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Itinerary for Trekking the Annapurna Circuit

By Olivia Pedersen

May 7, 2015

Itinerary for Trekking the Annapurna Circuit

By Olivia Pedersen

May 7, 2015

The Annapurna Circuit is a moderately difficult, high elevation trek reaching as high as 17,764 feet (5,414 m). The route loops 131 miles around the Annapurna mountain range, encircles a massif extending 34 miles, and is host to the tenth highest mountain in the world (Annapurna I). From picturesque white-capped peaks to arid desert highlands to lush rainforest hills – the views will not disappoint. This loop offers a plethora of unique experiences and activities. My trek was a last minute choice, as my group's original plan was to trek to Everest Base Camp to Gokyo Ri. Due to weather delays, that became unobtainable. Here is my initial itinerary for trekking the Annapurna Circuit followed by how the trek actually played out.

Tentative Itinerary

Day 1- Drive to Syange (3,674 ft/1,120 m)
Day 2- Trek to Bagarchhap (5,577 ft/1,700 m)
Day 3- Trek to Chame (8,628 ft/2,630 m)
Day 4- Trek to Pisang (10,465 ft/3,190 m)
Day 5- Trek to Manang (11,482 ft/3,500 m)
Day 6- Rest day in Manang (11,482 ft/3,500 m)
Day 7- Trek to Yak Kharka (13,418 ft/4,09 0m)
Day 8- Trek to High Thorong Phedi (14,730 ft,4,490 m)
Day 9- Summit Thorong La Pass (17,764 ft/5,414 m) and Trek down to Muktinath (12,500 ft/3,810 m)
Day 10- Trek to Kagbeni (9,200 ft/2,804 m)
Day 11- Trek to Marpha (8,760 ft/2,670 m)
Day 12- Trek to Tatopani (3,904 ft/1,190 m)
Day 13- Trek to Ghorepani (9,105 ft/2,775 m)
Day 14- Ascent/Descent of Poon Hill (10,496 ft/3,190 m) and
Trek to Tirkhedungha (5,133 ft/1,540 m)
Day 15- Trek to Nyaphul (3,317 ft/1,011 m) and drive to Pokhara (2,713 ft/827 m)
Day 16- Fly from Pokhara to Kathmandu

Actual Itinerary

Day 1- Drive to Syange:
6-hour drive with traffic from Kathmandu to the town of Syange. There are plenty of places to stop along the way for lunch.

Elevation: 3,674 ft/1,120 m
Distance driven (approx.): 128 mi/207 km // Distance trekked: 2 mi/3.21 m

Driving to Syange
Hour 5 of 6 on the jeep ride to Syange

Day 2- Trek to Bagarchhap:
It took us about 8 hours to walk from Syange to Bagarchhap – including a stop for lunch in Tal and multiple photo ops.

Elevation: 5,577 ft/1,700 m
Distance trekked (approx.): 14.3 mi/23.0 km

Trekking to Bagarchhap
On our way to Tal for lunch

Day 3- Trek to Chame:
This was a shorter day, or at least it felt like it compared to the last day. When there is nothing else to do but walk for the whole day, 8.6 miles doesn’t seem like all that much. Around this time, I started feeling quite sick with a cold and fever. I hadn’t thought to bring stuff like cold medicine, because I was so focused on altitude and food sickness; but it's always good to bring simple cold medicine, because you're more prone to get sick when your body is under a lot of stress from travel.

Elevation: 8,628 ft/2,630 m
Distance trekked (approx.): 8.6 mi/13.9 km

Trekking to Chame
Chame hot springs

Day 4- Trek to Pisang:
The climate had changed completely from the last few days. At this point, it was very dry and and the fauna was now pines. While staying in Pisang, you will need to start elevation acclimatization. Walking high, sleeping low. We hiked up to a newly rebuilt monastery that was beautiful and colorful. In Pisang there are beautiful views of Tilicho Peak 14,352 ft/4,374 m.

