Moderate trekking involves 5 – 6 hours a day walking at a steady pace below 4000 meters for around 10 days trekking trip.
This trek through part of the spectacular Kali Gandaki Gorge and into the heart of the Himalayan Mountains to the revered Muktinath Temple is something very special. The trek combines stunning Annapurna Sanctuary and Mustang region mountain scenery with the cultural and spiritual experience of exploring aspects of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs as you approach and then visit Muktinath Temple itself.
The trek commences with a section of a classic Annapurna trekking trail as you ascend to the famous mountain vista point of Ghorepani and its nearby Poon Hill look-out point. From here you can take in the full glory of the many Annapurna Massif peaks as the dawn sun rises and highlights icy peak after peak. But this is just the start of this trek. From here you trek further into the Annapurna Sanctuary and get closer to many of its beautiful mountains. You then descend to the somewhat remote village of Jomsom. From there the path initially ascends the gentle grade of the Kali Gandaki River and you begin to take in the enormity and wonder of the gorge – reported to be the largest gorge on our planet. For some this humbling experience of feeling so small against the power and scale of nature is the beginning of the spiritual experience this trek has on many people. The trail then turns to the east and ascends into the Himalayas on what is normally the last few stages of the Annapurna Circuit route. By the time you reach Muktinath Temple you will have ascended to 3,795m of altitude and the affects of the thinner atmosphere will be quite noticeable.
The spiritual highlight of this trek is visiting and experiencing Muktinath Temple near the village of Rani Pauwa. The temple has a long history that is intertwined with Hindu and Buddhist beliefs and legend. Your guide will help explain and unravel much of this history for you as you trek towards the temple. Once there you make choose to be instructed in Hindu or Buddhist yatra procedure and pass under the 108 holy fountains and learn about the five elements of nature that come together at this sacred location.
There are so many components to this great trek – an experience for body, mind and spirit.
Welcome to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. A Lantang Ri Trekking & Expedition representative will greet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel. When you are ready you will be collected from your hotel lobby and driven to our Thamel office where you will be formally introduced to your trekking guide. We will go through all your trek itinerary and arrangements with you an ensure every detail is in place. We will also ask for your passport photographs and any other details so that we can organize all permits required for your trek and the region you will be exploring.
Today our office will secure your trekking permits and arrange domestic travel details. While you also recover from your international flight jet lag we can utilise today to escort you to some of the fantastic cultural highlights of Kathmandu. We will collect you from your hotel in the morning and provide you with a very knowledgeable sightseeing guide. The highlights of any tour of Kathmandu always include visits to the main religious and architectural sites of Swayambhunath, also known as the Monkey Temple; Pashupatinath Hindu temple on the banks of the Bagmati River in eastern Kathmandu; and the ancient royal heart of Kathmandu at Durbar Square.
Durbar Square: This is a UNESCO world Heritage site and deservedly so. It comprises a royal palace which has many buildings and courtyards that are now a fascinating museum of the history of Nepal and its royal Malla Kings heritage. Some of the royal buildings date back to the 12th century and now function as a wonderful museum focusing on royalty history. Outside the palace in the Durbar Square area there and many beautifully designed and constructed temples, each with its own historical and special religious significance. Your guide will tell you fascinating stories about each structure and explain its religious function and associated beliefs. The quality of woodwork and detailed figurative carving on many of these temples is exceptional.
Swayambhunath Buddhist Stupa: Is a 2000 year old Stupa – a religious hemispherical structure – that is the most important of all Buddhist shrines. It is the focal point of Buddist belief in Nepal. The main stupa structure is very large and its ornate central spire carries the all-seeing eye of the Buddha who observes all adherents and knows all. Your guide will escort you on a walk around the stupa – it is spiritually and culturally important to ensure you walk in the correct direction – and explain some of the history and significance of the stupa.
Pashupatinath Hindu Temple: At the very large and complex Pashupatinath temple we explore aspects of the Hindu religion. This old and very revered complex of buildings and shrines is dedicated to the Lord Shiva, one of the main deities of Hinduism. While Lord Shiva has multiple forms he is often seen as the destroyer. And this has great significance for the Pashupatinath temple as it is the site of many Hindi ritual cremations each day. Pashupatinath is considered by Hindus to be an auspicious site for passing from one stage of life to the next through the purifying and destroying flames of cremation. However, on a happier note, visitors may also get to see the temple in a buoyant festival mode with one of the many Hindu festivals celebrated every year.
