An enlightening trek along the Kali Gandaki to Muktinath next to the mystical land of Mustang
Pokhara Jomsom Muktinath trek is one of the fabulous treks in Annapurna circuit. This adventurous trip takes you through the Kali Gandaki river on the border of Mustang with the stunning views of Nilgiri, Annapurna, Machhapuchhare, Tukuche on the skyline. You can experience the astonishing landscapes, natural beauty, monasteries, holy sites, hundred years old caves, fascinating ethnic culture of local people throughout the trek. The views seen from the vantage of Poonhill after the ray of sun passes to the peak of gigantic mountains like Annapurna, Machhapuchhare, Dhaulagiri is breath taking. Beautiful traditional villages like Marpha, Jomsom, Thini, Kagbeni and huge fields of apple plantation are some of the major highlights of this trek. This trip is also famous for its religious and cultural significance as the ultimate destination of this trek is Muktinath, a holy site for both Hindu and Buddhist people. People believe that bathing in the water of this sacred place gives salvation after death. Also known as the ‘Himalayan Shangri-la’, this place not only offers the heart-warming views, but also some adventure sports like rock climbing, mountain biking, horse riding etc that you shouldn’t miss.
Pokhara, Jomsom & Muktinath Trek is an easy trek that can be done any time of the year except during the monsoons (July & August).
Day 1 Arrival Kathmandu
Day 2 Sightseeing tour of Boudhanath, Pashupatinath & Patan
Day 3 Fly to Pokhara, drive to Birethati (1100m) - approx. 2 hrs, and trek to Ulleri (2000m) via Birethanti- 5/6 hours
Day 4 Trek to Ghorepani (2775m) - 4 hours
Day 5 Trek to Tatopani (1190) - 5/6 hours
Day 6 Trek to Ghasa (2000m) – 5/6 hours
Day 7 Trek to Larjung (2560m) – 4/5 hours
Day 8 Trek to Jomsom (2713m) - 4/5 hours
Day 9 Trek to Muktinath (3710m) - 5/6 hours
Day 10 Trek to Jomsom (2713m) - 5/6 hours
Day 11 Flight to Pokhara- 25 minutes and fly/drive to Kathmandu - 25 minutes/7 hours
You will be greeted by a panoramic view of snow-capped mountain peaks sprawling down below once you fly in the sky of Kathmandu. A representative and driver from our office will meet you at the airport and escort you to your hotel. The representative will help you check into your designated hotel. At the hotel you will be briefed about your daily activities. Overnight at Hotel. .
Sightseeing tour in Kathmandu (Pashupatinath, Boudhanath and Patan Durbar Square) and transfer to hotel
Kathmandu is the historical and cultural heart of Nepal and has been a popular destination for tourists ever since Nepal opened its doors to visitors. The city presents a wonderful mix of Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism and Western influence. There will be a guided tour to UNESCO World Heritage Sites namely Boudhanath- the largest Buddhist Stupa in Nepal, Pashupatinath- most popular Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva and Patan or Lalitpur (the City of Artisans), which is 5km away from Kathmandu. At Patan Durbar Square, we will delight in the architectural wonders of Malla era. Mahaboudha Temple, Kumbeshwor Temple, Krishna Temple and Golden Temple are the major attractions at the square. Overnight at Hotel. .
Fly to Pokhara, drive to Birethati (1100m) - approx. 2 hrs, and trek to Ulleri (2000m) via Birethanti - 5/6 hours
It takes around 25 minutes to fly from Pokhara to Kathmandu. While flying to Pokhara, you can enjoy the fantastic views of shimmering mountain ranges and spectacular landscapes below you. You will be met at Pokhara airport by your trekking crew. A short drive of about an hour brings you to a trailhead at Birethanti, a busy village of lodges, shops and houses. You commence your trek with a gradual ascent along the left bank of the Bhurungdi Khola. You then leave the river and follow a trail along the upper edge of terraced fields through Hille to Tikedungha. Thereafter, you cross a stream beyond the village and then drop down to the suspension bridge over the Bhurungdi Khola. Then you climb a long, steep and seemingly endless stone staircase, which eventually leads you to the village of Ulleri. From this village, there are fine views of Annapurna South and Hiunchuli..
Trek to Ghorepani (2775m) - 4 hours
As you ascend along the path that leads to a forest, you will find Annapurna South, hidden by a ridge. Beyond Banthanti, there are magnificent forests of oak and rhododendron. After crossing several crystal-clear mountain streams, you arrive at the village of Nangathanti. Another few hours of trekking through the forest, you reach Ghorepani. Ghorepani literally means "horse water" and is a popular watering spot for mules, which ply this route from Pokhara to Jomsom and beyond. A ten minutes’ walk takes you to a small pass and further to the village of Deorali. For proper acclimatization, you rest at Ghorepani. .
