Himalayas, Nepal: Travel/Tourist Information Guide

The Himalayas or Himalaya, which means “abode of snow”, is a mountain range in the South Asia. It is home to nine of the ten highest peaks on earth including the highest above sea level, Mount Everest. Many of Himalayas peaks are sacred in both Buddhism and Hinduism. The Himalayas span five countries which are Nepal, India, Bhutan, Tibet and Pakistan. It is mostly defined from the Indus river which flows through these countries. This region includes the 14 highest mountains in the world and over 100 peaks over 7200m. For the ones who are trekking, an equipment will be needed which is depending on the destination. In most Nepal, more equipment will be needed than a sleeping bag and a pair of boots; the Indian Himalaya offer a large number of routes that are possible to trek independently which a tent, stove and other equipment needed for unsupported trekking will be enough. The Himalayas can be reached by plane, and by bus. It is home to a diverse number of people, languages and religions. Islam is prevalent in the west, Hinduism in the southern ranges of the east and Buddhism in the northern ranges of the west.

Top Trekking Areas

Mount Everest

Mount Everest, also known in Nepal as Sagarmatha is the highest mountain on earth. It also has other alternative names such as Qomolangma and Chomolungma.  It is the main peak of the Himalayas and it is located in the Mahalangur mountain range in Nepal and Tibet. The peak of the mountain is 8848 meters above sea level.  In 1802, the British began the Great Trigonometric Survey to map the entire region of India. The survey reached the foothills of the Himalayas as peak ‘b’ began in 1847. It took several years of surveys to determine the height of the peak.  In 1850s, the surveyor team had designated the peak as Peak XV and it has, by then, been identified by the team as possibly the world’s highest. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first climbed it in 1953, with Hillary taking the famous photograph of Tenzing Norgay in the summit. The governments of Nepal and China require all prospective climbers to purchase a permit. The fees depend on the route and season of the climb. There are two main rotes which are Southeast and Northeast for climbing Mount Everest. The most frequently used one is the Southeast because it is generally considered safer and has easier access. The Southeast route starts with a trek to Base Camp at 5,380 m on the south side of Everest in Nepal. Trekkers usually pass through Namche Bazaar and spend at least two days there then hike to Base camp which usually takes six to eight days, allowing for proper altitude acclimatization to prevent altitude sickness. The best time to visit Mount Everest is in the spring and autumn for several reasons. The climate of Mount Everest is changeable and the summit temperature never rises above freezing. Weather conditions in the high summit are notoriously difficult to predict. During the winter months, from January to March, Mount Everest is cold, but visitors can get some of the clearest and most beautiful glimpses of Mount Everest. Snow can be expected from December to February. From April to May and mid-June is the ideal time to climb Mount Everest. The peak is often visible and clear. Everest Base Camp was first used by the 1924 British Everest expedition. The site has a couple of permanent structures and a small army base. It is the famous challenging trek in Khumbu, Nepal. At Everest Base Camp, climbers usually spend 4-8 weeks, acclimatizing to the altitude.

Namche Bazaar

Namche Bazaar is a village and Village Development Committee in Solukhumbu District in the Sagarmatha Zone of north-eastern Nepal. It is located inside the Khumbu area at 3,440 meters at its low point. Namche is the main trading center and hub for the Khumbu region with many Nepalese officials, a police check, post and a bank. It is also the most expensive place in Nepal. Namche is known as being the gateway to the high Himalaya and very popular with trekkers, especially for altitude acclimatization. Because it is possible to suffer altitude sickness here, it is advisable to spend at least two nights in the village to acclimatize. On Saturday mornings, there is a weekly market held in the center of the village. The village has cool, wet summers and chilly, dry winters due to its altitude and the summer monsoon reason. The best time to visit the area is from mid-September to mid-November when it is still not too cold and the air is at its most pristine, affording crystal clear views of the mountain scenery.  Climbers usually use Namche as a major stop-off point when heading for Mount Everest base camp. The dynamics of the village changed after the successful climb of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay as climbers and trekkers soon followed their wake. Because of the tourist trade, Namche is considered as the wealthiest district in Nepal, with 7 times the average national income and twice of the capital, Kathmandu. Namche can be reached via the trek from Lukla which can be done in one full day. On the other hand, in order to avoid altitude sickness, it is advised to take two days over the journey. The only way to move around in this area is on foot.

