For those who have the time, this is a unique version of the Annapurna Circuit which includes the remote valley of Nar Phu as well as a visit to the high-altitude Tilicho Lake. Tucked between the more popular Annapurna and Manaslu regions, Nar Phu is a true hidden gem that offers trekkers a rare opportunity to explore unspoiled valleys, raw Himalayan nature, and ancient Buddhist culture. This trek combines high passes, glaciers, canyons, gorges, forests, rock formations, and ethnically Tibetan cultures.

Highlights

  • Complete one of Nepal's classic treks while getting off the beaten path
  • Reach 5418m over Thorung La, the highest point of the trek
  • Venture into a remote part of Nepal that few travelers get to see
  • Stay in ancient villages that have seen little change over the centuries
  • Experience a part of the Tibetan plateau that extends down into Nepal

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Welcome to Kathmandu! Kathmandu
Day 2 Explore Kathmandu with Optional Day Tours Kathmandu
Day 3 Drive from Kathmandu to Koto Koto
Day 4 Trek from Koto to Meta Meta
Day 5 Trek from Meta to Phu Phu
Day 6 Phu Exploration Day Phu
Day 7 Trek from Phu to Nar Phedi Nar Phedi
Day 8 Trek from Nar Phedi to Nar Nar
Day 9 Trek from Nar to Ngawal via the Kang La Pass (5,240m) Ngawal
Day 10 Trek from Khangsar Village to Tilicho Base Camp (16,138 feet / 4,919 m) Tilicho Base Camp
Day 11 Visit Tilicho Lake, Return to Base Camp (16,138 feet / 4,918 m) Tilicho Base Camp
Day 12 Trek from Tilicho Base Camp to Yak Kharka (13,156 feet / 4,010 m) Yak Kharka
Day 13 Trek from Yak Kharka to Thorung Phedi (14,599 feet / 4,450 m)   Thorung Phedi
Day 14 Trek from Thorung Phedi to Muktinath via Thorung La (5,400m) Muktinath
Day 15 Trek from Muktinath to Jomsom Jomsom
Day 16 Flight from Jomsom to Pokhara Pokhara
Day 17 Flight from Pokhara to Kathmandu Kathmandu
Day 18 Depart Kathmandu  

Day 1: Welcome to Kathmandu!

Kathesimbhu Stupa. Kathmandu
Kathesimbhu Stupa. Kathmandu

It's a beautiful flight into the Kathmandu Valley with views of the Himalaya and terraced valley floor. Upon arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport, one of our representatives will greet you and transport you to your hotel.

Depending on your arrival time, you'll have time to explore the city. Some popular sights include Kathmandu’s Durbar Square and its narrow alleyways teeming with small shops, ancient temples, and local restaurants. There's also Swayambhunath temple, where you can watch the sunset over the valley and the Himalaya to your north.

The tourist hub of Thamel is a good place to grab your first meal, with a variety of restaurants to chose from offering both Western and local Nepali dishes. Then, if it's not too late, head to the busiest bazaar in the city, Asan Tole, which offers an authentic display of spice, fish, and vegetable stands that make for great photo ops. Practice some basic Nepali phrases and chat with friendly locals!

Day 2: Explore Kathmandu with Optional Day Tours

Boudhanath stupa
Boudhanath stupa

Kathmandu has a special atmosphere during the early morning hours when the city is slowly coming to life yet not too chaotic. It's a great time to walk and explore the streets or have a chai overlooking one of the local courtyards or durbar squares. 

After breakfast, there are then a number of ways you can spend your day given the numerous famous sights around the Kathmandu Valley. You can use this as a free day or we can provide a local English-speaking guide who knows the city well and can explain the history and significance of the sights (along with a private jeep to take you around).

Optional Day Tours

  • Sacred Sites of the Valley (Full day): Swayambhunath, Pashupatinath, and Patan Durbar Square. This is a full-day tour and you'll stop for lunch at a local restaurant during the day.

  • Boudhanath (1 hour): A UNESCO World Heritage Site and the world’s largest spherical stupa (Buddhist shrine). Check out the site’s numerous monasteries, as well as an enormous adorned statue of Maitreya Buddha.

  • Pashupatinath (1 hour): The most sacred of all Hindu temples in Nepal, located on the holy Bagmati River. This is a large temple complex where you can easily spend an hour exploring.
  • Bhaktapur (3 hours): A 30-minute drive outside of Kathmandu is the ancient city of Bhaktapur, home of medieval art and wood carving. Founded in the 9th century, visit the town’s narrow alleys and observe villagers going about their day-to-day life.
  • Everest Mountain Flight (1 hour): A unique opportunity, consider taking a mountain flight to see Mount Everest (one hour).
  • Shivapuri National Park (half-day): Go hiking or mountain biking in this scenic national park located on the northern fringe of Kathmandu Valley. There are hundreds of species of flora and fauna, including medicinal herbs, as well as historical and religious sites.