Trek to Tatopani (1190m) - 5/6 hours
Early you wake up to hike to Poonhill to catch an amazing view of the sunrise from the ideal vantage point. After breakfast, you descend to Tatopani through the rhododendron forest amidst the magnificent natural vistas. As you near Chitre, you get an awe-inspiring view of Dhaulagiri range. The path then leads through terraced fields to Sikha, a Magar village clustered on a ridge. You continue descending, gradually at first and then more steeply to cross the Ghar Khola. After a short climb, you cross the Kali Gandaki on a large suspension bridge and from thereon, it is only a short distance upstream to Tatopani. Tatopani takes its name after the hot springs near the river below the village. .
Trek to Ghasa (2000m) – 5/6 hours
You have to follow the trail that ascends gently up the Kali Gandaki Gorge, the deepest gorge in the world, towards the village of Dana, which is surrounded by orange groves. En route, you come across local people selling baskets of oranges during its season. Just beyond the small hamlet of Rupse, a thundering waterfall cascades down beside the trail. Thereafter, the trail enters the steepest and narrowest section of the gorge. You will find the layered stone path well-constructed and wide. As the rock cliff ends, you head towards Ghasa, a quaint Thakali village. You can see several flat-roofed houses in Ghasa..
Trek to Larjung (2560m) – 4/5 hours
After breakfast you trek from Ghasa towards Larjung. Few hours of descents soon follow other rock-strewn ascents through forests of fir, cypress and juniper along the riverbank of Kali Gandaki. As soon as you reach Larjung, you cannot help but marvel at the architectural grandeur of this small town; tunnels, narrow alleyways and houses built in traditional style presents an interesting sight. .
Trek to Jomsom (2713m) – 4/5 hours
You begin to trek along the trail that follows the wide valley of the Kali Gandaki, passing through Khobang and Tukuche. Yet again, you get to see narrow alleyways and houses built around enclosed courtyards as a protection against the unpredictable wind of the Kali Gandaki gorge. The trail further meanders through stonewalled orchards. Soon you come across a stone gate that marks the entrance to Marpha. You can spot several white-walled houses. Marpha has well-maintained drainage system and is most popular for its local apple brandy. After lunch in Marpha, you continue trekking towards Jomsom. As you approach your destination Jomsom, the landscape becomes increasingly arid and impressive with its mixture of brown, yellow and grey contrasting with the white snowcapped peaks of Tilicho and Nilgiri. .
Trek to Muktinath (3710m) – 5/6 hours
After breakfast you resume your trekking along the path up to the vast gravel riverbed of the Kali Gandaki. You come across a stream and verdant vegetation. On crossing a small ridge to Chhancha Lhumba at 2730 meters, you continue heading towards Muktinath. Dhaulagiri and Nilgiri dominate the view as you ascend to Khingar (3200m). More meadows, streams and lush vegetation can be seen along the trail as it paves to Jharkot (3500m). You encounter the ruins of the Dzong and pristine villages of Purang and Changur. As you trek past mule stables and steep barren hillside, you enter Ranipauwa. Ranipauwa for years has remained an ideal resting point for pilgrims and travelers. On trekking further, you enter Muktinath. Temples and religious shrines are the major attractions of this holy place. Pilgrims flock to the Buddhist gompa and pagoda-style temple of Lord Vishnu. Muktinath is an important pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Buddhists..
Trek to Jomsom (2713m) – 5/6 hours
Heading away from Muktinath, you retrace your steps to Jomsom enjoying the magnificent view of Nilgiri. You stay overnight in Jomsom. In the evening you celebrate the completion of your trek with the crew, whom you have come to know so well over the last 7/8 days.
Flight to Pokhara - 25 minutes and fly/drive to Kathmandu - 25 minutes/7 hours
You board an early morning flight from Jomsom to Pokhara. From Pokhara you can either fly or drive to Kathmandu. The flight takes around 30 minutes and the drive takes around 6-7 hours..
You can indulge in souvenir shopping, sightseeing or other personal activities until your departure. You will be transferred to the airport for your flight home. .
TRIP GRADE: Soft Adventure trek
The treks on this grade last for about a week to 10 days. It generally doesn't go above 3800m. Each day, you can expect to be walking for around 5/6 hours. It is a perfect introduction to trekking in Nepal. The activity level is moderate but don't expect it to be all easy going, there will still be some big hills to climb as well as the well-known 'Nepali flat' – a little bit up and a little bit down. No previous experience is required, you should be moderately fit, used to some regular exercise and enjoy walking in hilly terrain.
Trekkingin Nepalis categorized in three different types based on their way of organization (Camping Trek, Tea House Trek and GAP Trek). Pokhara, Jomsom and Muktinath Trek is organized in two ways (Tea House Trek and GAP Trek) due to the abundance of accommodation facilities available in the region.
Tea House Trek: This trek includes services like guide, food, accommodation in local Tea Houses and porters.
GAP Trek: This trek includes services like Guide (G), Accommodation (A) in the Tea Houses, and Porters (P). Food bills are to be paid directly by the client.
Annapurna trekking doesn’t need tremendous logistics in terms of accommodation as you will find plenty of clean and friendly lodges along the trail.
