Sunday, 16 July 2017

Off the Beaten Path treks in Nepal

Nepal is a country that is famous for its Himalayan tapestry. Containing eight of the ten tallest mountains in the world, including Mount Everest- Trekking in Nepal is an adventure that is done by thousands of travelers from all over the world every year. Nepal contains a wide variety of biodiversities- a result of the country’s different topographical features and climatic variations. Generally divided into three geographical belts, Nepal has fertile plain lands in the south called Terai, isolated valleys located snugly in between the northern mountains and the southern plains and amazing Himalayas towards the north. This drastic change in the elevation, topography and climate of the country also plays a part in dictating the way of life of the people. Due to the country’s beautiful natural environments and isolated and far-flung villages in remote parts, trekking is an amazing way to get to know about the country and its inhabitants. Not only that, trekking is also a great way to get close to the mountains.  The sight of the distant mountain peaks while trekking at beautiful terrains are a sight that really sticks to the minds forever. Nepal has many regions and destinations that are famous for trekking adventures. Some popular destinations include the Everest region, the region of Annapurna, Manaslu Region, the Langtang region and the region of Mustang, among many others. Specifically, certain base camp treks at those destinations see the participation of more trekkers than others. Famous and well-known locations, villages, towns and natural and cultural highlights contribute to the trekking journey’s popularity. But at the same time, Nepal also has many more destinations that do not see a lot of trekkers. Because of their remoteness, their seclusion and their venture at alternate locations than regular trekking locations, the off-the-beaten paths trekking journeys are not undergone by a lot of travelers. Because of this, the beaten-path destinations have managed to retain their original natural beauty intact and offer a marvelous and isolated trekking experience. These trekking journeys present destinations and settings that are less crowded and conventional for a trip fit for people who do want to follow the regular trails. The natural beauties of the destinations that lie at off-beaten tracks are magnificent and breath-taking. Some of the locations present even more beautiful and panoramic views of the mountains and of the terrain than regular and popular trekking destinations. Many off-the-beaten-paths trekking trails occur at regions where the regular and customary trekking journeys occur. The altercation of the trail mid-way or from the beginning of the trek allows travelers to explore new and relatively undisturbed areas of the region, making for a memorable trekking experience. Such trekking journeys are perfect for people who want a less-crowded, isolated and remote destination for their trekking journeys in the country. Here are some off the beaten path trekking journeys of Nepal.

Upper Dolpo Trek

The Upper Dolpo Trek takes travelers into the very heart of the Dolpo region and includes amazing natural highlights like the Phoksundo Lake, the Shay Gompa and three High Passes. A culturally Tibetan region, Upper Dolpo lies at a high altitude part of the Dolpo district of western Nepal. The off-the-beaten-paths trekking journey of the Upper Dolpo Trek has trails going to the Shay Phoksundo National Park. A region where the Bön culture and tradition is predominant and best preserved, Upper Dolpo adheres to Tibetan Buddhism culture as well. The remote region has preserved its Tibetan culture in relatively pure form, making it attractive to Westerners. Dolpo was the location for the 1999 Oscar-nominated film Himalaya. In spite of the near inaccessibility of the region and tourism restrictions for the more remote parts, Upper Dolpo is a popular destination for trekking tourism. Geologically a part of the Tibetan-Tethys Zone, Upper Dolpo has a terrain that is largely sedimentation of barren land and arid hills. It is surrounded by Himalayas, including Mount Dhaulagiri. Because of the cloud-barriers caused by the Himalayas, the climate at Upper Dolpo is semi-arid with generally less rainfall. The region is historically divided into four valleys: the Tsharka (“good growing-place”), the Tarap (“auspicious excellent”), the Panzang (“abode of monks”) and the Nangkhong (“innermost place”). Upper Dolpo Valley’s south of the watershed drains into the Bheri River. It also presents agricultural farms at lowlands and the growth of vegetables like buckwheat, millet, mustard and potatoes on irrigated farmlands. Similar to transhumance in the Alps, the population migrates between villages and high-lying summer pastures, in a lifestyle referred to as samadrok (“farming nomads”). The Phoksundo Lake is a beautiful lake included as a destination of the trekking journey. An alpine fresh water oligotrophic lake in the Shay Phoksundo National Park, the Phoksundo Lake is a beautiful sapphire lake that is an enchanting destination for trekkers in Upper Dolpo. A designated Ramsar site, the waters of the Phoksundo Lake plunge over a 167 meter tall water fall at its southern end. Various stupas are located around the lake and many people from the villages come to the lake for prayers and festivities.  The spiritual centre of the region, the Shay Gompa is also a famous destination that is visited by many travelers for receiving blessings by the monks for a successful journey. Lying at the base of the Crystal Mountain, the Shay Gompa is visited by pilgrims to perform the ritual of Kora. Because of its remoteness, Upper Dolpo Trek is a spectacular off-the-beaten-paths journey that is rich in religiously sites and amazing landscapes.

