The Annapurna Sanctuary trek is in a high glacial basin lying forty kilometres directly north of Pokhara, Nepal’s second city. This oval-shaped plateau sits at an altitude of over 4000 meters surrounded by a ring of mountains, the Annapurna range, most of which are over 7000 meters. With the only entrance a narrow pass between the peaks of Hiunchuli and Machapuchare, where run-off from glaciers drain into Modi Khola River, the Sanctuary was not penetrated by outsiders until 1956. Because of high mountains on all sides, the Annapurna Sanctuary receives only 7 hours of sunlight a day at the height of summer. The unique combination of heights and depths in the Annapurna Sanctuary give rise to an extraordinary variety of ecosystems. The south-facing slope is “covered in dense tropical jungles of rhododendron and bamboo”, while the north-facing slopes, in the rain shadow, have “a drier colder climate similar to that of the near-by Tibetan Plateau.”
This beautiful trek mixes easily to moderate trekking on pathways through beautiful local villages full of colour and charm. Overall a great short to medium trek in the stunning Annapurna Sanctuary.
Our adventure first takes us to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, also known as the City of a Thousand Temples, and where every other day is a festival. Kathmandu is home to over 500,000 Nepalese, living a humble life in this vibrant city, the starting point for many expeditions to the Himalaya. It was once a Mecca for the drop-out hippie generation of the 60’s. However, today, Kathmandu has returned to its former ways, a place alive with the traditions and cultures of its many ethnic peoples. While here, we visit some of the famous Temples of the Hindus and Buddhas. We saunter through the busy streets and markets of the Thamel in the old region of the city and experience at first-hand the hustle, bustle, sights, sounds and smells while mixing with the locals of this lively, cultural town.
Each days trek is more spectacular than the day before as we make our way deeper into this mountainous wonderland of a Shangri-La. Mountains project like massive pillars from the deep, river-gorged valleys. We make our way along narrow paths etched from the steep hillsides in a mystical world of mountains. That is the heart of the most beautiful and inspiring mountain range in the world, the Himalayas ‘home of the snows’. They stretch in a high arch across Asia, 150 miles wide and 1700 miles long, from Indus in the west to the Brahmaputra in the east. All along the length of the Himalaya, its mountaintops are revered by the people of the valleys below as the place of their gods. You are in an area that for centuries has been the setting for epic feats of exploration and mountain climbing.
The area of Annapurna Sanctuary trek is famous for its possibilities of trekking and is considered to be the most famous and popular trekking destination in all of Nepal. This region is renowned for beautiful mountains such Annapurnas, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu, and Machhapuchre. There are three major trekking routes in Annapurna Region: to Jomsom Muktinath, to Annapurna Sanctuary (Annapurna BaseCamp), and a circuit of the Annapurna Himal itself. About two-thirds of the trekkers in Nepal visit the Annapurna region. The area is easily accessible, hotels in the hills are plentiful, and treks here offer good scenery of both high mountains and lowland villages. Pokhara is also a good starting place for short treks of one to four days, such as Ghorepani Trekking, Ghandruk Trekking and others. Mustang is also geographically a part of the Annapurna region, but treks to Mustang are subject to special restrictions.
The entire sanctuary is sacred to the Gurung people, the only people to inhabit it before the 20th century. They believed it was the repository of gold and various treasures left by the Nāgas, the serpent-gods known in India. The sanctuary is considered to be the home of several deities, from Hinduism and Buddhism as well the older animistic gods. The peak of Machapuchare at the entrance was believed to be the home of the god Shiva, and the daily plumes of snow are the smoke of his divine incense. Until recently, the local Gurung people forbade anyone from bringing eggs or meat into the Annapurna Sanctuary, and women and untouchables were prohibited from going there as well.
In recent years, the number of trekkers to the Sanctuary has increased substantially, in part because the Sanctuary forms the base of one of the major routes to the peaks of the Annapurna range. The Annapurna Sanctuary is now part of the Annapurna Conservation Area Project, which places restrictions on the number of outside travellers, gathering of firewood, and domestic animal grazing.