You often have to share rooms but you can also stay in single rooms where possible.Rooms are basic, normally just a bed with a pillow and blankets. A few have electric blanket, hot bags (luxury lodges) and all have a spacious dining room-lounge. We will accommodate you and your group in a comfortable local lodge each day. The Guide coordinates with the local lodge owners to book the required rooms for the group (rooms cannot always be booked in advance).
Please remember that some of them are very basic and a sense of adventure is necessary.
Meals are included in our price and are taken in lodges available along the trail. You can find a considerable variety of Nepali (rice, curry & lentil, momo, noodles, chapatis etc.) and Western food (pizza, pasta, sandwich, chips, porridge, toast, pancake, soup etc) as well as drinks (coffee, tea, milk, soft drinks, and beer). The Guide suggests you the best option as per the availability.
You will have to make your own eating arrangements in the lodges available along the trail. Expect to spend around $25-$30 a day for food. Guide, accommodation and porters are covered in the price.
On GAP trek and Lodge trek, you will be provided filtered water about 3-4 liters per person per day. The good thing about such water is it doesn’t smell chlorine. We normally use Sawyer Filters. However, you can also buy bottled water in tea houses. You can also bring water purification pills in case you want to drink water from local taps.
PERSONAL EXPENSES – MONEY TO TAKE ON TREK
Money requirement depends largely on type of trek style, duration and trekking region.
For a two-week Annapurna trek, you can take about $200-300, more if you intend toget more table drinks (alcoholic/non-alcoholic beverages), snacks while walking (a few smaller shops are available along the trail in some areas), souvenirs, battery charge, internet, hot shower (available in some places) etc. If you are on ‘GAP’ trek style you need to pay for all your meals. Approximately $25-30 a day should be enough to cover your meals. We pay for your accommodation at mountain hut (teahouse) along the trail and bear all the expenses of staffs assigned by us, plus extra bar bills, snacks, hot shower, battery charge, internet etc.
You can change money at a bank or the money exchange counter in cities like Kathmandu and Pokhara. Many Tourist class Hotels have money exchange facilities. For Trekking, there are banks and exchange counters at major Tourist hubs in Everest and Annapurna regions like Namche, Lukla, Ghorepani and Jomsom. These days, there is availability of ATMs everywhere in Kathmandu, Pokhara and some major trekking hubs.
Tips are appreciated by your support team after the completion of your trekking in Nepal. The amount depends on your budget and appreciation of their work. As a suggestion, we advise that you can allocate 5- 10 % of the total tour cost as tips.It is recommended that you talk to the members and hand it over individually as per the hierarchy on the last day of the trek.
GROUP SIZE ON FIXED DEPARTURE
If you opt to join our ‘fixed departure trip’, you are likely to be joining people from different countries of any age group except minors. The size of group varies, minimum no of persons required to operate a trip is 2 the maximum is 15 people.
For a Private Booking, any number size from 1Pax to 20 is acceptable and can be comfortably organized. We go for special planning for handling group size bigger than 20 Pax.
GROUP LEADER AND CREW
We provide different options concerning leadership in order to match your requirements:
1) Western leader
2) Trained Nepali Trek leader (experienced and knowledgeable)
3) Sherpa Guide (handles the logistics and guides you and your team on the trek)
The Sherpa guide (commonly called Sirdar) will be accompanied by a crew of porters. We provide 1 porter for 2 members.
There are a plenty of telephone facilities in the Annapurna region You can also use Ncell and NTC network (both for internet and mobile network) but they don’t work properly in some places as you go higher. If it is crucial for you to keep in contact with your family or others, we can provide you a mobile satellite phone (rental charge on request).
FLIGHT / LAND TRANSFERS
You can choose any mode of transport to commute from Kathmandu to Pokhara. From Kathmandu, you can take a 30 minutes’ scenic flight to Pokhara and drive to Birethanti or we drive for 6/7 hours from Kathmandu along the Prithvi Highway and continue to Birethanti. On your return, you will fly from Jomsom to Kathmandu via Pokhara. You can also choose between flying or driving back from Pokhara to Kathmandu. We will also arrange the transportation from your hotel to the airport (Kathmandu).
LUGGAGE WHILE TREKKING
During Annapurna trek, your main luggage will be carried by porter. Please keep your luggage as light as possible around 12 to 15 kgsfor flight safety and porter welfare as per IPPG standard. You simply carry a daypack with water bottle, camera, sun-screen, spare jacket etc. You can leave your valuable items at your hotel in Kathmandu/Pokhara while trekking. Many hotels have a locker system and provide a deposit slip for the valuables kept under the hotel's safekeeping.
TYPICAL DAY ON TREK
Lodge/ Tea House Trek, GAP Trek
A typical day while trekking in Nepal consists of about 7-8 hours of activity. Each morning after packing our bags and having a good breakfast, we set off on the day's walk. After walking for 3-4 hours we stop for lunch at around midday. The afternoon's walk is generally shorter and we usually arrive at our destination in time for afternoon tea. The remainder of the afternoon can be spent exploring the village, doing a bit of washing or simply relaxing with a good book. On some days, we will arrive at our destination by lunchtime and the entire afternoon will be free. After dinner, the evening will often be spent playing cards and reliving the day's adventures, before heading off to bed for a well-earned sleep.
