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Trekking in Annapurna Region

The Annapurna region lies towards the north of Central Nepal. The region has been recognized as one of the world's best trekking trails according to a recent survey by Modern Maturity (USA). The highlight of this part of Nepal are Annapurna peaks, Mt. Dhaulagiri, River Kali Gandaki and several other peaks, Gateway to Annapurna trekking region is the famous city of Pokhara. The most prominent ethnic groups of Annapurna region are Gurung, Thakali and Manangba. Animals found here are pica, blue sheep and Himalayan Thar and vegetation ranges from tropical species to temperate forest to oak, beech and rhododendron.

The popular trekking routes of this region are Jomsom, Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna Base Camp, Annapurna foothills, Sikles, Lamjung, Dhaulagiri, Upper Mustang and around Pokhara. The best time to visit is during spring and autumn. Unlike other parts of Nepal, even the monsoon months.

Permits and Fees

For most of the Annapurna trekking area, no trekking permits are required. The exception is upper Mustang where a fee of US$700 per person is levied for a ten-day visit. Additional restrictions relating to Mustang will be outlined later.

Most of the area discussed in the trek descriptions is within the area controlled by Annapurna Conservation Area Project. Entry to this area is controlled and an entry permit has to be purchased. The permit must be purchased before starting the trek and can be obtained in Kathmandu or Pokhara. The proceeds of these fees are largely used for the local community development within the project area.

Flora and Fauna

The flora and fauna to be seen are quite diverse since the region ranges in altitude from less than 200 meters above sea level at Jiri to the high peaks of the Himalayan at over 8000 meters. Up to 4000 meters you will find dense stands of forest including pine, cak and the spectacular flowering rhododendrons. The latter are one reason to make a trip to Nepal in the spring when the hills between 2000 and 3500 meters are a rich of cultures.

The crops under cultivation will depend on the season that you visit but expect to see wheat, barley, corn and potatoes at some stage. Domesticated animals will range from cattle, buffalo, goats and pigs to the all-purpose beast of the mountains the yak.

There is a good chance of seeing wildlife, mostly birds including the national bird of Nepal-the Impeyan Pheasant, or Danfe, which is quite common around Namche Bazaar. Other notable birds will include the ravens and crows of the middle hills and the choughs, which soar to seemingly impossible heights in the mountains. Also in the mountains look for flocks of snow pigeons wheeling around the hillsides.

Land animals can be more elusive but look out for mountain goats (most commonly the Himalayan Tahr) and if you are lucky, musk deer or barking deer in the forests.

Getting there

Regardless of the trek chosen it is most likely that Pokhara will be either the starting or ending point of your trek. Pokhara is located 200 km. West of Kathmandu and can be reached by road travel there are a number of tourist buses available daily both from Kathmandu and from Chitwan.

There is no shortage of tourist facilities of be found in and around Pokhara. The main centre for tourists is at the side of the largest of the three lakes in the area, Phewa Tal. The suburbs agencies and suppliers of souvenirs and trekking equipment. For those trekking in the eastern side of the Annapurna massif the most likely starting point will be Besishahar, the district headquarters of Lamjung district. Buses from Kathmandu. Pokhara and the Terai arrive and depart here on a regular daily basis. The bus trip from Kathmandu to Besishahar takes around four to five hours but, at this time, there are no tourist bus services available.

Most treks starting or ending in Pokhara will require the use of buses or hired cars to reach the trailheads. Specific details appear in the trek descriptions.

Trekking styles

Most of the trekking routes in the Annapurna region are well serviced by teahouses for most of their length. This is particularly true for most popular treks-the Jomsom trek, the Annapurna circuit and Annapurna base camp treks.

Trekkers should be aware, however that there is always the risk of being stranded by bad weather or injury/sickness between teahouses, particularly in the more remote parts of the trek itineraries. a good example is on the Annapurna circuit where there is one very long day when the high pass of Thorong La has to be crossed. There is little or no shelter available for most of this day and some trekkers have been caught unprepared by bad weather and altitude problems.

The treks in less developed areas, particularly the Dhaulagiri circuit and the trek east of Lamjung, definitely require trekkers to be self sufficient in food and shelter.

Attraction-People and culture

The most prominent ethnic groups in the Annapurna region are the Gurung, the Thakali and the Manangba. The Gurungs are the most widely distributed being found from the hills of Gorkha district to as far west as Palpa. Their heartland, however, is center on the hills and valleys between the Marsyangdi River and the Kali Gandaki. The Thakali come from the upper Kali Gandaki valley around where their traditional farming has been supplemented by trade and, in particular, hotel and restaurant business. The Mananagba are found in the upper reaches of the Marsyangdi River and are in many ways similar to the Gurung to whom they are possibly related. They are skilled traders and trace their roots back to Tibet. Religiously, the Manangba and the Gurungs of the upper hills is Buddhist with traces of their ancient, Shamanistic faith still apparent. The communities that live further south are predominantly Hindu.

All of the communities, but particularly the Gurungs, are famed for their cultural performances, which are easily seen while trekking in the region. Many villages along the trails will arrange performances for trekkers during main seasons.

When to visit?

The peak seasons of October/November and March/May are obviously the most popular. At these times the weather is mild and generally dry, making the walking conditions good. The spring season is good for wildflowers, particularly the rhododendrons, while the autumn season generally gives the best mountain views, as the air at this time is crystal clear.

Winter is possible but the chances of snow are higher and passes may be closed, particularly during late winter. Also during this time many of the teahouses will close.

Looking after the environment

Much has been said about the deteriorating environment of the Himalaya. Over that past few years, however, due to efforts by many overseas expeditions and organizations such a the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee and the Nepal Mountaineering Association, education programmes and clean-up campaigns have to a large extent, solved many of the problems.

Having said that, the environment of the high Himalayan is a very fragile eco-system that is easily put out of balance. The locals lived for generations in relative harmony with their surroundings but the recent influx of tourists has put pressure on the indigenous population to supply more and more services in the name of tourism development. While the Everest National Park is somewhat protected from the worst of the ravages the same cannot be said about the area immediately to the south. Here, uncontrolled timber collection for fuel and building has led to a marked loss of timber cover. Certain initiatives within the National Park area, such as the banning of glass beer and soft drink bottles, had resulted in a reduction of the amount of non-bridgeable rubbish being left behind. Particularly the trekkers themselves can do much more, however. The KEEP code of trekking conduct is a perfect example (see Conservation Codes and Environmental Guideline.)

Max. Height
Annapurna Circuit (Teahouse)
21 Days
Annapurna Circuit (Teahouse)
14 Days
Annapurna Sanctuary (Teahouse)
14 Days
Ghorepani/Poon Hill (Teahouse)
10 Days
Jomsom / Muktinath Trek (Teahouse)
15 Days
Royal Trek (Camping)
08 Days
Panchase Trek (Camping)
08 Days


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