Upper Humla Trek: Blend of Nature And Culture In The Hidden Himalayas
Upper Humla Trek

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 with an altitude ranging from 1500 to 7300 meters. This hidden region is rich in biodiversity, being home to too many endangered and elusive species and plants. The area is endowed with immense natural beauties and astounding culture. In 1993, Nepal Government and China agreed that allowed first treks across the border between the two countries in Humla. There are quite a few trekking trails in Humla. Since Simikot is the major gateway to the holy Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar in Tibet. Simikot Kailash trail has become a very popular route in this region. Among the other trails, the Upper Humla Trek is a newly promoted, unique trekking trail that was open to trekkers since 1997. 

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 being 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 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. Along the trails, one can experience the non-timber forests as well as the huge alpine forests. Rare birds and wild animals such as danphe, musk deer, Himalayan tahr, blue sheep, and snow leopard are the genuine treasure of this region.

Cultural attraction of the trail

The Upper Humla Trek provides a dipper experience of the colorful Lama 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. That is why this Himalayan region is full of diverse indigenous cultures. The unique local culture, traditional old monasteries, and the local people are inherent aspects of this trail. One can learn how the people in the high Himalayas earn their life and preserve their unique culture and lifestyle. In particular, in Limi Valley, the type and level of preservation of the indigenous culture are unique.

There is at least one monastery, a series of stupas, and Mani walls in each village. Tourists can visit the local monasteries and partake in cultural and religious ceremonies. Some monasteries are of the oldest and most important religious structured in the entire region.

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 are living with Guru, 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. This is the only monastery under the Ngyingmapa sect in Humla. 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, which was constructed in 1978 and is 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

In Simikot, there is the facility of electricity from solar panels, telecommunication, a district hospital, security post, and almost all the district level government offices. There are some lodges and a good deal of tea-houses throughout the tiny town. The district headquarters is the junction point whereas the two main dominant ethnic groups of Humla, the Aryan and the Mongolian, meet together. Although they are ethnically different, they have co-existed there for centuries. It is suggested to make at least one day stop after a direct flight from Nepalgunj, Surkhet, or Kathmandu 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 divine gifted Hot Springs. No one can miss the incredibly hot spring bath in Kermi. Locals believe natural hot water has a healing quality that eases away 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, verities of green vegetables.

Sattlements 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. Plain farmland of buckwheat and barley, sparse pine forests, large meadows are the major attraction of this village. 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, colorful costumes. The village 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 take part.

Muchu (2900 meters): The Upper Humla Trek passes through the village of Muchu, which is another village of the Lama community in Humla. The village is also at 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 Tumkot monastery is located. The main monastery 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 bordering 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, in the north of 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 very strict polyandrous marriage system. 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 going to visit 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, interaction 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 also available in these villages and can be brought back as souvenirs. This section of the route is also a wonderful opportunity for using horses and yaks.

High Passes along the route

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

Since this trail passes over 4990 meters in height and because the upper region is entirely 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, in the North, most of Humla are subject to normal trekking regulations. Trekking through the Muchu and Limi however, is su8bject to the same regulation as other restricted areas. Tourists must trek 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 thereafter. Additionally, 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, your agency will manage the logistics & formalities for you.

Final Thoughts

The aforementioned trekking destination, Upper Humla is for those who are 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.

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

About Author

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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.