Tailor-made Tour 16 days from £3095 per person
Places Visited: Kathmandu, Pokhara, Ghandruk, Tadapani, Bayali, Khopra, Swatha, Mohare Danda, Nagi, Baskharka, Pokhara, Kathmandu
Rising abruptly from the foothills above Pokhara, the snow-capped Annapurna range of central Nepal offers the easiest access to the high Himalayas.
‘Easy’ is, of course, a relative term. The network of paved pathways you follow to penetrate this roadless region are rarely level and frequently long and steep, climbing from deep river valleys through semi-tropical rice terraces, rhododendron forests and farming villages to high ridges that can see snowfall at any time of year.
The rewards for the effort are some of the most astounding views on the planet. Lined up along the near horizon are a phalanx of giant ice peaks rising to over 8,000m (26,000ft). The high points of the so-called ‘Annapurna Circuit’ (a collective term for the various round routes that may be followed in the area) offer a grandstand view of these beautiful summits, at their most ethereal when the sun’s first rays turn their tops molten orange at dawn.
The combination of relative accessibility and the warm, genuine hospitality of the mountain people whose villages you visit en route have made this part of the country one of the most popular trekking destinations in the world. Our route, however, follows much less travelled tracks, some of which have only recently been opened to foreign tourists. It also includes nights at two high, community-run lodges from where, weather permitted, you’ll be treated to among the finest panoramas the country has to offer.
Book-ending the trek are stays in Nepal’s atmospheric capital, Kathmandu, and its second city, Pokhara, where you can combine a spot of rest and relaxation with shopping for handicrafts and Himalayan curios.
Active Holidays Landscape & Nature Holidays
Fly overnight from the UK to Kathmandu.
On arrival in the Nepali capital you’ll be met by your driver and guide and escorted to your hotel, where you’ll be staying for a couple of nights. Spend the remainder of the day recovering from your journey, perhaps venturing out for an acclimatizing walk around the local neighbourhood at sunset time. Supper will be in a restaurant serving traditional Nepali cuisine.
Forming the heartland of Nepal is a lush, fertile valley that has been a centre of sophisticated urban civilization for more than 2,500 years. At its centre lies the capital, Kathmandu, whose medieval core retains an unparalleled wealth of palaces, monasteries and temples. The architecture is fabulous, the many and varied cultures of its people compelling and the Himalayas quite literally, on the horizon – as you’ll have seen in dramatic fashion on your approach to the city’s airport!
After supper you’ll meet with your guide to discuss sightseeing options for the following day.
Enjoy a day of varied exploration in the capital today, starting with the mighty stupa at Boudhanath, on the outskirts, followed by the nearby Pashupatinath temple. After lunch, head across town to visit Durbar Square.
A sprawling modern city of over a million inhabitants, Kathmandu can feel overwhelmingly crowded and chaotic on first impression. But head for its ancient core, where the Shah and Malla kings erected their resplendently gilded stupas, palaces and carved wood pagodas, and things improve dramatically. Durbar Square forms the epicentre of this superbly atmospheric quarter. More than fifty temples, 106 monastery courtyards (bahals) and countless shrines line its narrow, cobbled backstreets. Settle on to one of the terraced platforms of the Manju Devul tower to watch exotic bustle of marigold sellers, saffron-clad sadhus, stray cows and pigeons.
On the northeast fringes of the city, Boudanath is Nepal’s largest stupa. The distinctive painted eyes on its flank and strings of prayer flags fluttering from its spectacularly gilded tower have made the monument the most iconic in the country. It stands at the terminus of the ancient trade route from Tibet – the last place of worship for travellers arriving in Kathmandu from Lhasa. Today, the area around the stupa serves as an important enclave for Tibetan refugees.
Not far from Boudanath on the banks of the Bagmati River to the east of Kathmandu is Pashupatinath, Nepal’s holiest Shiva temple. Hindus from across the country converge here during important festivals, when the cremation ghats in front of the shrine are illuminated by hundreds of flickering butter lamps. Dreadlocked sadhus smoking hashish pipes, musicians play devotional songs, and orange-robed priests perform ‘aarti’ provide great photo opportunities.
KATHMANDU - POKHARA
An early start will be required today for the long (7-hour) drive west to Pokhara, Nepal’s second city, which sits at the foot of the Annapurna mountains beside a glassy lake. If desired, you can break the journey midway at Bandipur, a hilltop village boasting a spectacular view of the Himalayas.
Newari traders from the Kathmandu Valley established Bandipur as a hub on the Indo-Tibet road in the late-18th century, bringing with them the rich architectural heritage which endures in the town to this day. Bypassed by the main Pokhara–Kathmandu highway, its core of brick and wood shop-houses and temple, beautifully embellished with traditional metal work and wood carving, has remained miraculously unsullied by concrete. Moreover, superb views of the distant Himalaya are to be had from hilltop viewpoints around the town, reached via easy trails through the surrounding terraced fields and forests.
