Pokhara, a valley of natural beauty is beautifully located on the shadow of Annapurna Himalaya ranges. In no other place do mountains rise so quickly. In this area, within 30 km, the elevation rises from 1000 m to over 7500 m. The Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manaslu ranges, each with peaks over 8000 m, can be seen from the valley.
Annapurna Treks including Base Camp and Circuit trekking are very popular in Nepal. Seventy per cent of the visitors who come to Nepal travel to the Annapurna areas near by beautiful Pokhara. The Annapurna treks will be even more interesting in spring as the whole forest along the trail turns red, pink and white with rhododendron flowers. This wonder trip can be done anytime of the year except during the monsoons [July thru August].
The trail takes the visitors through fascinating traditional villages of Nepal’s ethnic communities of the Gurung, Magar, and Thakali who will greet you very warmly if one cares to stop for a conversation. The hike continues through dense rhododendron forest with towering snowy peaks in the background.
The return walk is even more fascinating as the trek winds around different ridges towards Ghorepani, where you behold breathtaking views of an early morning sunrise where a red halo seeps through glistening gaps over the snow capped peaks of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri mountains. The sceneries observed throughout the trek embellish the Himalayan landscape where mind’s eye defines the natural splendor as an experience that can be never elapsed.
Birethanti (1050m) is the root for starting trek in the region. Being very close to Pokhara, there is ACAP office at Birethanti from where entry permit is issued. It is a place pleasant enough to stay by the side of beautiful big streams. This route leads to both Ghorepani to Jomsom and Ghandruk to Chomrong and Annapurna Sanctuary.
Ghorepani (2750m), the famous down pilgrimage, is widely popular to watch the sunrise across a spectacular Himalayan panorama from the summit of Poon Hill (3193m). Poon Hill is situated 450 m above this village. Tens of thousands trekkers pass through Ghorepani to view sun rise from Poon Hill with breathtaking views stretching to Dhaulagiri (8167m) and Annapurna ranges. Poon is a Magar family and the hill was named after them. It is a junction for Ghandruk and Chomrong, and for Jomsom and Muktinath.
Ghandruk (1939m), the picturesque town of slate-roofed Gurung people who are traditionally Buddhist is the headquarters of Annupurna Conservation Area. It gently goes uphill through cultural Gurung hamlets which take you to the foot [Base Camp, 4130m] of Mt. Annapurna, one of the most magnificent peaks in the world. Ghandruk is a kind of Thamel in Kathmandu. There are many hotels and lodges in a traditional way. [There is now an alternative route of journey that begins from Pokhara heading towards Phedi on about 45 minutes drive through Pokhara-Baglung Highway. It gently goes uphill through cultural Gurung villages to a plateau of Ghandruk.]
Jomsom (2710m), capital of Mustang district and there is Nepal Army School of High Altitude Mountain Warfare. It has a small landing and take-off airport. The Mustang Eco Museum, impressive collection of various themes, is well worth a visit. Amchi, a traditional herbal medicine doctor uses the extensive herb garden planted around the museum. The trekking route from Ghorepani to Jomsom passes gracefully through very popular points such as Tatopani (hot water), Lete & Kalopani (black water), Dhaulagiri Ice-Fall, Tukuche, and Marpha. There are very good hotels and resorts available and many more services needed for tourists.
Following Kagbeni, Jharkot and Ranipauwa from Jomsom., Muktinath (3800m), Hindu pilgrimage with walled temple complex of Muktinath (liberating/salvation God), is shrine for both Hindus and Buddhists for centuries. It is the second most holy place in Nepal after Pashupatinath. Beneath the alter in Jwala Mai temple, a nun lifts the grubby curtain to reveal, deep within the cavity, a thin blue flame of natural gas burning from a hole that also emits a trickle of water. Vishnu Temple with its courtyard of 108 brass water spouts stands in the centre of the complex. It is believed that bathing under the freezing water of 108 spouts brings salvation to Hindu. Marme Lhakang, Buddhist temple with the sacred grove of poplars which is said to have sprouted from the walking sticks left by the 84 great magicians on their way to Tibet, is just beyond Vishnu Temple. Gompa Sarwa, another Buddhist shrine also known as Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava was a Buddhist saint who passed in the 8th century leaving his foot prints in a stone outside the temple closure, is very famous.
Chomrong (2170m) is the right place from where we can see Machhapuchhre (Fishtail Peak) as its exact name. The peaks that surround Annapurna Sanctuary look very impressive from Chomrong, an excellent place for relaxing and enjoying the scenery.
Annapurna Sanctuary lies as a natural amphitheater at the location from the top of the trail that begins in Chomrong and follows the Modikhola. This valley is as magical as its name with 10 peaks of 6000-8000m rising from it. Annapurna Base Camp/Chelo Gya (4130m), Machhapuchhre Base Camp/Khili Dung (3700m) and Tharpu Chuli (Tent Peak) Base Camp, are lying magnificently at this area. Three Annapurna peaks, Hiun Chuli and Gangapurna add grace to this area.
Hongde Airport is located at Chame (2670m), district headquarters of Manang district with a large white gate with a corrugated iron roof as an entrance. It has all the trappings of an administrative centre including various services and facilities.
Thurung Phedi (4450m) is a place to stay if you are suffering from the high altitude. This route comes from Manang and leads to Muktinath. The foot of the Thurung literally means one very large lodge and a smaller one below.
Manang (3540m) is a valley from where the views of the Annapurna, Gangapurna and the glacial lake (Tilicho) below it are spectacular. Lamjung, Annapurna II, Annapurna IV, the false peak of Annapurna III and the Gangapurna above the glacier are the peaks from left to right. Some 200 or so flat-roofed houses are tightly packed together with prayer flags on long poles. Manang Gompa is in the centre of Town.
Tilicho lake (4,949 m) is one of the highest lakes in the world. Mountain lakes are known to geographers as “tarns” if they are caused by glacial activity. Tarns are found mostly in the upper reaches of the Himalaya, above 5,500 meters. Due to the extremely mountainous surrounding terrain and the difficulties associated with reaching the area, this lake is rarely visited by outsiders.
Thurung La (5416m), one of the world’s highest passes, lies ahead of Manang. It is the place to take commemorative photograph of themselves. Two peaks – Yakwa Kang (6482m) and Khatung Kang (6488m) – rise up from the saddle of the pass. This is the pass to head towards Muktinath. Views of the mountains lining the Kaligandaki Valley and Dhaulagiri (8167m) are very panoramic.
Besisahar (820m) is the capital of Lamjung district, known as the centre of ethnic cultures. It lies at the end of the road. This district is adjoined to historical Gorkha district which was the beginner of present Nepal. This trek route also reaches to Thurung La Pass.
NAR PHU VALLEY
A fantastic journey in a wild and unexplored area located north of Annapurna: the Nar Phu Valley, adjoined to Tibet. This trek is perfect for travelers who want to discover the Annapurna circuit as well as explore an untouched valley. A rough and wild trek, this trek takes you to the exotic Nar Phu valley that lies in the remote corner of the Annapurna region. Opened to visitors only in the year 2003, the Nar Phu valley remains untouched by modernity. The inhabitants, who roughly comprises of about 350 Nepalese Tibetans, have retained their age old practices. Most of them are engaged in yak herding and farming.