• ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREK

    Sunrise hitting the Annapurna Mountains in Nepal
  • ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT

    Sunrise hitting the Annapurna Mountains in Nepal

ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREK

The Annapurna Circuit is one of Nepal’s big name treks. Encircling the gleaming bulk of the Annapurna Massif, it has attracted adventurers for many decades. Opened to foreign trekkers in 1977 – just twelve years after the country’s first commercial trek – the circuit has been voted the world’s best long-distance trek. In its original form it took around three weeks, covering a diverse range of landscapes from tropical valleys to the bitterly cold Thorong La. The changing environment and scenery was matched by the varied culture, from low lying Hindu villages to high altitude Tibetan settlements.

However, much has changed in the past forty years, and indeed, even more in the past ten. Development has quickened and roads have cut deep into the region, changing the face of this mountain landscape and altering the nature of the trek. But, there is much yet to see and experience on the Annapurna Circuit – the mountains are still there, as is the intriguing  cultural diversity, and the New Annapurna Trekking Trails (NATT) divert you off the road at every opportunity. It’s important to accept the trek for what it is today, adapt your itinerary to match, and plan accordingly. Through our own fault and outlook, that’s something we often failed to do. When we take on the AC again, there’s a lot we’ll do differently.

What follows is an account of our own experience, along with daily details on distances, times, elevation and accommodation. For a great way to get a sense of the landscape, every day has a short Relive* video (links in the daily info boxes). And to get a full appreciation of what the trek is like, be sure to watch our Annapurna Circuit Instagram Stories and our video below.

Fancy trekking the Annapurna Circuit yourself? Read our complete guide for everything you need to know.

*The Relive for Day 2 is a bit wild at one point where the GPS signal went crazy

WATCH THE VIDEO

TREKKING THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT

On the second part of our extended Nepal adventure, we joined the Annapurna Circuit at Dharapani. After a memorable twelve days trekking the Manaslu Circuit, we were excited to see what this next stage had to offer. We expected the Annapurna Circuit trek to be busier, but beyond that we had little more than vague notions and scraps of information from half remembered accounts. Unusually for us, we’d done precious little research. Needing a guide for both Manaslu and Upper Mustang (part three), we’d organised one for the entire duration of our trek, the expectation being that we’d be able to rely on his knowledge, experience and expertise. So, we went in blind, but with no shortage of anticipation for the days ahead.

A note on distances and times. Distances are approximate and often rounded to the nearest kilometre. Total time is the time it took from leaving in the morning to arriving at our destination and includes lunch and other stops. Walking time is the time we were moving but includes time taking photos and shooting video. For your reference, we tend to be on the slower side of average.

Read through our account day by day, or jump to a particular section by clicking on the links below

ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREKKING MAP

Our Annapurna Circuit Trek itinerary, with overnight stops and key points marked along the way. You can also download this map for offline use with Maps.me. Be sure to download the Maps.Me app first (iOS/Android). Tap the menu button at the top left for more details, to toggle layers on and off, and to switch between satellite and terrain view. You can save this Google map by tapping the star.


ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREK: DAY 1
~
DHARAPANI – CHAME

ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREK

DAY 1

DHARAPANI – CHAME

DISTANCE

16 km

ELEVATION

1860 – 2670 m

TIME

6 hours 30 minutes (total)

5 hours (walking)

ACCOMMODATION

Hotel Monalisa
Twin Room w/bathroom
500 NPR


Our first day on the Annapurna Circuit.

Entering the Annapurna Conservation Area the day before, we’d already seen a big change in our surroundings: the kind of forest, the villages, the width of the trails. We were interested to see how this trek would compare, not just to the Manaslu Circuit, but also to our previous experiences trekking to Annapurna Base Camp in 2010 and 2012.

Unfortunately, the sad fact, for trekkers at least, is that much of the journey between Dharapani and Chame is on dirt roads. There are some interesting sections where the route goes off-road, notably when the forested trail climbs tall stone steps to reach Timang, and on the trekking path through Thanchowk, but largely, it’s a day of road walking.

