Namaste! Welcome to Nepal. You can arrive at any time on day 1 as there are no activities planned until the important welcome meeting at 18:00. 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 is an awesome mixture of legend and modern development with a rich artistic and cultural heritage. Narrow lanes lead to small squares and courtyards where ornate carved balconies overlook shrines and temples. Buzzing markets and bazaars are the centre of Nepali life where stalls and small hole-in-the-wall shops sell everything from bangles to Buddhas to beetroot.
Kathmandu has been a travellers' centre for many years, reflected in the international flavour of the bright lights and 'Coca Cola culture' of the central Thamel district. If you arrive early, why not take time to climb to the Swayambhunath Temple. Situated on a hilltop, the instantly recognisable stupa with its Buddha eyes attracts a steady stream of pilgrims and the views out over the valley are superb. Alternatively, check out Durbar Square, home to the palace of the Kumari Devi, considered to be a living goddess.
Leaving Kathmandu behind early this morning, we will journey to the enchanting Nepalese town of Pokhara by private vehicle (approximately 7 hours). Pokhara enjoys a delightful setting on a lake beneath the snow-capped peaks of the Annapurna range, making it an excellent place to relax and contemplate what lies ahead. 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 world-wide fame as Gurkha soldiers. The Thakalis, another important ethnic group here, are known for their entrepreneurship.
This afternoon you'll have our trek briefing and preparation, but depending on your arrival time, there may be time to hire a small boat for a quick paddle on the lake. There are also plenty of cafes where you can put your feet up and enjoy international cuisine, while the main street is full of shops and stalls selling a wide range of Nepali and Tibetan souvenirs. If you need to hire some extra trekking gear then there are numerous shops available offering everything you could possibly need.
3 Nayapul - Ulleri (2080m / 6824ft)
At 8,091m, Annapurna 1 is one of the highest mountains in the world. Its surrounding sister mountains are equally imposing and create magnificent panoramas from any view point. This trek covers a wide variety of terrain, from lowland pastures and peaceful villages to powerful glaciers and stunning mountain views. In the rugged mountain scenery, you stay in mountain communities and meet friendly Nepali hill people as they go about their daily lives. The expedition is not only visually superb but also a chance to learn about local cultures. Along the way, see thundering waterfalls of melted snow, cross icy rivers and reward ourselves with a soak in natural hot springs. An hour-long drive (remember driving times are always approximate in Asia – patience is your closest friend!) brings you to Nayapul where you commence your trek. Gear up and follow the Bhurungi Khola to Thikhedhunga. Trek through farm land before a steep ascent to reach Ulleri.
4 Ghorepani (2750m / 9022ft)
We ascend to Ulleri Village through a pleasant rhododendron forest, much more impressive than the trees your grandmother has in the garden! We stay overnight at Ghorepani (check out the local disco - but don't get your hopes up in case it's closed!)
5 Tadapani (2700m / 8858ft)
Early birds can bounce out of bed to witness the sunrise over Annapurna from nearby Poon Hill (1 hour uphill climb) - you have to do this at least once in your life, right? Then the adventure continues as we trek on to Tadapani.
6 Kimrung Khola - Chomrong (2177m / 7143ft)
We descend to Kimrung Khola before climbing again to Chomrong village, at the base of Hiunchuli (6441m). There are breathtaking views of Annapurna and Macchhapucchhre from here, plus delicious pizza!
7 Kuldi Ghar - Doban (2670m / 8760ft)
Trek this morning through the forest to Kuldi Ghar for about 3 hours' walking, then down to the banks of the Modi River and up again to Doban.
8 Doban to Machhapuchhre Base Camp (3700m / 12139ft )
Passing through Himalaya Hotel, we continue up the narrow valley to Deurali. Sticking to the west bank of the Modi River, we enter an open valley near Machhapuchhre Base Camp.
9 Annapurna Base Camp (4130m / 13549ft)
We ascend further from Machhapuchhre Base Camp to Annapurna Base Camp, the highest point of our trek. You can decide how your legs and your lungs are holding up. You may remain at Machhapuchhre Base Camp or stay at Annapurna Base Camp for the night. The views from both base camps are fantastic - all the hard work to get here is worth it!
10 Bamboo (2335m / 7660ft)
Early morning wake up call for the sunrise view. We're close enough now to reach out and touch the peaks of Annapurna 1, Macchapucchhre, Annapurna South, Tent Peak, Gangapurna, Himchuli and Annapurna 3. Yep! After watching a sunrise on these snowy peaks we head back down the valley the same way to Bamboo (or further if the knees can handle it). Its a long day but we have plenty of time to get there.
11 Jhinu Danda (1780m / 5839ft)
Passing back through the up and down staircases of Chhomrong we continue on down to Jhinu Danda. From here it's a 20 minute walk down to a hot spring by the Modi Khola for a well-deserved rest.
12 Landruk - Tolkha - Pothana (1970m / 6463ft)
By now we have thighs of steel and are pretty good at carrying our packs. It's down to cross the river and an ascent to Landruk, Tolkha, Deurali and Pothana.
13 Phedi - Pokhara
This is the final day of the trek and it is a short downhill stretch all the way from Pothana to Phedi (approx 1.5 hours) via Dhampus village. . . yes, you made it! After lunch it's only about 45 mins (driving!) to Pokhara to check into your hotel for a well-earned shower and an end-of-trek celebration to enjoy the good things in life – like cold beer and a steak, or vegetarian lasagne!
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.
Journey back to bustling Kathmandu (approximately 6-7 hours) by private vehicle and see the city in a whole new light after days of rugged mountain wilderness. Enjoy an optional farewell dinner with your group to celebrate your Nepal trekking holiday.