What is happening?
Now it’s all certain! Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA)/Kathmandu Airport will close from 10 pm to 8 am every day for runway maintenance from April 1st to June 30th 2019. This operation is going to impact all international and domestic flights but the most affected will be the flights to Lukla. Every season thousands of tourists fly to Lukla to complete their dream of trekking to Everest Base Camp, climbing Mera Peak, Island Peak or Lobuche Peak. Besides, all Everest expeditions from the south side also operate via Lukla.
What does this mean to you?
During this time, all flights to/from Lukla are rerouted from Kathmandu Airport to Manthali Airport, Ramechhap as the Kathmandu Airport will be shut down completely from 10 pm to 8 am every day.
Though the flight time will be comparatively shorter (50 minutes for round trip), you are required to travel to Ramechhap from Kathmandu to catch your Lukla flight and retrace the same route while returning back to the city. Due to this new arrangement, there are certain things you should know before travelling to Lukla.
In the meantime, please be informed that there will still be a couple of flights from Kathmandu to Lukla after 8 am once the airport opens but we don’t think it will be sensible to wait for those flights. The air traffic and landings at the airport can cause delays and we all know that the weather in Lukla is slightly notorious. The later the flights, the higher the chances for the weather in Lukla to go unfavorable. So, the best option is to fly to Lukla via Manthali Airport.
Where is Manthali Airport?
Manthali Airport (493 m. /1617 ft) is situated approximately 132 km east of Kathmandu on the bank of Tama Koshi River in Manthali, a municipality and headquarter of Ramechhap district. As it is the closest airport in the eastern part of Nepal from Kathmandu, the airport poses itself as the best option to fly to Lukla in the present situation. The airport also used to operate Lukla flights during air traffic congestion at Kathmandu Airport (TIA) in the past.
How to get there?
You can travel to Manthali Airport by road. It takes about 4-5 hours to reach there depending on the traffic. As you will have to reach Manthali early to catch your flight, you can either travel there one day prior to the flight or leave Kathmandu very early in the morning around 3 am. In both cases, it’s better to take a private transfer to Manthali as the local transfer timings do not match with the flight timings. More specifically, you don’t get any early morning local buses. And in their regular run also, you can never be sure about their punctuality.
*If you have booked your travel arrangements from travel agencies or directly with the airlines, they should take care of your transportation, which in most likely case will be a private transfer.
Where to stay?
Manthali is not a very well facilitated place as it is not used to receiving a huge number of travelers. Accommodation facilities are limited and the service is basic. Due to the present situation with many travelers travelling via Manthali this season, it is very likely that you will not find an accommodation easily. Also, flight crew and staffs from the airlines will be occupying most of the hotels in the area.
So, in this situation, a better option for you is to go for accommodations at Mulkot, from where Manthali Airport is just an hour’s drive. Accommodations at Mulkot are far better and you will also save the trouble of finding an accommodation in Manthali.
What we think is best for you?
To tackle this situation, Explore Himalaya made a recent trip to Manthali to plan our operations and find the best solution for you. We think that driving early morning to Manthali for 4-5 hours and then boarding the Lukla flight half asleep will be very inconvenient for our clients. It will make your day very hectic and not leave you in a good spirit to start your trek up to Phakding or Monjo.
The best way to deal with this change is to drive to Mulkot one day earlier. Mulkot is a small settlement, from where Manthali Airport is just 37 km away (1 hour’s drive). This not only breaks the monotony of a long drive but also makes things comfortable for you as Mulkot has good standard accommodation facilities, which Manthali lacks. One can stay comfortably in a hotel in Mulkot, wake up at 5 am the next morning and drive an hour to the airport for the flight. This will not make the day tiring at all and the schedule of your trek will also not be affected.
Another reliable option – if you have pretty deep pockets – would be opting for a helicopter upgrade and flying to Lukla straight from Kathmandu. The Kathmandu helipad area will not be affected and you can have heli flight to Lukla from 6.30 am onwards. The upgrade could cost you a top up of USD 250-500 per person depending on the payload and availability.
