The Annapurna Circuit Trek

Annapurna Circuit Trek is one of the most popular treks in the world. It takes us around the entire Annapurna massif up to the highest point at Thorong La Pass (5.416 m). The trail leads us through the world’s deepest Kali Gandaki Canyon with Annapurna 1 (8.091 m) to the east and Dhaulagiri (8.167 m) to the west. We witness a magical sunrise at Poon Hill (3.200 m) with the whole Annapurna Range in front of us. During the trek we pass through diverse geographical and cultural regions with amazing fauna and flora in between. In the lower parts of Annapurna Conservation Area we walk through rice fields, beautiful little villages and amazing rhododendron forests.

One of the major attractions of the Annapurna Circuit Trek is the Hindu temple of Muktinath located at around 3700 meters. The holy shrine of Muktinath is of great importance to the Hindu pilgrims. Thousands of them come every year to the region of Mustang to worship the shrine at Muktinath temple.

Annapurna Circuit Trekking is a strenuous trek but usually good to manage for people with a good fitness. The trek is planned for 17 days with one acclimatization day at Manang. It begins with a scenic drive from Kathmandu to Bulbhule and ends in Pokhara the most beautiful city in Nepal, from where we take a flight back to Kathmandu.

On the trek we stay overnight in nice lodges. The lodges in the Annapurna Trekking Region offer extensive menus, ranging from the typical Nepali dahl bath (rice with lentils) to pizza’s and spaghetti. Hot showers are available at most of the places.

Day 1: Kathmandu – Besisahar – Bulbule (6 hours by car, 2 hours walk)

Early in the morning we start our trip taking a bus into the hills to Besisahar – the capital of the Lamjung district. On the winding road along the Trishuli River we see a lot of Nepal’s countryside with green rice fields, wild rivers, typical villages and beautiful mountain scenery. After 6 hours drive we arrive at Besisahar but we don’t stay here for sightseeing. From Besisahar we either take a jeep (40 minutes drive) or hike about 2 hours to reach Bulbule – a nice village with beautiful mountain view on Himalchuli and Manaslu 2. We stay overnight at a lodge in Bulble.

Day 2: Bulbule – Ghermu (5-6 hours walk)

Today’s trail takes us through nice villages to the east bank of Marshyangdi River. After crossing the river via suspension bridge we walk uphill to reach Bahun Danda (1.310 m) for a lunch. If the weather is good we can enjoy a spectacular mountain view with the peaks of Himalchuli (7.893 m) and Ngadi Chuli (7.871 m). After lunch we descend to cross the river and then continue walking on a trail hidden by beautiful, thick vegetation. We reach Ghermu (1.170 m) our destination for today. Ghermu is famous for its high and beautiful waterfall. We stay overnight at a lodge.

Day 3: Ghermu – Tal (5-6 hours walk)

After breakfast we start our walk with descending to Syange to cross a big suspension bridge over Marshyangdi River. Then we climb up to a stone village called Jagad which is located on a ridge. On the way we enjoy beautiful scenery with overhanging rocks till we reach a small village of Chamje whose culture resembles to that of Tibetan. From Chamje we walk downhill to cross Marshyangdi River on another suspension bridge. After the bridge we walk uphill through a bamboo forest and enter a wild valley with a little village called Tal (1.700 m). Here we step into Manang district.  Tal lies on a flat plain next to the sandy beach and river at the base of a large waterfall.  We stay overnight at a lodge.

Day 4: Tal – Chame (7-8 hours walk)

Today the walk starts with crossing a suspension bridge over Marshyangdi River to reach Khotro and then via Dharapani to Bagarchhap (1.960 m). After Bagarchhap we spare some time to visit a monastery to see beautiful frescos (Thankas). Then we walk alongside a narrow valley with a lot of rhododendron trees and reach Danaque (2.300 m) which is marked by for Tibetan villages typical stone entrance called Chorten. After Danaque we climb up around 500 m to Timang from where we can see awesome view of Lamjung Himal (6.983 m), Annapurna II (7.937 m) and Annapurna IV (7.525 m). Then we pass through pine forest of traditional Thanchock village and reach Koto. After Koto the trail splits and we take the direction to Chame (2.713 m) the headquarter of Manang District. We stay overnight at a lodge.

