This trek of Annapurna circuit is once considered one of the best treks in the world though road construction is threatening its reputation and its future as a classic trek. Yet no one disputes that the scenery is outstanding: 17 to 23 days long, this trek takes you through distinct regional scenery of rivers, flora, fauna and above all – mountains.
There are four regions that are passed through on the trek Lamjung, Manang, Mustang and Myagdi. Lamjung and Myagdi of the lower elevations are both &ampnbsppredominantly Hindu and with lush green subtropical valleys with villages and terraced farming. Manang and Mustang are of the higher elevations and are predominantly Tibetan Buddhist. The Manang people are Gurung (not Tibetan descent) and are very proud of their unique cultural heritage and merging of lower land Gurung and Tibetan cultural influences.
People of Mustang identify themselves a lot closer with Tibet and the Mustang region has actually been part of Tibet in history. Mustang also is one of the last places in the world to view the ancient Bonpo Religion in action. Villages to note for Bonpo are Thini and Lupra near Jomsom, and Nargon near Kobang. The trek goes counter-clockwise from Besisahar to Nayapul and reaches its summit in Thorung La (pass) at the height of 5416m, or 17,769 feet. The route goes past the following mountains: Manaslu (an 8,000-plus meter peak), Langtang Himal, Annapurna II and IV, Annapurna III and Gangapurna, and, of course, Annapurna I and Dhaulagiri — passing through the world’s deepest gorge in between those two 8,000-plus meter peaks. Poon Hill, at the end of the trek, affords views of those two mountains, as well as South Annapurna and Machhapuchhare, the Fishtail Mountain.” The trek also goes through Buddhist villages and Hindu holy sites, most notably the village of Muktinath, a holy site for both Buddhists and Hindus, and Braga, one of the oldest monasteries in the region. The eastern portion of the trek follows the Marsyangdi River upstream, to its source near the village of Manang. To get there several days of up-hill hiking are required. Then the route goes over the pass, a grueling day of hiking, and back down the other side, where it meets up with the Kali Gandaki River. At the end of the trek, several options are available: following the river further to the road proper to Beni and catching a bus to Pokhara, or adding on a trek to the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC Trek), aka the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek. This is a teahouse trek,” meaning there are villages with lodges and restaurants to eat and stay in along the entire route. You are expected to eat breakfast and dinner in the same lodge where you are spending the night. Prices of rooms are seemingly inexpensive because of lodge owners tend to make more money on the food and drinks they are selling you than on the room where you are sleeping.
Day 01 – Drive from Kathmandu to Besisahar / 6 hours :
It takes about six hours. You drive along the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway to Dumre and then follow the narrow and paved road by the Marsyangdi River to Besi Sahar . Beshishahar is the district headquarters of Lamjung district. All the local government offices are there. From where you can see some of mountain peaks, natural scenery surrounding the valley and you can the daily activities of local people.
Day 02 – Trek from Beshishahar to Bahundanda (1305m.) / 6 hours:
The first part of the trekking passes thorough flat level along the bank of the Marshyangdi River. You can enjoy the sceneries and the local culture of Gurung people. After lunch, the trail goes steeply upwards to Bahundanda which takes about 2 hours. At this point, you can see the area surrounded by eye-catching scenarios with snow capped Himalayas.
Day 03 – Trek from Bahundanda to Chamje (1410m.) / 6 hours:
A steep trail descends for early half an hour and then follows flat path through rice terraces, before crossing a stream at the bottom of a small waterfall then it climbs again high above the river before reaching the village of Lali Gaon. Ahead, the Marsyangdi valley forms a steep V-shape, and you follow the winding mountain path down through Syange (1100m.) where there is a beautiful waterfall above it and along the river for some distance. The trail then climbs steeply and the path is cut into the sheer cliff-face some 200-300m above the riverbed. Eventually you descend to the stone village of Jagat (1330m.) situated on a shelf which juts into the precipitous Marsyangdi valley. Now the trail begins to observe small ups and down to Chamje through the forests.
Day 04 – Trek from Chamje (1410m.) to Dharapani (1960m.) / 6 hours:
The first part of the trail descends to the river and after crossing a suspension bridge, you begin a climb to Sattale (1550m.) on a path so steep that it seems one slip would send you hurtling down into the valley. You continue on an undulating path above the river, and at one point, where a tributary flows in from the opposite bank, the main river becomes covered with huge boulders that hide the water. Climbing the zigzag path to the top of the hill, you see the level, plain of Tal (1700m.). Though it is enclosed by cliffs, the level area looks reassuring after the harrowing mountain paths just traveled on. You descend to a grassy riverbank which leads to Tal with its hotels and teahouses. Beyond Tal, the valley narrows and the path becomes high and winding, and in several areas hewn from the rock itself. Beyond the small village of Karte (1900m.), there is a bit more cliff-walking before the path drops again to the river. You cross a suspension bridge, and climb the short distance to the stone kani marking the entrance to Dharapani (1960m.).
