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Trekking in Nepal
Kandoo guide for trekking in Nepal
Kandoo Adventures: December 8th 2020

Plan your perfect Nepal trek

Kandoo's View

Nepal is the one destination that Kandoo’s team go back to again and again. There is so much great trekking to do and we love the friendly people. 

First-time trekkers in Nepal are always wowed by the trek to Everest base camp, and once you have got the taste for the Himalaya, there is so much more you can do.

There are 10 mountain regions in Nepal but many of these are very remote and almost nobody visits them, so trekking in Nepal really focuses on two regions. The Everest region, often referred to as the Khumbu, after the main valley coming down from Everest, and the Annapurna region. There is more information about each region and the great treks you can do below.

If  you look up at the peaks when you are trekking and fancy trying to summit one, then there are also some great climbs like Island Peak or Mera Peak. These are perfect for a first climbing adventure, and with our experienced guides you know you are in really safe hands.

For the ultimate Nepal adventure, book now with Kandoo, the high altitude experts.

Trekking in Nepal's wonderful scenery and culture

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Everest region treks

The Everest trekking region has Mount Everest at its top, and extends south past Lukla where most people start their treks. Jiri, which was the starting point for Everest trek before the airport at Lukla opened, is the bottom of the region. This whole area is shaped by four huge valleys and glaciers. You can see these on the map of the region below, showing the routes we operate.

Map showing trekking routes in the Everest region

Around these valleys we operate some awesome treks and climbs.

EVEREST BASE CAMP TREK | Trekking to Everest Base Camp is the adventure of a lifetime and, if time is short, this Everest base camp trek is the best option. From the exhilarating flight into Lukla, to standing on top of Kala Pattar to view Everest itself, this is a trek that you will always remember.

GOKYO LAKES TREK | A great Everest trek for the more adventurous hiker. This route leaves the classic trail at Namche and gets to Everest base camp via the Gokyo valley. It is a much quieter approach and makes for a circular route that avoids backtracking by heading up the Dudh Koshi valley, before crossing into the Khumbu to visit base camp.

THREE PASSES TREK | The ultimate trek in the Everest region, covering all the four main valleys in the Khumbu. It crosses three immense passes and hikes up three peaks for sensational views of all the tallest peaks from Cho Oyu in the West to Lhotse in the East.

ISLAND PEAK CLIMB | This is a real mountain expedition. It combines the Everest Base Camp trek with the chance to climb Island Peak for one of the best close up views of Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse. The climb itself is tough, but you do not need any technical skills as you will be led by one of our fantastic Everest Summiteer guides, ensuring you are in safe hands.

MERA PEAK CLIMB | At 6476m, Mera Peak is the highest trekking peak in Nepal. It does not take you to base camp, but it does have the best views of Everest in the whole region. Mera Peak is approached via the quiet Arun Valley, before ascending onto the long Mera glacier. As with the Island Peak climb, no previous technical experience is required.

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Annapurna region treks

The Annapurna region covers the huge Annapurna massif, encompassing one 8000m peak, 13 peaks over 7000m and a further 16 peaks over 6000m. This whole area is now in the Annapurna Conservation Area.  A map of the region is below showing the routes we operate.

Map showing the trekking routes in the Annapurna region

Within this vast area there are a huge range of outstanding treks - we operate four of the very best. 

ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT | The full Annapurna Circuit is rightly considered one of the World’s greatest treks, and even in Nepal it stands out for the incredible variety of scenery it offers. Starting in sub-tropical meadows near Besi Sahar, it rises through ever more impressive alpine peaks before reaching the famous Thorung La pass.

POON HILL TREK | The Poon Hill Trek is the perfect choice if you are a novice trekker, or if you are really short on time. After a short flight into Pokhara, you trek up to Ghorepani, from there onto the view point at Poon Hill where there are breathtaking views of Dhaulagiri, Annapurnas and Machhapuchchre (Fishtail). You return to Pokhara by a circular route, avoiding the need to backtrack.

ANNAPURNA SANCTUARY  TREK | One of the best shorter treks we operate, this trail starts by taking in one of the greatest view points in the Himalaya, Poon Hill above Ghorepani. From here the dawn view across the Annapurnas is breathtaking. Following this, the trek takes you into the heart of the Annapurna range where huge mountains tower above you on all sides, forming the amphitheatre of the Sanctuary.

