Annapurna Massif Circuit

  • Duration:23 days

Originally many of these treks starts from the village of Dumre on the Kathmandu Pokhara road but there is now a Besisahar. We feel that for a true around Annapurna trek, it should start and finish in Pokhara itself and certainly during the early days of this route, before reaching the Marsyangdi valley, we will meet few if any other trekkers. However, once on the main trail up through Manang during the popular trekking months of Oct/Nov and late Mar/Apr, there are many people attracted to this route, which is one of the finest long treks in Nepal.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 01 KALIKASTHAN (1524m):
If arriving by air, transport is provided for the 20 minutes drive out to the Bijaypur Khola on the route towards Kathmandu to the trek start point. Alternatively, if by road then coming from Kathmandu there is no need to go right into Pokhara and the vehicle will deliver clients to the start point itself. This first three hours trek up the hill to Kalikathan winding up through Chettri/Bahun villages and past shaded Chautaras (resting places) the campsite is reached with a final little scramble up from the main route. It sits on the western edge of this ridge and offers some of the finest views of the Annapurnas, Lamjung Himal, Manaslu and Huinchuli range.

Day 02 DOBHAN ON THE MADI KHOLA (762m): 
A delightful morning's walking east along the ridge through mixed farming leads to the little village of Lipyani. Lunch will probably be taken before reaching this village and in the village itself the route drops away north through some quite heavily wooded country before a steep 475m descent leafs to a long suspension bridge over the Madi Khola itself. There are some fine campsites close to the river – good for swimming in the warm seasons and a little settlement of temporary huts and a couple of houses at the confluence of the Madi Khola and Rudi Khola near where we camp.

Day 03 Beyond SALMA (1585m): 
The trail leads along the bank of Rudi Khola, an attractive river valley and after the odd up and down bypass small gorge areas, the trail crosses the river and there is a steep climb for 1-½ hours or so. Near the top of the hill the trail traverses north and the ascent eases. There are some good spots for lunch around here and the mountain views to the north are again excellent. It is a delightful afternoon's walk through miles of terraced fields. There will be added interest if it is harvest time with almost the whole family in the field day long either planting or harvesting dependent on the time of the year. The large Bahun village of Salma is reached after a couple of hours and lie attractively on the ridgeline. Much of the architecture of the local houses is typical Gurung but there are surprisingly few Gurungs actually living in the village area. Dependant on how the day has gone there are campsites near the village or another thirty minutes or so on in the small village of Gamrang Besi where there are some very attractive houses and farms.

Day 04 BAGLUNG PANI (1524m): 
Descend through cultivated terraces to the Midam Khola and then start s fairly long and arduous ascent up to a very fine camping area at Baglung Pani itself. Just north of here lies the large Gurung village of Ghanpokhara which is about 1 ½ hours away but in view of the length of the trekking route and this day in particular we think Baglung Pani will be the best camping spot offering mountain views as good as obtainable from Ghanpokhara, particularly now to the east across to Manaslu, Himalchuli and Peak 29.

Day 05 BHULBHULE (853m):
The trail, which is a good one descends fairly gradually towards the village of Khudo on the Marsyangdi river and here we join both the main trade and trekking routes and things will suddenly be much busier. Opposite Khudi (on the west bank of the river) where the Khudi Khola enters the main river, the Marsyangdi swings north. The trail rises high above the river and round the corner revealing further views of Himalchuli and Peak 29 now verr near and rising massively more than 22000'/6700m above camp near the river of Bhulbhule.

Day 06 SYANGE (921m): 
Continue up east bank of river, crossing Madi Khola bridge after 1-½ hours. Climb to Bahundada ridge (4300'/1310m) in about 2 hours. Descend towards river once again and reach vicinity of bridge at Syange after another 2 ½ hours. Total about 6.15 hours. Syange is the northern limit of rice cultivation in the Marsyangdi valley.

Day 07 TAL (1646m): 
Trail now climbs slowly into increasingly narrow canyon. Cross river on good suspension bridge bear Chamcha and continue ascent past canyon descending from rock barriers of Peak 29 and Namum Bhanjyang. Camp at Tal, the gateway to Manang District a beautiful flat meadow with several Tibetan houses and a splendid waterfall coming off the lower reaches of Peak 29. This is a superb campsite. The trail passes Jagat after 1-½ hours and Chamcha after another 1-½ hours. Tal is another 2 hours, short day but all climbing.

