The classic 13 day long trek circling north of the Annapurna massif offers a great opportunity to discover the diversity and beauty of Nepal. We climb from the exotic valley of the Marsyandi River -where Hindu farmers cultivate their rice fields with water buffaloes- to the Buddhist highlands of Manang and Pisang, where traders from Tibetan origin live in medieval dwellings. In Braga we visit the oldest monastery of the area, probably 500 years old. On our track to the Thorung La (5 460 m) we walk through high alpine scenery while Annapurna II (7 937 m), Annapurna III (7 555 m) and Gangapurna (7 454 m) tower above us. After conquering the Thorong La, situated at 5 416 m, we have a splendid view over the Kali Gandaki canyon. We head to the pilgrimage place Muktinath and descend to Kagbeni, the gateway to Mustang and finish in Jomson from where we fly to Pokhara.
Day 01 – Arrival in Kathmandu
Day 02 – Sightseeing in Kathmandu Valley
Day 03 – Drive to Besi Sahar & Trek Bhulbule
Day 04 – Trek to Jagat
Day 05 – Trek to Dharapani
Day 06 – Trek to Chame
Day 07 – Trek to Pisang
Day 08 – Trek to Braga Monastery village via high route
Day 09 – Trek to Manang
Day 10 – Trek to Yak Kharka
Day 11 – Trek to High Base Camp
Day 12 – Trek to Muktinath via Thorung La high Pass 5416 meter
Day 13 – Trek to Jomsom
Day 14 – Fly to Pokhara
Day 15 – Sightseeing in Pokhara
Day 16 – Fly to Kathmandu
Day 17 – Fly back to home
Pick-up at Tribhuvan International Airport, meeting with your guide and transfer to the hotel. First impressions of Kathmandu (1 350 m) – walk to medieval Kathmandu Durbar Square and explore the beautiful complex of palaces, temples, shrines and courtyards built by the ancient Nepali kings between the 12th and 18th century. We bring you to our office and Thamel – the vibrant tourist area with hotels, restaurants, bakeries and outdoor shops. We get to know each other over a welcome dinner, check formalities and equipment and discuss your itinerary.
Today we discover the highlights of Katmandu and the valley. We adapt the programm to your interests and desires or what you have seen on a previous visit to Nepal. Usually, we go to Pasupatinath on the bank of the Bagmati River, where the most important Hindu temples and burning ghats of Nepal are situated. In Bouddhanath we circumambulate together with Tibetan and Nepali Buddhist pilgrims the whitewashed stupa. Our sightseeing usually ends in Patan, the city of Beauty, an astonishing center of fine art and Buddhist and Hindu culture.
Early morning we drive in 6 hours to Besi Sahar (760 m), the headquarters of Lamjung district and the starting point for Annapurna Circuit trail. We start our tour in the characteristic central hills of Nepal. In Besi Sahar the trail drops to the Puwa Kola. After a walk through sub-tropical forests we reach the tiny Gurung village of Khudi (830 m). We continue to follow the Marshyangdi valley and enjoy great views on Manaslu and Himalchuli. After a pleasant hike of 3 hours we reach Bhulbule.
Beyond Bhulebule the trail travels up the east bank of the river, passing a cascading waterfall. As we traverse extensive rice terraces, the best views of the Manaslu occur here. We cross the Sisneri Khol at the end of the lovely village of Ngadi (900 m). After Ngadi we make a hot and steep ascent to Bahundanda – the Hill of the Brahmins – which is situated on a high ridge. We traverse the village and descend on a steep rocky trail past golden amphitheater – shaped rice terraces. A climb over a ridge leads to the pleasant village of Kanigaon (1 170 m). After Kanigaon, the Marsyangdi valley forms a V. We cross the Marsyangdi over the suspension bridge at Syange (1 080 m) and follow the river. The path climbs up to a bhati and then crosses a high trail blasted out of nearly vertical cliffs. We descend past a waterfall to Jagat (1 330 m); a former custom post in the days of salt caravans. We stay here in a Tibetan style lodge after walking almost 6 hours.
