Trekking in Nepal is an adventure activity that is vital to the regions recovering economy, and whilst tourism is improving Nepal’s economic situation it is vital that travellers choose the right company to guide them to ensure they have a responsible, positive impact on tourism in Nepal.
Nepal is quite simply one of the most stunning regions on the planet, and since conflict there ceased in 2006 increasing numbers of tourists have flocked to see the famous landscape and claim their boasting rights of trekking to or even up Mount Everest.
Unfortunately Nepal is also a region that is still slowly recovering from the devastating earthquake in April of 2015. One of the worst natural disasters to hit the region in generations, the earthquake left over 8000 people dead, a further 21,000 injured and over 2 million people homeless. The earthquake left key historical sites damaged beyond repair and devastated the tourism industry.
This is why, two years on from that earthquake, tourism in Nepal, particularly the once (and slowly recovering but still struggling) lucrative trekking industry, is as important as ever before and is an integral part in helping rebuild the country’s economy and infrastructure. But it is important that travellers and tourists get it right so that the increasing tourism boom helps, not hinders, Nepal’s prosperity.
Trekking in Nepal.
Trekking is perhaps one of the single biggest tourism draws in Nepal and it is not hard to see why. The topography of the region is spectacular and beyond compare, with some of the highest and most famous mountain ranges in the world, vast tracts of virgin forest and gorges and hills that seem to roll on forever.
Mount Everest is obviously the most famous draw, with increasing levels of tourists even beginning to cause problems on what was once one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. Trekking to the famous mountain is so popular that the Annapurna circuit and reaching Everest Base Camp have become backpacker rites of passage. (Even though the building of a new road is decreasing the appeal of Annapurna).
But there is so much more to trekking in Nepal than just Everest, and travellers are genuinely missing out if that is all they do.
Many travellers are surprised to hear that there is a huge diversity of cultures within the Himalayas, all with varying hints of three of the worlds major religions, Islam, Hinduism and of course Tibetan Buddhism.
With new routes opening up thanks to a changing political landscape (routes along the border of Myanmar are started to become established), and with new infrastructure, roads and lodges of various levels of comfort popping up everywhere, (there are even luxury lodges on the way to base camp now) there are now more trekking options for all skill and fitness levels than ever before.
There is far, far more to trekking in Nepal than just Everest Base Camp.
So when Everest gets too crowded and the lodges of Ladakh’s Markha valley are all full, expand your horizons and visit Zanskar further West, or explore the culture a little more with a trip to the Sera Monastery and Norbulingka palace in Lhasa.
If you want a little bit more of an adventure than those who simply fly or ride as close to their destinations as they can get, you can see if you can get a Visa from Tibet and head down into the Kama valley which has remained virtually untouched and offers rare views of the east face of Everest.
Choosing the right tour group.
A huge part of trekking responsibly in Nepal is choosing who to go with.
Of course with some of the more established routes and popular paths it is possible to do at least some of the trekking yourself independently. But this doesn’t mean you should.
Nepal relies heavily on tourism, and by not supporting local guides, sherpas and other associated industries, you really aren’t doing your bit to ensure tourism is a positive force in the region.
There are of course a wide range of international travel companies that offer treks of varying comfort levels to tourists, but you really should do your research and ask yourself – and them – a lot of questions to see if they are responsible or not.
- Do they utilise local guides?
- Do they pay guides well and subscribe to a good standard of workers rights?
- Where does the profit go? Is a portion of it put back into the local community or does it all go to the international organisation?
These are just some of the questions you should ask to make sure they are responsible.
By far the best option is utilising local companies and guides on the ground. Trekking with locally owned and run companies such as Nepal Hiking Team that specialise in not only climbing and trekking expeditions and cultural tours ensures that all of your money goes directly to organisations in the region and supports the local economy.
Local companies who employ local guides and sherpas ensure you get a guide that is knowledgeable about the local area and culture, and is willing to share that culture and experience with you, but your payment and tips will go directly to supporting the employees and their family, and that is desperately needed in Nepal at the moment.
They are also much more likely to ensure that porters rights are upheld, that they are fully insured and have specific policies for this, and although there are some international companies that do this, not all do. It is also extremely important to ensure that the porters you are using aren’t carrying excessive loads and aren’t assigned to more than two travellers.
So by working with local run companies who employ local guides, and ensuring that reasonable and fair payment and conditions are met, even if it costs you as the tourist a little bit extra, you can be assured that you are trekking with a good, reputable company and that you are contributing to the recovering economy of Nepal whilst enjoying the trek of a lifetime!
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This article was written in partnership with Nepal Hiking Team. The views and opinions expressed are entirely the authors own based on personal experiences when travelling and are honest and factual without any bias.