Evening Trip Briefing
However you choose to spend your day, you’ll return to your hotel in Kathmandu in the early evening and meet your specialist (or one of their staff members) who will go over details of your trip, including what to expect and transport logistics.

Later in the evening, head out for dinner at one of the city's great eateries, or your specialist can arrange a home-cooked dinner with a local family.

Day 3: Drive from Kathmandu to Koto

Travel along parts of the Annapurna Circuit
Travel along parts of the Annapurna Circuit

After an early breakfast in Kathmandu, a private car will pick you up and drive you to Besisahar. You'll have lunch here and then change to a four-wheel drive vehicle in order to prepare for the rugged journey to Koto. The road can be almost as challenging for passengers as for drivers, but it is incredibly scenic!

You'll travel along the old Annapurna Circuit trek route, through amazing gorges and past stunning waterfalls. Arrive in the village of Koto in time for dinner.

Driving time: 8-9 hours
Driving distance: 147 miles (237 km)
Overnight: Koto (8,530 feet / 2,600 m)
Accommodation: Teahouse

Day 4: Trek from Koto to Meta

A nature-lovers' paradise in this part of the trek
A nature-lovers' paradise in this part of the trek

After breakfast in Koto, you'll start the day early as there is a lot of ground to cover. First, you'll cross the river and enter the Nar & Phu valleys. Unlike towns on the nearby Annapurna Circuit, this area is not as developed and offers plenty of vistas for nature lovers. The walk through the spectacular narrow valley is one of the most beautiful on the trek with a mixture of beautiful oak, rhododendron, and bamboo forests, as well as sheer cliffs and a series of suspension bridges as you cross back and forth ascending up the valley.

Emerging from a narrow canyon, you'll make your way under a wide waterfall where the forest becomes thinner and the expanse wider. The last stretch into Meta involves climbing a steep hill, where there are amazing views of some of the giant snowy peaks in the distance. This is a small village with a few clean teahouses for trekkers.

Trekking time: 7-8 hours
Trekking distance: 12 miles (20 km)
Overnight: Meta (11,680 feet / 3560 m)
Accommodation: Teahouse

Day 5: Trek from Meta to Phu

Check out Buddhist stupas in this part of Nepal
Check out Buddhist stupas in this part of Nepal

After breakfast in Meta, you'll trek out of the village and begin to notice some of the unique, colorful Tibetan Buddhist stupas that make Nar and Phu famous. The trail meanders along the ridge with great views of the Phu alley and the magnificent Nar Phedi monastery. After more hiking through scenic canyons and gorges—and crossing various suspension bridges over different streams—you’ll reach a monolith that guards the steep trail up to Phu. 

From here, you can get your first view of the three villages in the area as well as an old dzong (Tibetan-style fortress) and the remains of two ruined forts, impressively situated above the flatlands. Just before crossing the bridge into Phu, a line of more wonderful stupas will appear in the landscape.

After a rest and snack, take a short walk up to the famous Tashi Lhakhang Gompa to pay respects to Lama Karma Sonam Rimpoche who came to Nepal with the Dalai Lama in 1959.

Trekking time: 7-8 hours
Trekking distance: 6 miles (9.7 km)
Overnight: Phu (13,386 feet / 4080 m)
Accommodation: Teahouse

Day 6: Phu Exploration Day

Watch local villagers spin yak wool
Watch local villagers spin yak wool

Due to the high altitude, it’s smart to spend an acclimatization day in Phu. You can wake up and have a relaxing breakfast while enjoying the views. Take time to explore tiny alleyways of this interesting village; sit with the locals as they spin their yak and sheep wool, pound mustard seeds into a paste for oil, or tend to other daily chores.

For a physical challenge, take the hike up to Himlung Himal base camp through a glacial valley (4-5 hours round-trip). This 23,375 foot (7,125 m) peak was recently opened for climbing. On the trail to the base, you will see herds of blue sheep skillfully clambering up the steep cliffs.

Overnight: Phu (13,386 feet / 4080 m)
Accommodation: Teahouse

Day 7: Trek from Phu to Nar Phedi

Watch a traditional Puja ceremony
Watch a traditional Puja ceremony

Wake up in Phu and have breakfast before retracing the route back down towards Meta. This time, though, you'll turn off at the Nar Phedi monastery, which will be your accommodation for the night. In fact, the monastery is all that Nar Phedi consists of!

