I was asked by my boss last week why could he find an Everest Base Camp trek online for just under ₹55,000, when the one MHE offers is more expensive. “YOU HAVE TO MAKE IT MORE AFFORDABLE” he said.
Let me say at the start, you get what you pay for. if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. And always read the fine print.
Let’s assume you select the EBC-Gokyo trip offered by one of "India’s Largest Trekking Community". The listed price is around ₹54,590 - for their September/October 2017 departure. What does that include? Here's a quick comparative, to help you out:
Yes, at first glance we look more expensive. Once you add in all the above, you’ll find that you aren’t saving much at all, and adding a lot of aggravation to your trip.
Our prices include all taxes, staff, accommodation on twin share, food on trek, the required drinking water of 5 - 6 litres per day for every trekking day and transport from the time you land in Kathmandu to the time you leave for home.
Perhaps most importantly, all our guides and sherpas have relevant experience and training, certified by the Nepal government, and as with all MHE trips, your safety is our prime concern. There will always be an experienced MHE trip leader; we won’t leave you to wander the trail on your own, and if you feel unwell there’s always a sherpa by your side. If you need to be medically evacuated, a quick decision will be made, the insurance company contacted and if weather permits, you will be airlifted as soon as possible.
We are upfront, we are responsible, we’ve got decades of field experience, and we care about you. Do let us know if you'd like us to refer you to guests who have done this trek with us - feel free to speak with them directly.
Teahouses or lodges are the standard accommodation on a trek in Nepal. They offer rooms with beds, communal dining rooms, bathrooms (sometimes attached) and home cooking. At MHE, we aim to secure the best lodge accommodation in every location. Please remember, that the location and altitude plays a big part in the style and services of accommodation available.
Depending on the location and your budget, they will be anything from a basic wooden/stone construction with the bare minimum facilities, to places with hot water, electrical outlets in the room, and wifi facilities. The higher you go, the more basic the accommodation is.
The local tea houses are basic but clean and they do not often have attached bathrooms or hot showers. The price is based on twin share and does not include any extra charge that lodge owners may levy for single rooms, attached bathrooms or hot showers (if these facilities are available) or for battery charging. We can’t know in advance what they may charge for such things in the different lodges along the way, so we prefer to leave this cost out, rather than pass along an estimated charge to you. We cannot guarantee that if you would like a single room on trek, that you will be able to get one. We will always try our best, but supply and demand in some cases means that it just isn't possible.
All building material, from wood, to glass for windows, mattresses, blankets, cooking pots, bathroom fittings, has to be flown to Lukla and then carried by porters up the trail. Satellite dishes, gas cylinders for heating water, foodstuffs, beer, soft drinks and snacks are also carried up from the airport at Lukla by porters, donkeys or yaks. This costs time and money.
Since many lodges were damaged in the earthquake in 2015, rebuilding was a priority. The Nepal government was extremely slow in handing out cash for this, and many lodge owners sank all their savings into rebuilding as best they could, so that they would have a functioning business when tourists returned. Whatever facilities they have managed to provide from their often limited resources, is to make your trek more comfortable.
In lodges located from Lukla to Namche Bazaar, you will be surprised to find that most rooms will have an attached bathroom – though not like a hotel – which may have hot water and a shower head – but most likely a bucket – and comfortable mattresses and blankets or duvets.
Once you leave Namche Bazaar for the higher, more remote elevations, the lodges become simpler, and attached bathrooms are a rarity. The rooms will not have electrical outlets, and you will have to ask the lodgeowner to recharge your gadgets. Most of these places use solar power, so if it hasn’t been sunny there will be very limited electricity available for lights in the lodge, and you may not be able to fully charge gadgets. There is, of course a separate charge for this service.
