Namaste! Welcome to Nepal. Please arrive by 2pm on Day 1 as we will have an important group briefing. Your leader will leave a note at reception telling you where and when this important meeting will take place. Please ask a member of reception for this information. Kathmandu, the colourful capital of Nepal, is a fascinating blend of traditional architecture and symbols of the 20th Century. Its rich artistic and cultural heritage is evident where ornately carved balconies mingle with beautiful shrines and temples. If you arrive early we recommend you check out Durbar Square with it's temples, markets and busy atmosphere. It is also worth the climb to visit the Swayambhunath - the 'monkey temple'. Explore the network of street markets and alley bazaars and Pashupatinath. For those with a few extra days in Kathmandu, the neighbouring towns of Patan and Bhaktapur are well worth a visit.
This morning, drive to Besisahar (approximately 5.5 hours) to immediately immerse yourself in the spectacular mountain wilderness that encompasses the Annapurna Range. At 8,091 m, Annapurna 1 is one of the highest mountains in the world. Its surrounding sister mountains are equally imposing, creating magnificent panoramas from any viewpoint. After lunch you'll begin your trek straight away, heading to Ngadi. Throughout this trip's trekking you'll come across isolated mountain communities, each with different ancestral customs and traditions, meaning a visually and culturally memorable expedition. You'll meet warm and welcoming locals herding yaks and goats on the grassy pastures and visit their monasteries and temples, pass waterfalls of melted snow, cross icy rivers, walk along broad plains and hike up high mountain passes.
When you arrive in Besisahar, hit the trail that takes you through Besisahar bazaar leading downstream, followed by the climb up the rocky steps. There are several ups and downs as the trail makes its way through sub-tropical forests and rice paddies of Sera. Further along, traverse a suspension bridge across Khudi Khola and arrive at Bhulbule. Resume on the trail that traverses the Marshyangdi River on a long suspension bridge as Bhulbule is left behind. Once the Ngadi River is crossed, the trail gently leads upwards through scrub forests and across landslides for a short distance, which then leads to few teashops and cold-drink stalls located opposite the rice paddies of Lampata, eventually leading to Bahundanda (hill of the Brahmins), an attractive village in the saddle of a long ridge.
3 Chamje (1430m / 4691ft)
Dazzling cascades en route as the trail makes a way through a deep wooded canyon with few stretches steep climb.
4 Dharapani (2100m / 6889ft)
Trek continues through the deep wooded canyon embellished by stunning waterfalls as you venture into the Manang district. Much of the trail ascends throughout the day.
5 Chame (2710m / 8891ft)
Marking the end of the great Marsyangdi gorge, make a steep climb to Timang, then the trail settles into gentler slopes as the vegetation transforms from dense pine forests to drier slopes. The district headquarters of Manang, Chame, is the largest settlement after Besisahar.
6 Pisang (3300m / 10826ft)
A slew of breathtaking scenery this day as the trail goes through a deep gorge, then past the great sweeping slope of Paungi Danda. Mostly easy walk with few ascending stretches of trail.
7 Manang (3540m / 11614ft)
Trek the northern trail via upper Pisang and Ghyaru, an area renowned for its spectacular views. It is now drier and you are sure to come across local farmers herding yaks. (Tip: Tibetan yaks take a special interest in people wearing red!).
8 Manang (3540m / 11614ft)
Spend a day here to acclimatise to the altitude by doing some high climbing then return to the lower altitude of Manang to sleep. Manang, a village of about 500 flat-roofed houses offers excellent views of Annapurna II, Annapurna III, Gangapurna and Chulu East.
9 Yak Kharka (4018m / 13182ft)
Covering approximately 7 kilometres, steadily climb into the alpine region, taking around five hours.
10 Phedi (4450m / 14599ft)
Due to the altitude, take the next section of the climb at a leisurely pace, which means we'll have time to admire the magnificent views from this part of the route. Once at Phedi, there will be plenty of time to rest and acclimatise to the higher elevations ready for the next part of the climb where we will encounter the Thorung La Pass, the highest point on this Annapurna Explorer.
11 Muktinath (3800m / 12467ft)
Setting off very early to cross the Thorung La Pass (5,416 m), the trail is steep but easy to follow. After between four to six hours climbing, reach the Pass's peak, adorned with prayer flags, a traditional stupa (chorten) and stone cairns built by travellers. Stop to admire the stunning views and marvel at how far you've climbed. Further along, the trail descends steeply proceeding towards Chabarbu. From here on, the trail crosses meadows, drops into a deep ravine, climbs out and follows a wide trail into Muktinath, a pilgrimage site held in great reverence by both Hindus and Buddhists.
12 Jomsom (2800m / 9186ft)
Veer off the main trekking trail to make a side trip to an ancient village of Purang. Further up from the village, continue to take the less frequented route going past another village with a medieval feel to it, Jhong. From Jhong, descend to the Jhing Khola (river) following the course which you emerge on to Kagbeni. From Kagbeni, there is the option to rejoin the Annapurna circuit route to make a gradual descent to Jomsom or take an optional public bus. Total walking time today approximately 7 hours.
Early morning flight to Pokhara (approximately 20 minutes). Toast your achievement over a celebratory dinner in the character-filled Nepalese town of Pokhara (827 m). Pokhara is a peaceful lakeside location which rests beneath the snow-capped peaks of the Annapurna Range. Sip on a cold brew and gaze up at the dramatic pass that you have just conquered. There are plenty of lakeside cafes where you can enjoy international cuisine, while the main street is full of shops and stalls selling a wide range of Nepali and Tibetan souvenirs. Pokhara is part of a once vibrant trade route extending between India and Tibet. This is the land of Magars and Gurungs, hardworking farmers and valorous warriors who have earned worldwide fame as Gurkha soldiers. The Thakalis, another important ethnic group here, are known for their entrepreneurship. Take time to wander around the town and get to know its friendly residents. Your simple hotel in Pokhara is set 100 m back from Fewa Lake and with a back-drop of Machhapuchhare (Fishtail mountain) rising beyond. It has twin-bedded rooms with attached bath and a hot shower facility.
Enjoy a free day in Pokhara to unwind, relax, and give those muscles a rest after all that trekking. Your leader can advise you of sightseeing opportunities. It is worth taking a boat for a row out on the lake, especially if the weather's fine. The lakeside area has great shopping opportunities and internet cafes. Pokhara has an interesting old area as well as an elaborate Hindu temple and a Buddhist monastery. Perhaps visit the Peace Pagoda, where spectacular views of the mountains await. You can see the Annapurnas from here, and the famous fishtail peak, Machhapuchhare, and back across to Pokhara. You will also visit the fascinating International Mountain Museum to learn some amazing tales of past climbing expeditions.
Return to Kathmandu by private vehicle (approx. 7 hours including stops) for further sightseeing or for some last minute shopping for friends and family at home. The options are plentiful – Kathmandu has many markets where Nepali specialties include clothes, embroidery, carpets and ceramics. On arrival in Kathmandu, check back into your hotel.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the hotel at any time. Check out time from the hotel is at 12 noon. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel. Check out the range of Urban Adventures in Kathmandu if you've got some more time here.