Elevation: 10,465 ft/3,190 m
Distance trekked (approx.): 8.6 mi/14 km

Trekking to Pisang
Buckwheat fields of Pisang

Day 5- Trek to Manang:
This day was a long, flat stretch that made me feel like I was walking in place, but the views helped pass the time. We saw Annapurna 2, Pisang Peak, Tilicho Peak, and Annapurna 4.

Elevation: 11,482 ft/3,500 m
Distance trekked (approx.): 9.8 mi/15.9 km

Trekking to Manang
On the way to Manang

Day 6- Acclimatization day in Manang:
We took a short walk across the river from Manang up to a stupa for a moderate acclimatization hike. Manang also has a great bakery near the entrance of the village. Here we also had the delight of seeing a snow leopard, which are very rare.

Elevation: Hike to stupa 12,000 ft/3,657 m - Manang 11,482 ft/3,500 m
Distance trekked (approx.): 2 mi/3.2 km

Rest day in Manang
Top of the hill across the river from Manang, Climate check hike

Day 7- Trek to Ledar:
This was a short distance for a day's walk, but what it lacked in length, it made up for in elevation. It was a semi-strenuous trek for the day, but not even close to what lay ahead. We walked very slowly this day, letting our bodies acclimate to the elevation gain. Also, we saw some wild mountain goats. Ledar is much smaller than Manang with fewer teahouses. In high season, I recommend that you arrive early to ensure you will get a room.

Elevation: 13,779 ft/4,200 m
Distance trekked (approx.): 6.2 mi/10 km

Trekking to Ledar
Suspension bridge on the way to Ledar

Day 8- Trek to Thorong High Camp:
The first leg of the day was mild until we reached Thorong Phedi, the last stop before getting to high camp. We stopped here for some delicious cinnamon bread that hit the spot before the gnarly uphill battle to that night’s teahouse, gaining 1,300 feet in about two miles. This is the highest sleeping point. It is important to do an altitude acclimatization hike here. There is a beautiful viewpoint right above the teahouse to hike to. We chose to sleep at high camp instead of Thorong Phedi to knock out the first leg of the climb leading to the pass instead of doing it all in one day. The downside to doing this method is that the elevation could get to you during the night, which could result in delays.

Elevation: 15,912 ft/4,850 m
Distance trekked (approx.): 7 mi/11.3 km

Trekking to Thorong High Camp
Looking down onto Thorong High Camp from climate check hike

Day 9- Summit Thorong La Pass and Trek down to Muktinath:
We started at the crisp hour of 4:30 am with the stars still burning overhead and only our headlamps to guide us. The climb was pretty slow and steady, but the elevation made it much harder. It was nice to do this early to reach a viewpoint by sunrise. Once you reach the pass, you have a 5,000 ft descent to Muktinath.

Elevation: Thorong La pass 17,764 ft/5,414 m // Muktinath 12,500 ft/3,810 m
Distance trekked (approx.): 2.5 mi/4 km to Thorong La + 6.2 mi/10 km to Muktinath

Trekking to Thorong La Pass
Made it to the pass
View down to Muktinath
The long descent from Thorong La Pass

Day 10- Trek to Kagbeni:
We spent the morning in Muktinath at a holy temple. It was very interesting to see the practices of the Hindus and Buddhists that travel very far to practice there. The trek to Kagbeni was arid with dramatic views. While walking in the canyon, strong wind whipped through, resulting in the majority of the day’s trek spent fighting its force. Upon reaching Kagbeni, we spent some time walking around the old city; there are a lot of interesting things to see in this town. There was an old monastery being rebuilt when we stayed there.

Elevation: 9,200 ft/2,804 m
Distance trekked (approx.): 6.2 mi/10 km

View frome Kagbeni
Looking back on the days trek
Windy city
Enjoying the wind on a roof in Kagbeni

Day 11- Trek to Marpha Bus to Tatopani:
This day we jumped ahead of schedule due to a natural disaster. There had been a landslide in one of the towns we needed to pass through, which led to us taking a jeep crammed with 17 people from Jomsom to Marpha, then catching a bus from there to Tatopani. We had a great meal that night and took a soak in the natural hot springs down by the river.

