I knew I would get to Nepal and hike in the Himalaya’s some day, it’s just when that some day came I still wasn’t quite ready for it. Growing up I had always had these visions of white topped mountains, colored prayer flags and the crunch of gravel and bits of scraggly bushes beneath my boots. I was into my second day of hiking to Poon Hill when it finally dawned on me: I was hiking in the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal and a major life goal had been achieved.
So many times I always thought of hiking in Nepal as being this huge adventure activity being strapped into ropes, dangling off the side of a cliff while my fingers and toes inched towards a slow death via hypothermia. I am pleased to say our first hiking experience in Nepal was nothing like my overactive imagination. So I say in this instance > Yeah for Reality!
Since going to Nepal and singing it’s praises, multiple people I know either have already been or are planning trips to go hiking there. Yes Nepal has the famous Everest Mountain at 29,029 feet and is the highest mountain in the world, but Nepal has so much more to offer it’s visitors.
With the exception of the driving and roads, we absolutely loved our time in Nepal. We found the country to be filled with tremendoulsy hard working people who were kind, welcoming, attentive and were trying their best despite a government that is not always working in the people’s favor.
If you have ever had a thought like, “Oh maybe one day I would like to go to Nepal…” > GO.
If you have ever wondered how easy it might be do just ‘pop in and do a hike‘ it’s easy > GO.
If you want to know how to hike to Poon Hill in the Himalaya’s > Read This Post.
Here’s the info:
Disclaimer – you always need to check your own visas and ensure you have the most up to date information.
At the our time of arrival as US citizens we could pay $40 USD cash for a visa on arrival. The line did not move that fast, but it was a very easy and straight forward affair.
Getting Away from Airport:
Nepal has been greeting tourists for years. We were not sure what to expect our first time going there so we booked hotel pick up ahead of time, which did not work out. So in the end we just got a taxi anyway. It was very straight forward. Best to simply email your hotel ahead of time and ask what the current going rate is for a taxi from the airport. We should have paid about $700-1000 NPR.
*Note: At the time of writing there is NO ATM at the airport.
Where to stay in Kathmandu:
We loved our stay at the charming, budget friendly and family run Hotel Bright Star. The family was just fantastic and really made our stay warm and welcoming. Their wifi was decent, location excellent, shower hot and for a budget room, the amenities were clean and sufficient.
It always pains me to write less than flattering things about a place where I know competition is so fierce and so many people are looking for work, but we cannot recommend staying at Trekkers Home. We stayed there when we first arrived to Kathmandu and some of their rooms are budget rooms, but they were dirty, like in a really bad way. They had non-budget rooms that seemed nicer. On top of that the facility was just getting so run down, the wifi didn’t work and there’s other things that were just not good. Trekkers Home, I hope you work to improve yourself so you can get recommendations, but to anyone reading this, I would NOT stay there again.
And we didn’t – Hotel Bright Star was just an excellent budget option.
If you want slightly nicer then there are tons of options available. We stayed in the Thamel area and for getting things done, ie, if you need to buy trekking gear, etc, then yes it’s a busy area but also the most convenient. So we kinda liked being in the crazy mix of it all and getting lost wandering down all those little streets.
If you do stay farther away from Thamel area, just be aware you might need to take a taxi in and out for conviences.
Booking bus to Pokora:
If you look on google maps, it is listed as the ‘tourist bus stop’ on Kanti Path Road near Garden of Dreams. You can go there yourself to book directly and we paid $600 NPR or about $6 USD. Your hotel will certainly be willing to book the ticket for you +$2 USD.
They said the bus leaves at 6 am sharp and it pretty much did.
From Hotel Bright Star it only took about 10 minutes walking so we did not book a tuk tuk for the early morning.
Arriving in Pokora:
The tourist bus dropped us off and from there we walked into town which only took about 10-15 minutes. There will be plenty of people telling you it’s too far to walk and you need a taxi. If you are staying in the main part of town and want to stretch your legs and save some money, it’s reasonable to walk.
There are tons of gear stores both in Pokora and Kathmandu. You can walk around and look for deals. If you are still at home I always recommend buy gear from REI. Otherwise either Kathmandu or Pokora are both good to get gear.