You will always get a room which has a wooden bed base, a mattress of some sort, a pillow, and a blanket or duvet. There will usually be a window, a door, and a light fitting. Perhaps even somewhere to hang your jacket. The rooms aren’t large, as all you are doing is sleeping in there. We always recommend you bring a sleeping bag as we cannot guarantee the warmth or cleanliness of the blankets – it’s rather hard to wash and dry them in the mountains. Everyone sits in the communal dining room for meals, tea and chats. There will usually be a heater of some sort in the communal dining room ONLY, which keeps you warm and helps dry out your socks and boots. Bedrooms are unheated.
The kitchen is usually a small affair with limited cooking points, so it is important to not order 20 different dishes and expect them to come out at the same time. This is why we usually stick to dal bhat – it’s easy, nutritious and quickly made. Hot water is always available for tea, soup, etc and you will be refilling your bottles from this. The water is often carried from a nearby stream if tank storage is not available, so please do not waste the water you have been given. You will find that a daily shower is not necessary or even desirable in the higher, colder places.
No matter the facilities in your teahouse, you will always find warm Sherpa hospitality, and those fantastic mountain views. So join us in Nepal!
I love everything about Nepal and Kathmandu – even the crazy streets, the nutty political situation, and the way everyone says ke garne and just gets on with life as best they can. Many travellers use Kathmandu as an overnight transit point to the mountains – but it really is worth spending a couple of days just wandering around (no need for lots of cabs to get to most places). Of course you can spend months there immersing yourself if you have the time and money!
If you like temples, Kathmandu has one on almost every corner! Sure, there’s Swayambunath, Bouddhanath, and Pashupatinath – the big 3 in the valley – but there are so many more smaller ones that are full of interesting things to see and experience. The best way to see them is to walk around the lanes near Asan, Thamel, Patan and Bhaktapur (the 2 other old cities of the valley apart from Kathmandu). You can’t really get lost and you’ll have a great time. You’ll see stone carvers, woodworkers, metalworkers, weavers and potters in action and maybe even get yourself something special to bring home.
Jewellery lovers will need to bring sacks of money with them to satisfy their shopping needs – Tibetan, Nepali, silver, turquoise, coral, amber, precious and semi precious stones are all available here at great prices. Traditional styles from across the various ethnic groups in Nepal, as well as modern ‘western style’ jewellery can be seen all across town – if you have an eye for quality you will be sure to find something.
Just about any sort of food – veg or nonveg – is available in Kathmandu and you will find anything your heart and stomach desires. Of course, you have to try momos, thukpa (Tibetan stew), the famous Bhaktapur curd, and for those who are of an adventurous nature when it comes to alcohol, raksi and Marpha apple brandy from the Annapurna region. There’s restaurants, bars, nightclubs and casinos to keep you occupied at night – though most things shut by 12.30 or so (restaurants usually open at 7am) you can still pack in a lot of fun in a few days and nights.
Judy grew up in Sydney and her first adventure was digging a hole under the fence at home at the ripe old age of 4. Since then she has spent over 25 years adventuring in Asia and she adores and lives in India.
When once asked "If you were a destination what would you be and why?" Her answer was, Nepal, because she's easy to get to know, friendly, a little eccentric, and sometimes surprising.
Judy has trekked extensively in Nepal for over 15 years and has completed most of the Great Himalaya Trail Nepal in exploratory treks.
There are so many treks in Nepal, it’s almost impossible to name just one as a favourite. There are 3 I really enjoyed, and recommend, depending on your available time and ability.
The first is the Tamang Heritage Trail, just a 7 hour drive north of Kathmandu, in the Ganesh Himal, bordering Tibet. The people are mostly Buddhist, and you will find tiny little gompas (often with fantastic folk tales involving Buddhist saints of long ago), farming communities and relatively unspoilt forests – with the chance of spotting some wildlife if you are lucky. It’s got great views, and friendly party loving people. It’s great for first timers, or seasoned trekkers who want something a bit different away from the crowds on main trails. There’s even a famous hot spring to soak in!
