The Annapurna Circuit provides incredible variety, letting you experience almost every type of scenery that Nepal has to offer, ranging from sub-tropical through alpine forests to arid semi-desert with spectacular and ever-changing views of mountain peaks of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri range. The climax of the trek is the crossing of the formidable Thorong La Pass, at 5,416 m.a.s.l. it is one of the highest passes in the world that can be reached by walking. With its combination of challenging landscapes, picturesque villages with a wealth of cultural interest, Buddhist temples and monasteries, the trek-journey provides a perfect catalyst for inner transformation.
What is the itinerary in Nepal?
Note - at the start or end of the programme we also visit Nepali school children who we support in their education - bringing them vital materials, running educational activities, and staying in a homestay in the local community.
Upon arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu (1,300m/4,264 ft) and a warm welcome by our local team you will be accommodated in a friendly hotel, which we love for its atmosphere and closeness to the vibrant city centre. For the next day you will enjoy a guided tour of several of the most historical and spiritual attractions in Kathmandu. Some of these landmarks are World Heritage Sites, including the historic Durbar Square, the sacred Hindu Pashupatinath , the famous 'Monkey Temple' (Swayambunath) and Boudhanath Stupa, one of the largest Buddhist shrines in the world. Old temples, thousands of locals, trekkers, seekers of adventures and enlightenment, wandering along the streets; flower and spicy fragrances mixed with chanting and wild music overwhelm your senses as you dive into and give up to your new homeland for the next two weeks.
We leave Kathmandu by minibus, switching to jeeps in Besisahar as we move to the Annapurna region, where we get the first taste of accommodation in a local guesthouse. From now on there is no going back – you are on a circuit and on your own two feet. We start our journey into the hills through the winding roads along the Trishuli River. En route we see more of Nepali countryside with its lush greenery and rivers, culturally intriguing villages, farms, smiling children ‘trekking’ to school in their flip-flops, sounds of first praying mills, and beautiful mountain views including the magnificent Manaslu. First days of our walk involve crossing a few suspension bridges, waterfalls and steep cliffs, several up and down hill sections across amphitheatre-shaped rice paddies and subtropical forest. Initially, the walk is gradual but then becomes steeper and the climb gets tougher.
We are entering into the Manang region passing through fields of corn, barley and potatoes, and then through forests of bamboo and rhododendrons. While hiking, we may sometimes let pass a large group of donkey caravans. We negotiate a few steep forested ridges en route to the west, and will be treated to some of the most sensational views of Lamjung Himal, Annapurna II, and Annapurna IV (7,525m/24,688ft). Small hot springs add relief on our long hard trekking days. We cross and re-cross the river again and again on suspension bridges, and, finally, we find ourselves in the U-shaped valley of Manang hanging between two giant snow peaks. The cold and dry climate creates a much harsher environment.
Before heading to Manang we spend the night in Upper Pisang - a stunning picturesque medieval village full of stone houses and prayer poles. Manang (3519 m/11 545 ft.) is situated at the lap of the gigantic Himalaya, with the summits of Annapurna and Gangapurna less than 8 km away. We arrive through a doorway, ascending steep steps that take us to a village full of narrow rocky houses, surprising European style bakeries and even an open air cinema! We may face the first signs of high altitude, breathing gets more difficult, every step requires more effort. The upcoming days will be challenging with rapid gain in altitude as we step into the heart of the Annapurna reservation.
We follow the valley northward, passing pastures where horses and yaks graze, scrubs of juniper trees, as we steadily gain elevation, stopping for the night first in the village of Gunsang and the next day in the village of Yak Kharka, where meat lovers can taste Yak steak. Slow and gradual ascent is the key to avoiding altitude problems. Finally we make our way to the foot of the pass, Thorong Phedi and the steep way up to Thorong HC. Thorong Phedi is a small busy settlement catering to the needs of tired trekkers and climbers; we continue to hike to the High Camp. Next day we reach the climax of the Annapurna Circuit and our Courage Journey. It will be a lifetime unforgettable experience - crossing the famous high pass, Thorong La (5416m/17764ft), working hard through the icy high-altitude trail, even as the stunning high Himalayan vistas tempt our eyes. With the setting sun we will arrive at Muktinath (2,670m/8,760ft ), an important pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Buddhists, and the vibrant iconic hotel Bob Marley awaits our celebrations!
We stay in Muktinath to rest, enjoy great fresh juice and rich breakfast and to pay a special visit to the nearby Vishnu Temple and Gompa. We spend a day a night in the famous Muktinath nunnery and with the 10 girls that we support here. Moving forward and now descending from Ranipauwa village down the steep and barren hillside, we tumble down toward Kagbeni, the green oasis in an otherwise rough and rocky countryside, as we trek along a plateau above Kali Gandaki, the world's deepest gorge. We are gradually approaching ‘civilisation’ as we get mobile signal again in Jomsom, the little commercial town with shops, internet and airport. We fly to Pokhara, a peaceful lakeside city harbouring unique tropical climate and vegetation on a dramatic backdrop of the Himalayas. We enjoy our last adventures like breath-taking paragliding over Fewa lake and indulgent pampering at Ayurvedic spa, music bars, happy hour drinks, boating, and explore Pokhara’s myriad of restaurants, tastes and shops.
Slowly our journey in Nepal comes to an end as we fly to Kathmandu. Vibrant and impressive at the start, the city may suddenly feel disturbing and full of noise and smell. Last sounds of Oh Mani Padme Hum and Namaste!