Elevation: Marpha 8,760 ft/2,67 0m– Tatopani 3,904 ft/1,190 m
Distance trekked/driven (approx.): 32.3 mi/52 km

Trek to Marpha
The Dali Lama was arriving this day to celebrate a Buddhist holiday

Day 12- Almost trek to Ghorepani/Night in teahouse not far from Tatopani:
I woke up this morning with my stomach feeling very funky. Unfortunately, the day’s hike to Ghorepani is a very strenuous trek up steep stair sets and through rainforest hill terrain. I was too ill to make the day's planned mileage, and we stopped around lunch once we found a teahouse that had a bathroom attached to a room. Thankfully, we had gained a day yesterday and had some room for a delay.

Elevation: Approximately 5,000 ft
Distance trekked (approx.): 4 mi/6.4 km

Trek to almost Ghorepani
The first taste of what was in store for the trek to Ghorepani

Day 13- Trek to Ghorepani:
I woke that morning still feeling weak from the previous day's illness, but I felt good enough to continue on to the strenuous uphill battle towards Ghorepani. The relief upon finally arriving at our teahouse was overwhelming. The gorgeous views of the Annapurna range surrounding us was an added bonus.

Elevation: 9,105 ft/2,775 m
Mileage trekked (approx.): 6.6 mi/10.6 km

Trek to Ghorepani
One of the small hill villages we passed through along the way

Day 14- Ascent/Descent of Poon Hill and Trek to Tirkhedungha:
Up before the sun, we reached Poon Hill right as it was peaking over the horizon. The day's trek was mostly downhill but very steep. We passed many trekkers heading the opposite way towards Annapurna Base Camp, and I was glad to be going down the steep granite steps instead of up. At a total descent of 4,000 ft, it was fierce on the knees.

Elevation: Poon Hill 10,496 ft/3,190 m – Tirkhedungha 5,133 ft/1,540 m
Distance trekked (approx.): 1.9 mi/3 km to Poonhill – 3 mi/4.8 km to Tikhedungha

View from Poonhill
A glimpse of the 360 degree views Poonhill offers

Day 15- Trek to Nyaphul and drive to Pokhara:
Tirkehdungha has an eye-catching bridge covered almost completely with prayer flags that you will pass through once leaving the town. The trek to Nyaphul felt short, as it was very mild and pretty much all downhill. The hour and a half drive to Pohkara has great views, twisting and turning into the canyon. It felt quite surreal to be back in a big city at a nice hotel with a pool (I felt like a kid who could barley wait to go swimming) after 14 days of nothing but natural terrain and sleepy mountain villages.

Elevation: Nyaphul 3,317 ft/1,011 m – Pokhara 2,713 ft/827 m
Distance trekked (approx.): 4.3 mi/7 km to Nyaphul

Trek to Nyaphul
Suspension bridge covered in prayer flags

Day 16- Fly from Pokhara to Kathmandu:
The Pokhara airport proved to be far more mellow than my previous experience with the Kathmandu airport. It was a quick 30-minute flight back to Kathmandu. When I woke that morning, I was hit with a mix of sadness and relief that the trek was over, but I was mostly filled with joy that we had safely completed the journey.

Elevation: 4,600 ft/1,400 m
Continue to Episode 2: Struck by Travel Magic

Finishing the trek
End of the Annapurna Conservation area

Continue to Trekking the Himalayas Episode: 2

***
In regards to the April 2015 Nepal Earthquake:

I am deeply grieved by the many deaths and injuries caused by the devastating earthquake in Nepal. My prayers go out to those lost and to those that have lost friends and family close to them.

It is during tragedies like this that we must come together to help our brothers and sisters that are now at the mercy of the elements. While writing my narrative on trekking in Nepal, my intention was to bring awareness and understanding to the astounding beauty that inherently lives in every aspect of Nepal. I invite you to join Revant Optics, through Doctors Without Borders or one of the many other reliable relief agencies in providing aid to the survivors and restoring that beauty.

Sincerely, Olivia

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