Most people would agree that Nepal is the leading trekking destination worldwide. What is less well known is that it’s a great country for your first proper trek. With that in mind we’ve put together a beginner’s guide to trekking holidays in Nepal.
Set amongst the Himalayas, Nepal is the second highest country in the world, pipped to top spot by its Himalayan neighbour Bhutan. With the alluring peaks of Everest, K2 and Annapurna as your backdrop, and beautiful views wherever you look, the question should be ‘why wouldn’t you want to trek in Nepal?’.
Nepal often feels setup purely to help people trek around its stunning mountain ranges. The people are friendly, it is a relatively safe country in terms of serious crime, prices are cheap by western standards and the culture is interesting and inviting.
But for many people, the driving force is the challenge of trekking among the world highest peaks. It is not easy, and trekking in the mountains is never completely safe, but Nepal is set up to be explored. Ultimately every visitor feels like they’ve had an adventure, despite the majority following well trodden trails.
So if you’re planning your first foray into the world of the trekker, read this beginner’s guide to trekking holidays in Nepal to help you through the basics.
There are routes and circuits to suit almost all capability, fitness and experience levels. With so many famous routes, there is an almost overwhelming amount of Nepal trekking options. So your first challenge is to decide which region to head for – check out our top 10 treks in Nepal for inspiration.
The two most famous regions are Annapurna and Everest. The Annapurna Circuit and Everest Base Camp treks are the most popular routes by far, they take at least 10 and 15 days respectively. With popularity comes better facilities and more options, which is better for beginners.
Both the Annapurna Circuit and trekking to Everest Base Camp in Nepal are challenging treks. You will need to be fit, healthy and preferably have prior hiking experience – although this is not essential.
If you’re a true novice trekker, heading to Nepal for your first trek, then Annapurna is probably your best bet. The landscape is more gentle than in the region around Everest, giving you more time to take in the stunning beauty of the country.
This beginner’s guide to trekking holidays in Nepal would not be complete without discussing how you plan your trip. Even as a first timer in Nepal it is perfectly possible to trek independently. However, if you have limited hiking experience or haven’t spend time in mountains before, it is worth going guided.
There are many international tour operators who take all of the stress and hassle out of your trip by planning the entire thing including international flights. But you can also get yourself to Nepal and book with a local tour operator – this is normally more beneficial to the local economy and a little cheaper for you you.
Finally you could employ a Sherpa porter and/or guide to carry your bags and help ensure you make the most of your time in Nepal. The beauty of having a guide is it leaves you free to concentrate on the experience without worrying about getting lost or making it to the next stop before dark.
Your kit list will of course depend on the region that you’re travelling to, the length of your visit, time of year and the tour company that you’re trekking with. But there are some things that everyone needs regardless.
There is a very fine line between being well-prepared and over-packing. When you’re at 5000m every superfluous item will feel like a a 5kg dumbbell in you backpack. So you need to pack wisely, frugally and well – an unbalanced pack is often worse than one that is too heavy.
Anyone that has done some serious trekking will know that your hiking boots can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Comfy boots will help to make your Nepal tour a joy, whereas ill-fitting boots can make every step a struggle.
Key is to break your boots in thoroughly before you even reach Nepal. Ideally start with short walks and build up to all day hikes. It is well worth doing a few multi-day treks before your trip, this will build up fitness and ensure you and your boots are a happy pair.
For this beginner’s guide to trekking holidays in Nepal we recommend you go for 3-4 season boots that are designed for mountain walking. Boots are something well worth spending extra money on to get the right fit and to ensure they are robust enough for the Nepalese trails.
Be sure to bring flip-flops or sandals to give your track slappers a break when not on the trail. Also make sure you have decent socks – some people swear by wearing two pairs and other people rely on specialist blister free socks. You will need to figure out what works best for your feet – hence practice hikes.
Almost as important as your boots is the backpack. A badly fitting or poorly made pack will weigh you down and make every step a trial. So a top tip of this beginner’s guide to trekking holidays in Nepal is to get a good quality well fitted backpack.
