First bloke in pub: “What do you reckon to that Annapurna, then”?
Second bloke: “Can’t say I know her. I’m sure she’s a lovely girl though”.
First bloke: “Annapurna isn’t a girl you berk! It’s a highly renowned destination for high-altitude trekking whose rich cultural delights, natural beauty and breath-taking scenery are only surpassed by the sublime yet challenging experiences offered by its abundant and varied hiking opportunities”.
Second bloke: “Eh”?
First bloke: ”< sighs> Let me explain…”
We’ll put it another way. If you like spectacular treks, you’re not just going to love the Annapurna region, you’re going to chat it up, have some hot dates with it and get engaged to it. Narrowing down the choice of fantastic escapades that await you in this mountainous area of western Nepal is tough, but here’s our pick of the top 5 treks in the Annapurna region.
Poon Hill Trek
Nepal newbies couldn’t hope for a better introduction to the delights of Annapurna and the mighty Himalaya than the eight-day Poon Hill Trek
. You only need to be moderately fit rather than bionic and, since you’re only going to attain a maximum altitude of 3,210 metres, it’s the gobsmacking scenery rather than the lack of oxygen that’s going to take your breath away. That said, although the paths on this trek are easy to follow, there are *a lot* of stone steps to climb up and then come back down. This can be physically demanding and maybe troublesome if your knees are – to use a medical term – ‘a bit dodgy’. That aside, you’ll be making your way through some amazing and constantly-changing landscapes, ranging from the agricultural (paddy fields), through the beautiful (rhododendron forests) to the outrageously spectacular: the view of the Himalayas from the top of Poon Hill will simultaneously swell your heart and exhaust your camera batteries. And that’s just for starters.
Annapurna Sanctuary (Base Camp)
There are several blimmin’ good reasons why the moderately strenuous 12 day hike to Annapurna Sanctuary
is one of the world’s most popular high-altitude treks. Firstly, you’re surrounded by mesmerising natural beauty from the start, where you’ll gain sneaky cheeky peeks of the pointy summits of the mountain giants that lie ahead of you. Then there’s the sheer variety of terrain you’ll cover, the immersion into Nepalese ‘tea house trekking’ culture, and a number of river/ravine crossings that you’ll find either exhilarating or bum-clenchingly worrisome, depending on the state of the bridges involved (don’t worry; you’re safe). Best of all, though, is your arrival at Base Camp, a.k.a, ‘Sanctuary’. This natural amphitheatre, tucked away in the heart of the Annapurna Massif is enclosed by soaring mountain peaks and lets you get up close and personal to a couple of 8,000 metres-plus big boys.
The Annapurna Circuit
Modernisation and the minor encroachment of new roads have rubbed a bit of the shine off what was once regarded as the world’s greatest circuit trek. But let’s be clear about this – the Annapurna Circuit
is still utterly phenomenal. Basically you’re trekking the region’s ‘greatest hits’; the route exposes you to a bit of everything you could possibly want to see on a trek in the Annapurna region. So that’s stunning mountains (well… duh!), cavernous gorges spanned by suspension bridges, ancient Buddhist monasteries, traditional villages and tea houses… I could go on for ages, but it’s better to experience all this good stuff for yourself. Cards on the table, you’ll need to be pretty fit for this one – not least because you’ll be tackling the devilish Thorung La pass which, at a leg-wobbling breath-sapping elevation of 5416 metres is the highest point on the circuit. The effort is worth it, though, for the sheer volume of unforgettable experiences you’ll find crammed into this king of Nepalese treks.
The Manaslu Circuit
is the new kid on the scene that aims to supersede the Annapurna Circuit. The Manaslu region adjoins Annapurna but hasn’t yet attained the same legendary trekking status. This means that you get sights, thrills, experiences and benefits that are similar to those of an Annapurna trek, but you’re more likely to have this place to yourself (you can even pretend you’re a trekking pioneer here, if you like). At 16 days’ duration it’s a long trek, mind, but we assure you that you won’t regret a single step. Manaslu is the eighth highest mountain in the world, and whilst trekking in its shadow you’ll discover glaciers, monasteries, pine and bamboo forests, rural farms and villages and some thrilling mountain passes; the challenging Larkya La pass (5,150 meters up) is a corker and one you won’t forget in a hurry. Are you up to this epic trek? Well, yeah, as long as you’re relatively fit, acclimatized to high altitudes and have a bit of stamina. Go for it.
Tilicho Lake Trek
When you’re constantly surrounded by frankly astounding mountain ranges it’s easy to forget that Annapurna has a few other lovely natural features up its sleeve. One of these is the gorgeous and glacial Tilicho Lake, which claims to be the highest lake in the world. And –guess what? – you can trek to it.
Basically, you begin at the same starting point at the Annapurna Circuit, continuing as far as the town of Manang where the route splits. Head north and you’re doing the Circuit, but head west instead and you’ll be trekking the challenging but enjoyable route to Tilicho Lake. The trek from Manang to the lake and back again should take 6 to 8 days, during which you can expect to bump into the occasional herd of yaks, pass by an ancient monastery and be bowled over by some mega Annapurna region scenery. Ascend your way up to the lake at 4,919 meters and prepared to be stunned by this magnificent stretch of turquoise water surrounded by snow dusted mountains. However tempting it might look, you’re probably better off resisting the urge to take a quick dip at this point. Just being there should be more than enough to satisfy your soul.
Meanwhile, back in the pub…
“… so that pretty much tells you all you need to know about high-altitude trekking in the Annapurna region
. Moving on, what do you reckon to that Kilimanjaro, then”?
Second bloke: “Kelly who”?