One of the most popular treks in the world, the Annapurna Circuit trek is a wild ride around the Annapurna range. Seventeen days into the wilderness of the Nepali Himalayas is a feat to be proud of, and challenging as it may be, it is popular because of the relative ease one can expect to complete this trekking route with.
The Annapurna range is a fifty-five kilometer (thirty four mile) long section of the Himalayas that includes thirteen peaks over 7000 meters (22,970 ft.) and the Annapurna I, standing tall at 8091 meters (26,545 ft.)- The tenth highest peak in the world. Expect wild and mostly uninhabited terrain with little exotic villages scattered around it, with tribes of the Gurungs, Magars, Chhettris, Newars, Thakalis and Manangs – all different in their own right with their own ways and traditions.
The trek starts at Nayapul; a two hour drive from Pokhara where it will come to an end (unless you opt for the Jomsom- Kathmandu flight). The highest point of the trek is at the Thorung La Pass, at an altitude of 5416 meters. Highlights of this trek will also include the crossing of the deepest river gorge in the world – Kaligandaki, some natural relaxing at the Tatopani hot springs, the optional trip to Lake Tilicho which at 4949 meters is one of the highest in the world, the pilgrimage sites of Muktinath and Kagbeni, the beautiful town of Jomsom and the optional scenic flight from Jomsom to Kathmandu, the hot springs at Tatopani, the breathtaking Himalayan views from Poonhill, the quaint city of Ghorepani and a relaxing evening in Pokhara. Usually snowy and inhospitable from mid-December to mid-April, it is advised to do this trek between April and December, Oct-Nov being the best time to do it.
Get here and we’ll handle the rest. An Advout – tour guide will pick you up at the airport. Get a feel for the streets the first day, absorb the sights and sounds, or rest at the hotel. We discuss the game plan in the evening.
Kathmandu, the capital city, boasts an intense mix of cultures and religions unique to Nepal. Turn the Buddhist prayer wheels at Swoyambhu- the monkey temple, and meet the steady gaze of the Buddha’s eyes at the famous Bouddhanath stupa. Experience the valley’s olden days at the Kathmandu Durbar Square, which has remained authentically Nepali even as modernization has crept in all around it. See Kathmandu, with your AdvoutTM guide.
Drive out of Kathmandu after breakfast to Besishahar where you’ll spend the night.
Today our journey starts at Besishahar where the trail starts to climb till we get to Khudi at 790m, our first Gurung village. As we continue, the trail offers good views of the Himalchuli and Ngadi Chuli(Peak 29) mountains . It climbs to Bhulbhule at 825m and then to Ngadi before reaching Lampata at 1135m and nearby Bahundanda at 1310m.
We start down a sharp descent as the trail takes us through a suspension bridge to Syange -1070m – and then Jagat before walking through a forest to Chyamje at 1400m.
We walk down a rocky trail following the Marsyangdi river climbing steadily uphill to Tal at 1675m, the first village in the district of Manang. After crossing a wide flat valley, the trail climbs a stone stairway to Dharapani at 1890m. A Tibetan style chorten entrance of stone greets us before we get to Bagarchhap at 2160m.
We walk uphill again to Tyanja at 2360m, and then walk by a river through a forest to Kopar at 2590m and then to Chame where our eyes can feast on the sights of the looming Annapurna II. Also, chill in one of the two small hot springs by the town.
We walk through the woods, crossing rivers through narrow bridges, till we get to Pisang, sprawling between 3200m and 3300m.
Now in the drier upper regions of Manang, cut off from rainfall by the Annapurnas, we walk watching herds of yaks and sharing the trail with traders that’ve acquired special trading rights since 1784. Leaving Pisang, we have alternative routes North and South of the Marsyangdi River that both end up at Mungji. The Southern route goes through Hongde with its airstrip and involves less climbing than the Northern route which boasts better views. We walk past Mungji and Bryanga at 3475m till we get to Manang at 3500m.
Now we’re pretty high and must spend a day acclimatizing. We do nice walks on picturesque terrain, gain some altitude walking uphill, and come back down to Manang where we spend the night.
Leaving Manang, we climb steadily through Tenki exiting the Marsyangdi Valley to Ledar at 4250m through the Jarsang River valley.
The trail descends to cross a river at 4310m before climbing up to Phedi at 4420m or High Camp at 4600m. It’s a good idea to rest early today, to prepare for the strenuous but rewarding trek tomorrow.
The air here is thinner, vegetation sparse and barren rocks surround us on all sides. Today we cross the Thorung La Pass, one of the highest mountain passes in the world. Majestically beautiful mountain faces glare at us from all directions as we make our way through the pass and descend to the holy Muktinath village- one of Nepal’s most famous religious sites.
Today we walk around Muktinath a little, drink in the sights, before walking towards Jomsom through Ranipauwa and Kagbeni, both picturesque and awe-inspiringly beautiful places. At Jomsom, you have two options – to fly back to Pokhara or Kathmandu, or to keep walking towards Marpha.
Marpha’s known for its apples and apple liquor. Take your fill before walking to Ghasa at 1620m through the green pretty villages of Kobang and Larjung.
A mostly downhill hike will take us along the broad river valley to Tatopani at 1140m. Tato pani, in Nepali, literally means “hot water”, a name it derived from the two hot springs it has. Relax at the springs after a pleasant walk through forests and fields adorned by many waterfalls.
We walk uphill today to get to Ghorepani at 2785m, which got its name from the little pools horses used to drink from back in the day (“ghoda” in Nepali means horse, and “pani” is water). Now a prosperous town with many amenities including the internet, and bars and even a place you can play pool at, boasting sights of the beautiful mountains of Nilgiri South and Annapurna I, Ghorepani is a good place to relax.
A 45 minute walk from Ghorepani early in the morning can take you to Poon Hill, a popular destination for many trekkers without a lot of time, where you can see mountains of the Annapurna range as well as the Dhaulagiri range. A beautiful sunrise to witness before breakfast can set the mood for the long walk to Nayapul today. A vehicle will pick you up at Nayapul and take you to Pokhara where you can celebrate the end of your trek at one of the many bars that dot the lakeside.
Fly or drive back to Kathmandu and look for souvenirs in one of the many little shops in Thamel, or relax in one of its many restaurants, bars, or clubs.
We’ll drop you off at the airport, possibly discussing plans for your next visit.