Day 05 – Trek from Dharapani to Chame (2675m.) / 5 hours:
As you cut through a narrow field from the village, the Dudh Khola, which originates from the south face of Manaslu. The Marsyangdi River then veers to the left, and as Annapurna II becomes visible ahead, you arrive at Bagarchhap, a Bhote village with prayer flags fluttering in the breeze around Buddhist monastery. Continuing to climb through forests of pine and oak, you pass through Danaque (2210m.). There comes a small wooden bridge which takes you to follow steep ascent path upto Timang village. It lies at the bottom of Lamajung Himal. The trail goes through flat level until you reach Chame where there are government offices, shops, and hotels. Chame is the district headquarters for the Manang district.
Day 06 – Trek from Chame to Pisang (3100m.) / 5 hours:
With Lamjung Himal (6893m) dazzling in the morning sun, you set off for Pisang. The mountain disappears as you climb the path up the valley, passing a huge apple orchard. You continue through a fir and pine forest, climbing to a high, rocky area as the opposite bank becomes an impassable cliff. From this point the valley becomes extremely steep-sided as you follow the path to Bhratang (2950m.).In the past this was the military station for troops who fought against the Khampa tribal revolution, but the dilapidated buildings are all that remain of that era. A short climb from the village brings you to a rock-strewn area where you cross a wooden bridge and follow a high, winding path, before crossing back to the right bank again. You now trek through a pine forest and as the forest ends, the valley changes from a V-shape to a gentle U-shape, opening up a wonderful vista . You can see the east peak of Annapurna II as well as Pisang Peak (6091m.) to the north-east. Continuing on, you come to a long mani wall by a bridge and the lower village of Pisang.
Day 07 – Trek from Pisang to Manang (3440m.) / 5 hours:
Beyond Pisang, the trail climbs a steep ridge which affords good views of the Manang valley and Tilicho peak (7145m.). Descending past Manang’s airstrip at Humde (3320m.), you come to a level area from where the north-east face of Annapurna III rises majestically above you. From the wide plains of the Sabje Khola Valley, Annapurna IV (7525m.) also becomes visible. Just beyond this point you cross the considerably reduced flow of the Marsyangdi Khola via a wooden bridge to the tiny village of Mungji. Cultivated fields appear on both sides of the path and off to the right, below a craggy mountain, you can see the village of Braga with its splendid monastery. Large Chortens and mani walls abound and the tall peaks of the Himalaya spread out before you – Annapurna II, Annapurna III, Annapurna IV, Gangapurna (7455m.) and, to the rear, Tilicho Peak (7145m.). After a short steep climb you reach Manang which is a surprisingly large village for this remote mountain region.
Day 08 – Rest day at Manang:
Today, you hang around town. This is an important rest and acclimatization day before crossing the Thorung La. There are optional day walks such as crossing the river to see the tremendous icefall coming down from the Annapurnas, or climbing high above the village for a full panorama of the Annapurna range and the Manang Valley. There is also a Himalayan Rescue Association [HRA] aid post in the village which makes an interesting and educational visit. Moreover you can visit Ganagapurna Glacier Lake to make your rest day a memorable one.
Day 09 – Trek from Manang to Yak Kharka (4350m.) / 3 hours:
Now the trail ascends gently all the way to Yak Kharka passing through the Gunsang (3960m.) village. En route, you can see panoramic views all the day.
Day 10 – Trek from Yak Kharka to Thorong Phedi (4420m.) / 3:30 hours:
Leaving Yak Kharka, you climb gradually to a ridge before descending to the headwaters of the Marsyangdi and crossing via a covered wooden bridge. After a short ascent up the mountain path on the right bank, you follow a narrow trail across an unstable spree slope and then descend to Thorung Phedi.
Day 11 – Trek from Thorong Phedi to Muktinath (3850m.) via Thorong La (5416m.) Pass / 8 hours:
Today, you start early for your crossing of Thorung La (5416m.). The trail becomes steep immediately on leaving camp but as this trail has been used by local people for hundreds of years the path is well defined. The gradient then eases and after around 4 hours of steady climbing, you reach the chorten and prayer flags of the pass. The views are dramatic to say the least, from the snow-covered mountains above, to the head of the Kali Gandaki valley below and the brown and purple hills of Mustang which are spread out before you. The descent to Muktinath is a knee pounding 1600m but it’s compensated for with excellent views of Dhaulagiri. Eventually the moraines give way to grassy slopes before a pleasant walk along the Jhong Khola Valley to Muktinath and its shrines and temple.
