Annapurna mountain and valley

Annapurna Circuit route

The Annapurna Circuit is really special, as anyone who has done it will testify. It’s special not just among Nepal treks, but among all treks. We have solid reasons for saying this, from its beauty to its scale, diversity, and tough-but-rewarding demands. 

Some treks, while fantastic, are a little one-note. The Annapurna Circuit route, by contrast, is a melody: during the trek you’re introduced to multiple Nepali communities, landscapes, climates and ecosystems. 

Every day on the Annapurna Circuit you encounter shifts in climate, vegetation, animals, culture, architecture and more. 

Manang valley and lazy river, Annapurna Circuit route

The Annapurna Circuit route starts in a lush area of the Manang district

In fact, if you could only do one trek in your lifetime, we’d argue that this should be it. You’ll experience more in this one trek than you might in multiple others.

Not yet convinced that the Annapurna Circuit Route is unique and world-class? We’re up to the challenge of telling you exactly why we think this… We will also outline the itinerary of the Annapurna Circuit route when you trek with Follow Alice, so you can construct a picture of what each day holds.

Annapurna Circuit route small village and stream

The villages along the Annapurna Circuit route are small, traditional and remote

Why the Annapurna Circuit is special

Trekking in Nepal and the Himalayas opens up a world of new and exciting experiences. One of the most exciting aspects of the Annapurna Circuit route that has made it so justifiably popular is the constant changes in climate and landscape.

Changes in climate and landscape

On the Annapurna Circuit route you begin the trek in a lush subtropical zone, where the sound of the rushing river can be heard even when not seen. The weather is mild, and you pass many terraced paddies and farms. Farmers grow crops like rice, buckwheat, potatoes, barley and beans. 

You then work your way up the Marsyangdi River valley and reach deciduous woods and colder temperatures. You start to enjoy unobstructed views of the Annapurna mountains, which include Annapurna I, the highest mountain in the region and the tenth highest mountains you can experience while trekking in the Himalayas.

Trekking in the Himalayas opens up a world of new and exciting experiences.

Annapurna Circuit route, Nepal

The Annapurna Circuit offers the most varied scenery of any classic Nepal trek

Next, you climb above the tree line to barren slopes and bleak crags, and the snowy peaks surround you. The air is thin and the wind often fierce. The highest point on the Annapurna Circuit route is Thorung La, a mountain pass 5,416 m above sea level that exists where the Khatung Kang and Yakawa Kang mountains meet. 

These changes in altitude and climate mean you often start the trek in shorts and a shirt, but in the middle are decked in every item you packed as well as those stolen while your roommate slept.

Average monthly temperatures at Thorung La

The column graph below shows the monthly mean temperatures for the Thorung La, the trek’s highest point.  Note that the graph doesn’t account for wind chill, which can often drive temperatures down a further 10 degrees. Also, the average night-time temperature can also drop things by 10 degrees. (In our blog post Annapurna Circuit packing list we discuss the equipment you’ll need to handle the cold.)

Average monthly temperatures at Thorung La on Annapurna trek

Temperates can drop below freezing on the Annapurna Circuit route

1. A circular route

Many treks around the world involve hiking from Point A to Point B and then back along the same route, often because the terrain dictates it as so. Not a problem, but arguably not ideal. The Annapurna Circuit route, by contrast, is a roughly circular route that takes you anticlockwise through the valleys and gorges and over some of the heights of the Annapurna massif

This means that your descent trek offers completely new sights and sounds. On the Annapurna Circuit route you drop down from the chilly heights into the woods before reaching the ancient Muktinath Temple, a religious site of great importance to both Hindus and Buddhists. You also cross several suspension bridges on the trek as well as the odd rudimentary foot bridge, all of which adds to its charm. 

 

 

2. Amazing animals and plants

The animal and birdlife along the Annapurna Circuit route are fantastic. Our Nepali tour guide, Sonam Sherpa, will point many of these out to us along the trail.

Animals big and small

During the Annapurna Circuit route you’re likely to see yaks, horses, donkeys, cattle, mountain goats, monkeys and hens. Every now and then trekkers are lucky enough to get stuck in a goat traffic jam or have a curious individual come close to be petted. If you’re the luckiest person in the world, you might spot a snow leopard. (If you think you spot a yeti, first check it isn’t actually a scruffy trekker - showers and laundry aren’t always possible along the circuit.)

