Numbur Cheese Circuit (NCC)

Major tourism features of NCC

A 14 to 16 -day trekking product, the Numbur Cheese Circuit (NCC) offers visitors a superb, breathtaking view of majestic Himalayan peaks including Langtang, Jugal Himal, Gaurishankar and Numburchuli and many more. Walk through deep river gorges, glacial lakes, terraced rice fields, subtropical forests and Sherpa villages to the Likhu Khola glacier, watched over by the towering peaks of Bigphera Go Nup (Pathibarra) and Numburchuli. One can also visit one of Nepal’s first cheese factories, established in 1957 and the famous Thodung Monastery on the way. In March and April, rhododendrons bloom in profusion. You may also see eagles and musk deer as well as Himalayan tahr, a species of goat antelope. If lucky, you can catch a glimpse of the elusive snow leopard. “Leave only footprints behind you, take only memories when you leave”: this concept of sustainable tourism is based on the premise that destinations should remain unspoiled for future generations. When planning this trekking product, great care was taken to ensure that the northern portion remained a wilderness and that lodges were not constructed: only eco-friendly campsites and trail improvements have been incorporated. The ‘NCC’ identity is firstly with the highest peak in the area, Numburchuli at 6,959m and secondly with local ‘slow food’ products such as Yak cheese, high altitude orthodox tea, local potato and other. ‘Slow food’ products are artisanal food produced by local farmers and entrepreneurs, and where consumers take the role of co-producers. Likewise rainbow trout and plum are other potential new slow foods on offer.

MAJOR TOURISM ATTRACTIONS

NCC is a virgin circuit trek primarily based on the natural landscape wisely blended with the Sherpa culture and traditions. In a nutshell, NCC comprises following major attractions:

Major Valley: Khimti and Likhu River valley

Best viewing peaks (from right to left): Sarmoche peak (5255m), Ramdung peak (5930m), Chukyima Go (6259m), Bigphrea Go Nup (6666m), Paniyo Tapa (6696m), Paniyo Shar (6549m) and Numberchuli (Shorong Yul Lha (6959m)

Glaciers: Linkhu Nup Glacier, Bigphere Go Glacier, Surmoche Glacier, Likhu Glacier

Major pass: Panchpokhari pass (4605m) and Gyajo La (4880m)

Beautiful high altitude lakes: Panch Pokhari, Jata Pokhari, Boula Pokhari, Bhale Pokhari, Dudh Pokhari

Beautiful pasturelands: Manedanda, Kholakharka, Tare, Kholaseer, Ngeju

Beautiful flora: Temperate to alpine vegetation, blooming rhododendron, Taxus, Alnus, Pine forest, bamboo forest

Beautiful fauna: More than 300 species of birds including pheasants (Danfe), musk deer, red panda, Himalayan thar, snow leopard, Himalayan black beer, Langoor monkey,

Best view points: Phokte, Manedanda, Panchpokhari, Gyajo La, Serding (Pannasa danda), Lapchane

Beautiful monastery: Thudung, Bhandar, Gumdel, Kyama, Lhachhewar

Socio-economic-practices: Terraced farming, mobile grazing system, traditional cheese production practices, ethno-botanical practices, depends on slow food like potato, cheese, wild foods, barley etc.

Socio-cultural practices: Lhosar celebration, Chouri dance, Janaipurnima festival during August

NCC is a virgin circuit trek primarily based on the natural landscape wisely blended with the Sherpa culture and traditions. In a nutshell, NCC comprises following major attractions:

POTENTIAL TARGET MARKETS

Target international tourists for NCC include repeat visitors seeking an alternative trekking experience, researchers (glaciers, high altitude lakes, climate and other), wildlife and environment enthusiasts, wilderness seekers, and backpackers/budget tourists. Target domestic tourists include Janaipurnima (Hindu) festival pilgrims (summer) and researchers. In summary, the trail experiences includes panoramic Himalaya peaks, highland-mid-Hill views, Home-stay and camping experiences, monasteries and religious sites, high-altitude lakes and glacier lakes, rock climbing, wildlife, ‘slow food’ products including organic cheese and tea production, Sherpa culture, unique flora and fauna, ethno-botanical research, and amazing glacier views and walks. Paragliding is also a potential future adventure activity at Deurali and Lapchane. The NCC can also become part of the ‘Great Himalaya Trail’ by bridging the already established Rolwaling and Everest region.