Annapurna

Annapurna is a Sanskrit name which means “full of grain” and it can also be translated as “Goddess of Harvests”. She is an alternative form of the goddess Durga. Annapurna Region is an area in western Nepal. It includes the most popular treks in the world. The region is located around the Annapurna Range, the Dhaulagiri Range and Kali Gandaki River valley. There are peaks including Annapurna I (8,091m), Nilgiri (7,061m) and Machhapuchchhre (6,993m).  These peaks are visible from all over the region when the days are clear. There are also the most popular treks which are the Annapurna Circuit trek which is around the Annapurna Range, the Kaligandaki River Valley which is the world’s deepest valley and the Annapurna Sanctuary trek. Annapurna is a collection of mountains in the Himalayas. It is not an administrative region. There are two zones in this area which are Gandaki and Dhaulgari. The districts in the Annapurna Region are Baglung, Kaski, Lamjung, Manang, Mustang and Myagdi. Mustang is located in the western part of Nepal and the region is mostly Tibetan than Hindu. Mustang is the only district in Nepal which has a King. The Mustang’s citizens call themselves Lobas. The cities in the Annapurna Region are Chomrong, Ghandruk, Ghasa, Ghorepani, Jomsom, Kagbeni, Kalopani, Larjung, Manang, Marphna, Muktinath,Ongre, Tatopani, Tirkhedunga, Tukuche and Ulleri. 

Annapurna Base Camp

It offers treks on the most elevated mountains on earth including Annapurna I. The trekking offers knowledge into Nepalese life, ethnic diversity and an exploration in Himalayas. The Annapurna Conservation Area Project protects the Annapurna Region. It is possible to start the trek from Pokhara and it takes two weeks to arrive the Annapurna Base Camp. It is possible to trek any time of the year except any time of rainstorm. 

Annapurna Circuit

It is one of the most popular treks in the world. During trekking, it is likely to enjoy a scenic view with leafy pine forests, rivers and arid landscapes. The trek takes between 17 to 21 days long. The trek includes four regions which are Lamjung, Manang, Mustang and Myagdi. It goes counter-clockwise from Besisahar to Nayapul and the summit is reached in Thorung La at the height of 5416m. It passes mountains like Manaslu, Langtang Himal, Annapurna I, II, III, IV,  Gangapurna and Dhaulagiri. At the end of the trek, there is Poon Hill where is possible to come across with the views of two mountains. While trekking, it is also possible to get through some Buddhist villages and Hindu holy sites such as the village of Muktinath. 

National Parks

Langtang National Park

It is the fourth national park in Nepal and it was established in 1976 as the first Himalayan national park. It is the nearest park to Kathmandu. The area extends from 32 km north of Kathmandu to the Nepal – China (Tibet) border. The main reason for establishing the park is to preserve the natural environment. The protected area exceeds an altitudinal range of 6,450 m and covers an area of 1,710 square kilometers. It is linked with the Qomolangma National Nature Preserve in Tibet. The high altitude sacred lake of Gosainkunda falls within the park. The park represents a meeting point between indo-Malayan and Palearctic realms and holds a rich biodiversity. The park encloses the catchments of two major river systems. There are about 45 villages located within the park boundaries, but are not under park jurisdiction. In total about 3000 households depend on park resources, primarily for wood and pasture lands. The park is home to several different ethnic groups. The majority of the people are Tamang, an ancient Nepalese race which are well known or their weaving. The weather is usually relatively dry except January – February when one may come across snow. Autumn is the best time to visit the park. From June to August, monsoon rains are becoming dominant at the area. 

