Annapurna Round Trek as a holiday destination
The Annapurna Round Trek is a classic three-week Himalayan experience, including the challenging but rewarding crossing of the highest mountain pass in Nepal, visiting traditional monasteries and breath-taking mountain lakes, and staying in some of the best trekking lodges in Nepal. For its scenery and cultural diversity, this is one of the best and most popular treks in the world.
Starting at Dumre (500m) the trek follows the Marsyangdi Valley to the North of the main Himalayan range and crosses Thorong La (5416m) pass to descend into the dramatic Tibetan-style scenery of the upper Kali Gandaki Valley. The circuit is usually followed counter-clockwise, as the climb to Thorong La from the Western side is too strenuous and has too much elevation gain to consider in one day. Thorong La is often closed due to snow from mid-December to March, and bad weather can occur at any time. There was only minor damage to this route from the 2015 earthquake, and restoration work is being completed on the damaged buildings
The walk passes picturesque villages, home to more than ten culturally rich ethnic groups including Gurungs, Manangis and Thakalis.
One of the many cultural highlights on the Trek is the Muktinath Temple at the base of the Thorong La pass. A pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Buddhists (and a great place for meditation), it is the site of one of the most ancient temples to the Hindu God Vishnu. Water from the ice-cold Kali Gantaki river flows through 108 stone faucets, and pilgrims (and a few hardy trekkers) stand under each of them. The founder of Tibetan Buddhism, Guru Rimpoche, is also believed to have meditated here on his way to Tibet. Both Hindus and Buddhists visit Mebar Lla Gomva, the small monastery of ‘miraculous fire’ (a continuously burning natural gas fire) located near the main entrance.
Getting there/coming back
From Kathmandu to Besi Sahar (six hours)
Public bus: 6:30am and 10am (Rs400)
Tourist bus: 7am, 8am and 10am (Rs450)
From Besi Sahar to Bhulbe/Chame (800m)
Buses and jeeps run every hour or two to Bhulbe (Rs200, 30mins-1 hour).
Jeeps also run as far as Chame (Rs1600) when the dirt road is accessible.
The AC trek offers spectacular mountain views of the 7000m-plus Annapurna peaks, dotted with picturesque gumbas in places such as Manang and Braga. The route also passes through paddy fields, subtropical forests, past several waterfalls and gigantic cliffs as well as several villages. You will cross raging torrents on giddying suspension bridges, be awestruck by mountain views, and face tough but exhilarating trails. The walk from Chame to Manang is particularly spectacular, where the Annapurna peaks tower above glacial valleys.
A notable viewpoint is Poon Hill, from where numerous peaks such as Macchapuchhare (6997m), Dhaulagiri (8167m) and Annapurna South (7219m) can be seen. The view is at its best at sunrise and can be accessed by a short 1.5km hike from a nearby lodge. The natural hot springs at Jhinu Danda also provide welcome relief for aching muscles!
Every trek in the Himalayas requires a certain level of physical and mental fitness. You should be in good physical shape and feel comfortable hiking up and down 7-12 miles per day whilst carrying about 10 pounds. It is recommended that you carry out at least one hour of aerobic activity 3-4 times per week for at least 1 month before starting the trek. Aerobic conditioning is important, as it enables your body to better metabolize oxygen and prepare for thinner air (there is 40% less Oxygen than at sea level). If you are in any doubt of your physical readiness, please consult with a doctor beforehand. Always remember that stamina, confidence and continuity are more important than speed.
Thorung La Pass
It is essential to take your time between Manang and the pass in order to acclimatise properly. Thorong La is one of Nepal’s highest passes and crossing it is potentially dangerous. Trekkers have died on Thorong La because of altitude sickness, exposure, cold and avalanches. Ensure that you are aware of the symptoms of acute mountain sickness (AMS) before you go, be adequately equipped for severe cold and snow, and be prepared to return to Besi Sahar if the crossing is too dangerous. The trek up to the pass from Manang is not difficult, but it is a long way at high elevation, which can also cause problems such as AMS. It is impossible to give exact dates, but Thorong La is usually snowbound and closed from mid-December to March. The trail to the pass can be extremely hard to find in fresh snow, and you should be prepared to either turn back or wait in a lodge in cases of bad weather. At any time, storms or cyclones from the Arabian Sea or Bay of Bengal can cause sudden and significant snow falls. In such conditions, sitting out bad weather in a lodge is not only sensible but potentially life-saving.
To add some more highlights to the trek, side trips and excursions from Manang, Muktinath and Jomsom are definitely worth taking. Using some extra days for these will also better acclimatise and prepare you for the pass, plus it provides the chance to shake some of the crowds on the regular route. From Bhulebule to Tatopani, there are a network of alternative trails with red-and-white markers that take you off the road into the countryside, while trails with blue-and-white markers also take you on fantastic side trips and detours. The scenery on the alternative routes is equally as spectacular as the main one, and the lodges are excellent. Throughout the trail, there are also plenty of opportunities to augment the trek with day hikes from overnight bases.
Packing List for Annapurna Round Trek
If you are planning to venture on the Annapurna Round trek, these are the things you ought to carry with yourself:
If travelling during winter:
Day 01:Arrival in Kathmandu (1,350 m),transfer to hotel. Overnight at hotel
Day 02:Free Walking Tour Kathmandu, 4-5 hrs, visiting local areas, and Monkey Temple. O/N at Hotel
Day 03:Drive from Kathmandu to Beshishahar (820 m/2690 ft),6 hrs. O/N at Guest House
Day 04:Trek from Beshishahar (820 m) then continue to Bahundanda (1310 m/4298 ft),6-7 hrs. O/N at Guest House
Day 05:Trek from Bahundanda to Jagat (1290 m/4232 ft). O/N at Guest House
Day 06:Trek from Jagat to Dharapani (1920 m/6299 ft). O/N at Guest House
Day 07:Trek from Dharapani to Chame (2630 m/8629 ft). O/N at Guest House
Day 08:Trek from Chame to Pisang (3190 m/10466 ft). O/N at Guest House
Day 09:Trek from Pisang to Manang (3520 m/11549 ft). O/N at Guest House
Day 10:Acclimatization day at Manang
Day 11:Trek from Manang to Yak Kharka (4090 m). O/N at Guest House
Day 12:Trek from Yak Kharka to Thorung Phedi (4500 m/14764 ft). O/N at Guest House
Day 13:Trek from Thorung Phedi to Muktinath (3800 m/12467 ft) crossing Thorung La Pass (5416 m)
Day 14:Trek from Muktinath to Jomsom (2670 m) via Kagbeni. O/N at Guest House
Day 15:Drive or fly from Jomsom to Pokhara (827 m). O/N at Hotel
Day 16:Drive from Pokhara to Kathmandu, 200 km, 6-7 hours. O/N at hotel
Day 17:Departure to the airport