Yaks resting on Annapurna Circuit trek

Resting yaks – a common sight on the Annapurna Circuit route

Amazing birdlife

Keen birders can keep their eyes open for hundreds of species of bird, such as barbets, koklas, woodpeckers, shrikes, thrushes, cuckoos, starlings, swallows, kingfishers, partridges, owls, vultures, griffons, eagles and many, many more.

You can actually download the free, beautifully illustrated ebook Birds of Annapurna Conservation Area by Rishi Baral (2018) if you’re an avid birdwatcher and want to read up on the local birds before coming to Nepal. 

Beautiful trees and flowers

The trees and plants on the trek are something special too. In the lower elevations bright pink and red rhododendrons, the national flower, often frame vistas of green forests and riotous rivers. There are also about 40 orchid varieties to enjoy. Note, however, that the flora of the Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA) are protected, so there can be no picking and pressing! 

Rhododendrons in Annapurna Mountains

A gorgeous rhododendron forest in the Annapurna Mountains | Image by Kondephy

3. Mountains of the circuit

Of course a huge drawcard of the Annapurna Circuit route is getting up close and personal with some of the world’s highest and most beautiful mountain peaks. The best-known peak is Annapurna I (8,091 m / 2,984 ft), which in 1950 was the first mountain over 8,000 m to ever be summited. 

Prominent Annapurna Circuit route mountains

The other five most prominent peaks in the Annapurna range are:

  • The eastern anchor of the range, Annapurna II (7,937 m / 26,040 ft)
  • Annapurna III (7,555m / 24,786 ft), which was only summited for the first time in 1961
  • Annapurna IV (7,525 m / 24,688 ft), which sits alongside Annapurna II
  • The world's tenth highest mountain, Annapurna South (7,219 m / 23,864 ft)
  • The gorgeous Gangapurna (7,455 m / 24,457 ft), with its storybook upside-down-V peak

There are numerous other peaks in the Annapurna range, so you really do get the feeling of being surrounded by a chorus of giants when you’re on the Annapurna Circuit route. The graph below shows some of the Annapurna mountains alongside other famous peaks from around the world, to give you a sense of their scale.

Graph showing the scale of the Annapurna mountains

As you can see, the Annapurna mountain range is not to be sniffed at!

Of course the prominence (height from visible base) of some of the mountains in the graph above is more impressive than that of the Annapurna mountains, as the latter are part of the Annapurna massif. But what one can appreciate is just how impressively the Annapurna peaks rank among the world’s greats. 

Note: The Annapurna Circuit trek is not the same as the Annapurna Base Camp trek, which is a completely different route and also doesn’t climb nearly as high.

Snowy peaks on the Annapurna Circuit route with Follow Alice

Snowy peaks on the Annapurna circuit route

4. The rain shadow

Much of the Annapurna Circuit route actually passes through a rain shadow, which is an area blocked by a natural feature from receiving rain weather systems. In other words, the monsoons that bring rain to the southern Annapurna are blocked by the mighty mountains from moving any further north. This is why the northern, most elevated part of the circuit route passes through a harsh, desert landscape. 

trekking group in warm clothes on thorung La Pass

No matter when you choose to do the Annapurna circuit trek, Thorung La Pass is always cold!

Why we trek east to west

You might also be interested to know that the reason most trekkers follow the circuit from east to west, rather than the other way around, is that its ascent is more gradual in that direction, thereby allowing for better acclimatisation.

Man in teahouse on Annapurna Circuit route

During the trek we stay in traditional teahouses and lodges, where we also have our meals

5. Cultural diversity

The Nepalese speak more than 92 living languages, consist of more than 10 ethnic groups, and practice several religions, including shamanism and Tibetan Buddhism in the Himalayas. For a small country it can claim immense diversity. And you’ll experience this diversity firsthand on the Annapurna Circuit route.  

The country is split into 77 districts. Most of the actual trekking on the Annapurna trip is done within Manang District, which shares its northern border with Tibet. The last part of the trek, however, takes you through Mustang District. 

As a general rule, the people of the subtropical regions of Annapurna are Hindu in religion and culture. Their history is linked to that of their Indian neighbours to the south. The higher and further north you climb the more likely you are to encounter people of Buddhist faith and tradition. These people are closely aligned to Tibetans in culture and language.

