GHT Humla Section Limi Valley Trek
Entering the rarely visited and mystic Limi Valley seems like stepping back in time. Due to the isolated location, the villages are very untouched and pure. Century old Buddhist traditions, interwoven with shamanistic influences, are still an important part of daily life here.
You follow the ancient salt trading and pilgrimage route to the border of Nepal and China, crossing the Nara La pass (4620 m). From the border town of Hilsa you turn northeast towards the Limi Valley.
During this trek, you have a chance to spot the elusive snowleopard, bluesheep, jackals, hyenas and musk deer. You sleep in authentic, small Buddhist villages and camp in amazing spots amidst the snowcapped mountains.
Due to its remote location, Humla is still an “off the beaten trek destination”. Especially in spring and summer you see few other tourists.
Highlights of the trek
- Encounter authentic Buddhism and Bonpo culture
- Cross two high passes around 5000 meters with spectacular views over the Himalayas
- Walk through desolate, stunning landscapes
- Sleep in authentic, small Buddhist villages and camp in amazing spots amidst the snowcapped mountains
- Chance to see snowleopard, bluesheep, jackals, hyenas and musk deer
- Visit secluded villages, where the Tibetan culture still continues relatively untouched, as far from the modern day world as you can be.
© Dmitri Alexander
© Dmitri Alexander
© Dmitri Alexander
© Dmitri Alexander
© Dmitri Alexander
© Dmitri Alexander
Teahouse/homestay/Camping (it is needed to take a tent)
Humla Trekking Permit
- Day 1 Flight Kathmandu-Nepalgunj. To get to Humla, generally you have to fly to Nepalgunj first. Nepalgunj is a steaming hot city in South Western Nepal, in the lowlands of Terai, close to the Indian border, which is just 8 km away. Culturally the area more resemble India than upland Nepal. Take a cycle rikshaw for a ride in town. You pass the hustle and bustle of the bazaar and see horse carts full of colorful people going to or coming from the Indian border. The Bageshowri temple is one of Nepal’s most important Hindu temples and is worth a visit as well.
- Day 2 Flight Nepalgunj-Simikot (2950 m) It’s a 45 minutes flight to Simikot over steep mountain ridges with beautiful views of snow-capped mountains. Simikot airport is just a gravel airstrip amidst the mountains, which guarantees a spectacular landing (the airport is due to be paved soon). Stepping out of the plane, you enter in a completely different world. From a hot city in the plains, you arrive in a small mountain village, situated in the midst of the Himalayas, breathing in crispy cold air.It is possible to start walking immediately to Dharapuri, but it is worthwhile staying in Simikot and wander around the village. Simikot is a small, mostly Hindu village. You see people weaving at small looms at their backyards. As Simikot is situated at an altitude of almost 3000 meters, it is wise to take it easy today to give your body the chance to acclimatize.Simikot has one hotel, a few guesthouses and campsites.
- Day 3 Simikot to Dharapuri (2300 m) 4 hrs The trek starts with a short climb of about an hour to a little pass (approximately 3150m). After the pass it’s a steep decent of about 1 hour to Majgaon, passing through pine forests. Along the way, you meet local Hindu and Buddhist people in their traditional dress with their pack animals, or carrying their heavy loads all the way up the steep trail themselves. After Majgoaon, the trail is going down more gradually, and at some parts even going up: this is what they call Nepali flat. You will notice that the landscape is a lot greener at this lower altitude.Accommodation: In Dharapuri you can camp or stay in one of the 2 (very) basic local guesthouses.
- Day 4 Dharapuri to Kermi (2670 m) 3 hrs It is a rather short walk today. The trail follows the Karnali River, sometimes high on the slope, with the river far below you and sometimes almost level with it. The river finds its way through narrow gorges with impressive high rocky slopes. You walk along fields with mainly barley, buckwheat, rice and potatoes.In the afternoon you can relax your muscles in one of the two natural hot springs close to the village. It’s a 30 minute walk, passing Kermi village. Kermi is a small agricultural village and is the first completely Buddhist village on the trail. From Kermi onwards, all the villages are Buddhist. There are two interesting Buddhist monasteries close to Kermi: Laikyo Gompa, a few hundred years old, is about 45 minutes from the campsite and Lhundrup Choeling Gompa, less than half a century old, is about 30 minutes from the campsite. Both are still seldom visited by tourists. In Kermi there is a small clinic funded and managed by Nepal Trust (www.nepaltrust.org ), which you can visit as well.At night you fall asleep with the sounds of jackals and hyenas in the distance.Accommodation: 45 minutes before Kermi is Dadakermi. There is a small guesthouse here, which can be a nice stop for lunch or a cup of tea as well. Just before Kermi, you will find a campsite with a beautiful view over the mountains.