The morning sun warmed us as we left Dharapani, full of anticipation for the days ahead. At first the road walking wasn’t a bother, but by the time we’d passed through Bagarchap and Danque, we were ready for a proper trail. Leaving the switchback road we entered the forest and climbed to Timang, enjoying the atmosphere among the lush vegetation. At Timang we appreciated open mountain views among the busy guesthouses there, the place buzzing from the many trekkers stopping for drinks or an early lunch. On the outskirts of Thanchowk, we soon stopped for lunch ourselves, eating in the sunny garden of a roadside lodge – a fine double helping of Dal Bhat as usual.

Dal Bhat on a faded plastic floral table cover on the Annapurna Circuit Trek

A tasty Dal Bhat with veg, pickle and papad – ingredients we’d missed at higher altitude on the Manaslu Circuit Trek



Dal Bhat on a faded plastic floral table cover on the Annapurna Circuit Trek

Dal Bhat with veg, pickle and papad – ingredients
missed at higher altitude on the Manaslu Circuit



Almost immediately after lunch the trail led us off-road again, this time through characterful Thanchowk, where traditional stone houses with slate roofs crowded the path and locals went about their daily tasks. From the village we kicked up dust heading down to the stream, crossed a short suspension bridge, and climbed steeply through the trees. Far too soon we were back on the road. Try as we might to stay positive, the featureless trail sapped our energy and killed our mood. Even the impressive cliffs rising on the other side of the icy blue Marsyangdi couldn’t save it for us. The road journey trundled on, punctuated by a brief stop in Koto to get permits checked. By the time we reached Chame, we were definitely ready to be done.

Trekkers sit for lunch in the garden of a teahouse, with cloud topped mountains in the background

The trekking trail leaves the road, skirts a few guesthouses, and leads towards the village of Thanchowk



Trekkers sit for lunch in the garden of a teahouse, with cloud topped mountains in the background

The trekking trail leaves the road and
leads towards the village of Thanchowk



Chame is a sizeable town as these things go, the administrative centre of the area. Aside from local homes and municipal buildings, there are lots of guesthouses, a fair few shops, and even a pharmacy of sorts. We got a decent room with an attached bathroom on the top floor of the Hotel Monalisa. Our door opened onto the rooftop giving us commanding views over town and a convenient place to hang our washing. Downstairs, the dining room was a throwback to an old hotel from a Miss Marple episode, or somewhere your granny would go for high tea. On a wander to the nearby shops we got extra Snickers at Kathmandu prices, picked up some diamox from the local pharmacy, and secured Kim some thick wool socks for bed.

A trekker looks at what is on offer in a store in the town of Chame on the Annapurna Circuit Trek

Chame has chocolate bars at Kathmandu prices, as well as a wide range of gear if you find there’s something extra you need



A trekker looks at what is on offer in a store in the town of Chame on the Annapurna Circuit Trek

Chame has chocolate bars at Kathmandu prices,
as well as a wide range of gear and miscellaneous
items if you find there’s something extra you need



As the day wore on it rained heavily, so we cozied up in the old dining room with copious cups of tea, set up various batteries to charge, chatted with fellow trekkers, and waited for dinner.

THE ESSENTIAL ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREKKING GUIDE

ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREK: DAY 2
~
CHAME – DHUKUR POKHARI

ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREK

DAY 2

CHAME – DHUKUR POKHARI

DISTANCE

12 km

ELEVATION

2670 – 3200 m

TIME

4 hours 30 minutes (total)

3 hours 30 minutes (walking)

ACCOMMODATION

Kamala Hotel
Twin Room (shared bathroom)
500 NPR


A day of roads, mountain scenery and changing plans.

Apart from a few forested sections, most of the journey is on gravel roads, although the mountain views continue to improve as the valley widens. Bhratang is a popular place for a mid morning stop, a high density apple farm with an accompanying fancy hotel/hostel and a cafe selling good coffee, sweet pastries, and of course, apples. The distance between Chame and Dhukur Pokhari is relatively short and can be covered in a morning. Most people stop in Dhukur Pokhari for lunch and move on to stay at Upper or Lower Pisang, but it’s also a good place to have a quiet evening and ensure a less crowded trail in the morning.

