We begin our trek from Besi Sahar at the end of bumpy Dumre Road. For almost three weeks we immerse ourselves in the spectacular mountain wilderness that encompasses the Annapurna Range. At 8,091 m, Annapurna 1 is one of the highest mountains in the world. Its surrounding sister mountains are equally imposing, creating magnificent panoramas from any viewpoint. Throughout the trek we come across isolated mountain communities, each with different ancestral customs and traditions, resulting in not only a visually superb expedition but also a culturally rich one. We meet warm and welcoming locals herding yaks and goats on the grassy pastures and visit their monasteries and temples. We pass waterfalls of melted snow, cross icy rivers, walk along broad plains and hike up high mountain passes. The trekking is challenging, averaging 6-7 hours walking a day, often at high altitude. The highest point we reach is the 5,416 m Thorung Pass.
Given the dangers of altitude sickness, it is imperative that we take at least eleven days to ascend to this height. A couple of days are also allowed for rest and acclimatisation. Please note that the following itinerary can vary due to unforseen circumstances including weather conditions or bandhs (strikes) called by the political parties. All trekking times are approximate.
Day 3 - Khudi/Bulbule (840 m) (approx. 3 hours)
Set-off to Besisahar after breakfast (50 kms/3 hrs). Start off the trek through the bazaar leading down the stream, climbing up the steps and making a way through forests and rice fields to arrive at Bulbule.
Day 4 - Bahun Danda (1,310 m) (approx. 4 hours)
A gentle day's walk, if not for the heat, penetrating deep into picteresque mountain countryside with sub-tropical forests, rice fields and Gurung villages. Steep climb at the fag end to reach Bahundanda.
Day 5 - Chamje (1,430 m) (approx. 7 hours)
Few dazzling cascades en route as the trail makes a way through a deep wooded canyon; no definitive mountain views, with villages few and far between, and some steep stretches.
Day 6 - Bagarchap (2,160 m) (approx. 7 hours)
The trek continues through the deep wooded canyon embellished by stunning waterfalls as you venture into the Manang district. Much of the trail ascends throughout the day.
Day 7 - Chame (2,710 m) (approx. 6 hours)
Marking the end of the great Marsyangdi gorge, make a steep climb to Timang, then the trail settles into gentler slopes as the vegetation transforms from dense pine forests to drier slopes. The district headquarters of Manang, Chame, is the largest settlement after Besisahar.
Day 8 - Pisang (3,300 m) (approx. 5 hours)
A slew of breathtaking scenery this day as the trail goes through a deep gorge, then past the great sweeping slope of Paungi Danda. Mostly easy walk with few ascending stretches of trail
Day 9 - Manang (3,540 m) (approx. 6 hours)
Trek the northern trail via upper Pisang and Ghyaru, an area renowned for its spectacular views. It is now drier and you are sure to come across local farmers herding yaks. (Tip: Tibetan yaks take a special interest in people wearing red!).
Day 10 - Manang (3,540 m)
We spend a day here to acclimatise to the altitude by doing some high climbing then return to the lower altitude of Manang to sleep. Manang, a village of about 500 flat-roofed houses offers excellent views of Annapurna II, Annapurna III, Gangapurna and Chulu East.
Day 11 - Manang to Yak Kharka (4,018 m) (approx. 5 hours)
Covering approximately 7 km, we steadily climb into the alpine region, taking around five hours.
Day 12 - Phedi (4,450 m) (approx. 5 hours)
Due to the altitude, we'll take the next section of the climb at a leisurely pace, which means we'll have time to admire the magnificent views from this part of the route. Once at Phedi, there will be plenty of time to rest and acclimatise to the higher elevations ready for the next part of the climb where we will encounter the Thorung La Pass, the highest point on the Annapurna Circuit.
