jeep down to a town called Besisahar, a pleasant seven-hour drive, and then start trekking. The trail follows the swirling Marsyangdi River and goes through lots of lovely villages. You’ll be walking over quite a few suspension bridges, and find the walk fairly easy most of the time. The highest point you’ll be reaching is Thorung La, a pass whose height is 5,416 meters. This is no doubt a highlight of the trek; another highlight is the splendid views of Annapurna I, II, and IV on the way between Pisang and Manang. It must be noted here that the view from Thorung La is breathtaking, what with the magnificent Himalayan panorama on the skyline and the Kali Gandaki Gorge far down below. It’s an unforgettable sight. The trek carries on to Muktinath, a sacred site for both Hindus and Buddhists, where there’s never a dearth of pilgrims. Next stop is Jomsom, and then Ghorepani, where Poon Hill is situated, and from where you get to feast your eyes on the most sublime sunrises and sunsets. Oh yes, before I forget, this trek is also sometimes called the ‘Apple Pie Trek’; that’s because the area in and around Jomsom and Manang is full of apple orchards. You’ll get apple pie like Mom’s back home on the Annapurna trail. What’s more, you’ll also get fantastic apple brandy. After tasting all such invigorating stuff, walk down the Pokhara, the lovely ‘Lake City’, where you’ll probably want to stay till your visa expires! It’s so serene.