Popularly known as the Holy Grail of treks, this circuit trek is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Traverse across the snow-clad mountains and deep blue lakes. All the while, treasure surreal sunrises, taste the village culture of Nepal, and marvel at some of the picturesque landscapes.
The trip commences with a drive to Besisahar from Kathmandu, which takes about 5 hours along the Prithwi highway. After that, we divert from the highway to the bustling town of Dumre and continue for 1.5 hrs to Besisahar. After lunch, we continue with the final lap of the drive to reach Syange (1100mts / 3608 ft) in the Marysandi Valley. Overnight stay at Tea House Lodge with freshly cooked dinner.
A fantastic hike with drastically pleasant changes in the landscape, featuring a range of gradients begins today. From Chamche, we head across the river and ascend steeply to finally reach the ridge-top high above. We cross another suspension bridge before a continued ascent up a narrow and beautiful valley full of waterfalls. Just before camp at Tal, the first village in Manang, we come across a small rise and enter a wide valley, teeming with a silvery waterfall.
Post breakfast, we follow the trail crossing the wide Marsyangdi valley. The trail then climbs a stone stairway to 1860m. The journey continues up and down till we reach Dharapani at 1890m. We pass a stone entrance called Chhorten, typical of the Tibetan influenced villages. We then visit the Bagarchhap at 2160m that bustles with idyllic vibes, featuring the typical flat-roofed stone houses across the village.
Going ahead, the bumpy and rocky trail climbs to Tyanja at 2360m, and then continues through the forest and along the river, to Kopar at 2590m. We reach Chame, the headquarter of the Manang district, where we are pleased by fantastic views of the Annapurna II. There are also two small hot springs just by the town, which you can also explore.
Today, our journey starts through a thick forest in a steep and narrow valley. We’ll be crossing a river on a long bridge at 2910m. Further, we’ll cross another bridge at 3040m. From here, the view of the soaring Paungda Danda rock-face begins to appear in plain sight. The trail further climbs to Pisang, which sprawls between 3200m and 3300m. Stay overnight in Upper Pisang for a profound traditional and cultural experience of the village.
Today, we continue through the drier upper part of the Manang District which is cut-off from the full effect of monsoons by the Annapurna Range. Habitats of this region herd yaks and raise crops for part of the year. Leaving Pisang, we have alternate trails North and South of the Marsyangdi River, which meet up again at Mungji. The southern route by Hongde, with its airstrip, at 3325m involves less climbing than the Northern route via Ghyaru, though there are better views on the trail that follows the northern bank of the river. From Mungji, the trail continues past the picturesque but partially hidden village of Bryanga at 3475m to the nearby Manang at 3500m.
When we transcend 3500 meters from the sea level, it is vital to take a day for acclimatization. The whole day will be thus spent in Manang, doing some fine day-walks and witnessing the magnificent views around the village. Many people go hiking to the ice lake or nearby excursions on this day. In the evening, we come back to our accommodation for a good night’s rest.
After a hot breakfast, we depart from Manang. The altitude gets higher and the air, thinner, so we trek gradually. The trail makes an ascent of nearly 2000m toward the Thorong La pass. We make the climb gradually through Tenki, leaving the Marshyangdi Valley. Continuing along the Jarsang Khola Valley, we get to Ledar at 4200m, where we see the vegetations steadily getting sparser.
The trail descends to cross the river at 4310m. We then climb up again to Phedi at 4420m. At the High Camp on the elevation of 4600m, there are finally good options for accommodation. Your overnight stay will be there.
The journey from Phedi, translating to ‘foot of the hill’ begins today. This is the foot to the mighty Thorong La pass at 5416m. We make a steep climb on the path that is regularly used and is easy to follow. You’ll have to be careful about your health here, due to the altitude and the snow. After 4 hours of climbing, you come up to the pass marked by the Chhortens and the prayer flags. Needless to say, the view from the top is INSANE.
Marpha is a quaint settlement of no more than 80 houses of the Thakali people. It also has a significant Buddhist monastery and an apple garden. You can also visit the nearby village of Tuksche to watch how Apple Brandy is procured.
Ghasa (2010m) is the first Thakali village on the North road and doubles as the southernmost limit of Tibetan Buddhism in the valley. Stay overnight at Ghasa and relish Thakali delicacies in the teahouse.
We start our trek to Tatopani today from Ghasa. Tatopani translates to ‘hot spring’ in Nepalese. You can take a rejuvenating natural hot bath here after the tiring Himalayan hike over the Thorong La. The Nepalese people believe that body ache and various diseases like arthritis are healed if you soak in this hot spring. You’ll be staying overnight in Tatopani.
Today is a long and arduous day. You’ll trek up to Ghorepani with a slope gradient of 50-60 degrees via Ghara, Shikha and Chitre. We’ll have lunch en-route. Overnight stay at the Teahouse Lodge at Ghorepani.
You’ll be starting your day with an early morning hike to the Poon Hill (3210m.) to catch the sunrise view over Mt. Dhaulagiri, Tukuche Peak Nilgiri, Varaha Shikhar, Mt. Annapurna I, Lamjung Himal and other snowcapped mountain peaks of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Ranges. After breakfast, trek to Birethanti (6-7 hours). Then drive to Pokhara (42km), which takes around 1.5 hours. The organized trek ends here, so you can take all the time you need to celebrate and rejoice!
After a surreal experience of the Annapurna Range in the Himalayas, head back to the town life of Pokhara. Relax for a day or two and then you can head back to Kathmandu for even more adventure.
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