When I quit my full-time job, I did what most millennials between stints would do: I booked a vacation to recalibrate. My travel buddy and I chose Kathmandu, Nepal, and the highlight of the trip was a four-day, three-night trek to Poon Hill—a famous peak that offers breathtaking panoramas of the Himalayas. If you’re a first-timer who’s game for the experience but unsure of what to expect, here’s everything you need to know before making that life-changing journey.
WHO IS IT FOR?
The Poon Hill trek is one of the most popular routes in Nepal and it’s easy to see why. Averaging four days, the short trek is perfect for beginners. And with the highest point at a reasonable 3,210m, you should be able to conquer the undulating terrain with a moderate fitness level.
While it’s possible to explore the route on your own, it’s best to hire a guide and porter because they’ll make your life so much easier before, during and after the trek.
Our guide, Megh, runs his own company, Kingdom Treks, and was on hand to tailor the four-day hike to suit our needs. Besides doing all navigating work, the seasoned professional also helped with the paperwork for the trek permits, secured vehicle transfers, and oversaw all our meals and accommodation arrangements. Syak, our porter, is a pillar of strength— literally—who lugged our heavy backpacks throughout the trek with ease.
WHAT TO PACK
Standard trekking gear is ideal, but not compulsory. Your footwear choice is important— invest in pair of hiking shoes with a good grip. Spring and autumn are the best seasons for trekking, but that also means you’ll have to cope with temperature fl uctuations. A lightweight puffer jacket, sweater and thermal layers should do the trick. And don’t forget your sunscreen—you wouldn’t want to neglect your skin’s welfare while your soul is nourished by the incredible sights.
Costs will vary, but it’s advisable to factor US$80 to US$100 per day for the trek to cover food, accommodation and the services of a guide and porter.
From Kathmandu, we took a six-hour car ride to Pokhara, a lakeside town that’s a launchpad for trekkers heading into the Annapurna region. If being stuck in a car for an extended period of time isn’t your thing, consider taking a plane into Pokhara (but with tickets averaging US$190 for a 30-minute flight, it’s not exactly the most economical option).
More about Pokhara: with its sheer variety of souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants and bars, the charming town is the perfect spot to unwind after a trek—we spent three extra nights there for some well-deserved R&R.
WHERE TO STAY
Don’t expect five-star accommodation on the trek. Instead, you’ll spend each night in a tea house, which is a guest lodge that provides basic amenities. The rooms are bare but the beds are comfortable—we were also given thick, duvet-like blankets for extra warmth. Toilets are either en suite or shared—you can make your preference known to the guide.
Some tea houses offer free Wi-Fi, while others require you to pay a nominal fee to tap into their network. The internet speed is patchy at best, so bring a book or load up on those Netfl ix shows beforehand.
Meals are also provided, and we were told the food menus have been standardised across all the tea houses. You’ll want to try a piping hot plate of Momo, Nepal’s take on the humble dumpling. Do give Dal Bhat a go, too. Comprising steamed rice, vegetable sides, lentil gravy and a curry of your choice, the staple dish is a great source of energy.
WHAT YOU'LL SEE
From the stepped terraces of wheat fields to the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayan mountains, the Poon Hill trek offers myriad views that are a feast for the eyes. You’ll cut through quaint villages and verdant forests where pretty rhododendron flowers bloom in abundance during spring.
While you take a break to catch your breath, watch as the passing clouds cast a shadow play on the world below you. Get a glimpse of life in the mountains as cheeky children peddle drinks to passing trekkers, or make way for caravans of mules as they transport supplies on their backs. From the village of Ghorepani, make a final burst up to Poon Hill and watch the sunrise from behind the Himalayas. It’s beyond magical.
IMAGES AND TEXT GERALD TAN.