MAJOR TOURIST ACTIVITIES

Exciting driving through the mountain: From Kathmandu to Shivalaya via Jiri.

Eco-camping: Panipakha, Manedanda, Panchpokhari, Tare, Ngeju

Home-stay experiences: Khahare, Lhachhewar, Kyama and Gumdel (Sherpa), Lapchane (Newar)

Soft trekking: Shivalaya-Khahare-Manedanda section, Ngeju-Lhachhewar-Serding-Those section

Adventurous trekking: Manedanda-Panchpokhari-Tare section, Tare-Gyajo La –Ngeju section

Rock climbing: Around Panchpokhari and Baulahapokhari lake, at Kholakharka (just after Panchpokhari)

Glacier walks: Tare, Khola Seer, Likhu seer (Linkhu Nup Glacier, Bigphere Go Glacier, Surmoche Glacier, Likhu Glacier)

Peak observation and base camp trek: Sarmoche peak (5255m), Ramdung peak (5930m), Chukyima Go (6259m), Bigphrea Go Nup (6666m), Paniyo Tapa (6696m), Paniyo Shar (6549m) and Numberchuli (Shorong Yul Lha (6959m)

Peak climbing: Ramdung peak (5930m)

Sunset view observation: Panipakha, Phokte, Manedanda, Panchpokhari pass, Tare Kharka, Ngeju Kharka, Serding

Paragliding: Thudung, Deurali, Lapchane

Observing Yak Cheese production process: Yak and Chouri pastures at Khahare and Khimti River, Likhu Nup River, Likhu River, Serding and Thudung (March to November)

Slow food experiences: Cheese, potato, barley, mushroom, other wildfood

Sherpa cultural experience: Khahare, Lhachhewar, Kyama, Gumdel, Serding

Monastery visit: Lhachhewar, Kyama, Gumdel, Thudung, Bhandar

High altitude wetland study: Baulahapokhari, Jatapokhari, Panchpokhari, Dudhpokhari

Wilderness walk: Panipakha-Phokte-Manedanda section, Ngeju-Lhachhewar section, Gumdel-Serding-Thudung section

Bio-diversity study: Temperate to alpine vegetation types, rhododendron, conifers, birch, colored pasture grasses, NTFPs

Wildlife observation: Redpanda, Musk deer, Himalayan Thar, Himalayan Mouse (Picca), hivalaya-Khahare-Manedanda section, Ngeju-Lhachhewar-Serding-Those section

Pilgrimage visit: Jatapokhari and Panchpokhari festival, Monastery visit (Thudung), Umashankar temple (Kashi of Himalayas) at the confluence of Likhu and Nupche Khola.

Trekking peaks: Ramdung is one of Nepal's "trekking" peaks that provide an opportunity for the climbing enthusiasts without having to go through the effort and expenses required for a major mountaineering expedition. A trek to Ramdung is a difficult and serious journey and should be attempted only with a guide and by persons experienced in mountaineering and properly equipped. Permits to climb these peaks are processed by the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) in Ktm.