Day 13 - Trek to Muktinath (3,800 m) (approx. 8-9 hours)
Setting off very early to cross the Thorung La Pass (5,416 m), the trail is steep but easy to follow. After between four to six hours climbing we'll reach the Pass's peak, adorned with prayer flags, a traditional stupa (chorten) and stone cairns built by travellers. Stop to admire the stunning views and marvel at how far you've climbed. Further along, the trail descends steeply proceeding towards Chabarbu. From here on, the trail crosses meadows, drops into a deep ravine, climbs out and follows a wide trail into Muktinath, a pilgrimage site held in great reverence by both Hindus and Buddhists.
Day 14 - Trek to Kagbeni (2,800 m) (approx 3.5 hours)
We make a late morning start from Muktinath to let you get some much deserved rest and for time to visit Muktinath's temple complex.
Day 15 - Trek to Tukuche (2,590 m) (approx. 6.5 hours)
Trek to Tukuche taking the recently discovered route through Thini, without crossing over Kali Gandaki river to Jomsom and bypassing the motor track, and via Dumba Lake to Chhairo and Chokhepani before crossing the riverbed to Tukuche. In times of Kali Gandaki gaining in breadth and volume, we cross the trail bridge mid-way between Chhairo and Chokhepani to emerge on the motor track on the western bank of the river, following which we reach Tukuche in 45 mins.
Day 16 - Trek to Ghasa (2,010 m) (approx. 6 hours)
Back down to the riverbed and across Kali Gandaki on make-shift wooden bridges to get on the trail that goes along the riverbed to Kokethanti. Diverting away from the mainstream trail, ascend to Titi Lake and later passing via Kunju descend to the next village, Chhayo, to cross the trail bridge which puts you on the motor track for the brief while before crossing another trail bridge on to the off-road to Ghasa. In case the swollen Kali Gandaki doesn't allow you to get take the way through riverbed, you'll have to walk on the motor track up to the trail bridge to Kokethanti.
Day 17 - Trek to Tatopani (1,160 m) (approx. 5 hours)
On the motor track to start off with, shortly take the old walking trail through a village to cross the trail bridge to the high route above Kali Gandaki to Tal Bagar and then the knee-jerking descent to Kopchepani. Take the rising trail to Bhalebas, again to descend down to the river and follow the eastern flank of the river, with numerous minor ups and downs, to cross the trail bridge over Misti river and walk through lower Najing village past powerhouse to meet another trail bridge that puts you on the motor track for a brief while to Tatopani. Spend some time to relax much used muscles in the hot springs.
Day 18 - Trek to Ghorepani (2,785 m) (approx. 8 hours)
Ghorepani, also known as Poon Hill, is a traditional stopping place for horses, mules and ponies that carry loads between Pokhara and Jomsom. The settlement forms the crossroads between various trekking routes and has become a favourite stop for travellers looking to have a quick drink or two at one of the many inns in the area.
Day 19 - Trek to Birethanti (1,025 m) (approx. 7 hours)
For those wanting to, there's an optional early morning climb up to Poon Hill (3,195 m) to watch the glittering views of Dhaulagiri and the entire Annapurna Range in the gorgeous dawn pink light. Climb down in time for a good cup of tea and breakfast at the teahouse. Setting off on the trail, the path today is fairly easy-paced and descends via a winding stone staircase through the surrounding dense forest to the town of Ulleri. After passing another vertical section down to Hille next to the Bhurungdi River we then continue alongside the river to our penultimate destination - Birethanti.
Our accomodation along the way is at local lodges, better known as teahouses, where accommodation is comfortable without being luxurious, toilets and washing facilities are shared and rudimentary, and the food is plain and filling. In a teahouse, we are provided with small private rooms with twin beds, mattresses and pillows. At times, in high seasons, and in places where there are a limited number of teahouses, we may have some nights in dormitories. In some places, teahouses don't have access to electricity and depend on solar powered lighting. In remoter regions, teahouses don't have running water and toilets can mean just a hole in the ground. Hot shower facilities are available in the majority of the teahouses for a price although in most of the places, a hot shower just means a bucket of hot water!