Men relaxing at a tea lodge on the Annapurna Circuit

Our lead trek guide Sonam (red cap) and Pemba, Nygima and Chhiring (left to right) taking a load off after a long day of trekking

Manang and Mustang 

Manang has a small population of around 7,000, making it the least populous district in Nepal. Over half of Manangies speak the Gurung language, a Sino-Tibetan language. Mustang, which lies to the west of Manang, has a larger population (around 14,000), a rich history, and a strong cultural tradition that is being actively preserved. Large portions of the populations in both Manang and Mustang follow Tibetan cultural and religious traditions. There is a Manang Culture Museum in the village of Manang you can visit during your acclimatisation day in the town.

Manangies are also considered to be Nepal’s best traders. In fact, the portion of the Annapurna Circuit route we trek has been used for centuries by Manangies to transport yak and sheep to Mustang. 

Mountains and river in Manang, Annapurna Circuit route

There's lots of greenery along the trail in Manang, but when it enters Mustang, the landscape becomes far more barren

6. It’s tough, but rewarding

While the Annapurna Circuit route route starts by hugging the river, there are many steep ascents and descents in store, so you need a decent level of fitness to conquer the circuit. As we near the mountain pass of Thorung La, there is plenty of climbing. And of course the higher you climb the thinner the air, so things get very tiring, very quickly.

Annapurna Circuit route trail

A section of the Annapurna Circuit where you descend to Ranipauwa

Annapurna Circuit route elevation

The graph below shows the different elevations of the Annapurna Circuit route as trekked by Follow Alice groups. Altitude can become a problem from about 2,500 m (8,000 feet). On the Annapurna trek you climb to a height double that, which is why we take it slowly and work in those all-important acclimatisation days.

Annapurna Circuit route elevation graph

With an elevation of well over 5,000 m above sea level, one has to acclimatise well

In 2015, over 5,000 international tourists trekked the Annapurna Circuit route, according to data from the Tourist Checkpost in Besisahar, a town near the start of the trail. During peak seasons, around 200 trekkers embark on the trail daily. This number drops by more than half during off-peak seasons.

The best times of year to trek the Annapurna Circuit route are October-November, and March-April. This is because monsoon season hits the area from June to September, and the area gets 70% of its rainfall in this period. Rains mean slippery paths, drenched trekkers, and the possibility of landslides and rockfalls. From December to early March, it’s just too darn cold to trek the circuit (though some do, and they’re arguably a bit nutty). 

All that said, this is the Himalayas and it does what it wants, when it wants! So we always go prepared, rain and safety gear ready and waiting.

November is a great trekking month in Annapurna as the rains are gone and the views are sharp. 

Blue skies and snow capped peaks on the Annapurna Circuit route.

The Annapurna Circuit is an incredibly varied and exciting once-in-a-lifetime journey

Map of the Annapurna Circuit route

The original Annapurna Circuit trek takes about two weeks and starts at Besisahar. However, many now choose to trek only the middle portion of the route, which takes you into the highest and most remote parts of the Annapurna mountains. There are a handful reasons for this shortening of the trek. 

Annapurna-Circuit-Map-(Satelite)

 

Firstly, time constraints arising from factors like work leave and finances make it more feasible to take on a truncated trek. Secondly, jeep tracks now connect most of the villages along the circuit save for a few in the highest section. These tracks are a blessing and a curse. The increased accessibility offers heightened economic opportunities and other pros, like a smoother walking route for tired feet and being able to walk abreast of your trekking companions. On the downside, there’s the potential for overcrowding on the trek during peak seasons. Also, trekkers sometimes have to stand aside for the jeeps and are rewarded with dust, fumes and unwanted noise. 

For these reasons we at Follow Alice have decided to offer a shorter version of the original Annapurna Circuit that takes in the truly special and best preserved portions of the route. 

13-day Annapurna Circuit itinerary

The table and infographic below give a breakdown of the 13-day Annapurna Circuit trek as organised by Follow Alice. It begins with your arrival in Kathmandu, so you can know exactly what to expect every day of the trip.

