Upper Humla Trek: Blend of Nature And Culture
Upper Humla Trek

Are you looking for a unique and unforgettable adventure? If so, the Upper Humla Trek in Nepal is the perfect trip for you! This incredible trek takes travelers through some of Nepal’s most beautiful landscapes, offering breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains and lush valleys. Along your journey, you’ll experience Himalayan culture firsthand and see some fantastic wildlife.

Humla is a mountainous district in Karnali province in the North-west corner of Nepal bordering Tibet. It’s the country’s 2nd largest district with an area of 5655 sq. kilometers and an altitude ranging from 1500 to 7300 meters. In 1993, Nepal Government and China agreed that allow the first treks across the border between the two countries in Humla.

Among the other trails, the Upper Humla Trek is a newly promoted, unique trekking trail open to trekkers since 1997. 

There are quite a few trekking trails in Humla. This remote region is rich in biodiversity, being home to too many endangered and elusive species and plants. The area is endowed with immense natural beauty and astounding culture.

Since Simikot is the primary gateway to the holy Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar in Tibet, the Simikot Kailash trail has become a trendy route in this region.

The natural attraction of the Upper Humla Trek

Humla is part of the hidden Himalayas. There are many attractions for tourists in this region. The major attractions are the panoramic views of the Holy Mountain, Mt. Kailash (6714 meters), Mt. Saipal (7030 meters), and Mount Mendon, trekking along the gorges of Karnali and Limi rivers, and scenic views of the landscape.

Likewise, the natural waterfall (chiyachhahara) at Chachera at 2350 meters, Tshom Lake (at 4220 meters), and Selima Lake (at 4570 meters) in the Limi Valley, the incredible hot springs (at 2700 meters) at Kermi are also worth visiting.

Moreover, the different forest ecosystems and vegetation types along the trails offer a diversity of wildlife. The whole of the Upper Humla range can see and experience while trekking in this region. The large meadow and pastures grazing large numbers of yaks, horses, and sheep will make the travelers forget about themselves and the busy modern city life.

Upper Humla Trekking
Waterfall during the trek to Upper Humla

The Humlese nature is home to too much flora and fauna, including medicinal and aromatic plants. One can experience the non-timber and enormous alpine forests along the trails. Rare birds and wild animals such as danphe, musk deer, Himalayan tahr, blue sheep, and snow leopard are the genuine treasure of this region.

The cultural attraction of the trail

The Upper Humla Trek provides a dipper experience of the colorful Lama Buddhist culture of the Upper Himalaya, a living ethnologic museum. According to Tibetan Buddhism, the remote Himalayan Gorges recognize as the Hidden Valley for their cultural values and heritage. Due to its diverse indigenous cultures, this Himalayan region is known as the hidden gem of the Himalayas.

The unique local culture, old traditional monasteries, and the local people are inherent aspects of this trail. The Upper Humla Trek provides a dipper experience of the colorful Lama Buddhist culture of the Upper Himalaya, a living ethnologic museum.

culture & tradition in Humla
Traditional pieces of jewelry

One can learn how the people in the high Himalayas earn their life and preserve their unique culture and lifestyle. In particular, the indigenous culture’s type and level of preservation are particular in Limi Valley. Each village has at least one monastery, a series of stupas, and Mani walls.

Monastery in Upper Humla
Shakyapa Monastery in Tumkot

Among these monasteries, Halji Monastery in the Limi Valley is one of the oldest monasteries in Nepal. It is the main monastery in the valley, housing over 50 monks. This monastery belongs to the Kagyupa school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Another important monastery in this region is Yalbang Monastery. In this monastery, around one hundred monks live with Pema Rigsal Rimpoche.

This monastery has been built recently to represent the monastery of Namkha Khyungdzong, at the source of the Karnali River, west of the Holy Mt. Kailash, in Tibet.

It is a single monastery that is under the Ngyingmapa sect in Humla. Therefore, different religious functions and festivals will perform in these monasteries throughout the year.

Major settlements along the trail:

Simikot (2920 meters): Simikot is the district headquarters of Humla. It is the gateway to the holy Mt. Kailash and Lake Mansarovar in Tibet. There is an airfield at Simikot, constructed in 1978, and the only STOL airport in the district. Simikot is the only town in Humla where a market economy has recently been introduced as opposed to the traditional barter economy.

Humli people from the surrounding village come to Simikot to trade, buy, supply, and deal with various suppliers of goods and services.

Simikot airport
Simikot: A gateway to Upper Humla and Mount Kailash

Simikot has electricity from solar panels, telecommunication, a district hospital, a security post, and almost all the district-level government offices. In addition, there are some lodges and a good deal of tea houses throughout the tiny town.

The district headquarters is the junction point where the two main dominant ethnic groups of Humla, the Aryan and the Mongolian, meet. Although they are ethnically different, they have co-existed there for centuries. Therefore, stopping at least one day after a direct flight from Nepalgunj, Surkhet, or Kathmandu is suggested for acclimatization.

