Climb every mountain: The best treks in the magnificent Annapurna Circuit

A traditional Buddhist stupa in the Annapurna Circuit. Pic: MOROZ NATALIYA/Shutterstock

EVERY year, more than 40,000 hikers visit the Annapurna Circuit, one of the best treks in the world located within the mountain range of central Nepal.

Within the circuit, different mountain vistas accompany you – from breathtaking mountain passes and abyss-like gorges to quaint villages and temples, there’s something different to see and experience for just about every kind of trekker.

Here are some major highlights of the trek.

Manang Valley

Nestled in a secluded valley in the Annapurna region, Manang Valley is home to the Tamang, Gurung and Magar ethnic group.

This gorgeous valley has a vast landscape of flora and fauna, providing trekkers with splendid views of different mountain ranges including the Pisang peak, the Chulu range, Gangapurna, Tilicho Peak, Kangaru Peak and Throng peak .

Manang comprises 13 districts and is spread out into the Upper Mustang and Lower Mustang. At the Upper plateau, the desert-like terrain may prove to be a challenging trek, but stunning mountain peak vistas can be clearly seen from here.

The lower valley on the other hand offers a lush green pastoral experience with buckwheat, millet and potato farms dotting the land.

As you continue on this trek, the Milarepa Meditation cave, which is a day’s walk from the valley, features an ancient shrine built to honor the 11th century poet, sage and yogi, Milarepa.

Thorong La pass

The Thorong La pass base camp. Pic: Alexandra Lande/Shutterstock

From Manang Village, the Annapurna Circuit will take you to the Thorong La mountain pass which sits at over 5,400 meters above sea level, north of the Annapurna massif. This path also connects Manang on the east to the Muktinath temples in the west.

One of the highest points on the circuit, the Thorong La pass was a significant ancient path for religious pilgrimage trade. This path also facilitates the trade route between Tibet and Nepal.

Today, it’s a popular hiking route which offers incredible mountain views which some trekkers describe as a spiritual experience.

Crossing this path will also take you to Muktinath where the temples of Gompa and Lord Vishnu are situated.

Kali Gandaki Gorge

Kali Gandaki gorge has been used as a trade route between India and Tibet for centuries. Pic: O’SHI/Shutterstock

Shaped like a horseshoe, the Annapurna circuit is flanked by deep dark gorges and one of them is Kali Gandaki, one of the deepest in the world and weaves around a tumultuous ocean.

Named after the Hindu goddess Kali, the trek pays tribute to the mysterious forces of nature and the gorge is estimated to be 6,000 meters deep. However, the exact depth of this abyss-like canyon remains unknown.

While challenging, the gorge is favored by trekkers because it provides easy access to the Gandaki river, which flows into the Ganges.

While popular activities here are white-water rafting as well as bird-watching, many also come to the river bank to search for mysterious black stones called shaligram which is believed to take the form of God Vishnu.

From the gorge, the circuit descends down to Jomsom or Dzong-Sampa, a traditional village with houses painted in white and verdant fields.

Rhododendron Trek

Blooming rhododendrons will greet you along your trek. Pic: Daniel Prudek/Shutterstock

Also know known as the Poon Hill trek, this route offers magnificent sights of Nepal’s famous flaming red rhododendron forest.

A low altitude trek, Poon Hill is best experienced in spring if you want to see lush rhododendrons coming into full bloom, virtually taking over every part of the mountainside.

Ideal for beginners, it is one of the easiest and shortest treks in the entire Annapurna Circuit which takes you through ethnic villages along the way, giving you a closer look at Nepalese pastoral life and culture within this region.