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One of the classics ! A chance to 'rub your nose' against high mountains (without having to subject yourself to very high altitude). The trail has numerous ascents and descents, but offers a wide variety of superb landscapes, and The Sanctuary itself is utterly mind-blowing. Lodges in the area are good. Taken steadily it's a wonderful trek.
Although its highest point is around 4300 metres be aware of the potential effects of altitude, but on all three visits there it hasn't proved necessary to take additional acclimatisation days en route.
Day 1: It's perfectly feasible to begin day 1 in Kathmandu if you fly to Pokhara in the morning. The trek normally begins by taking a taxi or bus along the road from Pokhara, either to Dhampus Phedi or to Khande.
It's possible to leave luggage that you won't need on trek at a hotel in Pokhara (preferably the hotel you will stay at on your return to Pokhara !)
2013 update: As Dhampus now has a 'road' to it then Khande is probably a more pleasant start.
From Khande an hour's ascent brings you to the summit of the ridge (with great views ahead), then trek gently via the 'Australian Camp' to join the Dhampus route at Pothana.There are several perfectly adequate lodges at Pothana. The ones further up the street have superb views towards the Annapurnas
Day 2: (If you've stayed overnight at Dhampus you'll begin by trekking the hour up to Pothana) From Pothana a gentle ascent brings you in an hour to the two lodges at Bhichok Deorali ('Nice View' Lodge being one of them, and the name doesn't lie) and a delightful gentle days trekking will take you via Beri Kharka and Tolka to Landrung (again several lodges)
Day 3: Descend to cross the Modi Khola at 'New Bridge' then a short ascent then descent tocross the Kimrong Khola. From here begins the ascent to Chhomrong, passing the several lodges at Jihnu Danda (a good spot for lunch), and then climbing for an hour or so to reach the top of Chhomrong, where there are many lodges.
Day 4: Initially a steep descent down stone staircases to cross the Chhomrong Khola, then an hour or more of ascent to reach the two lodges at Sinua. A comfortable day's trekking will reach th group of lodges at Bamboo, or if feeling fit you can push on for an extra hour to Dhovan.
Day 5: Via Himalaya (another collection of 3 or 4 lodges) either to Deorali (ditto) or, if you've started from Dhovan, to Macchepuchare Base Camp. Deorali would seem to be the 'safer' option as it keeps the amount of ascent within the normal guidelines.
Day 6: A short day - up to Macchepuchare Base Camp (and perhaps an afternoon stroll onto the moraine above the lodges there) then enjoy a morning walk up to MBC for the night, though you could easily go on to reach Annapurna Base Camp.
Day 7: From MBC it's a pleasant 2 hours up to ABC. A couple of hours looking around the magical Sanctuary, then begin the descent. One can reach Deorali or Himalaya this evening. If you've spent the night at Annapurna Base Camp you'll be able to reach Dhovan or Bamboo without undue pain, then
Day 8: To Chhomrong (although for 'gentle trekkers' the day could end at Sinua), and then descend to lower Chhomrong, and climb back up the stone stairs to the main village.
From Chhomrong there are numerous possibilities for the return to Pokhara
A. The Quickest Route. If you've stayed at Sinua on day 8 then on day 9, having gone through Chhomrong, descend to Jinhu Danda, and spend the afternoon luxuriating in the delightful hot spring 20 minutes walk away. Stay either at Jinhu Danda or push on for half an hour to reach New Bridge
The following day (day 10) go down the Modi Khola valley, passing (but not crossing) the New Bridge, then via Shauli Bazar to Birethanti (and, if you want, 30 minutes further to the road at Nyapul for a lift back to Pokhara) There are numerous lodges in Bhirethanti. It's a fairly long, but easy, day. The latter part is on a 'road' that carries no traffic, and makes for gentle, well-graded walking. 2013 update. This road appears now to be connected to the 'main' road system, but doesn't carry much traffic. You may be able to get a jeep back to Nyapul from around Shauli Bazar
B. Via Ghandrung. 2 days, but a bit more strenuous than A. Day 9 - Chhomrong to Ghandrung. Day 10 to Birethanti / Nyapul
C. Via Landrung. 2 - 2.5 days, reversing the route described at the start
D. To Ghorepani - the longer route - more ups and downs !. Day 9 - Chhomrong to Tadapani (NOT TaTopani !). Day 10 via Deorali (another one, not the one near MBC !) to Ghorepani (many lodges) Day 11 - you could join the crowds watching the sunrise from Poon Hill, 40 minutes above Ghorepani, then descend via Ullieri to reach Tirkedhunga (again numerous lodges) Day 12 To Nyapul and the road back to Pokhara
Whichever oprion you choose it's a delightful trek through varied scenery, high mountains, forests, farmland, and fascinating villages
Update on option “B” for exiting via Ghandruk
Taken from Trek-Notes from April 2013
On leaving Ghandruk towards Nyapul, after just over an hour’s walking you come to Chane (Pronounced Charmay) – This is where the new jeep Road Starts / Ends – Initialy undecided whether to take the jeep or to continue walking but as there was one about to depart and the driver asked a reasonable 900NPR to take both myself and the guide to Pokhara, It was an offer too good to refuse so hopping in and soon on the way – The road zigzags steeply down towards the Modi Khola, then levels out bit and less than an hour later passing through Birethanti showing both TIMS and ANCAP permits and exiting the Annapurna Conservation Area and hit the main (Black-Topped) road back to Pokhara, arriving there just after mid-day, so just over two hours journey time and end of trek !!.
Taking the jeep from Chane is (IMHO) now the better option, the trekkers seen on the new jeep road were really getting a lot of dust that was been kicked up from the vehicles passing and none of them looked overly happy !!
Update, July 2014, from 'arkienkeli'
Sorry to say but there is now a road to Landruk (at least it was almost there last fall) from Phedi, which ruins about half of the great exit route Landruk-Dhampus-Phedi now. This means that ABC is also affected by road network now, only to top part from Landruk or Ghadruk and higher is still pristine.
Update, October 2014,
The road is quite dusty and when you have walked on it once (on the way in), there is not a huge benefit to doing it on the return. However whilst the jeep/taxi service offered is a great idea at that stage - be aware that the cost/service may not end up being what you bargained for. Make sure you confirm cost and vehicle before and during your ride. Because trekkers appear keen to secure a ride, sadly there is the temptation for the drivers to scam you.