We left Chame as the morning sun cast a beautiful light over the town’s rough cobbled streets, creating dreamlike silhouettes among the swirling smoke from chimneys and burning braziers. Shop fronts (small windows) selling the local fried bread and boiled eggs were already open.  Residents and trekkers alike walked the streets. Dogs appeared at regular intervals as we passed by, standing guard like sentinels outside their respective buildings.

We crossed the Marsyangdi on a metal footbridge overrun with prayer flags, and just like that, Chame’s spell was broken. The road started as soon as we crossed, and but for a few pleasant forest sections, we were on it for a couple of hours. A bit of a slog but the sight of some impressive waterfalls took the edge off.

A person crosses a metal footbridge draped with countless prayer flags on the Annapurna Circuit Trek

Crossing the bridge outside of Chame, prayer flags catching the early morning light



A person crosses a metal footbridge draped with countless prayer flags on the Annapurna Circuit Trek

Crossing the bridge outside of Chame,
prayer flags catching the morning light



Those first two hours took us to Bhratang. The new looking roadside coffee shop was doing a roaring trade, most people getting takeaway from the glass fronted A-frame building and sitting outside on benches in the huge courtyard. It seemed like everyone on the trail (a lot of people) had stopped for coffee, cakes and apples – imagine a busy day at a popular national park. Everything was top notch and no one left disappointed.

We continued up and round the winding gravelly road, under an overhanging rock that had clearly been blasted through.

Trekkers walking under a rocky overhang, blasted to make a trail on the Annapurna Circuit trek

Continuing up the road from the apple farm at Bhratang



Trekkers walking under a rocky overhang, blasted to make a trail on the Annapurna Circuit trek

Continuing up the road from Bhratang



Bored by the road but boosted by the coffee and sugar, we made up silly songs*. Mine was a deep toned dirge:

Pounding, pounding the road
Carrying, my heavy load
Walking, walking on gravel
My mind, starting to unravel

Pounding, pounding the road
Carrying, my heavy load
Walking, walking on gravel
My mind, starting to unravel

Kim’s rap was a bit more upbeat:

I was walkin’ down the road one afternoon
When suddenly there was an apple farm
And I was like, BOOM!
Applelicious, Applelicious

Was walkin’ down the road one afternoon
When suddenly there was an apple farm
And I was like, BOOM!
Applelicious, Applelicious

You get the picture. We did get some fantastic views of the Annapurnas looking behind, and climbed up a pleasantly sun dappled forest path on one of the NATT trails.

*Check out our Instagram Stories for the live renditions

Trekkers rest at a makeshift refreshment hut on the forest trail up towards Dhukur Pokhari on the Annapurna Circuit trek

Trekkers rest at a makeshift refreshment hut on the forest trail up towards Dhukur Pokhari



Trekkers rest at a makeshift refreshment hut on the forest trail up towards Dhukur Pokhari on the Annapurna Circuit trek

Trekkers rest at a makeshift refreshment hut
on the forest trail up towards Dhukur Pokhari



Back on the road and approaching Dhukur Pokhari, the towering rock face swept round before us in a huge concave turn. It was like the curve on a NASCAR racetrack or cycling velodrome, only made for giants.

The sun was shining as we reached the village and entered the large courtyard of ‘Disneyland’ – so named by Kim for its garishly bold, freshly painted colours. Everywhere was buzzing, guesthouses churning out food for the lunch crowd.

The plan had been to go to Lower Pisang, but the Dal Bhat was great and we had a good feeling about the place, so we talked it over, checked the room, and decided to stay.

A serving of classic Nepali dish dal bhat on a brass plate, sitting on a peach coloured wooden table

Couldn’t resist another Dal Bhat photo, especially with that brass plate and the perfect pinky/peach background



A serving of classic Nepali dish dal bhat on a brass plate, sitting on a peach coloured wooden table

Couldn’t resist another Dal Bhat photo, especially
with that brass plate and the perfect background



Stopping early gave us time to power through our Manaslu Circuit laundry build up, get a super hot gas shower, and still have time to rest and relax in the cozy dining room. I even had time for a haircut.

