You arrive in Kathmandu.
You spend the second day in the city, overwhelmed by the choice of places to visit. One of the principal attractions is the Swayambunath Stupa – the Monkey Temple. It is said to be over two thousand years old. The eyes painted on each of the four sides represent the all-seeing power of Buddha. At Durbar Square is one of the holiest Hindu shrines in the world. Many sadhus – Hindu ascetics – reside here. It becomes crowded during religious festivals. It is an enticing melange of courtyards, pagoda temples and palace buildings.
A bus takes you from Kathmandu to the beautiful town of Pokhara on the banks of the Phewa Lake. The Devi Falls are not to be missed.
The flight from Pokhara to Jomsom will show you first hand just how high the Himalaya mountains are. The villages you see are so isolated that they are a minimum of three days’ walk to the nearest town. The last moments on the flight are brilliant when the plane crosses a gorge very near the end of the runway. Flights are only in the morning because it gets so windy in the afternoon. You then trek to Kagbeni, where there is a checkpoint. Here you stay for the night.
You ascend rapidly to Muktinath at 12,464 feet. This is one of the most sacred pilgrimage sights for Hindus. Holy water flows from a 108 carved spouts that surround the Vishnu temple in a grove of poplars. Muktinath is also home to a great many ethnic holy Buddhists and Tibetans, who come to the temple to witness fire miraculously burning in a stream of water inside a small but very sacred temple.
You now make your way downhill through fields and poplar groves where you reach the valley of the Kali Gandaki river. You then trek south through the valley to Jomsom where you stay for the night.
You descend to Marpha, a delightful village of whitewashed houses surrounded by fertile fields. You continue to follow the Kali Gandaki before reaching Tukuche (which has long been a Thakali trading centre). You arrive at Kalopani, which offers a fantastic 360-degree view of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna. You stay Kalopani for the night.
You take a beautiful walk that transitions to sub-tropical vegetation, making your way among banyan trees, poinsettas and water buffalo. Both river and trail pass through a narrow gorge. You descend and cross a bridge close to a stunning waterfall before trekking through the valley to Tatopani, where hot springs beckon.
Climbing inexorably throughout the day, you swap terraced fields for dense rhododendron forest as you near the village of Ghorepani where you stay the night.
Early in the morning, you can visit the renowned Poon Hill for breathtaking, all-round views of the Annapurna range at sunrise. The best time for photographs is early morning or sunset as, otherwise, there is precious little contrast between sky and mountain. Your adventure now takes you to Pokhara. There is a brief early morning climb to the Deurali Pass for a spectacular panorama that extends south to the plains of India, with Dhaulagiri and Annapurna on the way. The trail then descends quickly through dense moss-covered forest teeming with bird life before bringing you to Tadapani, where you can experience intense sunset views of Annapurna South and Machhapuchhre.
The trail continues to descend rapidly through dense, damp forest where you may spot some monkeys. You cross some rock-cut steps. You stay the night at Ghandruk, whose museum of traditional Nepalese life is fascinating.
You face an unrelenting, downward trek among remarkably green cultivated terraces and beautifully-preserved farms. You come to the Modi River, to which the trail sticks all the way to Birethani. Trekking ends and the drive back to Pokhara begins.
You return to Kathmandu by car.