The area around the Annapurnas is the other great trekking region in Nepal. There are two major trekking options here which can be easily combined. Both can be done as teahouse treks (in fact, the Annapurna treks are well-known for their comfy lodges and the excellent food: this is apple-pie country). As such they don't require guide or porters:
- The Annapurna Circuit: this is a 15 to 20 day walk around the bulk of the Annapurna massif. The circuit starts about 70km east of Pokhara in a village called Besi Sahar (though nowadays buses trundle up parts of the Manang valley, so if you want you could chop off a couple of days). It's possible to walk around the Annapurnas all the way to Pokhara and its relaxing lake. This is a lovely and not too strenuous walk that starts in the heat and humidity and flora of the Hindu lowlands and slowly progresses to the cold, harsh Buddhist highlands. The high point (literally) is Thorung La, at 5416m one of the highest passes in Nepal regularly crossed by trekkers. On the way up (and down on the other side) there are many natural and cultural changes to be observed: this enormous diversity makes this trek so special. Of course, there are stupendous mountain views to be had as well, though for sheer exposure to mountains the Everest area is hard to beat.
The biggest problem with this trek is the incessant road building by the Nepalese and the Chinese. These days, dirt roads extend through both the lower Manang valley and the whole of the Kali Gandaki valley; there is now significant traffic, especially on the Kali Gandaki side which was rightly notorious for being dusty even before the road was built: winds howl through the valley with a ferocity that makes the walking not always a great pleasure. It is possible to avoid some of the road as parts of the trails are in the process of being relocated to the other side of the Kali Gandaki. However, the circuit is certainly not as pure and pristine as it used to be and as some tourist brochures still insinuate. For newcomers it's a worthwhile trek though.
- The Annapurna Sanctuary: this is a six to ten day walk through a narrow valley up to Annapurna Base Camp (and down again, retracing most of the walk-in). ABC, at 4130m, is the place from where, in 1970, Chris Bonington and his team climbed the Annapurna south face. The trek is an interesting walk, with wonderful views, especially from ABC where you're surrounded on all sides by fearsome mountains (including the über-fearsome Annapurna south face). The Sanctuary walk also can be combined with a few one/two/three-day treks in the area south of the Annapurna massif. Last not least, when coming from Tatopani (a village on the Annapurna Circuit) it's tempting and easy simply to “turn left” in Ghorepani and to continue to Chomrong and up to ABC and then down to Pokhara (though most people take a bus as soon as they hit a road). This would make for a very satisfying four-week trek.
$updated from: Trekking Regions.htxt Thu 22 Nov 2012 14:35:20 trvl2 (By Vero and Thomas Lauer)$