We hope that this blog has been helpful to you. For any further queries, please feel free to contact Explore Himalaya at +977-1-4418 100, 4418 400 or write us to firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s no more a hidden fact that Nepal is a trekker’s paradise. Why wouldn’t it be, after all it’s the Land of Superlatives! Most of the highest mountains on Earth including the highest one Everest, the deepest gorge Kali Gandaki Gorge, the highest navigable pass Thorang-La, the highest Lake Tilicho are just a few of the wonders that Nepal has. However, dramatic landscape is not the only highlight of Nepal. Nepal is also a land of unbelievable natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. So, since Nepal opened its door to the world in 1950s, it has been welcoming quite an impressive portion of trekkers and wilderness fanatics to its iconic trekking regions. Let’s take a peek on top 5 trekking regions of Nepal.
1. Everest Region
Why Everest Region is the most favored trekking destination is quite self explanatory. However the region is not just the home of Everest! The Region, also known as Khumbu region, nestles an endless range of many other Himalayan giants, rich biodiversity of Sagarmatha National Park, the UNESCO World Heritage Site and unique Sherpa culture. In addition to that, the trail is quite well facilitated with comfortable local amenities, which gives the mountain lovers one more reason to visit the land of Everest.
2. Annapurna Region
When it comes to beauty and diversity, no other places in the world can beat Annapurna region. Rewarding views of some of the highest peaks along the Annapurna massif, diverse landscapes from subtropical to alpine to desertic rain shadow, deep gorges, challenging passes and time tested civilizations, the region is simply unbelievable. And as a cherry on top, the region also offers some of the easiest trekking options! No surprise, the region has been a mecca for trekkers all the time!
3. Manaslu Region
Manaslu Region is comparatively less facilitated than Everest and Annapurna region. However, the fact hasn’t made people less enthusiastic about the region. In fact, those who want to avoid butt-brushing crowd during peak seasons choose Manaslu area for more solitude and pristine experience. And they also get a chance of tête-à-tête with Mt. Manaslu, world’s eighth highest mountain.
4. Langtang Region
Langtang Region is a mere 19km from the Kathmandu Valley- just a stone’s throw away! And still it has all the highlights of the Himalaya – snow-capped peaks, glaciers (actually it’s called the Valley of Glaciers), dramatic hills, freezing lakes, wide pasturelands, highland settlements, and the culture that takes you back in time. If you want the Himalayan experience in shorter timeframe, Langtang is for you. Langtang was heavily devastated by earthquake in 2015 but it’s already well on its way.
5. Kanchanjunga Region
So, finally here comes Kanchanjunga Region, the home of Mt Kanchanjunga, the third highest peak in the world. If we say, it’s a beautiful place, it would be a sheer understatement. The skyline which is always dominated by mighty mountains, wooded areas, roaring rivers, quaint villages- Kanchanjunga is sure to turn you into a mystic, maybe “Into the Wild” star of course without the bus episode!
Annapurna Base Camp has been a mecca for trekkers all the time. Either you are a beginner in the world of trekking or an aficionado for whom mountains are the second home, Annapurna region never ceases to lure the hungry feet of all sorts. And everyone knows the reason why – Annapurna Base Camp Trek is one of most rewarding treks in the Himalayas yet one of the easiest one! However, one should not be duped by the word “Easy”. There are certain things you need to know about Annapurna Base Camp Trek to make this adventure “a lifetime experience”.
There are three ways of doing trekking in Annapurna region– GAP, TH and Fully organized camping trek (FOT). The most popular are GAP and TH. GAP comes with Guide, Accommodation and Porter; whereas TH (teahouse) includes Guide, Accommodation, Porter and all meals. As the Annapurna region has adequate accommodation facility, FOT is not recommended. There is also a choice of travelling independently, but it’s not recommended considering the remoteness of the region.
