Clouds hover above the world's highest peak Mount Everest, (8,850-meters) left and Mount Lhotse, (6,516 meters), right, as seen from Syangboche, about 125 kilometers (80 miles) northeast of Katmandu, Nepal, Wednesday, May 19, 2010. Thousands of Western backpackers visit during the spring season to hike in Nepal, home to dozens of popular mountain trails. (AP Photo/ Binod Joshi)

Nepal officially opened its Great Himalaya Trail, one of the longest and highest walking trails in the world, tourism officials said.

The trekking route spreads across the Himalayan foothills, cutting across Nepal from Taplejung district in the east to Humla and Darchula districts in the west.

“This is one of the longest trekking routes in the world with its 1,700-kilometre length,” tourism board spokesman Sharad Pradhan said.

The trail has one route across the higher Himalayas, at an altitude of 5,000 metres, and another at around 4,700 metres, according to the Dutch Development Agency, which partnered with the government to develop the trail.

“The trek is expected to be 150 days long, if it's done in phases, as we have divided it into 10 different sections,” tourism board advisor Gyaneshwor Mahato said. “But for those who attempt the trail in one go, they could finish it in up to 60 days.”

In 2010, American adventurer Sean Burch set a Guinness World Record by completing the Great Himalaya Trail in 49 days, 6 hours 8 minutes.

Fewer than 10 people have attempted the route so far.

On October 2, Dutch couple Han Tijnagel and Elvira Nijkan plan to take on the daunting trail as the first trekkers to attempt it after the official launch.

“We're hoping the launching of this trail will help promote Nepal in a new way among international trekking lovers,” Pradhan said.

“It's a new product, after the popular Everest and the Annapurna Base Camp adventures, and should give new energy to Nepal's trekking industry.”

Trekking in Nepal is a major attraction for tourists, but popular destinations have been limited to the regions of Solukhumbu, Everest, Annapurna and Langtang.

The promoters said the purpose of developing the trail was also to promote socioeconomic benefits to mountain communities.

The Great Himalaya Trail covers 16 districts, ranging from Dolpa that connects with the Tibetan plateau, to Darchula, which borders India.

“The trail passes through areas of rich cultural diversity, while the distribution of flora and fauna is equally diverse along the route,” Mahato said.

“And because it is the only trekking route at such a high altitude, it is very challenging for adventure seekers.”

The adventure has been priced at 3,200 dollars (about R22 000). - Sapa-dpa