As our operations were closed this Spring, a small team of office staffs decided to do Annapurna Circuit Trek crossing Thorong La at 5416 meters in April. The motive of the trek was to assess the route, check the services, make pictures & videos and also to break the monotony of being shut down for so long.
Annapurna Circuit Trek was one of the most popular treks in Nepal and is still among the favorites of many international trekkers visiting Nepal. It is a beautiful trek that passes through the Marshyangdi Valley and offers great scenery and cultural diversity. The hike up is very scenic with amazing mountain views of Himalayan giants like Annapurna, Gangapurna, Tilicho Peak, Pisang Peak and the Chulu range. Besides the natural beauty, the area is also very culturally rich with ancient traditions of the Gurungs and the Manange people, beautiful and old monasteries and quaint settlements of the locals. For the wildlife, Himalayan Thars, Monals, Musk Deer and even the elusive Snow leopard can be spotted while on the trek.
Lower Pisang Village
In terms of difficulty, the trek is a fairly challenging trek and the major highlight of this trek is crossing the Thorong La Pass at an altitude of 5416 meters and arriving in Muktinath, a religious town following the Kali Gandaki Valley. Overall, Annapurna Circuit trek is a classic trek and one of the most diverse treks in Nepal. The extensions of the roads have cut the trek short but the trek is without doubt one of the most fantastic trekking experiences in the world. If you are planning to embark on this beautiful journey, the following tips might come in handy to you.
Annapurna Circuit Trek Itinerary:
The main logic behind a standard itinerary for a Himalayan trek is not to miss a single highlight and yet get well acclimatized at the same time for a successful trip. The development in Nepal has resulted in road construction even in the remotest parts of the country and affected many treks in Nepal. Similar is the case in Annapurna Circuit trek as well. The trek which used to take 22 days in the past can now be done in half the time with an extension to Tilicho lake, one of the highest glacial lakes in the world. To skip the roads, not miss any major highlights and get well acclimatized while trekking up, we suggest you the below itinerary and tips:
Day 1: Drive to Chame (Approx. 2650m) via Besisahar
Drive time: 10 – 11 hours (4 -5 hrs black topped road and 5 hrs off road)
Lodge: Hotel New Shangrila
Tip: It is always good if you leave Kathmandu early after breakfast. Though local transportation is available, it is good to hire a private vehicle, especially for the off-road section.
Day 2: Trek to Upper Pisang (Approx. 3300m)
Walk time: 5-6 hours
Lunch: Dhikur Pokhari
Lodge: Hotel Manang Marshyangdi
Day 3: Trek to Ngawal (Approx. 3650m)
Walk time: 5-6 hours
Lodge: Hotel Mountain View
Tip: Ghyaru and Ngawal are both beautiful old settlements of the local people. To enjoy these villages, take the upper trail via Ghyaru and get inside the village to explore more.
Day 4: Trek to Manang (Approx. 3519m)
Walk time: 5 hours
Hotel: Hotel Tilcho
Tip: After your lunch, take a visit to one of the oldest and the most beautiful monasteries in the region. The monastery is more than 600 years old with large number of Buddha statues and offers a great view from the top.
Day 4: Acclimatization day at Manang (Approx. 3519m)
Walk time: 4 hours
Hotel: Hotel Tilcho
Tip: Go for walk to the Gangapurna Lake and follow the trial up to the top of the hill at 4300 meters, a perfect acclimatization day. If you want a longer day, one can also go for an excursion to the Ice Lake.
Day 5: Trek to Tilicho Base Camp (Approx. 4200m)
Walk time: 4 hours
Lunch: Sri Kharka
Hotel: Hotel New Himalaya
Tip: Watch out for landslide and rockfall sections after Sri Kharka and hour before reaching the Base Camp.
Day 6: Trek to Tilicho Lake and back to Sri Kharka (Approx. 4080m)
Walk time: 8 hours
Lunch: Tilicho Base Camp
Lodge: Himalayan Hotel
Tip: Start the day pretty early before sunrise with a light meal. After getting back from Tilicho Lake, rest at the Base Camp while enjoying your breakfast.
