If you are in Kathmandu and want to get to a Himalayan trek as fast as possible, you can head to Langtang. Yes. Langtang is the only trekking region that lies close to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. The trailhead to the best treks in Langtang can be reached within 7 to 8 hours from Kathmandu. So if you are short on time and looking for a hike that takes you up the mountains without having to worry about booking a mountain flight or a long overland journey, then Langtang is a perfect choice.
There are several routes of varying difficulty levels – easy, moderate, and challenging. Based on the popularity the top 5 best treks in Langtang Region are the Tamang Heritage Trail, Langtang Valley Trek, Helambu Trek, Gosainkunda Trek, and Ganja La Pass Trek.
Tamang Heritage Trail
The Tamang Heritage Trail was introduced as a commercial trekking route by the tourism ministry to offer tourists a glimpse into the rich culture of the Tamangs, the ethnic community living in the Langtang Region.
While Everest and Annapurna regions have been popular with tourists since the tourism industry in Nepal, few tourists knew about Langtang and other trekking regions. Because of the lack of promotion these regions were not receiving visitors and were behind in development. Thus, new trails like the Tamang Heritage Trail have been introduced to boost the economy and alleviate poverty while offering a wonderful experience to tourists.
Tamang Heritage Trail takes you across the traditional villages of Tamangs, a mountain tribe that migrated to Nepal from Tibet centuries ago. They came as traders and horseback riders and settled in the Langtang Region. The Tamangs are Buddhists, and their customs and traditions are similar to those of the Tibetans. Like the Tibetan highlanders, most of them are keen horsemen. The Tamangs have a distinct language.
During your trek, you walk past the traditional villages of Syabrubesi, Thuman, Briddim, Gatlang, and Tatopani. These villages were severely affected by the earthquake that rocked Nepal in 2015, and people are still trying to get back on their feet. New teahouses are being constructed, and people are ready to welcome new visitors.
The route is highly scenic and beautiful. The forests are covered with colorful prayer flags, pristine rivers and waterfalls, panoramic mountain views, and traditional villages, which give an insight into the unique culture of Tamang. Taking the Tamang Heritage Trail is an enriching experience.
You can complete this trek in 5 or 7 days. This is an easy trek that can be done by anyone who is physically fit and is interested in hill walking. The altitude does not go beyond 2400m, so there's no risk of altitude sickness. One can also combine this with the Langtang Valley Trek and extend it for 14 days.
Langtang Valley Trek
Most tourists visiting Langtang prefer to go to the Langtang Valley Trek for the terrific Himalayan trekking experience. The trek takes you to the laps of the Himalayan mountains within a short period of 7 to 10 days. As the trailhead lies close to Kathmandu, you get to reach the mountains within a short period.
The Langtang Valley trail takes you inside the biodiverse and ecologically rich Langtang National Park. The park is home to endangered wildlife like the Red Panda, Himalayan Tahr, Clouded Leopard, Snow Leopard, etc. The park is covered with thick forests of rhododendron, pine, and oak.
When the country suffered from a devastating earthquake in 2015, Langtang Valley was one of the worst-hit trekking spots. One can still see the destruction wrought by the natural disaster on the trail. The Langtang Village, which falls on the route, was completely flattened. The village has been moved to a nearby location, and the locals are trying to piece their life together. New lodges have been built to accommodate the tourists walking that route.
The delightful trek culminates at the scenic Kyangin Gompa, a small settlement that sprung up around an ancient Buddhist monastery of the same name. Surrounded by the Langtang Range and the Kyangjin Ri, there are several opportunities for day hikes around the village. The massive glacier of the Langtang Lirung tumbles down close to the town, and the Tibetan peaks look close enough. One can take a hike to one of the hills surrounding the village – Kyangjin Ri, Tserko Ri, or Chorkari Ri and enjoy 360-views views of Langtang Lirung, Dorje Lakpa, Langshisa Ri, Gangchenpo, and the Ganesh Himal Range.
The settlement is home to Nepal's oldest Swiss Cheese Factory. Established in 1955 with the help of the Swiss government, the cheese factory still produces cheese from the milk of yaks found in the area. An excursion to this small factory makes up for an exciting visit.
On the difficulty scale, the Langtang Valley trek is graded moderate. The highest altitude you reach is 3798m. If you plan to hike to any hills, expect to get an altitude above 4000 meters.
The Helambu Trek takes you on a cultural journey on the outskirts of the Kathmandu valley. Lying off the beaten path, the trail is yet to be discovered by the usual trekking crowd that visits Nepal each season. The Helambu trek takes you past the villages of Tamangs, Sherpas, and Holmes, an ethnic community that shares many similarities with the Sherpas and Tibetans. A short vacation of 7 days is enough to complete this delightful trek.
The starting point of the trek lies in Kathmandu Valley. You leave the city and reach the Shivapuri Hills, which lies in the northern part of the capital. You walk past the verdant Shivapuri National Park and the small settlements of Chisapani and Sundarijal before ascending further to the villages of Khutumsang, Tharepati, and Tarkeghyang. Tharepati at 3690m is the highest point of your trek.