TREKKING GEARS & EQUIPMENT
You will need walking boots, sleeping bag (4 seasons/ -20C rated), waterproof jacket and trousers, fleece jacket, warm hat and gloves, sunglasses, water bottle, sun-screen and day pack. Comprehensive list of equipment will be provided once you book your trip. It's not necessary to spend a lot of money buying extra equipment and clothing before your trip. Majority of these gears can be bought or hired at reasonable rates in Kathmandu.
GEARS AVAILABLE IN KATHMANDU
There are numerous suppliers of trekking gears in Kathmandu supplying genuine branded items or imitations depending on your choice and price. You can get anything from down jackets and sleeping bags to socks or thermal wears that you need for your trek. They might not be the best but good enough for the trek considering the price.
EQUIPMENT PROVIDED BY COMPANY
We provide company duffle bag (80L) to use on the trek. You can store your bag in your hotel and use it after the trek.
Security of our clients is our foremost priority. All our guides are licensed by Nepal Government. Our guides and support crew are carefully chosen for your trips. They will ensure your safety and security throughout your trip.
During your trek, you will be sleeping in local teahouses. You have to take precautions yourself at all times. Never leave your baggage unattended and keep your lodge room locked when you go out.
MEETING AND GREETING AT AIRPORT
You need to pass on your International flight details to us for a “meeting and greeting” service at airport. You just pass the customs desk and come out of the terminal building where you will see someone standing with a placard with either ‘Explore Himalaya’ or your name written on it. Our airport representative or tour officer will greet you and welcome you with a garland.
We ensure liability as indicated in itinerary and list of services. If the holiday is cut short or completed earlier than the projected period upon client’s wish, we shall not be responsible or make refund against unutilized days or services. Clients need to pay for hotels/services incurred in Kathmandu or elsewhere in such cases.
CLIMATE AND BEST TIME TO GO
The best seasons fortrekking in Nepal areAutumn (from mid-September till November end), and Spring (from the beginning of March until mid-May). Temperatures will drop considerably as you trek higher every day. The nights are cold (between -10 C to 5C) but the days are sunny and hot (between 10C to 20C). The mornings are usually clear, with clouds building up during the afternoon, disappearing at night. Trekking during the monsoon and winter is not recommended, as the visibility during monsoon is limited, upper parts and high passes could be covered with snow in winter.
March, April, October and November are the most favored months. Please choose the date that is convenient for you.
The itinerary for this trek is a standard itinerary. Depending on the prevailing situationwhile on trek, you can modify it to some extent after consulting with your guide. However, the date of trek completion should always coincide with the original itinerary. You should keep in mind that this is an adventure trip into the remotest region, where many unforeseen events may contribute to the need for a change in itinerary. In such cases, we or your guide will suggest the best alternative similar to your original.
HEALTH ISSUES AND VACCINATIONS
As vaccination requirements change frequently, we suggest you to consult your doctor at least 2 months prior to the beginning of your trip. We recommend protection against malaria, tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis and polio.
The main health consideration during Annapurna Trekking is Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). You may experience some mild symptoms initially, such as headache, lethargy, nausea and difficulty sleeping, but these should lessen within a few days. To avoid Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), people take pills called ‘Diamox’. You can also use these pills after consulting with your doctor and purchase them in Kathmandu. Our itinerary will allow your body to acclimatize properly and handle the low oxygen rate.
If you have ever suffered from altitude sickness, or have a heart or breathing complaint, we highly recommend you to consult your doctor about your suitability for trekking in high altitude areas before booking. We suggest that you take some pain-killing pills with you and enough medicine for cold, diarrhea, nausea and fever. Some nasal ointment and throat-moistening pills will greatly help for those who are sensitive to chilly or freezing weather conditions.
FIRST AID KIT
We supply a medical bag with standard medicines prescribed by trekking doctors and a user’s manual. Since our staffs/guides are not qualified for suggesting medications to western clients, we would request you to use the medicines upon your own risk. It is safer and more reliable if you have your own medicine kit and not depend on what we have.
All visitors except the Indian nationals must hold passport and valid visa. Visa can be obtained at the Nepalese diplomatic missions and consulates abroad. You can also get “On Arrival Visa” at entry points. For doing Annapurna Trek, you can come with a 30 day visa which costs US $ 50. You should have a passport size photo to get it at airport upon arrival. Some countries’ nationals need to get visa prior their arrival. Please check http://www.nepalimmigration.gov.np/page/tourist-visafor detailed information.
JOIN A GROUP OR PRIVATE TRIP
Our trips are available on both fixed departure and private basis. If you are looking for a group to join this Annapurna Trek please check our ‘2021/22 departures’ link for availability, dates and price. If you would like to travel independently, or with your friends, families & colleagues, you are invited to choose any of the trips at your convenient timeframe for any number of people (minimum 1 & maximum 20 at a time).