ITINERARY FOR ‘NUMBUR CHEESE CIRCUIT’

Following itinerary has been recommended for NCC

Day From To Accommodation type Elevation (m) Time (hours) Major attractions:

Day-1: Kathmandu. Shivalaya Hotel/lodge 1790 9.00 drive Driving through the mountain terrain

Day-2: Shivalaya Khahare Home-stay 2175 4.00 Sherpa home-stay

Day-3: Khahare Panipakha Eco camping 3105 4.00 Eco-camping experience,

Day-4: Panipakha Manedanda Eco camping 3940 3.00 Kaleidoscopic view of Khimti river valley

Day-5: Manedanda Panch Pokhari Eco camping 4515 3.30 Himalayan peaks, high altitude pastures and lakes, Cheese

Day-6&7: Panch Pokhari Tare* Eco camping 4140 5.00 Glacier walk, Himalayan peaks, high altitude pastures

Day-8&9: Tare Ngeju* Eco camping 3690 4.00 Glacier walk, Himalayan peaks, high altitude pastures and lakes

Day-10: Ngeju Lhachhewar Home-stay 2665 4.00 Wilderness walk, Cheese, Sherpa home-stay experience

Day-11: Lhachhewar Kyama Home-stay 2380 4.00 Sherpa home-stay experience

Day-12: Kyama Gumdel Home-stay 2255 2.00 Sherpa home-stay experience

Day-13: Gumdel Serding Hotel/lodge 3360 3.30 Wilderness walk, Beautiful pastures, dense forest, Numbur

Day-14: Serding Thodung-Lapchane Home-stay 3105 5.00 Thudung Monastery, Newari Home-stay, Him. Panorama

Day-15: Lapchane Those Hotel/lodge 1755 3.30 Walking through the forest

Day-16: Those Kathmandu Hotel/lodge 1350 9.00 Drive to kathmandu

Note: * At Tare and Ngeju, interested visitors can extend two more days to make an adventurous visit at Khola Sir/Linkhu Nup Glacier (above Tare) and Surmoche/Likhu Glacier areas (above Ngeju).

For highly, experienced and short duration visitors, NCC package can be customized to 12 days package by escaping overnight stay at Panipakha and Gumdel. Furthermore, for those who aim to reach Dudhkunda (Everest region) and Junbesi/Sallari via Serding, which is still practiced by some of the trekking agencies, can re-package their itinerary by following the route like Shivalaya-Thudung/Serding- Gaire-Chhunangma-Tare-Ngeju-Lhachhewar and towards Dudhkunda via Kalla pass.

DAY 1: KATHMANDU- SHIVALAYA

A 8/9- hours driving from capital city Kathmandu reach you to the Shivalaya, the gateway for the Everest region as well as the NCC. Located in the Kimti Khola River valley, Shivalaya’s lodges and NCC trekking information points are all located in one area town close to the footbridge on the trail to Jiri. Local Sherpa trekking guides and porters are available for hire at their information point as are some tents and camping equipment from the Tourist Guide and Porter Centre. The town has a busy and well-stocked bazzar for trekking supplies. Enjoy a cold river-cooled beer and some Yak cheese on the lodge verandahs before your trek. The trail route to Shivalaya from Jiri follows the traditional approach march for Everest expeditions along the trade route from Jiri – the classic Sir Edmund Hillary route.

DAY 2: SHIVALAYA-KHAHARE

Day two is a leisurely four-hour trek north along the Kimti Koala River to Khahare village. Just beyond Shivalaya, the valley opens up and the first snow-capped peaks of the Rowaling Himal Range become visible as do the formidable Himalayan foothills which are the tourist’s target for Days 3 to 8 of the

NCC. The trail runs up and down along the valley side through terraced fields, dips to cross the river and then snakes steeply up the cliff on the other side. Khahare village comprises of less than 5 houses, inhabited only during winters by their owners who spend their summers on the pastures bordering Tibet tending to their Yak and Chauri. Enjoy your night at Sherpa home-stay with various discs made up of Yak cheese, potato and barley.

