Top Unmissable Annapurna Circuit Side Treks

So many travellers who embark on the epic Annapurna Circuit Trek miss out on some of the most incredible sights because they don’t take advantage of the incredible side treks on offer. Don’t let this be you!

This post is here to help you not be one of them. We took our time along the Annapurna Circuit and got see some mind-blowing highlights that many fellow travellers missed. So in this article we reveal  our top 7 Annapurna side treks that you absolutely cannot miss!

Top Annapurna Circuit Side Treks: 

  1. Ngawal via Ghyaru 
  2. Tilicho Lake
  3. Jhong
  4. Kagbeni 
  5. Tiri 
  6. Marpha 
  7. Poon Hill

These destinations were some of the highlights of the entire trek and we want to share them with you so that you can experience them too! In-order to complete all these side treks we recommend at least 21 days to complete the circuit and the side treks. You can find more details how many days it takes to trek the Annapurna Circuit and a full itinerary examples here. 

So let’s go into more detail about each of these side treks.

1. Ngawal via Ghyaru 

1 Day side trek 

The Trek from Upper Pisang to Ngawal via Ghyaru was tough physically, but well worth the journey.   Many trekkers choose the easier low land route via lower pisang which takes just one day, while few adventurers take the high road and get off the beaten path on this 2day section of the trek. We 100% recommend taking this 2day route, not only for the incredible views, but also the historic stone village of Ghyaru.  

The trek up to Ghyaru was one of the most grueling parts of the entire trip. You will walk straight up steep inclines for hours and it may seem like it will never end…but it does, and when you reach the top you will find the hidden gem of Ghyaru.

Ghyaru was one of the most memorable villages along the trek, made of stone it looked as though we had stepped back in time. We were pinching ourselves when we arrived, it just didn’t seem real, places like this don’t exist anymore.

We stopped in this magical village for a delicious lunch made by a local woman who was also selling yummy yak cheese! It’s a great place for a lunch stop, you will need it after such a tough climb up. The good news is after the climb to Ghyaru the rest of the trek to reach Ngawal is fairly easy in comparison. Once you reach Ngawal you can settle into a tea house and make your way to Manang in the morning.

Day 1: Upper Pisang – Ghyaru – Ngawal 8km (8hours) 
Day 2: Ngawal – Manang 8km (5hours) 

2. Tilicho Lake

Tilicho Lake

2-3 Day side trek 

Tilicho lake is an epic natural beauty situated at an altitude of 4,919 metres. Considered one of the highest lakes in the world, this side trek was perhaps one of the most impressive of them all. 

The Trek to Tilicho also provides incredible views from moonscapes to epic mountain ranges and valley sceneries. You may also spot a glimpse of the rare and beautiful Bharal alias Himalayan Blue sheep. They are not really a sheep at all, more like a stunning mountain goat, incredible to witness Himalayan wildlife! 

Although beautiful, reaching this stunning natural beauty is not easy. The trek to Tilicho lake is a 2-3 day side trek and it’s tough, real tough! The terrain is fairly dangerous due to rock fall and is very steep in places. The higher altitude makes hiking even more strenuous on the body. The trek was so tough that a few trekkers in our group turned back before even reaching the lake! But if you decide to make the journey (we highly recommend you do)  you will not be disappointed. 

Here is an idea of a Tilicho Lake Side Trek Itinerary 

Day 1: Manang – Khangsar/Tilicho Lake Base Camp 11km (5hours)

Day 2: Khangsar/Tilicho Lake Base Camp – Tilicho Lake return 8km (7hours)

Day 3: Khangsar – Yak Karta 7km (4hours)

Tip for Tilicho Lake Side Trek: Make sure you are prepared for rain and extreme cold. Take sufficient wet weather gear and water-proof gloves. When we did the trek we had terrible weather and the altitude made it bitterly cold. We got soaked and got worryingly cold on the journey back.  There are no tea houses out near the lake, so you need to be prepared and able to trek back to shelter safely.

3. Jhong

Views along the trek from Jhong Village to Kagbeni

Alternative trek to road 

Jhong village is a stunning side trek and a welcome alternative to the dusty road along the journey between Muktinath and Jomsom. The village itself is beautiful and is actually the ancient capital of the area, but the views and hiking terrain are what makes this side trek so spectacular. 

