The Annapurna region trek lies towards the north of Central Nepal. The region has been recognized as one of the world’s best trekking trails according to a recent survey by Modern Maturity (USA). The highlights of this part of Nepal are: the Annapurna peaks, Mt. Dhaulagiri, Kali Gandaki River and several other peaks. The Gateway to the Annapurna trekking region is the famous city of Pokhara. The most prominent ethnic groups of the Annapurna region are: Gurungs, Thakalis and Manangbas. The animals found over here include: Pica, blue Sheep and Himalayan Thar and the vegetation ranges from tropical species to temperate forest to oak, beech and Rhododendron.
The popular Annapurna region trek are: Jomsom, Annapurna Circuit. Annapurna Base Camp, Annapurna foothills, Sikles, Lamjung, Dhaulagiri, upper Mustang and around Pokhara. The best time to visit is during spring and autumn; however, unlike other parts of Nepal, one can trek even during the monsoon months.
Regardless of the trek that is chosen, it is most likely that Pokhara will either be the starting or the ending point of your trek. Pokhara is located 200 km. west of Kathmandu and can be reached by road. There are a number of tourist buses that are available daily both from Kathmandu and Chitwan.
There is no shortage of tourist facilities in and around Pokhara. The main centre for tourists is at the side of the largest of the three lakes in the area, Phewa Taal and there are a lot of agencies and suppliers of souvenirs and trekking equipments on the suburbs. For those trekking in the eastern side of the Annapurna massif, the most likely starting point will be Besishahar, the district headquarters of Lamjung district. Buses from Kathmandu, Pokhara and Terai arrive and depart from here on a regular daily basis. The bus trip from Kathmandu to Besishahar takes around four to five hours but, at this time, there are no tourist bus services available.
Most treks starting or ending in Pokhara will require the use of buses or hired cars to reach the trailheads. Specific details appear in the trek descriptions.
The most prominent ethnic groups in the Annapurna region trek are the Gurungs, the Thakalis and the Manangbas. Among the ethnic groups found here, the Gurungs are the most widely distributed and are found from the hills of Gorkha district to as far west as Palpa. Their heartland, however, is the center on the hills and the valleys between the Marshyangdi River and the Kali Gandaki. The Thakalis come from the upper Kali Gandaki valley where their traditional farming has been supplemented by trade and, in particular, hotel and restaurant business. The Mananagbas are found in the upper reaches of the Marshyangdi River and are in many ways similar to the Gurungs with whom they are possibly related. They are skilled traders and trace their roots back to Tibet. Religiously, the Manangbas and the Gurungs of the upper hills are Buddhists with traces of their ancient, Shamanistic faith still apparent. The communities that live further south are predominantly Hindus.
All of the communities, particularly the Gurungs, are famed for their cultural performances, which can easily be seen while trekking in the region. Many villages along the trails will arrange performances for trekkers during the main seasons.
As can be imagined, the range of geographical and climatic regions has led to a diverse variety of flora and fauna within the Annapurna region trek. Both Pokhara and Besishahar are below 1000-meter in elevation and their climate is quite tropical. These parts of the area are heavily cultivated and the landscape, therefore, largely consists of terraced paddy fields for most of the year. The area is also famous for its winter crops of oranges, which can be purchased fresh from the trees, along the trails in the foothills. As you progress higher up into the hills, the natural vegetation changes from the tropical species to more temperate stands of forest trees including oak, beech and Rhododendron. These finally give way to coniferous forests of pine and ultimately, Juniper is just below the tree line. In the rain shadow, to the north of the mountains, the landscape is quite barren as it is an extension from the south of the Tibetan plateau. Here, there are only stunted bushes and shrubs except for areas that are close to the rivers where cultivating irrigated crops is possible.
Native animals to be seen include many birds with the most obvious being Pica, blue Sheep and Himalayan Thar.
As with most of the trekking areas in Nepal, the best times to visit are during spring and autumn. Spring is the time for Rhododendrons while the clear blue skies can only be seen during October and November, after the monsoon. At these times, the weather is generally mild and there is little rainfall. Unlike other parts of Nepal, the monsoon, from June to September, is the ideal time to visit parts of this region that falls in the rain shadow. In particular, upper Mustang is the perfect destination during the rainy season. The winter months provide good trekking conditions throughout the foothills but some of the higher passes will be closed due to snow.
Follow the advice listed in ‘conservation matters’ at the beginning of this site but in particular look for the ACAP sponsored safe drinking water depot that has been established in the project area.
Most of the Annapurna region trek routes are well serviced by tea houses for most of their length. This is particularly true for the most popular treks like: the Jomsom trek, the Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna Base Camp treks.
Trekkers should be aware, however, that there is always the risk of being stranded by bad weather or injury/sickness between teahouses, particularly in the more remote parts of the trek. A good example is on the Annapurna Circuit trail where there is little or no shelter available for most of the day and some trekkers have been caught unprepared for bad weather and altitude problems.
The treks in less developed areas, particularly the Dhaulagiri Circuit and the treks east of Lamjung, definitely require trekkers to be self sufficient in terms of food and shelter.
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