The best camping treks in Nepal:
Below we list and discuss some of the best camping treks in Nepal. Camping treks are a great way for trekkers to travel to the most remote regions of Nepal. There is minimal contact with other trekkers and even locals of the area. When Nepal first opened for trekking in the 60’s, this was the only format of treks in Nepal – sleeping in tents and eating meals prepared by a cook crew. Thus the first treks in Nepal had a huge crew of Sirdar (Guide), Cooks, Porters etc.
Over time, locals in most mountain areas in Nepal have begun building lodges to accommodate trekkers. This is great because the locals of the area can directly benefit from tourism. While camping treks do venture into the most remote regions of Nepal, there is very little direct benefit to the locals. The crew on camping treks purchase rations, vegetables and pay camping charges but that is a minimal amount. Instead, locals can benefit more by building lodges where trekkers would sleep and eat meals. Trekking areas such as Kanchenjunga Base Camp, Makalu Base Camp, Mardi Himal etc which could once only be accessed as a camping trek even five years ago can now be done as a tea-house trek albeit staying in very basic lodges.
But for the purists, camping treks are the way to go. It must be noted that most camping treks must only be undertaken by seasoned hikers in good physical condition. Below are some of the best camping treks still available in Nepal:
Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek:
This 14-to-16-day trek is perhaps the shortest camping trek available. The trek circles the Dhaulagiri massif. Dhaulagiri is the 7th highest mountain the world. Fly or drive to Pokhara and drive three hours towards Darbang (the road must have now gone a little further) from where the trek starts. Trek through several Magar villages including the largest one at Muri and the last village of Boghara. Past Muri, there are small basic tea-houses (not lodges) that sell rations/kerosene/tea/noodles etc. From Dobang ascend steeply to the moraine on which you will trek for two/three days. There are some fixed lines in the exposed sections and rock fall is common. Trekking through the large canyon, cross over the French pass to the Hidden valley. Cross another pass and descend steeply to the Kali-Gandaki valley. The trek ends with a flight out of Jomsom to Pokhara.
Upper Dolpo Trek:
The Upper Dolpo region was brought to the attention of the West by Tibetologists Giuseppe Tucci and David Snellgrove in the 1950’s. Later in the 1970’s, it was made famous by Peter Matthiessen’s book The Snow Leopard. Because of the complicated logistics, expensive Government permits and the remoteness, not many travel to this region of Nepal.
Dolpo is a fascinating region in Nepal inhabited by the Dolpaba’s who are ethnically and culturally Tibetan. There are many iterations possible for the trek to Upper Dolpo. One can start the trek in Jomsom, Juphal or in Dhorpatan. Within Dolpo, the most important villages to visit are Tsarka, Saldang, Dho, Shey Gompa and the Shey Phoksumdo Lake. We prefer starting in Jomsom and ending in Juphal from where we fly out to Kathmandu. This is a physically and mentally demanding journey. This is one of the best camping trek in Nepal.
Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek:
This trek to the Base Camp of the world’s third highest peak is long – at least 20 days of trekking. It is longer if you plan to visit both the North and South Base Camps. It used to be longer until a jeep track was built reducing the total trekking day by at least 5 days.
Access to the region is either by a flight to Suketar (you will be lucky to get a flight on the day you plan to go there either due to the weather or due to scheduling issues) or a flight to Bhadrapur and a 10-hour drive to Taplejung. From Taplejung, take a 4-5 hour bumpy ride on a jeep to Sekathum where the trek begins. From lush cardamom fields and forests, hike up the Ghunsa valley to alpine Khambachena and Lhonak. From Pangpema, day hike to the North Base Camp. Return to Ghunsa and cross the Selela pass and hike up towards the South Base Camp. Return is via Yamphudin and Khebang from where it is possible to drive back to Bhadrapur.
Nar to Upper Mustang trek – Crossing the Teri La
This epic trek from Nar in Manang to Tangge in Upper Mustang is very challenging. The trek begins on the Annapurna Circuit Trail upto Koto from where you would head north-east towards Nar valley. You have the option of heading further north-east to the Phu valley. From Nar Valley head towards the Teri La pass (5,577m/18,297ft). Near the pass, the trail is mostly scree. From the pass descend to Tangge in the Upper Mustang region. You then have the option to head north towards Lo Manthang or descend to Jomsom where the trek ends.
Other fascinating camping treks which have been shortened due to lodge building include the following:
- Trek over the Tashi Lapcha pass (5,862m/19,300ft.) from Rolwaling valley to the Khumbu valley in the Everest region.
- Trek in Far-Western Nepal in the Limi Valley and the Api Saipal region.
- Trek from Mera Peak region over the Amphu Labtsa pass to the Imja valley in the Khumbu region.
- Trek from the Kanchenjunga region over the Lumba Sumba pass to the Makalu region.