NEPAL OFF THE BEATEN PATH: TAMANG HERITAGE TRAIL

After saying goodbye to Bobbi and Allison as they left the Ruby Valley Trail, it was time to head off for the solo portion of my trip and onto the Tamang Heritage Trail. I wasn’t totally alone, as I had my amazing guide, Hari, and porter, Laxman, from Nepal Hidden Treks (get more information from UpEverest!) to accompany me, but my original travel buddies were gone. I was excited to see what this part of my trip would bring and how trekking solo would compare to trekking with my friends.

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Traditional Tamang hat

About the Trail

The Tamang Heritage Trail is a relatively new trail in the popular Langtang region of Nepal. The trail comes extremely close to Nepal’s northern border with Tibet, and at many points along the trail, you can see China. The area is rife with geothermal activity, including hot springs, and visiting these resources was the primary reason for tourists to come to the villages in this area. Sadly, many of the hot springs were blocked or destroyed by the 2015 earthquake, so now, the trail is the primary motivation for tourists. The Tamang Heritage Trail allows visitors to experience the local Tamang culture, as the area is populated primarily by the Tamang people, and also offers incredible views of the Langtang mountains. This trail is definitely still off the beaten path, though – when I trekked there in high season (October), I only saw five other tourists in the course of a week.

I also finally saw a yak while on the Tamang Heritage Trail! He was not very happy to see me.

Getting There

The easiest way to get to the Tamang Heritage Trail is by taking a jeep from Kathmandu to Syabrubeshi, which is about a 6-7 hour journey. The jeep ride is rough and winds through the mountains, so if you get motion sick, be ready! Syabrubeshi is the last major village you’ll visit before setting off on the trail, so if you need to purchase any last minute supplies, make sure you get them there. The trail can also be reached by hiking on the Ruby Valley Trail towards Gatlang, where the two trails intersect.

Taking in the view of Thuman from the ruins of a monastery that was destroyed by the earthquake.

Accommodations

Accommodations on the Tamang Heritage Trail range from hotels in Syabrubeshi to teahouses and lodges along the rest of the trail. There are ample teahouses and lodges in each village, so you will have your choice of accommodations while on the trail. They all offer private rooms with basic amenities like mattresses, doors that lock, and electricity (hey, in Nepal, these are amenities). Some even have western toilets, and all offer hot bucket showers for a fee. While the lodges definitely don’t feel anything like the hotels most westerners stay in at home, they are more than adequate and are a comfortable way to trek. Some trekkers also choose to camp along the trail, but this is relatively uncommon given the proliferation of accommodations in each village.

At my lodge in the village of Thuman! Jacket and plaid shirt are from KUHL!

Food

One of the major differences between the Tamang Heritage Trail and the Ruby Valley Trail is the food. Because the Ruby Valley Trail is based entirely around home stays, there are only one or two meal options during your trek. However, the Tamang Heritage Trail is based around teahouses and lodges that offer a wide-ranging menu. The menu is pretty much the same at every lodge and features your standard Nepali fare, plus tons of western food options like hamburgers, pasta, pizza, and more. Many places have pancakes, omelets, and more for breakfast, and there’s a ton of variety. They also sell beer and rokshi (local liquor), so you can unwind with a cold one at the end of the day. I still stuck to Nepali cuisine because I loved it and it’s gluten free, but there were definitely a lot of other options.

I can have cheeseburgers at home. Dal bhat, not so much!

Scenery

One of the big selling points for the Tamang Heritage Trail is the unbelievable scenery along the trek. You’ll have a panoramic view of the Langtang mountains the entire time, including Langtang Lirung, which measures over 23,000 feet! These mountains are capped in snow year round and honestly, this type of scenery is probably what you’ve come to Nepal to see in the first place. You won’t be disappointed! You’ll also be able to see mountains on the other side of the Tibetan border, as well as lots of villages peppered in among the mountains and valleys.

With my guide, Hari, and porter, Laxman, looking out over Tibet!

I must have taken a hundred pictures of the mountains just on this part of the trail alone. At several spots on the trail, they seem so close that you can almost reach out and touch them. Undoubtedly, the scenery on the Tamang Heritage Trail is reason enough to visit.

There’s also prayer flags everywhere.

People

As the name would imply, the Tamang Heritage Trail exists primarily to showcase the unique culture of the Tamang people. The Tamang people originally came from Tibet into Nepal, and many of the traditions are the same in Tamang communities in Nepal as they are in Tibet. Since traveling to Tibet can be a challenge, this a great way to get a window into their way of life! There are many religious festivals in Nepal throughout the year, and if you happen to be trekking during one, you might witness some of the traditional dances or celebrations. Unfortunately, I was not so lucky! Because this trek is based primarily on teahouse and lodge accommodations, it definitely requires more effort to get to know the local people than it does when you are staying in their homes. However, the lodge owners all speak at least some English, so you may be able to communicate with them more easily, even if you’re trekking on your own.

With the kids that lived at one of the lodges I visited! They “helped” me play cards and were so cute!

Perhaps because I did a trek immediately beforehand that was almost entirely home stays, I found it a little bit difficult to make connections with the locals while hiking on this trail. With that said, there are many incredible examples of Tamang clothing, culture, architecture, and religion to be seen, and this trek, like any other, is what you make of it.

A local woman working on a weaving!

Trekking

The trekking portion of the Tamang Heritage Trail is very manageable, making this trek a great option for those who may want to take it slower or not hike for long distances each day. There are numerous villages along the trail at which to stop for lunch or lodging, and the entire trail takes just 5 days of trekking to complete at a rate of about 4-5 hours of trekking per day. There are several very challenging and steep uphill and downhill portions, but overall, the trail is doable for anyone at a moderate level of fitness.  Trekking poles are definitely recommended, as are sturdy hiking boots. Dress in layers – the temperature can change quickly from the lower elevations to the tops of the mountains you’ll be climbing, and the sun is strong.

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You’ll be all the way down at the bottom of the river and all the way up at the top of the mountains, all in one day!

Doing It!

The Tamang Heritage Trail can be done without a guide, as the trail is easy to follow and the accommodations are easy to find. Because most lodge owners speak at least basic English, it is also easy to communicate at least somewhat. However, never underestimate what a guide can add to your experience! I trekked with Nepal Hidden Treks, bookable through UpEverest, and learned so much more about the people, culture, and area than I would have otherwise. Also, we had the opportunity to have some great one-on-one conversations and discuss life in both Nepal and the United States, which was fascinating! I wouldn’t have traded my experience with them for anything. I can’t recommend them enough!

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