Each night you stay at a teahouse owned by a local family. You get to observe the rural lifestyle and culture closely and interact with the local villages. The trail goes through rice and maize fields and forests filled with chirping birds and chattering monkeys. There are several Buddhist shrines, meditation caves, and monasteries en route. You can visit some of the local monasteries and chat with the lamas(monks) living there. The Helambu trail in the Rolwaling Himal has a sizeable Buddhist population. The trek is a beautiful opportunity to get to know about Buddhist culture in the mountains of Nepal.
Beginners, as well as experienced trekkers, can efficiently complete this trek. The only requirement for the Helambu Trek is a reasonable level of physical fitness.
Gosainkunda is a beautiful and sacred mountain lake that sits like a jewel in the stunning Langtang Region. It is a pilgrimage spot for both Hindus and Buddhists. According to Hindu scriptures, the lake was formed by Lord Shiva when he threw his trident while looking for water to quench his thirst after swallowing the deadly poison during the epic saga Manthan (churning of the ocean). One can still see his trident in the middle of the lake.
Surrounded by tall snow-covered mountains, the lake is surrounded by several smaller lakes – Saraswati Kunda, Bhiarav Kunda, Suraya Kunda, etc. A prominent religious fair is held on the precinct of the lake during Janai Purnima (full moon festival celebrated around July-August). Brahmins flock to the lake to change their sacred thread and take a purification dip. The local shamans also gather at the lake during this time, as this is supposed to be an auspicious time for initiation rites.
Just above the lake is the breathtaking Laurebina Pass, from where one can enjoy 360-degree views of the Himalayan range. Graded moderately, the route to the lake is filled with manageable as well as difficult sections. The Gosainkunda Lake lies at an altitude of 4380 meters, and one has to face the risk of altitude sickness if precautions are not taken. Research thoroughly and have a solid and safe plan before embarking on a trek to Gosainkunda Lake. It would be wise to have an experienced guide if you are not used to soloing trekking.
Ganja La Pass Trek
If you are looking for a short but challenging Himalayan trek, the Ganja La Pass Trek offers you the perfect experience. The hike follows the Langtang Valley trail and goes past the Langtang National park to Kyangjin Gompa. From Kyangjin Gompa, the trail climbs further to the problematic and challenging Ganja La mountain Pass.
Snow-covered and icy, the crossing of the Ganja La tests your endurance level to the maximum. The pass lying at an altitude of 5122m is difficult to traverse because of the extreme weather condition and the trail covered with snow and ice.
To reach the pass, you walk through the ethnic villages of the Tamangs and forests filled with rich flora and fauna. The scenery is breathtaking, and the mountain views are to die for. As Tibet lies close to the Langtang region, you get to view the Tibetan peaks along with the majestic peaks of the Langtang Range and the Rolwaling Himal en route.
The highlight of your trek is the crossing of the Ganja La, Kyangjin Gompa, and a visit to the memorial of the earthquake victims at Langtang Village. The overnight stays at the ethnic villages of the Tamangs and Sherpas also give you a peek into their lifestyle and culture. You return via the Helambu route passing the towns of Tarkegyang, Dhukap, Sermathan, and Melamchi.
The trail to Ganja La Pass is one of the most challenging trails that can be accessed from Kathmandu within a short period. If you are pressed for time but still desire a challenging Himalayan trekking experience, the Ganja La Pass Trek is for you.
The above treks can be done during spring(March-May), autumn(September-November), and early winter(December). During these seasons, the weather conditions remain sunny and clear, ideal for hikes and long treks. There is not much participation, and the trails remain free of snow and ice. The days are warm and the night a bit cold.
In higher elevations, the temperatures drop below the freezing point at night. So take enough warm clothes with you to combat the cold. Many trekkers prefer to trek during spring or autumn as the skies remain crystal clear during these seasons offering breathtaking views of the soaring snow-capped Himalayan peaks. Trekking during summer and winter is not recommended because of heavy rainfall and snowstorms. Sometimes the trail gets washed away by rain or avalanche during these seasons.
Why choose these treks?
Treks to Langtang Region are easily accessible from Kathmandu, making the region a favorite among trekkers on short vacations. Most of the trailheads lie within a 7-8 hours drive from Kathmandu. Some of the trailheads like Melamchi and Chisopani can be accessed directly from Kathmandu valley. There is minimal risk of altitude sickness on these treks as most trails lie below 5000 meters.
The region is facilitated by teahouses or mountain lodges run by local communities or families. Though basic and utilitarian than city hotels, these teahouses offer you shelter from the cold, warm bed, food, and electricity to charge your devices. There are mobile phone and internet connectivity at the lower elevations.
If you are on a short holiday but still want to experience an authentic Himalayan trek, you can choose any of the hikes mentioned above. So what are you waiting for? Put on your hiking boots, grab your gear, and get going! The Langtang trails are waiting for you.