The Annapurna Circuit has been one of Nepal’s most popular treks for decades, and although it has changed a lot over time with the introduction of the road to Manang, it is still a beautiful and challenging trek. It’s the first trek I ever did in Nepal, and still has a special place in my heart for introducing me to the mountains. I’ll admit right now I bailed on the pass as my trekking partner had AMS, and I told him “We started together, we’ll finish together” and we turned around and went back the way we came. And we still enjoyed it – apart from his very bad headache and nausea. Since then I have been to the other side, again to the bottom of the pass – this time it was weather that stopped me. The mix of lowland Hindu and alpine Buddhist communities, the mountains all around you, and the spectacular flight from Jomsom to Pokhara past Mt Dhaulagiri are memories to last a lifetime. Spending a few days in Pokhara at the end is a great way to relax and reflect on this epic Himalayan trek.
If you aren’t sure about tackling a trek for more than a few days, but you want some real Nepali adventure, the 11 day Nepal Explorer trip is perfect. There’s rafting, bungy, a short trek in the lower Himalaya, a visit to Chitwan National Park, temples, and even a Vespa tour of Kathmandu which ends up at the famous Jazz Upstairs (Wednesday and Saturday only) for some home grown Nepali live music and great food. In Pokhara you can fly in an ultra light, paraglide, zipline, go boating on Phewa Tal, cycle round the lake, trek to the Peace Stupa or just enjoy sitting by the lake gazing at the mountains. It’s a super trip for all ages.
Summer is here and almost everyone I know is planning their getaway! It's time to check your car or your bike to see if it's good to go. What are the first few places that hit your mind when you think of a perfect holiday in India for the summers? Manali, Shimla, Mussorie, Sikkim or perhaps even Leh?
Most of these places sadly are crumbling under the burden of mass tourism. Why do we insist on going to the same overly crowded locations over and over again? Why are we not choosing to go to the offbeat places that are less commercialized? A place where there's the real touch of Mother Nature.
If you're in Maharashtra, I recommend places like Malshej Ghat and Bhandhardhara where you can enjoy some amazing valley views and fresh waterfalls.
Mori, a small village 6 hours from Dehradhun, deep in the lands of Uttrakhand lies a beautiful valley across the river Tons. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to explore this beautiful destination as an MHE Intern this summer. Long pine trees, a roaring river and perfect weather is what Mori is all about. The local village has a population of just 1500 people and it definitely deserves to be your dream destination this summer. Camping around the valley and trekking into the wild allows you to see deep valleys,high mountains, rivers, several different species of birds and you'll leave feeling completely mesmerized by nature. For Mountain biking lovers it’s nothing less than heaven.
Pushkar, a small town near Ajmer is home to Rajasthani culture over 2000 years old is another spot that's well worth a visit. The beautiful ghats around the Pushkar lake and the evening aarti brings a touch of spirituality in the lives of even the most reluctant traveller. The icing on the cake is the wonderful sunset which colors the sky orange.
If beaches are more your thing, then I'd recommend the stunning untouched beaches of Gokarna. Add to it, fantastic seafood and heritage temples and Gokarna becomes a lot more than just a scenic holiday.
I believe traveling should be going to places less known to the outer world, more culture than the plastic and beer bottles around. Talking to the local people and getting to know their lives is what I would call traveling, exploring the unexplored is what I would call traveling.
Tell me your favourite destination which is offbeat and undiscovered below in the comments.
Shahzada is a 20-year-old traveler with a dream of traveling the world on his bike. Going to unexplored places and meeting new people with different backgrounds and different cultures is the source of his joy and happiness.
A management graduate, Shahzada also runs a not for profit organization called Not Just Another Wish along with his friends. He is the MHE Intern for the summer of 2016.
Sitting in a cramped seat on coach can affect your posture, make you extremely claustrophobic and restless. The air on the aircraft is very dry and you often are dehydrated and tired when you get off the flight. Sitting for long periods can cause cramping, blood circulation issues and in some cases clots or DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis).
