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OUR Himalayan Travel BLOG

Welcome to our blog and Social Media Page

 

As well as features about our Nepal & Bhutan tours, we'll also include articles of interest about Nepal& Bhutan too.

By Snow Cat Travel, Aug 3 2018 03:00PM

This is our favourite day walk in the entire Nepal Himalayas. When we say "day walk" we mean just that...not a continuous trek, a walk that you start and finish from the same place.



Dhaulagiri from Thasang Lodge
Dhaulagiri from Thasang Lodge

This short and straightforward day walk up to sacred Sekong Lake beneath the behemoth of Dhaulagiri (26,795 feet) affords unimaginably breathtaking views across the amazing Kali Gandaki Valley to Annapurna and the Nilgiri peaks as well as Dhaulagiri and its dramatic ice fall.


When we walked this trail, it certainly felt like a "discovery" as we didn't encounter anyone on the trail, except for a lonely Yak herder....and even then he was far higher up in the valley too, so we only saw him and his Yak herd from a distance.



High on a hill was a lonely Yak herder
High on a hill was a lonely Yak herder

We first "discovered" the circular walk up to Sekong Lake by accident. At the time we were "researching in the field" what became our Ultimate Annapurna Adventure and having hiked over the Thorung La we were actually mountain biking our way down the Kali Gandaki Valley from Jomsom, considering the support logistics, as well as looking for an ideal overnight halt and to be honest a rest day too.


So, that's how we ended up in Thasang. Liked it and decided it was a good place to take a rest break.


However, chatting with the lodge owner that evening (trying out his buckwheat brandy!), he mentioned this relatively new trail, so we decided to check it out the next morning.



The Eagle's Nest location of Thasang Lodge
The Eagle's Nest location of Thasang Lodge

As for Thasang, well, there used to be a time when the traditional village of Thasang could only be reached on foot and thus required continuous days of trekking up the Kali Gandaki Valley, or by flying up to Jomsom and then trekking down.



You don't need to Mountain Bike to Thasang (unless you want to).
You don't need to Mountain Bike to Thasang (unless you want to).

Not any more. The good news is that Thasang can be reached in just a days drive from Pokhara in a jeep. And what a drive it is up to Thasang too as you climb up through the awesome Kali Gandaki Valley and into the heart of the Himalayas.


Thasang itself couldn't be more spectacular location wise. It sits on a hill, perched high above the valley below. An eagles nest location right under Dhaulagiri.



A private helicopter will get you to Thasang, but so will a jeep!
A private helicopter will get you to Thasang, but so will a jeep!

Even better, there's a really cool place to stay in Thasang too. A luxury lodge affording proper bedrooms, proper beds, en-suite western style bathrooms and absolutely superlative Himalayan views that make coming here more than worth it alone.


Back to the walk. The lodge will usually let you 'borrow' one of their staff if you want someone to accompany you. Certainly get the lodge to knock you up a tasty picnic to take with you.


It begins with a descent from the village, through terraced fields and back down to the floor of the flat Kali Gandaki River Valley.



Walking down to the Kali Gandaki River from Thasang
Walking down to the Kali Gandaki River from Thasang

Upon reaching the jeep road you turn right and follow the road across a small bridge. Pretty soon after crossing the bridge, still following the jeep track you'll come across a big sign "Dhaulagiri Icefall & Sekong Lake".


Join the trail that the sign is pointing too and basically that's it......keep following the trail in a clockwise direction.



Follow the sign!
Follow the sign!

The trail itself rises steadily up through fragrant pine forests, but soon gives way to a more open landscape. The gradient eases as you pass through fields of ....er....wild marijuana and then begins to climb once again up to the small mountain lake of Sekong (a tarn we'd call it Cumbria). Walk for a few minutes more above the lake for the idyllic picnic site.



Picnic time above Sekong Lake looking to Nilgiri and Annapurna
Picnic time above Sekong Lake looking to Nilgiri and Annapurna

Right above you towers Dhaulagiri and across the valley the peaks of the Annapurna range and the omnipresent Nilgiris. If you're lucky you may see a Yak herder with his valuable (and increasingly rare) Yaks.



Annapurna Summits
Annapurna Summits

You can walk higher up on the flanks of Dhaulagiri towards it's incredible icefall. Just allow yourself enough time to come back down again. Reaching the icefall itself is an altogether longer and different proposition entirely.


Picnic time and usually at this relatively modest altitude of around 2600m it's quite mild and often sunny.