Look for an internal frame rucksack with around 45 litres of space. It is useful to find a pack with a dedicated water reservoir area close to your back, and plenty of useful external pouches. Lightweight climbing rucksacks are probably not your best choice here.
Clothes-wise, it’s important to remember that in Nepal a certain level of modesty is expected from trekkers. Long trousers are preferable over shorts and in some place T-shirts are not suitable.
Make sure that all of your clothes are lightweight so they’re easy to carry. Look for fast drying materials so you’re not forced to start out the day in damp trousers.
You will need to layer clothing. So complement thin, breathable layers that protect your skin from the sun, with a fleece. Add to this a decent mid-weight down-filled jacket or technical mid-layer for warmth. This should all be topped with the best waterproofs – particularly on your top half – that you can afford.
Don’t forget gloves that cut out windchill and a quality beanie or insulated cap. Finally, you need to think about your underpants. Trekking in your normal cotton undies will probably lead to serious chafing. Instead invest in good quality sports underwear or leggings.
Remember to pack light. You will probably only need two pairs of trousers, one for trekking and one for the evenings.
These days most people don’t leave the house without their smartphone so they always have a camera on hand. Phone reception in Nepal has improved greatly in recent years, so while you might not always be connected you are no longer cut off from the outside world.
If you plan to use your phone a lot, buying a local Nepalese sim card is a cheap and easy way to save money. Keeping your phone charged can still be challenging in remote areas, perhaps take a solar charger and power banks if it is something that will worry you.
Although cameras on smartphones are very good, a dedicated camera is better, and will help preserve your phone battery. Whether you take a big DSLR with multiple lenses, or a small compact camera depends on how keen you are on photography. We recommend something with a good optical zoom.
Remember to bring memory cards with plenty of space for all your pics and video, as there is nothing worse than having to delete photos while you’re away. And don’t forget spare batteries.
Your guide will be armed with an extensive first aid kit, but this beginner’s guide to trekking holidays in Nepal would not be complete with recommending you pack a few essentials yourself. Items such as antiseptic wipes, bandages and plasters are pretty cheap and always come in handy.
Other essentials include rehydration sachets, zinc oxide tape, sterile gauze, surgical gloves and perhaps Lomotil or Imodium. Also it is worth bringing plenty of basic analgesics, such as ibuprofen which is useful for bringing down any inflammation of joints, and paracetamol to help relieve aches and pains.
Other essential items vary depending whether you are travelling with a group, a guide or by yourself. Some items depend on whether you intend to camp or stay in teahouses along the way.
Something well worth taking are water purification tablets, or a manual water purifier. Buying drinking water can be pricey on-route, and you will need to be drinking about 5 litres of water a day. Purifying tap water is a great way to cut down costs.
A torch – preferably a head torch – is very useful even if you plan to stay in teahouses, as many don’t have great lighting at night. Sun cream is a must, baby wipes are great for the days you don’t get to wash, and you should always have some high energy snacks in your pack.
A good pair of polarized sunglasses that protect against UVA and UVB rays are very important at high altitudes. A sun hat, although possibly not the coolest piece of kit, will also protect your head and neck from the worst of the intense rays.
Last but not least, bring a good map and compass. If you’re travelling alone this is absolutely essential, but as this is a beginner’s guide to trekking holidays in Nepal you will probably travel in a group with guides. But even in a tour group it’s worth having incase if you get split up, something bad happens or just to practice your skills.
The last thing to decide is when to head to Nepal. The most popular time to trek in Nepal is from September to December. This time of year is not too hot or cold, has most clear days and hardly any rain.
However winter and spring are also good time to trek in Nepal. Winter is cold and can be snowy, so trekking should be at lower elevations, it can also be foggy but most afternoons are warm and clear. Spring is the best time to see wildflowers and rhododendrons in bloom, but the weather can be variable.
The only time to avoid is summer when the monsoon hits between July and August. Although this is the wettest and stormiest time of year, it does not rain constantly, but when it does it rains very hard! The reward is fewer people, greener valleys and more plants and animals to see.
We hope you found this beginner’s guide to trekking holidays in Nepal useful. Be sure to check out our Nepal trekking discounts as you could make huge savings.