  1. Drive from Kathmandu Airport to Thamel, Kathmandu – 6 km / 4 mi
  2. Drive from Kathmandu to Jagat – 210 km / 130 mi
  3. Drive from Jagat to Lower Pisang – 50 km / 31 miDrive
  4. Trek from Lower Pisang to Manang – 19 km / 12 miTrek
  5. Day hike from Manang to Kicho Tal and back – 3.5 km / 2 mi
  6. Acclimatisation day
  7. Trek from Manang to Yak Kharka – 10 km / 6 mi
  8. Trek from Yak Kharka to Thorung Phedi – 7 km / 4 mi
  9. Trek from Thorung Phedi to Ranipauwa – 13 km / 8 mi
  10. Drive from Ranipauwa to Jomsom – 26 km / 16 mi
  11. Fly from Jomsom to Pokhara – 67 km / 42 mi
  12. Drive from Pokhara to Kathmandu – 204 km / 127 miDrive
Annapurna-Circuit-Route-Map

 

Day 1: Arrive in Kathmandu

Today is simply about arriving in Nepal and making our way to the B&B in Kathmandu as we prepare for an incredible adventure trip of trekking in the Himalayas.

Kathmandu International Airport (KIA) is on the outskirts of the city. Your Follow Alice guide will be waiting at KIA to greet you when you land. As discussed in our blog post Annapurna circuit cost, you might wish to exchange some money for Nepalese rupees while still at the airport. There’s also free wi-fi in the international terminal, so you can let family know you’ve arrived.

Kathmandu has a population of over one million, and sits in a bowl valley. It’s known to many as the City of Temples, a title it deserves as there’s a staggering number of Buddhist and Hindu religious buildings and monuments sprinkled throughout the city. You can expect to hear both Nepali and Nepal Bhasa spoken in Kathmandu. 

Thamel  

The B&B where we’ll all meet up is in Thamel, a busy and fascinating city neighbourhood. 

Depending on where in the world you’re coming from, you may well at this point want to just nosedive into your bed. We’ve all been there. But if you’re not too late in arriving and have the energy to venture out for lunch or dinner, there are many places within easy walking distance. Upmarket or affordable - you can find it all in Thamel. 

If you need to head out to buy a SIM card and data, or hire any equipment for the Annapurna Circuit trek route, then this will be your moment too. 

Thamel street scene, Nepal

A busy Thamel street

Day 2: Drive from Kathmandu to Jagat 

Today we leave Kathmandu for the Annapurna region. We’ll pile into a private, air-conditioned bus and spend the day driving to Jagat, a small valley village near the start of the Annapurna circuit route. Though the ride is long, don’t fret - you’ll be too busy exclaiming over the passing scenery and sights to notice it much. We’ll also stop en route in the town of Besisahar for lunch and a leg stretch. 

  • Start elevation: 1,400 m / 4,593 ft
  • End elevation: 1,410 m / 4,626 ft
  • Drive distance: 210 km / 130 mi
  • Drive time: 8-9 hr
  • Lunch stop: Besisahar

Parts of today’s drive will either strike you as thrilling adventure or send you scratching for rescue drops. Narrow roads with sharp bends and steep drops to the side will keep your nose pressed to the window. The short YouTube video Annapurna Circuit Trek shows you a small section of the Annapurna road, just to give you a sense of the spine-tingling heights. It also shows you just how beautiful the surrounding countryside is.

Besisahar and Jagat

Besisahar, our lunch stop, is a busy town of about 40,000 that has power lines and prayer flags endlessly crisscrossing the streets. Jagat, our stopping point for the day, by contrast, is a modest and quiet valley village with many colourfully painted buildings. The word Jagat means ‘the world’ in Nepali, which is rather beautiful when you think about how the place where you are becomes, in a sense, your world. We think you’ll love making Jagat your home for a spell.

Today you’ll book into your first teahouse. Some have actually called the Annapurna Circuit route the ‘apple pie’ circuit. This is because it’s a relatively round route serviced by teahouses offering home-baked goods. Teahouses are an integral part of any Nepal trek, and a place where you mingle with people from around the world, all with their own interesting backstory as to why and how they came to be trekking there.

 Prayer flags above Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheels

Colourful prayer flags seen in Besisahar on the Annapurna Circuit route

Day 3: Drive from Jagat to Lower Pisang 

Today we take a much shorter drive, one in which we work our way up the Marsyangdi River valley to Lower Pisang. 

