Responsible trekking in Nepal

Responsible trekking in Nepal

Ever since Nepal first opened its borders to outsiders in the 1950s, this mystical mountain nation has proved irresistible to travellers, adventurers and mountaineers. Today, legions of trekkers are drawn to the Himalaya’s most iconic and accessible hiking, following ancient caravan routes and the footsteps of early expeditioners, to Everest, the Annapurnas and beyond.

But tourism can be a double-edged sword, and seemingly miraculous economic gains come at the expense of increased environmental impacts. While there’s no denying that the standard of living in villages on Nepal’s main trekking circuits has improved immensely, the continual increase in visitors, coupled with an appetite for home comforts (hot showers, cold beer, internet, pizza and apple pie), has produced spiralling competition for already scarce resources ­– threatening to destroy the very reason trekkers are there in the first place. Here are some considerations and things you can do to trek responsibly.

Choosing your trek

Before heading into the hills, you’ll want to decide on your style of trek. Are you happy to walk independently, carrying your own gear, or do you prefer someone else to do the organising and heavy lifting? More importantly, are your choices contributing to the local economy or hurting the environment? Budget, comfort level, intended route and environmental footprint should all play a part in your trek selection, whether you choose to walk independently or part of an organised group.


The two most popular treks in Nepal – the Annapurna (aka “Apple Pie”) Circuit and the trek to Everest Base Camp (including Gokyo Lakes) – are both well trodden, with plenty of tourist-friendly teahouses, making it easy to rely on local facilities. Independent trekkers can choose where to stay and who gets their money, and can make informed decisions based on a lodge’s sustainable practices. Trekking independently also affords staying in smaller villages that are normally skipped by the bigger groups. This spreads the wealth and lessens localised environmental stress, and also allows altitude acclimatisation at your own pace.