DAYS 3 & 4: KHAHARE-PANIPAKHA, PANIPAKHA-MANEDANDA

From Khahare, the gradual climb through the pine forests to Panipacka, Phokte and Manedanda begins. The trail offers views of the roaring Khimti Khola River below. From here on be prepared for Chauri on the trail, so stick to the inside of the trail and get out of their way! From the beautiful Phokte Kharka the trail ascends through the rhododendron forest via Manedanda to the summer pasture of Maanedanda. Enjoy scenic landscape of Khimti river, sunset view, beautiful kharka and if possible, the Baulaha Pokhara, if time permits. Overnight accommodation is at the new econ-friendly campsites at Panipakha and Maanedanda.

DAY 5: MANEDANDA- JATAPOKHARI & PANCHPOKHARI

The trail next climbs to Jatapokhari along the riverside, and as the altitude increases, we move through alpine pastures to scrubby forests of Sunpati, a rare mountain herb that fetches up to NRs 6,000/Kg. The path climbs beside the river, before a dramatic waterfall heralds our arrival at Jatapokhari. A holy mountain lake, in the lap of Numburchuli is a popular pilgrimage destination in Ramechhap. Over 3000 pilgrims make their way here to celebrate Janaipurnima. It is believed that taking a dip in its holy waters will fulfill one's wishes. An overnight is recommended to allow for acclimatization.

Take a side trip to Baula Pokhari, the "mad lake" but don't disturb the spirits within or your wishes may not come true! There are five small lakes, known as Panchpokhari, within this huge glacial cirque. Panchpokhari offers best view of folded landscape, high altitude wetlands and sunset views of Himalayan mountain peaks towards Number and Parchemo peak. Enjoy campsite accommodation at Panchpokhari.

DAY 6 and 7: PANCHPOKHARI-TARE & AROUND KHOLA SEER

This morning, the trek takes you over the Panchpokhari Pass at 4,605m and along by and to the base camp of Bigphera Go Nup (Pathibarra peak) and glacier to Tare. The trail and views of the Himalayan peaks, valleys and folded hills to the south are breathtaking. Enjoy landscape and mountain panorama from Panchpokhari pass. Also enjoy delicious lunch at Kholakharka, which is also suitable spot for rock climbing.

Ascends through the white river (Nupche) and see the yak pasture and fresh cheese with blooming colorful grasses on the edge. Observe the golden Bigphera Go Nup (Pathivara) during sunset. Tonight and tomorrow is pure wilderness camping.

kharka valley. Your guides will show you the close up view of Numburchuli, Parchamo, Bigphero Go Shar and Paniyo Tapa. Arrange your safe wilderness camp-night in Rakhi Danda or descends to the Likhu Khola valley proper at Ngeju.

‘Wilderness’ is the only appropriate term for the wild and rugged basin of the Likhu Khola valley. The mountain views are sensational, with views extending north into Tibet, as you cross the Gyajo La (Thulo Lapcha pass) at 4880m, traditionally used by local Sherpa to bring yaks across the mountains to Ngeju. The trek follows the Likhu Khola Valley until you reach the remote yak pastures of Ngeju nestling at the foot of the ice-fall tumbling from the sacred summit of Numburchuli.

DAY 10: NGEJU-LAHCHHEWAR

Enjoy your wilderness trek down to Lhachhewar along the Likhu River. Lahchhewar 'Sewar' is one of the most beautiful Sherpa villages in the Upper Ramechhap region, with its astonishing landscapes, cultural wealth, and the hospitable Sherpa people.

'Sewar' offers untouched Sherpa culture where people have maintained the traditional way of life. Enjoy again the home-stay accommodation with Sherpa cultural programme.

DAY 11: LHACHHEWAR-KYAMA

The trail follows the Likhu Khola River valley, descending through deep forest to Kyama with good views along the way of Bigphera Go Nup (Pathibarra) and Numburchuli. Just at the confluence of Likhu and Nupche River, you will find Umashankar temple, widely regarded as KASHI of Himalayas.Enjoy the enchanting of deers and varieties of birds just after the confluence when moving towards Kyama. Again experience Sherpa culture and tradition through home-stay accommodation.

