A very rewarding trek, the famous Annapurna Circuit offers the variety of scenery of both the northern and southern Himalaya. Though roads have been built along many of the sections of the Circuit, this trek follows the full route and uses trails to avoid the jeep tracks that have been built in recent years.
Climbing through the thick fir and rhododendron forests, you emerge to see the harsh, thin atmosphere of the Tibetan plateau. Here you see where the ethnic groups meet: the lowland Hindus and highland Buddhists. From the dizzying heights of the Thorung Pass (5416m), you then plunge back down into the sub-tropical Kali Gandaki Gorge, a busy pilgrimage and trade route that is still controlled by Thakali and Mustang tribes.
This trek follows the classic Annapurna Circuit, with an extension to visit Tatopani and Ghorepani via the Kali Gandaki, the world’s deepest gorge. You visit Gurung villages as well as the homelands of the Manangi people. The trek offers marvelous views of Annapurna I and III, Machhapuchhare, Varaha Shikar and Kanshar Kang.
Trek Grade: This trek is a Grade 3 as you climb to 5416m and need to acclimatize to get used to the altitude, the trails are very good and you are never very far from the lodges and tea houses. You have one very long day when you cross the Thorung La Pass but otherwise, walk 6-7 hours on most days.
If this interests you, you might like to have a look at some of the other treks Royal Mountain Travel can offer in the area:
Annapurna Community Adventure Trek
Inspired to learn more about this area? Have a look at Inside Himalayas: 10 Frequently Asked Questions about the Annapurna Circuit Trek
|Day 1||Arrive in Kathmandu|
|Day 2||Experience Kathmandu & Prepare for The Trek.|
|Day 3||Drive to Besishar - Syange (760m, 10hrs)|
|Day 4||Syange - Chame (2670m, 6hrs)|
|Day 5||Chame - Pisang (3200m, 7hrs)|
|Day 6||Pisang - Manang (3540m, 7hrs)|
|Day 7||Acclimatization day|
|Day 8||Manang - Letder (4260m, 3hrs)|
|Day 9||Letder - Thorong Phedi (4450m, 3hrs)|
|Day 10||Thorong Phedi - Muktinath (3800m) via Thorong-La Pass (5416m, 12hrs)|
|Day 11||Muktinath - Jomsom (2743m, 6 hrs)|
|Day 12||Drive from Jomsom -Tatopani via Ghasa in local jeep (2590m, 6hrs)|
|Day 13||Tatopani - Shikha (1935m, 4hrs)|
|Day 14||Shikha - Ghorepani (1750m, 3hrs)|
|Day 15||Trek to Poon Hill (3190m)|
|Day 16||Pokhara - free day|
Trekking: Additional information
Please note that the published itinerary can only be a statement of intent and should be used as a guide only. Each day may vary due to the walking times of the group, camping and trail condRead More...
Trekking: Additional information
Please note that the published itinerary can only be a statement of intent and should be used as a guide only. Each day may vary due to the walking times of the group, camping and trail conditions. The guide in charge of your trip may have to alter the schedule if necessary and any such changes are at the discretion of Royal Mountain Travel and your guide.
The trekking day
Your day starts with a wake up call, followed by breakfast and baggage pickup. You are then driven to the start point of your trek. While trekking, your day starts with breakfast at the tea house where you are staying. You need to pack up your baggage before breakfast as porters usually set off early.
Normally you are on the trail by 8 am and stop for a leisurely lunch around noon, with the chance to stop along the way for short breaks. Lunchtime usually lasts a couple of hours to give you time to relax or to explore the village where you have stopped. The afternoon walk is shorter and you can expect to arrive around 4 pm to allow time for short excursions to nearby sites, monasteries, exploration of the village or for relaxing with a book or catching up on your diary. Dinner is generally around, 7 pm.
Everyone walks at different speeds and you should always go at the pace that is comfortable for you. The grade of the trek is only an approximate indication of what to expect, based on the altitude and the hours of walking per day. In general, the condition of trails is good as these are the main routes between villages.
What you carry?
Each porter carries 15kg so you should pack 7.5 kgs of baggage, sharing one porter between two persons. These things will not be available to you during the day as the porters usually leave early and do not walk with you. Your daypack should contain all that you need during the day. This should consist of warm clothes for when you stop, a water bottle, camera, sunscreen, lip salve and maybe waterproofs depending on when you’re trekking. Your guide will let you know each evening about any extra items you might need for the following day. You should take a comfortable daypack to carry just a few kilograms of things you need along the way.