After departing Muktinath, you will avoid the road and walk through beautiful shaded areas passing by streams and meadows. The trail then makes a steep incline to Jhong along an exposed rocky path. It’s a good ideas to stop in Jhong for lunch and take some time to explore this small and historic village, before carrying onto Kagbeni.

The next section of the trek will take you into the lower regions of the mustang territory, a unique and stunning moonscape of views that will blow you away. Now that sounds better than dusty roads doesn’t it! 

Muktinath – Johong – Kagbeni 10km (5hours)

4. Kagbeni

Looking down onto Kagbeni Village

Kagbeni is one of the most interesting villages along the Annapurna Circuit. This small village nestled in a stunning valley is often overlooked by trekkers who move straight through to Jomsom…so many trekkers miss out.

Kagbeni is a time chamber of ancient Mustang & Tibetan culture…..a village unlike any other place on earth. Known as the Gateway to Upper Mustang, this village features stone buildings, narrow cobbled streets and the fammed ‘The Red Monastery’ which dates back to 1429. 

But perhaps one of the most fascinating things to see in Kagbeni are the large fertility statues, one male & one female that showcase the uhhh reproductive bits…rather large bits…in full display.

Kagbeni is definitely worth a nights stay to explore the ancient centre and relax while embracing the unique culture of Mustang all with the impressive Himalayan mountains as your backdrop. There is also Yak Donalds, we stopped there for lunch and it is as good as it sounds!

Jomsom – Kagbeni 11km  (3hours) 

Muktinath – Johong – Kagbeni 10km (5hours)

5. Tiri

View from Tiri Village

Half day side trek

Tiri is our little secret. . Very few trekkers know about this little gem and even fewer will make the journey.  It’s as far north into Mustang that you can go without an expensive permit

Tiri village is just 30mins north of Kagbeni and lies on the border between lower and upper Mustang. Tiri is a very small but beautiful village with historic monasteries and stone buildings. We recommend a short day trip to Tiri to enjoy the views and have some refreshments in the only tea house that’s open.

Tiri is almost completely untouched by tourism and when you enter the tea house you are literally stepping into a families home, a fascinating and authentic Tibetan experience. We can’t quite remember the name of this tea house, but we are sure the friendly locals will point you in the right direction. 

Kagbeni – Tiri – Kagbeni 3km (1hours)

6. Marpha

Marpha Village

The beauty of Marpha is quaint and rustic, and we claim it to be one of the most picturesque villages in the entire region. Marpha is a small traditional village with stone flat roofed buildings which have all been painted in a vibrant white.

The white cobblestone alleyways pave the wave for local villagers, trekkers and donkeys alike and lead to small Tibetan storefronts where you can purchase traditional crafts and famous apple pie. Perhaps one of the most stunning places in Marpha is the historic monastery perched at the top of the town providing a great place to relax to enjoy the views overlooking the township.

Like many of the side treks listed here Marpha is often missed by most tourists who fly straight back from dusty Jomsom. So skipped Jomsom and make your way to Marpha instead, you definitely wont regret it! 

Kagbeni-Jomsom-Marpha 14km (5hours)

7. Poon Hill

Poon Hill Sumit

2 hour side trek

Poon Hill is a popular 2-3 day trek from Pokhara that many travellers do, but it’s also a great short and sharp side trek for those doing the full Annapurna Circuit.

Poon Hill itself is a short 45min hike from Ghorepani village. If hiked on a clear day, the summit reveals unparalleled views of the Himalayas including Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri, Machhapuchhare, Annapurna II and Lamjung.

This well known scenic hike is not what we would call a hidden gem, however it’s definitely worth the trip if you are passing by and you have a clear day. 

Ghorepani – Poon Hill – Ghorepani – 1.2km (2hours)

Annapurna Circuit Trek Itinerary

Finding the best Annapurna Circuit trek itinerary is not easy, mainly because every traveller will have their own unique time limits.  Ideally we recommend you put 21 days aside if you want to truly experience the best that the Annapurna Circuit has to offer, but we know that’s not always possible for everyone.

That’s why we have come up with a variety of itineraries to suit those with both short and longer timeframes. To view our recommended Annapurna itineraries you can check out the full article here.

We hope this list of unmissable Annapurna Circuit side treks has helped inspire you to go the extra mile and experience these incredible places. Happy trekking!

Cheers, Native Travellers

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