What we got for ourselves was:
– down jacket (with hood)
– rented sleeping bag
Where to Stay:
We stayed at Hotel Diplomat which was a great budget option. This place was a well cared for, family run place. This family was also so warm and welcoming and were a great resource for any information or help you may need. We stored our bags here while we hiked. We looked forward to going back there. Definitely a nice little place we would recommend.
Where to get Hiking Permits:
You MUST get your hiking permits ahead of time. If you don’t it will cost you WAY more and you must have your permits. You can walk to ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Project) Office and the cost is about $40 USD pp for the Annapurna Range. So the longer hike you do the better value the permit is. We hiked Poon Hill in 3 N/4D so it was $10 USD per person, per day for our hiking permit.
You will also need photos for your permit – but – you can have them take your photo included in your permit price.
There’s two counters you have to go to fill out paper work inside the ACAP office. When the lady mentions about needing the photos, just politely ask if they can take them there and then they will say ok.
Getting to Birethanti:
The easiest thing to do is take a taxi for about $2000 NPR/ $20 USD but that is kinda a lot we thought. The owners of Hotel Diplomat were super helpful in getting us a taxi to the bus stop for the bus to Nayapul/Birethanti which we paid $300 NPR for both of us I think. Then we took a bus to Nayapul for $500 NPR for both of us.
So the trail technically starts at Birethanti and that is where the check points are. But congestion on the road made the bus keep stopping and waiting, so we just got out in Nayapul somewhere and walked. Those distances are not that far and it was just way easier.
Which Route to Take:
Ok, so there are TONS of route options and with the ease of guest houses and not having to carry any real food as you eat at the guest houses. I day dreamed about wandering for months in the Himalaya Mountains.
That said, we chose to do the Poon Hill Hike because it was a fairly easy (you might be like, what the crap Tiff! This was crazy hard, but for high elevation, mountain hiking, this is not an extremely hard hike. You will be tired, we were tired and our legs were sore, but this is not a crazy intense hike for high elevation.)
However, we were VERY happy we went the direction we did for our hiking route. I do think if you hiked Poon Hill in reverse circle, the layout of the terrain would have made the hike more challenging.
So we hiked this route:
Day 1 – Nayapul to Ulleri
Day 2 – Ulleri to Lower Ghorepani
Day 3 – Lower Ghorepani to Ghandruk
Day 4 – Ghandruk to Nayapul
If I were doing it again I would hike this route direction again.
How Accommodation Works on the Trail:
Before we got on the trail, understanding how the accommodation would work out seemed kinda elusive to me. But it was so easy! As you go along the trail, there are a fair number of villages with guest houses. I was not sure what the conditions or services would be like given how remote it was, but for being as remote as we were, the services and hospitality were excellent!
The government and other NGO’s have done a good job at investing in some basic infrastructure and standards for the houses. This has been great in helping to establish set prices and make life easier and fair for everyone. One of the most noteable achievements is having systems in place for safe and filtered drinking water. They actively discourage buying any plastic water bottles while up in the mountains. Essentially every guest house has a filtered water system in place and you just pay a very small amount to fill up your bottles. We did the entire way and had no problems.
In fact, some of our best hiking meals were served to us up in the mountains. I can still remember the steaming plate with huge portion of mac and cheese brought out to our table. Ah. I can close my eyes and go back to that memory. As well as large mugs of ginger tea with real chunks of ginger floating around and popcorn! Yes – we ate and ordered popcorn while hiking in the Himalaya’s – Chris love popcorn.
So as you get to the area you want to stop at for the day, simply pick out a guest house you like. Kindly ask the person if you can see the room, ask how much and then either agree or don’t agree.
Be a responsible traveler: there is a whole system in place to try and keep the prices fair for everyone. There may be some seasonal variation in the prices, but we paid $5 for some of our rooms. Don’t try to barter down a $2.50 USD room.
We felt we lucked out on all our choices because they all were nice, had good food, hot showers (!) and we slept good.
Night 1 in Ulleri we stayed at Super View Lodge .
Night 2 in Lower Goripani we stayed at Ghorepani Hotel.