If you want to do something that is not included in our trip list, we are ready to tailor your trip to suit your exact requirements. In short, we will make every effort to meet your needs.
RESCUE / EVACUATIONS
We are take your safety and security very seriously, and make sure that nothing untoward happen to you. However, if anything serious like sickness or a casualty occurs, we will do everything to transfer you to the nearest hospital. As you are responsible for all the expenses incurred in evacuation, please make sure that it is covered by your insurance before assigning for it.
Before joining this short Annapurna Trekking, we recommend you to take a travel insurance which should cover cancellation, medical expenses, helicopter evacuation and emergency repatriation.Our staff will collect your insurance details before you leave for the trek.
We are among the few companies in Nepal to receive Travelife Certificate Award https://www.travelife.infofor our long-term efforts in sustainable practices.
Care for porters and staffs
We ensure that all the porters and other staffs going into high altitude conditions during Annapurna treksare provided with adequate clothing and equipment.All our porters carry less than 30 kg and underage porters are strictly prohibited in our operations. We run the trek according to the guidelines of the International Porter Protection group (IPPG - www.ippg.net)
Wonderful environment of the Himalayas is also an extremely fragile one. Increasing population density and numbers of trekkers threaten the very beauty of Nepal. At Explore Himalaya, we are extremely conscious about the environment and aim to minimize our impact as much as possible.
As deforestation is one of the greatest environmental threats, we do not have camp fires and use LPG gas or kerosene for cooking as an alternative fuel to wood. We don’t use plastic bottles. We also discourage trekkers from using wood-fuelled hot showers in lodges along the way. Many lodges, however, now provide solar hot showers, a far more eco-friendly alternative.
Garbage disposal is another major problem and some of the busier trails can, at times, appear strewn with litter. Our staff members are well motivated towards eco-friendly practices. Our staff carry garbage bag with them all the time and collect our garbage and other litters they find on trail, and dispose them on the designated area. We also volunteer to bring garbage down to Lukla while returning back. Our aim is to help protect and preserve this beautiful environment for future generations of trekkers to enjoy.
Explore Himalaya works with the motto ‘Development through Tourism’. Keeping in line with this motto, Explore Himalaya Community Service Project (EHCSP) has been conceived to empower underprivileged, marginalized, poor and minority segments of Nepal.
Since its inception, EHCSP has been incessantly facilitating and advocating for school education, health, community development, forest conservation, agro practices and culture preservation. A certain amount of your trip money goes to these projects. For more details on our CSR initiatives, please visit https://www.explorehimalaya.com/csr/
Your booking of this Annapurnashort Trek will be confirmed by email once we receive your deposit of $300 and the signed copy of booking form and contract.The balance is due no later than two months prior to departure. If you book a tour less than 2 months prior to departure, you must send the full payment within 7 days of confirmation by us.
If you cancel your booking, the following scale of charges will apply:
2 months before departure – Loss of deposit (US$ 300)
29 days to 2 months before departure – 30% of total trip cost
10 to 28 days before departure – 60% of total trip cost
Less than 10 days before departure – 100% of total trip cost
In addition to your Annapurna Trek, we can organize extensions both within Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan etc. You may want to try water rafting or a jungle safari in Nepal or Nepal Cultural Tour. You may as well take a trip to Tibet or Bhutan, whichever seems more appealing to you.
It is fundamental to acknowledge that Annapurna Trekking is an adventure tour. This requires some flexibility. The day to day itinerary is taken only as a guideline. We cannot be held responsible for any delays caused by International or domestic flights, strikes, Government regulations, weather or natural casualties etc. In such cases, Explore Himalaya shall provide suitable alternatives whichwill be decided upon mutual agreement.
If you have any questions regarding this trip, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or directly by phone: 977-1-4418100. We answer all enquiries within 24 hours.
Annapurna region lies in the western part of Nepal covering Gandaki and Dhaulagiri zones. Known around the world for its exemplary trekking trails, the region boasts of being the home to some of the highest peaks in the world including Annapurna, world’s deepest Valley Kali Gandaki river Valley, world’s highest navigable Pass Thorong-la, world’s highest fresh water lake Tilicho, diverse flora and fauna and the native homeland of world class Gurkha tribe the Gurungs and Magars. The region is regulated and managed by Annapurna Conservation Area Project, the first Conservation Area and the largest protected area of Nepal. The region’s biological diversity complimented by equally fascinating cultural diversity have made it a dream destination of the travelers round the world.
Climate, Flora & Fauna
The climate in the Annapurna region varies from subtropical to alpine. The southern slopes of the area has the highest rainfall rate in the country- 3000mm per year, whereas the northern slopes lying in the rain shadow has the lowest rate – less than 300mm per year. The difference in the climatic conditions in this region is responsible for its varied flora and fauna.
