Annapurna Circuit, Naar and Phu
This trek can be combined with trails to or from Mustang, or via Tilicho Lake to produce some exceptional and challenging itineraries. Most people walk in from Syange and then either fly or drive out of Jomsom, or if you have the time, follow a new trail from Jomsom/Muktinath down the Kali Gandaki valley all the way back to Pokhara via Ghorepani (see Poon Hill and Khopra Ridge).
The Annapurna Circuit is rarely closed to trekking – only a period from February to mid-March could see the Thorung La blocked by snow. However, large amounts of snow can fall in intense storms throughout the year, so you should always be cautious of impending weather changes. Lying in the rain-shadow of the Annapurna Range, beyond a steep-sided canyon to the north of Koto, the villages of Naar and Phu receive little rain throughout the year.
The entire Annapurna Circuit trail is well serviced by teahouses, some of which are quite luxurious with ensuite bathrooms! Phu, where there are simple teahouses, lies just a few kilometres from the Tibetan border, is a medieval stonewalled village that sits precariously on a rock spur overlooked by Tashi Gompa, and is also famous for the head Lama who is an expert in traditional medicine. Naar is to the south of Phu behind a popular trekking peak, Pisang Peak (6091m), and has simple teahouses and shops where you can purchase supplies.
The trek to Naar and Phu represents the future of trekking in the Annapurna region; ancient Tibetan communities combine with the extraordinary alpine views from Kang La and Thorung La, and teahouses throughout – this is a magnificent trek!
- Duration & distance: About 10-16 days total; days not more than 20km per day
- Gradient: Short steep sections
- Quality of path: Formed track, some obstacles
- Quality of markings: Signs at beginning, end and major intersections
- Experience required: Some walking experience required
- Walking times: Less than 9 hours a day
- Steps: Steps most days
- Highest point: 5416m
- Best season: Mar-May/Oct-Jan
- Accommodation: Camping and teahouses
- Recommended map: NP107 GHT Series Annapurna, Naar & Phu, Himalayan Map House, 2017
GHT and Other Trails in the Annapurnas
GHT through-hikers have many trail options between Besisahar and Beni, which are the two major bus roadheads to the mountains. A few of the more popular options can be used in conjunction with the previous treks, but feel free to create your own trek – this is one of the few areas of Nepal where everywhere you go will welcome you with open arms and be able to provide good-quality tourist facilities.
Syange to Pokhara
For those returning from the Manaslu Circuit, or beginning the Annapurna Circuit, and have a little extra time this trek is a fabulous option. Often called the Royal Trek (Prince Charles from the UK once did a part of it) this trail is hardly trekked and offers a more complete Nepali experience when combined with the major tourist trails. This route description begins from below Syange and heads over to the famous picnic spot of Begnas Tal, which is a short bus ride from Pokhara.
Khudi is a 5-hour walk south from Syange (or a 60-minute jeep drive), and is where you cross the Khudi Khola on a suspension bridge. Next, take a right-hand trail that leads to Sera (870m, 30 mins). From here there is a long series of stone steps that rise above the Boran Khola to Baglungpani (1595m, 3hrs) where there are some great views of Manaslu, Lamjung Himal and the Annapurnas, with the distinctive Macchapuchhare (Fish Tail Peak) standing sentinel. A long ridge descent via Nalma (1240m, 2hrs) brings you to the Midim Khola, a broad valley that leads down to Karputar (490m, 2½hrs). From here it is 1½ hours to Begnas Tal, which is one of Nepal’s favourite picnic spots. Catch a bus to Pokhara from here (less than an hour).
Tilicho Tal (Lake)
For many years visiting Tilicho Tal (Tilicho Lake) was very hazardous because of dramatic/unpredictable changes in weather and potential rockfall. The potential weather danger still exists but trail improvement across both the rockfall area and the heavily iced Mesokanto La or Mandala La have made this stunning location far more accessible.
This camping-based itinerary takes 4-5 days (Manang to Jomsom) depending on prior acclimatisation and the time you want to spend enjoying Tilicho Tal views. There is a seasonal lodge at Tilicho Base Camp for those who are prepared to trek for a very long, challenging day to Jomsom, thus making a 3-day itinerary.
Take the main trail through Manang at turn left just after the mani wall outside the village. You soon join the road, which you follow until a small trail leads to a suspension bridge, which you cross (over the Marsyangdi Nadi). After a small climb and section through pine forest, the trail rejoins the road all the way to to Khangsar (3734m, 2hrs), where there are teahouses.
