Note: this will be a very biased post because the area we trekked in was so wonderful, free of any tourists and so beautiful it will be the feature of this article…
So… the trek? It starts 73km out of the popular town of Pokhara, and is within the Annapurna Conservation area. Most people thinking about trekking in Nepal will be familiar with the ACA; the region is home to a whole host of trekking options hugely popular with tourists, most of whom choose to walk up Poon Hill. If you wish to walk up stairs behind hundreds of other tourists and meet lots of people, or trek without a guide; take this option. However, if you prefer a trek off the beaten path, you want to immerse yourself completely in the natural beauty of the Himalayas and are happy just meeting a small handful of locals in tiny mountain communities, take the first bus out of Pokhara to a town called Beni.
The trek is not well trodden, and I would thoroughly reccomend a guide (more on that later). The trek takes around 8 days including the return journey to Pokhara, more or less if you wish to rest up longer or shorter, or if you take any extra side trips. Being a community eco-trek, all money spent during the trek (accommodation, food and drink) goes directly into the local communities throughout 10 villages across the trek. With a real lack of significant income in such remote places, it is vital that the money we spend stays where we spend it.
The Route and Distances
Day 1: Beni to Banskhara 1300m
From Beni – which is a 3 hour winding bus journey through the mountains (note: if like us you find there are no seats, there is absolutely no issue with riding on top of the bus, just hold on tight…!) you can take a lunch stop and fuel up with some Dahl baht.
From here, your hike begins. The feeling as you start wandering out of the village, gradually heading upwards and wondering what’s ahead of you is quite special.
The walk to Banskhara is roughly 6kms, which may not sound much, but on the terrain and with continuously changing altitudes and hills, is quite enough for day one.
Day 2: Banskhara to Nangi 2260m
Roughly 10kms, this walk is tough enough, climbing around 1000m throughout the day. Arriving in Nangi you will find a charming eco lodge, steaming tea and delicious food. Nangi is an inspiring village, with a strong focus on the empowerment of women. The local ladies make jams, are involved in farming and create handicrafts from jute. I bought a little bag and it’s the strongest thing ever.
Day 3: Nangi to Mohare Danda 3300m
This day is also pretty challenging, again climbing around 1000m. Go slowly at a comfortable pace, stop regularly and keep the fluids up. Above 2500m ish, you may start feeling the effects of altitude sickness. Mohare Danda is around 1h30 from Poon Hill, where hordes of tourists with their selfie sticks can be found. At the top of Mohare Danda, you get insane views, including sunrise and the night sky which leave you pretty speechless.
Day 4: Mohare Danda to Swanta 2220m
You will make your way back down, again changing elevation of around 1000m… ready to climb them back tomorrow! A picturesque place for resting and eating.
Another day of climbing, through changing landscapes will bring you to Dhungkharka. As per the rest of trek, incredibly welcoming locals are there to greet you, and offer such warm hospitality.
Day 6: Dhungkharka to Khopra 3660m
Climbing to the highest point on the trek, this day is quite challenging due to the high altitude. Taking it slowly with plenty of rest stops worked well for us, and the reward at the top is just spectacular. Also freezing. You are well and truly above the clouds here, shrouded in mist one moment, the next the landscape is revealed with clear sunlight coming through and the clouds disappearing to reveal more mountains than you could count. Magical.
The final stretch! Think it’s easy climbing down for the entire day? You would think so, after days of hill climbs, but no, thousands upon thousands of stairs await you on this drastically steep descent. But fear not, Tatopani is a relatively large village ready for the tired and aching travellers – food, hot tea and best of all, natural hot springs await you.
Some choose to stay longer in Tatopani, but after the initial joy of soothing aching and tight muscles in the warm natural springs, the obvious return to tourism is apparent so half a day is quite enough. Find a local bus (changes inevitable, potholes inevitable, breakdowns inevitable) and make your way back to Pokhara, ready to rest in the valley and contemplate on the wonders you experienced.