Food and drink
No meals are included on your trek. These are available in tea houses, lodges and bhattis that may sometimes have quite limited menus. There are a lot of tea houses and lodges along the way while you are trekking. Meals are generally simple but filling, but you may wish to stock up on ‘trail munchies’ before leaving Kathmandu or Pokhara. Although mineral water in plastic bottles can be found along the way in many places, you should try to avoid using this. Plastic bottles are a serious problem on the trekking routes as there is no way to dispose of them. Instead, you should use water purification tablets, a water filter or ask for boiled water at the lodges. It is a good idea to bring a heat resistant, water bottle which can double up as a hot water bottle when you go to bed at night too!
It is not recommended to drink alcohol at altitudes above 3,000m or so, where altitude sickness can start to have an effect.
Accommodation is in lodges and teahouses and is of a basic standard. Rooms may be twin or multi-share with basic shared toilet facilities. Hot showers are available in some places for a small charge. It is a good idea to pack wet-wipes to freshen up, especially useful when you reach high altitudes where the water can be very cold. It is not recommended to wash your hair when you are at higher altitudes and where the outside air is cold, as you run the risk of getting a chill when your wet hair takes a long time to dry.
Lodges usually have a common room where later in the day, when people start to arrive from their day’s trek there might be a stove that is lit to keep warm. Bedrooms, however, are not heated. The lodges provide clean bedding, but you may want to pack a sheet sleeping bag for peace of mind.
The main means of transport are on foot, or in some cases by horse, with mules or donkeys sometimes carrying baggage. On most trekking routes, your baggage will be carried by the porters. You should ensure that anything you might need during the day is in your day pack as you will not see the baggage that is being carried again until the end of each day.
You will be provided with government licensed, experienced trek guided assisted by the porters who transport your baggage with one porter for every two trekkers. The guide is in overall charge of the trek and looks after you. This is the person you should go to with any problems, concerns or questions. Our guides are highly trained in all aspects of trekking, conservation, high altitude medicine, first-aid and emergency procedures. They are professionals selected for their knowledge and passion for Nepal and its peoples. However, you should remember that they are local guides and their English may sometimes be quite basic and limited to trek related topics. Usually, porters will have a more basic understanding of English. Please try to speak slowly and clearly to make communication easier.
Trek grading and preparation
It is impossible to have a ‘foolproof’ grading system as everyone has different expectations and perceptions of their own fitness level. Remember that no trek in the Himalaya is a stroll as all involve going up and down, often at altitude. Altitude affects everyone differently, and even if it has not affected you much before, each time can be quite different in how it affects you.
Regardless of age or fitness, preparation, before you arrive, is a good idea. Aerobic activity, swimming, cycling or brisk walking is recommended or, at the very least, walking up and down stairs in your trekking boots to be sure that they fit well and are comfortable. Try to use a hiking boots that you have already broken in to avoid blisters. Remember that the trek should be fun and you should go at your own pace.
It is best to bring cash in major currencies such as the US, Canadian or Australian dollars, Euros, or Pounds. Ensure you have a mixture of large and small denominations. Everyone’s spending is different, but as a guide, we suggest about USD 8 – 10 per meal in Kathmandu and Pokhara and USD 30 – 35 per day whilst trekking. If you drink or smoke you need to allow a bit more.
You should exchange enough money into Nepalese Rupees to last the entire time of your trek before leaving Kathmandu. You can find the money exchange counters near your hotel in Kathmandu and Pokhara but there are no exchange facilities in villages along the way.
Communication: mobile phones and internet
Please note, as you will be often trekking through valleys and will not always be close to mobile towers, mobile phone reception can be very patchy. NCELL, the local mobile company has quite good coverage, but sometimes the signal can be very weak. Usually, lodges have powerpoint’s to recharge your mobile, although this sometimes can be at an extra charge.
Tipping is a personal and voluntary matter and is not included in the trip price. If you wish to reward the efforts of those who have worked to make your trek the best they can, we suggest the following: USD 4 per day for groups of 8+, USD 5 per day for smaller groups which will be shared amongst the whole staff, including porters.
