Annapurna circuit trekking route is the most popular hiking trail in the world. The trek is also known as the Annapurna round trek since the hiking is around Mt. Annapurna. Annapurna circuit trek itinerary is from the low land of Annapurna massif to pine forest in the higher elevation all through the barren Landscapes. The top places to visit in Annapurna Circuit trek are the best the Annapurna region has to offer and some of the most exotic locations during the hike. Annapurna circuit trek itinerary passes along Greenland valleys on a low elevation giving way to a leafy pine forest area as you trek along day by day. The trek finally arrives at Thorung-la pass at 5,416 meters, the highest point during the trek. From the top of Thorung-la some great mountain panorama can be observed from snow-capped mountains to valley and crystal clear blue sky. Annapurna circuit trekking route is the best hiking trail ever to witness the real authentic culture, beautiful landscapes, high mountains and magical verdant forest. Annapurna region is protected under Annapurna Conservation Area Project. During the trek, hikers can observe several peaks like Mt Annapurna (8,091m), the tenth highest peak in the world including Dhaulagiri (8,167 m), and Manaslu (8,163 m). The best season for Annapurna Circuit trek is from October to early December and from late February to April. Below are the best locations during Annapurna circuit trek route.
1. Marshyangdi River valley and Kali Gandaki Valley
Trekking the Annapurna circuit begins after about 7 hours bus drive from Kathmandu along the Trisuli River then to Marshyangdi river valley to reach Besisahar from where the trek starts. As you trek along you will connect with Kali Gandaki valley via the Thorong La pass. These valleys are beautified with amazing tropical features which are why they are the hallmarks of the Annapurna Circuit trek. Trekkers will walk past a multitude of alpine and sub-tropical woodlands. The valleys have diverse climatic variations and unique biological biospheres scattered throughout the landscapes. Great Himalayan rivers like the Marshyangdi, Koshi and the Gandaki Rivers flow down the valleys making a perfect setting for a great hike in the Himalayas. These rivers have various tributaries draining the valley crevasses that then feed into the forests and wetlands. The valleys are also home to many species of animals. Furthermore, the Kali Gandaki Gorge, located here is the deepest canyon in the world.
2. Manang Village
The beautiful village of Manage is often referred to as the jewel of the Annapurna Circuit trek. Manang (3,540 meters) is culturally and naturally rich where trekkers stay for a day or two for acclimatization during the trek. The village is located in Marshyangdi River Valley, with the river running east of the village. Manang is towards the north of the Annapurna and Chulu Mountain Ranges. The most popular Thorung-la pass is to the west of Manang. The village of Manang is inhabited mainly by ethnic Tamang, Gurung, Thakali and Manangba people. They have unique customs, cultures and traditions. In fact, Manang is the largest stopover or town during the trek to Annapurna Circuit. Place to visit in Manang is trekking to Tilicho lake. Also known as ice lake Tilicho Lake (4620m/15,157ft) is the most beautiful turquoise lake located at the foothills of the towering Chulu East Peak.
3. Tilicho Lake – the highest lake in the world
Tilicho Lake, located at an altitude of 4,949 meters, is considered the highest lake in the world. It’s the most stunning turquoise lake surrounded by mountains like the Khangsar Himal, the Muktinath peak and the Tilicho Himal. The lake is mostly frozen during winter, from late November to February. Annapurna Tilicho lake trek is the most popular side excursion during Annapurna Circuit trek. The lake is formed by the glacial melt of the entire northern slope of the Annapurna and the Thorong Peak. The clear undisturbed water of Tilicho Lake in the morning reflects the mountains on it. Interestingly this lake don’t hold any aquatic organism recorded to date. Annapurna circuit trek with Tilicho lake itinerary is altogether 4 days hike starting from Manang to Tilicho Base Camp then to Tilicho lake. The trek then continues to Yak Kharka in order to cross Thorung-la.
4. Thorung La (Pass)
One of the prime highlights of Annapurna Circuit hike, Thorung-la pass is located after Manang and hiking past Thorung-la phedi, the base camp of Thorung-la. It’s the highest point during the hike to Annapurna Circuit trekking. Hike to Thorung la pass is considered the most difficult and challenging part of the trek. So one-day acclimatization and rest day is set at Manang before you prepare for Thorung la pass hike. But once you get to the top, you will be rewarded with the most amazing view. The top of Thorung la offers a panoramic view of the Annapurna Himalayan range and Great Barrier Ridge, and the scenic deserted landscape. During winter, the pass is usually snow-covered making the hike even more demanding.
5. Gangapurna glacier lake
Looking to Gangapurna glacier lake gives a portrayal of a freezing waterfall. The looks cyan during spring and autumn and in the monsoon season it’s white and in winter it freezes completely. Located at an altitude of 4,620 meters visiting the lake is a beautiful travel experience. It’s the most desired place to go after Tilicho Lake during the Annapurna Circuit trek. The lake is situated closer to Manang village. Another interesting site to see here is the largest and heaviest bird of the mountainous region, the Himalayan vulture, roaming in the sky above the lake.
6. Muktinath Temple
The temple of Muktinath is holy to both Hindus and Buddhists. Located at the foot of Thorung la pass it’s the first site after trekkers descend down from the pass slope. Here you enter the Mustang district. During the hike down below one will observe Mt Dhaulagiri and the deserted hills of Mustang. Situated at an altitude of 3,850 meters view observed from Muktinath are Kaligandaki valley, Dhaulagiri and Nilgiri and other neighboring mountains views. At the temple, there are 108 water sprouts on the wall which is considered holy and Hindu pilgrims take a bath. It’s believed that after taking a bath at all of these sprouts they became free from sins. So Hindus consider the temple as a place of liberation. Buddhist believe Muktinath temple the important place for Dakinis- Buddhist Goddesses known as Sky Dancers. The temple is one of the 24 holy Tantric places.
The village of Jomsom at 2,700 meters extends over both banks of the Kali Gandaki River. Jomsom is a headquarter of the Mustang district of Nepal. Jomsom plays an important role on Annapurna Circuit trek as it is the ending point of this long trek where a small airport is located. From here you can directly fly to Pokhara. For the budget trekkers, they can take a local jeep drive back to Pokhara too. Situated in the Kali Gandaki River Valley one can still get a glimpse of massif Dhaulagiri and Nilgiri is just nearby from Jomsom. Kali Gandaki is a popular and important river system in Nepal where one can find Shaligrams (Fossils). Thakali are the ethnic group that inhabits here.
8. The Annapurna Himalayan Range
Trekking the Annapurna Circuit trail one will be mesmerized by spectacular views of the Annapurna mountain ranges. This mountain range includes one peak over 8,000 meters, 13 peaks over 7,000 meters, and 16 more peaks over 6,000 meters. It is 55 kilometers long and the Annapurna massif is bound by the Kali Gandaki Gorge on the west and the Marshyangdi River on the north and east. The Annapurna I Main (8,091 meters) is the 10th highest mountain peak in the world. Throughout the Annapurna circuit trek route trekkers witness good views of peaks like Annapurna peaks, the Khangsar Kang, the Tarke Kang, the Tilicho Peak, the Nilgiri Himal, the Machhapuchhre Peak, the Hiunchuli Peak, Mount Gangapurna, as well as the Annapurna range (the Annapurna I, II, III, IV and the Annapurna South).