Day 12 – Trek from Muktinath to Kagbeni (2895 m.)/ 3:30 hours:
You now begin the trek descent down the dramatic Kali Gandaki Gorge, initially through arid country in the same geographical and climatic zone as Tibet. After passing through Jharkot and Khingar villages with typical Tibetan architecture, you follow path steeply down to Kagbeni, a primitive village famous for Tibetan architectures. People living there follow the Tibetan life style and culture. There is situated a monastery said to belong to 15th Century. Kagbeni is the border for Upper Mustang.
Day 13 – Trek from Kagbeni to Marpha (2650m.) / 5:30 hours:
It takes about five and half hours. Now, you begin the flat path along the bank of dramatic Kali Gandaki Gorge, initially through arid country in the same geographical and climatic zone as Tibet up to Marpha. Marpha is a big village enriched with a Buddhist Monastery in between the village which has its own cultural importance. It is rich in cultivating apples. The apple brandy available there is famous among the local people and travelers.
Day 14 – Trek from Marpha to Ghasa (2013m.) / 6 hours:
The trail descends steeply through forests to Ghasa, the last Thakali village and the southern-most limit of Tibetan Buddhism. The beginning part of the trail is stretched at almost flat level up to Kalopani and then the trail begins descending steeply to Ghasa. The first part of the trek passes through the windy area covered with pine forests, rhododendron forests and birches are seen. The surrounding area of Ghasa is famous destination for bird watching and wild Marijuana. Here you are quite amazed at the panoramic view of Mount Nilgiri North (7061m.), Nilgiri Central (6940m.), and Nilgiri South (6839m.), Annapurna I (8091m.), Dhaulagiri I (8167m.) and Tukuche peak (6920m.)
Day 15 – Trek from Ghasa to Tatopani (1189 m.) / 5 hours :
The trail descends steeply up to Rupse Chhahara (Rupse Waterfall) which is amazing to look at. There is situated the deepest gorge of the world between two massif mountains Annapurna I (8091m.) and Dhaulagiri I (8167m.) facing each other near Rupse Waterfall. Now the trail ascends slightly to Tatopani through different human settlements. You can enjoy the hot spring at Tatopani as the word Tatopani is derived after the natural hot spring situated at the bank of the Kali Gandaki River. It is popularly believed that taking bath in Hot Spring helps you to get rid of skin diseases. Along this, it gives you physical and mental refreshment as well.
Day 16 – Rest at Tatopani:
A rest day at Tatopani to enjoy the natural hot spring bath. It is believed that one who takes bath get rids of skin diseases. After several days trekking, it is a great idea to take bath at hot spring and relax.
Day 17 – Trek from Tatopani to Ghorepani (2853 m.) / 7 hours:
The trail passes through flat level of the land at some distance. Then the trail begins ascending steeply for at least one hour. Now path goes up through different villages inhabited by the people of different caste and agricultural land. The majority of the people here serve Gorkha Regiment and Indian Regiment as well. While trekking you cross through the Kali Gandaki River with panoramic view of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna ranges. The trail ascends gently all the way to Ghorepani passing through small villages like Phalate, Chitre and so on. While trekking you pass through rhododendron forests and come across the wild life such as monkeys and birds of various species. You are accompanied by more panoramic views of different mountains.
Day 18. Trek from Ghorepani to Poon Hill (3180m.) to Hille (1475m.) / 5 hours:
Early morning trip to Poon Hill (3232m.) to enjoy the sunrise view over Mt. Dhaulagiri (8167m.), Tukuche Peak (6920m.), Nilgiri (6940m.), Varaha Shikhar (7847m.), Mt. Annapurna I (8091m.), Annapurna South (7219m.), Annapurna III (7855m.), Machhapuchhre (6993m.), Annapurna IV (7525m.), Annapurna II (7937m.), Lamjung Himal (6931m.) and other numerous snowcapped mountain peaks. After breakfast, you again follow gradual descent path through the forests of rhododendron and oak upto Banthanti. It is a small village where you can pause for hot and cold drinks. Then the trail descends to Ulleri (1960m.), a big Gurung village from where you can enjoy the view of Annapurna South, Machhapuchhre and Hiunchuli. From here the trail upto Tirkhedhunga is steeply descent passing terraces and some villages. After a short walk of 15 minutes from Tirkhedhunga, you reach Hille.
Day 19- Trek from Hille to Nayapul (1050m.) via Birethanti / 3 hours and drive to Pokhara / 1.30 hour:
It takes almost three hours and drive from Nayapul to Pokhara which takes about one and half hours. This day& ampersands trek gradually descends following Bhurung Khola (Bhurung Stream) all the way to Birethanti before you cross the Modi Khola over the suspension bridge. You are amazed to pass small villages, see the magnificent waterfalls and walk through the sparse forests.