- Day 5 Kermi to Yalbang (3020 m) 5 hrs The trail is flat and slightly uphill, passing alongside fields planted with barley and buckwheat. Beautiful lizards are sunning on the rocks. After about 2 hours you cross a small pass, after which it is a short steep descend till a big iron suspension bridge over the Sali River. Here you find a few teashops where you could stop for tea or lunch. The walk goes through beautiful pine forests now, with below you the emerald green Karnali river.Once and a while you meet caravans of mules and dzopa´s (a crossbreed of yak and cow). These are mostly villagers from Simikot and the Nyinba Valley, to the east of Simikot. They are going to (or are coming back from) Taklakot, just across the border with Tibet, to buy goods for trading or for personal use.In and around Yalbang there are so many interesting things to see that it is easy to spend an extra day here.Above the village there is a beautiful monastery: the Namkha Khyung Dzong Monastery. You notice you are getting near the monastery by a huge stone, with a Tibetan mantra carved on it. The Namkha Khyung Dzong is the biggest monastery in the region, with around 130 monks living there. It belongs to the Nyingmapa lineage, the oldest Buddhist lineage, which is founded by Guru Ringpoche, an important magician of the 7th century. Inside the monastery you can see a big statue of Sakyamuni Buddha and some smaller statues, among which a statue of Guru Rinpoche. The monastery has a school and a clinic, which you can visit as well. A Buddhist monk will be happy to show you around, after which you will be invited for tea upstairs. At 7 am and 4 pm there is a daily puja (a Buddhist prayer ceremony) that you can attend (please remain silent and sit down along one of the side walls, behind the monks).In Yalbang is a Children Hostel, run by the Himalayan Children Society. Children from the surrounding villages go to school in Yalbang. As the school would be too far to walk to each day, without the hostel children from these villages wouldn’t be able to go to school. The owner is happy to show you around.In Yalbang there is another small clinic, funded and managed by Nepal Trust, which you can visit as well.At night you fall asleep again with the sound of jackals and hyenas.Accommodation: Just before Yalbang there is one (very) basic guesthouse with one common sleeping room: Singapore Hotel. In Yalbang there are 3 campsites (one run by the Children’s Hostel, one run by the school and another run by the Namkha Khyung Dzong Monastery).
- Day 6 Yalbang to Muchu (3120 m) 4 hrs or Tumkot (3380 m) 5 hrs Leaving Yalbang, the path goes high above the Karnali River again and passes the little village of Yangar. The path is mostly “Nepali Flat”. At some parts the path is spectacularly carved out of the rocks, and you find yourself walking in a kind of three-sided tunnel.You’ll notice that the environment is changing as it is getting more rocky and the big pine trees make way for smaller bushes. You cross the Karnali River by a big wooden suspension bridge. The path climbs high above the Karnali River and goes along the upper site of a deep gorge. You see the emerald green Karnali River far below you. Along the way you may meet big flocks of sheep carrying salt, an old trade still existing today.Sometimes you see big, kind of army tents. These are temporary restaurants and shops, which can be a nice place for a tea, noodle soup or just to refill your stock of snacks, like coconut biscuits.After 3 to 4 hours, you arrive in the charming village of Muchu.Accommodation: If you want to stay a night with the locals, it’s possible here! You can stay with a very friendly family in a homestay, ask for Sitar Tshering Lama and Dege LamaFrom here it’s an hour walking to Tumkot. Actually, the main trail doesn’t pass through Tumkot Village, but through some small teahouses and a campsite. The actual village is some 20 minutes south of the trail. Close to the campsite and village lies a very interesting monastery of the Sakya lineage, the Dhungkar Choezom Monastery, one of the most important Sakya monasteries in the Tibetan region.The monastery lies on a hill, it’s a 20-30 minutes climb to get there. It is the only Sakya Monastery in Humla, and one of the few monasteries of this lineage in Nepal. If the caretaker is around, he is very happy to show visitors around. His enthusiastic explanations show how committed he is with the fate of the monastery. Unfortunately the beautiful wall paintings are in desperate need of renovation. For more info about this monastery see:http://www.buddhistview.com/site/epage/2978_225.htmAccommodation: there are a few teahouses, which mainly cater to local people, but sometimes tourists sleep here as well. Close to Tumkot there is a campsite.