Annapurna Base Camp Trek is rated as “Moderate to fairly challenging”. The trek goes through villages, rolling hills, forested area and then right into high mountain landscape leading to Annapurna South Base Camp (4130m), the highest point of the trek. It involves approx 6-8 hours trekking along rocky ridges. No previous experience is required, you should be moderately fit, used to some regular exercise and enjoy walking in the high altitude conditions.
Best Time to Travel
The best seasons to trek to Annapurna region is Autumn (from mid-September till November end), and Spring (from the beginning of March until mid-May). Temperatures will drop considerably as you trek higher every day. Travelling during winter (from December to February) is also possible but the temperature will be harsh and higher places will have heavy snow. Those who don’t like crowded trails and can bear extreme weather conditions can trek during this time. During monsoon (from mid May to mid-September), the weather is cloudy resulting in very poor visibility.
*March, April, October and November are the most popular and favored months for traveling.
The Gurungs form the largest group in the Annapurna region. They come from Tibeto Burmese stock. They inhabit the higher northern slopes of the Annapurna, Lamjung,Chuli and hills around Ganesh Himal. A large number of Gurung men serve in the British and Indian armies. The immediate vicinity of Pokhara is largely populated by Chettris and Brahmins. The Magars inhabit the lower trail between Baglung and Dana. They live high on the steep ridges along the tributaries of the Kali Gandaki. Another ethnic group of this region is the Thakalis. Known throughout the country as accomplished hoteliers and skilled traders, they are noted for their aggressive trading spirit. Baragaun Bhotiya, Lopa, Manages also inhabit in the region towards the northest of Annapurna region.
Climate, Flora & Fauna
The climate in the Annapurna region varies from subtropical to alpine. The southern slopes of the area has the highest rainfall rate in the country- 3000mm per year, whereas the northern slopes lying in the rain shadow has the lowest rate – less than 300mm per year. The difference in the climatic conditions in this region is responsible for its varied flora and fauna.The Southern lowlands are lush with subtropical forests consisting of chirpine and alder. In the Northern highlands temperate forests of oaks, rhododendron, fir, and blue pine are found. The wet regions yield a variety of bamboo species. The higher altitude further North give rise to forests of birch, blue pine and juniper trees. The area is also rich in wildlife. There are around four hundred and seventy-four species of birds, and around a hundred species of mammals. The Annapurna region serves as an excellent habitat for rare and endangered mammals like the snow leopard, musk deer, blue sheep, red panda and many of Nepal’s brilliantly plumaged pheasants.
The trail on Annapurna Base Camp does not go too high i.e. not above 4130m, so chances of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) are very low. Though Altitude Sickness has the potential to affect all travelers from 2500m and higher, itinerary should be planned in such a way that you make very gradual ascent, spending some days at a low elevation to build necessary acclimatization before walking up to Annapurna South Base Camp at 4130m (the highest point on this trek). If you have ever suffered from altitude sickness, or have a heart or breathing complaint, consult your doctor about your suitability for trekking in high altitude areas before planning the trip.
Consult your doctor at least 2 months prior to your trip. Let your doctor know about the area you are travelling to. It is especially important if you have ever suffered from altitude sickness, or have a heart or breathing complaint. If you are travelling with a travel agency, normally your team carries a medical kit with standard prescribed medicines along with a users’ manual which you can use upon your own risk. It’s better to carry your own personal first aid kit.
As vaccination requirements change frequently, we suggest you to consult your doctor at least 2 months prior to the beginning of your trip. We recommend protection against malaria, tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis and polio.
Your travel insurance must cover cancellation, medical expenses, helicopter evacuation and emergency repatriation if you are trekking in Nepal.
In case of a serious sickness or a casualty (which we hope won’t happen), helicopter rescue and evacuation is available. Since you are entirely liable for all the expenses incurred in evacuation please make sure that it is covered by your insurance before assigning for it or be prepared to pay on your own after getting back to Kathmandu.
