If you’re looking for an ultimate wilderness experience in one of the least frequented parts of Nepal, you should definitely put the Nar Phu Valley trek on your list. This trek consists of two regions; the Nar Valley and the Phu Valley and it stretches between Annapurna and the Manaslu region, offering a beautiful mix of unspoiled Himalayan nature, snow-peaked mountaintops, and authentic way of life that dates back to ancient times. The valley was closed to trekkers until 2002 and even today, only a handful of tourists have reached one of the many 7,000-meters-high peaks in the area.
Why should you choose the Nar Phu Valley Trek?
It’s a great choice if you’re looking for a challenging trek that will allow you to see one of the most remote parts of Nepal, stay in old, Tibetan villages, visit old Buddhist monasteries, enjoy the great views of the surrounding mountains, and learn more about Tibetan culture.
On this trek, you’ll encounter high passes, remote villages, lush forests, majestic glaciers, breathtaking canyons, and some of Nepal’s most remote monasteries. The starting point is Besisahar, which is also the starting point of the Annapurna Circuit trek. This trek crosses a lot of deep canyons and colorful Tibetan chortens along the way and will even give you the chance to stay in an authentic Buddhist monastery (Nar Phedi). The highlight of the trek is probably the Kang La Pass, but if this isn’t enough for you, you can always extend the trip by trekking to Himlung Himal Base Camp.
Best time to visit
You can do this trek throughout the year, except during the winter. Due to heavy snowfall, it’s not possible to explore this region during this time of the year. You can take the trek during the monsoon season (June-August), but keep in mind that the visibility is lower during this time of the year and you might not enjoy the views as much as you could during the high season. The best time to take the Nar Phu Valley trek is between March and May and between September and November.
Looking for a different experience in Nepal? Check out my guide to visiting Everest base camp by helicopter.
Nar Phu Valley trek difficulty
The Nar Phu Valley trek is a challenging one. There are a few days that require 8-9 hours trekking and not a lot of flexibility in the distances that you have to cover every day. In addition to this, the altitude gains are higher and higher every day and you’ll need to adjust quickly. So, I’d only recommend this trek to people who have done some trekking in the past. That doesn’t mean that a novice can’t do it, but it’s better to start with something easier.
In order to take the Nar Phu Valley Trek, you’ll need to get a restricted area permit. This costs $90 per person per week between September and November and $75 per person per week between December and August. The permit is arranged through a tourist agency and it’s also mandatory to hire a guide to explore this region.
Accommodation & meals
The accommodation available on this trek mainly consists of teahouses but there are some exceptions. There are some hotels in Besisahar (the starting point) and in Nar Phedi, you can stay in the local monastery. The food you’ll get on the trip consists mostly of traditional Nepali food (a lot of dhal bhat) but in the bigger towns, you can even get some luxuries like a fruit pie.
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Day 1: Syange Waterfalls
The journey starts by taking a scenic drive from Besi Sahar to Syange Waterfalls. The road passes through the picturesque Prithvi highway where you can get an amazing view around every corner. One hour away from the scenic waterfalls, you’ll find the authentic Chamje village which is the first overnight stop of this trek for most people.
Day 2: Dharapani village (1,960m/6,409 ft); average trekking time – 6 hours.
After a good rest, it’s time for the first trekking challenge. This part of the Nar Phu Valley trek passes through lush jungles and pine forests followed by a seemingly endless stretch of rice paddies that lead to the Manang district. Most people spend the next night in Dharapani, the biggest village in the region, but if you’re not in very good shape and struggle to keep the pace, you can stay in the village of Jagat.
Day 3: Koto village (2,670m/8,731 ft); average trekking time – 5 hours
The terrain of the trek to Koto village isn’t very different than the one you encountered in the first day. Again, you’ll be trekking through thick forests followed by a lush green valley that offers the first views of snow-capped mountain peaks on this trek. This is just an overture for the majestic views that this difficult but rewarding trek presents to visitors.
A lot of people start the trek in Koto (you can reach the village from Kathmandu with a jeep via an alternative road) but in my opinion, you shouldn’t skip the first two days of the journey. Firstly, because of the abundance of natural beauty, you’ll encounter and secondly because it’s a good warmup for the strenuous trek that follows.
Day 4: Meta (3,560m/11,677 ft); average trekking time – 6 hours
The trek to Meta goes through entirely different terrain. After crossing the river, you’ll enter Nar Valley; a remote part of Nepal that has been bypassed by modern development. Along the trekking route, you’ll encounter beautiful caves, narrow canyons, majestic waterfalls, and steep hills before arriving to Meta, a tiny but beautiful village with several mountain lodges for trekkers to spend the night in.
Day 5: Trek to Phu (4,080m/13,383 ft); average trekking time – 6 hours
As you’re leaving the picturesque village of Meta and approaching the Tibetan border, you’ll notice the first colorful Tibetan chortens that this region is famous for. Along the way, you’ll also get an amazing view of the gravity-defying monastery of Nar Phedi, one of Nepal’s best-kept secrets and you’ll also see the ruins of an ancient dzong (a Tibetan mountain fortress), a lot of tahrs (mountain goats), and if you’re lucky, maybe even blue sheep. It’s here that the effects of the Annapurna Circuit are felt in the weather, as the landscape of the trek becomes rougher and drier. As the elevation in Phu is higher than 4,000 meters, it’s wise to take a day off to allow your body to adjust to the new environment and explore Phu, one of the most beautiful villages in the region.