- Day 7 Tumkot to Yari (3700 m) or Thado Dunga (3750 m) 5 hrs The trail climbs slowly but steadily, with a few steep climbs in between. Pretty soon after leaving Tumkot, you can see the landscape changing: it’s getting more and more rocky and desolate. The few trees left are low junipers. Part of the trail goes over the dirt road that is being built at the moment. It is still uncertain when and if the road will ever be finished. You cross the small village Pani Palwang, consisting of a couple of teahouses along the road, which makes a nice place for a cup of tea or a lunch break. It’s another 1 ½ hour to Yari or Thado Dunga, just after Yari.Accommodation: In both Yari as Thado Dunga there are teahouses, which mainly cater to local people, but sometimes tourists sleep here as well. Close to these villages it is also possible to camp.
- Day 8 Yari to Hilsa (3720 m), crossing the Nara La (4620 m) 6 hrs A tough day lies ahead of you, as today you cross the Nara La pass at 4620 meter. It’s a long and tiring climb, but the views are your reward! As the trail climbs, the landscape gets more desolate. Trees disappear completely and the landscape looks more and more like Tibet. Sometimes you meet big caravans of mules, dzopa or yaks. The bigger yaks are an especially impressive sight. You pass a few teahouses at Tado Dunga; from here the trail becomes steeper. It’s still 2 hours climbing to the pass, if there happens to be snow it will take a bit longer. At about half an hour from the pass you cross a few big tents (tent hotels, serving foods and drinks). You can see the Nara La pass in the distance, but due to the altitude it is still a hard climb to get there. You recognize the pass by the pile of stones (it brings good luck to add one!) and the strings of Tibetan prayer flags, carrying the prayers far away with the strong wind.You have breathtaking views ahead into Tibet and back towards Yari far below. At the other side of the pass, it looks like you are in Tibet. You are surrounded by barren mountains in brown, copper, ash and dark yellow colors. From the pass it’s a long descent to Hilsa, close to the border with Tibet. You can choose to take the longer dirt road or a steep shortcut down.Accommodation: In Hilsa there are a couple of simple guesthouses where you can stay. Of course you can also pitch your tents, just behind the village.
- Day 9 Hilsa to Manepeme (3990 m) 5 hrs You leave Hilsa, crossing a big iron bridge. At the other side of the river, a small, slightly difficult trail winds its way over a slope, until it connects with a larger trail high on the slope. This trails follows the Karnali River in eastern direction up till Manepeme. The path climbs gradually with a few steep ups and downs. You walk in a dramatic landscape of bare, steep rocks in amazing colors.Accommodation: There are no settlements between Hilsa and Til. Manepeme is a small flat area close to the trail and close to a water source where it is possible to camp.
- Day 10 Manepeme to Til (4000 m) 6 hrs The trail climbs on and winds its way through the high, steep rocks. After about 2 hours, you can choose between a small path which stays level for a while or a larger path going steeper up. The small path passes a meditation cave, Ya Yip Phuk. This cave plays an important role in the history of Buddhism. It was the meditation cave of Lotsawa Rinchen Sangpo (985-1055 A.D.), a famous translator of Buddhist scriptures. His activities were crucial to the revival of cultural exchange between Tibet and India, paving the way to the so-called second dissemination of Buddhism in Tibet.The trail is suddenly surprisingly green at some parts, with some juniper trees and bushes among the bare rock.The path climbs very steeply for about half an hour to Lamka La, a pass at 4300 meter. After the pass, it’s a pretty easy walk which is mostly going down to Til (more or less 1 ½ hrs). You can notice you are approaching the village when various chörtens (stupas) start to appear. The first thing you see from Til, are some white buildings attached high to a slope. This is the monastery from Til with some retreat houses next to it. It takes a while before you see the village of Til appearing in the distance, as the houses are built with stones that completely merge with the environment. When you get nearer to Til, you will be surprised to see how the environment gets greener. The village is surrounded by birches and terraced fields with barley, which both are bright yellow in September-October. Two beautiful snow capped mountains with impressive glaciers are towering above the village.The village of Til is a beautiful authentic Tibetan village, as are all villages in the Limi Valley. You enter the village passing a gate chörten. Most villagers still wear the original Tibetan dress: the men a long thick brown coat, with one sleeve down, the women a long brown or blue dress with a colorful apron made from yak wool. Outside many women have their heads covered with a long colorful cape, something typical for the villages in the Limi Valley. Most women wear beautiful jewellery, with big turquoise stones. The older people spend a big part of the day praying, spinning their prayer wheels around. Most prayer wheels carry the famous mantra “Om mani padme hum”, which means more or less “blessed is the jewel in the lotus”. This is the mantra of Avalokitesvara, the buddhisatva (a Buddhist half god, who stays on earth to help humanity reach enlightenment) of compassion.Accommodation: Most groups camp at a campsite 45 minutes downhill from Til, next to the river. It’s a climb of a little over 1 hour to the village, but it is really worthwhile going there.If you have a small group, you can try to camp close to the village or to stay with a family.