The Annapurna region possesses a variety of flora and fauna. It stretches from the subtropical lowlands and the high temperate rhododendron forest in the south, to a dry alpine steppe environment in the North. The Southern lowlands are lush with subtropical forests consisting of chirpine and alder. In the Northern highlands temperate forests of oaks, rhododendron, fir, and blue pine are found. The wet regions yield a variety of bamboo species. The higher altitude further North give rise to forests of birch, blue pine and juniper trees, which are replaced by juniper and rhododendron in the far North. In the semi-desert rain shadow region, behind the Himalayas, bushes of caragana and juniper species are evident. It has several species of wildlife. There are around four hundred and seventy-four species of birds, and around a hundred species of mammals. The Annapurna region serves as an excellent habitat for rare and endangered mammals like the snow leopard, musk deer, blue sheep, red panda and many of Nepal’s brilliantly plumaged pheasants.
The Annapurna massif
contains six major peaks over 7,200 m: Annapurna I (8091m), Annapurna II (7937m), Annapurna III (7555m), Annapurna IV (7525m), Gangapurna (7455m) and Annapurna South (7219m). Annapurna I, standing at a height of 8,091 m, is the tenth highest summit in the world. It is located east of a great gorge cut through the Himalaya by the Kali Gandaki River, which separates it from the Dhaulagiri massif.
Annapurna was the first 8000m peak scaled by a climber. Till 1948, Nepal was closed to all foreigners. It was in the year 1949 that the kingdom opened its doors to mountaineers. In that year two foreign teams received permission to enter the country, one Swiss and another American. In 1950, a French mountaineering team led by Maurice Herzog succeeded in climbing Annapurna, an 8000m peak. They had no information about the peak they would climb. With little or no information, they decided to take on the Annapurna. On 3rd June, Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenel reached the summit of Annapurna I, after climbing for eight hours. They had to suffer from severe frostbite which cost Maurice Herzog his toes and fingers. Herzog has written about the climb in his book The Conquest of Annapurna 1950.
Annapurna II, the eastern anchor of the range, was first climbed in 1960 by a British/Indian/Nepali team led by Jimmy Roberts, via the West Ridge, approached from the north. Annapurna III was first climbed in 1961 by an Indian expedition team led by Mohan Kohli. The summit party comprised Mohan Kohli, SonamGyatso, and SonamGirmi. They climbed from the Northeast Face.
Tharpu Chuli (Tent Peak)
, shaped like a tent, at 5663m is an ideal peak for a short expedition. Lying across the Annapurna glacier, the peak offers excellent views of its neighbouring peaks from its summit.
Pisang Peak (6091m)
forms part of ManangHimal. Towering above the Marshyangdi valley, this peak was first ascended by J.Wellenkamp, a German climber, in 1955.The start of the ascent to this peak starts at a village which shares its name: Pisang.
Machhapuchhre lies in the center of the Annapurna Himal. Machhapuchhre possesses the rare beauty that makes it one of the world's most photographed peaks. In 1957 Wilfred Noyce and David Cox climbed Machhapuchhre (6997m) up to about 6947m, within 50m of its summit. After this attempt, the government prohibited further climbing the mountain on the ground of it being sacred to locals. So, technically Machhapuchhre is unclimbed.
Poon Hill (3193m)
is the westernmost crest of a spur that juts into the Kali Gandaki. The hill is named after the Magars called Poon, who live in that area. To watch the sunrise over the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna Himal from this hill is an experience of a lifetime.
Annapurna Conservation Area Project(ACAP)
ACAP was established in 1986 under the guidance of the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation. The project encompasses more than 7600 sq km. of the Annapurna range. As an innovative approach towards environmental protection, this area was declared a "conservation area" instead of a national park. In an effort to avoid any conflicts of interest, ACAP has sought the involvement of local people and has emphasized environmental education. ACAP projects include the training of lodge owners, with an emphasis on sanitation, deforestation and cultural pride. They have trained trekking lodge operators and encouraged hoteliers to charge a fair price for food and accommodation. ACAP encourages the use of kerosene/gas for cooking and made its use compulsory above Chhomrong in the Annapurna Sanctuary and on the route between Ghandruk and Ghorapani. ACAP is supported by ACAP entry fee collected from all trekkers who obtain trekking permits for the Annapurna region.
Pokhara is the main town in central Nepal. It is the starting point of most of the major treks in the Annapurna region. Situated at an altitude of 827m, it is warmer and more humid than Kathmandu. This town is known for its picturesque spots like Phewa Tal (lake), which reflects one of the most unforgettable images of Mt. Machhapuchhre and the Annapurna Himal. Pokhara is one of the major travel destinations in Nepal.
