"Humla - Nepal's Back of Beyond" Simikot by Saagar

Simikot Travel Guide: 64 reviews and 122 photos

Humla, Nepal's northwestern corner


Humla District is a very, very remote place. This region along with Mugu and Dolpo in the Trans-Himalaya are absolutely neglected by the central government and nearly all development authorities. The region is bereft of the most simple infrastructure. While the scenery is stunning, the human conditions are abysmal.

There is not enough food and few if any government services. There is 1 - one - part-time medical doctor available to the Humlis. The 40.000-something inhabitants make a living from poor agriculture, herb collection and pastoralism and related trades. Since the closure of the traditional trade with Tibet and now the maoist blockades and destructions of many of the bridges the livelihood options of the Humlis have generally turned to the worse and insufficient. As the maoist insurgency has impacted caravan trading, export of crops and anything entrepreneurial and extortionable, the outmigration has increased over these last few years. You will now find many Humlis living in and around Nepalgunj in Banke District in the Terai.

For trekkers, going here is inviting hardship. You most definitely cannot live off the land; there are no tea houses in the around-Annapurna-sense of the word, and nothing much to be purchased beyond Simkot. Going here alone is not a good idea due to lack of services and facilities, making you extremely vulnerable in case of emergencies, such as weather exposure and altitude ailments. But going here in a small group is definitely possible, equipped out of Kathmandu, Simkot or overseas. The trekking opportunities are near limitless in rural and wilderness areas, and there are many scrambling peaks - though not opened for such activities. I contacted Nepal Mountaineering Association regarding Humla trekking peaks, and was met with blank expressions.

There is finally a joint initiative to set up an information database for development and tourism: try this web site: Humla tourism pages. Here you find, in a non-discriminatory way, info on various activities going on and institutions in Humla and how to contact them. It may not be up and running yet, but watch this space.

Likewise, there are two development initiatives that are worth a special mention, the Humla Development Initiative, a Norwegian-supported Humla policy and development initiative Humla Development Initiative , and a long-time stayer, the Scottish funded Nepal Trust . Between them, this web info will give you some clues of what is going on in this region.

Simkot, the capital.

Yes, I know, it used to be Simikot, but now it is Simkot. And Humla, the name of the district is not recognized by VT either... This page is about Humla, not only Simkot.

Simkot has just about the only level spot of land around, and a runway of sorts divide the town in two. The government sector is to the right (in the photo) and the civilian settlement and commercial centre to the left. Some 3000 souls divided among 400 households live here out of Humla's 40000 inhabitants. Simkot is the district headquarters for all government authority, and boasts a government and a private hospital with only a single part-time doctor between them. Trails fan out from Simkot; south along the flow of the Humla Karnali river deep below Simkot, and east past several vibrant villages (Bargauon - Tehe - Dojam) and further up the Nyin Valley and remote northeastern corner of Humla. To the northwest a high as well as a low trail bring you along the upper Humla Karnali river valley, and eventually to Tibet. A more northerly trail takes you to the remote, but inhabited Limi Valley.

Side valleys level out along the base of the highest mountain in Humla, Saipal (7031 meters), and roaming around this area - a regular pasture land - must be a superb trekking enterprise.
There is one regular trekking route (Upper Humla Karnali valley to Tibet and Kailash), one two-week circuit (Limi Valley) and a potential three-week trek connecting Nyin and Limi valleys. Other opportunities are there, but all must be self-supported and partly in restricted territory.

How to get to Humla

Getting to Humla is hard, and getting away from there might prove even more difficult... Don't miss your flight!
As a visitor with limited time, the only realistic option is flying to Simkot. Whatever travel agents will tell you, the only scheduled flights to Simkot (SMK) depart from Nepalganj in the Terai. There is an amazing flight path from there to Simkot, behind the Himalayan main range. You can also fly from Surkhet, but flights from there are not really scheduled, it's more of a chance game. Most M17 helicopter flights originate in Surkhet and ship in food for the World Food Program or Indian pilgrimage tourists, and take out a cargo of medicinal herbs, essential oils and some other export products. Plus chance passengers.

If helicopter is not your thing, then walk, because there is no road. So far there isn't a single kilometer of motorable road in Humla District. That is, there are roads creeping towards Simkot from the Tibet side (mostly a plan at this stage, and some casual carving in the hillsides), and from the south up to Achham and Bajura District. But maoists and monsoonal washouts have left the actual roadheads a long walk away. My latest information is that Swiss Helvetas is giving up on Humla bridge building as people are non-cooperative, and that the Chinese will build a motorable bridge across the Karnali in from Tibet, enabling motorised transport across the Nara La pass (April 2008).

The shortest stretch is by foot to/from Sanfebagar in Accham District (10 days hike for a local). There is an alternative to walk out of Humla into Bajura District and the Kolti Airport and sit there and guess when the next aircraft will arrive. Another costly, but excellent option is to go in from the northwest by road via Kathmandu and Tibet to Purang/Taklakot in Tibet and cross the Hilsa border. From there walk in along the Karnali river and the main trail from Hilsa, only a 4-5 days walk from the border to Simkot - 6 days the other way.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:The most isolated region of Nepal, beautiful mountain scenery.
  • Cons:Terrible human conditions, very remote and difficult to access.
  • In a nutshell:A definite adventure.
  • Last visit to Simikot: Oct 2006
  • Intro Updated Apr 22, 2008
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Reviews (67)

Comments (5)

  • into-thin-air's Profile Photo
    Apr 20, 2008 at 11:43 AM

    These are some of the best pages that I have seen on VT, Tips Genuinely designed to be both informative and useful for the traveller to this district and backed up with some wonderful photos, Thank you Olav

  • Apr 10, 2007 at 10:41 AM

    Nice job, Saaga. What is the situation on Maoist at Hilsa area now? We are planning to hike that way as a group in May. Thanks for the help.

  • rsroy81's Profile Photo
    Feb 10, 2007 at 12:40 AM

    Olav dai, Namaskar. I do really appreciate your generous contribution in exposing a hidden treasurer of Humla...thank you so much for your noble endeavor in this matter...rabindra, ait, thailand.

  • victorwkf's Profile Photo
    Jan 19, 2007 at 2:19 AM

    This part of nepal is truely remote even by nepalese standards. I have read about it before, and your tips and photos really gave a very good insight.

  • Florida999's Profile Photo
    Jan 10, 2007 at 7:04 PM

    You should write a travel book, I bet it would be as good if not better than Lonely Planet... Great photos and you are a brave guy! Not sure I want to go there either....but I liked reading about it.

Saagar

“It's better to be approximately right than precisely wrong...”

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