Village Trekking in Nepal: Why It’s Underrated
As the established trekking routes of Nepal have become flooded with tourists, other “unknown” trails have still remained a secret and maintain their authentic charm.
Uncharted by tourists, the rustic villages of Nepal’s countryside offer breathtaking beauty and untouched grandeur. However, their remoteness makes them reachable only by foot and their lack of a dedicated trekking route, means they’re a challenge to reach.
For adventurer’s seeking a type of freedom that doesn’t come with established routes, charting your own path (village-by-village) will be a freeing offbeat experience that you’ll never forget.
The rugged trails that connect one remote village to another, aren’t for the faint of heart. The difficulty might be a shock for those who haven’t trained and improved their fitness, as the narrow paths climb steeply through talus and dense humid forests.
And when the forests grows too dense to cross, your guide will unsheathe his traditional Nepalese kukri to clear a path that’ll ultimately lead you to a panoramic Himalayan vista.
As your route continues the steep climb up eroded gullies between tangled roots, the overgrown tree tops will eventually obstruct your mountain views. And while the Himalayas remain hidden, the forest is truly an enchanting place to walk; lichens and mosses paint the scene in vivid colors.
Not to mention, waterfalls are abundant throughout the forest; with a density per square kilometer that rivals a Starbucks franchise in any metropolitan city.
After an arduous day of walking and finding your trail legs, you’ll get to rest and restore at a farm stay (an extra room at a local s home) – where you’ll be treated with hospitality that makes you feel like an extended member of the family.
The accommodation will be spartan, but you’ll be warmly welcomed and fed large portions of energizing Dal Bhat. And once you’ve stuffed your belly full of this Nepalese goodness, the mountains will patiently await you outside… on display with increasingly astonishing views.
Peacefulness comes easy in such an idyllic and remote environment…
After a couple days of taking in the mountain vistas, traversing across farms and meandering along some of the overgrown paths, you’ll feel an overwhelming sense of calmness. A rare type of calmness that reflects the serenity of the enviroment you’re in.
The locals of each quaint little village will reflect this inner peace as well – which is manifested in their over-the-top generosity.
They’ll wave to you as you pass by and be curious of your presence. In a flash, they’ll go from working the fields to seeing if there’s anything that you need help with – from directions, to water, and even food. Their generosity knows no bounds.
By interacting with these local Nepali families, you’re getting much more than a conversation; it’s a true cultural exchange and a chance to experience of the innate warmth of the Nepali people.
For example… if you look tired, they’ll most likely invite you into their home for tea and snacks. Some of them will even insist on giving you a quick tour of their humble abode.
In general, they just want to help you in any minor way that they can, with zero expectations of anything in return.
In a refreshing environment that’s free of scheduled tourism and crowded trails, you’ll be able to find solitude when walking to and from villages.
Outside of your guide, the main people you’ll see on the trails are hard-working farmers – who will happen to be some of the strongest and nicest people you’ll ever meet…
Men and women (of all ages), will be carrying towering loads of 20-50 kg on their back… all while walking barefoot or in sandals, across rugged terrain.
To manage these heavy loads, the Nepalese farmers use a simple yet effective piece of gear – a woven bamboo basket called doko.
The load they carry goes into the doko, which rests like a glove on their back and with a strap (namlo) that wraps around the crown of the head. Due to this technique, the Nepalese are able to maintain a straight back and achieve axial load distribution – meaning they can haul heavy weight without any high-end equipment.
It’s truly an amazing feat to witness and will serve to humble you. If anything, seeing them will influence you to have a better posture while trekking.
Outside of the load-hauling farmers, you’ll also come across playful kids in larger villages – ones that’ll want to get their picture taken.
“Hello” will echo from a distance as soon as they spot you. And as soon as you respond, they’ll run up up to you and say “camera, camera… picture, picture.”
Whether you’re rocking a smartphone with a moment lens or a lightweight Fujifilm camera, indulge them and snap a photo… it’ll brighten your day and theirs.
While Annapurna and Everest Base Camp are great trekking options, don’t overlook the possibility of exploring Nepal through a local lens. Consider doing a lesser known tea house trek like Mardi Himal and then doing a supplementary village trek where you’ll spend nights with local families and be more engrained in rural Nepali life.
We did several village trekking routes, of which only one had a name (Dampus). The others weren’t established and our path was solely based on directions that our guide received from local villagers. As for the trails, they ranged from well-groomed to technical and featured quite a bit of scrambling and muddy ridge walks – you’ll need to be in shape before you go.
Overall… if you are looking for epic scenery, intimate encounters with local people and their ancient culture, then village trekking might just be for you.
#1 Leave most of your gear at a hotel in Pokhara and only take the essentials. The trails can be rugged and some days will be long (think 30 km with a lot of up and downs). Keep your gear as light as possible (a sample gear list is below).
#2 Book an independent guide once you arrive in town (stay away from pre-planned tours). Most guides will charge you $5-10 a day + farm stay fees. You’ll also need to book a 4WD from Pokhara to your village of choice – on the way back, just hike down to the nearest valley and then find a normal taxi.
#3 In regards to lodging… no matter what village you end up in, there will always be a family willing take you in for $15 a night, including a dinner of Dal Bhat. Just don’t expect much in the way of “comfort,” and you’ll have a good time.
#4 Don’t pack any meals or cook system, only pack snacks. Every village will have a local home that farmers go to for Dal Bhat and fresh yak yogurt. These homes aren’t restaurants with signs – your guide will have to spot them with a keen eye.