MANASLU CIRCUIT |  Manaslu sits immediately next to the Annapurna range within a closely managed conservation area, and the Manaslu Circuit shares the great views and panoramas that you see trekking around Annapurna. The big difference is that while the Annapurna Circuit is in nearly every collection of great treks, Manaslu is relatively unknown, so it is a lot quieter than its famous next door neighbour.

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When to trek

You can find our detailed advice on when to trek in Nepal here. This covers the weather in detail, the best time for trekking as well as other activities like safaris or white water rafting.

This a brief summary. Weather should be the first thing you think about when you decide when to trek. Nepal has a bad monsoon season during the summer when the rain is torrential nearly every day. In the winter, the temperatures can be very, very low particularly at night. This means that, as a general rule, the best weather for trekking is in Spring and Autumn.

There is though a lot of variation in the weather between the Everest and Annapurna regions, as the Annapurnas are much drier and cooler, even during the summer monsoon period . While you should definitely avoid the Everest region from June to August you can still trek in parts of the Annapurna region during this period.

In winter, it is normally quite dry everywhere in Nepal, but it will be very, very cold. This means that trekking is possible on most routes, but you will need extra warm sleeping bag and plenty of suitable warm winter clothes. Trekking peaks and routes like the Annapurna Circuit, which involve crossing high passes, are closed during the winter.


Other things you can do in Nepal

Other things to do in Nepal - rafting cultural tours Chitwan safarisBesides trekking, Nepal has some fantastic activities and a lots of spectacular festivals. White water rafting is extremely popular, and this is particularly good in the later Spring months when the glacier melt swells the rivers.  

For animal lovers, a visit to Chitwan on safari is an excellent option. This is best between October and February when the days are cooler and less humid. As well as elephant rides, you regularly see rhinos and occassionally tigers. Whatever you see though, the jungle at Chitwan is a great destination.

Cultural tours in Kathmandu are possible all year round, but the summer months are, again, best avoided. The main sites in Kathmandu including Boudhanath, Swayambhunath and Durbar Square can easily be visited in a day. If you have time, a day trip to Bhaktapur is also worthwhile

If you can, try to fit in a Nepali festival.  Nepalis are generally either Buddhists or Hindus , with a large number being both! The great advantage of this is that they celebrate all the important dates in both the Buddhist and Hindu calendar, as well as a number of other holidays. If you add up all the days of festivals, it comes to more than two months worth! Festivals specifically celebrated in the Everest region are the Mani Rimdu festival, in October/November, and the Dumji Festival, celebrated in May/June. Both are big colourful festivals and are worth adding into your trekking schedule if you have time.

What kit will I need?

As you will experience big variations in temperature, both during the day, and as you climb to higher altitude, your packing list for Nepal should be based around layering. Our full kit list and a packing checklist are here, and you can download our easy to use infographic by clicking on the image below.

Recommended Everest trekking kit list

How hard is trekking in Nepal?

Generally the trekking in Nepal is not too difficult. Apart from on trekking peaks, there is nothing that compares with summit night on Kilimanjaro. What makes trekking in Nepal challenging is the altitude - you will be at a high altitude for the majority of the trek. The lack of oxygen in the air has a range of effects on the human body, but the most obvious is breathlessness. You can read a lot more about this below, but basically at Everest base camp there is half the oxygen content in the air that there is at sea level.

This makes any exertion a lot harder, so the most important thing you can to do is go slowly.  Exerting yourself too hard is a great way to bring on alititude sickness.

In order to avoid getting altitude sickness you also have to limit the altitude gain in any day to 500m. This sometimes results in days when you can only work for 4-5 hours before you have to stop.

So in terms of distance walked and the altitude climbed, a day's trekking in Nepal will be no more difficult than a typical day's hiking at home. Doing this for upwards of 12 days consecutively and at altitude do combine though to make any trek a tough challenge and you will need to be really fit when you arrive.

Finally, you should remember your porters are hiking the same route as you but are carrying up to 25kg, so do not be too aggrieved if travel is slow and it sometimes feels as though the trekking day has been a little short.  The higher you go up into the mountains the more your porters will be able to do compared to you so a little patience is more than justified

What are the lodges and food like?

Accommodation and food on a Everest Base Camp or Annapurna trek
The standard of accommodation still varies hugely but on the most popular routes there is generally plenty of clean, well kept accommodation. Lodges nearly all have inside toilets and for a modest fee you can even get a warm(ish) shower. Rooms are normally twin shares with two pretty hard wooden beds and a thin foam mattress. They may even provide blankets but we would certainly recommend bringing your own good quality 4 season sleeping bag unless you are used to sleeping rough in freezing conditions. More on kit and equipment is here.