Night 3 in Ghandruk we stayed at Hotel Excellent View.
This third day there are some killer steep down hills on the legs. This day was probably our sorest day. To get to Hotel Excellent View we did have to have this mini little climb up to the top and this place had shared bathrooms. But we were the only guests so it didn’t matter. This place was so well taken care of and tidy we just loved staying there.
Hiking to Sunrise at Poon Hill:
Check in with your guest house what time you should leave in the morning to get up there for sunrise. Be aware thtat you will have to pay a ‘mandatory’ donation for the school when you go up for sunrise. It is $100 NPR or about $1 USD.
Since we got into camp so early the day before we hiked up to Poon Hill the day before and had the place to ourselves – although no view as seen in the picture below! It was still nice so I recommend doing that if you have the energy. That said, we hiked both trails from Lower Ghorepani and Upper Ghorepani and they seemed very marginal.
Staying at Lower Ghorepani felt like we were staying more in local guest houses whereas Upper Ghorepani was having these larger guests houses built and I don’t know, I didn’t really like the vibe. But that’s just me. So pick whichever place suits your fancy!
Getting back to Pokhara:
Right after you exit the second check point there will be a taxi driver waiting there. You can ask how much, he’ll probably say $2000 NPR. You guys can discuss and figure out if you can agree on a price. If you walk out to the bus stop, for whatever reason then the taxi drivers were charging way more. We just played the waiting game because we were gonna take the bus which would cost about $500 NPR. Finally as the bus was making it’s way up the hill the guy agreed on a price for the ride.
Must Have Items for Hiking:
- toilet paper
- candy/chocolate/snack food – you can buy some things up there, but it will be much cheaper to carry some snacks with you
- first aid kit
- hat (do not underestimate sun exposure, even when there is cloud coverage, at high elevation)
- lots of small cash bills
How to be a Low Impact Hiker:
If you are not familiar with hiking, read up on Leave No Trace practices. The biggest thing not to do is don’t leave toilet paper around! It is so unsightly and unhygienic. Carry a little garbage bag with you. It’s that simple.
Carry out your trash. The guest houses will have garbage cans, but it is very difficult for them to handle large amounts of trash. You should be packing as if you were going backpacking and needing to be fully self- sufficient – which means you should hike with as little weight as possible by removed any excess trash, twisty tie type of stuff before you go.
How to be a Responsible Traveler:
Always ask questions ahead of time on the price of services and items and then agree to pay those. At the guest houses the meal prices and room rates are set and are so reasonable. Be happy to support people making a living like this.
At the start of the trail kids will ask, if not demand you give them chocolates. I can relate so much to wanting to give something, just something small like a little chocolate to a small child because it makes US/YOU/ME feel good, but it does not help in the long run. I know this can be a sensitive topic and I don’t want to go on at length in this article, so you can read why this is so harmful here . Instead use your money to support as many small businesses as you can and if you want to help children, find a school or health care facility you can donate to.
In the immediate you can play a quick game,practice speaking English with them, smile, and say have a nice day. You can do your best to still have it be a nice interaction
If you want to see some of our favorite hiking gear you can read this post.
If you want to see some our favorite electronics for these adventures you can read this post.
If you really want to travel more but are just not quite there yet you can read this post for more about how we think about life and achieving goals – which for us it’s to travel.
If you are already in Pokhara and have the time to head over to Chitwan and you would enjoy safari’s in the national park, I highly recommend it. To see if you might like it you can read the post: Do Rhinos live in Nepal?
To hike up high into the mountains, see the sunrise from Poon Hill, be welcomed into the humble homes of locals who have lived on the mountain sides for generations was a reality jolting experience. There are many places that we go to try and get away from it all. Yet for me the problem is my mind doesn’t behave so well in getting away from it all. It will still think about this or that oh so important goal that I hope to achieve.
Yet to be out in the Himilaya Mountains only for a a few days my mind seemed to forget there was this other reality. My world was hiking in the mountains of Nepal. And for that, you gave me such a rare and wonderful gift: the ability to be completely in the present. Thank you so much Nepal for working to conserve and keep the Annapurna Conservation Area thriving and well so others may enjoy this amazing place on earth too.
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