Here are tips I recommend to avoid issues on a long haul flight:
Jia is a Delhi based wellness coach, paleo chef, blogger and features writer. She runs a gluten free initiative called Petite Sweet Eats and run a blog on wellness called ‘Wandering for Wellness’ where she writes on food, travel, health, restaurants, cafes and spas in India and overseas.
NOTE: This story was originally published on Freya's blog http://blog.fatema.in/2010/07/chandratal-a-spitian-folklore/
A version of this story is also published in Kishore Thukral's book Spiti Through Legend And Lore.
Once upon a time, almost a hundred years ago there lived a lazy man in the village of Rangrik who was a burden on his wife since he did no work. One day this man decided to go to the Chandra Tal lake as he had heard a lot about it being beautiful. It was far from where he lived and a difficult trek but he thought it would be an excellent way to escape his wife and her nagging. So he left and walked for many days over mountains and passes. Finally when he was almost worn out he caught sight of the lake. It was indeed beautiful and he was so moved he sat down to play his flute and was soon lost in the music.
When he opened his eyes a while later there was a beautiful woman standing before him. She said, “Hello Gangrup, I am the Chandra Tal Fairy. Your music drew me here. I have fallen in love with you. Will you come and live with me in my kingdom? I promise to love you and keep you happy if you agree to play for me and love me.”
So Gangrup went with her to her underwater kingdom and they were very happy there through summer. Then as winter came the fairy asked Gangrup to go back home. He was unhappy and said he didn’t want to go as he would miss her. The Chandra Tal Fairy insisted that he had to leave but said he could come back next summer. She said she would miss him too and would await his return. However, she warned him not to tell anyone about them or else they would never be able to be together again.
Gangrup's family was overjoyed to see him as they had thought he had died when he did not return for months. Winter set in and Gangrup drank and slept as always, doing nothing else. One day when he was really drunk his wife was nagging him about some work she wanted done. He turned to her and said: “Shut up woman, don’t nag me or else I will go away to the Chandra Tal Fairy. She loves me.” Saying this he gulped down the last of his drink and passed out.
The next morning he remembered what had happened & started to cry. Everyone was concerned and kept asking him what happened but he just kept wailing. He passed the rest of the winter in mad grief and as soon as summer set in he left for the lake.
As soon as he got there he took out his flute and started to play. Soon enough the fairy emerged. She said: “I have just come to say good bye Gangrup. You mentioned me, you broke your oath and you've broken my heart.” Saying this she left. Gangrup fell to his knees and called after her crying. A while later she emerged holding a bundle. Gangrup was overjoyed thinking she had forgiven him. But she said “This is our daughter, born of our love, take her back with you.” Saying that she handed him the bundle and left.
Gangrup looked down at his daughter and gasped. She was the ugliest thing he had ever set his eyes on, covered in warts and boils and she was also very ill. He didn’t want to touch her but then filial love won and he took her along. However she died on the way. A broken hearted Gangrup carried her tiny body devoid of life, all the way home.
His family was stunned when he told them she was his daughter from the Chandra Tal Fairy. He buried her with all ceremony and built a memorial for her in the house. From then on his families luck changed and they became rich. After all, the little girl was also a Nortin (fairy).
His descendants are still alive today though they have moved to a new house (the old house still stands in ruins). They moved the memorial to the new house too and it can be still seen today.
Freya is a compulsive traveller, who also loves reading, and has dogs by the half dozen! To read more of her adventures, please visit her blog.
If Goa as the tiniest state of India draws a zillion tourists to it, then Sikkim as the second smallest state of the world's seventh largest country is no less magnetic. A peaceful, incredibly scenic and serene land that boasts of sweeping views of India's highest mountain peak - Khanchandzonga -, one of the world's highest lakes - Gurudongmar, the curvy one-of-a-kind road better known as the Zuluk loops, the endless varieties of Rhododendrons and Orchids, the gateway to the Orient better known as the Old Silk Route, and the cute plump Red Pandas that live amidst and eco diversity that's hard to beat.....Yes, this is Sikkim, the land of the Lepchas, Bhutias, Limbus and followers of Buddha.