  • Start elevation: 1,410 m / 4,62 ft
  • End elevation: 3,200 m / 10,499 ft
  • Drive distance: 50 km / 31 mi
  • Drive time: 4-5 hr
  • Lunch stop: Chame

Chame and Lower Pisang

We stop for lunch mid journey in Chame. The pastel-coloured Buddhist stupa at the entrance to the village is an oft-photographed sight. You approach it by climbing a set of stone steps, then you pass under it to snowy mountains rising steeply in front of you. The hanging bridge that you use to cross the river is also something special, as it’s adorned on both sides with multiple strings of prayer flags, which decorate the Annapurna Circuit route throughout the trek.

Pisang, our overnighting spot, is divided into Lower and Upper Pisang. The former sits, unsurprisingly, down by the river, while Upper Pisang is 100 m above it. The climate is cooler here, with hardier, sparser vegetation.

Woman and waterfall along the Annapurna Circuit route in Nepal

There are great stops along the drive where you can take in the views at leisure

Day 4: Trek from Lower Pisang to Manang

Day 4 is the first day of actual trekking, so it’s an exciting one! We’ll start early, as we have many kilometres to cover. The views will 100% blow you away.

  • Start elevation: 3,200 m / 10,499 ft
  • End elevation: 3,519 m / 11,545 ft
  • Trek distance: 19 km / 12 mi
  • Trek time: 5-6 hr
  • Lunch stop: Manang

We start the day by climbing to Upper Pisang. You’ll get the chance to run your hand along the sequence of carved, copper prayer wheels that are part of the Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Wheel Wall. This has become something or a rite of passage along the Annapurna circuit route. We’ll then make our way to Upper Pisang Viewpoint, which stands at 3,800 m (12, 467 ft), for a glorious view of the mountains.

Trekkers on the Annapurna Circuit route

One of the things we love about our treks are the bonds that you quickly forge with your fellow trekkers

Day 5: Day hike from Manang to Kicho Tal and back

Today is about acclimatising. We accordingly hike up to Kicho Tal, then drop back down to Manang for another night. We do this in keeping with the adage ‘trek high, sleep low’, as doing so helps the body to acclimatise. 

  • Start elevation: 3,519 m / 11,545 ft
  • Kicho Tal elevation: 4,620 m / 15,157 ft
  • Trek distance: 3.5 km / 2 mi
  • Trek time: 5-6 hr
  • Lunch: Packed lunch

Kicho Tal

The word tal means ‘lake’ and kicho means ‘frozen’ or ‘ice’. So today we’ll hike up to the Ice Lakes, which are among the highest in Nepal. Because Kicho Tal is high above the main Annapurna Circuit route, many trekkers give it a skip. Silly, silly. The lakes are pristine and reflect the towering mountains beautifully on a clear day. Sitting on the shore you feel intensely the isolation of the spot.

Annapurna Crcuit route trekkers

Sarah leads the pack along a contour path typical of the Annapurna Circuit route

Day 6: Visit the Himalayan Rescue Association Clinic

While trekking in the Himalayas, it is essential to acclimatise slowly and steadily which is why today is another acclimatisation day. That certainly doesn’t mean doing nothing, unless of course that’s the vibe you’re feeling. Far be it for us to deprive you of a day on the terrace with your novel. But should you feel like venturing forth, we have a great outing in store, namely visiting the Himalayan Rescue Association. A perk of this outing: no backpack is required, as you’re staying within Manang. 

Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA) Nepal

The HRA is an incredibly important body. Its mandate is to both treat AMS victims and prevent the illness through education. According to the Journal of Wilderness Medicine, the non-profit has significantly lowered the numbers of casualties since its inception. 

The HRA has two aid posts. The first is Pheriche, Khumbu, in eastern Nepal. Established in 1973, it serves Everest Base Camp trekkers. The second aid post is in Manang. Established in 1981, it serve Annapurna Base Camp and Annapurna Circuit trekkers.

This acclimatisation day is also an ideal time for any tasks that have piled up or you haven’t yet found time for, from an essential bit of laundry to journalling your experience of the Annapurna Circuit route so far, cloud-watching, sketching, meditating, or sitting down for that important rummy rematch. It's entirely up to you.

