Treks such as the Annapurna Circuit and Everest Base Camp are popular for good reason—the views are spectacular, the infrastructure is good and the terrain is varied, meaning that variations can be made to suit many fitness levels. However, if you’re trekking in Nepal for the second, third, or fifteenth time, you might be looking for something rather different. Although Nepal is a geographically small country, there are still so many regions that are underexplored by trekkers. Some are far from the main centres of Kathmandu and Pokhara; others have been restricted, only opening for tourism in recent years; others take a bit of logistical planning because of lack of infrastructure. But that makes these treks all the more rewarding!
Here are a few suggestions for off-the-beaten-path treks in Nepal.
Nar-Phu Valley Trek
The Tibetan culture and colourful prayer stones are two highlights of the Nar-Phu Valley trek, as well as the ancient villages that seem cut off from the modern world. It was closed to trekking until 2002. This is a very rugged trek, and reaching the trailhead requires a long, bumpy jeep ride from Besisahar (the traditional starting point of the Annapurna Circuit). But, the isolation, spectacular views and unique cultures make it worthwhile.
The tourism infrastructure is almost non-existent in the Upper Dolpo region, meaning that you will need to camp as well as take most of your own supplies. But this is one of the most remote areas in the whole Himalayas, so the challenge is worth it. The culture in Upper Dolpo is strongly Tibetan, much like the more popular Mustang region. A costly permit is required, as is the use of a guide.
Manaslu Circuit Trek
Although the number of lodges in the Manaslu area have been increasing since 2010, this trek is still far less visited than those in the nearby Annapurna region. This trek is wild and remote, but not too far from Kathmandu or Pokhara, meaning the trailhead can be reached by road. It involves following the Buri Gandaki River for the first section, then circling Manaslu, and includes a 5,100 metre pass. It’s not possible to trek this solo, although a ‘group’ of two is fine.
Tilicho Lake is the highest lake in Nepal (at 4920 metres). A trek up there can be added to the itineraries of several other treks in the region, as an extension, such as the Nar-Phu Valley trek (above) or certain routes along the Annapurna Circuit. It can be a challenging trek because of the altitude, but the bright blue waters of the lake, surrounded by snowy peaks, are a good reward.
The Annapurna Community Lodge trek
This is the wild card of this list! This trek is situated in a popular area—the Annapurna Himals near Pokhara—but because of the particular route it takes, you will barely see another trekker the whole time. It is a great ‘compromise’ trek—you will feel like you are off the beaten tourist path, yet you won’t be too far from communications or amenities. And the accommodation is quite unique–rather than staying in the typical trekkers’ lodges found elsewhere in Nepal, you will stay in a network of homestays and community guesthouses, designed to help boost the local economies.
Top image: Lenz.