Wondering what the 15 greatest treks in the Himalayas are? Home to the world’s highest mountains most trekkers head straight for Everest Base Camp and while it’s a great option the opportunities for adventure abound among the peaks of the Himalayas of which over 100 exceed 7000m or 24000 feet. Here is a quick rundown of 15 great treks from Bhutan to India starting with Nepal.
The Greatest Treks of Nepal
Nepal lies almost in the middle of the Himalaya and while it’s a small country it hosts 8 of 14 of all the world’s mountains over 8000m.
#1: Everest Base Camp
This has to be our all time favorite trek in the Himalayas. Great views of Everest, a good trail, wonderful tea houses to stay in and almost continuous views of some of the tallest peaks in the world will keep your attention during what is typically an 11 day trek. The trail ends at Everest Base Camp where you can look directly up the ice fall of the Khumbu Glacier towards the peak of Everest which is still an impressive 3500m above you. On the way you will see 3 of the worlds 10 tallest peaks which asides from Everest also include Cho Oyu (8201m/26,906ft) and Lhotse (8,516m/27,940ft). Just as spectacular although not as tall are the ice laden walls of Pumori (7,161m/23,494ft) and Ama Dablam (6,812m/22,349ft). Trekking is possible from September to June and although it’s cold in December and January its probably one time of year you can find solitude.
#2: Poon Hill and the Annapurna Base Camp
This is really two treks that can either be done separately or together. Like the Everest Base Camp trek this one offers a great trail and fabulous tea house lodging for those looking for a little comfort. If you have just four or five days the trek to Poon Hill is one of the best short treks in the Himalayas and offers fantastic up close views of Annapurna. If you have a little more time make the journey to Annapurna Base Camp lying in the famed Annapurna Sanctuary where you can see a fantastic view of the south face of Annapurna I (8,091 m/26,538 ft) the 10th tallest peak in the world. The route approaching the base camp provides great views of the hanging glaciers and sheer cliff face of Machapuchare (6,993m/22,943ft) known locally as “Fish Tail or the Matterhorn of Asia.” Fish Tail is sacred to the locals and off limits to climbers.
#3: Manaslu Circuit
The Manaslu Trek is a 14 to 16 day tea-house trek which encircles the world’s 8th highest peak. In recent years the tea houses and trail have been improved and the trek is quickly becoming a popular alternative to the Annapurna Circuit. The total number of visitors in the past few years has been around 2000 with most coming in October. This is one of Nepal’s great treks and it gets you away from the crowds at the same time. The trek remains in a restricted area meaning that a $50 per/week fee is charged to trekkers.
Booking Information: Manaslu Circuit Trek 21 Days $1599
#4: Makalu Base Camp Trek
It’s a 16 day trek to the base camp of Makalu (8463m) the worlds 5th tallest peak. Unlike the treks mentioned so far this is not a tea house trek and it requires organizing for camping. The trek starts from 435m and so transverses through a range of environments as it heads up the Barun Valley to the Makalu base camp. It’s a true wilderness experience with some of the last remnants of untouched forests and beautiful alpine meadows.
Booking Information: Makalu Base Camp 23 Days $2189
#5: Upper Mustang Trek
The Upper Mustang Trek highlights the desert beauty and ancient Tibetan cultures of Nepal. The 18 day trek heads north from Jomsom on the far side of the Annapurna Range. A special permit is needed to enter the area and the trek needs to be arranged as a combination tea house and camping trek. Very few tourists (maybe 1000 a year) make the journey to see this remote part of Nepal. Some of the highlights of the trek include the ancient “Forbidden City” and the ancient monasteries and caves. The dry mountainous landscape might seem more similar to Ladakh in India then the other treks in Nepal.