Horse Annapurna Circuit route

The Annapurna Circuit route is an ancient trading route

Day 7: Trek from Manang to Yak Kharka

Our bodies have acclimatised and we’ll resume our ascent today. The going won’t be easy, as we’ll be climbing above 4,000 m. The Annapurna Circuit route has its challenges of course, but they are completely worth it!

  • Start elevation: 3,519 m / 11,545 ft
  • Kicho Tal elevation: 4,018 m / 13,182 ft
  • Trek distance: 10 km / 6 mi
  • Trek time: 5-6 hr
  • Lunch stop: Yak Kharka

Manang and Yak Kharka

The trail from Manang to Yak Kharka takes us through scrubland and offers amazing panoramas. Be on the lookout for goats and cattle, as the sparse vegetation makes them easy to spot even when far off. We’ll also see more of the beautiful, traditional stone homes of the region, with their flat roofs and prayer flag poles.

Girl trekking along path of Annapurna Circuit route in Nepal

Sometimes you get great weather and it's pretty warm, even high up in the mountains

Day 8: Trek from Yak Kharka to Thorung Phedi

Today we’ll ascend slowly up the Thorong Khola valley to Thorung Phedi. During the trek we’ll cross a large suspension bridge over Jarsang River, which is a memorable moment. By the end of the day our elevation will have increased by another 500 m, so you can expect to huff and puff during the trek from the dwindling oxygen. 

The Annapurna Circuit route would be incomplete without the streaky cliff faces, slate-coloured scree, and the snowy ridges and peaks that today has in store for us. Or perhaps the view will be an intimate one of just the nearest slope and then a pale grey wall of mist. At times the trail is nothing but a thin line etched into the side of smooth mountainside that sweeps steeply down to a boulder-filled stream.

  • Start elevation: 4,018 m / 13,182 ft
  • End elevation: 4,540 m / 14,895 ft
  • Trek distance: 7 km / 4 mi
  • Trek time: 4-5 hr
  • Lunch stop: Thorong Phedi

Thorung Phedi

Thorung Phedi is a small settlement surrounded by soaring cliff faces. It has a handful simple, stone Buddhist chortens or stupas, with prayer flags linking the tops. 

View of snow-capped peaks on the Annapurna mountain range

View of snow-capped peaks on the Annapurna mountain range

Day 9: Trek from Thorung Phedi to Ranipauwa

Today is a special day, because we reach the highest point of the entire Annapurna Circuit route: Thorung La, which is the pass between the mountains Khatung Kang and Yakawa Kang. Expect pink cheeks that evening from plentiful blasts of Himalayan air.

After Thorung La we climb steeply down to the village of Ranipauwa, a descent of 1,500 m!

  • Start elevation: 4,540 m / 14,895 ft
  • Thorung La elevation: 5,416 m / 17,769 ft
  • End elevation: 4,018 m / 13,182 ft
  • Trek distance: 13 km / 8 mi
  • Trek time: 6-7 hr
  • Lunch: Packed lunch

Thorung La, Ranipauwa and Muktinath

Thorung La is the high point - physically and metaphorically - of the Annapurna Circuit route. It’s marked in the same way as Nepal’s famous base camps, with a congratulatory sign and an agglomeration of prayer flags. 

This trip was an amazing insight into the culture and landscape of the Annapurna region - with the added physical challenge of crossing Thorung La!

– Matt Hawkins

Ranipauwa, our pitstop for the night, was once part of the Kingdom of Mustang. Note that people often talk about visiting Muktinath when in fact they mean Ranipauwa. Muktinath, near to Ranipauwa, is actually a Vishnu temple, and one of the highest temples in the world. Muktinath is very important to both Buddhists and Hindus, and is a site of pilgrimage. Hindus believe the temple marks the spot where Lord Vishnu was saved from the curse of Brinda. There are two holy kunda (baths) in the temple complex which pilgrims can enter to cleanse themselves spiritually. 

Annapurna Circuit route and lone trekker

Starting the long descent from Thorung La to Ranipauwa ...

Day 10: Drive from Ranipauwa to Jomson

If your knees are wobbly from descending 1.5 vertical kilometres the day before, the good news is that you’ll be able to park off for a few hours today when we drive to the town of Jomsom. 

