Pyrenees Traverse, France | Cape Wrath Trail, Scotland | Zillertal Alps, Austria | Tongariro Northern Circuit and Heaphy Track, New Zealand | Cordillera Apolobamba, Bolivia | Overland Track, Australia | Sarek National Park, Sweden | Rolwaling and Khumbu Valleys, Nepal | Polar Route, Greenland | Simien Mountains National Park, Ethiopia
Discover hidden Nepal and trek the justifiably popular Everest region on this challenging 20-day route from Rolwaling to Khumbu. One of the eight beyul, or hidden valleys, of the Himalaya according to Sherpa legend, the Rolwaling gets just a tiny fraction of the trekkers of the world-famous Khumbu. Consequently, the Sherpa culture has been largely unaffected by the droves of Westerners heading for nearby Everest Base Camp. To connect the two valleys, you have to cross–and camp atop–the glaciated Trashi Labsta Pass at 18,882 feet; it's no stroll, but fit non-climbers can do it with guides. Bonus option: Experienced mountaineers can tack on the snow-and-ice climb of 20,300-foot Pharchamo Peak, which rises immediately south of Trashi Labsta.
Starting in Barabise (five hours by bus from Kathmandu), you'll spend roughly two weeks ascending the Rolwaling Valley, staying in simple teahouses and camping on the outskirts of villages and in the high-mountain wilderness. Life-list moment: On day 3, climb through rhododendron forests that echo with the screams of langur monkeys and reach 10,890-foot Tinsang La, a pass where you'll get your first glimpse of the awesome Himalayan giants that lie ahead. Finish the day at Bigu Gomba, a Buddhist nunnery where the walls are lined with statues of the 11-headed deity Avalokiteshwara. Drink yak-butter tea with the nuns and camp nearby, overlooking terraced fields of wheat and barley that cascade down the valley.
From here, the gorge gets steeper and narrower with every mile, culminating in the thrill-a-step crossing of Trashi Labsta. Descend to bustling Namche Bazaar and awesome views of Ama Dablam and Makalu. Finish in Lukla and catch a flight back to Kathmandu.