Tilicho Lake (4919m)
Day 7: Trek to Yak Kharka (Approx. 4018m)
Walk time: 5 hours
Lunch: Yak Kharka
Lodge: Hotel Dream Home
Day 8: Trek to Thorong Phedi (Approx. 4533m)
Walk time: 5 hours
Lunch: Thorong Phedi
Hotel: Thorong Basecamp Lodge
Tip: Watch out for rock fall section about 30 mins before reaching Thorong Phedi.
Day 9: Cross Thorong La (5416 m) and trek to Muktinath and drive to Jomsom(Approx. 2743m)
Walk time: 9 hours, drive 1 hr
Lunch: Packed Lunch
Lodge: Tilicho Lodge
Tip: Make an early start so that you are at the top of the Pass before noon. Get yourself a packed lunch from the hotel to enjoy at the top of the Pass. Keep you crampons ready and trekking poles handy for the descent.
Also, coordinate with your Agent/Guide to have a vehicle standby at Muktinath to drive to Jomsom.
On the way to the top of Thorong La Pass
Thorong La Pass (5416m)
Day 10: Fly to Pokhara (Approx. 822m)
Tip: If you have a day or two to spare, spend it in Pokhara basking in the beauty of this amazing lakeside city – you won’t regret!
Day 12: Fly to Kathmandu (Approx. 1400m)
Things to Know
As Annapurna Circuit Trek is one of the oldest and well-connected trekking areas of Nepal, finding accommodations is not a problem during this trek. There are abundant lodges in all the stops with price ranging from USD 10 to USD 120 depending on the level and standard of the services provided. It is only in Thorong Phedi and Thorong High Camp, the two small settlements before the Thorong La pass, accommodations might get a bit tight due to limited availability and the high number of trekkers visiting the area. Just make sure you carry a sleeping bag (-20 Celsius) for a cozy sleep and double check with your agent if they have confirmed the rooms for you.
Like accommodation in the Annapurna Circuit Trek, the food availability during the trek is also not a problem. All the lodges will have full menu with food ranging from Nepali, Indian, Italian and continental. We suggest you to be an eggetarian during the trek though meat is available through out. Talk to your guide for the best food to eat as he will have access to the Kitchen. As the popular trekking saying goes, “Dal Bhat Power 24 hour, noodle power only half an hour”, go for local foods especially Dal Bhat, a good mix of carb and protein.
Water can be refilled pretty easily in all the lodges and there are water sources/taps along the trail. We discourage the purchase of bottled water (as it contributes to plastic waste) and therefore suggest to use purification tablets or water filtration systems. One can also buy hot water in the lodges from USD 5-10 depending on how high you are.
Electricity and Charging
Compared to other trekking areas in Nepal, electricity is not a problem in the area. There are good charging facilities in all the lodges and the charges for it is also nominal. It is only at Tilicho Base Camp, Thorong Phedi and Thorong High Camp, there might be some issues with charging as the settlements are on solar back up. Make sure you have a good power bank especially for the nights in these places.
Annapurna area is well connected in terms of telecommunications and internet facility. You can find mobile network easily to Khangsar and internet connection throughout the trek. There will be a charge for the usage of internet, which will also be higher as you trek higher.
One needs regular trekking gears like boots, hiking pants, good base layers, Dri Fit t shirts, down jackets, Poncho and wind cheater. Sunscreen, sunglass and hats are also very important for the trek. On the technical side, it will be a safe bet to carry ins step crampons and trekking poles which come in very handy for snowy trail and descent after Thorong la pass.
You will need two governmental permits to complete the trek – Annapurna Area Conservation Project fees (ACAP) and Trekkers Information System Management System ( TIMS). Your Travel Agent will easily sort both these permits for you.
You can hire a jeep straight to Chame from Kathmandu. Options of local transport to Besishar is available and you have to change another vehicle for Chame.
For Muktinath-Jomsom section , local jeep options, both sharing and private hire are available. You can also take a 20 minutes’ flight to Pokhara or take local transport to Pokhara, both available on full hire or individual basis.
Best Time to Travel
Spring season from March till May and the Autumn season from September till December is the best time to visit the region. During Spring, the sky is clear, days are warm and the views open up really good. Autumn season also has clearer days, good views but is slightly drier and colder compared to Spring.
