How to Go Teahouse Trekking in Nepal

snow covered mountains and blue sky in the background with a settlement of stone buildings in foreground


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If you've ever looked into traveling to Nepal, you have probably heard the term "teahouse trekking." For centuries, long before foreign travelers started arriving in Nepal in the 20th century, networks of foot trails have existed in the mountainous and hilly areas of Nepal. Teahouses were originally just what they sound like: homes or small shops selling tea and snacks, which supported travelers on these trails. They often also provided a basic place to sleep. Although many parts of Nepal are now connected by roads and highways, mountainous areas are still generally not well connected, and local people still travel on foot to reach road heads or remote airstrips connected to the cities. Here's what you need to know about staying at a teahouse in Nepal and going on a teahouse trek—drinking tea is entirely optional!

What It's Like Staying in a Teahouse

Nowadays, a "teahouse" along the trekking trails of Nepal can refer to everything from a basic hut where you need to take your own bedding to a more luxurious lodge somewhat like a hotel in the cities. The average 21st-century teahouse located along the more popular trekking routes will provide a private but basic room with some bedding and usually a shared toilet and bathroom (hot water is not always available, or sometimes is for an extra fee).

Food is provided in teahouses and it's an unwritten rule that you will buy your meals at the teahouse you stay at. The room fee is usually very low, so teahouse operators make their money through the food you buy.

The quality and availability of teahouses vary between regions of Nepal. Areas with popular and well-developed trekking trails—such as the Everest area, Annapurna range, Lower Mustang, and Langtang Valley—tend to have plentiful and decent teahouses. Expect a private room, basic bedding (taking your own sleeping bag is a good idea), hot water for a fee, and nourishing food (dal bhat, noodles, and momo are most common). Usually, only the common dining area/lounge is heated, by a wood stove.

In some areas, teahouses are run as collectives, or according to local rules. This means prices and standards are quite uniform. Such systems aren't in place everywhere though, and in those places you're more likely to have people approach you on the trail and suggest you stay at their (or their friend's) teahouse in the next settlement. There's more opportunity to bargain in the latter case, although haggling is not encouraged as travelers are in a position of extreme privilege compared to mountain villagers in Nepal.

snow-capped mountains in background with small settlement in foreground


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The Best Teahouse Treks

Not all trekking routes in Nepal are teahouse treks. Some more remote areas support camping-only, take-your-own-food treks, either because villages don't have the infrastructure or food supplies to host trekkers or because there are no villages! The following routes are all teahouse treks. Where possible, opt for lesser-known trails in popular areas, to avoid putting strain on resources and local communities, and to spread your tourist dollars around.

Khumbu Region

The Khumbu region includes the Sagarmatha National Park, home to Mount Everest (which actually sits on the border between Nepal and Tibet). The classic Everest Base Camp trek is very popular, and for good reasons, as you can enjoy awe-inspiring views of the tallest mountain in the world and experience the distinct Sherpa culture. Because it's so popular, the trail can get congested in the peak seasons (March-May and October-November) and the teahouses fill up fast. Because the area is relatively developed, though, you can find teahouses off the main EBC trail, along routes that aren't as busy.

The Gokyo Lakes Trek is a great alternative that diverges from the main EBC path. The first few days follow the same trail until after the town of Namche Bazaar. A major highlight is the view from Gokyo Ri (17,575 feet), across the turquoise Gokyo Lakes and to Everest. It takes around 14 days and is quite challenging because of the altitude.

Annapurna Region

Second only to Everest in popularity, the Annapurna area in western Nepal is a diverse area because it edges the Tibetan Plateau to the north and is easily accessible from Nepal's second city, Pokhara. The Annapurna Circuit is sometimes preferred over EBC because it's a circuit rather than an in-and-out trek, meaning every day brings new views and experiences. The challenging 12 to 21-day circuit is very popular but you can do teahouse treks in less busy areas within the Annapurna Range.

The eight to 12-day Annapurna Sanctuary trek is somewhat less busy than the circuit. It passes through land that's sacred to Hindus, the land is believed to be the home of Lord Shiva, to Annapurna Base Camp (13,550 feet). It can be a challenging trek because the teahouses are spread out in some parts, meaning you have to walk long distances. An easier, shorter alternative is the Ghorepani-Poon Hill Trek. This three-to-five-day trek leads up to an incredible sunrise viewpoint, where you can see a panoramic view of the Annapurna Range.

