Just as New York is not representative of the USA, so Kathmandu is not representative of Nepal. If you have the time and energy to trek, don't miss the opportunity to leave Kathmandu and see the spectacular beauty and the unique culture of Nepal. Fortunately for the visitor, there are still only a few roads extending deeply into the hills, so the only way to truly visit the remote regions of the kingdom is in the slowest and most intimate manner - walking. It requires more time and effort, but the rewards are also greater. Instead of zipping down a freeway, racing to the next "point of interest," each step provides new and intriguing viewpoints. You will perceive your day as an entity rather than a few highlights strung together by a ribbon of concrete. For the romanticist, each step follows the footsteps of Hillary, Tenzing, Herzog and other Himalayan explorers. If you have neither the patience nor the physical stamina to visit the hills of Nepal on foot, a helicopter flight provides an expensive and unsatisfactory substitute.
Trekking in Nepal will take you through a country that has captured the imagination of mountaineers and explorers for more than 100 years. You will meet people in remote mountain villages whose lifestyle has not changed in generations. Most people trust foreigners. Nepal is one of only a handful of countries that has never been ruled by a foreign power.
Many of the values associated with a hiking trip at home do not have the same importance during a trek in Nepal. Isolation is traditionally a crucial element of any wilderness experience but in Nepal it is impossible to get completely away from people, except for short times or at extremely high elevations. Environmental concerns must include the effects of conservation measures on rural people and the economic effects of tourism on indigenous populations. Even traditional national park management must be adapted because there are significant population centres within Sagarmatha (Mt Everest) and Langtang national parks.
Trekking does not mean mountain climbing. While the ascent of a Himalayan peak may be an attraction for some, you need not have such a goal to enjoy a trek. As far as most people are concerned, trekking always refers to walking on trails.
While trekking you will see the great diversity of Nepal. Villages embrace many ethnic groups and cultures. The terrain changes from tropical jungle to high glaciated peaks in only 150 km. From the start, the towering peaks of the Himalaya provide one of the highlights of a trek. As your plane approaches Kathmandu these peaks appear to be small clouds on the horizon. The mountains become more definable and seem to reach impossible heights as you get closer and finally land at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan Airport.
During a trek, the Himalaya disappears behind Nepal's continual hills, but dominates the northern skyline at each pass. Annapurna, Manaslu, Langtang, Gauri Shankar and Everest will become familiar names. Finally, after weeks of walking, you will arrive at the foot of the mountains themselves - astonishing heights from which gigantic avalanches tumble earthwards in apparent slow motion, dwarfed by their surroundings. Your conception of the Himalaya alters as you turn from peaks famed only for their height to gaze on far more picturesque summits that you may never have heard of - Kantega, Ama Dablam, Machhapuchhare and Kumbhakarna.
Though some treks venture near glaciers, and even cross the foot of them, most treks do not allow the fulfilment of any Himalayan mountaineering ambitions. Nepal's mountaineering regulations allow trekkers to climb 18 specified peaks with a minimum of formality, but you must still make a few advance arrangements for such climbs. Many agents offer so-called climbing treks which include the ascent of one of these peaks as a feature of the trek. There are a few peaks that, under ideal conditions, are within the resources of individual trekkers. A climb can be arranged in Kathmandu if conditions are right, but a climb of one of the more difficult peaks should be planned well in advance.
Probably the only physical problem that may make a trek impossible is a history of knee problems on descents. In Nepal the descents are long, steep and unrelenting. There is hardly a level stretch of trail in the entire country. If you are an experienced walker and often hike 15 km a day with a pack, a trek should prove no difficulty. You will be pleasantly surprised at how easy the hiking can be if you only carry a light backpack and do not have to worry about meal preparation.
Previous experience in hiking and living outdoors is, however, helpful as you make plans for your trek. The first night of a month-long trip is too late to discover that you do not like to sleep in a sleeping bag. Mountaineering experience is not necessary, but you must enjoy walking.