Annapurna Circuit, one of the most renowned trekking destinations in the world! Famously known as the classic trek, the Annapurna Circuit definitely lives up to its name!
Annapurna Circuit as the name suggests circles the Annapurna range, starting from Besi-Sahar in Lamjung the trail goes on to meet 4 other districts (Manang, Mustang, Myagdi, Kaski). Although an un-conventional clockwise trek can be done, the classical trek starting from Besi-Sahar is suggested (the reason will be explained later).
The gateway to Annapurna Circuit- Besi-Sahar, Lamjung is about 172 km from Kathmandu. You can get a Microbus from Gongabu which will cost you 450 Nrs. You can also take a Deluxe bus to Besi-Sahar, but since you’ll most probably not stay in Besi Sahar the same day it is advised to take a microbus. The bus ride should take around 5 hours with lunch break and all but most of the times take longer or shorter! (Well you know the transportation syste of Nepal).
Once you reach, the trek Itinerary depends mostly on what you want to do, either you want to trek the whole circuit or you want to reduce trek or you just want to take a vehicle for as long as you can! I’ll break it down accordingly!
Let’s first discuss the Jeep option:
If you don’t have enough days to spend trekking and you’re on a short leave from you office, but still want to see what Lake Tilicho looks like (Though technically Tilicho doesn’t fall under the circuit) or what the famous Thorang La looks like- the best thing you can do is to take a Jeep from Besi-Sahar up to a place called Khangsar. From Khangsar, it only few hours to Tilicho Base camp. So again, let’s break it down.
The Jeep ride is definitely something to look forward to! Look at the road!
Let’s assume that you take the first microbus that leaves at 6 am in the morning and reach Besi-sahar by 11 or 12 (Depends), so if you reach Besi-Sahar by 12, you can then take a jeep, and again lets assume that you get a jeep as soon as you reach there, you might as well reach at least Manang by nightfall. And if you do end up in Manang by night fall or even Khangsar- both add up to the same the next day! The First day of your trek will take you to Manang or Khangsar, regardless of where you reach (Either Manang or Khangsar) the first day, at the end of Second day you will reach Tilicho Base Camp.
Starting early the next day (Third Day) , you trek up to the lake, which is around 3 to 4 hours depending upon your walking speed, and after spending few hours you can descend down to a place called Shreekharka. Day fourth starts with an easy walk to Thorang Phedi, regardless of how easy you take it, you will end up at Phedi by night fall (If its still early then you can walk up to high camp). Thorang High camp is just above the Phedi but with a steep climb, it takes long time to cover up just about 400 meters vertical meters (+ the increasing altitude factor). At the start of Fifth day , begin your trek before the break of dawn. You can pay in advance, the day before and then start walking as early as you can. Again depending upon your walking speed, it will take you around 3 4 hours to reach Thorang La. From there onward its a tiring descent down to the Muktinath Temple (If you reach Muktinath too early, you can walk down to Jomsom) .
By the end of fifth day you will reach Muktinath and from there onward you can again take Jeep to Beni and then to Kathmandu. So you could reach Kathmandu by Sixth day. But then the assumption is that you reach Khangsar on the first day! Even if you don’t reach Khangsar on the first day, you’d reach Base camp the second day anyways! In case you reach Besi sahar late, the jeep will take you to Chame the first day and then Khangsar the second day, anyways you’ll reach Tilicho Base Camp by the end of second day. This way, you could say you’ve been through the section of the circuit, but not that you’ve done the whole circuit.
Let’s discuss the Trekking Option:
Starting from Besi-Sahar you again have few options at hand, either you want to walk through all of the trek or again take jeep for certain section. As per my experience, I’d suggest, unless you really want to walk all of it, that you’d take a Jeep upto a place called Chamje/Chyamche (Still in Lamjung) and then being your trek from Chamje, about an hour of half of walk will take you to the border of Lamjung and Manang, at a beautiful settlement called Taal. The reason for my suggestion of Jeep upto Chamje is that, the walk from Besishar to Taal or Chamje doesn’t offer the “Himalayan Experience” you’d want to see in the Annapurna circuit. Unless you have enough free time to spend you could walk from Besi-sahar via Bahun dada and meet up with the circuit, or you could take a jeep up to Sangye or Jagat and then start the trek.
A water fall near Kotro
Basically, in my personal opinion, the trek leading up to Taal is kind of banal for those used to trekking around typical trekking trails. So let assume that you take a jeep up to Chamje, that’s the end of the first day again, regardless of what time you reach Besi-sahar you will end up at Chamje the first day. The Second day of your trek starts early morning trek from Chamje, where you have to different options, a painstaking up and down the narrow trails or just a boring trek along the road. After you reach Taal, you can follow the narrow trail upto Kotro which eventually joins up with the road.If you take the trails, you can see a beautiful view of Mount Manaslu . From there onward you just walk along the road to Dharapani. Dharapani is a large village and a common point for Manaslu (End point) and Annapurna circuit. From Dharapani you walk along the road again along quite easy trail to Danakyu. From Danakyu you have to climb up to the beautiful village of Timang/Temang. Timang is where you’d spend the night. Or if you can’t reach Timang you could stay at Danakyu.
The next day you’d have a long way ahead of you but doable, anyone who would want to walk through the trek will most possibly be able to walk from Timang to Dhikurpokhari or Pisang. The headquarter of Manang, Chame is just about an hour or half from Timang. From Chame you’d continue your trek along to Talekhu (Not Malekhu) a place with scenic beauty, and then to Bhratang one of my favorite place, gives the sense of true alpine region. The terrain gets interesting from Bhratang, you still have to walk along the road then cross the bridge and climb up a hill to Dhikupokhari. By the time you reach Dhikurpokhari, if you think you’d have enough to walk for a day, you can rest there, but if you think you’ve got a pinch of energy then you can continue to Pisang less than 45 minutes away.