Travel insurance is not included in the trip price. It is essential that you take out comprehensive travel insurance prior to your trek. Your travel insurance must provide cover against personal accident, medical expenses, emergency evacuation and repatriation (including helicopter evacuation) and personal liability. We also recommend that it covers cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. Be careful to check the small print of your insurance regarding altitude as some policies only provide cover up to 2000m.
There are no specific health requirements for entry into Nepal. Your health condition must be sound as you will be climbing to above 4000m. You should consult your doctor for up-to-date information regarding vaccinations, high altitude medication and medications for any reasonably foreseeable illnesses whilst traveling in Nepal. Be aware that some drugs, including anti-malarial, have side effects at altitude. Please discuss this carefully with your doctor.
Please be aware that you will be in remote areas and away from medical facilities for some time during this trip. We strongly recommend that you carry a personal First Aid kit as well as sufficient quantities of any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses)
AMS (acute mountain sickness) is a serious issue. It is the result of the failure of the body to adapt to high altitude and can affect anyone, regardless of age or fitness. It usually occurs above 1,800 meters and the likelihood of being affected increases as you ascend. The way to reduce the effects of altitude is to ascend slowly, 300 meters per day above 3,000 meters until you have acclimatized. Poor acclimatization can result in headaches, nausea, sleeplessness, difficulty breathing and swelling of fingers and glands. The only cure for AMS is to descend to a lower altitude and your guide’s decision on this matter is final. There is a possibility of AMS in any trek that passes through altitudes above 4000 meters.
Although our routes are carefully planned to allow proper acclimatization you may feel some effects of altitude for the first few days or at higher altitudes. Breathlessness, lethargy and mild headaches are not uncommon and generally decrease as your body adjusts. Maintaining adequate fluid intake is essential. Please advise your guide if you feel more severe symptoms and do not medicate yourself without discussing it with them first.
Variation of climate is directly proportional to the altitude. For this trekking, trekking routes are often passed through a range of altitudes from 850m upwards. Between about 2700m and 3000m a cool temperate climate prevails, and you should expect a cool summer and very cold temperatures in the winter. Above 3000m, even if the daytime is sunny and quite warm, the temperature will drop sharply as soon as the sun goes down.
The weather in the mountains is notoriously changeable, so always be prepared for a change in conditions and note that if severe or dangerous weather conditions occur your guide’s decision on any course of action is final.
Trekking permits are required for almost all treks and will be obtained by Royal Mountain Travel. The Trekking Information Management System (TIMS) is essential for the record of Nepal Tourism Board keeping in mind about probable hazards to occur. You need to provide your full name, nationality, home address, passport number, sex, date of birth and 2 photographs for each permit. Royal Mountain Travel also pays any fees required for entry to national parks, conservation areas or restricted areas.
Packing for your trek
You will need to bring a comfortable medium sized daypack to carry the things you will need during the day. This should have a waist strap or (better) a padded waist belt.
You should limit your baggage to about 7kg. You will find the following items useful.
Royal Mountain Travel is a Nepal-based sustainable tourism operator. We specialize in curating once-in-a-lifetime experiences to showcase indigenous and community based tourism projects. We work with travel agents and tourism companies to help plan travel experiences that highlight authentic, local lifestyles throughout some of the most unique landscapes on earth.
Arrive in Kathmandu
Your first impression of arriving at Tribhuvan International Airport is an experience in itself. But don’t be worried by the apparent confusion as your airport representative will be waiting to welcome you with your name written on a placard. Depending on traffic, you will be at your hotel within 20 minutes or so.
Experience Kathmandu & Prepare for The Trek.
The day is spent visiting some of the major World Heritage Sites of Kathmandu.
You will have plenty of time in the afternoon to prepare for your trek and check that you have everything you need. You might want to visit Thamel, the tourist hub of Nepal where you can easily find all you need for trekking. Or if you just want to relax, there are many cafes and bakeries serving excellent local tea and coffee. It is best to avoid the street food, however, unless you have a very strong stomach. It is recommended that you have an early night as you will have an early start in the morning.
Drive to Besishar - Syange (760m, 10hrs)
After an early breakfast, you are driven along the main Prithvi Highway to Besishar (185km) which takes about 6 hours. Along the journey, you see some spectacular scenery of river valley and high mountains.
Syange - Chame (2670m, 6hrs)
Continuing on the road that now is not more than a jeep track, we share the trail with mule caravans that transport supplies to the remote villages. The route climbs through subtropical forests and the rice terraces. You will see Manaslu (8156m), though mountain views disappear as you are taken through river gorges. It takes about 6 hours to reach Chame, a village set in the mountain where you spend the night.