Drive or fly to Pokhara. The flight is an optional extra for this itinerary. Pokhara is located about 200km west of Katmandu on the shores of the beautiful Lake Fewa. Pokhara is a mixture of restful and busy. It has the atmosphere of a relaxed “resort town” where visitors take it easy seeing the sights and resting before their Annapurna or Mustang trek and once again upon their return. But is also a busy place with all these visitors arriving, leaving and exploring the lake and nearby sights of Pokhara. The option to drive from Kathmandu to Pokhara provides an opportunity to experience more of the real Nepal beyond the national parks and trekking trails. The scenery and people you will meet on the drive is also worth the experience.
Drive from Pokhara – 915m starting altitude – ascends the Himalayan foothills to Phedi – 1,130m altitude. From Phedi we commence the actual trek and head for Pothana at 1,900m altitude. Your legs will face some challenges today as the trail ascends all the way to Pothana. The first stage takes you through forested trails filled with birds and wildlife and brings you to the wonderful little village of Dhampus and its fantastic views of the Annapurna massif and its many icy peaks. You guide will point out many of the highest and best known peaks in the Annapurna ranges, the adjacent Lamjung Himal and the Mount Manaslu region. After a break at Dhampus the trail leads onwards and upwards along forest-clad trails to Pothana. Your entire journey today will take five or six hours to complete and you will be rewarded again at Pothana with more fantastic mountain view scenery as you take a well earned rest in the late afternoon.
The trek today from Pothana to Ghandruk (1,940m altitude) usually takes about six hours to complete. The trails leads northward along the Modi Khola valley. The initial stage involves a descent along forested trails to the bottom of the valley. The trail then follows the river northward through a string of small communities that focus on farming and trekking. You will pass many beautifully tended terraced farms and almost as many enticing teahouses and rest stops where you might like to take a break over a hot tea and taking in the wonderful environment and mountain scenery. The final stage involves an ascent back up the valley wall to reach Ghandruk village. The location provides some fantastic mountain views, particularly to the beautiful peak of Annapurna South, Mount Hiunchuli, Mount Gangapurna, Annapurna III and sacred Mount Machhapuchhre which is also known as Fishtail – the reason is obvious when you see it. Get some rest this afternoon but do make some time to visit the little museum in the village and also make sure you do a little shopping at the great little local handicraft center.
Today’s trek to Ghorepani at 2,853m altitude goes through lots of twists and turns and ups and downs and totals a net ascent of about 900m. So there is some serious walking today and it is likely to take about five hours to complete. The trail will take you through thick Rhododendron forests that may be in flower when you are there – the sight is spectacular. You will continue westwards crossing small streams and traversing high ridges that offer some great mountains views. However, towards the end of the day the trail will descend once more and deliver you to busy little Ghorepani village. You will most likely find there are many other trekking groups here as they are all drawn to this location by nearby Poon Hill. So get some rest this afternoon and prepare for a big day tomorrow.
Today is the scenic highlight of your trek. You will depart Ghorepani before dawn and ascend to the vantage point of Poon Hill just to the south-west and looming above Ghorepani. Your goal is to arrive on Poon Hill just before the sun starts to rise over the Annapurna Massif and its many peaks. Poon Hill (3,232m) is about 500m higher than Ghorepani and the hilltop provides uninterrupted views in every direction. Watch the first rays of the sun hit the summit of Mount Dhaulagiri (8167m) to your west and the other icy peaks of the main Annapurna Massif – Tukuche Peak (6,920m), Mount Nilgiri (6,940m), Varaha Shikhar (7,847m), Mount Annapurna I (8,091m), Annapurna South (7,219m), Annapurna III (7,855m), Machhapuchhre (6,993m), Annapurna IV (7,525m), Annapurna II (7,937m), Lamjung Himal (6,931m) and many other gorgeous Himalayan peaks. Make sure you have fresh batteries in your camera, you’re going to leave Poon Hill with lots of fantastic photos and memories that will last a lifetime. But once the sunrise show is over and you catch you breath it is time to descend the hill and trek on to Tadopani.
Trek from Tatopani to Ghasa (2,013m altitude) is very easy as the ascent is very gentle along the Kali Gandaki river. Walking time today will probably be about five hours or a little more. The trail starts and ends today in the massive Kali Gandaki Gorge, said to be the deepest gorge in the world. But the lower sides of the valley floor are home to many small farming communities and citrus farming is very popular in this section of the trail. So make sure you stock up on some wonderful organic oranges and vitamin C today. You should also make sure to keep looking upwards as you trek and glimpse towering peaks far above and even waterfalls tumbling from some of the side streams draining into the Kali Gandaki. We even pass through an impressive section of narrow gorge and cliffs. Another hour or two northward will being you up from the riverbed and to the nice little village of Ghasa. Your guide will explain the cultural and architectural changes you may notice as the trail heads northward towards Tibet. This region of Nepal has had many centuries of Tibetan influence as trading caravans have passed through this valley taking goods and salt between Tibet and India
The trekking today is also easy as you head further north along the Kali Gandaki valley. When you leave Ghasa you leave behind citrus farms but when you arrive in Marpha are in the centre of the Nepal apple growing region. You will have plenty of time today to stop and visit many of the little farming communities along the valley sides. If the fruit is in season the farmers will enjoy you taking an interest in their orchards and buying some new season apples. When you reach Marpha you should also make sure you sample some home-baked apple pie and a drop or two of the local and invigorating apple brandy. But before you go too far you should also pay a visit to the very important Buddhist monastery at Marpha. A blessing from the monks may assist you on the remainder of the trek.