I was here two months ago in October, a month that promises clear skies and uninterrupted views of the Himalayan range. Be prepared for some light showers, but overall, the views of the Kanchenjunga from Gangtok and Pelling are simply droolworthy.
I began my trip in Darjeeling, having taking the route via Mirik and later Kurseong. The little toy train track that runs parallel to the road, the steam engine with 2 little locos that slowly chugs by....the road trip to Darjeeling from Bagdogra will reward you with sights of tea gardens, vales and the cool crispy air with its calming properties.
Onward to Pelling, Lachen, Lachung, Gangtok and finally Kalimpong, my self-designed trip of 13 days was nothing short of spectacular. North Sikkim will already plumment to single degree temperatures in October, so make sure you are clothed appropriately. And to have witnessed the season's first snowfall in Thangu, enroute to Lachen, with the colours of autumn for company, can't be described in words.
Spare a thought for our remarkable Indian Army that braves this harsh terrain and sub zero temperatures to constantly maintain a vigil at our strategic Indo-Chinese border.
So while I did cover all the usual "touristy" spots that Sikkim would offer, this was more about an experience from the Coastal West to the North East and back again. Through West, North, South and into the East districts, the politeness and hospitality of people living in the mountainous regions is unsurpassed. The beauty of the landscape and its dwellers has left me very impressed. From the humble room service boy to the respectful driver to the innocent happy faces that wave out to you as you drive past, our simple fellow countrymen will keep your hearts warm regardless of the cold terrain. Mr Modi, I think you have missed the point here. This country overall, and these regions in particular, are badly in need of tarred surface connections rather than E connections.
Along with travel comes discovery. Of lands and yourself. Along with fun comes gratitude and wisdom. To know how well placed you are compared to your countrymen in difficult terrains. Along with revelations comes a renewed vigour. Of finding beauty in unexpected places. And I close my eyes and recall the golden light on the snow clad range. Yes, the mountains beckoned. I obeyed. I followed. My travels have a purpose. And I know I am in a better place now with stronger resolves and calmer thoughts. To wander with wonder. This is my journey of discovery.
Thinking of doing something different in 2017? It's never too late to pick up a new interest and learn a new skill. If you're looking for something active, come skiing in Gulmarg!
Needless to say, the vistas are stunning and with our in-house national level skier and CEO as the coach, you know you're in good hands.
That said, if you're still looking for reasons (really?) here's our TOP 5:
Himachal Pradesh has some stunning mountain treks to be savoured. These mountains are so beautiful and offer so much variety, from the trans Himalayan districts of Lahaul and Spiti, to the green Dhauladhars that it becomes difficult to choose what I would call the top 5 treks here, however, I will list my favourites and tell you why I chose them.
Chandratal to Baralacha
An introductory trek to the area of the trans Himalaya. Today you can drive almost to this beautiful lake nestled amid green meadows where shepherds graze their sheep and the buttercups turn up their deep yellow faces to brighten your path. After an acclimatising day here, you start your walk along the valley of the Chandra river up to the cross roads of the Himalaya - the Baralacha Pass. The walk is along scree slopes and across streams, watching the spread of the river into myriad, silvered channels when the valley spreads, and growing into a raging torrent where it narrows. You camp in meadows by streams, observing the nomadic shepherds and getting some of their stories. You finally top out into a chocolate and cream world at the top of the Baralacha pass. This is the cross roads into the valleys of the Chandra, the Bhaga, the Spiti and the Tsarap rivers. Basically the head waters of the Chenab, the Sutlej and the Zanskar rivers. A trek I would grade as comfortable if you have taken the precautions that altitude always demands.
