The mighty Annapurna Himal, nearly 25 miles (40km) across and with nine massive peaks, virtually bisects the vast 2,945-sq-mile (7,629-sq-km) Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA) which has long been home to some of the country’s most popular treks.
Its benchmark route is the strenuous Annapurna Circuit, traditionally a 2 to 3-week extravaganza with a very high pass and an incredible range of scenery. The shorter Annapurna Base Camp trek takes hikers into the heart of the amphitheatre-like Annapurna Sanctuary, while the little-visited (and once quasi-independent) region of Mustang, a Buddhist area adjoining Tibet, hosts the wonderful Mustang Trek, essentially a spur off the main Circuit up to the old walled town of Lo Manthang.
Other shorter and far less demanding treks include Poon Hill, west of Pokhara, and the Siklis and Royal Treks north and east of Pokhara. Adjoining the ACA, the Manaslu Conservation Area and its classic 2-week Manaslu Circuit trek looks set to become increasingly popular with its fantastic scenery and varied terrain and culture.
An added incentive to venture into the Annapurna region are the luxury lodges operated by the firm Ker & Downey. Dotted at half-day intervals around the Conservation Area, each overlooks pretty, slate-roofed mountain villages and enjoys fabulous views of the snow peaks. The rooms are beautifully furnished with comfy beds, traditional textiles and down quilts warmed each evening with hot water bottles, and each also has its own en-suite bathroom.