During trek your main luggage will be carried by porters or pack animals (usually yaks or cross breeds). You simply carry a day pack with water bottle, camera, sun-screen, spare jacket, etc. – a small load that allows full enjoyment of the trek. A trek bag is ideal for your main luggage, plus a small lockable bag for anything that you do not need during your trek which you can leave at hotel’s locker room/safe deposit box in Kathmandu.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on this. Just be rational on your choice. You need walking boots, sleeping bag (4 seasons/ -20C rated), waterproof jacket and trousers, fleece jacket, warm hat and gloves, sunglasses, water bottle, sun-screen, day pack etc.
As geographical variation is very wide, you should go with layering style. While trekking in Annapurna region during the day at lower altitudes, lightweight trekking trousers and T-shirts are recommended. It’s always a good idea to carry a waterproof jacket and some warmer clothing with you as mountain weather is notoriously unpredictable. For the cold nights, thermal underwear, a warm fleece jacket and even a down jacket will help to keep you warm. Good shoes are of great importance.
*If you book with a travel company, they will provide you a complete list of gears and clothing.
In Nepal’s domestic airlines the weight allowance is 15 Kgs. Excess weight is chargeable about USD 1.5 or more per Kilo depending on sectors.
You will find plenty of modest tea houses along the trekking trail. You can stay in single rooms where possible, but often you may have to share. Rooms are basic, normally just a bed with a pillow and blankets. So a sense of adventure is required. In Kathmandu and Pokhara, you can find a wide range of star rated hotels.
Food and Water
You can find a considerable variety of Nepali and Western food as well as drinks (coffee, tea, milk, soft drinks, and beer) along the Annapurna Base Camp trail. You can also buy bottled water in local lodges and shops. However, it’s a sensible thing to bring water purification pills. Also, make sure that your day pack is well stocked with snacks, chocolates and bars.
You can either take a 30 minutes’ scenic flight or drive (6/7 hours) to Pokhara. From Pokhara, you have to drive to Nayapool (approx. 2 hours), the starting point of the trek.
You can expect to spend around 2500-3000 Rupees a day for your basic food and snacks (excluding accommodation and transportation as they vary widely depending on the level of service). Tips are appreciated by your support team after the trip. The amount depends on your budget and appreciation of their work. You can allocate 5- 10 % of the total tour cost as tips.
There are a plenty of telephone facilities in the Annapurna region. Cell phones work throughout the trail.. However, keep in mind that it can’t be as smooth as in lowlands. If it is important for you to keep in contact with your family or others, you can get a rental satellite phone.
Money exchange is not a problem in Kathmandu and Pokhara. You can find many local certified moneychangers. But same can’t be expected during trek. So, make sure that you have enough local money during your trek. Card payment (Visa, MasterCard, JCB and American Express) is also widely accepted in tourist- class hotels, restaurants and shops in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Travelling is not just about what you get, it is also about what you leave. Try to leave positive impact behind. Respect the mountains, its fragile environment and the local culture. Choose the responsible service providers only. Go through “Dos and Donts in Nepal” thoroughly before travelling to Nepal.
All the best for your adventure in Annapurna!!
This October has been quite exciting for us as we had a wonderful opportunity to operate an amazing off-the-beaten trip to Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, the only hunting reserve of Nepal, for a group of 13 trekkers from Kipling Travel Denmark. Dhorpatan, which is one of the least known trekking areas in Nepal, literally means “dhor – the marshland” and “patan – the pastureland”. Beside the hunting reserve, the region is also famous for numerous pastureland, Kham settlements, rich wildlife and impressive views of the Himalayas. Though the hunting reserve, which is the major highlight of the trip, was established in 1985, the area was developed as a trekking region quite recently, the fact that also made the trip even more special.
The trip started with the group’s arrival in Kathmandu on 7th October followed by a flight to Pokhara the next day. Upon reaching Pokhara, they drove to Beni, which is the district headquarter of Myagdi and the starting point of the trek. On 9th October, leaving the traces of modernity behind, they continued through the untouched countryside along the shadows of Mt Dhaulagiri (8167m), the 7th highest peak in the world. Passing through the welcoming villagers, pristine jungles, wide meadows, sparkling rivers, the Jaljala Pass (3400m) and the amazing views of mountain ranges including the Annapurnas, Dhaulagiri and Gurja Himal, the group finally reached the hunting reserve on 12th October.