Booking Information: Upper Mustang 18 Days $1899
The Greatest Treks of India
The Himalayas span across northern India from the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh in the east to Kashmir in the west. Sikkim in eastern India is famous for several trekking that skirt the base of Kanchenjunga the world’s third tallest mountain. Sikkim is one of the wettest places in the Himalayas and the culture is dominantly Buddhist. The central portion of the Indian Himalayas which includes the states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand is famous for its trekking routes many of which are also Hindu Pilgrimages that go high into the Himalayas. Ladakh in the west is one of the driest regions of the Himalaya and provides good trekking options when the rest of the region is experiencing Monsoon rainfall. Kashmir occupies the westernmost portion of the Himalayas and has often been referenced as “heaven on earth” for its beautiful alpine meadows and majestic pine forests although the beauty is at times overshadowed by security risks.
#6: Goecha La Trek
The Goecha La trek is an 8 day trek in the eastern India state of Sikkim. This is one of the wettest portions of the Himalayas due to the proximity with the Bay of Bengal and direct line of influence from the Indian Monsoon. The journey is at first up an often muddy trail through thick rain forests and then gradually the lowland forest is replaced by beautiful Rhododendron forests which are in full bloom in early May. The first view points are from Dzongri Top where you can see both Kangchenjunga and Mount Pandim. Dzongri is itself a stopping point for many but its worth trekking onwards to the Samiti Lake a sacred lake whose crystal waters are the source of the Prek River. Goecha La (16,000ft/4876m) itself serves as a basecamp for those looking to scale the southeast face Kanchenjunga. Here are 4 other great treks in Sikkim.
#7: Gangotri Glacier Trek
This 6+ day trek (pilgrimage) takes you to the source of the most sacred river in India the Ganges River. The trek starts at the end of the road near the temple town of Gangotri and heads 18km to Gomukh which is considered the source of the Ganges at the base of the glacier. The landscape here is spectacular with views of Mount Shivling and the Bhagirathi group of mountains. This is a great trek to see beautiful peaks, one of the largest glaciers in the central Himalaya.
Related Reading: Greatest Treks of Uttarakhand
#8: Frozen River Trek
An ancient route along the frozen Zanskar River this 6 day trek connects the villages of the Zanskar Valley with the village of Chilling which lies on the road to Leh (Ladakh, India). It is best to take this trek in late January and early February when the conditions are coldest and the frozen river can be used as a pathway. It’s a wonderful and beautiful trek if you can brave the average -10 C temperatures the day which fall as low as -20 to -25 C at night. The trek can be difficult in places where the river is not completely frozen over and a new path must be forged over the snow laden banks. It is certainly a once in a lifetime experience.
Related Reading: Ladakh Blog Posts
#9: Markha Valley
The Markha Valley trek is a 6 to 8 day trek and one of the most famous and easiest to organize in Ladakh, India. Trekkers also have the option of choosing to climb Stok Kangri (6,153 m). This is a trekking peak and since the top can be reached relatively quickly one must be careful to properly acclimatize. The trek itself involves crossing three passes – Stok La (4848 m), Kongmaru La (5274 m) and Gandla (4878 m) and follows the banks of the scenic Markha River valley. Camping near the base of Kang-Yutze peak is one of the highlights as well as getting a glimpse of Tibetan culture.
#10: Kolahoi Glacier Trek
Trekking in Kashmir is like nowhere else in the Himalayas with its beautiful mountain meadows and majestic pine trees it has often been compared to the Alps of Switzerland. The 3 day trek up Lidder Valley to Kolahoi Glacier is easily accessed from Srinigar and a good option for a first trek in Kashmir. The trail follows the course of the Lidder River and offers panoramic views of the surrounding snow laden peaks and meadows abound with wildflowers. During the summer the canyon is home to the Gujjars a nomadic people who have herded sheep in the region for centuries. If you make it all the way to the head of the valley you will be rewarded with fabulous views of the Kolahoi Glacier.
Related Reading: Trekking in Kashmir
The Greatest Treks of Tibet
The Himalayas of Tibet are much drier and colder than in India and Nepal and the best time to Trek is from May to September. Getting to Everest Base Camp in Tibet is more a drive than continuing upwards to the advanced base camp offer a once in a lifetime experience and is as high on Everest as you can go without a climbing permit.
