So the lake itself is stunning. The water is so clear that you can see the trout lazily swimming even a few meters out into the lake. I was here when the weather was bad and it was still beautiful. The hike around the leg is especially nice. However I trekked the Rara Lake circuit to get here and because I could not find a single piece of real information about this region or this trek I figured I would review that. So....
The Rara Lake circuit is a completely untouched trek. Yes, you will see the ever present biscuit and instant noodle wrappers that Nepalis love along the trail, but not as much as the other bigger treks. The irony behind the "No Littering" sign in ENGLISH at the national park entrances will probably not escape you....
Getting to Rara is a mission. I traveled in May, unguided, with my girlfriend and my dog. We tried to do it on the cheap so we camped and used the buses to get out here. The whole trek should cost you less than $200 per person, permits included, if you are careful.
- Tent (I strongly suggest bringing one)
- 3 merino shirts
-Water proof nylon shell
- Sleeping pad
- Decent sleeping bag
-Trangia camp stove
- knife (You absolutely should have one)
- hat (nasty sun burn)
- hatchet (optional, we didn't really use it because there was so much free wood around)
- steripen water purifier
- First Aid kit + antibiotics, tiger balm, insect repellent, sun block, ACE bandage wraps
- Week of food (but you can buy instant noodles on the way)
That is the general list, everything else was pretty much optional but I want to stress that this is a VERY RURAL trek. I would never suggest this trek to someone who has never trekked in Nepal or has little experience in a developing country. We were out for 2 weeks and we did not see a single other foreign trekker. Our names were the only ones in the log books, meaning we were the only people to do this trek in 2016 as of writing this. What I mean to say is, you are pretty much on your own.
The maps for this area are terrible. The guesthouses are few and far between and you will get constantly stared at to the point at which you are uncomfortable. Especially if you have a girl with you. I would absolutely not suggest a girl ever does this trek alone. Even a single guy could be dodgy if you were a foreigner. We had no real problems, but a lot of guys would just come and stare at our camp site, a couple of times they even were looking through our stuff. This is not the Annapurna circuit...this is practically a different country. If you get sick out here, you need to handle it yourself. We saw one health post and it was pretty bare bones. So make sure you have whatever meds you think you will need, plus extra. My girlfriend got Giardia parasite and I sprained my ankle twice, we also both got the flu. So think about what you will bring with you.
So how to get here....you need to first get a permit for Rara National Park. You can get this at the tourism and trekking office in Kathmandu for $40. We then left from Pokhara to Nepalgunj by a 12 hour bus ride for 950 NPR. We then spent the night in Nepalgunj and took the local bus to Jumla the next morning for 1700 NPR each. The bus ride lasted 36 HOURS on terrible roads and the bus refuses to drive at night so everyone disembarked and stayed in some dodgy hotel one night. We chose to sleep inside the locked bus with our gear. I would strongly suggest just flying from Nepalgunj to Jumla if you can afford it. Because it is a truly horrible ride.
Once in Jumla, we spent the night at the Snowland hotel. Again, very basic place. From here we trekked 3 days to Rara lake. We found a guest house for one night and camped the other two nights...once in an abandoned hindu temple. This is why I strongly suggest bringing a good tent with you. You may find yourself outdoors if not.
The Trek itself is really not a bad one. It is exhausting and it is rural...but it is not as challenging as some of the higher altitude treks in Nepal. What makes this a truly difficult trek is just how rural it is. You will meet very very few people who speak even basic English. You will probably see no other foreigners, and you will probably have to completely depend on yourself if anything goes wrong.
Once at Rara, we camped out at the park's camping site. Which is super basic. the guys who run it aren't such bad guys and the food is bearable. However at like 6 am, they still ran horses in around our tent with us still inside. We also had to cope with a bunch of young nepali guys drinking raksi and just creeping on us while we hung around our tent.
We stayed for a couple great days though. Just rested, read, hiked around the lake and enjoyed the scenery. It was definitely worth the crucible to get there.
The trek back was easier, mostly it follows a main road and we were able to hitchhike back for a large part. Once we got back to Jumla though, we discovered that a landslide 5 hours away had frozen all buses leaving for at least a few days. So we opted to fly from Jumla to Nepalgunj on a terrifying 30 year old plane that was held together pretty much with duct tape.
On the upside, I am pretty sure my dog is the first dog to fly domestic in Nepal.
Highly recommended trek for the experienced traveler.
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