Backpacking Nepal Travel

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

In early September of 2016, I went to Nepal to go trekking to Annapurna Base Camp with my husband and two friends. Here’s the story  (and tons of photos) from my ten-day trek.

Our guide Chandra, of Pokhara-based Friendly Trekkers Adventures, put together an itinerary for us that had us heading to the viewpoint at Poon Hill over the first few days before heading into the Annapurna Sanctuary and up to Annapurna Base Camp. On the way down we took a slightly different route for the last few days to visit the hot springs at Jhinu Danda. Click the map below to zoom in on our route.

Day One: Naya Pul to Tikendinga

We started our first day with a jeep ride on winding (but mostly paved) roads from the city of Pokhara to the village of Naya Pul. When we arrived it was pouring rain so we tried to wait it out at a roadside tea shop. We couldn’t wait forever, so we set out into the deluge through Naya Pul.  As we walked for a few hours on a newer gravel jeep road above a rushing river, the rain gradually stopped and the sun came out. We stopped for lunch at a roadside trekkers restaurant before carrying on to our destination for the night, the guesthouse at Tikendinga. That night as we ate in the guesthouse dining room it poured rain. Again. It was monsoon season in Nepal and we were walking in it.

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Our first steps on the trek: walking the muddy streets of Naya Pul

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Trekking beside terraced rice fields on our first day

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Sanker Guest House in Tikendinga – our first guesthouse on the trail.

 

Day Two: Tikendinga to Ghorepani

On our second day, it rained on and off but was mostly just hot and humid. We started the day with a stiff climb up thousands of stone stairs to the village of Ulleri where we stopped for a well-deserved cold drink. The remainder of the day was spent trekking steadily uphill through the jungle and we met our first of many heavily-laden donkey trains. There are no roads in this region so unless it is grown there, everything comes in on the back of a donkey or a person. Want a beer, some chocolate, stove fuel, building supplies or a new toilet? It all comes in on the back of a donkey. At the end, of the day we finally reached the hill top town of Ghorepani but unfortunately the usual panoramic views were obscured by clouds. Instead, we celebrated with pizza featuring wild mushrooms the guesthouse owners had just gathered that morning.

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Trekking in the jungle

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

One of the many donkey trains. The lead donkey gets to wear a showgirl-esque headpiece.

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Arriving at the gates of Ghorepani

 

Day Three: Ghorepani to Tadapani via Poon Hill

On our third morning, we were up well before the sun to make the three-kilometer trek (without our packs thankfully) up to the viewpoint at Poon Hill. When we arrived the sun had already started to rise but most of the views were obscured by clouds. We bought hot cups of tea and settled down to wait it out at the advice our guide, even as many of our fellow trekkers retreated back down the hill. Our guide was right! After a couple hours, most of the clouds had cleared and we had amazing views of the Annapurna range as well as Dhaulagiri massif. We finally pried ourselves away from the views and headed back down to breakfast in Ghorepani before shouldering our packs. The day’s trek through the jungle took us across ridges and down a forested canyon before we arrived at Tadapani in near darkness. It had been a long day on the trail and we were exhausted, which perhaps explains why we found it hilarious that the resident guesthouse cat was chasing the resident guesthouse rat under the table while we waited for dinner to be served.

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Clouds obscure most of the views at first light at Poon Hill

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

After the sun came out we had amazing views of Dhauligiri from Poon Hill

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Gazing across to the Annapurna peaks from Poon Hill

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Our group celebrates the beautiful weather at Poon Hill

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

One of the many cascades along the jungle trail

 

Day Four: Tadapani to Sinuwa

On the morning of day four, my alarm wasn’t due to go off for at least half an hour when there was a knock at the door. It was our guide, Chandra urging us to get up to look at the beautiful view. Unbeknownst to us in the dark and clouds the night before, our rooms had an incredible view of the mountains. After breakfast, we trekked through numerous small villages, past terraced fields of millet, corn, beans and squash and across several suspension bridges. The day was wet and cloudy and we had our first real encounters with the scourge of monsoon-season hiking: leeches, known as “juka” in Nepali. In wet areas they kept crawling up our boots, into our socks and then sometimes biting our ankles if we didn’t catch them first. We stopped often for quick leech checks where Chandra would sometimes pluck them off our boots socks before we even noticed they were there. “Juka” wasn’t the only Nepali word we learned that day; “ukalo” (uphill) and “oralo” (downhill) were also important as we discovered that this part of Nepal is never flat. After what seemed like eons of climbing and descending stone steps, we finally arrived in Sinuwa for the night, glad to get off our tired (and leech-bitten!) feet.