Laundry hanging outside the rooms of the garishly coloured Kamala Hotel in Dhukur Pokhari on the Annapurna Circuit Trek

Laundry drying on the handy washing line at the Kamala Hotel. It was cold but thankfully a good breeze helped things along



Laundry hanging outside the rooms of the garishly coloured Kamala Hotel in Dhukur Pokhari on the Annapurna Circuit Trek

Laundry drying on the washing line. The afternoon
turned cold but thankfully a good breeze helped out



As the day wound down we waved in a Canadian father and daughter who we’d met on the Manaslu Circuit, and soon after they waved in a Dutch family who they had met on the trail. The Dutch were three: parents who’d first trekked the Annapurna Circuit nearly thirty years before and their twenty-something son.

We spent a fine evening chatting away, but also managed to formulate new plans for the coming days. Our guide had been leading us to Lower Pisang, but the Dutch were planning on taking the high trail to Ngawal via Upper Pisang and Ghyaru, and the more we talked and pored over the maps, the more it seemed like this was the place to be.

Clouds swirl around a sweeping concave mountainside at Dhukur Pokhari on the Annapurna Circuit Trek

Dark clouds forming among the sloping, curved mountainside as night draws in



Clouds swirl around a sweeping concave mountainside at Dhukur Pokhari on the Annapurna Circuit Trek

Dark clouds forming among the sloping,
curved mountainside as night draws in



With our plan settled, we headed to bed with newfound enthusiasm and went to sleep in the best room yet, drifting off with the comforting smell of fresh pine lingering in the air.