Langtang Valley Trek

Langtang National Park provides one of the more accessible teahouse treks within easy reach of Kathmandu. The trailhead at Syabrubesi is accessible within a day's drive of the capital. The village of Langtang, deep within the valley, was destroyed by a landslide caused by the earthquake in April 2015, but the homes and teahouses have been rebuilt and trekkers have returned. The mountains at the head of the Langtang Valley border Tibet. While they're not the tallest in Nepal (Langtang Lirung and Langtang Ri rise more than 23,000 feet), you can get dramatic base-to-summit views from the settlement of Kyanjin Gompa.

Other great hikes can be done in the Langtang area. On the Tamang Heritage Trail, you stay in teahouses in ethnic Tamang villages and learn about their culture. The Gosainkunda trek also diverges from the main Langtang Valley path, leading toward the sacred, bright blue, high-altitude Lake Gosainkunda. Many Hindu pilgrims from around Nepal and India make this pilgrimage.

The Langtang Valley trek and Tamang Heritage Trail are considered only moderately difficult, whereas the Lake Gosainkunda trek is more challenging as it requires a more rapid ascent.

Manaslu Circuit

To enjoy a teahouse trek without the crowds, check out the 12-day Manaslu Circuit. This lies within a restricted area, so you need a permit and a guide to trek here. There are still teahouses, even though the area hasn't been as developed for mass tourism. At 26,781 feet, Manaslu is the eighth-highest mountain in the world. It starts by following the Budhi Gandaki River and rises through farmland and forest to high-altitude passes, glaciers, and lakes to encircle Mount Manaslu. A worthwhile side-trip is to the Tsum Valley, where you may need to sleep in local homes or monasteries as this area is relatively untouched by tourism.

One of the small group of teahouses on the way to Ghorepani Trek and Khopra Trek, Kaski, Nepal.
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Safety Tips

Nepal is generally a safe country when it comes to theft or violence, however, it's important to take commonsense safety measures. Trekking alone is not recommended because of the risk of getting altitude sickness, getting lost, or being caught in disasters such as earthquakes, snowstorms, or landslides. Taking a guide is recommended, but on many popular trails, it's easy enough to trek independently, in a couple or small group. Trails are obvious and villagers speak enough English to point you in the right direction. If you want to trek in a more remote area without such well-developed trails, a guide is highly recommended (and mandatory in certain areas, such as Upper Mustang and Upper Dolpo).

In relation to safety in teahouses, it's a good idea to bring your own padlock or combination lock for the door. Anecdotally, you're more likely to have possessions stolen from your room by other travelers than by Nepalis.

Etiquette and Tips

Many foreign travelers either don't know the "rule" that you should buy your meals at the teahouse you stay in, or choose to ignore it. Either way, this is a major faux pas. Most teahouse operators are independent local operators from the area and rely on this money to support their whole family. This is not the time to save a few dollars by taking your own food.

Running water and electricity are often in short supply up in the mountains. Be mindful of your use of both. If you stay at a teahouse that can provide hot showers for a fee, keep your shower short. You will most likely be provided with a bucket of hot water, anyway. This isn't the time to shampoo and condition your waist-length hair, however dirty it may be after a weeks-long trek!

If you're trekking independently without a guide, be aware that during the peak season on busy trails (such as the Everest Base Camp trek or the Annapurna Circuit), teahouses fill up very quickly. While you can't necessarily book them in advance (unless you want to stay in luxury teahouses with a website), trekkers with guides secure rooms in teahouses before independent trekkers get a chance to. If you're traveling in a big group, it's recommended to get a guide in these popular places. If you're solo or in a pair, you may be able to find a bed somewhere if you arrive later in the day, but you may have to be open minded about the quality of the room.

Finally, it's important to get the necessary permits for most trekking regions. Even if you aren't entering a restricted area, you'll need some paperwork to trek on many trails. A guide will help you with this, or you can organize them through the Nepal Tourism Board offices in Kathmandu and Pokhara.

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