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Waking up to beautiful mountain views from the guesthouse balcony at Tadapani

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Crossing one of the many suspension bridges

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Trekking through terraced fields in the rain and mist

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Descending the stone stairs into Chhomrong, one of the biggest villages on our trek

 

Day Five: Sinuwa to Deurali

The weather cleared a little bit when we woke up in Sinuwa and we were able to look back across the valley to Chhomrong spread out across the hilltop, where we had lunch the day before. Distances in this part of the world are deceiving as it takes a long time to get anywhere, even if it looks close. On this day we trekked alongside the Modi Khola (river), sometimes along its banks and sometimes high above them in the jungle. We would be following this river all the way to its source at Annapurna Base Camp. It rained hard on this day and there were several rickety bridges over swollen streams to cross that even our guide had never seen at such high water levels. Occasionally the misty weather would clear and we would get amazing views of the impossibly steep green hills rising from the river striped with innumerable waterfalls caused by the ongoing monsoon rains. That evening as we relaxed with cups of hot tea in the dining room at our guesthouse, the clouds started to lift for the first time that day and the mountains glowed pink with the sunset.

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Our guesthouse in Lower Sinuwa. Most guesthouses are run by people from the Gurung ethnic group who are Buddhist so they often have prayer flags. Also they often have satellite dishes because everyone loves TV 😉

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Looking back across to Chhomrong, the hill town were we had lunch the day before. It looks close but it took hours to get to Sinuwa from there.

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Trekking through the misty jungle high above the Modi Khola (river)

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Cliffs and waterfalls above our guesthouse in Deurali

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

The pink-tinged mountains at sunset, as seen from the patio outside our guesthouse in Deurali

Day Six: Deurali to Annapurna Base Camp

Day six was the day we were finally going to get there, finally going to get to our high point of Annapurna Base Camp! The day started off cloudy and dark and none of us were in a good mood after the intense rain of the day before. Again, the rain came in on and off but like the previous day, sometimes the mist parted enough to give us views. We stopped for a long lunch at the guesthouse Machapuchare Base Camp to wait out the rain, but it wouldn’t quit so we headed out into it. For the first time on our trek, it was actually quite cold and we bundled up into our rain gear, put our heads down and slogged up the final hill. The mist was dense and we couldn’t see a thing, but eventually we came upon a sign welcoming us to Annapurna Base Camp. A few meters further up the hill the warm, dry guesthouse awaited us. As had become our routine, we changed into dry clothes and ordered a huge pot of spicy Nepali tea to warm up. The rain and mist let up a little bit so we went outside to check out the prayer flag draped viewpoint. We still couldn’t see much of the area around us, let alone any of the mountains so we were worried we had come all that way for no views.

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Looking back downstream along the Modi Khola (river) the mist clears.

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Arriving at Annapurna Base Camp there was zero visibility. (That’s our guide Chandra in the standard Nepali rain gear: a plastic sheet. It seems to work quite well!)

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Exploring the viewpoint above the guesthouses of Annapurna Base Camp. We stayed in the one with the red roof.

 

Day Seven: Annapurna Base Camp to Bamboo

Chandra woke us up with a knock on the door just as the first light was beginning to creep into the sky. I peeked out the window and couldn’t see any clouds. Could it be? Could there be views? We got dressed quickly and met up with Chandra in the courtyard where plenty of other trekkers were already milling around. It was incredible: we were in a huge treeless glacial bowl surrounded by snow-covered mountains, all of them over 7000m tall. We made the quick walk back over to the viewpoint where we watched as the sun continued to rise, bathing the tops of the peaks in glowing light. After taking one million photos (approximately) it was time to return to the guesthouse to have breakfast, pack up and hit the trail. As we left Base Camp the clouds started to move in, obscuring the mountains. Even though we didn’t want to, it was time to go. The sun was really out for the first time in days and the trail back down to Machapuchare Base Camp was gorgeous in the sunshine (especially since it had been shrouded in fog the day before). We retraced our steps down the path next to the Modi Khola in the jungle, recrossing some of the scary bridges from the previous day and marvelling at how much less water was flowing in the streams since it was no longer raining. That night we stayed in the dark and dense bamboo forests at the Bamboo guesthouse – quite a contrast to the wide open sunny landscapes of that morning.

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

The view of Annapurna from the viewpoint near Annapurna Base Camp

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Looking back at Annapurna Base Camp from the top of the viewpoint with Machapuchare in behind.

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

The sun lighting up Annapurna

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Machapuchare seen through the prayer flags of the viewpoint

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

It was hard to leave our guesthouse at Annapurna Base Camp when the weather was this beautiful

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

The clouds started to move in, obscuring the mountains, as we left Annapurna Base Camp

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Trekking back down the valley after leaving Annapurna Base Camp. The tall mountain is Machapuchare (in Nepali it means Fishtail).

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Heading downhill on the trail in the Modi Khola valley – it looked a lot different in sunshine!