Chame - Pisang (3200m, 7hrs)
Passing through Chame you trek up to Telekhu (2840m) to then continue with a pleasant and mostly level walk through a forest to Brathang (2950m). After the trail turns a corner here, you see your first
dramatic view of the Paungda Danda rock face. This is an enormous curved slab of rock that rises over 1500m from the river. You cross back again to the south bank of the Marsyangdi on a suspension bridge at 3080 meters and then start up the long gentle climb over a ridge through blue pine forests. The trek from here is fairly level as it heads to the upper part of Manang valley to Pisang. This town is at the beginning of the region known as Nyesyang, the upper portion of the Manang district.
Pisang - Manang (3540m, 7hrs)
Trekking up to the Tibetan-style village of Bryaga (3500m), you follow the valley floor. Here you see houses stacked one on top of the other, each with an open veranda that is formed the neighbour’s rooftop. The gompa, perched on a high crag overlooking the village, is the largest in the district and has an outstanding display of statues. You continue through a very arid landscape that is dominated by curious cliffs of yellow rock that have been eroded into dramatic pillars alongside the trail. In the afternoon you have increasingly imposing views of Annapurna II, III and IV The village of Manang has several shops, lodges and restaurants.
You have a day to acclimatize to the thinner air. There are plenty of things to do in this fascinating village. In the centre of the village, don’t miss the little cultural museum. Collecting artefacts from the villagers, it is a treasure trove of the traditional way of life that has hardly changed over the generations. There are lots of walks that you can do, exploring the glacial lake, walking down to visit a monastery, or exploring the old part of the village. You might like to hike slightly higher to Khangsar, a 200 meter ascend. However, it is important to have a relatively restful day to allow your body to acclimatize to the higher altitudes and thinning air. It is a good opportunity to do a bit of laundry!
Manang - Letder (4260m, 3hrs)
As you get higher, your trekking days become shorter. Starting by trekking through fields of barley and apple orchards, you follow the river through a steep, narrow gorge to enter the upper Manang district. In this cold, arid climate, wheat, barley, buckwheat and potato crops are limited to one crop per year and villagers depend on their herds of yaks, goats, cows and horses. Trekking slowly upwards to Thorung La, we will leave the large trees behind and see vegetation consisting mainly of scrub juniper and alpine grass. You pass some high meadows where horses and yaks graze. After we reach Yak Kharka (kharka means meadow or pasture), we might see herds of blue sheep, a kind of deer) grazing on the steep slopes. After passing Yak Kharka it takes about an hour to reach Letdar.
Letder - Thorong Phedi (4450m, 3hrs)
As you cross the high yak pastures, you see snow-capped mountains all around you. The scenery is completely different up here. You leave behind the rivers as you climb up into the quiet alpine areas. Again the mountain views are stunning. It is another short and relatively easy day to get used to the high altitude before we have to cross the highest point in the trek, and possibly the highest point you have been on in your life. From Letdar you continue climbing along the east bank of the Jarang Khola to Thorung Phedi. This is a rock-strewn meadow that is surrounded by vertical cliffs. Blue sheep and even snow leopards can be sometimes seen in this valley. Hovering high in the skies you may see lammergeyers and Himalayan griffons circling around above you.
Thorong Phedi - Muktinath (3800m) via Thorong-La Pass (5416m, 12hrs)
This is the longest and most challenging day, but also one of the trek’s highlights as you cross the Thorong-La Pass (5416m). Starting early before it is light, it is a long, tough ascent via a number of small hills. You need to cross the pass by about 9 or 10 am ideally as the wind gets up later. Locals have used this trail for hundreds of years bringing their sheep and yaks in and out of Manang so the trail is very easy to see. When you reach the prayer flags marking the top, you are rewarded with a spectacular panorama of some of the highest mountains in the world. You can see over to the Kali Gandaki valley and across the entire Annapurna range, with Mukut and Mustang Himal to the west.