Day 5: Chame – Pisang (5-6 hours walk)

We leave Chame on a steep path through a narrow valley in a very dense forest. We cross the Marshyangdi River at 2.910 m and then re-cross the river again on a suspension bridge at 3.040 m. From here the view of the spectacularly curved rock face of Paungda Danda begins to appear rising 1.500 m from the river. As the trail opens again we find ourselves in a U-shaped valley of Manang surrounded by two giant snow peaks. We continue walking through this amazing scenery to reach a beautiful village Pisang (3.213 m). We stay overnight at a lodge.

Day 6: Pisang – Manang (5-6 hours walk)

Today we continue our trek through the drier part of the Manang District. We experience a contrast with the landscape and vegetation cut of the full effect of monsoon by the Annapurna range. Villagers from this region hers yaks and raise crops for a part of the year. The winter here is marked by heavy snowfall and the people leave temperate areas. Leaving Pisang towards Manang we can take two alternative routes which meet again at Mungji. The path on the south of Marshyangdi River involve less climbing but the northern path of Marshyangdi River offers better views on the mountains and outstanding sceneries. But it consumes 2 more hours of walking. From Mungji the trail leads us through the village of Brayanga at 3.475 m and ends in Manang (3.540 m). We stay overnight at a lodge.

Day 7: Manang (Acclimatization day)

The day is scheduled for acclimatization to prevent ourselves from the Acute Mountain Sickness. We spend the day doing some easy walks to Gangapurna Lake, Milirepa Cave, Ice Lake or village’s monastery. We reserve enough time to relax as the upcoming two days will be challenging and tiring. We stay overnight at our lodge.

Day 8: Manang – Yak Kharka (3-4 hours walk)

From Manang our path crosses a stream and climbs to Tanki village which is the last permanent settlement below the pass. We continue climbing, leave the Marshyangdi Valley in the northwest direction and enter the valley of Jarsang Khola. With a little luck we may have an opportunity to encounter blue sheep (Naurs) coming to the river for drinking. We walk through beautiful meadows with grassing horses and yaks. After crossing a small river on a wooden bridge the trail passes an ancient Mani wall and we reach the little village of Yak Kharka (4.110 m). We stay overnight at a lodge.

Day 9: Yak Kharka – Thorong Phedi (4-5 hours walk)

From Yak Kharka we climb up for around 2 hours. We pass a lake and then descend to the river. We cross the river at 4.130 m, then climb upstream of Jarsang Khola and reach Thorong Phedi (4.450 m). Thorong Phedi is the last camp before crossing Thorong La Pass (5.416 m). We stay overnight at a lodge.

Day 10: Thorong Phedi – Thorong La Pass – Muktinath (7-8 hours walk)

Today we have a long and challenging day with its zenith at Thorong La Pass (5.416 m). We start before sunrise at 4 am to reach the pass around 9-10 am. Later the weather conditions, especially strong winds at Thorong La Pass, can greatly affect our trip. We work hard climbing up but the outstanding high Himalayan scenes with chortens and colourful prayer flags reward our effort. We reach the pass after more than 4 hours. From the top of the pass we enjoy a magnificent view with majestic peaks of Dhaulagiri (8.167 m), Tukche (6.920 m) and Dhampus (6.012 m). Another 4 hours of walking take us to the holly town of Muktinath (3.800 m). Muktinath is an important religious place for both: Hindus and Buddhist, The area hosts a Vishnu temple and a Buddhist monastery. Muktinath means a place of Nirvana and it is said that all sorrows are relived after visiting the Temple there. We stay overnight at a lodge.

