Mustang, Dolpo, Kanchenjunga… sound familiar? Probably not. These are treks that you might not have heard before and are typically off the radar for first timers to Nepal.
If you have been to Nepal and were struck by its charm (scenery, food, people simplicity of life on the trails), it’s highly likely you’re craving for more. And this is for you; 3-off-the-beaten-path treks that will show you a different and in-depth side of Nepal. Perhaps, after giving one of them a go, you might return to complete them all.
Upper Mustang Trek
Min. trekking days: 12 days
Highest elevation reached: 4,230 m
Best season to trek: May to August, Tiji Festival in May is a popular time
Trailhead accessibility: Jomsom – 15 min flight from Pokhara
Minimum trip length from Singapore: 16D 15N
Things to take note: Restricted Permit for 10 days (USD 500)
Upper Mustang is better known as the last Forbidden Kingdom as it was closed to foreigners until 1992. The 14th Dalai Lama described Mustang as one of the few places left where traditional Tibetan culture is unmolested and authentic. Mustang is part of the ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Project) that protects the biodiversity of the area allowing a corridor that runs from the lush foothills to the arid high plateau.
As this area lies in the rain shadow of the Dhaulagiri massif, it became a rugged arid landscape with dramatic formations. The trail to visit Lo Manthang, the ancient capital, follows the traditional salt trading route until you reach the town gates that transport you to a city that has existed for hundreds of years.
The restricted permit is probably the only reason why Mustang is not overrun with trekkers. If you are looking for a unique cultural and geographical experience, consider Mustang for your next trip to Nepal.
Min trekking days: 16 days (can be up to 20 days depending on variation)
Highest elevation reached: 5,350 m
Best season to trek: May to October
Trailhead accessibility: Juphal – 45 min flight from Nepalgunj (1 hour flight from Kathmandu)
Minimum trip length from Singapore: 21D 20N
Things to take note: Camping Only, Restricted Permit 10 days (USD500)
For one of the more remote corners of Nepal, Dolpo has its fair share of international fame. It was first made famous by Peter Matthiessen’s book- The Snow Leopard, where he observes “these hard rocks instruct my bones in what my brain could never grasp in the Heart Sutra, that form is emptiness and emptiness is form.” It was next featured in an Academy Award nominated film – Himalaya. You have to see Dolpo for yourself.
Dolpo is a demanding trek, you have to cross a series of high passes to reach isolated villages set amidst the remote highlands of Dolpo. The challenge on top of that is that this is a pure camping trip, unlike the majority of teahouse trekking in Nepal. However, the rewards that come with it would be breathtaking landscape, ancient monasteries, possible glimpse of a snow leopard, and probably the knowledge that there is more in you than you thought.
Being a camping trip gives a certain flexibility of changing your rest stops given the conditions. Dolpo region allows for multiple variations to visit different Gompas (monasteries) and even the possibility of visiting Rara Lake, the largest lake in Nepal. If you are up for a challenge of exploring a remote corner of Nepal, look no further.
Kanchenjunga Base Camp trek
Min. trekking days: 16 days (North Base Camp), 20 days (North & South BC)
Highest elevation reached: 5,150 m
Best season to trek: April/May and October/November
Trailhead accessibility: Taplejung – 11 hours drive from Bhadrapur (45 mins Flight from Kathmandu)
Minimum trip length from Singapore: 21D 20N or 25D 24N
Kanchenjunga which means “ five treasure of the snow” is the second highest mountain in Nepal, after Everest. It is one of the few mountains that have 2 base camps that are accessible on the same trek. It sits in the far east corner of Nepal bordering Sikkim in India. The mountain is sacred to the people of the region and is believed to be the home of a mountain deity.
Teahouse trekking in Kanchenjunga is now possible, the locals welcome you to their homes and amenities are basic but sufficient. This has been their way of lives in this remote area for many generations. In the spring (April/May), this hike is famous for its bloom of lush rhododendrons. These bright coloured flowers, along with the deep valleys and the high peaks of Kanchenjunga are experienced by the few adventurous trekkers that are willing to make the pilgrimage to this area.
If you would like to see the majesty of an 8,000m peak, remote communities and having all of these to yourself in the comfort of teahouses, Kanchenjunga Base Camp will fit you. Depending on the number of days you can afford, you can choose to visit the North Base Camp or both.