Day 08 TEMUNG Meadows (2591m): 
Ascend east bank of Marsyangdi through main gorge. The trail here is at times cut out of vertical cliffs. Cross to west side of the river at Dharapani 6200' just south of Thonje, the confluence of Marsyangdi and Dudh Khola (the later coming from Larkya Pass, two days northeast). Do not cross river to Thonje but turn west and follow trail ascending on south side of Marsyangdi through forest and meadows for about one hour then climb steeply towards Namun Bhanjyang to Temung meadows, a series of lush pastures perched high above the river. There are excellent views of Manaslu and the peaks situated above the Larkya Pass.

Day 09 KUPAR (2591m): 
Near Chame, the headquarters of Manang District trail runs diagonally from Temung through Thenchok village (286m) and down towards river to Kupar which lies above the junction of the Marsyangdi with the Nar river, coming in from the north. Police check point here. Coming from Temung this is a short day of only 4 hours.

Day 10 PISANG (3354m):
Pass Chame after 1 ½ hour and cross bridge to north side of river near horticultural apple farm at Brathang (2744m). The covered bridge with a door in the middle allegedly was used to prevent robbers from the north coming into the lower Marsyangdi. Begin spectacular ascent to Pisang. Before Pisang the valley makes a dog's leg turn. This begins the transition into the rain shadow experienced between Ghasa and Tukuche in the Kali Gandaki. Walk through a magnificent forest with the Marsyangdi in full cry below, gaining momentum to break its way through the line of main Himalayan range between Annapurna II and Mansalu. There is a choice of campsites at Pisang below the village, either south or north of the river, or about ½ hour before in the pleasant wooded country, sheltered from the prevailing wind.

Day 11 BRAGA (3506m): 
Beautiful day, on easy terrain through forest to small ridge at 11,300'/3445m. Below and stretching into the distance is the upper Manang valley. The southern tier of this valley is walled by Annapurna II, III, IV – 7936m, 7551m & 7522m respectively, Gangapurna 7450m and Glacier Dome 7070m to the west and visible just south of distant sharp rock peak is the great barrier and the basin containing Tilicho Lake 4920m and beyond, Tilicho Peak 7135m is out of view at the head of the valley. To the north is Thorong La 5396m and Thorungtse ridge of 20 to 22,000' peaks. Descending from this viewpoint, the path crosses a plain and passed Hongde airstrip 3415m. Further on, the Sabji Khola is passed and Braga is reached. Braga is Cliffside village with several monasteries and excellent campsites in the fields below village.

Day 12 BRAGA: 
It is essential to spend time on acclimatization in the area. There are splendid views of peaks from both Braga and Manang. Manang is a large village situated on a rise immediately across from a huge glacier descending from Glacier Dome and Gangapurna. A beautiful emerald lake lies at its foot. Possible side trips to a lake about 3 hours north of Braga at 4848m, to the main Manang Gompa, or to Khangsar 3704m on the trail to Tilicho Lake.

Day 13 CHAKADUNGA (3963m): 
A short day for acclimatization. About 4 hours from Braga, passing Manang and Thankey villages. A side trip up the stream following down from the west Chulu peaks can be done in the afternoon.

Day 14 THORONG PHEDI (4405m): 
The trail turns northwest up the tributary valley of the Jargeng Khola. It is sometimes possible to see herds of blue mountain sheep along the cliffs. We cross a covered cantilevered bridge and ascend to Phedi, the last campsite before the pass.

Day 15 MUKTINATH (3810m): 
Ascend steeply for 3 hours to rock ledge and notch at 4950m then along an undulating trail to the level top of Thorong La 5396m. Views of the Annapurna range to the south and Mukut Himal bordering Dolpo to the west. The peak immediately north of the Pass is Thorongtse, to the south is an unnamed peak of 6625m. Descend into Mustang, a steep downhill trail for three hours to Muktinath – splendid views of Dhaulagiri and Tukuche peak are seen. Muktinath is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Nepali Hindus. It is mentioned in the classic Indian epic, the Mahabharata, and we may see pilgrims bathing in the holy water flowing from the 108 carved spouts surrounding the Vishnu Temple in a grove of sacred poplars. Muktinath is also home to many ethnic Tibetans and is holly to Buddhists as well, particularly for the temple in which fire miraculously burns in a stream of water!

