It is widely known that peak visiting times for the Nepal Himalaya are October-November and March- April. But what if you can’t go during these times for work or personal reasons? Having just returned from completing the Annapurna Panorama Lodge Trek from 13th to 25th May, I can tell you that there are many advantages for foothill trekking outside of the peak seasons.
No queues on the footpaths or for showers!
The biggest plus point for trekking at the end of the season was the lack of other trekkers. We met very few other people during our daily treks; there was no queuing to pass other people or to cross bridges. At times we felt like we had the hills to ourselves! Walking through the farmland and villages was peaceful and we could take our time to stop and take photos and watch villagers going about their daily lives.
We had some of the lodges completely to ourselves (we were a group of 6). The busiest lodge we stayed in only had another 8 people staying! The lodges were quiet and we only had to discuss who wanted the first shower within our own group. Dinners were more leisurely than they would be during the busy season. We were able to sit and chat after we finished eating and were not hurried out to make way for the next dinner sitting.
Interesting weather patterns
The biggest worry for most people who decide to trek out of peak season is probably the weather. Unlike a similar trip the same time the year before, we were not fortunate to have clear skies everyday. However, it was exciting to get up for sunrise each morning to see what the weather would bring that day. Some days we were blessed with no clouds and amazing views across the Annapurna range. Other days the clouds would be there but the sun would break through and give us surprise views of various peaks throughout the day. Our guide Dorje and Sirdar Kanchha were always there ready to tell us which peaks we could see.
The temperatures were quite warm, reaching the mid twenties some days. However, it was a little cooler the higher we went. There is no need to worry about being cold at night which was a bonus! I found having a silk liner useful as I used this on its own on the warmer nights. However, taking a warm sleeping bag is still essential as at higher altitudes you will need this.
Fruits, flowers and fauna
The warmer temperatures of May mean that the trees and plants are lush and green. We saw many beautiful flowers and their accompanying butterflies. Trees are heavy with walnuts and figs which are beginning to ripen. Bushes with berries grow beside the paths and I tasted some delicious yellow raspberry type berries and some similar to bilberries (obviously under the guidance of our guides telling us which were edible!)
As we were mainly in the foothills much of the surrounding farmland is terraced and crops of potatoes and corn were growing well. We saw many local people tending to their produce in the fields.
We woke up each morning to many birds singing and our guide Dorje said that there are many different birds at this time of year. Langur monkeys watched us pass from high up in the trees. Along with the wild animals, we met many farm animals including yaks, cows, goats and chickens roaming the hillsides (and sometimes the yaks lazing happily in the sun on the footpaths!)
Trekking in May
If you cannot trek during the peak seasons in Nepal, or want to avoid the crowds, then May trekking could be the perfect option for you! It is far more peaceful and the foothills are blooming with flowers and crops. While the weather is less predictable, you can still expect to have some fantastic views of the mountains and enjoy the beautiful landscape.