After descending to the Ghatta Kola river, we climb steeply up through forests and pass beautiful cascades just before reaching Chamje (1 410 m). We descend to the Marsyangdi River and cross a suspension bridge and climb a steep stone staircase to the small teahouses of Sattale. After drinking tea, we climb past fields, bamboo and rhododendron trees and descend again to Tal Besi (1 590 m), where we follow the steep mountain path to a military check post and Tall. At the check post you have a nice view of the wide plain by the river. The village gets its name from the lake (tal) that once filled the broad, flat valley. After lunch we leave Tal and the path becomes high and winding following a narrow valley. Beyond Karte (1 850 m), the path drops again to the Marsyangdi river. We cross a suspension bridge and climb for short distance, after 6 hours we reach Dharapani (1 960 m).
After Dharapani we continue to climb through forests of pine, oak, hamlet and maple. After an hour of walking through lovely, open forests, we reach a teahouse where we enjoy our last views on Manaslu. As the trail curves around the ridge to enter Bargarcchap (2 160 m) you are rewarded with a close view of Annapurna II. At Bagarcchap (2 082 m) you will want to visit the gompa with its colorful wall murals. Bagarcchap has flat-roofed houses indicating that there is less rain here during the monsoon because the clouds have unloaded their water to the south. Here we start to enter the “rain shadow” of the Himalaya. The forests become mostly pine and spruce. Less then one hour brings us to Chame (2 650 m) Manang’s district center. All Manang villages are characterized by both entrance and exit chorten. After 5,5 h trek we take rest in a pleasant lodge run by a Tibetan family.
Above Chame the Marsyandi valley becomes very narrow with many tall waterfalls. We take a 5 hours long pleasant hike through woods with some small ascents and enjoy our first views on Annapurna II (7 937m). We lunch on the road and arrive early afternoon in Lower Pisang (3 240 m) where you have plenty of time to explore the village, the mani wall and chorten.
Today we follow the scenic upper route (5 hours) from Pisang to Braga. From upper Pisang the trail enters pine groves and yields views on the small turquoise lake of Mring Tso. We pass a line of eight chortens and ascend to the atmospheric village of Gyaru, an old village just off the main Annapurna trail. Another two or three hours brings us to Ngawal (3 600 m), a charming Manangi village.
We start the day with a two hour walk through open forest and along barley and buckwheat fields to Bragha (3 460 m). Bragha is a medieval Tibetan-style village with about 200 houses which are partially deserted. The village has the oldest monastery in the area, estimated more then 500 years old. It has an outstanding collection of statues, thangkas and manuscripts. After visiting the monastery, we make a short gentle climb to Manang (3 540 m), past colorful chortens and a long stretched maniwall. The valley around Bragha is very arid, dominated by eroded cliffs and the striking peaks of Annapurna. We take a rest in headquarter Manang, a vibrant village packed with trekkers, teahouses, bakeries and lodges. Manang is dominated by high peaks. Here you can attend the 3 o’clock lecture on altitude by the Himalayan Rescue Association.
Today we hike in 4 hours to Yak Kharka (4 020m). It’s not a long day today, but we gain some altitude, so you should take it slowly. On the way we will meet local traders riding horses, going from Manang to Muktinath in one single day. We climb to the chorten and look back towards Manang and continue our way past Tengi and Gunsang to Yak Kharka (4 230 m). Traveltimes Treks prefers to stay here as the lodges are much better than in Letdar, one hour further away.
An easy two or three hour walk up to at Thorung Phedi (4 540 m), a desolate rock-strewn meadow surrounded by vertical cliffs. We have lunch and spend the afternoon drinking tea in Thorung Phedi Basecamp Hotel. Tonight we sleep at the ‘Phedi’, which literally means ‘foot of the hill’.
We start early for the three to four hour walk to the top of Thorung La at 5 400m, from where you can see the Kali Gandaki Valley, Mustang and the surrounding peaks. The descent from the pass is gradual at first but then becomes steeper: you’ll drop 1 550 m the same day to reach Muktinath at 3 760 m for the evening’s camp. In total we walk 7 hours today. We enter lower Mustang, which we have actually reached just after the pass, and the serene temple complex of Muktinath. Muktinath is one of the holiest and most famous pilgrimage destinations for both Hindus and Buddhists. In the temple complex there is a pagoda-style temple containing an image of Vishnu and nearby a sacred stream feeds 108 water sprouts carved in the shape of cows. In the temple of Jwala Mai both a small spring burning jet of natural gas flowing from an opening in a rock. This is a demonstration of divine omnipotence where the fire burns on water, earth and stone. The panoramic views of both the Annapurnas and Dhaulagiri are unexcelled from here.