Winters are also okay to trek if you can cope with the cold. Just make sure you have enough warm clothes.
The area receives slightly lesser rain compared to other areas due to its topography, especially Manang and upper areas. Hence, once can also trek the area during monsoon.
Thousands of Himalayan peaks and as many trekking trails, Nepal is truly the biggest trekking hub in the world. Solely housing 8 out of 14 8000m+ peaks including world’s highest peak Everest, Nepal caters many world class trekking adventures to the Base Camps of these mighty Himalayan Peaks. Based on trekkers interest, the number of trekkers trekking along the particular trail and highlights of the trek, here we have 10 most popular treks in Nepal.
Round Annapurna Trek or Annapurna Circuit Trek
1. Round Annapurna Trek (RAT)
The most popular trek in Nepal, Round Annapurna Trek (RAT) is a stretch of 100+ kilometers circumnavigation around Annapurna Range. The trek that offers diverse beauty from mid-hill jungles to striking alpine landscapes, Round Annapurna Trek is also pleasures with cultural encounter at several ethnic villages nestling in the highlands. The trek also known as Annapurna Circuit Trek caters magnificent views of the Annapurna, Fishtail, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu and Langtang Himal. Although the construction of roadways deeper into the circuit has reduced the real essence of the trek, still almost 100km of stretch of the fascinating route makes Round Annapurna Trek, Nepal’s number one trekking trail.
Everest Base Camp Trek
2.Everest Base Camp Trek (EBC)
The classic trek that brings trekkers to the proximity of world’s highest mountain, Everest- Everest Base Camp Trek is itself an achievement. Everest Base Camp, which is higher than almost every mountain in Europe, Australia, Africa and America, is the place where every mountaineer who has conquered this beautiful white Goddess began here. The trail full of amenities in scores of teahouses is interesting for two particular reasons- the thriving Sherpa culture and the alpine beauty that even open eyes in the broad daylight cannot capture wholly.
Langtang Valley Trek
3.Langtang Valley Trek
Avoiding difficulty sighting supreme beauty in diversity- Langtang Valley Trek is the best-opted trek in the category. The shortest approach from Kathmandu, Langtang Valley Trek offers 3600 view of snowcapped Himalayas dominated by Langtang Lirung. Authentic Tibetan culture in frequent Tamang villages, sacred highland monasteries like Kyangjin Gompa and sacred alpine lakes like Gosainkunda are prime highlights of Langtang Valley Trek. Langtang is so close to Tibet that from some high vantage points, the glimpses of villages in Tibet can be viewed.
Annapurna Base Camp Trek
4. Annapurna Base Camp Trek
One of the most popular easy treks in Nepal is Annapurna Base Camp Trek. The trek caters the alpine experience blended with diverse terrains. From beautiful glaciers to terraced fields, from rock-strewn trails to snowy paths- the trail of ABC Trek has it all. The Gurung culture at its best traditional form and their indelible hospitality are recreating factors during Annapurna Base Camp Trek. The view of Annapurna from the Annapurna Base Camp, the widespread Himalayan view from Poonhill and the view of Mt. Fishtail from Machhapuchhre Base Camp are striking views of the trek.
Manaslu Cicuit Trek
5. Manaslu Circuit Trek
Ever since in 2010 Manaslu became teahouse trek, Manaslu Circuit Trek is emerging as one of the most popular trekking trails in Nepal. Few trekkers also have acknowledged this trek as replica of Round Annapurna Trek. However, Manaslu Circuit Trek is by far untouched and raw compared to Annapurna Circuit Trek. The trail during Manaslu Circuit Trek winds through the lower slope of Mt. Manaslu (eighth highest mountain in the world) through Larkya La Pass. The views of Himalayas are excellent and the cultural experience is more authentic.
