The majestic Himalaya Mountains, the tallest in the world, can intimidate even the most experienced mountain climber. They are huge, running from Pakistan in the west all the way to Burma in the east. Hundreds of people have died climbing the mountain range’s greatest peak, no, the world’s greatest peak – Mount Everest. While the climb up Mount Everest is by far the most famous trek, there are actually an endless number of treks through these mountains, with many being much more accessible to beginners.
The best beginner treks – easy, safe routes that even a moderately healthy and active person should be able to tackle – are located in Nepal. The country’s most popular treks are well patrolled, safe with many responsible guides available for hire, and relatively easy with no technical mountain climbing experience necessary. Trekking in these mountains was once very difficult. Now a days though, the region is filled with perfectly spaced guesthouses to rest and grab food after a few hours of hiking, well marked and maintained trails, and guides that will help you navigate the physical elements while introducing you to the local culture. There are even now “luxury treks” that allow hikers to hike during the day, through Nepal’s gorgeous mountains, and rest each night in a different “luxury” mountain lodge.
As you can see, trekking in the Himalayas is a lot less scary than stories of Everest make it sound. There are difficult trails and the dangers of altitude sickness and injury are quite real, but in general, these mountains hold a few nice, easy treks just perfect for beginners. One of the most popular, and the one we recommend, is the Annapurna Circuit.
The Annapurna Circuit
The Annapurna Circuit is easily one of the most popular Himalayan treks. Located in Nepal, the trek usually takes around 17-21 days though you can spread it out to take in more of the local culture or if you wish to travel at a slower, less strenuous pace. The circuit is usually traveled in a counter-clockwise direction and passes through both Hindu and Buddhist regions. It is a great way to experience the multiple ecological and cultural regions of Nepal, ranging from rice field paddies to snowy mountain peaks.
Before you ever hit the trail, you will need two permits to trek along the Annapurna Circuit – the Annapurna Conservation Area Permit and the Trekkers Information Management System card. Next up is deciding if you want to hire a porter or not and figuring out what gear you might need to rent or buy. Trekking here is not “middle of nowhere” hiking. You can easily find a nice bed to sleep in at night so while a sleeping bag is a good idea, you don’t really need a tent unless you want to frequently campout. Many people find that they don’t have enough gear to justify hiring a porter but doing so is still worth considering. Porters make enough doing one trek to support their families for months and having a guide is a nice way to discover hidden, side treks or to learn more about the local culture, especially if your porter can speak a bit of English.
Once you are on the trek, you will realize why this is the most often recommended trek for beginners. Each day you really only need to walk 5-6 hours, along paths that are sometimes steep but never too difficult, and every few hours you will come along little villages and tea houses where you can stop for a break, a snack, or for the night. Besides the easy of the trail, the region is also gorgeous with some of Nepal’s deepest valleys, tallest peaks, and most diverse ecosystems all part of the experience.