The Second day of your trek ends in Pisang (or Dhikurpokhari if you’re late). The Third day, you can easily do Pisang-Manang or Pisang-Khangsar or even Pisang-Shreekharka. About half an hour of walk from Pisang will take you to a gradual climb and as you reach the top of the hill its just plain road from there onward, the easiest part of the trek through the whole section.
Photo : Pisang
Let’s explore the options:
If you don’t want to rush through your trek and have enough time, you can just end the day in Manang and enjoy the Manang valley. Or you could stay at a place called Braga/Bhrakha and then trek up to a beautiful lake called the Ice Lake. Then, the next day you could trek to Manang, look around the valley and of course the Gangapurna Lake and then either stay there or trek to Khangsar. You might as well reach Shreekharka, but I’d not recommend that- Why? Here’s why- If you go to Khansar the same day, then the next morning you’ll have to either go to Tilicho Base Camp (TBC) or go to Tilicho and return to the base camp. As TBC is less than 2 hours walk from Shreekharka, just going to TBC that day doesn’t make sense you’d walk for few hours and then rest all day long in TBC that would only add up the days. So unless you can do Shreekharka-Tilicho-Shreekharka, which is doable but its tough. So its better to stay in Khangsar and then go to TBC the next day. That way you can go up to the Lake with ease and then come back down to Shreekharka the next day with out the rush of doing -Shreekharka back to Shreekharka. The remaining part of the trek is similar to the one mentioned above so I’ll just copy paste it.
The next day starts with an easy walk to Thorang Phedi, regardless of how easy you take it, you will end up at Phedi by night fall (If its still early then you can walk up to high camp). Thorang High camp is just above the Phedi but with a steep climb, it takes long time to cover up just about 400 meters vertical meters (+ the increasing altitude factor). The next morning begin your trek before the break of dawn. You can pay in advance, the day before and then start walking as early as you can. Again depending upon your walking speed, it will take you around 3 4 hours to reach Thorang La. From there onward its a tiring descent down to the Muktinath Temple (or if you reach Muktinath early ( -The descent from the Thorang la to Muktinath takes about 3-5 hours depending upon your speed) you can trek to Jomsom).
From Jomsom you can trek to Lete a beautiful village, then the next day you can walk up to Tatopani. Get into the hot-spring there to relax and ease the pain from all the arduous trekking. Next day, you walk from Tatopani to Ghorepani, making your way through Shika and Chitre. A hill right above Ghorepani, called the Poon hill is one of the famous place for viewing mountains! (Mountain watching? Like bird watching? I’m not sure what they call it but you get it!) On a clear day you could almost see 120 degrees of of Mountains, From Dhaulagiri, Tukuche, Nilgiri, the whole of Annapurna range and even Lamjung himal and Manaslu. After a breathtaking mountain view you will descend down to Ghorepani and then make your way to Ghandruk.
It’s a long days walk to Ghandruk, as you climb up and then descend down to Banthathi, and then again climb up to Tadapani and then finally to Ghandruk. Ghandruk is a beautiful village, with an amazing view of Annapurna South and Machhapuchhre. You can enjoy the local food, wear local dresses and enjoy the traditions. You can see Mount Gangapurna from Ghandruk, and you can gaze at the mountain and then think to yourself that few days ago, I was on the other side of that mountain!
From Ghandurk you can either descend down to Birethanthi and Nayapul or again take another route to Landruk and Dhampus and then make your way to Pokhara!
Which season would be the best?
The Best season would be late July to late September.
What do I need for the trek?
If its post winter, take warm clothes, don’t forget woolen hats/caps, gloves, mufflers, it can get extremely windy around Tilicho and Thorang. Take few medicines with you, move sprays and stuff. Also take Dimox, just in case you fall prey to Altitude sickness. Avoid drinking alcohol at high altitudes, drink lots of water.
Let’s talk wildlife!
I know most of you might not be interested but for those are, here’s the list of different animals you can see along the way!
Tons of birds! Lets not get into the details! (I know that because my M.Sc Thesis was on Birds of Manang!
Squirrels, Barking deer and Pikas around the forest of Timang
Himalayan Langurs around Thanchok (Near Chame)
Tons of Blue Sheep on the way to Tilicho and Thorang La
Musk deer around Bhraka
The total cost of the trip will around Nrs 15k max! (Exclusive of Alcohol and stuff) It’s the amount that you can get by on a budget trip. Accommodation charge in Manang is very low, if you can bargain they might not charge you for the room (During off season- during the main season you might not as well get rooms! ) The food will cost you around NRs 200 in the lower regions to a maximum of Nrs 450 at higher regions.
The bus fares** from different sections are
Bus fare from Kathmandu to Besisahar : 450 Rs – Nepali , 550 Rs – Foreigners
Jeep fare from Besisahar to Chyaamche – 800 Rs- Nepal , 1600 Rs – Foreigners
Jeep fare from Muktinath to Jomsom – 300 Rs – Nepali , 700 Rs Foreigners
Jeep fare from Jomsom to Ghasa – 410 rs Nepali, 800 Rs Foreigners
Jeep fare from Ghasa to Beni – 390 for all
Micro bus fare from Beni to Pokhara – 320
Bus fare from Ghandruk to Pokhara- 350
Micro bus fare from Pokhara to Kathmandu 500
** Subjected to change!
A wooden bridge on the way to Manang
A tourist trying to find telephone network around upper Khangsar
The famous landslide on the way to Tilicho Lake
A view from Poon hill