The next day they explored the surrounding nature and spent a night before retracing their journey back to Pokhara. However, that was not the end of the fun! Once they were back in Kathmandu, they had a full day sightseeing in the UNESCO Heritage sites of Kathmandu namely Pashupatinath, one of the world’s biggest Hindu shrine; Boudhanath, one of the world’s biggest Buddhist stupa and Kathmandu Durbar Square, an artistic palace courtyard dating back to medieval time. Finally, after about two weeks’ of adventure and fun, the group departed to their home on 19th October. As it is said, trekking in Nepal always comes with organic taste, this trip in particular offered a real experience of authentic trekking in Nepal which our members are going to keep in their for long.
It’s quite understandable that Nepal always conjures up the world of towering mountains, distant valleys, misty grooves and highland cultures in everyone’s mind. And there comes the instant urge to ramble on the rugged trail and hug the mountains. However, Nepal is not just about meeting mountains only. There are many unique things to do in Nepal, definitely not as bizarre as going for yeti hunting, but are still much cooler than many other trendy activities.
You probably don’t know but Nepal is also the host of world’s highest skydiving adventure in the world. Yes, you have heard it right and this tiny Himalayan country is increasingly being a popular hub for extreme adventure seekers. The skydivers take leap from an AS350 B3 Helicopter at the height of 29500ft next to Everest and land at Syangboche Airport (12340ft) and Ama Dablam Base Camp (15,000ft). It gives the adventure aficionados the opportunity to get their names into the international record books and make history. The event takes place every year in October/November. After its continuous success, Everest Skydive company has also launched its Pokhara edition since 2103.
Treacherous cliff, swarm of angry bees and just a dangling slender rope ladder to hold your life – can anyone think of any other act as extreme as this? This daring act is performed, every Spring and Autumn, by Gurung and Magar tribesmen of Annapurna region in a bid to harvest hallucinogenic honey of the giant Himalayan wild bees from their nests overhanging on the vertical rock faces. This practice is also found among other communities in lesser known areas like Dhading, Jharlang across Ganesh Himal and Arun Valley of Makalu Barun area. As this practice is carried out in an insanely extreme working condition by just using some primitive tools, it can be rightly called as a testament of the perseverance and fortitude that equals any death defying endurance feat. Honey hunting tour is all about witnessing this insanely unbelievable act which people are following for centuries.
Nepal’s rich cultural heritage also includes Shamanic practices. This ancient healing practice is attracting many western scholars and practitioners nowadays. You can see the shamans in their séances, in their frenzies communicating with the other worlds and curing villagers. Such tours allow you to experience a different world of belief. You will not just see the miraculous performance of the shamans but also witness the unshakable belief of the villagers and their stories. Not something to be missed if you are interested in people and old age tradition.
Nepali is full of welcoming people. They are always open for intercultural interactions. Volunteering offers one of the best platforms to mingle with this ever welcoming people. It’s a two way learning process – you give your knowledge and take their insight. You can work in the areas like school education, health, community development, forest conservation, agriculture, culture preservation, fund raising and maintenance of the public/communal buildings. Volunteering is one of the best ways to travel responsibly where you are no more a guest but a community member!
It is truly said about Nepal that “once is not enough”. It is a land of endless beauty. Be it the Game of thrones like landscape of Himalayan desert or rolling hills of tea gardens, there is much to offer than just the beauty of Everest and Annapurna. Places like Kanchanjungha, Makalu Barun, Rolwaling Valley, Dhaulagiri Region, Khaptad, Dhorpatan, Dolpo, Ilam, Langtang, Panch Pokhari, Rara, Nar Phu, Tsum Valley etc are just few to name. These places are not less in beauty but offer more authentic experience of travelling as you can have the nature all by yourself without brushing your shoulders with others.