Muktinath, a sacred place both for Hindus as well as Buddhists, is located at an altitude of 3710 m at the foot of the Thorong La pass in Mustang district. The Hindus call the place MuktiKshetra, which means the "the region of salvation", while the Buddhists call it ChumigGyatsa, Tibetan word for 'Hundred Waters'. For Tibetan Buddhists ChumigGyatsa is a place of Dakinis, goddesses known as Sky Dancers. Jwala Mai Temple, Vishnu Temple, Marme Lhakhang and GompaSarwa are some of the religious shrines to visit. The springs from the Gandaki River spurts out of the 108 waterspouts near the Vishnu temple, from where the Hindu pilgrims take ritual bathe. One special thing that is unique to this place is the Saligrams (Ammonite fossils). These are black stones that when broken open, reveal the fossilized remains of prehistoric ammonites formed about 130 million years ago. The old specks that appear on many saligrams are pyrite (fool's gold). Hindus believe that the saligrams represent Lord Vishnu.
Jomsom serves as the centre for Mustang valley. It lies on the banks of the Kali Gandaki River. There is an airstrip with scheduled service to Kathmandu. The increase in the frequency of flights has brought more tourists to this area. Jomsom has a bank, post office, telecom office, a hospital and numerous hotels and lodges.
The Manang area was opened to outsiders in late 70s only. The dry and arid region of Manang called Nyeshang lies at an altitude of 3520m. There is an abundance of large chortens and mani walls .The people of Nyeshang were granted special trading privileges by the King of Nepal hundred years ago. The businessmen from these parts are reputed to be both keen and astute. The tall peaks of the Himalaya - Annapurna II, Annapurna III, Annapurna IV, Gangapurna (7455m) and Tilicho Peak (7134m) are visible from this place. There is also a Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA) aid post in the village which makes an interesting and educational visit.
Kagbeni is the northernmost village in this region that foreigners may visit on a normal trekking permit. The police check post at the northern end of the village fastidiously prevents tourists from proceeding towards Lo-Manthang, the walled city of Mustang without proper documentation. A green oasis at the junction of JhongKhola and Kali Gandaki river, Kagbeni looks like a town out of the medieval past, with closely packed mud houses, dark tunnels and alleyways, imposing chortens and a large, ochre-colored gompa perched above the town.
This is the highest permanent settlement in the valley. Chomrongis divided into New Chomrong and Old Chomrong. New Chomrong at 2040m is the upper part. It has resort hotels, a school and a helicopter pad. Old Chomrong at 2060m is the main part of the village with shops offices and lodges. There is a tremendous view of Annapurna South, which seems to tower above the village. There are good views of Machhapuchhare, the fish tail mountain across the valley. Beyond Chomrong, camping is limited to certain ACAP- designated camp sites and hotel construction is strictly prohibited.
Ghandruk, a traditional Gurung village is a cluster of slate-roofed houses. It is the second largest Gurung settlement in Nepal after Siklis. Its actual Gurung name is Kond. Surrounded by neatly terraced fields, the village has electricity and an extensive water supply. There are many hotels and lodges to cater to numerous trekkers and tourists that pass that way.The headquarter of the Annapurna Conservation Area Poject is located here. Over here one gets to witness the unique culture, tradition and custom of the Gurung community. Ghandruk offers excellent views of Annapurna South, Gangapurna, Annapurna III and Machhapuchhre.
The Gurungs form the largest group in the Annapurna region. They come from Tibeto Burmese stock. Although essentially Animist and Buddhist, some lowland Gurungs have converted to Hinduism. They inhabit the higher northern slopes of the Annapurna, LamjungChuli and hills around Ganesh Himal. A large number of Gurung men serve in the British and Indian armies.
The immediate vicinity of Pokhara is largely populated by Chettris and Bahuns (Brahmins).They also live around the historic site of the old Gorkha kingdom. The Magars inhabit the lower trail between Baglung and Dana. They live high on the steep ridges along the tributaries of Kali Gandaki.
Another ethnic group of this region is the Thakalis. Known throughout the country as accomplished hoteliers and skilled traders, they are noted for their aggressive trading spirit. They make up one of the few richer groups of people in Nepal. The Jomsom trek passes through ThakKhola, the Thakali homeland.
In the valley of the Muktinath live the Baragaun Bhotiya. Their lifestyle is similar to that of the Tibetans. Another group of people who share a close affinity to the Tibetans are the Lopa people of Mustang, north of Kagbeni. Some of them practice the ancient pre-Buddhist religion of Bon which is infused with animistic and shamanic belief and ritual. The people living in the upper Marshyandi valley are generally known as Mananges. In the Nyeshang area, under which fall the villages of Manang, Braga and Ngawal, people are of Tibetan origin. But their language Nyeshang is not a Tibetan dialect. This area is popularly known by the name of its largest village Manang.
“Lhosar” means New Year. Known as the festival of mountain people or highlanders, it is celebrated by various ethnic groups following Buddhism like Sherpa, Hyolmo, Tamang and Gurung. Interestingly, these groups don’t celebrate the festival on the same day. There are three types of Loshars namely TamuLoshar (Gurungs), SonamLoshar (Tamangs) and GyalbuLoshar (Sherpas and Hyolmos) celebrated on different dates based on lunar calendar starting from January to February. During the festival people offer prayers for good health and prosperity at homes and monasteries. They exchange various goods and gifts, organize feasts and perform dances.
