Our trip begins today in Kathmandu, Nepal. After clearing immigration and customs, we are met by our staff and transferred to a lovely private guesthouse outside the city. Chhahari retreat is a new boutique property north of the city on the border of the national park, with terraced gardens, expansive views, mouth-watering cuisine, massage services and more. The afternoon is yours to relax and enjoy before our evening welcome and trip orientation. Dinner included.
Enjoy a full-day guided tour of the ancient cities and UNESCO world heritage highlights of the Kathmandu Valley. Nepal is a country rich in religious diversity and today we visit numerous Buddhist and Hindu shrines and temples such as Swayambunath (the Monkey Temple) and the ancient city of Patan on the holy Bagmati river. Returning to Kathmandu, we visit Durbar Square, showcasing centuries of artistry and craftsmanship, a wide variety of traditional architectural styles, impressive palaces and more. The rest of the day will be on your own to prepare for tomorrow's departure. Breakfast and dinner included, lunch is on your own.
This morning we take a flight to Pokhara, west of Kathmandu, where our trek begins. The Pokhara Valley offers a spectacular panorama of Nepal's central Himalayas with Annapurna South and Machapuchare dominating the skyline. A short drive to Phedi in the Annapurna foothills leads us to our rendezvous with our terrific support crew, where our porters load up our supplies. Our trek starts out with a steady uphill climb and a series of stone stairways passing through villages and ultimately arriving at Dhampus. Enjoy big views of Machapuchare, 'The Fish Tail' (22,885'/6,975m), from our first night's camp. All meals are included during our trek, from breakfast on Day 3 through lunch on Day 12, and our cooking crew will strive to surprise you with their creative menus assembled from locally farmed produce, grains, meats and more.
Hiking: 2-3 hours, 3 miles; elevation gain: 1,805'/550 m; elevation loss: minimal
After an early breakfast, we begin trekking from Dhampus to Landrung. Today we climb steadily out of chestnut forests to the small village of Potana and on to Deurali before descending to Bainshikharka and Tolka. In these small villages, many ethnic Gurung and Magar people make their homes. Predominantly Buddhist, the Gurung people are descendents of the Tibetans with a unique language (Gurung) and a rich musical and cultural tradition. The Magar people, while also descended from the Tibetans, are predominantly Hindu with 3 distinct languages and a complex history you may enjoy learning more about. Local people absorb themselves in the demands of agriculture and you'll find most people here to be very genuine, friendly and fond of humor. Our day ends in Landrung, a Gurung village where we spend the night.
Hiking: 5-6 hours, 8.5 miles; elevation gain: 1,575'/480m; elevation loss: 2,126'/648m
As we depart Landrung village, the trail leads down hill, crossing the Modi Khola on a suspension bridge (New Bridge). The trail ascends to a ridge top, passing through rhododendron forests and terraced fields. We reach Jinwa Danda (hot springs) in about three and a half hours before continuing another two hours to the Gurung village of Chumrung. This village is the gateway to the Annapurna Sanctuary and, weather permitting, we are treated to fantastic mountain views including impressive Annapurna South (23,684'/7,220m).
Hiking: 5-6 hours, 8.7 miles; elevation gain: 3,055'/931m; elevation loss: 1,434'/437m
Today the trail descends steeply to the banks of the river Chumrung Khola. We cross over the river on a suspension bridge, then climb steeply through bamboo thickets leading to the small village of Sinuwa Danda. Here, the trail levels off and follows a ridge traveling through rhododendron and bamboo forests, always in view of the mountains. After descending through Khudi and Bamboo village, we hike for about 1.5 additional hours before arriving at Dovan for the evening.
Hiking: 6 hours, 9.3 miles; elevation gain: 2,851'/869m; elevation loss: 1,890'/576m
From Dovan the trail climbs steadily crossing glaciers and small streams. As the vegetation changes from forest to shrubs, we emerge into the opens spaces above tree line and the views only become better. After trekking for about six hours the trail reaches Machapuchare Base Camp, where we establish camp for the night. The splendid panoramic views include Hiunchuli, Annapurna South, Annapurna I and Machapuchare. Sacred to the local people and considered to be of great importance to the Hindu god Shiva, climbing Machapuchare has been declared off-limits by the government of Nepal and the summit of Machapuchare has never been reached.