You’ll reach Pokhara towards the end of the afternoon. Lying 198km west of the capital along the Prithvi Highway, it owes its popularity to the magical view of Machapuchare (‘Fish Tail’) reflected in the waters of the adjacent Phewa Tal lake. Soak up this famous icy profile from a comfy café terrace on the lakeshore, or from the water on an evening boat cruise.
Pokhara - Ghandruk
Drive to Nayapul (1hr 45mins) after breakfast to begin your trek. The route follows the course of a spectacular valley northwards via old paved pathways and culminates with your first close-up view of the Annapurna snow peaks.
Today’s trekking is nearly all uphill, following long flights of stone steps that cut between the switchbacks of a jeep track, but the route keeps to a gradual incline and is shaded by trees for some of the way. Ghandruk (1940m) is a sizeable Gurung village, beautifully situated with panoramic views of the snow peaks, including the Annapurnas, Gangapurna, Mansulu and Machapuchare (‘FishTail’). Lunch will be in one of the rustic tea shops that punctuate the walk.
Rise early to catch the sunrise ‘alpenglow’ on the mountains, then set off at first light through lush forest and terraced mountainsides towards Tadapani, reached after around five hours.
A relatively easy day today as you traverse the valley, cross a stream and begin a gradual ascent to Tadapani village, where you’ll be spending the night in a trekking lodge. This part of the route follows a leg of the popular Poon Hill trek, so you’ll probably pass plenty of fellow trekkers on the trail today.
Another mostly uphill day walking today takes you off the beaten track the hilltop village of Bayali, which nestles in lush greenery.
A day with two distinct halves, as you descend the valley to river level, then cross a bridge to begin a sustained ascent in the afternoon to the highest point on this trek, the Khopra Danda ridge (3,660m/12,000ft), from where a magnificent view of the nearby ice peaks is revealed.
Accommodation tonight will be in the Khopra Danda community lodge, a large, stone-walled building high on the ridgetop. It faces an astounding 360-degree panorama that takes in the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna ranges.
You’ll be woken before dawn for the greatest spectacle of this trek, sunrise from Khopra Danda ridge. Watch the first rays illuminate the great snow-capped mountains surrounding the lodge – a magical spectacle. Later, set off along the trail you followed the previous day, only heading down instead of uphill.
Six to seven hours on the trail today will end at the village of Swatha (one of the few settlements in this region on level ground) where you’ll spend the night in a comfortable trekking lodge.
Much of today’s 7-hr walk crosses dense rhododendron forest, with occasional clumps of bamboo and oak. Occasional glimpses of the Machapuchare, Dhaulagiri and Annapurna South peaks occur through the branches and leaves. Lunch will be a picnic by a stream.
Mohare Danda (3,300m) sits on a hilltop midway between the Dhaulagiris and Annapurnas, offering fine views of both across the world’s deepest gorge. You’ll be spending the night in another well run community lodge.
Another early alarm call starts today in order to catch the superb view from Mohare Danda at sunrise. Later, the onwards path descends through rocky-floored forest to the day’s halt, the lodge at Nagi village, reached after 4–5hrs. Spend the afternoon enjoying the mountain air and idyllic surroundings.
Following paths through terraces of rice and millet, you descend in the morning against a dramatic backdrop of high mountains to the village of Baskhara, where marigolds grow in profusion. Spend the final evening of your trek enjoying the warm hospitality in a local homestay.
An hour’s easy downhill walking after breakfast takes you to the roadhead at Beni, where your car and driver will be waiting to whisk you back to Pokhara. You’ll arrive around mid-afternoon. Spend the remainder of the day relaxing in one of the cafés by the lakeshore or shopping for local handicrafts in the bazaar.
Return to Kathmandu by car today.
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK.
Tailor-made Tour 16 days from £3095 per person
✓ International flights from UK
✓ 13 nights accommodation
✓ All road travel and transfers with private chauffeur-driven vehicles
✓ English-speaking guides
✓ Breakfast daily
✓ Full board during the trek, one dinner and one lunch in Kathmandu
✓ Entrance fees to sites and monuments listed in tour itinerary
Places and Experiences in this tour
Trekking of the beaten path in the Annapurnas
Nepal’s magnificent Annapurna Region is renowned for trekking, lined as it is by awe-inspiring mountains, dramatic valleys and open plains – not to mention the occasional hilltop ...
Walking & Trekking in Nepal
The Annapurna region in the west and Everest region in the east are Nepal’s principal trekking areas, attracting walkers from across the world in spring and autumn, when visibilit...
The Annapurna Region
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) whi...
Kathmandu is the beating heart of Nepal and the centre of its history, art, and culture. A thriving city of over a million people, it can both overwhelm and intrigue in equal meas...
Another memorable trip out of Kathmandu is the one to Boudhanath, whose whitewashed stupa, with its trademark piercing eyes and strings of prayer flags fluttering from a spectacul...
Not far from Boudhanath, on the banks of the Bagmati River to the east of Kathmandu stands Pashupatinath, Nepal’s holiest Shiva temple. Hindus from across the country converge her...
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