From Muktinath we descend through more Mustangi medieval villages to Kagbeni, the last town before entering the Mustang area to the north. On the way you still have superlative views of the mountains. After a steep descent, we reach the windy Kali Gandaki River. We climb to the rooftop gompa of Kagbeni from where we have a marvelous view over the river junctions. After crossing the awesome Kali Gandaki canyon you reach Jomson at 2 710 m. We celebrate here our last moment with our trekking crew.
After short flight we check in Hotel Pokhara View and lunch. In the afternoon, we can ride taxi to Begnash Taal or Lake, the city of 7 beautiful lakes and boat riding.
Sightseeing around beautiful Pokhara (paragliding, boating and walking to world’s peace Buddhist stupa hill are the main activities in Pokhara!).
The trip concludes with a last flight back from Pokhara to Kathmandu. Farewell dinner at Third Eye Restaurant in Thamel.
Transfer to Tribhuvan Airport – We hope you enjoyed your stay!
If you like to stay longer in Nepal: Traveltimes Treks can offer you plenty of suggestions, we can arrange rafting and safari trips, helicopter flights, mountain biking, multi day tours to old historical city of Bhaktapur, the mountain stations Nagarkot & Dhulikhel or retreats in the serene monasteries of Namobuddha and Kopan.
You should be in good physical shape for this trip and feel comfortable hiking 12 km to 20 km per day on a trail while carrying a day pack of about 5 kg. While the trip has been designed to gradually acclimatize you to altitude, four or five camps will be above 3 600 m and our highest camp will be at 4 500 m. On some days altitude gains and losses of up to 900 m can be expected and on the day you descend from Thorung La a descent of slightly more then 1 500 m is called for. Strengthen your knee muscles and prepare and prepare for the strong descent.
A program of cardiovascular conditioning such as running, swimming, biking or aerobics is essential, but try to supplement your exercise with hiking on steep hills or running up and down steps. The more you can condition by closely simulating the activities of trekking, the better off you will be.
Remember that, the latitude of Nepal is between 26? and 30?N so it will warm at the lower elevations (short and T-shirt) while nights will be cool to cold depending on the elevation. Daytime temperatures will be between 10?C and 20?C at the lower elevation (0?C on spring trip) and 5?C except for our highest two nights just before going over the Thorung La pass where temperatures around – 10?C may occur at night fall trips. It might even get as low as -12?C as the coldest part of the night on fall trips The weather this time of the year is generally sunny, although an occasional storm could occur. Spring sees more clouds in the afternoon and the possibility of occasional thunder storms.
The pace on this trek is fairly fast. You are encouraged to walk by yourself or in small groups. Take a time to visit the local temples, share a cup of rakshi with our porters and the locals in the many chiyaa houses. Pursue interest in photography, bird watching and botany, and sample the culture of the area you are travelling through.
Personal gear will be carried by porters. Porters can carry two members’ duffel bags. Since their load is 25 kg, this means that your duffel cannot exceed twelve kilos. The group will stay in locally owned guest lodges and will receive an insight into family living that isn’t possible for those staying in tents. Additionally, you will enjoy comforts such as Western or Nepali food and beds with foam mattresses. All the guest houses have toilets and cold showers. Some of the guest houses have hot showers available, and few have electric lighting. The main common room o each lodge has charcoal of kerosene heaters-especially nice on cold nights. You will be expected to share a room with one or more persons depending on the number of beds in the room.
This is not a tour where everything can be planned in advance. You probably won’t experience exactly what is written in the daily itinerary. Often adjustment must be made in the field. We want you to participate in the trip with the clear understanding that things can go wrong. Adventure travel does involve certain risks both emotional and physical. One has to be flexible when traveling in Nepal and have a cheerful attitude.