Behind you towers Dhaulagiri
Behind you towers Dhaulagiri

Such a beautiful location with outstanding views all around you is no place to leave in a hurry. But, when you do decide to move on follow the trail heading clockwise along the lake shore (saves going down back the same way) and soon the path heads back into the forests, passing another small lake, before finally bringing you back out on the jeep road.



Tukuche Peak
Tukuche Peak

Turn left, back across the bridge and then follow the trail back up to Thasang.



The huge Dhaulagiri Icefall
The huge Dhaulagiri Icefall

You could probably complete this circuit walk in 3-4hrs, but as there's so much to 'soak up' making a leisurely day of it is best.



Greetings from Sekong Lake
Greetings from Sekong Lake

This beautiful walk now features in our "Mustang Magic Luxury Lodge Trek", although several Snow Cat Travel clients have asked us to include it in their custom Nepal tour, either as part of a longer Jeep Adventure to Lo Manthang, or simply as a couple of days excursion from Pokhara on a tailor made cultural tour of Nepal.


Originally posted on the Snow Cat Travel WordPress Blog



By Snow Cat Travel, Jul 31 2018 10:51AM


Bhutan Festivals
Bhutan Festivals

Bhutan is renowned for its colourful festivals. Some Bhutan festivals (Tsechu’s) are now very well known amongst travelling circles and have become very popular tourist attractions too as a result.


Other Bhutan festivals remain a much more local affair and present a more intimate experience for the discerning traveller to Bhutan.



Bhutan Festival Dancers-Thimpu
Bhutan Festival Dancers-Thimpu

Here’s a selection of some (not all, there are way too many) festivals of Bhutan that can be enjoyed in various parts of Bhutan throughout the year.


Paro and Thimpu Festivals- The Big Two!


The Paro Tsechu held in mid-April and the Thimpu Festival in early October have now become mass market tourism affairs. For these festivals, both hotels and flights to Bhutan are often fully booked up to a year in advance.


Colourful and vibrant the Paro Festival attracts the Bhutanese faithful from afar as well as hordes of tourists too. A huge Thangka is displayed on the final day.


Thimpu Tsechu is probably the biggest and most popular festival in Bhutan. Masked dancers, jesters, thousands of locals from neighbouring Dzongkhas and lots of tourists amass in Thimpu.



Masks are a big feature of many Bhutan Festivals
Masks are a big feature of many Bhutan Festivals

Our selection of less touristy Festivals in Bhutan


The Black Necked Crane Festival


The Black Necked Crane is revered in Bhutan. In fact if anyone is caught harming or killing the endangered black-necked crane, they could be sentenced to prison for life.



Black Necked Crane
Black Necked Crane

Celebrated at Gangtey Gompa in mid-November, this annual Black Necked Crane festival honours not only the arrival of the sacred Black Necked Crane, but also serves as a conservation initiative. Dancers dress as Cranes and the local kids sing songs.



Black Necked Crane Festival, Gangtey, Bumthang, Bhutan
Black Necked Crane Festival, Gangtey, Bumthang, Bhutan

Chomolhari Festival


This is a rather different affair. It’s a celebration of the mountain communities that live beneath Chomolhari and the Snow Leopard. Not easy to get to though.



Chomolhari
Chomolhari

A trek to the foot of Chomolhari in mid-October is required! Highly recommended if you can though.


Masutaki Festival


A bit different….this is a Mushroom Festival!



Celebrate the Masutaki Mushroom!
Celebrate the Masutaki Mushroom!

This Bumthang region Festival at Ura Gorund marks the start of Mushroom season in late August! Great for song, dance, Masutaki food specialities and for an insight into Bhutanese village life. The stunning Ura Valley is a suitable backdrop for this fascinating event.


Jambay Lhakang Drup


Once again in the Bumthang Valley area at Jambay Lhakang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan this is one of the most spectacular of all Bhutan festivals. The ritualistic, naked fire dance is a real highlight.



Pemagatshel Tsechu


Way “off the map”, attending this religious festival in late November itself is believed to earn you merit and the Bhutanese travel great distances to be part of this one. So will you! For the intrepid adventurer Cham dances, song and more await in the lands of the Tshanglas.


Haa Summer Festival


At Ha township nestled in the pristine Haa Valley this annual festival is a lively affair celebrating nomadic lifestyles, unique Bhutanese cuisine, traditional sports, songs and dance and with lots of “Ara”, a local spirit.



The stunning Haa Valley, Bhutan
The stunning Haa Valley, Bhutan

It takes place in early July, so expect to get wet if you attend this one as it’s rainy season in Bhutan at this time too.


Druk Wangyel Tsechu


An experience like no other and one that truly exemplifies Bhutanese culture and traditions. Introduced in 2011, this event celebrates a 2003 victory against Indian insurgents. The location?



