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Monday, April 5, 2010

The Changing Face of Trekking in Nepal

  • Trek Stop
  • A Trekker taking home memories from Mustang

Between Nepal’s first trekking group, led by Bill Tilman in 1950 to Everest Base Camp, and my first trek there in 1972, very few trekkers visited Nepal, and most of them trekked independent of any trekking company and stayed in local tea houses. Beginning in the 1980s, trekking exploded in Nepal and the number of trekkers soon exceeded 100,000 per year. By the mid-1990s, the Annapurna region alone was getting over 100,000 trekkers.

Then came the crucial year of 2001. On June 1, the Royal Massacre occurred in Kathmandu, resulting in the death of most of Nepal’s royal family in their own palace. A few months later came 9/11 and the resultant downturn in overseas travel by Americans. Around this same time the US State Department issued a travel warning to Americans planning to visit Nepal, stating that all but essential travel be avoided, due to an ongoing civil war fomented by a Maoist insurgency. Americans went from top of the heap to out of the top ten in tourist visits to Nepal almost overnight.

 

With the arrival of some semblance of democracy and stability in 2007, trekking in Nepal is once again on the increase, including amongst Americans. As we prepare to jump back in to the world of Nepal trekking again, several changes are evident. In the ever-popular Everest region, tented trekking is virtually unheard of anymore, due primarily to the abundance of comfortable upscale lodges and hotels. Flight delays in and out of Lukla, gateway to the Everest region, are now rare. Comfort and efficiency have improved.

One item that has not improved is Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. Once charming in a medieval sort of way, and synonymous with remoteness and adventure, today’s Kathmandu is a noisy, overcrowded, smog-filled city. While its ancient sites still bear a visit, extended stays are not recommended for your health, both physical and mental. We’ve even taken to starting our Mustang trek with an immediate connection on arrival in Kathmandu to the much more relaxing mountain bazaar town of Pokhara. Such is progress.

Tented trekking is alive and well in the more remote areas where tea houses don’t exist or are unsuitable for health and comfort, such as the Manaslu region and east Nepal toward Kangchenjunga. These areas are now free of Maoist activity, and life is returning to normal.

~Steve Conlon
Above The Clouds

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A Young Trekker in the Annapurna Region (1992)

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It is the combination of mountains and people that have long made Nepal one of the most treasured adventure travel destinations on the planet.

Check Out Our Sample Nepal Itineraries:

  • The Forbidden Kingdom of Mustang
    • Come explore what the Dalai Lama has called the last bastion of living Tibetan Buddhism.
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    • The valley leading to Everest (also called the Khumbu) offers a variety of treks ranging from one week to three, all providing wonderful exposure to the indigenous Sherpa culture and access to the biggest mountains on earth.
  • Trekking Manaslu & Tsum Valleys
    • Nestled into the base of the Himalayas, these valleys are located close to the major hubs of travel in Nepal but are also not frequently visited. With lots of trekking and heli-trekking options, this is area is prime for adventure!
  • Trekking East Nepal
    • Remote, rarely traveled and absolutely beautiful! This corner of the Himalaya boasts fabulous views, tribal villages and unique experiences that can be done in a week or up to a month.

Check Out Our Other Destinations Too!