The rooms are neat and clean and the nuns are extremely welcoming. Join them in the kitchen and watch as they prepare dinner on a modest fireplace. In the late afternoon, there is a puja (blessing), which you are welcome to watch. Keep an eye out for the small donation box in the monastery where you can leave a contribution to the maintenance of this beautiful and friendly place.

Trekking time: 4-5 hours
Trekking distance: 9 miles (14.5 km)
Overnight: Nar Phedi (11,450 feet / 3490 m)
Accommodation: Monastery

Day 8: Trek from Nar Phedi to Nar

Meet some locals in the sociable village of Nar
Meet some locals in the sociable village of Nar

Today is an easy trek day. You'll have breakfast at Nar Phedi and then climb out of the area through Nar Valley, crossing a suspension bridge over the Labse River, and then following a winding path up a hill towards Nar. Pass a line of wonderfully painted, bamboo-topped stupas on the way into the ancient village. Arrive in the town around lunchtime. Even though Nar is not far from the main Annapurna trail, it is rarely visited by trekkers and is about as picturesque as it gets.

Nar will likely feel a bit more social and lively than Phu, and during the day you may find the village hub teeming with chatting women wearing their back-strap looms, weaving wool fabric for rugs and blankets. 

Trekking time: 3-4 hours
Trekking distance: 2.5 miles (4 km)
Overnight: Nar (13,484 feet / 4110 m)
Accommodation: Teahouse

Day 9: Trek from Nar to Ngawal via the Kang La Pass (5,240m)

Today is a long day, so it's best to get up before sunrise and head towards the Kang La Pass, which leads back onto the popular Annapurna Circuit. It is not a difficult pass, but it can be a long day as the effects of altitude will be felt. Once on top of the pass, you can enjoy an amazing view over Annapurna II, Gangapurna, and Tilicho Peak. The trail downward starts off steep, but if you enjoy scree running you can have some fun! Stop for lunch on a plateau overlooking the peak, then continue towards Ngawal.

Ngawal, on the upper Pisang route of the Annapurna Circuit, is certainly different from the ancient villages you just visited. The lodges are bigger, the menus much more comprehensive, and there will be wi-fi and phone signals in most lodges.

Trekking time: 8-9 hours
Trekking distance: 10 miles (16 km)
Overnight: Ngawal (17,192 feet / 5240 m)
Accommodation: Teahouse

Day 10: Trek from Khangsar Village to Tilicho Base Camp (16,138 feet / 4,919 m)

View from Tilicho Base Camp
View from Tilicho Base Camp

After breakfast in Khangsar Village, you'll continue trekking along a wide new path until you get to a Buddhist monastery. From here, climb towards a high ridge where you'll reach an intersection where the new trail and the old trail collide; take the new trail and ascend to another steep ridge before descending back down along switchbacks.

You'll eventually reach a scenic valley and then cross a little stream putting you at Tilicho Base Camp, your spot for the next two nights.

Trekking time: 5 hours
Trekking distance: 4.5 miles (7.2 km)
Accommodation: Teahouse

Day 11: Visit Tilicho Lake, Return to Base Camp (16,138 feet / 4,918 m)

Tilicho Lake
Tilicho Lake

Today, you'll start with an early breakfast before a nice roundtrip loop to Tilicho Lake in the Manang district. It takes about 3 hours to get to this clear body of bright turquoise water, one of the highest lakes in the world. You'll hike through high alpine landscapes with plenty of snow-covered rocks—a striking contrast against the vibrant hue of the lake. 

Have lunch and take your time to enjoy the lakeside surroundings before returning to base camp for the night.

Trekking time: 6 hours
Trekking distance: 6 miles (10 km)
Accommodation: Teahouse

Day 12: Trek from Tilicho Base Camp to Yak Kharka (13,156 feet / 4,010 m)

Yak Kharka
Yak Kharka

After breakfast at base camp, you'll follow a gently winding trail high above Khangsar village with more views of the Himalayan giants as you pass through juniper bushes and the ruins of old Khangsar. From here, follow an unmarked trail which leads you down to an old log bridge between Gumsang and Yak Kharka, an area where yak herders bring their animals to graze. This is where you'll stop for the night.

Trekking time: 5-6 hours
Trekking distance: 8 miles (13 km)
Accommodation: Teahouse

Day 13: Trek from Yak Kharka to Thorung Phedi (14,599 feet / 4,450 m)  

Views on the way to Thorung Phedi
Views on the way to Thorung Phedi

Today's scenic trek starts with breakfast in Yak Kharka before you take a slow, gradual climb towards your overnight location. You'll hike up a ridge and notice that the high altitude landscapes become more extraordinary along the way. Then descend to the Marsyangdi where you'll cross the river on a covered wooden bridge that leads to a small tea shop.