More Hiking & Trekking Adventures

On an afternoon of bright light and deep shadow, a hiking couple stand on the rocky summit of Sgurr na Stri (one of the best hikes on Skye) overlooking the length of Loch Coruisk as it lies cradled amongst the sharp peaks of the Black Cuillin
Featured image for the Everest Base Camp trek guide, featuring a trekker walking on a rocky trail with mountain peaks in the distance
With Ama Dablam as a backdrop, a trekker and guide stop to enjoy the views while doing the Nangkartshang acclimatisation hike on the Everest Three Passes trek
A hiker and guide cross a flat, rocky section before Kongma La on the Everest Three Passes trek, with the snowy ridgeline to the east visible behind
A trekker and guide climbing the snow covered slope towards Laurebina Pass (4650 m), with the blue surface of Gosainkunda shining in the morning sun below
Snow covered guesthouses reflected in the bright blue waters of Gosainkunda
Trekkers enjoying mountain views and a well earned rest atop Kyanjin Ri (4586 m) in the Langtang Valley
Snowy mountain view with colourful prayer flags in the foreground, seen from the first Kyanjin Ri viewpoint (4300 m) on the Langtang Valley trek
Featured image for 'What to Pack for Trekking in Nepal', featuring trekkers, guides and porters crossing a suspension bridge on the Everest Base Camp route
A woman hiking with backpack and poles in front of a glacier wall
Backpacking Camping Gear Featured Image
A hiker trekking in Georgia, descending the rocky shale slope from Atsunta pass and heading towards the green valleys of Tusheti below
A walker on the old military road among the dramatic mountain scenery of the Lairigmor, a real highlight of the West Highland Way
A scene of the mountains and lakes of the Geghama Range in Armenia
A view of Buachaille Etive Mor on the West Highland Way
A hiker stands reflected in Udziro Lake, looking at the distant peak Shkhara
A white horse grazing on the grassy slopes of Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
Two hikers traverse the grassy ridge on Day 2 of the Panorama Trail
A view of Tetnuldi peak from Latpari Pass on the Ushguli to Chvelpi hike
The twin peaks of Ushba and Chatyn-Tau, seen from the trail on Day 2 of the Mestia to Ushguli trek in Svaneti, Georgia
A hiker on the steep final approach to Gul Pass, on the Chuberi to Mestia section of the Transcaucasian Trail in Svaneti
Mountains reflected in Kelitsadi Lake on a still morning
Two hikers and a dog rest on a rock in front of an unnamed lake on the Black Rock Lake trek
A hiker climbs the shale switchback trail to Atsunta Pass on the Shatili Omalo trek, with the layered mountains of Khevsureti behind
A hiker descends the switchback ridgeline trail from Chaukhi Pass to Abudelauri Lakes on the Juta to Roshka trek in Georgia
The settlement of Abano in Truso Valley, with the old monastery on the right and Zakagori Fortress seen behind
One of the best views of Gergeti Trinity Church, seen from the hiking trail to Gergeti Glacier and Mt. Kazbek
Hikers descend from the viewpoint at Kojori Fortress in Georgia
A narrow trekking trail in Upper Mustang stretching off into the distance amidst some bizarre rock formations, with the snowy peak of Dhaulagiri in the background
Trekkers on a trail approaching a round orange rock formation with a plateau stretched out into the distance in Upper Mustang
Sunrise hitting the Annapurna Mountains in Nepal
Trekkers look out while descending from the Larke Pass on the Manaslu Circuit Trek
A catamaran sails on the calm water at sunset off the south coast of Jeju Island
A female Olle Trail hiker standing by a Hallabong mosaic mural, looking out to sea on Jeju Island
Looking out from wat Pha Lat over Chiang Mai, reflected in the still water and surrounded by lush green vegetation
Peanmeanach Bothy on the Ardnish Peninsula in February
Sunrise reflections on the mirror-like surface of Alauddin Lake in the Fann Mountains of Tajikistan.
Hiking Hallasan: South Korea's Highest Peak
Looking towards one of Saryangdo Island's suspension bridges from the ridge hiking trail, with the road bridge and surrounding islands in the distance, South Korea
On an afternoon of bright light and deep shadow, a hiking couple stand on the rocky summit of Sgurr na Stri (one of the best hikes on Skye) overlooking the length of Loch Coruisk as it lies cradled amongst the sharp peaks of the Black Cuillin
Featured image for the Everest Base Camp trek guide, featuring a trekker walking on a rocky trail with mountain peaks in the distance
With Ama Dablam as a backdrop, a trekker and guide stop to enjoy the views while doing the Nangkartshang acclimatisation hike on the Everest Three Passes trek
A hiker and guide cross a flat, rocky section before Kongma La on the Everest Three Passes trek, with the snowy ridgeline to the east visible behind
A trekker and guide climbing the snow covered slope towards Laurebina Pass (4650 m), with the blue surface of Gosainkunda shining in the morning sun below
Snow covered guesthouses reflected in the bright blue waters of Gosainkunda
Trekkers enjoying mountain views and a well earned rest atop Kyanjin Ri (4586 m) in the Langtang Valley
Snowy mountain view with colourful prayer flags in the foreground, seen from the first Kyanjin Ri viewpoint (4300 m) on the Langtang Valley trek
Featured image for 'What to Pack for Trekking in Nepal', featuring trekkers, guides and porters crossing a suspension bridge on the Everest Base Camp route
A woman hiking with backpack and poles in front of a glacier wall
Backpacking Camping Gear Featured Image
A hiker trekking in Georgia, descending the rocky shale slope from Atsunta pass and heading towards the green valleys of Tusheti below
A walker on the old military road among the dramatic mountain scenery of the Lairigmor, a real highlight of the West Highland Way
A scene of the mountains and lakes of the Geghama Range in Armenia
A view of Buachaille Etive Mor on the West Highland Way
A hiker stands reflected in Udziro Lake, looking at the distant peak Shkhara
A white horse grazing on the grassy slopes of Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
Two hikers traverse the grassy ridge on Day 2 of the Panorama Trail
A view of Tetnuldi peak from Latpari Pass on the Ushguli to Chvelpi hike
The twin peaks of Ushba and Chatyn-Tau, seen from the trail on Day 2 of the Mestia to Ushguli trek in Svaneti, Georgia
A hiker on the steep final approach to Gul Pass, on the Chuberi to Mestia section of the Transcaucasian Trail in Svaneti
Mountains reflected in Kelitsadi Lake on a still morning
Two hikers and a dog rest on a rock in front of an unnamed lake on the Black Rock Lake trek
A hiker climbs the shale switchback trail to Atsunta Pass on the Shatili Omalo trek, with the layered mountains of Khevsureti behind
A hiker descends the switchback ridgeline trail from Chaukhi Pass to Abudelauri Lakes on the Juta to Roshka trek in Georgia
The settlement of Abano in Truso Valley, with the old monastery on the right and Zakagori Fortress seen behind
One of the best views of Gergeti Trinity Church, seen from the hiking trail to Gergeti Glacier and Mt. Kazbek
Hikers descend from the viewpoint at Kojori Fortress in Georgia
A narrow trekking trail in Upper Mustang stretching off into the distance amidst some bizarre rock formations, with the snowy peak of Dhaulagiri in the background
Trekkers on a trail approaching a round orange rock formation with a plateau stretched out into the distance in Upper Mustang
Sunrise hitting the Annapurna Mountains in Nepal
Trekkers look out while descending from the Larke Pass on the Manaslu Circuit Trek
A catamaran sails on the calm water at sunset off the south coast of Jeju Island
A female Olle Trail hiker standing by a Hallabong mosaic mural, looking out to sea on Jeju Island
Looking out from wat Pha Lat over Chiang Mai, reflected in the still water and surrounded by lush green vegetation
Peanmeanach Bothy on the Ardnish Peninsula in February
Sunrise reflections on the mirror-like surface of Alauddin Lake in the Fann Mountains of Tajikistan.
Hiking Hallasan: South Korea's Highest Peak
Looking towards one of Saryangdo Island's suspension bridges from the ridge hiking trail, with the road bridge and surrounding islands in the distance, South Korea

ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREK: DAY 3
~
DHUKUR POKHARI – NGAWAL

ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREK

DAY 3

DHUKUR POKHARI – NGAWAL

DISTANCE

13.5 km

ELEVATION

3200 – 3660 m

TIME

7 hours  (total)

4 hours 40 minutes (walking)

ACCOMMODATION

Hotel Royal Nyeshyang
Twin Room (shared bathroom)
400 NPR


The day the Annapurna Circuit came alive for us.

The trekking route to Ngawal follows one of the NATT trails and should not be missed. The difference this makes to your experience cannot be overstated. If you go to Lower Pisang and on to Manang – the quicker way – it’s entirely road. But the route via Ngawal is almost entirely off-road, and the effort it takes to climb the steep path to Ghyaru is richly rewarded by some of the best views on the whole trek. What’s more, the villages have a particularly traditional feel, removed as they are from the valley floor and its accompanying development. Ngawal itself is an interesting settlement and an atmospheric place to wander, and the sunset/sunrise mountain views are truly spectacular. One of our favourite places to stay on the Annapurna Circuit Trek.

We left Dhukur Pokhari on an icy cold morning, took the road to Upper Pisang past a trio of cute puppies, and crossed the pale blue Marsyangdi once more. The welcome sun hit us soon after, lifting the deep chill and prompting a quick stop – layering off clothes and on sunscreen.

Climbing the hillside towards Upper Pisang, we passed through forests of tall pines, junipers and colourful bushes – thickets of pinky red wild rose bushes and yellowy orange sea buckthorn ones. Sometimes, clearing the forest, we’d get fantastic views up the valley, where scarred rock faces looked down on the snakelike Marsyangdi cutting a deep trough far below.

A panorama of the snow covered Annapurna Massif, a trekker hiking the Annapurna Circuit trail in the foreground

Climbing the trail higher, past Upper Pisang, the views just got better and better



Snow covered mountains of the Annapurnas, a trekker hiking the Annapurna Circuit trail in the foreground

Climbing the trail higher, past Upper Pisang,
the views just continued to get better and better



After winding our way through more forest we came to a long mani wall with elaborately carved stone slabs. Looking back, the views of the Annapurnas were outstanding, mountain peaks shining bright under the high sun.

