Great Himalaya Trail Nepal: Sharing the benefits of tourism beyond the well-traveled path
By: Bijaya Pradhan, Executive Chairman, Dream Nepal Travels & Tours
Linda Bezemer, Tourism Product Development Advisor, SNV Nepal
Great Himalaya Trail (GHT)
The Great Himalaya Trail (GHT), a network of existing trails which connect popular trekking areas with areas that are less explored, is the highest and one of the longest walking trails in the world. Winding beneath the world’s highest peaks and visiting some of the most remote communities on earth, the Great Himalaya Trail, roughly 4,500 km in length, passes through lush green valleys, arid high plateaus and incredible landscapes, crossing through Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, India, and Pakistan.
The 1,700km Nepal section of the trail begins near Kanchenjunga on the eastern border and heads west navigating the domains of eight of the world’s 8000m peaks, from the beautiful but lesser-known Makalu to the famous Everest. It is not the easiest or most direct route across Nepal, rather a route through the Greater Himalaya range. The Nepal section ends either in Humla on the Tibetan border or in Darchula.
Talung Lake, Limi Valley, Humla (Photo: Mr. Mim Hamal, Tourism Advisor, SNV Nepal)
Limi Valley in September (Photo: Mr. Mim Hamal, Tourism Advisor, SNV Nepal)
The Nepal section is part of a longer alpine adventure traversing the spine of the Himalaya from Bhutan to Pakistan. The GHT Nepal consists of 10 sections. Each section is distinct, and the GHT offers an incredible diversity in terms of landscapes, flora & fauna, people and culture: from snow leopards to red pandas; from sub-tropical jungle to fragile high-altitude eco-systems; from the famous Sherpas, to Shamanism, to the ancient Bön Buddhist culture of Dolpa.
The GHT offers unique opportunities to visit some of the most remote communities in the Himalaya region (Photo: Mr. Mim Hamal, Tourism Advisor, SNV Nepal)
National Geographic Adventure Magazine‘s Jame’s Vlahos observed: “Nepal’s mountains are minimally developed, but they offer a wealth of trade and pilgrimage routes. The GHT elegantly connects these existing paths without blazing a single new trail.”
Until recently the trail remained undefined – there was no one trail. In 2006, the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu proposed developing an official Great Himalaya Trail in Nepal from near Kangchenjunga in the east to Api-Saipal in the far west. Their plans are moving ahead, involving all of the affected stakeholders: from renowned mountaineers and trekking guides to the Nepal Tourist Board and the Trekking Agents Association to the village Development Committees in the remote areas the trek passes through. *Source: Great Himalayan Trail Preparatory Study (2006) (Download the study here)
Opening up these remote parts of the country could attract trekkers away from the crowded areas, and benefit more of the 1.8 million people living in the mountains. In Nepal, trekking is concentrated in the 3 most popular areas of Annapurna, Solo Khumbu (Everest), and Langtang. By trekking away from the beaten trail, you will be making a direct difference to communities in remote areas by spending money on food, accommodation or services such as guides, porters and cooks. Through responsible practices, tourists and tourism businesses can increase employment and income opportunities for local communities and minimize their negative footprint of tourism on the environment.
An inaugural trek of the GHT – a 150-day journey consisting of seven smaller routes – is set to commence on February 15th, 2011, organized by the adventure travel company World Expeditions. The GHT is new and will evolve over the coming years through the preferences and suggestions of stakeholders and trekkers completing the route or sections of it.
It is envisioned that the GHT will help to attract more adventurous tourists to visit the Himalayas, as well as encouraging them to make repeated visits to the region and explore different destinations. In the meanwhile, it is hoped that the benefits of tourism will spread to the more remote and least developed parts of the Himalayas, where many local communities struggle with poverty.
Great Himalayan Trail: New trekking route set to open up a whole new world
Everyone has heard of the Annapurna trail, Mount Everest and other Himalayan hotspots, which draw thousands of trekkers and mountaineers to Nepal every year. Now there is a new trail in development which is likely to go straight to the top of many adventurers’ To-Do list, and the people behind it hope it will, to spread the benefits of trekking tourism to little visited regions of the Himalayas.
Spiti Ecosphere is an endeavour to promote community-based ecotourism in the Spiti valley, a stunning high altitude desert region tucked away in the Trans-Himalayan belt of Himachal Pradesh. A passion for conservation, mountain travel and adventure brought together a collaboration of local community members and professionals from diverse backgrounds to offer a range of trekking, mountaineering, biking, rafting, cultural and spiritual adventures.
Help Tourism have been at the vanguard of sustainable tourism initiatives in North East India for well over a decade. They have developed a wide variety of adventure and activity programs, including trekking in the Himalayas, tiger, rhino and bird spotting in the National Parks and Reserves networks, elephant safaris, jungle lodges, heritage and cultural tours in this fascinating and diverse region of India.
Nepal is regarded as one of the adventure capitals of the world, and Social Tours are local trekking and adventure specialists who are leading by example. They are fast gaining a reputation as an expert group absolutely dedicated to their principles of respect, honesty, social inclusion and environmental protection. Social Tours also played an instrumental role in developing the green circuit responsible tourism initiative.