DAY 12: KAYAMA-GUMDEL

With the gleaming Numburchuli as the backdrop, Gumdel is a tiny hamlet gathered around a large Buddhist Stupa. The Gumdel Home-stays offer the best of Sherpa hospitality and cultural traditions amidst luxuriant landscape and spectacular mountain scenery.

DAY 13: GUMDEL-SERDING/BHANDAR

From here the trail either ascends through the rhododendron forest finally reaching the Serding or descends through dense forest meeting the Everest trail at Bamti Bhandar. Wilderness treks through the pine and rhododendron forest ultimately reach you to the beautiful Serding Kharka. Enjoy sunset view of Numburchuli, Bigphera Go and Gaurishankar peak at the evening. Ask local hotels to prepare variety of discs made up of Yak cheese produced at Thodung. Spend your next morning to go up to the Pannasa Danda and enjoy the big array of forest ridge at the back drop of Numburchuli.

If you follow your trek towards Bamti Bhandar, the leisurely four-hour trek today takes you via the Tiger Rock view-point to Bhandar where you can enjoy a hot shower, locally- grown high altitude orthodox tea and other Sherpa hospitality in one of the several local lodges. Stroll through the nearby tea plantations and enjoy a sunrise view of Pikey Peak at just over 4,000m in neighboring Solukhumbu District.

DAY 14: SERDING/BHANDAR- THODUNG, DEURALI & LAPCHANE

This morning your trek will first take you to the homely Thodung monastery and one of the Nepal's oldest cheese factory. The monastery has an amazing collection of sacred Buddhist artifacts from Tibet with Numburchuli peak prominent to the northwest. It is custom to make a donation to the monastery for the experience including the interesting prayer wheel. Stroll back down to Deurali for lunch with good views of Gaurishankar before trekking to your penultimate NCC Home-stay village, Lapchane. Tamdanda, thirty minutes above the Newar village of Lapchane, is one of the tallest hills in Ramechhap.

From here you can see most of the central and eastern Himalayan peaks Dhauligiri, Annapurna, Gaurishankar, Numbur, Makalu and Kanchenjunga. The hill also offers breathtaking sunrise and sunset views during good weather. The variety of flora and fauna, with 65 species of birds, makes it the place to head off to for nature lovers. Tamedanda provides the best east-west panoramic Himalaya views in the area and also hosts the largest variety of bird species in the mid hills of Nepal.

DAY 15: LAPCHANE-THOSE

This day, enjoy your morning at Tamdanda and surrounding. See the landscape from the hill.

After lunch, descend towards Those Bazar. Before the construction of the Jiri Road, Those was the busiest market town on the trade route between Namche and Lamosangu. Those is located at the junction of the roads to Shivalaya and Bampti-Bhandar.

DAY 16: THOSE -- KATHMANDU

Driving back to Kathmandu through the mountain terrain.

Best Seasons and Events

March to June and September to December are the best seasons for trekking in NCC. However, Shivalaya, Serding, Thodung, Gumdel, Deurali and Lapchane can be visit throughout the year. Janaipurnima Festival (Full moon during the end of August), Lhosar (During February), Buddha Purnima (During May) are some important events to see the real culture and traditional rituals.

TOURIST FACILITIES

Accommodation

NCC is primarily an eco-camping trek. Accommodation on the ‘Numbur Cheese Circuit’ ranges from a few well-established lodges at Those, Shivalaya, Deurali, Serding and Bhandar on the Everest Base Camp route, to newly developed eco-camping sites and family home-stays in magnificent Sherpa homes.

Hotel and Lodges

A few well-established lodges are available at Those, Shivalaya, Deurali, and Bhandar on the Everest Base Camp route. Likewise a few hotel and lodges with very basic facilities are available at Serding. You can find some items with menu as is common in the trekking routes in Nepal. Bucket hot shower can be available upon request.

