For many, the Himalayas represent the ultimate trekking goal. Home to the world’s tallest mountains and most spectacular hiking, it’s no surprise mountaineers and adventurers have long flocked to their snow-smothered slopes. With such a vast array of hiking trails across the five countries the mountain range spans, deciding what should be on your hitlist can be a tricky task. This in mind, a good place to start is with the most iconic Himalayan treks. Those-well-trodden paths that have inspired adventurers for centuries…
But what are they? To find out, we got together with the guys at Makalu Adventures, a company which runs guided trekking holidays and adventure trips in the Himalayas and beyond. We asked them to help put together this list of the most iconic Himalayan treks to help you narrow down which is going to be next on your bucket list.
Everest Base Camp, Nepal
A list of iconic Himalayan treks could not be complete without Everest Base Camp, the notorious pilgrimage of adventurers that usually involves several days trekking in the shadow of the world’s tallest peak. Astounding views are in full force right from the start, when you’ll hop aboard a plane to fly to Lukla, where your trek begins.
You’ll then spend 10 to 14 days traversing the Khumbu and Imja valleys, getting to know the fascinating Sherpa culture of the mountains and overnighting in traditional teahouses along the route. Eventually, you’ll reach the iconic Everest Base Camp, where you can meet climbers hoping to make the summit and take a peek at the notorious ice fall generally regarded as one of the most dangerous sections of the climb.
Don’t be fooled by the whimsical name, the Snowman Trek is one of the toughest, yet most rewarding treks in the world. Crossing 11 passes of up to 5,000m, the trail winds through villages and past remote monasteries with many 7,000m peaks towering above.
The 27-day trek is an immense challenge in terms of distance, altitude and stamina, with more westerners summiting Everest each year than completing this trek. However, the rewards are boundless. Not only will you get an incredible sense of achievement on completing the trek, you’ll also get to explore the remote reaches of Bhutan and all the incredibly enlightening culture that comes with it.
Another classic from Nepal, the Annapurna Circuit has long been a favourite among adventurers looking to experience the vast and incredible scenery of the Himalayas without the crowds that the Everest region typically attracts. The views are stunning and varied, from the paddy fields and pine forests of the lowlands to the high desert country of Manang and the dramatic scenery of the Thorung La Pass. Of course, you’ll be surrounded at all times by the vast soaring peaks of the Annapurna range and have the opportunity to soak up the incredibly unique culture of the region along the way.
One of Bhutan’s oldest trail follows an ancient mule track between the towns of Paro and Thimphu, with spectacular sights such as the Tiger’s Nest Monastery along the route. Taking just five days, it’s shorter than many of the Himalayan treks on this list but still with the same mind-boggling snow-clad scenery. You’ll pass by magnificent mountain lakes and rhododendron forests, overnighting in the most scenic of camping spots surrounded by panoramic views and a vast sky full of stars.
Despite straddling the border between Tibet and Nepal, Mount Everest is far more often seen from the Nepalese side, with few choosing to explore the lesser-visited Tibetan side of the border. Here, Everest’s infamous north face looms large over a vast glacier-ridden landscape.
The Kharta Valley trek promises spectacular views of the mountain, alongside mystical monasteries, temples and a good dose of traditional Tibetan culture. You’ll pass through stunning alpine meadows and nomadic yak herders to eventually reach the Kangshung Valley, where you’ll have the option to take a day hike alongside the glacier to visit Everest’s east face base camp and meet the expedition teams.
At 8,463m, Makalu is the world’s fifth highest peak, and commands attention from the surrounding landscape of the Makalu Barun National Park. Despite being home to a major player in the mountain world, the area remains relatively untouched thanks to its remote location and the popularity of the neighbouring Everest region. This means you’ll have the breath-taking views of the Shipton La Pass and nearby Makalu all to yourself. Wildlife-lovers will also be in for a treat with the opportunity to spot rare species, including the elusive red panda and several species of leopard.
If you fancy swapping two feet for two wheels and experiencing the majesty of the Himalayas by mountain bike, why not take a ride on the wild side with a mountain biking tour across the roof of the world. Cycle in the shadow of Everest from Lhasa to Kathmandu and experience the world’s longest and steepest mountain biking decent; a whopping 681 miles of downhill from the Tibetan Plateaux all the way down to the rice fields of Nepal.
You’ll journey on ancient Tibeten roads and even have the chance to visit the iconic Everest Base Camp by bicycle, which is a unique experience in itself. Check it out here.
Iconic Himalayan Treks: how to do it
Thinking of ticking one of these iconic Himalayan treks off your bucket list once and for all? We always recommend travelling with a reputable tour company such as Makalu Adventures, especially in extreme mountain environments such as these. The tours are led by experienced guides who know the area well and can easily mitigate risks as well as point out interesting flora and fauna you might not have spotted on your own. They’ll factor in time to acclimatise and organise all your transport on the ground while you’re there.
Trips booked through Makalu Adventures generally include accommodation, ground transportation and internal flights, plus some meals, all necessary equipment, permit fees and guides. Simply book your flight to the departure point of your tour and get ready for an unforgettable adventure.