Rara National Park

Rara National Park is a protected area in the Himalayas of Nepal. It was established in 1976 and it covers an area of 106 square kilometers in the Mugu and Jumla districts. It is the country’s smallest national park, yet it contains Nepal’s biggest lake with a surface of 10.8 square kilometers which is the Rara Lake. The park was established to protect the unique flora and fauna of the Humla-Jumla Region of Nepal. The park ranges in elevation from 2,800 m to 4, 039 m at Chuchemara Peak on the southern side of Rara Lake. On the northern side, the peaks of Ruma Kand and Malika Kand frame the alpine freshwater lake. The park is managed by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation and protected with the assistance of the Nepal Army. The park contains mainly coniferous forest and the area around the lake is dominated by blue pine up to 3200 m. Other species are Rhododendron, black juniper, west Himalayan spruce, oak and Himalayan cypress. A small portion of the park is an ideal habitat for musk deer, Himalayan black deer, leopard, wild dog, wild boar and many more. The park is home to 51 species of mammals, 241 species of birds, two species of reptiles and amphibians, and three species of fish. The climate of the park is pleasant during the summer but becomes very cold during the winter because of the altitude. The best times to visit the park are in September, October, April and May. From June to August is monsoon season. 

Sagarmatha National Park

Sagarmatha National Park covers an area of 1148 square kilometers in Nepal’s Khumbu region. It features the tallest peak in the world, Mount Everest along with other renowned peaks such as Lhotse, Cho Oyu, Pumori, Ama Dablam, Thamerku, Kwangde, Kangtaiga and Gyachyung Kang. In north, the national park shares the international border with the Qomolangma National Nature Preserve of Tibet and extends to the Dudh Kosi River in the south. The protected area has been identified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International and also is included in the Sacred Himalayan Landscape. The park was established in 1976 and in 1979, it became the country’s first national park that was inscribed as a Natural World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO. The name of the park is derived from Nepali which ‘sagar’ means sky and ‘matha’ means head. The park is home to a number of wild animals and it is most likely to spot the Himalayan tahr, ghoral, musk deer and black bears at the park. It is also possible to see mouse hares, jackals, wolves, lynx and snow leopards. In addition there are 193 different species of bird in the park such as the impeyan pheasant, red-billed cough, blood pheasant, snow cock and the snow pigeon. Vegetation in the park changes according to the altitude. The best time to visit the park is between October and November or between March and May. 

Shey-Phoksundo National Park

Shey-Phoksundo National Park is located in the Trans-Himalayan region of northwest of Nepal. It is Nepal’s largest national park covering an area of 3,555 square kilometers. It was established in 1984 in order to preserve a unique Trans-Himalayan ecosystem with a diversity of flora and fauna. In 1998, a part of the park was declared as buffer zone which consists of forests and private lands. The buffers zone is jointly managed by the park and local communities. The vegetation found in the park is diverse due to the influence of two different micro climates. The park provides prime habitat for snow leopard and blue sheep. Other common animals found in the park are goral, Himalayan weasel, serow, leopard, wolf, jackal, Himalayan black bear and many more. The park is equally rich in birds. The park experiences a wide climatic range. Spring season usually has fine weather although high passes still remain covered with the winter snow. The park is affected by monsoon rain from June until September. 

Getting Around

For Mount Everest, Lukla is popular for travellers to the Himalayas near Mount Everest to arrive. The name of Lukla means ‘pace with many goats and sheep’; however there are few found in the area. Lukla is an important gateway spot by containing a small airport servicing the region. There are numerous flights flying Kathmandu – Lukla Route. Most of the service is reduced during the off-season months. Flights from Kathmandu usually take around 25 minutes. Lukla Airport is also known as Tenzing-Hillary Airport and the travellers should beware that it is one of the most dangerous airports in the world due to its position against the side of the mountain. Secondly, for Annapurna region, it is compulsory to obtain a permit. They are issued in Pokhara and Kathmandu. To reach the Annapurna Region, there are buses arriving from Pokhara and dropping off at Birethanti. Another option to get in the Annapurna Region is by plane to Jomsom. There are daily flights from Pokhara in order to get there. Their efficiency mostly depends on the weather. The airport has no paved runway or electricity. To get around in the Annapurna Region, walking is the best option because there are no paved roads but only foot trails. It is possible to walk around by carrying a map or guidebook but it can be difficult for foreigners because there are plenty of trekking and local trails.