Exploring Nepal’s Wild, Wild West
The western side of Nepal (Provinces 6 and 7 under the new administrative scheme) is still a land that has mostly been neglected by tourists. This is mainly due to the inaccessibility of the region and the lack of tourism infrastructure. However, for adventurous travelers (both domestic and foreigner), the west offers an amazing combination of beautiful landscapes, traditional culture and lifestyles, and remote communities that have been relatively untouched by outside influence.
The more traditional treks in the west include treks in and around Shey Phoksundo National Park, Rara Lake, Limi Valley, Simikot, and Hilsa. Many of the better-known treks are in the mountain areas near the border with Tibet, and go through restricted regions that require foreigners to have both a permit and a guide. If you want to visit these areas, the only option is to book a trip with a trekking company that will provide your permits and guide and will organize all of your logistics, including camping equipment and food. Accommodation in these trekking areas is a combination of camping and some basic tea houses when you pass through villages.
If you want to explore the west without a guide, or don’t have the budget for the restricted area permits, you can still enjoy some amazing adventures slightly further to the south in the hill zones. These areas are truly off the beaten path and can be challenging but rewarding places to explore. I would recommend this area only for people who speak some Nepali, or who are very comfortable being thrown into a truly immersive experience. Trails are unmarked, there are few guesthouses, services and resources are very inaccessible, and almost no-one speaks any English. That being said, local people are very welcoming and eager to help. You can show up in a village and someone will clear out a space in their home for you to sleep in, or will point you to a place where you can set up a tent if you have your own camping equipment. You can share a roof and meals with a family for a few dollars per day.
Hygiene and sanitation is poor in many of the villages, so I recommend filtering or purifying all water, carrying your own soap, and being careful about what you eat if you’re not carrying your own food. You should also bring your own first-aid kit and any medications you may need since access to health resources is also limited.
A few of the access points with both road and air access into the upper hill regions of the west are Gamgadhi, Kolti, and Jumla town. There are not many well-established treks in this area, but if you want to design your own trip, I’d suggest using topographical maps. Just keep some flexibility in your plans so that you can ask local people for their recommendations when you get there. Locals will be able to point you towards the best trails and will help you steer clear of trails that are unmaintained, or that have even been ruined by a landslide.
Overall, Western Nepal is a great destination for intrepid travelers who want to explore rugged landscapes and glimpse some real Nepali culture. You must be a little more prepared with logistics and equipment, but it’s worth it for an unforgettable experience.