A long Mani Wall stretching out with snow covered mountains of the Annapurna Circuit trek in the background

The perfect combination on the trekking trail: cultural treasures and stunning mountain scenes



A long Mani Wall stretching out with snow covered mountains of the Annapurna Circuit trek in the background

The perfect combination on the trekking trail:
cultural treasures and stunning mountain scenes



After a quick energy boosting snack, we tackled the steep ascent, kept company by our Dutch friends from the night before. The trail switched back and forth, the climb setting our hearts racing. After a brief rest at a little place serving drinks and snacks, we pushed on to Ghyaru, a small mountain village with an old style rustic feel. Here we found a place for lunch with an open courtyard, a table in the sun, and outstanding views of Annapurna II.

Two trekkers reaching Ghyaru (3700 m) at the end of a long climb from the valley below, with Annapurna II marking the skyline behind

Reaching Ghyaru (3700 m) at the end of a long climb from the valley below, with Annapurna II marking the skyline behind



Two trekkers reaching Ghyaru (3700 m) at the end of a long climb from the valley below, with Annapurna II marking the skyline behind

Reaching Ghyaru (3700 m) after a steep climb,
with Annapurna II marking the skyline behind



Due to an unusually long wait lunch took the best part of two hours, but after an outstanding Dal Bhat (this one included an omelette) we set out again, trekking along the undulating path to Ngawal. The high wind caused a bit of a chill but the sun was strong and the trail interesting, winding past dancing prayer flags with mountain views unfolding at every turn.

he village of Ngawal (3660 m) perched high above the Manang Valley

The village of Ngawal (3660 m) perched high above the Manang Valley



The Marsyangdi a distant silver sliver in the Manang Valley with snowy mountains rising behind

The Marsyangdi a distant silver sliver



The Marsyangdi a distant silver sliver in the Manang Valley with snowy mountains rising behind

The Marsyangdi a distant silver sliver


he village of Ngawal (3660 m) perched high above the Manang Valley

The village of Ngawal (3660 m), perched high
above the Manang Valley and road far below



Arriving in Ngawal, the first few guesthouses were full. It worked in our favour though. After meandering through narrow streets past wandering cows, we got one of the last rooms at the decent Hotel Royal Nyeshyang, and settled in to enjoy late afternoon views of Gangapurna and Annapurna III. With sunset approaching, dark clouds swirled among the glowing white tops of these magnificent mountain giants – the perfect end to our best day on the Annapurna Circuit so far.

  • Annapurna III and Gangapurna peaks enshrouded with clouds at sunset
  • Annapurna III and Gangapurna peaks enshrouded with clouds at sunset

One of the best views on the Annapurna Circuit



ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREK: DAY 4
~
NGAWAL – MANANG

ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREK

DAY 4

NGAWAL – MANANG

DISTANCE

10 km

ELEVATION

3660 – 3540 m

TIME

4 hours (total)

3 hours (walking)

ACCOMMODATION

Hotel Himalayan Singi
Twin Room w/bathroom
No charge (when staying
2 nights and eating all meals)


A further unplanned route with more stunning scenery.

There are a couple of options when trekking between Ngawal and Manang. The first is to follow the dirt track down to join the main road. The second is to follow the NATT trail. It climbs slightly after leaving Ngawal before crossing a plateau with old ruins, stupas, a large Bhuddist monastery, and more stunning views. Which would you choose? From the monastery the path drops down and crosses the river at an old village, Julu. From here the trail splits, winding down to join the road at Munchi, or up again before descending to Braka. As with all NATT trails they’re marked in red on Annapurna Circuit trekking maps, however, the trail over the hill to Braka isn’t immediately obvious on the ground. From Munchi or Braka it’s a short distance along the road to Manang.

Waking on a chill morning, we wrapped up warm and shuffled onto the veranda to be greeted by more incredible mountain scenes. It was the perfect start to the morning and we were glad once again that we’d taken this route.