Eco-camping

One of the many exciting experiences for visitors to NCC is without doubt the Eco-camping. Visitors can enjoy 5 to 7 nights at the designated camping site at Panipakha, Manedanda, Panchpokhari, Tare, and Ngeju. Eco-camping sites are equipped with the safe drinking water, kitchen cum porter shelter and drainage facilities. Visitors need to manage the camping gears like tents, sleeping bags, mattress, kitchen kits, all food items and energy (kerosene) by themselves at for eco-camping. Organizing the trek through the registered trekking agencies at Kathmandu is the best way to manage all these facilities. Experienced porter and trained local guide are available at Local Tourist Guide and Porter Centre (LTGPC) at Shivalaya. If you are lucky, you can find some trekking gears at LTGPC centre on a rental basis.

Home-stay accommodation

Home-stay facilities can be enjoyed at Khahare, Lhachhewar, Kyama, Gumdel and Lapchane. Visitors can enjoy the basic accommodation and lodging facilities at the traditionally managed home-stays of Sherpa community. Even though you are all set for camping trek, you can best manage your accommodations and lodging at the home-stays. Boiled and filtered drinking water and hygienically tiled toilets are available at all accommodation options. Bucket hot shower can be available upon request.

OTHER FACILITIES AND SERVICES -- Guides and Porters

Experienced porter and some trained local guide are available at Tourist Guide and Porter Centre (TGPC) at Shivalaya. You/your trekking company can confirm in advance the availability of local porters by inquiring at the centre from Kathmandu. If you like to enrich your trek, don't forget to hire additional local tourist guide besides your professional trekking guide at Kathmandu. Ramechhap district is well represented and well established in the trekking guide industry with a large number of guides and porters calling Ramechhap home. The development of both the Numbur Cheese Circuit and the IP Trail has provided Ramechhap guides with a means of showing tourists where they were raised. These guides and porters are very proud to show you the beauty and share their knowledge of their birthplace.

Communication facilities

Local landline (STD) is available in all villages except in the remote areas of Panipacka, Maanedanda, Tare, Rhakidanda, and Ngeju. International connections (ISD) are limited to Those, Shivalaya, Deurali, and Bhandar. Internet is not currently available in this area of Ramechhap district. Jiri has the nearest internet access. Mobile telephone facilities are available at Shivalaya, Khahare, Lhachhewar, Kyama, Gumdel, Serding, Deurali, Lapchane and Those. Police posts at Shivalaya and Bhandar can be useful for any security related arrangement and emergency communication.

Health facilities

Local health posts with basic medicine are available at Shivalaya, Garjyang, Bamti Bhandar and Those. Some more advanced servilities and facilities can be expected in Jiri Hospital on the way.

Trekking supplies

Local bazaars selling basic trekking supplies can be found in both Shivalaya, Gharjeng, Those, Deurali, and Bhandar. Only a few local markets selling local produce and a short range of drinks and candies are available after these villages. As the trail being a very new, visitors are kindly advised to bring some first aid kits, some fruits and dry food like chocolate etc while making a trek in NCC. Visitors are also requested to bring cotton hats, cotton outfits, sunglass, sun cream and lotion with them.

How to get to the NCC

Shivalaya and Those in north Ramechhap are the start and finish points respectively of the Numbur Cheese Circuit and are 8-9 hrs drive from Kathmandu. Super express bus service goes to/from Kathmandu's Old Bus Park, near the Nepal Tourism Board (6-7am daily). The winding road is very well paved with fine mountain views. The route follows the Arniko Highway towards Tibet before turning right over the Sun Koshi at Lamosangu for the climb on the Swiss-built Lamosangu-Jiri Road, the "gateway to the Solu Khumbu", through Sindhupalchowk and Dolakha Districts to Ramechhap. Buses make a lunch stop after 4 hours at Mude Bazaar, famous for the largest potatoes in Nepal.

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