6. Upper Mustang Trek
North of Jomsom up on Kali Gandaki basin, the deserted kingdom of Mustang nestles where the Tibetan culture till date spills over. A restricted trekking region in Nepal demands heavy permit fee of US Dollars 500 for 10 days. The windswept landscapes, colorful barren hills and the caves carved in vertical cliffs are geographical delights whereas; the culture in Mustang is exclusive unique in whole Nepal. Preserved centuries world monasteries, the remains of historic palace in Lo-manthang and celebration of Tiji festival are major sights trekker to Upper Mustang crave to watch. In brief Upper Mustang is a true Tibet outside Tibet.
Gokyo- Everest Base Camp Trek
7. Gokyo, Everest Base Camp Trek
Getting to Everest Base Camp via more isolated and remote trails makes Gokyo Everest Base Camp Trek intriguing trek in the Everest Region. In addition to the highlights of EBC Trek, Gokyo Everest Base Camp Trek caters the beauty of five emerald lakes together with Himalayas. The trek along the challenging Cho La Pass to get into Khumbu Valley from Gokyo Valley is also the major highlight of this trek. Gokyo Everest Base Camp Trek is one of the few trekking route in Nepal, which offers remote experience, rich local culture, and the supreme beauty of Himalayas.
Upper Dolpo Trek
8. Upper Dolpo Trek
Crystal Mountain, snow leopards, sacred monasteries and the endless isolation- Upper Dolpo Trek is truly a lifetime experience. Every place trekkers reach and every people they meet leave an indelible impression. Upper Dolpo Trek is truly fascinating. The trek rewards in very early stage with the magnificence of Phoksundo Lake. Trekking further, trekkers cross three high passes, Nagdalo La (5350m), Shey La (5000m) and Jeng La (5110m) to Shey Gompa, which is a spiritual heart of Upper Dolpo. Hundreds of pilgrims visit Shey Gompa that lies dramatically at the base of Crystal Mountain each year to circumambulate the mountain in act of prayer. Upper Dolpo is a restricted area which demands 10-day permit for $500.
Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek
9.Kanchenjunga Base Camps Trek
The trekking to the Himalayas in the extreme east of Nepal, Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek is probably the most popular offbeat trekking in Nepal. Trekking along the foothills of world’s third highest mountain, Kanchenjunga is a wonderful adventure. To experience the treks based on tented camps, Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek is suitable option. Snow Leopard can be sighted during the treks in the region. The Kanchenjunga Base Camps Trek is a long and challenging walk while visiting both the North and South base camps. The authentic culture of Rai and Limbu tribes can be well observed during the trek to this part of nation.
Makalu Base Camp Trek
10. Makalu Base Camp Trek
This is an outstanding trek in the eastern region of Nepal, which offers a combination of rich cultural heritage, unsurpassed beauty and biological diversity. The trail takes you from the steamy lowlands of Tumlingtar on the Arun River, through one of the least frequented areas of Nepal, to the base camp of Makalu [8475m]. The trail follows the beautiful Barun river valley in the Makalu Barun National Park, crossing Shipton pass at 4127 meters before arriving at Makalu Base Camp [5000m]. From here, views of the south face of Makalu, as well as Everest and Lhotse are truly regal and fantastic.
Rara Lake Trek
+ Rara Lake Trek
This trek through the remote wilderness of western Nepal offers a superb experience of nature and a visit to Rara Lake, Nepal’s Largest Lake at 3062 meters. During this easy trek, the trail passes through green countryside, which provides unusual glimpses of a culture, and scenery quite different from that found elsewhere in Nepal and which eventually culminates to the Rara Lake National Park. Alpine meadows and forests of pine, juniper and spruce surround this beautiful high altitude lake, whilst in the background trekkers can view the magnificent snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas. The entire route is ‘off the beaten track’, which involves the crossing of Ghurchi Lagna Pass 3450m and a few ridges at around 3000 meters.
Enthralling views of Himalayan Ranges right after Thorong La Pass
“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls”:- Anais Nin
Travelling through this land is courageous. Without a doubt is certainly not for the faint hearted as it is the longest pass in the country, where we come across the deepest gorge in the whole of earth and have the world’s highest altitude lake, Tilicho Lake 4919m. Newly formed (Gangapurna) Glacier Lake is truly mesmerizing and the view of locals seeking for Yarsagumba (aphrodisiac), on the edge of ridges is nerve-racking! The sight of the biggest of vultures (Lamagaya) is exhilarating. Overall, the Round Annapurna Trek is exulting.
