The Extended Ghorepani Trek
The Ghorepani Trek stretches between the Annapurna Circuit and the Annapurna Base Camp Trek, but is shorter and doesn’t need a prior acclimatization. It can last between three and seven days if an optional visit to the Chinu hot springs or a link to the Dhampus Trek is included. The Ghorepani Trek passes through Gurung villages, high into the mountains, and is a terrific opportunity to see the great Himalayan peaks, such as Dhaulagiri, Annapurna South, and Machhapucchare.
On the first day, we started to walk from the taxi stand in Nayapul and followed a dirt road toward Birethanti (1025m), where we stopped to show our trekking permits. From Birethanti we hiked gently along the Bhurungdi Valley, which is interspersed with hamlets, touristic lodges, and teahouses. At noon, we stopped for lunch at a teahouse, in Hille village (1460m).
In the afternoon, we started a steep ascent toward Tikhedhungga (1540m) and hiked along a path of stone steps for about one hour. In Tikhedhungga the stone steps continued uphill until we reached a suspension bridge that crossed the Bhurungdi Khola (river). From that point, we embarked on the steepest climb of the day, to Ulleri village.
We stopped overnight in Ulleri (2020m), a picturesque village where most of the whitewashed houses overlook Annapurna South Peak, over 7000 meters high. In the evening, the dining room of the lodge quickly filled with trekkers and we shared our experiences about Nepal.
On day two, we followed the walkway paved with stones toward Ghorepani village. We climbed to Banthanti hamlet (2210m) and then walked along a contour line of short ups and downs, until we approached a tributary stream of the Bhurungdi Khola. This time, we had to cross only a short stone bridge over the river, and then headed to Nangge Thanti (2430m) through a subtropical forest full of climbing plants. By noon, we were already in Lower Ghorepani and stopped at a checkpoint.
While Lower Ghorepani is more quiet and peaceful, Upper Ghorepani (2860m) lies just 10 minutes uphill, but has panoramic views of both the Dhaulagiri and the Annapurna Ranges. Upper Ghorepani is a crossroads, where three of the most famous treks of this region join. The well-known Annapurna Circuit overlaps with the hike that we had already been doing for the last two days, but walking in the opposite direction. From the same point, the Ghorepani Trek continues toward the Deurali Pass, and another footpath paved with tiny stone steps heads to the Poon Hill lookout (3200m).
While it is recommended to go up to Poon Hill to see the sunrise, we decided to go for the sunset during our free afternoon. The advantage was that the renowned observatory was less crowded so I could take countless pictures of the Himalayas.
The third day was the longest day of the trek because I decided to innovate and create a personalized route for myself. I wanted to see the hot springs from Chinu, which are on the Annapurna Base Camp Trek, so my guide-come-porter Saila suggested a different plan to me. That day we walked almost continuously for eight hours, from the morning until dusk.
After we passed the Deurali Pass (3090m) and Ban Thanti (3180m), we stopped for a quick lunch at the first teahouse, from where I could see Annapurna South. After lunch, we descended quite steeply to another tributary of the Bhurungdi Khola, and from there, we abruptly climbed to Tadapani village (2630m) in half an hour. Normally, trekkers stop here for their third trekking day, and the place really worth the stop as it has astonishing views of Annapurna South and Machhapucchare. Because I extended my trek to incorporate a new place that was not part of the initial loop, we had to continue to Ghandruk for another three hours. The route passed through a rhododendron forest, which were unfortunately not in bloom at that time of the year, but full of big fat monkeys swinging in the trees.
We stayed overnight in Ghandruk (1940m) which is situated in a favorable location above the Modi Khola Valley. On the morning of the following day, I walked through the village with whitewashed stone houses, and visited the small Gurung Museum refurbished in a traditional house.
The fourth day was the shortest one as we only descended from Ghandruk toward Chinu (1780m), which lies just one hundred meters above the Modi Khola Valley. The route goes continuously down and passes typical Gurung households and plots of agricultural land elaborately tilled. Before reaching Chinu, the road goes steeply down to the Kimrong Valley, so that the final part climbs abruptly again.
In Chinu we joined the route that goes along the valley and up to the Annapurna Base Camp. The hot springs were formed in the Modi Khola Valley, next to the river, and there were three pools with different temperatures of warm, relaxing water. In the afternoon, many trekkers, guides, and porters join the pools, after a long trekking day.
On the last day of the trek we walked parallel to the Modi Khola Valley. Although we walked along a contour line, the route had many ups and downs. Siwai is the closest village on the trek where a bus can brave the rocky, dusty dirt road. We reached the village when a bus was already leaving, so we stopped for lunch, then decided to walk to Birethanti–another ten kilometers. I didn’t regret the decision to extend the walk as the road passed through authentic villages and picturesque rice paddies.
In Birethanti we officially ended the loop of the Ghorepani trek, had the trekking permits stamped for the last time, and walked to the taxi stand from Nayapul. From there, we were at Lakeside Pokhara in an hour.
The Ghorepani Trek offers an experience of traditional Gurung villages, and it is a fine add-on to the Annapurna Circuit or the Annapurna Base Camp Trek.