Your first port of call will be Kathmandu in Nepal or Darjeeling in India, with their mixture of Asian and western cultures. You will travel through Kathmandu's streets teeming with rickshaws, sacred cows, holy men, beggars and bicycles, or take the winding hill road through the tea gardens to Darjeeling. When travelling to Darjeeling, it will be necessary to take an internal flight from Delhi or Calcutta to Bagdogra airport or alternatively, a train to New Jalpaiguri railway station. There are many options for things to do before and after your trek, so check the Other Activities section for details.
The Himalayas offer the greatest trekking in the world! After all, Nepal has eight of the world's ten highest mountains and Darjeeling's skyline is dominated by the world's third highest mountain, Kanchenjunga. There's no shortage of beautiful scenery and each region has its own character with many different ethnic groups. Trek porters will carry your bag, and the tea house cooks or camp kitchen crew will prepare tasty, fresh meals each day. All treks allow plenty of time for acclimatisation and rest stops, so you can walk at your own pace and admire the beautiful scenery around you. Some people prefer to choose a camping trek and indeed, some trekking areas are off the beaten track without tea house facilities, so this is the only way to travel. Camping allows you to be totally self-sufficient, with a kitchen crew and tented accommodation. On the other hand, tea houses are run by the local Nepali villagers and although simple, the rooms are clean and you are more likely to have the chance to mix with other trekkers in the dining room.
Wherever you are walking, your enjoyment will be far greater if you are physically prepared, so even if you don't live in a hilly area, make a point of taking regular aerobic exercise before you arrive. There is nothing quite like waking up to see the sunrise over the Himalayas as the villages begin another day and eating your breakfast whilst a line of yaks or mules walk past with bells jangling.
You are usually on the trail by around 8am. You can take your own time and admire the scenery. Your main baggage will be carried by the porters, so you will only need to carry your day pack with drinking water, camera and waterproofs. There are plenty of places along the trail where you can stop for a rest or a drink. Halfway through the day you'll make a lunch stop before carrying on to your destination. The tea house lodges are simple and friendly and as with campsites, often in a beautiful location. Facilities are basic rooms with shared toilets and it's usually possible to pay a few rupees to obtain a bucket of hot washing water. You will have a shared room or tent and everyone eats together, after which you can chat, play cards, relax with a book or join in with the local singing and dancing.
Although you will find western style toilet facilities in Kathmandu and Darjeeling, whilst out on the trail you will be using 'squat' loos at the tea houses or a dug out loo in a toilet tent at camp.
Finally, remember that a visit to India or Nepal is a unique experience. Be patient, retain your sense of humour and accept that things don't happen like they do at home. If the local ways of working seem downright bizarre at times, then it's all part of the Himalayan charm. Let Asia enrich your life, as it has done for so many travelers before you.
Your trekking and rafting crews will be local staff with a wealth of experience of the Himalayas. Your group leader, fluent in English and trained in wilderness first aid and emergency procedures, will be on hand to assist you and answer your questions. They will ensure that your trip goes smoothly and we would ask you to accept the leader's authority at all times, as they always have your welfare in mind. Whilst trekking, your crew will consist of a number of sherpas and porters in addition to the leader, as well as a kitchen crew for camping treks. Your relationship with the crew will be one of the most memorable aspects of your trip and many lasting friendships are made during the treks. Please take every opportunity to talk to the local people and the crews, as these conversations will prove to be a rewarding experience.
The peak trekking seasons are spring (March and April) and autumn (October and November) when the weather tends to be clear in the daytime and warmer at night. However, there tends to be fewer visitors outside of the main season, and it can be a wonderful time to trek.
Nepal and Darjeeling have a monsoon climate, which means that heavy rains fall between the end of May and September when mist obscures the mountains and the heat makes trekking uncomfortable.
A properly organised trek will have a minimum impact on the environment whilst maximising your positive contribution to local communities. It will provide employment for local staff, ensuring that porters and sherpas are suitably clothed, insured and well looked after at all times. Always use local supplies and cook with kerosene to ensure that meal preparation does not contribute to deforestation. The region has a rich cultural heritage so please take every opportunity to learn about the society around you. We have raised funds to improve health and safety for trekking porters at work in the mountains and also through charity trekking to open a health post at Macchermo in the Everest region. We have also supported the Gurkha Welfare Trust along with the Esther Benjamins Trust and Chora Chori, both British charities working for underprivileged and exploited children in Nepal and India. In all, over £50,000 has been raised for charities in the UK and Nepal through our Blue Sage charity treks.
Our guidelines on preserving the environment and cultural do's and don'ts are included in our General Information section.