  • Start elevation: 3,800 m / 12,467 ft
  • End elevation: 2,743 m / 8,999 ft
  • Drive distance: 26 km / 16 mi
  • Drive time: 3-4 hr
  • Lunch stop: Kagbeni

Kagbeni and Jomsom

Today we’ll pass through Kagbeni, a mediaeval riverside village of narrow alleys and stone and mud homes. Kagbeni is also home to the pink- and orange-walled Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling Gompa, which we’re told roughly translates as Monastery of the Place to Stop and Develop Concentration on the Teachings of Lord Buddha. The monastery was founded in 1429 and is a must see. (It charges a small entrance fee of about €2.)  

Jomsom is a riverside town in the Kali Gandaki Gorge, the world’s deepest gorge! The Kali Gandaki River has its source to the north near the Tibetan border. It’s a tributary of the larger Gandaki River, which in turn flows into the famous Ganges River. 

Jomsom Nepal, Annapurna Circuit route

Jomsom sits on the floor of Kali Gandaki Gorge

Day 11: Fly from Jomsom to Pokhara 

Today we board a small plane in Jomsom and take a short flight to Pokhara, Nepal's second most populous city, and a beautiful one too. 

  • Start elevation: 2,743 m / 8,999 ft
  • End elevation: 1,400 m / 4,593 ft
  • Flight distance: 67 km / 42 mi
  • Flight time: 20 min
  • Lunch: Pokhara

On the 20-minute flight we fly through Kali Gandaki Gorge. On the east you have the Annapurna mountains and on the west you have the Dhaulagiri mountains (with Dhaulagiri I reaching 8,167 m!). 

Given the height of the mountains, our flight threads through the gorge, with mountains towering above the small airplane on each side. 

The only place planes fly to from Jomsom is Pokhara, as it’s the only place they essentially can fly to! This is a rare plane ride you won’t soon forget.

Pokhara lies on the banks of beautiful Phewa Lake, and has many attractions. You might, for starters, enjoy visiting the International Mountain Museum which showcases the history of mountaineering as well as the people groups living in the Himalayas. Or you might just wish to take a stroll along the lake shore. There’s a two-storey pagoda called Tal Barahi Temple that’s used for worship by Hindus on an island in Phewa Lake, and you can rent canoes to take out on the lake.

Jomsom Airport, Annapurna Circuit route, Nepal

Jomsom Airport

Day 12: Drive from Pokhara to Kathmandu 

On Day 12 we’ll pile once again into our private bus and chug on back to Kathmandu, where we’ll check in at the Yatri Suites and Spa. 

  • Start elevation: 1,400 m / 4,593 ft
  • End elevation: 1,400 m / 4,593 ft
  • Drive distance: 204 km / 127 mi
  • Drive time: 6-7 hr
  • Lunch stop: En route

Yatri Suites and Spa, as you already know, is an upmarket hotel in Thamel that has a restaurant, pizzeria, bar and spa. If you have the energy - and we think you will! - there are some great attractions a hop and skip away, such as:

  • The recently renovated and beautiful Garden of Dreams, an historic garden built in 1920 that is 250 m from the hotel and has an entrance fee of just Rs 200 (€1.62)
  • Kathmandu Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is located in front of the old royal palace and is just 1.6 km from the hotel
  • The ancient Swayambhunath temple complex, with its famous gold-topped stupa, which is 2.4 km from the hotel and has an entrance fee of Rs 200
Paragliders over Phewa Lake and Pokhara, Nepal, Annapurna Circuit route

Paragliders take in the view over Pokhara and Phewa Lake

Day 13: Depart Nepal

After an unforgettable journey trekking in the Himalayas, today is goodbye day. We do, however, suspect you’ll have made some good friends you’ll be planning to meet up with somewhere in the world at some point. If you have some spare time before your flight, you could check out some of the local attractions already mentioned.

Note that there’s a post office in Kathmandu International Airport, so should you wish to send postcards or letters with a Nepali stamp, here’s your moment.

Nepal prayer fla

Tibetan prayer flags can be seen strung up all over Nepal

And so, with all the above details of the Annapurna Circuit route laid before you, we rest our case. We’ve done our best to persuade you that the trek is unique, fascinating, beautiful, nicely challenging, and immensely rewarding. We feel pretty sure that trekking the Annapurna Circuit is now firmly on your bucket list. 😄

 

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