||VAWN HIMMELSBACH, Chic Savvy Travels
The Annapurna Circuit is one of the most popular treks in Nepal — perhaps in the world — despite the fact it takes three weeks to complete, if you’re lucky. The 300 km circuit high up in the Himalayas follows ancient trade routes between Nepal and Tibet that have been in use for well over 1,000 years. It’s without a doubt one of my favourite places on this planet.
Kagbeni, the Annapurna Circuit. Photo by Vawn Himmelsbach
This region is administered by the Annapurna Conservation Area Project in Nepal, so before you start, you’ll need a permit, which you can get in Kathmandu or Pokhara — the latter is where you base yourself for the start of the trek.
You have a couple of different options: You can book an organized trek with an adventure travel company from your home country, hire a guide and porters when you get to Nepal, or do it on your own (which is, obviously, the cheapest option).
This is one trek that’s fairly easy to do on your own — you’ll pass through villages, typically only three or four hours apart, that offer food and lodgings in teahouses, and there are stations to fill up your water bottle along the way. I did this trek with two Canadian girls I met backpacking — without a guide or porters — and we didn’t spend more than $20 a day on food and lodgings.
You’ll need at least 21 days to do this trek, but it’s always a good idea to factor in a few extra days for bad weather, a bad tummy or altitude sickness (as well as a few acclimatization days). If you don’t have three weeks to spare, you can fly from Pokhara to the village of Jomsom up in the Himalayas and trek the last third of the circuit.
The dramatic windswept landscape high up in the Himalayas. Photo by Vawn Himmelsbach
One reason trekkers are drawn here is because of the incredible variety of the terrain. You start the trek at 900 metres hiking through terraced rice fields, jungles, canyons and pine forests, and then as you ascend to Thorung La pass — at an altitude of 5,300 metres on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau — you find yourself surrounded by snow-capped peaks, including four of the world’s 10 highest summits.
You then trek through medieval Tibetan villages in a barren, windswept landscape, including Muktinath, sacred to both Buddhists and Hindus (the Hindus believe this is the only place on earth where earth, wind, fire, water and sky exist in harmony). Then you descend into a completely different world: Rhododendron forests and orange groves and hot springs. Before finishing the circuit, you can watch the sun rise over the entire Annapurna Range at Poon Hill.
Muktinath, the Annapurna Circuit. Photo by Vawn Himmelsbach
The best time to trek, as far as weather goes, is October to May; the worst time is during the monsoons from June to September. Personally I like trekking when there’s Maoist unrest because you can guarantee there won’t be many tourists on the trails. But that’s just me.
One tip is to bring along all the money you think you’ll need. Supposedly there’s now an ATM in Jomsom, but in most places you’ll have a tough time exchanging money or cashing traveler’s cheques.
And you may want to think twice before bartering away your gear: My two friends swapped their rain gear for Tibetan jewelry and a few days later got caught in a torrential downpour. Though I suspect, in the end, they felt it was well worth it.
Copyright @ 2011 Chic Savvy Travels
Date Added: June 28, 2011 | Comments (0)
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