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Crossing one of the sketchy bamboo bridges. This stream is much less swollen in this photo than the previous day but there was still a lot of angry looking water.

 

Day Eight: Bamboo to Jihnu Danda Hot Springs

We knew what we were in for on this day since we had done most of the route before: ukalo and oralo (uphill and downhill) on stone steps. We followed the Modi Khola back downstream past our previous guesthouse at Sinuwa, down to cross the Chhomrong Khola on a loooong suspension bridge, then back up up up the 2000 stairs through the village of Chhomrong. We stopped in Chhomrong again for lunch and watched as a couple of donkey trains came through the village, bells jangling. After lunch we plunged back downhill again on one of the steepest trails yet, heading to the guesthouses at Jhinu Danda. We checked into our rooms (the first ones with ensuite bathrooms since Ghorepani way back on day two – what luxury!), dropped our packs and headed downhill even more to the banks of the Modi Khola where we found the Jhinu Danda hot springs. The high water levels of the river meant that some of the pools were full of river water and sand and therefore unusable, but the highest pool was still functioning. We soaked until it got dark and it was time for dinner. The warm muggy weather made the 30-minute uphill climb back to the guesthouse a little less pleasant as we got our freshly cleaned selves all sweaty again.

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Our guesthouse deep in the valley of the Modi Khola at Bamboo

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Heading downhill to the looong suspension bridge over the Chhomrong Khola. You can see the stone steps heading up into the town of Chhomrong on the other side.

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Watching a fully laden donkey train descend the stone steps in Chhomrong.

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Soaking in the Jhinu Danda Hot Springs on the banks of the Modi Khola

 

Day Nine: Jihnu Danda Hot Springs to Allure Hill

Our penultimate day on the trail was very hot and muggy. We headed down from Jhinu Danda, crossing several smaller bridges before arriving at New Bridge, the location of a guest house settlement called New Bridge as well as a long wooden decked suspension bridge that at some time must have been new but now definitely is not. It has a slippery wooden deck with some misaligned planks and the whole thing lists to the right. It was one of the more intimidating bridges we crossed on the whole trip (but apparently it is scheduled to be replaced soon). After crossing New Bridge we headed downstream following the river on the opposite bank. Now that we were back at a lower elevation with warmer weather and thick vegetation, the juka (leeches) were out in full force so we didn’t really enjoy the waterfalls, farms and lush vegetation the way we should have. The heat also became quite oppressive and as we started to climb out of the river valley into the hills, it became apparent that I had heat stroke and was quite ill. We stopped for lunch and a long rest at a guesthouse. After lunch, the weather started to cool down so I began to feel better but Chandra still had to carry some of my gear because I was still weak. We met up with a newer gravel jeep road that had obliterated the trail in most places. We followed the road for the rest of the day as the scorching hot morning turned into a damp and foggy late afternoon. Due to my illness, we hadn’t covered as much ground as planned so we stopped at a brand new guesthouse on Allure Hill that Chandra knew about rather than sticking to our original itinerary.

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Crossing the long and intimidating New Bridge

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

A large waterfall along the juka-filled riverside portion of the day’s hike

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

The view from the new jeep road

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Walking into the mist along the new jeep road

 

Day Ten: Allure Hill to Dhampus

The plan on our last day was to finish walking the new jeep road to the village of Pothana where we would pick up a series of trails that would take us down to the town of Dhampus and then down to Phedi, a town on the outskirts of the city of Pokhara where we could catch a bus back to our hotel in the city. Alas, it was not to be as that morning I developed a case of gastroenteritis, aka Delhi Belly, aka horrible stomach flu. It was probably due to being weak from the heat stroke the day before since no one else got sick and we all ate and drank the same things. I took a ton of anti-nausea meds, anti-diarrhea meds and antibiotics, handed my pack off to Chandra and set out to hike our last day on the trail. I don’t remember much about this day as I was just trying to keep it together. From what I do recall, we followed the jeep road for awhile into Pothana where we stopped for a break. At that point, we asked Chandra to call ahead to hire a 4×4 jeep to meet up in Dhampus where there was a rough road we could take as I didn’t want to walk more than I had to. We walked downhill on beautiful old stone paths to Dhampus where our jeep met us. Suddenly, before I was ready for it, our trek was over. Even though I was sick and just wanted to lay down and sleep (near a toilet!), I couldn’t believe we were headed to a hotel in the city, not to a guesthouse on a hillside with mountain views poking through the mist.

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Water buffalo grazing along the side of the jeep road. (Photo credit: Cynthia Lim)

 

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Walking the old stone path down to Dhampus. That’s me in the purple with no pack and Chandra in front of me carrying my red pack as well as his own. Thanks Chandra! (Photo credit: Cynthia Lim)

After our trek, I spent a day in bed in our Pokhara hotel recovering while the others went sightseeing. Then it was back to Kathmandu to see the sights.