Day 11: Muktinath – Marpha (5-6 hours walk)

We start the day with paying a visit to Vishnu Temple and Gompa. Then we descend through Kali Gandaki Valley. The trail today is a bit of surreal as we trek along a plateau above the world’s deepest canyon with Dhaulagiri (8.167 m) on the west and Annapurna 1 (8.091 m) on the east side. The barren landscape of this area resembles Tibet. We walk down towards Johmsom and finally arrive at Marpha (2.670 m). Marpha is legendary for its apple orchids. We will have the opportunity to taste the apples and other apple products like pies and wines. We stay overnight at a lodge.

Day 12: Marpha – Kalopani (5-6 hours walk)

Starting from Marpha we take a new route towards Kalopani via Chokhopani village. We pass traditional villages of the ethnic group of Thakali. We see beautiful apple gardens with an amazing 360 degrees panorama of Himalayan peaks: Dhaulagari (8.167 m), Tukuche (6.920 m) and Annapurna I (8.091 m). From Chokhopani, we continue to Kokhethanti. After crossing a river, we come across the newly constructed road site before reaching Kalopani (2.530 m). We stay overnight at a lodge.

Day 13: Kalopani – Tatopani (6-7 hours walk)

Trying to avoid newly constructed roads we again take a new route from Kalopani to Tatopani. We walk mostly downhill and cross the bridge at Ghasa. Dropping to the lower elevations we come back into subtropical forests with beautiful vegetation. We walk along Rupse Chahara a popular waterfall and descend the east bank from Kopchepani to a bridge at Dana. We pass little traditional villages and can witness the daily lives of the villagers. We reach Tatopani (Nep. Hot Water) at 1.190 m and relax in one of the popular hot springs. We stay overnight at a lodge.

Day 14: Tatopani – Ghorepani (7-8 hours walk)

Today we continue our trek first walking down to crossing a suspension bridge over Kali Gandaki River. Then we climb up quite steep to the top of Baste Danda. We pass Ghara and Sikha villages with their terraced and inclined farmlands. We have lunch at Shikha. After lunch we gradually walk steep up to ascend Ghorepani. We pass through rhododendron and magnolia forest and encounter some meadows on the way. As we gain height, the peaks ahead look wonderful.  We spend the night at a beautiful blue village of Ghorepani (2.850 m).

Day 15: Ghorepani – Poon Hill – Tadapani (6 hours walk)

We get up very early in the morning and climb up to Poon Hill (3210 m) to see a breathtaking sunrise with the view on Dhaulagiri (8.167 m), Fishtail (6.997 m) and the complete Annapurna range. After sunrise we walk back to Ghorepani and have breakfast there. After breakfast we continue walking through beautiful rhododendron forests, alongside wild creeks and waterfalls. We reach Tadapani (2590 m) in the late afternoon. We stay overnight in a lodge and have dinner there.

Day 16: Tadapani – Ghandruk – Pokhara (6 hours walk, 1,5 hour drive)

We start our last trekking day heading torwards Ghandruk village (1.940 m) also known as the most beautiful village in Nepal. The trail takes us through great rododendron and oak forests. This part of the trek is a paradise for birth watchers. We will see and hear many of them. After 3 hours we arrive in Ghandrunk – the home of Gurung people. After lunch in  Ghandruk we continue our trek to Nayapul to complete our trail which is followed by 1,5 hours bus ride to Pokhara (850 m)  a peaceful lakeside city on the beautiful Phewa Lake. We stay overnight in a hotel.

Day 17: Pokhara – Kathmandu (6 hours by bus or 35 minutes by flight)

From Pokhara we have many options to go back to Kathmandu. We can either take a tourist bus what takes us more than 6 hours, or a private car which is slightly faster. The most comfortable way is to take a local flight with only 35 minutes flying time.