Tiji Festival is celebrated in Lo Manthang, the capital of Upper Mustang. It’s a three day festival observed annually at the onset of Spring season. As Spring season symbolizes regeneration of life, this festival is also about hope, revival and affirmation of life. The festival features a three day ritual known as ‘chasing of demons’. Monks donning masks and colorful costumes enact the story of DorjeJono who fought against his demon father to save the Kingdom of Mustang from falling apart.
The Yarlung Festival which literally means “End of Summer” is a three day festival celebrated all over Mustang. It normally falls during August full moon day every year. It is a three day celebration and is celebrated with horse races, drinking and dancing by local Thakali people. As the festival is celebrated at the end of summer marking the culmination of harvesting season, it is all about merry making and showing appreciation to the good lives the summer has offered. People also make offerings to Gods and receive the blessings from the seniors.
Dashain is Nepal’s biggest festival, and people especially Hindus living in lower region of Annapurna also celebrate this festival. It is celebrated for fifteen days starting from the new moon of the Nepali month of Asoj (October/November). This festival marks the victory of goddess Durga over the demon king Mahisasur, or the victory of good over evil. People visit temples dedicated to goddess Durga. Children fly kites and play on swings supported by long bamboo poles throughout the festival. Tenth day, called as Vijaya Dashami, is the most important day of the festival. On this day people visit elders to receive blessings and tika (rice mixed with red vermilion put on the forehead). The barley sprouts (jamara) that were planted on Ghatasthapana are picked and worn in the hair.
Tihar, the second biggest festival, lasts for five days. As with the rest of the country people especially Hindus, people living in lower region of Annapurna also celebrate this festival. The five day festivities mark the worshipping of Goddess Laxmi and different birds and animals like crow, dog, cow and ox. The third day is calledLaxmi Puja or Deepawali on which people decorate their houses with lights and flower. On fifth day called as Bhai Tika, sisters worship brothers and exchange gifts. In short, celebration among families, relations and friends. Pujas (worship), lights, colors, flowers, new clothes, feasts and merriment, all these make up the joyous festival of Tihar.
THE MAJOR TREKS
Around Annapurna Trek :
This is a magnificent trek stretching across two different river valleys, Marshyangdi and Kali Gandaki Valley. It encircles the Annapurna massif and goes through the Thorong La (5416 m), the highest pass on this trek. The trek begins at Besisahar in the Marsyangdi river valley and finally concludes at Kali Gandaki river valley. This is a moderate to challenging trek which sometime requires a walk up the steep mountain path. This trek can be done anytime of the year except during monsoon and winter.
Ghorepani Trek :
This trek is well suited for beginners or for those who have limited time. The trek starts from Phedi. The trail passes through rhododendron forest and traditional Gurung villages. A comparatively easy trek, it takes you up to an elevation of 2775 m at Ghorepani. The trip can be done anytime of the year except during monsoon.
Pokhara -Jomsom –Muktinath :
Beginning from Nayapul, the trail passes over the Ghorepanipass and descends down to Kali Gandaki valley. Watching the dawn breaking over the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna peaks from Ghorepani is one spectacular scene that you get to witness on this trek. Once you reach Jomsom you can either continue trekking to Muktinath or explore the villages around Jomsom. This is an easy trek that can be done any time of the year except during monsoon.
Annapurna Base Camp Trek :
The route to the original Annapurna Base Camp was discovered by Maurice Herzog and his team in 1950. The Annapurna Base Camp trek leads to a natural amphitheater that is used as the base camp from which climbers start on their way to conquer the Annapurna peak. The peak reaches 8091 meters above sea level, and the base camp's altitude is 4130 meters above sea level. The trek into the area below the massive south face of Annapurna, known as the Annapurna Sanctuary, is one of the most popular treks in Nepal. The trek begins in Pokhara and leads up through the breathtaking Modi Khola gorge into the vast mountain ringed amphitheatre of the Sanctuary. The trail passes through bamboo and rhododendron forests with superb views of the Annapurna range. The high glacial basin is the site of the Annapurna south face base camp. This is a classic trek, which allows access to the high mountains of the Himalaya within a reasonable time frame. This trip can be done anytime of the year except during monsoon.
Annapurna Circuit Trek :
It is a picturesque valley, first discovered in 1957 by Jimmy Roberts. Ten peaks of 600-800m rises from it. Machhapuchhre and South face of Annapurna look breathtaking from this route. The Sanctuary falls within the area managed by the Annapurna Conservation Area Project.
The Annapurna Circuit is the popular name for a 300 km trek in the Annapurna mountain range. The trek reaches an altitude of 5416m at Thorung La pass, touching the edge of the fabled Tibetan plateau. The magnificent mountain scenery, seen at close quarters includes Annapurna, Dhauligiri, and Machhupuchhre. This is a moderate to challenging trek which sometime requires ascending and descending the steep mountain path. This trek can be done anytime of the year except during monsoon and winter when the Thorong La pass gets blocked by snow.
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