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.