The Dochu La, Bhutan
The Dochu La, Bhutan

The stunning Dochu La with panoramic Himalayan views too. The Dochu La is a 3140m road pass that links Thimpu with Punakha. This one day festival takes place in mid-December.


Punakha Dromche and Punakha Tsechu


These two combine to make six days of festival. Taking place in early March. First is the three day Punakha Dromche in the Punakha Dzong Courtyard, this festival is unique with a “Serda”, a magnificent procession re-enacting the 17th Century war with Tibet.



Punakha Dzong, Bhutan
Punakha Dzong, Bhutan

The Punakha Tsechu follows Punakha Dromche at the same location. Introduced in 2005 to preserve the noble deeds of Zhabdrung Rimpoche in prayer and pilgrimage.


Ura Yakchoe


A very lively affair!


Three days of mask dances in mid-May with a procession carrying an image of Chana Dorji (Vajrapani) from the nearby Gaden Lhakhang in the Bumthang region down to the main lhankhang. The eve of the festival sees the frantic brewing of sinchhang (a spirit distilled from millet, wheat or rice) and a late-night exorcism.


These are just a handful of the many festivals in Bhutan.


To see a full list of all the festivals in Bhutan and when they take place, check out our


BHUTAN FESTIVALS CALENDAR


For more about Bhutan, please see our Bhutan Travel Guide and Why is a visit to Bhutan so expensive articles too.


See our full range of Custom Bhutan Treks and Tours


This article was originally published on the Snow Cat Travel WordPress blog




By Snow Cat Travel, Jul 25 2018 12:35PM

If you’re an experienced trekker, you don’t need to be put off by the thought of crowded trails that are often the case on the “standard” Everest Base Camp trek.



Everest Treks
Everest Treks

There are indeed other and arguably better ways to reach Everest and because they are even more challenging, by default they aren’t anything like as busy.


How you can trek to Everest and avoid the crowds


The simple explanation is that you take a detour from the “standard” Everest Base Camp trail, which is the one that by far most people follow.


Just like other bucket list treks (think Kilimanjaro and the Inca Trail), the “standard” Everest Base Camp trek does seem to attract more than it’s fair share of people who would never usually go trekking. Judging by some of the questions we get, without much of an idea as to the realities (or the pitfalls) either of what is still a challenging trek and at very high altitude too.



Gorak Shep Teahouses
Gorak Shep Teahouses

But, what is generally known as the “standard” Everest Base Camp trek is in fact mostly a linear route i.e. the way you go up, is the way you come down.


And yes….it does indeed get very busy at times.


The detour that we call “Everest The Hard Way


Well, you can of course be an “Everest purist” and begin the trek at Jiri instead of missing that bit out and flying up to Lukla. However, nowadays most people do indeed start and end their Everest trek at the mountain airstrip of Lukla.


So, the first two days of walking are from Lukla, down to Phakding and then up the Sherpa capital of Namche Bazaar, the same as the “standard route”.


But, after a compulsory acclimatisation day at Namche (it’s 3440m altitude after all), here’s where the detour starts. Instead of heading up the main valley that the “standard” route takes, you take a “left turn” up a side valley. Hey presto! In an instant you’ve lost “the crowds”.



Everest Base Camp on the Khumbu Glacier
Everest Base Camp on the Khumbu Glacier

You’re heading for the tiny settlement of Marulung (have you even heard of Marulung?) above the Bhote Khosi River, via Thame. As you’re now over 4,000m you really need a couple of days for acclimatisation along the way too.


Leaving Marulung, a tough, but very rewarding day lies ahead. Crossing the 5340m Renjo La to descend to the glittering, turquoise lakes of Gokyo. There’ll be a lot of huffing and puffing as you climb up to the Renjo La, but the views of the Himalayan peaks of the Everest region from the pass are outrageously stunning.


Views of Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Gokyo Lake from the Renjo La
Views of Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Gokyo Lake from the Renjo La

Here at Gokyo you can then take a hike for closer views of magnificent Cho Oyu and indeed the “scoundrels view” of Everest (around 5 hours return). There’s also one of the classic Everest view points, Gokyo Ri (5360m) to do too.


The following day is (thankfully) a bit more straightforward as you head across the Ngozumba Glacier to Dragnag (4700m), but there’s another “toughie” to follow the next day.