Makalu Base Camp Trek

A relatively less-known trekking journey, the Makalu Base Camp Trek is a gorgeous off-the-beaten-paths trekking adventure that includes trekking to the base camp of the world’s fifth highest mountain. Located at the Mahalangur Himalayan range in the south-east direction of Mount Everest on the border between Nepal and China, Mount Makalu is an isolated peak whose shape resembles a four-sided pyramid rising from the ridges of the land. With two subsidiary peaks, mount Makalu is a part of the beautiful Makalu-Barun valley that is notable for its prepossessing natural landscape. The Makalu Base Camp Trek also includes excursing through the Makalu Barun National Park. A glacial valley starting from the foot of Mount Makalu, the Makalu Barun Valley provides one of the most stunning natural contrasts on the planet with high waterfalls cascading into deep gorges, rugged rocks rising from emerald forests and a florescent bloom of flowers underneath snowy white peaks. This unique landscape shelters some of the last pristine mountain ecosystems on Earth. Rare species of animals and plants flourish in diverse climates and habitats, relatively undisturbed by human kind. Views of Mountain peaks like Everest, Lhotse and Baruntse are also present while trekking the Makalu Base Camp Trek. An off-the-beaten-paths trek- the trail of this journey is never flat and is always either going up or descending down. The natural charm of the national park is also an enchanting part of the trek. The eighth national park in the Himalayas of Nepal, the Makalu Barun National Park was established in 1992 as an eastern extension of the Sagarmatha National Park. It is the world’s only protected area with an elevation gain of more than 8,000 meters enclosing tropical forest as well as snow-capped peaks. The mountain peaks of Chamlang and Mera Peak are also included in the acreages of the National Park. A part of the Sacred Himalayan landscape, the Makalu Base camp trek is a wonderful trekking journey that lets people experience the undisturbed floral and faunal life of the region in its finest form. Rhododendron flowers add more beauty to the trekking journey and the pristine environment of the Arun valley has unprecedented parallels in terms of its scenery. Animals like the Red Panda, Snow-Leopards, Himalayan Wolves and Himalayan Black Bears have their habitat the woodlands of the national park, along with a myriad of avifauna life.