- Day 11 Til to Halji (3660 m) 3 hrs It’s an easy day to Halji, which allows you time to wander around in the villages and visit the monasteries. The path follows the Limi river upstream and it is relatively flat walking.Along the way, look out for mountain goats and blue sheep! If you are very lucky you might even see a snow leopard from here on. As with Til, it takes a while before you see Halji appearing, as the village is blending completely with the environment. You enter the village passing a gate chörten after which a very big mani wall appears, a low wall with many stones in which holy mantra’s and Buddhist deities are carved. In Halji the monastery, Rinchenling Gompa, is in the village itself. It’s built in the 14th Century and belongs to the Kagyugpa lineage. It’s the main gompa in the Limi Valley and serves as the religious centre of the Valley. It has been beautifully restored (with help of Nepal Trust) and has many interesting parts to visit. The main hall has a beautifully decorated statue of Sakyamuni Buddha. In smaller rooms you can find more beautiful statues, the complete Kenjur (Buddhist scriptures) and masks and costumes used during festivals.Close to the village there is a clinic, a micro hydro power plant and solar plant built by Nepal Trust that you can visit as well.Accommodation: Close to the village you can find a campsite, run by the youth club of Halji. The youth club consist of young people below 40 years old, who want to contribute to the village. The money they earn with the campsite they use for helping villagers in need. Besides, they want to build a community hall, which can be used for meetings. Tourists will be able to stay there as well.
- Day 12 Halji to Jang (3930 m) 4 hrs It’s an easy 4-hour walk from Halji to Jang, following the Limi Khola. Jang is the third and last village in the Limi Valley and, as with the other villages, it’s a magical place to be. It’s very special to be in such a secluded place where the Tibetan culture still continues relatively untouched, as far from the modern day world as you can be.Accommodation: The campsite is close to the village and is run by the youth club of Jang.
- Day 13 Jang to Talung (4370 m) 8 hrs It will be hard to leave Jang, knowing you will be leaving the Limi Valley and its authentic Tibetan villages with their friendly people. In the coming days there won’t be any more villages until Kermi and you will be walking through impressive, completely desolate landscapes. The trail goes up slowly but steadily. The thin air will force you to walk slow.Accommodation: campsite in no man's land.
- Day 14 Talung to Shinjungma (3620 m), crossing the Nyalu La (4949 m) 8 hrs The second spectacular pass day of this trek! It’s a very tough, but rewarding climb to the highest point of the trek, the Nyalu La, at 4940 meters. There can be snow and ice, which makes the climb more challenging. From the pass you have breathtaking 360 degrees views into Humla and Tibet. You can see the holy Mount Kailash (6714 m) and Mount Saipal (7031 m) and many more snowcapped mountains which are stretching out before you.From the pass it is a steep downward slope to Lake Selma Tso at 4630 meter. The trail continues going down, following the Sali River, to the campsite at Shinjungma. Along the way you have many more beautiful views of Mount Saipal.Accommodation: campsite in no man’s land.
- Day 15 Shinjungma to Kermi (2670 m) 7 hrs Today you go back to civilization, and walk back to Kermi village. You will drop below 3000 m for the first time in 10 days. It’s a pleasant walk through pine and birch forests and along the beautiful Sali Khola, with rocks towering on both sides of the trail. The trail meets the Karnali river again and turns east towards Kermi village. In Kermi you can relax your tired muscles in the hot springs, a great reward for your efforts of the last days!
- Day 16 Kermi to Simikot (2950 m) 6 hrs The first part up till Darapuri (2300 m) and Majgaon (2290 m) is pleasant walking. The trail is Nepali Flat, going up and down. From Majgaon a long climb of about 2 hours waits from the Karnali River up till a pass just over 3000 meter. But after the pass it’s just 30 more minutes back to Simikot and a well-deserved cold drink and hot shower!
- Day 17 Flight Simikot-Nepalgunj-Kathmandu Early morning you fly back to Nepalgunj and onwards to Kathmandu.