Hiking: 7 hours, 11 miles; elevation gain: 4,120'/1256m; elevation loss: 435'/133m
This morning we ascend roughly two hours to Annapurna Base Camp leaving us with plenty of time this afternoon to soak in and explore the astounding beauty of this valley. Situated on a knoll, our camp offers 360° views of soaring peaks including the South Face of the Annapurna I, III, IV, Annapurna South, Machapuchare, Singa Chuli, Tent Peak and Hiunchuli. Standing at Annapurna Base Camp, fans of mountaineering lore may expect to gain a new appreciation for these beautiful but unforgiving giants. Annapurna I was the first 8,000 meter peak ever climbed, opening the door to a new chapter in climbing history in 1950, but since that time, only about 150 people have ever successfully summited the peak, while nearly 60 have lost their lives in the attempt, making Annapurna's mortality rate among climbers the highest by far of any mountain on Earth. Far from the menacing route above, at Base Camp we soak in the full awe of the Annapurnas and enjoy learning more about its fascinating climbing history and remarkable spiritual significance to the local people who revere the mountain as the Goddess of the Harvest.
Hiking: 2 hours, 2.7 miles; elevation gain: 1,362'/415m; elevation loss: minimal
If there was ever a morning warranting an early wake up – this is that morning, as the sunrise over Annapurna South is well worth any missed minutes of extra sleep. Enjoy the show with a hot drink, then settle in for a hearty breakfast, snap a few last-minute photographs, then prepare for our return descent from Annapurna Base Camp to Bamboo village. Breathing gets noticeably easier today as the air becomes more oxygen rich and the ice-clad walls of the sanctuary give way to green vegetation and hillsides once again dotted with small villages.
Hiking: 8 hours, 14.5 miles; elevation gain: 552'/168m; elevation loss: 6,430'/1960m
From Bamboo village we retrace our steps along the trail to Sinuwa Danda, then descend the steep stone staircase leading down to the river Chumrung Khola and back up to Chumrung village on the opposite bank, where we spend the night.
Hiking: 5 hours, 8 miles; elevation gain: 1,772'/540m; elevation loss: 2,260'/689m
Today we deviate from the route we ascended to enjoy new sights, beginning our hike on a relatively easy contour trail for 1.5 hours, passing through small Gurung villages. After a steady uphill, we descend toward the river of Kimrong Khola. Here we cross a wooden bridge over to the next ridge. From the ridge, another steady 1.5 hour climb leads us to the top of Komrong Danda where we'll break for lunch and enjoy spectacular views of Machapuchare. From here we can see the village of Ghandruk where we'll camp tonight after another 1.5 hours of further hiking downhill to reach our destination. Ghandruk is a truly picturesque traditional Gurung settlement and is considered a model village within the Annapurna Conservation Area Project, the first and largest conservation area established by the National Trust for Nature Conservation in Nepal. Tonight is the last evening that our outstanding staff will prepare dinner for us so we'll look forward to a memorable farewell celebration with music, dancing, great food, local drinks and more.
Hiking: 5 hours, 8 miles; elevation gain: 1,673'/510m; elevation loss: 2,280'/695m
From Ghandruk the trail mostly descends along contours and through a lovely section of birch forest to Birethanti, situated on the banks of Modi River with bright mountain views through the rhododendrons. From here, we continue trekking another 40 minutes toward the town of Nayapool where we'll enjoy a final picnic lunch on the banks of the jade-colored river, Modi Khola, before hiking on another 20 minutes to our vehicle which is waiting to transfer us back to Pokhara by this evening. We say goodbye to our trekking staff, check into our hotel and have the rest of the day to explore. The peaceful Phewa Lake and the majesty of Machapuchare peak rising just in front of it create an ambiance of tranquility. Enjoy a hot shower, a cold beer and celebrate the end of an exceptional trek. Breakfast and lunch included; dinner on your own.
Hiking: 5 hours, 8 miles; elevation gain: 1,673'/510m; elevation loss: 2,280'/695m
A morning flight returns us to Kathmandu. Our final night's lodging is a standard Kathmandu hotel in the Thamel district, an ideal location for shopping, dining and nightlife located in the heart of Kathmandu. Relax, shop, explore on your own, or join us for an optional city tour. The tour is likely to feature Kathmandu Durbar Square or the ancient city of Bhaktapur. The reminder of the day is at your leisure to shop or relax before your journey home. Breakfast included.
Transfers from our host hotel are provided to the airport for flights home, or extend your stay to explore on your own. Breakfast included.