Longer treks around, and into, Annapurna Himal are among Nepal’s classic routes. You can walk around the range, or follow its western flank to Jomsom and Muktinath, or trek into its heart inside the Annapurna Sanctuary.
Naya Pul, the start of the Jomsom trek, is little more than a small collection of roadside shacks, but it is only a 20-minute trek upstream to Birethanti. This village boasts many well-stocked shops, hotels, pavement cafes, a bank, an art gallery, the Mountain Bakery and an ACAP checkpost where you should register.
The Lakshmi Lodge is more expensive than others, but is also interesting and comfortable; one trekker described it as a real throwback to the days of the Raj. Other options include the nearby Riverside and New River View lodges. At the far end of the village is a newer collection of hotels, including the Gurkha Lodge, Uttam Lodge and Hotel Ever Green View.
In 1994, a 74km Chinese-built road was completed between Pokhara and Baglung. Naya Pul is at Km42, at the foot of the hill below Khare. Take one of the 24 daily buses that serve Baglung from the bus terminal near Bhairab Tole in the north-western part of Pokhara. Get off at Naya Pul, then make the trek to Birethanti. A bus ticket to Naya Pul costs Rs 40. A faster and more comfortable solution is to pay the fixed rate of Rs 750 for a taxi that carries three people from Pokhara to Naya Pul. Now that it’s so easy to get to Birethanti via Naya Pul, few people walk the first few days of the old trek route through Naudanda, Khare, Lumle and Chandrakot.
If you are trekking to Jomsom and want to head directly to Tatopani, Beni is a good starting point. The Hotel Dolphin, which does very heavy advertising along the trail, is in the centre of town. A better choice is the Hotel Yeti, on a back lane west of the main street. Another choice is the Namaste Lodge, which caters to trekkers and is below the Beni plateau at the north end of the village. If you arrive here early, continue an hour on to Galeshor, which is a more pleasant place to stay.
It is 73km of winding road from Pokhara to Beni. The trip takes less than three hours by bus from the Baglung bus station in the north-west of Pokhara. A taxi takes two hours. Continue on the bus or taxi beyond Naya Pul to the Kali Gandaki bridge just before Baglung and take the rough, unpaved road up the east bank of the Kali Gandaki to Beni. There are fewer direct buses from Pokhara to Beni. The fare is Rs 95 for a bus ticket or Rs 2300 for a taxi. The master plan is to extend the road all the way to Jomsom, through Lo Manthang and into Tibet, but there are some major obstacles along the steeper parts of the valley.
Besi Sahar is the starting point for the Around Annapurna trek. Above and to the southwest of Besi is Gaonshahar (1370m) where there are the remains of the old fortress and palace of Lamjung Durbar. From the 15th to the 18th century, this region was a collec-1 tion of independent kingdoms that continu-1 ally waged war on each other. In 1782 the I kingdom of Gorkha absorbed Lamjung, the principality that was ruled from Gaonshahar.
Touts with signs meet all vehicles in Besi Sahar and will try to convince you to stay in one of the numerous hotels in the bazaar itself, a walk of 10 to 15 minutes. All offer similar facilities, including rooftop views of Lamjung Himal and Annapurna 11 as well as the noise and dust of the bazaar. The Hotel Tukuche Peak, Hotel Shikhar and S’Annapurna are near the bus stop at the I southern end of town. If you have a private vehicle you can continue on the sealed road through a lkm-long collection of radio and watch-repair facilities, shops selling Chinese and Japanese goods, and numerous hotels to the Hotel The Tukuche at the end of the sealed road.
The road to Besi Sahar, the starting place for the trek around Annapurna, starts in Dumre, 135km from Kathmandu. It’s then another 43km from Dumre to Besi Sahar (also called Lamjung), the headquarters of the Lamjung district. The road was finally upgraded and sealed in 1998, making the start of the trek around .Annapurna much more pleasant.
Gorkha is the major town in the central hills and the site of the ancient palace of King Prithvi Narayan Shah, the founder of modem Nepal. It is an alternative starting point for the Around Annapurna trek. If you find yourself benighted in Gorkha, try the fancy Hotel Gorkha Bisauni, about 500m from the bus stop, or the Hotel Thakati at the bus stop itself. A few kilometres before Gorkha, on a ridge with good mountain views, is the upmarket Gorkha Hill Resort.
Gorkha’s Palangtar airport is no longer served by any flights because the road to Gorkha has made flying unnecessary. The 24km-long Gorkha road starts at Anbu Khaireni, 7km from Mugling. Gorkha is served by two buses daily. There is no night-bus service.