Day 6: Explore Phu or Hike to Himlung Base Camp (4,800m/15,748 feet); trekking time – 6 hours
As mentioned above, an acclimatization day is recommended due to the high altitude. If you want to do this, you can wander around the village, exploring the tiny, authentic alleyways dotted with Tibetan-style mud and stone houses and observing the daily life of the locals. You can also explore the ridges surrounding the village and see Tashi Lhakhang Gompa, from where you can get a 360-degree view of all of the neighboring villages and the Tibetan border.
But if you still feel like trekking, you can use this day to climb up to Himlung Base Camp (4,800 meters). This is the starting point for getting to Himlung Himal (7,125 meters) that was recently open for climbers. You can get to base camp and come back in 5-7 hours, depending on your pace.
Day 7: Nar Phedi (3,490m/11,448 ft); trekking time – 5 hours
The seventh day is probably the least challenging day of trekking. You need to descend towards the Nar Phedi monastery where you can stay for the night. This is the only accommodation facility in the area and the unique, authentic experience that comes with it is priceless. You’ll get the chance to see the monks preparing the meals on the modest fireplace and performing a blessing ceremony. You don’t have to pay anything, but do leave a small donation in the donation box in the monastery as a sign of respect. It will be greatly appreciated.
Day 8: Nar Village trek (4,110m/13,481 ft), trekking time- 5 hours
After the easy trek to Nar Phedi, it’s time for the most strenuous part of the trek that starts with the windy path to Nar Village. You’ll encounter a lot of bamboo-topped chortens on the way to the ancient village. Even though close to the start of the main Annapurna trail it’s not visited by a lot of trekkers and this makes the village even more picturesque.
Day 9: Cross Kang La pass trek (5,315m/17,380 ft) and descend to Ngwal (3,675m/12,017 ft); trekking time – 7 hrs
It’s time for the highlight of the trek; the spectacular Kang La Pass. From here, you can see the magnificent peaks of Pisang and Tilcho and a large part of the Annapurna trail. Unfortunately, you can’t spend too much time here without an oxygen bag and there aren’t any accommodation properties around. That’s why you would have to descend to the village of Ngawal, or if that’s too much to tackle in a day, you can stay in the small village of Braga. However, there is a small advantage of staying in Ngawal; you’ll get a stable Wi-Fi connection for the first time in days, as this is one of the rare modern villages in the region.
Day 10: Descend to Pisang (3,240m/10,628 ft); trekking time – 7 hours
The last two days are reserved for climbing down back towards the starting point of Besisahar. You have two options, you can either spend the night in Lower Pisang and continue to Jagat and reach Besisahar by foot the day after, or go from Pisang to Dhukur Pokari and hire a jeep to take you back to Besisahar (if you want to save some time). The second option is obviously, more expensive, but it can save you some time if you want to explore other parts of Nepal, while the first option takes you back through a few of the villages you encountered in the first days of the trek.
Day 11: Trek to Jagat/get a jeep from Besisahar
As mentioned above, you choose where to go for this part of the trip. You can take it easy and enjoy nature while you walk back to Besisahar or reach Katmandu or Pokhara sooner and have one more day for other activities.
Day 12: Back to Kathmandu/Pokhara
The last day doesn’t require any trekking or physical activity. It takes roughly three hours to reach Pokhara from Besisahar and around five hours to reach Kathmandu. If you want to trek to Everest Base Camp, it’s best to first spend a few days in Pokhara and go to Besisahar from where you can get a jeep to Kathmandu. Alternatively, if you’re planning to trek to Annapurna Base Camp, it’s better to spend a few days in Kathmandu, leave to Besisahar, complete the trek, and head to Pokhara.
Cost of the journey
Most tour operators charge between $900 and $1200 for organizing this trip. If you choose not to hire a porter, the price can be lower. Everything else depends on your expenses. $15-20 per day should be enough for food and accommodation but if you’re traveling as a couple or a group and share food costs and accommodation costs, the price can be a lot lower.
Other treks you can take
If you just can’t get enough of the natural beauty of this region, you can extend the trip by adding a trek to Tilcho Lake and rejoin the Annapurna trail at Yak Kharka. To do this, you’d have to stray away from the trail before reaching Ngawal and head to Tilcho Lake instead. You can continue to Thorung Phedi and Jomsom before going back to Pokhara. This way the total duration of the trip would be 16 days.
Hiring a guide is a mandatory if you want to explore this part of Nepal. My choice for the Nar Phu Valley Trek was Himalaya Hub. Everything was in order throughout the trip and the owner even called several times to make sure everything goes well. So, if you’re looking for a tour operator for exploring this part of Nepal, I warmly recommend their services. For more information about this tour, you can contact Himalaya Hub directly at email@example.com.
A few more helpful tips
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If you’re looking for some durable, high-nutrition, dry-food snacks, check out this selection of dried food for backpacking and camping by Wise Food Storage.
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Did you ever visit this part of Nepal? How was your experience like? If you didn’t, would you like to take the Nar Phu Valley trek someday? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!
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