Everest panorama from Gokyo Ri
Everest panorama from Gokyo Ri

That would be the Cho La (5425m). This is a usually glaciated (or sometimes snow covered) pass that is quite steep in places and with some loose scree, old moraine and a boulder field to navigate. Enough to keep the inexperienced non-trekker away. As with the Renjo La, the views from the Cho La are equally stunning and well worth the scrambling up before the long descent to tiny Dzongla (4830m), which really is nothing more than a couple of teahouses



Ama Dablam
Ama Dablam

Now, to make the final approach to Everest Base Camp, you are gonna have to re-join the “standard” trail, so enjoy the last day of the detour as you hike to Gorak Shep (5140m).


Just like Dzongla, Gorak Shep is really just a handful of trekking lodges (possibly the highest in the world) and the stop over location for Base Camp.


But, with Pumori rising above Gorak Shep and the satellite ridge of Kala Pattar (THE classic Everest view point), it’s a pretty spectacular place and although you are re-joining the “standard route”, not everyone who sets out on that route makes it this far up anyway.



The classic Everest view from Kala Pattar
The classic Everest view from Kala Pattar

Still, you’ll surely want to make the 6 hour return hike up to Everest Base Camp.


For the descent you’d then follow the “standard” route via Pheriche, Phortse and Monjo to Lukla. But, you do now get the views of iconic Ama Dablam as compensation.


However, you can actually take another little detour and add in the Kongma La ( a couple of days more is all you need), thus making the “Three Passes Everest Trek”.



Pumori and Kala Pattar above Gorak Shep
Pumori and Kala Pattar above Gorak Shep

Now doesn’t that sound better than hiking up and down the same way with everyone else?


For more see our Everest The Hard Way trek.


Sopurced from our original Snow Cat Travel WordPress blog

By Snow Cat Travel, May 27 2018 07:00AM

Everest Luxury Trek
Everest Luxury Trek

Many people dream of seeing Everest…it is the world’s highest mountain after all.


But, many are put off by the thought of having to “rough it” in a typical tea house with only the most basic of creature comforts.


We’ll…..the good news is that things have improved. There are now a number of Luxury Trekking Lodges throughout much of the Everest region. It’s a marvel in itself that these very comfortable lodges exist…there are still no roads in the Everest region, yet exist they do.



Typical room of an Everest Luxury Lodge
Typical room of an Everest Luxury Lodge

Just imagine waking up in the comfort of a real bed. You’re staring at Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse and Ama Dablam. Nipping into your en suite bathroom, you take a hot shower and you try your best not to lose the soap as you’re gawping at outrageous snowy peaks through the bathroom window. Then enjoy a hearty breakfast….still gawping.


Of course you saw it all the night before too whilst having dinner (and perhaps a cheeky glass of wine) before retiring to the comfort of your bedroom and admiring the lofty Himalayas, now dark silhouettes beneath the even darker, but star filled sky.



Now that's what we call breakfast in style!
Now that's what we call breakfast in style!

To top it off you’ve got electricity to charge your camera/smart phone and just might even have a mobile signal or wifi so you can really annoy your friends back at home with ‘live’ images, facetweets etc. Now search the online dictionary and rewrite the definition of ‘smug’…and why not? You still had to trek there, so you did earn it. And…..yes….the above scenario is reality.


See our Everest Luxury Trek for more


Original Source - Snow Cat Travel WordPress blog





By Snow Cat Travel, May 23 2018 10:00AM

Luxury Trekking Annapurna
Luxury Trekking Annapurna

Enjoy a Annapurna luxury trek.


The Annapurna region of Nepal is simply beautiful and nowhere more so than as you follow a delightful horseshoe mini-trek through the Modi Khola Valley, beneath the towering giants of Macchapuchare (Fishtail), Annapurna South and Hiunchuli.


Of course the existence of some very comfortable, strategically located Ker and Downey 'luxury' lodges providing proper beds and private facilities each evening is a definite plus. These are the best trekking lodges in the Annapurnas. And, with all being at relatively modest altitudes it's nice to finish each day sitting outside in their pleasing gardens in the evening warmth, enjoying the magnificent views and reflecting back on the days walks.


This mini-trek has two short, rather easy days of walking and two lengthier moderate walks. But, those with a reasonable level of fitness will find that the two longer days are merely a matter of a few hours walking before and after lunch, so an unhurried pace can be readily adopted to enjoy encounters along the way.


This particular trek can be undertaken the opposite way around if preferred. Either way you'll walk along one side of the Modi Khola and then cross to the other side. Needless to say with this being one of the easiest treks in Nepal and a low altitude Himalayan trek too, these upmarket trekking lodges get booked out regularly. It's wise to plan ahead and have some flexibility.


See our Annapurna Luxury Lodge Trek for more.

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