It’s hard to think of Nepal without automatically envisioning Mount Everest—that iconic behemoth of a mountain, the tallest in the world. Each year, 40,000 novice trekkers strike out for Everest Base Camp. It’s a wonderful trek, but due to its popularity it’s also quite crowded. If you’re headed to the country, consider stepping off the beaten path with one of these lesser-known Nepal treks.
Upper Mustang Trek in “The Forbidden Kingdom of Lo”
Until 1992, foreign visitors were restricted from visiting this region of Nepal, known as “The Forbidden Kingdom of Lo.” Lo was once a part of the Tibetan empire, an old Buddhist kingdom that, because of it’s isolated location, still retains much of its culture and language.
This 14-day trek follows the ancient salt caravan route and ends at Lo Manthang, the capitol of Upper Mustang. Arriving in Lo Manthang is like stepping back in time. The city is a maze of cobbled alleyways, wind-whipped prayer flags and long, ancient walls of prayer wheels.
Upon leaving Lo Manthang, the return trip takes you to Dhakmar. Nearby, you’ll find Lo Gekar Monastery, the oldest Tibetan Monastery in the world.
Limi Valley Trek
If you’re looking for a true “off the beaten path” trek, you’ll not find one more remote or isolated than the Limi Valley Trek. Located in the northwest corner of Nepal where the country borders China, this 17-day trek takes you through the Limi Valley where Buddhist traditions and shamanistic influences are still alive and well.
During some parts of this trek traditional teahouse or homestay accommodations are available, though camping is also required. The area is so remote, in fact, that trekkers have a chance of spotting a snow leopard—one of the most elusive and mythical animals in the world.
Quickly growing in popularity, the Manaslu Circuit offers trekkers incredible mountain views and a well-established route with plenty of teahouses to sleep in overnight. This 13-day trek has a number of starting points and can be made longer or shorter depending on the needs of the trekker, offering great flexibility for those worried they might not handle high-altitude hiking very well. The 2015 earthquake seriously affected this region, but rebuilding is underway and as of autumn 2016 finding accommodation along the circuit was no longer a problem.
Hardly an unknown trekking route, the Annapurna Circuit is a great alternative to the Everest Base Camp trek. This trek delivers on all fronts, taking walkers from fertile green valleys to barren, windswept plains and passing over the snow covered Thorong-La pass at 17,000 feet in the air.
While the Annapurna Circuit takes about 17 days to complete, many trekkers add the Annapurna Base Camp route to their walk. Annapurna Base Camp is an incredible trek that culminates in a bowl-shaped plateau offering a 365-degree view of the Annapurna Range. When trekkers combine the Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna Base Camp treks they spend about a month on the trail, walking through some of the most stunning landscapes in the world.
Kim Dinan is the author of The Yellow Envelope: One Gift, Three Rules, and a Life-Changing Journey Around the World. You can read more about Kim on her blog.