KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal has officially opened a new trekking route that runs along some of the world's highest peaks, including Mount Everest, in an effort to boost tourism, officials said on Friday.
The Great Himalayan Trail runs from Nepal's eastern border with India in the shadow of Mount Kangchenjunga, the world's third highest mountain, to Humla in the west passing through or beside Mount Everest and other Himalayan peaks.
The 1,700-km (1,062-mile) trail, which takes about 150 days to complete, passes through a number of national parks and protected areas and gives trekkers exposure to a range of cultures and lifestyles, tourism ministry official Gyaneshwor Mahato said.
"The route offers an incredible diversity in terms of landscapes, flora & fauna, people and culture: from snow leopards to red pandas; from sub-tropical jungle to fragile high-altitude eco-systems; from the famous Sherpas, to Shamanism, to the ancient Bon Buddhist culture," the ministry said in its website.
Nepal is home to eight of the world's 14 highest mountains.
Tens of thousands of hikers go trekking every year in Nepal mainly in Solukhumbu area in the east where Mount Everest is located, central Langtang and the Annapurna ranges in the west of the country.
Nepal, South Asia's poorest nation, receives a little over half a million tourists every year.
Tourism accounts for four percent of the country's gross domestic product and employs tens of thousands of people