Duration : 5 basic trekking days, add a few for acclimatising and travel to and from. 7 to 8 days.
Season: Mid May through September.
For inspiration on treks in the Chandratal area click here.
The Indrahar Pass or Across the Dhauladhar
This is one of the most used passes across the Dhauladhar, traditionally used by shepherds getting their flocks from Kangra into the high pastures around Barmour in the Ravi valley.
I first did this trek following the shepherds, starting from Macleodganj, across the pass and down into the valley of the Ravi river. It is a green trek on both sides unlike the passes that cross the Great Himalayan ranges. You get to see, if interested, the Tibetan community in exile and their temple, school and monastery where the ancient tibetan arts are being revived. Then once you cross the pass you come into the valley where ancient Hinduism has been preserved in the temples of Bharmour and Chamba. No conquests got to this protected valley and thus the ancient art of the miniature painting was preserved as well as the unspoilt temples.
Duration: 6 -7 trek days, add 3 for travel. 10 days.
Season: mid May - June. Sept - Nov.
The Pin Parvati Pass
This is a magical trek, up along the valley of the Parvati river, which branches off the Kullu valley. You visit the temple and gurudwara at Manikaran and hear the legend of the hot spring. Carry on up along this beautiful river to the village of Pulga where you start your trek. Up above the hydro electric project you start walking to Khir Ganga, where you can lie in a hot bath to soak our your first days aches - carry on up the valley till you reach the holy lake Mantalai, the source of the Parvati and said to be a tantric centre of great power. This is where you challenge across the Pass starts - this is normally glaciated and a long pass to cross, but it brings you across into the Pin River valley and the village of Mud, where you meet the road head and drive into the Spiti valley. On the one side you start with green forest walking through oak and red rhododendron trees, to where the red of the rhododendron turns to pink, lavender and then white as it turns from a tree to a shrub with the changing altitude. Then across the pass - you meet the spiring rock and dust mountains of a land where time stood still and the mind has room to soar.
Duration: 7 -8 trek days, add 4 for travel. 12- 14 days.
Season: mid May - June. Sept - Nov.
The Chandrakhani Pass
Himachal is a fast progressing state where the roads are providing connectivity almost everywhere, but there are still a few areas that need to be accessed by foot. This pass takes you from the Kullu valley into the Parvati valley via the ancient village of Malana. A lost village in it’s high mountain fastness protecting a people and culture based on the ancient Greek. From the meadows of the Bijli Mahadev temple which you reach through forests of high deodar, you climb through the Chandrakhani pass, down to Malana village and on to the road head near Kasol. A village that has grown to be a hub of young tourists with all sorts of cafe’s and bars. Malana has gained fame as defining of the quality of marijuana that grows there, however, the trek is a lovely walk through great mountain scenery.
Duration: 3 -4 trek days, add 2 for travel. 6 - 7 days.
Season: mid May - June. Sept - Nov.
The village home stay trail in Spiti
To get the truly local flavour and experience the real life style of the people of Spiti, this is a trek that takes you from village home to village home, meeting and living with the families, eating off the produce from their fields - peas, potatoes, beans and the various flours and Satu grains. Wonderfully healthy all that walking, fresh air and fresh food. Then there is the food for the mind and soul that the very essence of the mountains, and the complete sense of immensity and space provide. You can also visit the monasteries along the way, sit in on the monks prayers and post a letter from the highest post office at Hikkim.
Remember though - that it is an actual home stay - they have not provided flushing toilets and mod cons, you would use the traditional outhouse privies with the dry composting technique unique to the area. Your beds are the flat divans covered in traditional rugs and shawls. You sit in the central room around the stove and eat off the low tables the traditional fare. It is a truly immersive experience for those that would relish it.
Duration: 5 - 7 trek days, add 5 - 6 for travel. 10 - 12 days.
Season: Mid May through November.
- Pavane Mann, Director, Unique Explorations, MHE
This blog post originally appeared in sulekha.com
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