Trekking to Rara Lake

Located at an altitude of more than 2,990 meters above sea level in the Mugu District in Western Nepal’s Karnali Zone, Rara Lake is the country’s largest lake, measuring five kilometers in length by 3 kilometers wide, with a maximum depth of 167 meters. Also known as Mahendra Daha, after the late King Mahendra of Nepal, Rara Lake features on the Great Himalaya Trail and is a challenging destination for experienced trekkers. As the region is very remote, trekkers need to be self-sufficient and it is recommended that visitors wanting to explore the untouched beauty of the area make use of the services of an experienced guide.

There are more than 236 bird species resident around Rara Lake, which is surrounded by dense forests of pine, juniper and spruce trees and has the snow-capped Himalayan Peaks as a backdrop. The multi-cultural inhabitants of this little piece of paradise make a living by growing vegetables and herbs, as well as by harvesting a parasitic fungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) from host caterpillars, which is highly valued as an ingredient of Chinese and Tibetan traditional medicines. Although this fungus has been harvested for centuries, it only became legal to do so in Nepal in 2001 and is now exported to a number of countries, including Thailand, China, Vietnam, Japan and Korea. Environmentalists have voiced their concern regarding the increased numbers of people searching for the caterpillar to harvest the fungus from.

Forming part of the Malla kingdom of the Karnali River basin between the 12th and 14th centuries, the Mugu District has a wealth of historic artifacts. Ancient shrines wreathed in bells, colored cloth and flowers may be seen along the way, with wooden figures dedicated to the local deity, Masta.

Trekkers can take a flight between Kathmandu and Jumla, or alternatively from Nepalgunj to Jumla, and trek from there to Rara Lake. While acknowledging that trekking to Rara Lake is challenging, with many obstacles to overcome, those who have visited the region agree that the tranquility and scenic beauty make the journey more than worthwhile.