The colorful Chame and gushing Marsyangdi
Lush vegetation, golden wheat shades and tranquil destination- Koto Village on RAT Trial
Starting trek from Chame (2710m), colorful hills, waterfalls and River Marshaygdi gushing deep down somewhere is soothing. As we walk towards Dhukur Pokhari(3240m) for miles, rocks, stones and shrubs are your only companions. Next we follow the deserted trial till Manang (3540m) is the same experience, then coming in contact with civilization is extraordinary. And we soar up along the longest part of the trial, till reaching Thorang Phedi (4450m), where we encounter the hundreds of yellow beaked crows having amazing hovering skills. Getting to the only lodge in High Camp (4850m) is a steep climb. Next morning starting early to cross the pass and witnessing the most pleasant view of peaks including breathtakingly enticing Pisang Peak, and the combination of rocks and snow till you reach the summit of Throng La Pass 5416m is thrilling. First thing beyond Thorung La Pass that feasts your eyes is the panoramic sight of Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Nilgiri Ranges.
Black scary cliffs towering to the skies- Between Besisahar and Chame
Now, the downhill to Charabu (4230m) and then to Muktinath (3800m) is pre cautious. Reaching Muktinath is an experience of lifetime, which is one of the holiest places for Hindu devotees. Downhill trial continues till Kagbeni (2800m), a never ending walk in the most deserted area will definitely check your endurance. Looking down hill and noticing greenery at Kagbeni, after 6 or 7 hours of walking in the deserted plain is a relief. Closely connected houses, warm hospitality with a cup of coffee and chilly winds are rare combinations at Kagbeni. Staying a night at Kagbeni is highly recommended. The feel of Kagbeni will always remain. It’s time; we have to leave behind our longest friend of the journey, River Marshaygdi and offer greetings to River Kali Gandaki. Leaving early from Kagbeni will be a wise decision. Two hours of walk from Kagbeni will bring you to Jomsom (2720m) along the dusty road with jeeps and motorbikes hurtling by at high speed. Then comes Marpha (2670m), do not forget apples, apple juices and apply brandy. You’ll get to know this when you get there!
Snow, rocks, blue sky and a plateau
The next thing you might want to plan is to get to Tatopani (1200m) where dipping into natural hot water spring awaits, a heavenly touch that anyone can get after, So much of trekking. Ultimately, cross passing the final landmarks like Poonhill 2870m (a popular hilltop for extraordinary sunrise view) and typical Gurung hamlets including Ghandruk along the trial, lushly filled hills with flora and fauna accompanied by series of extravagant waterfalls the trek ends at Nayapool before driving to the beautiful tourist town, Pokhara.
This Exotic trek in this region is most likely to bring about a change in travelers and seekers.
Getting closer to civilization- Cliffs against Braga
Nepal silently booms as a prime attraction for travelers in the region. A south Asian landlocked country tucked at the base of the Himalayas, Nepal lies between two Asian giants, China and India. The nation, geographically and culturally diverse is well known for the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, and Lumbini, birth place of Buddha.
The nation also offers a bevy of religious, spiritual and cultural experiences. Nepal tops many travelers lists of must visit place on earth. Popular travel guides have ranked Nepal very highly on their lists of must visit travel destinations around the world.
Trip Advisor’s Traveler’s Choice 2013 ranks Kathmandu eighteenth under Top Travel Destinations in Asia and second in South Asia after New Delhi. Lonely Planet ranks Nepal fifteenth in the list of Must visit Travel Destination in Asia whereas for meeting other travelers lonely planet’s Travelers Choice ranked Nepal third.
Similarly, on the trekking side lonely planet and Exodus UK rank Everest Base Camp Trek 4th and 3rd respectively in their lists of most wonderful treks in the world. One of the most popular trekking trials in the world Annapurna Circuit is ranked first and third respectively by Travel Channel and BootsnAllin their lists of Best Treks in the World.
The meeting and handling was good. Trek & tour guides as well as the support staff were quite good. At Sarangkot the view was excellent but the hotel could have been better.