Teahouse with a view of the Annapurnas. Photo by Linda Bezemer.
The best way to experience trekking along the Great Himalaya Trails in Nepal is to stay at the many teahouses that line the trails of popular trekking routes. Originally, teahouses were little shops where travelers could stop for a rest and a cup of tea. With time, as more and more visitors came to explore the mountains in Nepal, these teahouses have developed into full-fledged mountain lodges offering food and accommodation to guests at a nominal price.
Most of the teahouses are owned, managed and inhabited by local families. Trekkers love staying at teahouses as it gives them a rare glimpse into the culture and daily lives of the local people in rural Nepal. Teahouse trekking also saves you from having to carry your own camping equipment like tents, sleeping bags and food. Taking a few extra kgs off your back can make all the difference at 4,000m elevation!
A woman making tea at a teahouse in Nyimba Valley. Photo by Christel Van Bree.
The standard of the teahouses and the comforts they offer will vary depending on their location. The more remote and less visited by tourists the region is, the more rustic and basic the lodgings will be. Certain well-travelled trails, like the Everest Base Camp trail and Annapurna Base Camp will offer some luxury hotels along the the route but most often they will be fairly basic. From food, to toilets and wifi, here is what to expect on your teahouse trek in Nepal:
Nothing gets you over a looming mountain pass like the promise of a home cooked meal waiting on the other side. Teahouses on the more travelled routes offer a surprising variety of world cuisines these days, ranging from Chow Mein to Pizza and Mac and Cheese. The staple food of Nepalis (and trekkers in the know) however, is the traditional local dish Dahl Bhat. This plant-based dish is always fresh, kind on the stomach and provides the best fuel to battle the strenuous terrain of the Himalayas. A plate of Dal Bhat includes steamed rice, lentil soup, vegetable curry and sautéed spinach. The best part of the meal? It is always served in an all you can eat fashion.
A plate of Dal Bhat is standard trekking fare in the Himalayas. Photo by Cotaro70s on Flickr.
Mo:Mos, another one of our favourite local dishes, is a standard menu item. However, making Mo:Mos from scratch is no easy task and you may have to wait 30-40 minutes to get your hands on some. To keep to your trekking itinerary it is best to opt for quick meals, like noodle soup, during the day and go all in for the Mo:Mos in the evenings when you have more time to kill.
A typical dining hall on the Annapurna Circuit. Photo by Greg Willis on Flickr.
Availability of meat will vary and is especially scarce in remote and high altitude places, as well as near sacred sites. If you are used to a protein rich diet it could be a good idea to bring along some protein bars and snacks for your trek. Teahouses can also serve as a very welcome pit stops to fill up on trail snacks like tea, biscuits (try the coconut ones) and chocolate bars.
There is nothing like falling asleep after a long day on the trails to a panoramic display of mountains outside your bedroom window. On the inside, the accommodation is simple, yet clean and functional. The rooms usually include single sized beds with sheets, pillows and blankets, a bedside table and ceiling light. Some trekkers prefer to bring their own sleeping bag liner or sleeping bag for hygienic reasons. Rooms are quite drafty, and with no heating available (besides perhaps a wood fire burning in the dining hall), be prepared for cold nights the higher up in the mountains you go. Similarly, the walls are quite thin so if you are a light sleeper you may want to consider bringing earplugs.
A typical teahouse double room. Photo by Linda Bezemer from a teahouse on the Manaslu Circuit.
The essentials – showers, toilets and electricity
Toilets in the mountains are not very glamorous and it is best to approach this experience with managed expectations. Some teahouses may have rooms with en-suite bathrooms and western toilets but most often they are a shared facility with traditional squat toilets. Toilets can sometimes be located outside of the teahouse so it is a good idea to bring a head torch for those midnight visits.
A toilet with a view. Photo by @cov96 on Instagram.
Pro tip: toilet paper is a rare commodity in the mountains so you may want to bring a few packs of tissue paper if this is what you are accustomed to. Note that many toilets may be unable to flush paper without clogging so always properly dispose of it after use.
Another important feature after a long day on the trails is the availability of a hot shower. Some swear by the wet wipe wash, but if this is where you draw the line on roughing it, many teahouses will offer some type of showering option for a small fee, be it in a real shower or the hot water in a bucket type.
Rooms don’t always come with a plug socket but it is usually possible to charge your phone, go pros and other gadgets in the dining hall for a fee of $1-2 per hour
Key amenities on the trail. Photo by Gemma Amor on Flickr.
One of the perks of journeying into the Himalayas is disconnecting from the outside world and tuning in to nature. For those who find it impossible to live an analogue life you will be relieved to hear that some teahouses on the main trekking routes like Annapurna and Everest Base Camp offer wifi. It is spotty and unreliable at best so it is advisable to finish any digital obligations before heading out on the trail.
Teahouse trekking is pretty simple and laid back and there are not that many rules to follow. One thing to be aware of though is that proprietors make most of their money on food and beverages, as the cost of the room is pretty cheap. Therefore, you are always expected to eat all your meals where you sleep.
Trekking can be a messy business and your shoes will bear most of the brunt of the environment. It is considerate to leave your hiking boots outside your room and use flip-flops for indoors.
The price of your accommodation will vary depending on where the teahouse is located and what comforts and services it offers. In general the cost per night will be between $3-10 but it will vary depending on the elevation and if the teahouse is located in a very remote area. In recent years there has been a demand for luxury guest lodges along the popular trekking trails, mainly on the Everest Base Camp trek. The cost of comfort can be around $150+ per night.
Teahouse in Ghandruk. Photo by Greg Willis.
Having a Plan B
The popular trails can get pretty busy in peak trekking season (fall and spring) and teahouses in smaller settlements can fill up quickly. Packing a sleeping bag and bed role in case the teahouse runs out of beds can be a good idea. While visitors rarely get turned away, they may have to spend the night on the dining hall floor if there is shortage of beds.
The more remote trekking routes will not always have teahouses within a day’s walk. In these locations you will have to bring your own tent and camping equipment.
Camping on the roof in the Rara and Jumla region. Photo by Samir Jung Thapa.
Teahouse trekking is for the adventurous, curious and open minded traveler. For many this is a rustic experience, away from the comforts and frills of western living. Today there are few countries where visitors have the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the culture and customs of the local inhabitants. Teahouse trekking in Nepal is such a place.