Day 16 MARPHA (2670m):
Descend gradually through fields and popular groves, then steeply into the Kali Gandaki River valley, reaching the valley floor at Eklaibhatti (lone hut) at 2774m. Follow the valley southward to the headquarters of Mustang District, Jomsom 2713m a large settlement with a STOL airstrip, police station and bank. The Kali Gandaki here is called the Thak Khola, from the ethnic group of the Thakalis, many of whom live in this area. Enterprising and ambitious the Thakalis formerly dominated salt trade with Tibet in this region and after its collapse diversified into running hotels along the trek route, construction and other business. We continue into Marpha, a lovely village of whitewashed houses and productive fields.

Day 17 KALOPANI (2530m): 
Continue our transition from the Himalayan rain shadow into coniferous forest, we return to the main river valley and onto the villages of Kalopani and Lete, which string out and merge over a distance of two miles through an area of beautiful pine woods and grassy meadows.

Day 18 TATOPANI (1189m): 
A lovely day with another major transition into subtropical vegetation and the return of water buffalo, banyan trees and poinsettias. The trail follows high above the river through a narrow gorge, descending again to across a bridge near a spectacular waterfall where we usually stop for lunch. We leave Thakali country at Ghasa and enter an area of mixed Hindus, high cast Brahmin and Chettri hill farmers and hill tribes Gurung and Magars. In Tatopani (Hot Water) there are natural hot water springs.

Day 19 DEORALI (2713m): 
A hard days work ahead with an altitude gain of 1524m to be made. The trail initially follows the Ghorapani route before branching off left into much less traveled country. The path follows approximately up the line linking the Ghorapani area to that of Ghandrung crosses the Deorali Pass and the trail reaches the crest east of the pass. There are some fine campsites available in the area.

Day 20 GHANDRUK (1920m): 
This area offers some of the finest trekking in Nepal. The Annapurna range and Machapuchare dominates the mountain views though glimpses further east to Lamjung Himal and the Manaslu range are also possible. The village of Ghandrung is reached through its excellent farming land and the generations of its sons who have sent and received pay and pensions from the British and Indian Gurkha armies. Time spent in a sidewalk through the village on the route towards Chomrong and the Annapurna Sanctuary is rewarded with the most attractive scenes of rural village like in the hills of Nepal.

Day 21 Forest Camp (above DHAMPUS) 1950m: 
A hand glider is really required for the first leg of this day's journey. The close view across the Modi valley to Landrung 1610m is intercepted by a 600m descent to the river valley and steep climb the other side. Then the trail traverses through farmland south high above the river before climbing through forest and crossing one of Machapuchare's many ridges and dropping down to a fine camp set in a clearing in the forest. From the edge of the site there are distant views down to Pokhara's Phewa Tal (lake) and the foothills of Nepal fade into the haze of the Indian plains far to the south.

Day 22 POKHARA (915m) Lakeside camp: 
The return via the Yamdi Khola is not recommended unless people wish to get into Pokhara early and decide to use the services of the beaten up old jeeps that bump their way down the riverbed. It is possible to hire a whole jeep but we recommend dismounting and walking down the step and potentially dangerous hill below the Tibetan camp at Hyenja. For those wanting to walk back to Pokhara, either drops down to the north side of Dhampus into the Mardi Khola valley. A long walk along the valley floor leads to the little village of Mardi Pul from where the trail leads back to Hyenja and then a final hour back to the northern end of Pokhara where transport can be arranged to drive down to the lake camp. Probably better though is via Naudanda and the Kaski ridge to the south, all the wat along to Sarangkot on the south side of which is a steep little path and it’s a bit of a scramble down to the side of the Phewa lake near which we camp.

Day 23 The end of the trek. 
Breakfast and then either to the airport for the flight to Kathmandu or a return by road, which takes about 6 hours.