Dining in the lodges will be in a large open room with tables round the outside. Our guides try to make sure we secure you a spot away from the door and nearer to the fire but can't always guarantee this.

All of these comments on lodges relate to "standard lodges" but there are now a small but increasing number of "luxury lodges" - these are not on a par with a normal 3 star hotel but they will have heating, en-suite bathrooms and other home comforts. As they are in short supply they get booked very early and we only offer them on private treks.

What is the food in the lodges like?

As the quality of lodges has improved, so has the food. It used to be the case that the only meal available was Dahl Bhat - boiled rice with a very thin lentil dahl. This is what the porters will eat almost exclusively and you will often hear them joke "Dhal bhat - 24 hour power". It might be 24 hour power for a Nepali who has lived on it all his life but for anyone else it is pretty unappetising fair on a regular basis.

Fortunately, all but the most remote lodges now offer an extensive menu of food although, when you have seen almost the same menu every day for 12 days, you quickly realise the menu is not so long as it might appear - steamed spaghetti, steamed veg spaghetti, steamed egg veg spaghetti, mixed spaghetti are unsurprisingly pretty similar!

Nevertheless, the range of food options available led us to change our policy on food two years ago. Prior to that we charged food inclusive prices and in each lodge there would be "table d'hote" option which would be what everybody had. Over time it became increasingly clear that people wanted to choose exactly what they wanted to eat "a la carte", so we changed our pricing to exclude food. You need to budget between $25 and $30 per day for food and should use this figure when comparing our prices to other operators

Acclimatisation and altitude sickness

Altitude sickness is a real risk on all treks in Nepal as you will be above 3000m for prolonged periods. This is unlike Kilimanjaro or Machu Picchu when you go high but come down quickly.

Table of oxygen levels at altitudeThe first and most obvious effect of being at altitude is that you become breathless quickly  This is because as the air pressure drops there is literally less oxygen in every lungful of air you breathe. You can see from the table that this decline is quite dramatic.

At Everest base camp there is only just more than 50% of the oxygen you have at sea level so no matter how fit you are you have to go more slowly at altitude. Overtime your body will produce more red-blood cells to compensate for the lack of oxygen but this is a slow process.

To reduce the risk of getting altitude sickness you therefore need to look after yourself really well. This means walking slowly, eating well, ensuring you remain well hydrated, and keeping warm (or cool) and dry. It is particularly critical that you do not over exert yourself - you should always be walking at a pace where you can manage a conversation.

Over exertion is the best way to bring on the other adverse effects of altitude, which together are referred to as Acute Mountain Sickness ("AMS") You might get by on a short trek ignoring some of these, but on a longer trek you have to really focus on the basics to give yourself the best chance of staying well.

Where the route ascends quickly the risk of altitude sickness means days have to be taken where you either rest or do a short day hike, going a little higher during the day but returning to a lower altitude to sleep. All our itineraries are designed to ensure you have the best chance of acclimatising properly.

You can read more about acclimatisation and altitude sickness here.

Frequently asked questions

Q1What is the best way to get to Nepal?

From Europe there are lots of flights to Nepal connecting via the Middle East hubs and via Delhi. Our favourite is Qatar, via Doha. From North America you can also fly via the Middle East or from the West Coast via Singapore or Bangkok. For more advice on flights to Nepal see here.

Q2Can I trek without a guide?

Nepal is the only country in which we operate where you can trek without a guide. On the main routes the trail is very  clear and finding your way is easy. A guide though can do a lot more than find the way. They have extensive knowledge of the mountains and local customs and they will also make the trek much, much safer. Self-guiding can seem like a great idea until something goes wrong. You might slip and damage an ankle. You might get altitude sickness. You might get a bad chest infection. Lots of things can go wrong  at high altitude and the risks are very serious. If you are by yourself and there is a problem the consequences can be fatal.

In 2014 nearly 200 people died on the Annapurna Circuit because they got lost in a snow storm. Each year at least 20 people die on the Everest trek because of altitude sickness. These deaths could have been prevented if they had been trekking with an experienced, qualified guide. For more information about our guides see here .

Q3What qualifications do your guides have?

We are members of the Nepal Mountaineering Association and all our guides have passed the "Basic Mountaineering Course". 