Walk through Khangsar and follow the road, which steadily climbs. There is a trail short-cut to the right but is hard to spot, so you might find yourself following the road all the way to Thare Gompa. Now the road ends and you climb switchbacks to Siri Kharka (4070m, 1½hrs), where there are two teahouses. About 20 minutes uphill, beyond the first teahouses, there is another, but this is only open in the main trekking season. It is now a very easy trail for about 1hr to the beginning of the main landslide and rockfall area. Care should be taken while crossing this section as rockfall is common!
It takes 30-40 minutes to cross the main landslide area to safe scrub-covered hillside, but then you round the corner of the valley to another landslide area, which only ends just before you reach Tilicho Base Camp (4150m, 2½hrs from Siri). There are three large teahouses here, which are often busy even out of season.
It’s about a 3hr climb to Tilicho Tal (4990m) on a well-formed path, and there are marker poles higher up if covered in snow. The teahouse at the lake viewpoint is very basic and only open for short periods during the main trekking season – you must check in Tilicho Base Camp if it is possible to stay.
If you want to continue to Jomsom, the safest and fastest route goes behind a minor peak to the north of the lake and crosses ‘Eastern Pass’ (5340m, 3hrs) before descending to a kharka at the northern end of the lake (4940m, 1hr). The views throughout the day are wonderful. Both Mandala Pass (aka Donkey pass, 5200m) and Mesokanto La (5350m) are 1½-hour climb away. You should very carefully assess the descent from either pass before committing yourself!
From either pass, it is a very long descent on poorly formed trails that are often confused with animal tracks in patches of thorn bush. There are no rest or good camping sites before you reach Thinigaon (2840m, 5hrs) and then to Jomsom (2720m, 30 mins), where there are many good teahouses.
Teri La – from Naar to Lo Manthang [by Ade Summers]
This camping-only trek takes 8 days from Naar without acclimatisation time. As well as a Naar–Phu and ACAP permit, you will also require a Mustang controlled area permit; see Mustang.
From Naar, first ascend the Lapse Khola (aka Labse Khola) on a clear but undulating trail to a campsite in 6-7 hours. A good trail continues to follow the Lapse Khola to the next camp in 5 hours. You now cross back and forth over the Lapse Khola to approach the high camp (5225m, 3hrs) before the pass. Contour up the valley, then start gaining height. You can see Teri La on the left (eastern) skyline, and you’ll soon see the prayer flags. It is a steep gully ascent to Teri La (5595m, 4hrs) where there are great views of the Dhamodhar Himal, Dhaulagiri, the Annpaurnas and many peaks in Mustang.
It is a steep descent (possibly in snow) into the next valley, where the gradient eases to a good lunch spot beside a river at 5050m (1hr). Follow the valley and then climb a rocky ridge with a small scramble section. Turn right (north) and traverse the ridge to reach a grassy and less rocky ridgeline. Another steep descent brings you to a camp beside the Yak Khola (4730m, 3hrs).
Remain on the true right side of the valley as you continue descending, crossing minor spurs and a landslide area to a possible lunch spot after 3 hours at 4470m. Continue descending to a confluence of two rivers where there is a steep drop on a zig-zag rocky path. Cross the interesting Dhakrung Khola and climb the far ridge. Contour around a second ridge to a minor pass and then turn sharp right and descend into the Samena Khola valley. Cross the river and a short climb to a big wash out area and campsite at Yakpa (4370m).
It’s a steep climb passing an old deserted village, Purano Kog. The trail can be a bit loose and exposed. Ascend a zigzag path up to a ridge for about 500m before the gradient eases across a flat-ish plateau, with amazing views of Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri and Tilicho. Cross a minor ridge at 4730m before traversing around two ridges and descending into the arid Tengga valley. Entering the village is an amazing sight, first crossing a long suspension bridge and then passing the village Kani and Mani walls. There is a campsite beside the village (3240, 6hrs). Climb about 200m to the plateau behind Tengge, where there are some incredible eroded rock flutes. Descend to a lunch spot near the river, where there are more views of Dhaulagiri. After lunch cross the Dhechyang Khola, which can be tricky and ascend a steep moraine wall. Once on top traverse across a plateau and then descend to Yara Gaon (3650m) via a good bridge. An easy walk takes you down the valley to the valley junction with the Kali Gandaki river, where you cross a good bridge at Dhi Gaon (3450m, 5hrs). It’s then a steep climb to the Lo Manthang trail (3809m, 6hrs, see South-east of Lo Manthang).
Dress CodeMid-altitude alpine clothing and camping equipment required
IncludedAnnapurna Circuit, Naar and Phu
Not IncludedSpecial PermitsTea Houses AvailablePersonal Guide