Sunrise hitting the Annapurna Mountains in Nepal

The jagged twin peaks of Annapurna III (left) and Gangapurna (right) catching the early morning light



Sunrise hitting the Annapurna Mountains in Nepal

The jagged twin peaks of Annapurna III (left) and
Gangapurna (right) catching the early morning light



Due to the aforementioned lack of planning and at our guide’s suggestion, the plan was to head down the dirt track to join the Manang road. But by another happy accident, our guesthouse owner was standing outside as we left and directed us onto the NATT trail. So we turned off just after Ngawal and headed up once more. After a short climb we reached the plateau, pausing to admire the blinding white stupas at one end and the Tibetan style Buddhist monastery at the other. A few other trekkers had chosen this route, but mostly, we had it to ourselves. It was a beautifully calm and still morning with the Annapurnas to one side and Chulus to the other.

Crumbled chortens and more mountain views on the (NATT) trekking trail from Ngawal to Manang

Crumbled chortens and more mountain views on the (NATT) trekking trail from Ngawal to Manang



Crumbled chortens and more mountain views on the (NATT) trekking trail from Ngawal to Manang

Crumbled chortens and more mountain views
on the trekking trail from Ngawal to Manang



From the monastery, we watched our step carefully down the steep sandy hill of loose stones and sparsely populated short pines. Leveling off, we walked through twisted junipers and autumnal wild rose bushes, perfectly contrasted with the blue sky and white mountains. Crossing the small river by wooden bridge, we paused to admire the traditional village of low stone buildings and stupas. Ahead, the sandy rock formations reminded us of Turkey’s Cappadocia.

A trekker walking towards Cappadocia-esque rock formations on the way to Manang

Heading down to Manang past Cappadocia-esque rock formations



A trekker on a tree-lined trail on the Annapurna Circuit

Following the tree-lined trail



A trekker on a tree-lined trail on the Annapurna Circuit

Following the tree-lined trail


A trekker walking towards Cappadocia-esque rock formations on the way to Manang

Heading down to Manang past
Cappadocia-esque rock formations



Before long we joined the dirt road – the start of the day’s slog, a good 5 km or so of dull pounding. As we got closer to Manang, trucks and jeeps tore past us at speed, engulfing us in clouds of dirt and dust. We enjoyed a brief respite in Braka, stopping at the Yak Bakery for a tasty cinnamon roll. By midday we were in Manang, checking into the Hotel Himalayan Singi where we had our biggest room yet: a huge double bed, a single bed to dump all our gear, lots of light from two big windows, and an attached bathroom (unfortunately with plumbing issues).

A close up of the hand painted sign for the Happy Yak Bakery in Braka

The Yak Bakery in Braka, serving cinnamon rolls and other choice delights (recommended by the ‘Lovely Planet’)



A close up of the hand painted sign for the Happy Yak Bakery in Braka

The Yak Bakery in Braka, serving
up cinnamon rolls and other delights
(recommended by the ‘Lovely Planet’)



A Dal Bhat lunch was followed by a trip to the Hotel Nilgiri for decent coffee and excellent apple crumble, before heading next door to the Medical Centre for an extremely informative and enlightening talk on altitude sickness, or AMS (acute mountain sickness).*

As dusk approached, we paid a much anticipated visit to the Manang Projector Hall – a quaint, low stone building with hard seats covered in worn pelts. The young guys running the place popped in a DVD and showed it on a pull down screen. We (particularly Kim) love visiting cinemas around the world, especially those with their own unique character. Manang has four or five of these projector halls to choose from, each showing mostly mountain related films or documentaries. We settled in to watch the screening of Seven Years In Tibet,  thoroughly enjoying the experience, and not really minding the numb bums that came with it. After that, all that was left of the day was a late dinner and a bit of chat back in the hotel dining room.

*This presentation by the volunteer doctors of the HRA (Himalayan Rescue Association) cleared up a lot of misunderstandings and debunked a lot of myths and misinformation we’d heard over the preceding weeks. Many trekking guides had been giving out wildly contradictory advice. As we found out, much if not most of it was plain wrong. The best advice we can give is do your own research, seek advice from a medical professional, and when you’re in Manang, don’t miss this presentation from the HRA – it’s on daily at 3 pm.

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