The Annapurna Circuit trek has often been voted as “#1 best trek” in the world. The Trek route has been open to foreign trekkers since 1977. However, the road construction is threatening its reputation and its future as a “classic trek”. For the first few years when the road construction started in 2005, the tourist flow in Annapurna was still decent; but during the period from 2008- 2013 when the construction took place for almost 5 years the classical trail was damaged entirely to the ground without the foresight of opening an alternative route for trekkers.
In recent year the number of tourists is drowning again in circuit trail as they found an alternative path that avoids the road. Statistically speaking during the year 2016, the Annapurna Circuit Trek received 22,108 foreign trekkers through Lamjung’s Beshishar route. Every year approximately 40% increase compared to 2015 figure. That means the trekkers enjoyed Annapurna Circuit trek even though they have to share the trail with road frequently. The road access in Annapurna region is helpful for reaching basic necessities to populations and subsequently make the trekking even cheaper. In other words, the road construction helps avoid the less scenic part and bring you straight up to the best part of the trail. This write-up is all about selecting best part of Annapurna circuit leaving behind the motor vehicle trail and explore the hidden gem of Annapurna.
This is my first article about Annapurna Circuit after many years. I usually write about Manaslu, Upper Mustang, and Kanchenjunga trekking and therefore, I intent to highlight something new about Annapurna circuit trek itinerary by including “Narphu Valley Trek”, which avoids the motorable road and let you explore unspoiled mountain valleys that feature a mix of raw Himalayan nature and ancient Buddhist culture. Let me take you through this incredible trek via this video. Please spare a few minutes watching this video. You would exactly know how beautiful is this trek?
Two high passes Kang La Pass (5,240m) and Thorongla pass 5,416m
Ancient Braga Gompa monastery and Muktinath temple, Hundreds of year old along the trekking trail etc.
Itinerary Narphu and Annapurna circuit
Day 1 Drive from Kathmandu via Besisahar to Koto 2,600m; approx. 8 hours
Day 2 Trek to Meta 3,560m; approx. 7 hours
Day 3 Trek to Phu 4,080m; approx. 7 hours
Day 4 Acclimatization day in Phu; side trip to Himlung Base Camp (4,80
Day 5 Trek to Nar Phedi, overnight stay in monastery 3,490m; approx. 6 hours.
Day 6 Trek to Nar Village 4,110m; approx. 3 hours
Day 7 Trek via Kang La Pass (5,240m) to Ngawal 3,650m; approx. 8 hours
Day 8 Ngawal to Manang Via Bharata Gomba and Overnight in Manang
Day 9 Rest day in Manang Visit Manag village and hike to Gangapurna Glacier lake 3,500m Approx 7-8 hour
Day 10 Manang to Tilicho Base Camp 4700m approx 8-9 hour hike
Day 11 Tilicho base camp to Tilicho Lake and walk back to Yak Kharka 4900m
Day 12 Yak Kharka to High camp 4800m approx 5-6 hour
Day 13 High Camp to Throng pass 5416m and Muktinath 3800m approx. 8-9 hour
Day 14 Muktinath to Jomsom Beni Pokhara via Jeep
Can I do this trek independently?
The short answer is NO! Under the Nepal government tourism policies, Nar Phu valley is listed in the restricted area. That means it is mandatory to obtain trekking permits through local agency and accompanies. However, these rules don't apply to Annapurna Circuit Route. If you want to avoid Nar Phu unspoiled mountain valleys that feature a mix of raw Himalayan nature and ancient Buddhist culture, then you can also do it independently (Nar Phu trek takes the detour from Koto, a small village along Annapurna circuit trek and rejoin the same trek from Ngawal village).
Should I be afraid of altitude sickness?
The Itinerary above brings you to Koto (2,600m) on the first day from Kathmandu (1,300m) which is lower altitude gain in one day compared to Lukla (2,860m) from Kathmandu by flight along Everest Base Camp Trek. During my tenure as trekking guide in the Himalayas, I never saw people becoming sick (altitude) at Namche Bazar (3,440m) in the Everest region which will be the second day from Kathmandu. Instead, along Nar Phu, you will gain this much altitude in a span of 5 days. This simple fact from the above itinerary makes Narphu and Annapurna Circuit trek much safer and better acclimatized compared to EBC trek in Khumbu region. However, altitude sickness also depends on hiker's fitness and previous experience. If you are a decent hiker then even with no prior experience in high altitude, this trek following the given itinerary is reasonable.
Remoteness and telecommunications
There are many communication booths availabilities in case of emergency. Inhabited by Tibet origin Nepali people, Nar Phu valley is remote in Nepal. Telecommunications (a local phone) works partially while each village has VHF phone for the emergency contact. A local guide would be able to contact important numbers for any emergency situation.
Food and Accommodation
Basic food, tea houses and local homestays are available along the way. The day after the “Kang la pass” you will sleep in a monastery(s). You don't need to bring a tent or any special gear. However, a sleeping bag and a sleeping mat are recommended as Nar Phu Valley is very remote and blankets or sleeping mats in tea houses are very basic.
Total expenses and trekking cost
If you make a deal with a local agency based in Kathmandu, the tentative price for this trek would be USD 55 - 65 per person per day in a small group which includes a licensed guide, a porter, basic food and accommodation, Permit and local jeep/Local bus to and from Kathmandu. Depending on the group size and the agency you choose the cost may vary slightly. However, the same package with international agency or commission based agency may go up to USD 100-150 per day per person.
September - November and March-May is the best season in Nepal for trekking. The temperature is mildly warm in the lowland and moderate in the high altitude.
Interestingly this trek lies in the rain shadow part of the Himalayas and is one of the best monsoon treks in Nepal. Between June to August this trek can be done without any problem.
Indeed, Annapurna circuit trek combined with Nar Phu valley might be an excellent alternative trail if you follow the above itinerary. The motorable roads in between helps you skip the less scenic part and bring you straight to the best part of the trail. It will indeed be an exhausting experience to and from Kathmandu as the road condition is not so smooth but when you reach your destination it is worth all the effort. Our clients who experienced this trail have nothing but positive feedback and for most of them who had also been to Everest Base Camp aka EBC or Annapurna Base Camp aka ABC, Annapurna Circuit in combination with Nar Phu is much better.
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Born and raised in Gorkha, Nepal, I am proud to call the Manaslu region my home! I have been in the travel business for over a decade from being assistance guide to being a guide/leader to being a manager and finally a founder of NEST Adventure. So you could say, I know my way well enough in the Himalayas especially in some of the off-the-beaten trails in Nepal like Manaslu, Kanchenjunga or Mustang.
I am passionate about travelling and I strongly believe that seeing the world shouldn't break the bank (at least not too much!). I have backpacked to over 15 countries in Asia, Central Americas USA and Canada, one-third of Europe, Caribbean Island and Latin America.
I studied in the UK and moved to the United States. During that period, I had an opportunity working with multinational companies which taught me, how to deliver quality customer service in the business? As a world travelling backpacker myself, and travel expert of Nepal Himalayas, I started writing about my own country. Incase, If you required free information about Nepal, please do not hesitate to visit my office in Thamel. We are located in the centre of Kathmandu Thamel. I am happy to share a cup of Nepali tea and free information. Our team at NEST has earned 5/5 star ratings on TripAdvisor from about 200 satisfied customers. Don't forget to visit our customer feedback page on TripAdvisor.
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