After a short ascent up the mountain path on the right bank, you'll follow a narrow trail and then trek down to Thorung Phedi (meaning: foot of the hill). Once settled, choose to spend your free afternoon either hiking up to the lodge at High Camp for some acclimatization or relaxing with a book and chatting with other trekkers staying the night. 

Trekking time: 6-7 hours
Trekking distance: 3.7 miles (6 km)
Accommodation: Teahouse

Day 14: Trek from Thorung Phedi to Muktinath via Thorung La (5,400m)

Views from Muktinath
Views from Muktinath

Today begins at sunrise as this is the longest and hardest day of the trek! Start off with a four-hour walk to the top of the Thorung La at 17,717 feet (5400 m)—Annapurna Circuit's highest point—where you'll be rewarded with spectacular views over Mustang and Kaligandaki valleys, and the surrounding peaks. Take time for photos as the summit opens up to reveal a sweeping panorama of snow-capped mountains extending towards Tibet. The descent is almost as demanding as the ascent, so when you get to the bottom at Chabarbu, there is a teahouse where you can relax with a cup of chai and a snack.

Continue trekking on a long, grassy slope through a series of switchbacks towards the lower Mustang and head back to the serene village of Muktinath. This important pilgrimage site for Buddhists and Hindus is surrounded by rugged mountains with unparalleled views of Dhaulagiri—the world’s 7th highest peak.

Trekking time: 8-9 hours
Trekking distance: 10 miles (16 km)
Overnight: Muktinath (12,467 feet / 3,800 m)  
Accommodation: Teahouse

Day 15: Trek from Muktinath to Jomsom

Jarkot village in Mustang
Jarkot village in Mustang

After breakfast at your teahouse, pay a visit to Muktinath Temple, an important place of worship for Nepalese Buddhists and Hindus. You will have the opportunity to visit the main temple and its surrounding area before you hit the trail.

From here, begin your trek back to Jomsom along an easy route that heads straight downhill. While you retrace your steps, you'll be able to enjoy good views of Mt. Dhaulagiri. Pass through Jarkot where you can visit one more monastery, and take in the views of snow-capped mountains and ancient caves. Admire the signs of rich Tibetan culture and keep an eye out for Mustang people who will come out and sell handicrafts to pilgrims. 

Trekking time: 5-6 hours
Trekking distance: 9.3 miles (15 km)
Overnight: Jomsom (8,910 feet / 2,715 m)   
Accommodation: Teahouse

Day 16: Flight from Jomsom to Pokhara

Passengers catching a flight in Jomsom
Passengers catching a flight in Jomsom

Today, after breakfast in Jomsom, you'll catch a 30-minute morning flight to Pokhara. Snag a window seat as the scenic mountain views en route will be nothing short of spectacular. 

Upon arrival in Pokhara, settle in your hotel and enjoy the afternoon and evening on your own. This relaxed lakeside town is the gateway to the Himalayas, so there are plenty of cool cafés, restaurants, water activities, funky shops, and yoga studios that cater to expats and adventure travelers.

Flight time: 30 minutes
Overnight: Pokhara (2,700 feet / 823 m) 
Accommodation: Hotel

Day 17: Flight from Pokhara to Kathmandu

Pashupatinath at night
Pashupatinath at night

After breakfast, depending on your flight time, you may have time to do more sightseeing or relax or catch up on some e-mails in one of the city's coffee shops.

At the allotted time, a private driver will pick you up from your hotel and take you to the airport to catch your flight back to Kathmandu. In Kathmandu, you'll be transferred to your hotel and can enjoy the rest of the afternoon and evening at your leisure. Explore Kathmandu's streets on foot, bicycle, or rickshaw, perhaps shopping for souvenirs or seeing anything you may have missed at the beginning of your trip.

Other ideas include:

  • Massage: Reward your muscles after the trek with a massage service at Seeing Hands (services are offered from the visually impaired), or the more upscale Kinjalla Spa.
  • Yoga: Take an early evening yoga class at Pranamaya Yoga, with two locations in Thamel and Patan.

In the evening, choose from a selection of Nepali, French, Vietnamese, and Middle Eastern dishes in Kathmandu.

Day 18: Depart Kathmandu

The all-seeing eyes of Buddha at Swayambhunath
The all-seeing eyes of Buddha at Swayambhunath

It's time to say farewell to Nepal. Enjoy your last moments in Kathmandu with breakfast in a café, a city stroll, and/or souvenir shopping. A representative will meet you at your hotel and drive you to the airport for your return flight home. It's good to be at the airport at least 2 hours prior to departure.