Overall, trekking to Annapurna Base Camp was such a special experience, unlike any of the other backpacking trips I have been on. It wasn’t just the guesthouse aspect where we stayed indoors and had hot meals three times a day (although that was awesome) or the grand scale of the mountains, so much taller than the ones I am used to; it was the cultural experience of trekking from village to village where people actually live and farm the land, far from roads, hospitals, malls and everything we think is an essential part of life. (Although they do have cell phones and satellite TV – they think those are essential too!) Unlike backpacking in the wilderness of Canada where nature is the only focus, trekking to Annapurna Base Camp puts the focus on the people, the culture, and the rural landscape but then juxtaposes that with the sweeping views of impossibly high peaks and the densely forested jungle between the villages. It’s unique. It’s amazing. You should go.

If you’re looking for more information about trekking in Nepal, check out my other post with 6 Reasons You Should Hire a Trekking Guide in Nepal. (In case you haven’t noticed, I really enjoyed trekking with Chandra!)

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11 Comments

  • Reply
    Cam
    October 17, 2016 at 10:40 am

    Thanks for posting this Taryn! It looks amazing. I’ve casually wanted to go trekking in Nepal for awhile now, but this has inspired me to move it up higher on the to-do list and start planning for it rather than just having it as a ‘someday’ trip.

    • Reply
      Taryn Eyton
      October 17, 2016 at 5:23 pm

      I also had Nepal as a someday trip for a long time and one of the first things I said once I got there was: Why did I wait so long to do this? The hiking isn’t that hard, everyone speaks a bit of English and aside from the flights, its a very inexpensive vacation. I’m kicking myself for not going years ago!

  • Reply
    Alex
    October 19, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    This was incredible to read, thank you for the day by day diary! Are you planning on posting anything about the logistics – as in water purification, gear you carried, those kind of things? I would love to know.

    • Reply
      Taryn Eyton
      October 19, 2016 at 9:49 pm

      Thanks Alex! Yes, I am planning a few more posts about my trip and Will definitely talk about what gear we brought. Just to answer you now, we brought a Steripen for water purification.

  • Reply
    Chelli
    October 20, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    Taryn, thanks so much for sharing! It so awesome that you guys did this. My boyfriend and I are actually trekking ABC in three weeks so am trying to plan our itinerary. We will most likely follow the same path you took, but I have a couple questions. On day 9 when you got heat stroke, what was your original itinerary? Did you guys plan to make it all the way to Dhampus and then on day 10 hike the remainder of the way down? Also, about how many hours each day did you hike on average? Would you say that your pace allowed for time to stop and take pictures every now and then? And one last question, as of right now we are planning on trekking without a guide but may consider getting one. What are your thoughts on guide vs. no guide? Thanks again and sorry for all the questions. Wishing the best of luck on all your future travels!

    • Reply
      Taryn Eyton
      October 20, 2016 at 10:15 pm

      Hi Chelli. You’re going to loooove Nepal! On day 9 our original plan was to get to Pothana and then on day 10 trek from Pothana, through Dhampus and down to Phedi where we would get a bus back to Pokhara. It would have been a long day on day 9 to go all the way to Pothana, even without being sick so we probably should have stopped in Tolka instead and then gone from Tolka to Phedi on day 10.

      We walked about 5 or 6 hours each day but took about 1-2 hours for lunch so we were on the trail for up to 8 hours. We hiked at a reasonable pace but did stop for lots of breaks to catch our breath and take photos.

      I’m planning a post about my experience with a guide since I had never hired a guide before. I will say that you absolutely do not need a guide for ABC BUT I highly recommend hiring one. Having a guide made our trip so much less stressful, it ran smoother, we had a better cultural experience and it was very affordable. We used Chandra of Friendly Trekkers Adventures. He probably is booked up now but one of the company’s other guides may be available. Have a great trip! And feel free to email me if you have more questions: happiest outdoors blog at gmail dot com

      • Reply
        Chelli
        October 22, 2016 at 11:19 am

        Taryn, appreciate the quick response and advice! I actually emailed Chandra and he’s available so we’re going to go with him. Agree that’s it’s worth having a guide to ensure smooth travels and support the local economy a bit 🙂 Thanks again, we can’t wait for the trip!

  • Reply
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    October 23, 2016 at 10:11 am

    […] were just for inexperienced people.) But I was wrong. I’m so glad I hired a guide. It made my trek to Annapurna Base Camp so much less stressful, so much more culturally enriched and so much more fun. So here are my 6 […]

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    Nuraini
    July 18, 2017 at 10:01 am

    I think I might need to seriously consider which apps to cull to make more space for photos…

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