The ANNAPURNA SANCTUARY is the most intensely scenic short trek in Nepal, and one of the most well-trodden – there are lodges and tea stops at hourly intervals or less, until the highest sections at least. The trail takes you into the very heart of the Annapurna range, passing through huge hills in Gurung country with ever-improving views of the mountains ahead, then following the short, steep Modi Khola, before you pass into the most magnificent mountain cirque: the Sanctuary. Wherever you stand, the 360-degree views are unspeakably beautiful, and although clouds roll in early, the curtain often parts at sunset to reveal radiant, molten peaks.
The Sanctuary is usually an eight- to twelve-day round trip from Pokhara. The actual distance covered isn’t great, but altitude, weather and trail conditions all tend to slow you down. The trail gains more than 2000m from Ghandruk to the top, at 4100m, so you’d be wise to spread the climb over three or four days – and dress for snow. Frequent precipitation makes the higher trail slippery at the best of times, and in winter it can be impassable due to snow or avalanche danger.
There are two main approaches, both converging on the major village of Chhomrong after two or three days’ walkthrough hardy types have made it in one exhausting day. At the time of writing, however, new roads were being built towards the largest villages, Ghorepani and Ghandruk, which will reduce the walk-in – though it may take some time for regular bus or jeep services to become established, and longer still for this area to become a tourist rather than a trekking destination.