When it comes to planning your next vacation, even if you're all about adventure travel, it's pretty unlikely that a tour to hike the Himalayas come to mind. There's a mythos surrounding the range that makes it feel out of reach for the average traveler, as if there were a signpost staked out front proclaiming, "You must be this adventurous to visit!" At best, it's a place that gets filed under "bucket list ideas" without any expectation of ever actually getting there.
But when Marta Visu, Vice President of Pacific Holidays, visited Nepal for herself, she knew without a doubt that this didn't need to be the case. When she returned, she set about creating an itinerary that could introduce everyone to the majesty of the Himalayas—no mountaineering or whip-cracking experience required. In the end, she came up with a 10- and 12-day trek that shows even beginning hikers the mountains' awe-inspiring slopes, paths, and towns.
I spoke with Marta and her ground-handling tour guide, Kala Dhar Baral, to get a sense of not only what the trek is like, but to see why a journey to the peaks of Nepal is truly the trip of a lifetime for anyone—grandmas and tykes included.
The Himalayas carve a line 1,500 miles long through Nepal, India, Bhutan, China, and Pakistan, disrupting the landscape with a series of more than 100 peaks, 50 of which are among the tallest mountains in the world. Another 10 of those occupy the top spots, each climbing over 26,000 feet.
Naturally, the world's tallest mountain range includes the planet's highest individual peak: Mount Everest, the Himalayas' crown jewel that transforms the range from a simple geological feature to a worldwide testament to human achievement. While the range's rep for not only being home to the world's highest peaks but also some of its most dangerous may act as a dog whistle to hardcore outdoors enthusiasts, it works as a barrier for typical tourists, which Marta and Kala think is unfortunate.
There's something truly special about that fact, because it means that multiple generations of a family can see one of the world's greatest wonders together. Many assume that they need to be in top physical form to even consider a trip to see the famous mountains, but Marta and Kala agree that this simply isn't true.
The trek on Pacific Holidays's 10- and 12-day tours is essentially the same, kicking off in Kathmandu and following along a portion of the famous Annapurna Circuit. This trekking loop circles around the Annapurna Massif's two highest peaks, and unlike hikes into the mountains themselves, it includes stops at numerous towns along the way. All the nearby villages mean that travelers don't need to worry about camping out, a common misconception. Instead, they get to kick off their boots and relax at cozy hotels and lodges.
For no more than a few hours each day, Kala guides groups along the paths' ups and downs, getting them familiar with not just the unbelievable landscape, but the culture of the people as well. But don't let the thought of daily hikes intimidate you, either. According to Kala, it's really the "ideal trek for beginners . . . [that have] not done any altitude trekking." And don't get hung up on the gear—you won't need crampons or down parkas here.
That said, for many, four or five hours of hiking that can include steps or portions of steep inclines might still seem pretty daunting. It's important to remember that you won't be doing this alone, though. A talented staff will be with your group every step of the way as you gradually gain altitude. "We just would like to ask them to trust us," says Kala to any nervous travelers, and since Kala has lived in Nepal for nearly 50 years, trusting him and his team of guides and sheraps seems like a pretty good bet.
In the end, though, the rewards of a trip to the Himalayas are just too great to pass up. Both Kala and Marta consider the sunrise over Poon Hill "a once-in-a-lifetime experience," providing some of the best views of the mountains on the entire trip. Marta adds that most people still think "that the earthquake wiped [Nepal] off the planet," but that just isn't the case. A lively and vibrant culture remains amid some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. It's the kind of trip you can't help but remember forever, so knowing you've got what it takes to go on the adventure yourself, there's nothing to stop you.