Kermi (2670 meters): Kermi is another large settlement along this trail just above the Karnali River. This beautiful Lama community village is home to divinely gifted Hot Springs. No one can miss the boiling spring bath in Kermi. Locals believe natural hot water is healing and eases your pains and aches. There is an electric supply and a health service in the village. Tourists can have local foods such as bread made of buckwheat varieties of green vegetables.

Settlements in the Upper Humla

Yalbang and Yangar (2890 meters): Yalbang and Yangar are two separate villages of the Lama community in the former Muchu VDC. This village’s major attraction is the land farmland of buckwheat and barley, sparse pine forests, and large meadows.

There is an electricity supply and health clinic in these villages. The people of these traditional villages offer a peek at their Agro-based Mountain lifestyle and colorful costumes.

The town is also the scene for some local festivals, which they celebrate with much joy and enthusiasm, and the gracious hospitality of the locals makes you feel very welcome to participate.

Muchu (2900 meters): The Upper Humla Trek passes through Muchu, another Lama community village in Humla. The town is also on the bank of the Karnali River. There are a few houses and tea shops along the trail.

There is a border police post, health post, school, and monastery in this village. Tumkot is another village where the Tumkot monastery is located. The main sanctuary of the Shakyapa sect lies in Tumkot, built in the 13th century in Humla.

Hilsa (3670 meters): Hilsa is the last village of the upper Humla. It is not a traditional settlement but a newly settled village. It is changing into a small market since it is the neighboring village between Nepal and Tibet.

Some cemented pillars that mark the Nepal-Tibet border are just across a long Swiss-built suspension bridge over the Karnali river, making Hilsa perhaps one of the most informal border crossings in the world.

Limi Valley Trek

Limi is the remote Trans-Himalayan valley north of the Humla district bordering Tibet. It is like a small Tibet which comprises three Lama ethnic villages. Til (4100 meters) in the west, Jang (3930 meters) in the east, and the biggest village, Halji (3700 meters), in the middle.

Among the Lama ethnic in Humla, Limi is the only society ruled with an iron fist by its monastic theocracy. Those inhabitants who disobey or misbehave will punish with stiff monetary penalties. They also practice a rigorous polyandrous marriage system.

Therefore, Limi is a very suitable community for researchers with different issues of mountain life.

Upper Humla Trek
Amazing Camping Experience!

A trek to Limi Valley means visiting the Shangri-La villages of this ancient Buddhist community, which are in a narrow Trans-Himalayan valley. A walk through these villages at the bank of the Karnali river, interacting with warm local people, and observing their traditional rituals will bring one closer to understanding the diversity of culture in the Himalayas in Nepal.

Upper Humla Trek passes through the high mountain meadows full of flowers, streams, lakes, high towering cliffs, and alpine forests. Various handicrafts are available in these villages and can be returned as souvenirs. This route section is also an excellent opportunity to use horses and yaks.

The trail passes two high passes: Nara la (4550 meters) above the Yari village and Nyulu (4990 meters) above the Talung valley.

Best Time For Upper Humla Trek

So, when should you start planning a trek? The ideal time depends on many factors, but generally speaking, May to October is when there are still plenty of days with warm temperatures, without too much rain. The Himalayan region is lush, green, and relatively more relaxed during this time.

However, from June to September, the temperature becomes extremely hot in the Himalayas, with some days reaching 28°C. Also, around this time, monsoon rains begin in the lower altitudes but don’t reach up into the mountains.

Since this trail is over 4990 meters in height and the upper region is snowbound in the winter, the most suitable period for trekking is March until the end of October.

Logistics and formalities

Except for the restricted villages of Muchu and Limi, most of Humla are subject to standard trekking regulations in the North. Therefore, trekking through the Muchu and Limi is subject to the same regulation as other restricted areas.

Tourists must travel as part of an organized group, with a liaison officer accompanying the group to the Chinese border. The trekking permit fee from Simikot to the border area is US$ 90.00 for the first week and US$ 15 per day after that. In addition, the District development committee of Humla charges US$ 5 extra per person for tourism infrastructure development.

Since the Tibet-bound treks are only allowed in organized groups, the trekking agency will manage the logistics & formalities for you.

Final Thoughts

The aforementioned trekking destination, Upper Humla, is for those looking for treks in the hidden Himalayas. Itineraries, however, may vary depending on your needs and requirements. When you have too many options, confusion is unavoidable.

Tourists can visit the local monasteries and partake in cultural and religious ceremonies. Some monasteries are the oldest and most important religious structures in the entire region.

Please do not hesitate to contact us and talk to our travel specialists for professional services and advice.

About Author

Kumar Lama
Kumar Lama is a founder of Himalayan Exploration Treks Pvt. Ltd. He is leading a team of travel professional offering tailor made travel services across Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan.