The Best of Nepal in Pisang
Some villages along the Annapurna Circuit are passed through quickly by trekkers. Kalopani and Lete, Ghasa, and Pisang aren’t usually considered “main stopping points” by visitors and guides. This is a mistake. A big one.
It is in these smaller posts where hospitality is most welcoming, families are kind, and guests have the opportunity to learn what life is really like in the Himalayas. Unlike well-known areas like Jomsom and Manang, where guests come and go somewhat regularly, these “in between” points are hungry for tourists. The introduction of the road along Annapurna has made it so that some of these villages are passed by completely, and villages have learned to make do.
Pisang is one of those places that show the best of Nepal: scenery, mountains, culture, and generosity of spirit. And of course tea–lots of it. If you walk through this area quickly, you will miss its full value and charm.
In 2014, I spent close to two weeks here. I have been back since to revisit, surprised when my name was called out along the trail. I was immediately invited into homes for butter tea — milky, filling, and smoky from the fires on which it was made.
Pisang is divided into two parts, the lower section and the upper village. This is part of the reason why this area deserves a stay of several nights.
You can journey along the Annapura Circuit to reach Pisang by Jeep and on foot. The drive is bumpy and off-road, and windy turns and steep drops will test your mettle. The outline of my ring was imprinted onto my finger for several hours after we arrived.
Non-Nepali travellers will need to stop and show the necessary permits at checkpoints along the way, but you’ll be grateful for the chance to stretch your legs and take photos of waterfalls feeding into the Marshyangdi River.
Vehicles run on either side of the valley, and you’ll need to carry your belongings across a suspension bridge to get to the Pisang side. Depending on what time of year you visit, you may even see snow.
Part of the Manang District, Pisang is steeped in Gurung and Manangi culture. If you’re lucky (as I was) you’ll get to see traditional dress and customs. Both Lower and Upper Pisang have several homestays and guesthouses to choose from. Maya and her family at Hotel Moonlight quickly became friends and made it their mission to make sure I was comfortable.
Lower Pisang boasts “Buddha Park,” a garden area with a golden Buddha statue and prayer flags hanging from pines. On clear days, the mountains become an ethereal backdrop. In the evening, you can ask for directions to the billiards hall and find yourself in competition at a tucked-away table.
Begin your morning in Upper Pisang and sit in the monastery’s courtyard to watch the first rays of sun color mountain peaks. One of the few monks who brave the cold conditions here may offer you a cup of tea. There’s even a village baker who whipped up a birthday cake for a friend (but give the guy some notice! Baking at altitude is no easy feat). You can also ask to meet Pisang’s “Bob Marley,” a legend of a man who can show you the greenhouse and guesthouse he built from scratch.
Several day-hikes lead to emerald lakes and picturesque views. From Pisang, you can make the long haul to Manang or hire a bike to get there and back in a day. Between Pisang and Manang, there are several villages along the way: Ghyaru, Ngawal, and Braga. Each area promises more stunning scenery, walls of prayer wheels, and of course, more welcoming cups of tea.
Whether you’re tackling the full Annapurna Circuit or simply looking to experience an authentic side of Nepal, spend time getting to know the people and trails of the Manang District and the villages “in between.”