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. After checking into our hotel, we set out on an afternoon optional warmup hike outside of Pokhara. Village trails lead us up to a ridge where we will hopefully have clear skies and views of Phewa Lake and the high peaks. From here, we descend on a dirt road to the World Peace Pagoda. The pagoda was constructed in 1973 by Japanese monks to help promote world peace. Back at the hotel, we have dinner and rest up for tomorrow's big day on the trail.
Hiking: 2.5 hours, 3 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +820'
After an early breakfast, we drive to Syauli Bazar, a small Gurung settlement and the starting point of our trek. From here, the trail climbs steadily through terraced rice fields and farmland. Along the trail, we’ll hear the melodic bells of mule trains long before we see them. We may even spot Rhesus macaque in the alder forest. We’ll pass through small villages, open fields, and forests and be rewarded with bright mountain views like Machapuchare, Hiunchuli, and Ganggapurna. Our destination tonight is the village of Ghandruk. Ghandruk is a truly picturesque traditional Gurung settlement with breathtaking views of Annapurna South and Hinunchuli. It’s also 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. We’ll sit down to the first of many delicious dinners prepared by our amazing crew.
Hiking: 3–4 hours, 3.5 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +2,126'/minimal loss; Driving 3.5 hours
Note: Be prepared to ascend and descend long sections of stone steps and hike on long stretches of dirt roads throughout the trip.
As we depart Ghandruk, we walk on a dirt road before turning onto a trail that eventually takes us to the top of Kimrong Danda, a small ridgetop settlement. Here, we soak in the spectacular views of Machapurchare and gaze down at Ghandruk village; seeing the distance we traveled. After a short break, we descend on the trail to Kimrong Khola River and cross a wooden bridge before heading upwards again to the next ridge. This afternoon’s hike is a steady climb of 1,600' to a small tea shop where we take a break. Hiking to Chomrong, our home for the night, we follow an easy contour trail leading to our night’s lodging. Relax with a coffee and enjoy the breathtaking views (weather permitting) of the deep valley and snow-capped peaks including impressive Annapurna South (23,684').
Hiking: 5 hours, 8 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +2,132'/-1,312'
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/loss: +2,851'/-1,890'
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 spend 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/loss: +4,120'/-435'
This morning we ascend roughly two hours to Annapurna Base Camp, leaving us plenty of time this afternoon to soak in and explore the astounding beauty of this valley. Take in 360-degree 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 their fascinating climbing history and remarkable spiritual significance to the local people, who revere the mountains as the "Goddess of the Harvest".
Hiking: 2 hours, 2.7 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,362'/minimal loss
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 descent from Annapurna Base Camp to Dovan. Along the way, the air becomes more oxygen-rich, the ice-clad walls of the sanctuary give way to green vegetation, and the hillsides once more are dotted with small villages and terraced farmland.
Hiking: 7–8 hours, 8.5 miles, Elevation gain/loss: minimal gain/-5,348'
From Dovan, breathing gets noticeably easier as we hike forest trails to the small village of Bamboo. Get ready to do some stair climbing from here. We slowly ascend a long stone staircase leading us up to a viewpoint to capture our last glimpse of Dovan in the distance. The undulating trail meanders to Sinuwa village then it’s mostly downhill through quaint villages dotted with tea shops to Chomrong Khola. Enjoy the views below of the Chomrong River as we cross the newly built Chomrong Bridge. It’s not over just yet. We must tackle another long stone staircase before we can put our feet up and relax at our lodge in Chomrong. Before dinner, sit back with a hot tea and soak in the spectacular views.
Hiking: 5 hours, 8 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,558'/-1,985'
Today we deviate from the route we ascended to enjoy new sights. Descending toward the Modi River, we pass through small villages until we arrive at New Bridge. From here, we give our knees a break as the trail ascends from the river. We stay on the trail until we reach Landruk where we switch over to a dirt road (too much for vehicles) for the last part of our day’s journey. It’s an easy walk with just over 200' of elevation gain in 1.5 miles. The road leads us to Tolka where we spend the night. Not only is it our last night on the trail but also the last night with our outstanding trekking crew. We’ll gather for a farewell dinner and enjoy a memorable celebration with music, dance, food, and local drinks.
Hiking: 6 hours, 7–8 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +984'/-2,362'
Wake up to sunrise on Annapurna South and Hiunchuli! This morning, we’ll say goodbye to our amazing trekking staff before setting out on our final day on the trail. Today’s hike is a long descent on a mix of stone stairs, trails and roads, with some good viewpoints of Annapurna 2 and 4, Lamjung and Manaslu. Our long day will be rewarded with peaceful views of Phewa Lake and the majesty of Machapuchare peak in front of us, creating an ambiance of tranquility as we settle into our lodge in Pokhara. Enjoy a hot shower, a cold beer and celebrate the end of an exceptional trek. Breakfast and lunch included; dinner on your own.
Hiking: 5–6 hours, 9 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +820'/-2,854'
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 the city. The remainder of the day is yours to relax, shop, explore on your own or, if time allows, an optional city tour may be available. 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.