Kanchenjunga Trek

Kanchenjunga Trek is a popular off-the-beaten-paths trekking journey that takes one to the north base camp of Kanchenjunga Mountain. With locations like Ghunsa, Kampuchean and Sele Le, the Kanchenjunga Trek is one of the most beautiful and culturally rich trekking journeys in the country. Containing villages occupied by Rai and Limbu ethnic groups, the Kanchenjunga Trek is a religiously enriching experience. The Yulung Glacier makes an appurtenance along the trekking trail, with the inclusion of blossoming rhododendron flowers and verdant woodlands and forests. The third highest mountain in the world, Mount Kanchenjunga lies partly in Nepal and partly in Sikkim, India. It borders the Tamur River in the west, the Lhonak Chu in the north and the Teesta River in the east. Kanchenjunga lies south-east of Mount Everest and is the second highest mountain of Nepal’s Himalayas. Also called “the Five Treasures of the Snow” for its five peaks, Kanchenjunga has always been worshipped by the people of Darjeeling and Sikkim. While trekking, tales by the Local Lhopo people can be heard and it is believe that the treasures of Kanchenjunga are hidden within the mountains and will only reveal themselves to the devout when the world is in peril. The treasures comprise salt, gold, turquoise and precious stones, sacred scriptures, invincible armor or ammunition, grain and medicine. Kanchenjunga is also believed to be an abode of the omnipotent goddess Yuma Sammang. The mountain is also the origin of four major glaciers. Due to its remote location in Nepal and the difficulty involved in accessing it from India, the Kanchenjunga region is not much explored by trekkers. It has, therefore, retained much of its pristine beauty. In Sikkim too, trekking into the Kanchenjunga region has only just recently been permitted. There are many myths surrounding Kanchenjunga that are extremely fascinating. This off-the-beaten-path trekking journey is shrouded in old tales and stories. The area around Kanchenjunga is said to be home to a mountain deity, called Dzö-nga or “the Kanchenjunga Demon”, a type of yeti or rakshasa. For generations, there have also been legends recounted by the inhabitants of the areas surrounding Mount Kanchenjunga, both in Sikkim and in Nepal, that there is a valley of immortality hidden on its slopes.

Rara Lake Trek

The Rara Lake Trek is a beautiful excursion of the western region of Nepal. Highlights of the Rara Lake Trek include the Rara National Park, the lake itself and many cultural settlements and villages that harbor temples, monasteries and Gumbas. Sights of terrace farmlands and lush hills are common during the trek and the sapphire lake of Rara is an aspect that resembles actual Heaven-on-Earth. Rara Lake is the biggest and the deepest freshwater lake in the Himalayas of Nepal. The trek also includes excursing through the Rara National Park. Located in the Jumla and Mugu districts of Nepal, the national park is the country’s smallest. Rara Lake, being surrounded by Rara National Park, has unique floral and faunal importance with many rare and vulnerable species. The Park’s flora consists of 1074 species and the animal life around the park consists of 51 species of mammals and 214 species of birds. A popular destination with a very rough route in Western Nepal for trekkers, the Rara Lake Trek offers glimpses of culture and scenery that are quite different from the rest of Nepal. Surrounded by pine, spruce and juniper forests, the lake is a truly magnificent piece of nature. The view of snow-capped Himalayan peaks also enhances the attraction. Rara Lake is also sometimes referred to as “the blue jewel of the mountains” because of its blue waters surrounded by a ring of White Mountain Peaks. The trek to Rara usually starts with a flight from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj.

Off the Beaten Path Trek – Nar Phu Valley Trek

One of the most isolated and remote locations under an off-the-beaten-path trekking journey, the Nar Phu Valley Trek takes travelers through the secluded and exotic valley of Nar in the north of the Annapurna region of Nepal. Decorated with great alpine scenery, the Nar Phu Valley is rich with Tibetan culture and tranquil environments that have not been disturbed. A relatively newly opened trekking destination, the Nar Phu Valley’s wonders have not been seen many trekkers. The trek is a splendid combination of high peaks and high passes, woodlands, amazing rock formations and wide open yak pasturelands. Travelers pass through the Chorten Gate and enter the valley while travelling through Himalayan Pine trees to come across Tibetan villages with stone houses. Ancient Tibetan culture and the view of the Annapurna Himalayan Range are the major highlights of the Nar Phu Valley Trek. A restricted trekking trail, Nar Phu Valley trekking requires a special trekking permit through government registered trekking agencies. The cultures of the people along the villages are very fascinating to observe. They tend to speak a Sino-Tibetan variety of Narpa language and the dialect forms a continuum with the village of Manang. The two villages of Nar and Phu along the valley however, share a secret language to confound Gyasumdo and Manang whose people would otherwise understand them. It follows the trail of the Annapurna Circuit initially until diverging at the settlement at Koto. The trekking trails also go through beautiful locations like Yak Kharka and the village of Manang and include passing the Thorung La Pass and visiting the holy temple of Muktinath.

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