As you make the long descend of about 1600m, you are accompanied by outstanding views of Dhaulagiri in the distance across the valley. Eventually, the trail becomes less steep and you enter pastures and cross meadows to Muktinath, which means place of Nirvana. It is home to a temple and several monasteries. It is said that all your sorrows are relieved when you visit this temple. It is a sacred pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Buddhists. The main pilgrimage normally takes place in September. The Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and from here spring water flows from a rock face from 108 spouts (108 is a sacred number to Buddhists). Below Vishnu’s statue runs a trickle of water with pale flames caused by natural gas. There are shrines to Shiva and his consort and Padmasambhava as well as numerous chortens and the surrounding poplar grove that supposedly sprang from the staffs of the 84 Siddhas.
Muktinath - Jomsom (2743m, 6 hrs)
Jomsom is famous for its apples, said to be the best in Nepal. The walk to Jomsom is mostly downhill with dramatic landscapes along the way. You walk down in the morning, to avoid the strong winds that blow up through the river gorge in the afternoons. The Kali Gandaki is home to Thakalis, Gurungs and Magars. Many of the hills bordering the northern end of the valley are yellowish due to desertification and make a striking contrast to the green farmland of the valley floor. The Thakhali dominated the lucrative trade routes with Tibet and today have turned their entrepreneurial spirit to other businesses, the neglected Buddhist shrines of Tukuche testament to their 19th-century conversion to Hinduism in their climb to power. Jomson or more correctly ‘Dzongsam’ means “new fort”.
Drive from Jomsom -Tatopani via Ghasa in local jeep (2590m, 6hrs)
The descent to Tatopani follows the increasingly narrow valley, though one of the world’s deepest river gorges, past the beautiful Rupse Chaharo waterfall, with fantastic views along the way and the lure of hot springs at the end. Take a dip at night with the sound of the river rushing below and starts above.
Tatopani - Shikha (1935m, 4hrs)
Trekking and leaving the hot springs behind, you have a day of climbing. You leave the Kali Gandaki valley and follow the Ghar Khola river, cross it on a bridge. You continue up to Ghara (1780m) and Shika (1935m) where there still is a British army training centre.
Shikha - Ghorepani (1750m, 3hrs)
Continuing down the last part of the trail then has you climbing again through rhododendron and magnolia forests to Ghorepani. One of the biggest villages in the area, the views of the Himalayas from here are amazing. You may see 360° views of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Himalayas on a clear day. Dhaulagiri I, II, III, IV, V, Tukuche, Dhampus, Nilgiri, Annapurna South, Barah Sikhar, Machhapuchhre (aka Fishtail) are some of the major peaks seen from here.
Trek to Poon Hill (3190m)
From Ghorepani, it is just an hour to walk up to the top of Poon Hill, the major attraction of this area. Visiting Poon Hill early in the morning for the sunrise is a memorable experience. You start early to hike the hour up to Poon Hill in the morning to admire the sun rising over the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna ranges. After spending about half an hour or so on the top of this hill, you return to your lodge in Ghorepani for breakfast. You then trek down to Nayapul where you are picked up and driven to Pokhara.
Pokhara - free day
There are lots of things to see and do in Pokhara. There are a few museums, the most notable being the International Mountain Museum (IMM). In addition, there is an ethnographical museum, Pokhara Regional Museum and Annapurna Natural History Museum with collections of flora and fauna, and butterflies. There is also the Gurkha Museum featuring the history of the Gurkha soldiers. Gurkha soldiers are still recruited here in Pokhara. You might like to go boating or take the opportunity to try out paragliding. For the fearless, you might want to have a go at Nepal’s second bungee jumping site: Water Touch Bungee Jumping. Or if you are interested in Tibetan culture, you can take a tour of the Tibetan settlements with a Tibetan guide.
You can opt to fly back to Kathmandu (35 minutes) or go by road. You have the rest of the day free in Kathmandu. You might like to do some more sightseeing. You can visit Swayambhunath Temple, otherwise nicknamed the ‘Money Temple’. On a hill overlooking the city, it is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the country. Not for the faint-hearted, there are 350 steps to the top, though you can cheat and take the back route, though less steep it doesn’t offer such good views. Lose yourself in Asaan, the area between Thamel and Kathmandu’s Durbar Square which is a warren of narrow streets where Nepalis come to shop for everything from the kitchen sink to saris and vegetables. Why not visit the elusive Kumari in Durbar Square, or go shopping in Thamel where you can find all sorts of souvenir shops selling handicrafts, local organic tea and coffee and other mementoes.
You transfer to Tribhuvan Airport to connect with your onward flight. Please note that you should check in three hours prior to your flight time.