#11: Kailash Circuit
The symmetrical mountain is one of the most beautiful and sacred of the Himalaya and the Kailash Circuit is famous as being one of the most difficult treks for religious pilgrims in the world. The mountain is considered by Hindu’s as the abode of Lord Shiva and is geographically and culturally important as the source of the giant rivers of India which include the Brahmaputra and Indus. Ancient texts refer to the mountain as the center of the world. A journey around the mountain will free pilgrims from endless cycles of birth and death. Pilgrims having been making the trek to the region in a tradition that dates back at least several thousand years. The journey is made in a clockwise direction by Hindus and Buddhists while followers of the Jain and Bönpo religions travel the 52km trek around the mountain in a counterclockwise direction.
Related Reading: Best Treks of Tibet
#12: Advanced Everest Base Camp
When most people think of Everest Base Camp they are referencing the base camp on the southern side of the mountain in Nepal which is much more popular as a trekking route. If you want to get to Everest Base Camp in Tibet you can actually drive all the way but the route beyond base camp is where it gets interesting. The route to Mount Everest Advance Base Camp (EABC) at 6,340m / 20795 ft is the highest that one can go on Everest without a climbing permit. This route covers the first 3 camps used by climbers as they approach the summit of Everest via the Northeast Ridge and is considered the world’s highest trek. The route has to Mount Everest Advance Base Camp is a challenging but beautiful trek through a stunning mountain landscape. The journey to EABC starts in Lhasa (11,975ft/ 3,650m) the capital of Tibet where it’s best to spend a few days acclimatizing before heading out towards Everest.
The Best Treks of Bhutan
Bhutan lies in the western portion of the Himalayas and is often shrouded both in mystery and literally in clouds. Arranging a trek here isn’t as simple or Nepal or India but Bhutan certainly presents some interesting trekking options (Read more – Best Treks in Bhutan).
#13: Chomolhari Trek
This 10 day trek starts in Paro Valley and heads to the base camp of Chomolhari (7,326 m) the second tallest peak in Bhutan. The mountain is sacred to Tibetan Buddhists and restrictions mean few have ever climbed this beautiful peak. The trek combines beautiful mountain scenery with the unique culture of Bhutan where outsiders have had limited access for years. This is a camping trek that reaches a high point in elevation of almost 5000m.
#14: Snowman Trek
The Snowman Trek is a 25 day journey that traverses the spine of the Himalaya between Bhutan and Tibet. Crossing over 11 passes of which four are over 5000m in height the trek is often called the worlds most challenging. Asides from the passes the trekker most also deal with generally inclement weather and be prepared for almost complete isolation from the outside world. Starting in Paro, the trek generally traverses the spine of the Himalayas between Bhutan and Tibet. If you are thinking of going the best bet for good weather is during October before the snows come to the high passes and just after the monsoon ends.
Image credit: Christopher Fynn
Technically the mountains lying to the west of the Indus River are not considered part of the Greater Himalayas so the Karakoram should be viewed as a distinct mountain range. Security is always a concern trekking or climbing in Pakistan and we don’t recommend it but the beautiful trek up to the K2 Base Camp is certainly on our to do list if the situation improves.
#15: K2 Base Camp Trek
K2 (8611m) is the second tallest mountain in the world and this 20 day trek to the base camp is a once in life experience. The journey starts with great views of Karakoram Ranges with Nanga Parbat but the real highlight may be Concordia which is often called the “the Throne Room of the Gods.” Concordia is at the junction of the Godwin Austen and Baltoro glaciers and is ringed by 4 of the 14 highest peaks in the world. Those looking to summit Gasherbrum II, Gasherbrum IV, Chogolisa, Mitre Peak, Masherbrum, Broad Peak and the Trango Towers all pass this same route. This is not an easy journey to organize but it could not be left out as it must be one of the most impressive journeys in the Himalayas (One which the founders of Himalayanwonders
Have some suggestions of great treks that we have left off this let us know as we will be updating and revising it.