All our guides also have annual first aid training and specialised training in managing altitude sickness.

For climbs, our guides have at least all passed the NMA's "Advanced Mountaineering Course" and most of them are qualified as members of the International Federation of Mountain Guides see IFMGA, this is the highest standard world wide of guide qualification.

Q4What are toilets like on the treks?

The toilet facilities in most lodges are basic but adequate. Generally they are all plumbed in toilets with water available for flushing probably in a tub with a jug. Take your own toilet paper though. There are now very few of the old fashioned "long drop" toilets but in nearly every lodge the toilet will be of the Asian "squatty" variety not the Western sit down type so make sure you are flexible!

Q5What is the difference between an open group trek and a private trek?

Whether you book an open group trek or private trek, Kandoo provide the same high standard of service. Where they differ is the flexibility they offer. Our open group treks run to scheduled itineraries and dates.  Private treks can be organised on any route or itinerary and on any dates. Also on private treks we are able to offer a lot of tailor made options like camping overnight at Everest base camp, helicopter treks, hotel upgrades and safaris and cultural tours. 

Q6How will I be able to wash?

Hot showers are sometimes available in lodges at extra cost and you can also pay at most lodges for a large bowl of hot water to take to your room. Other than this you should plan on a combination of cold water washes and using wet wipes. Please remember though that you must take a "rubbish bag" up with you as all the trash you create you will have to carry out.

Q7Do you organise treks in Nepal for charity?

Every year we organise more and more treks for charity. Our private tailor-made treks are perfect for a group of friends looking to trek to EBC to raise funds for their favourite charity. For more information about what we can do for your charity trek see here

Q8Do I need travel insurance?

All trekkers must have proper insurance cover for any of our Nepal treks. The exact cover will depend on the trek being booked as most polices are linked to an altitude cap. Depending on the route you choose this may vary a lot. For more advice on travel insurance see here . 

Q9How dangerous are the internal flights in Nepal?

None of Nepal's domestic airlines are approved by the EU. This means they are not comparable with internal flights within Europe in terms of safety standards. Given the incredibly challenging flying and landing conditions the incidence of problems is very small. The risks of flying in Nepal should not be ignored and it is your choice whether you feel these risks are acceptable. Alternatives to flying though are not safer and are certainly far less convenient. For more information on the risks of travelling in Nepal see here .

Q10How well do you treat your crew?

Kandoo have always made treating our local crews a top priority. In Nepal, all of our guides and porters come from the Sherpa region in the North East of Nepal and they are all actually related. This might be Mother's brother's son - try and work out what we would call that! In villages where there are only a few thousand people these relations bind the communities together very strongly. As a result our team in Nepal is particularly strong and supportive of each other. For more information about our crew see here .

Q11What vaccinations will I need to visit Nepal?

By the time you have had all the vaccinations you need to visit Nepal you will end up feeling like a pin cushion.  Please ensure you see your doctor for specific up to date advice but for our general recommendations see here

Q12Do I need a visa to visit Nepal?

All travellers require a visa to enter Nepal. These can either be obtained in advance or bought at the airport. To buy a visa in Kathmandu you will need 6 months to run on your passport and a valid return flight ticket.  For more information on visas see here

Q13What tips do you recommend?

All our crew are paid excellent wages. More than those recommended by the Nepal Mountaineering Association. Tips for good service though are normal in Nepal and our specific recommendations can be found here

Q14Do I need to use porters?

You do not have to use porters and if you really want to carry all your kit we can arrange this for you. With your day-sack and the rest of the kit you need though you are likely to have around 20kg to carry. Unless you are exceptionally fit and acclimatise very well, the effort in carrying this load at nearly 5000m will reduce the chance of you completing your trek successfully.

Porters rely on work for tourists as their main source of income and all our crew are well-paid and well looked after.

Q15What is food like on the treks?

The quality of food in lodges is now quite good although the variety is limited. The menus in the lodges might seem extensive but that is only because they will have 8 varities of fried rice, etc. For more on food in Nepal lodges see here.

Q16What is the accommodation like on treks?

On all our treks the accommodation is in lodges for the whole of the trek. On climbs there are a number of days around summit day where you will be camping.

Lodges generally provide a basic twin room with wooden bunks and a thin mattress. There will always be a common room where meals are taken. This will generally have some form of heat in the evening. At lower altitudes some rooms may be available with basic "en suite" facilities but more generally there will be a shared, unisex toilet block. For more information about lodges see here.


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