Another day of easy trekking along the river bed. If you keep a careful eye on the rocks as you walk today you might even find a fantastic fossil of ancient marine live that swam in oceans here millions of years ago. Walking time today will be around five to six hours and you will gain nearly 200m in altitude by the time you reach the half-way point of Jomsom located at 2,713m altitude. So the gradient is low, the walking easy and the scenery stunning as usual. You will have Annapurna I to your right and Mount Dhaulagiri to your left – both ice and snow-capped monster mountains over 8,000m high. You will take a break in busy Jomsom – the main airport for the region and a major hub for transporting trekking groups into and out of the region. The second phase of today’s trek continues northward and you will find the climate and geography change markedly over the course of the day. The further north you trek the dryer the conditions become due to the rain-shadow effect of the Annapurna Massif mountains. They block much of the rain-bearing clouds from India, even during the annual monsoon season. So you will find conditions for farming becoming increasingly difficult and communities becoming more dependent on livestock grazing of the rugged valley sides. When you arrive in Kagbeni at 2,897m altitude you will have gained about 400m in altitude over the five or six hours walk today. Spend some time in the afternoon exploring wonderful little Kagbeni. It sits high on a defensive ridge above the river and is a maze of narrow lanes with stone walls and traditional houses. The local people are always happy to greet new visitors.
Trek today will strain a few leg muscles that had little work to do during the last few days on the river bed. Now you head eastwards out of the Kali Gandaki valley and up a side valley that leads all the way up to the Thorong La Pass which is part of the Annapurna Circuit trail. But the trek today will not go as far as the high pass, instead your goal is Muktinath. You will leave Kagbeni at 2,810m altitude and reach an altitude of 3,795m when you arrive in Muktinath – the altitude gain today of nearly 1,000m is considerable. At this altitude the reduced atmospheric pressure means you will have just 64% of the oxygen in each breath compared to sea level. So expect to be breathing a bit harder today as the trail get steeper and the altitude higher. You will pass through a number of small communities this morning such as Jhatkot, which has a very old monastery you should pay a short visit to, and your guide will explain the increasing influence Tibet has had on this region of Nepal. You will also notice the increasingly arid conditions as you make your way through dry river-lets and over expose ridges. By early afternoon you should reach Muktinath village and then continue on to the village of Rani Pauwa where the Muktinath Temple is located. Your guide will introduce you to the many Buddhits and Hindu elements of the temple and you may also meet some of the monks who reside, study and meditate at the temple. If you wish you make also take the invigorating and spiritually significant walk under the 108 water fountains of the temple. You will also learn about the five elements of all creation that come together at this temple. You will then return back to Muktinath village where you will spend the night.
The trek changes direction today and comprises a long descent from Muktinath back to Jomsom. You will easily complete in just one day what earlier took you two days of ascending. Expect to be walking for about five or six hours. You will have spectacular mountain vista views from the high ridges with many of the Annapurna peaks visible plus towering 8,167m Mount Dhaulagiri to the west on the other side of the Kali Gandaki valley.
The flight from Jomsom to Pokhara which takes about 20 minutes and will depart early in the morning. The strong winds that rush through the Kali Gandaki Valley most afternoons mean flights cannot be operated at this time. So you will be back in Pohkara early in the day with plenty of time to explore the town, perhaps go boating on the lake or even go paragliding! Just ask your guide for assistance booking and arranging any of these activities.
After breakfast in the morning you say goodbye to Pokhara and head back to bustling Kathmandu by road. You may also choose to fly back to Kathmandu as an optional extra to your itinerary. You will be delivered back to your Kathmandu hotel at the end of today’s travels.
This is the free day to explore a little more of Kathmandu and complete your gift shopping. In the evening you will be collected from your hotel for a fun farewell dinner and Nepali cultural dance – so don’t forget your dancing shoes!
We will meet you at your hotel and take you to the airport in plenty of time to meet your flight home.