ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREK - CHAME TO MANANG
Read our highly informative and detailed day-by-day Annapurna Circuit Trek guide. We spent 14 days trekking around Annapurnas, and we’d like to share useful hiking tips, how to acclimatize and where to sleep. In the second part of our lifetime adventure, we hike from Chame to Manang.
We were so excited about trekking from Chame to Upper Pisang as the massive mountains were revealing more and more before our very eyes and with each day that passed, the views of the seven thousand meters high peaks were getting more spectacular.
The village woke up early in the morning. We could hear a rumble of jeep engines while drivers were waiting for their passengers to take them to Manang. We had a slow breakfast, the weather looked promising, and there was no need to rush.
In Chame, we crossed the river and walked around the Mani Stones and under the stone gate stupa with colorful mandalas painted on the ceiling.
The beginning of the trek led us through a thin forest with a few views of snowy peaks sparkling in the lazy morning on the blue horizon. It took us approximately two hours to get in Bhratang, a small settlement along the way which surprised us with extensive apple farm orchard. We didn't hesitate for a single second and bought a bunch of Fresh Himalayan Golden Delicious.
We refreshed ourselves by eating a couple, and then we continued on the road carved into the mountain high above the river.
The overhanging rock wall gave us an unpleasant feeling, and we hurriedly made it to the other side. There should have been another path along the riverbank, but locals in Bhratang told us to use the upper trail because of a closure of the former. They mentioned something about a missing bridge, and as it turned out, a missing bridge is no fun and makes it almost impossible to cross the river.
Our Travel Tip: ACAP will close any damaged and impassable trails. Landslides, rockfalls, floodings and harsh weather conditions throughout the year affect the routes on the trek, and it's always a good idea to gather as much information as you can before taking an alternative trail or detour, and the locals are the best source in providing latest updates about current trek condition.
After a while, the impressive sight of Paungda Danda alias Mountain to Heaven or the Great Wall of Pisang came to our view. This majestic rock barrier rises 1500 meters above the river, and its western face is completely smooth. Locals believe that spirits of the dead must climb the wall. At this point, the trail crosses the bridge, and we climbed up the hill through the pine forest which temporarily served us as a shelter against blazing sun.
Leaving the forest behind, we emerged on the path leading to Dhukur Pokhari.
And somewhere between Chame and Dhukur Pokhari, the haze finally started to disappear, and by the time we've reached Upper Pisang, the air was clear. Meanwhile in the village, one of the locals recommended us, that we should take the trail on our right to Upper Pisang, but we decided to follow the ACAP markings this time instead.
It turned out this path was slightly longer and more flat, except for the final climb which was steeper. We crossed the meadow with drying lake and then had to climb the final ascent to the beautifully set Upper Pisang Village (3310 m).
You also have an option to stay at the base of the valley in Lower Pisang which offers a broader variety of guesthouses. Earthquake in 2015 severely damaged and destroyed several buildings in Upper Pisang, and many villagers left their homes afterward giving the village almost haunting atmosphere. Only the Tibetan Buddhist Temple above the village lights this place with freshly painted white.
Later that day we also climbed to the ruined fort above Pisang. From this place, we had incredible views of the open valley, and surrounding mountains, especially a sight of Annapurna II at dawn was mesmerizing.
Before we left the village the next day, we didn't forget to visit a small building with a several hundred years old, sizable prayer wheel, and then walked around the long Mani Wall and finally left the village behind. From Upper Pisang, you have two options how to travel to Manang.
The lower trail is faster and less demanding than the higher route, which is the opposite, it's harder and more challenging but also more scenic and spectacular. We recommend you to take the upper trail as it's not only more rewarding, it will also help you with the acclimatization.
The trail climbed up an uncountable number of switchbacks, and as the morning sun was getting stronger, we didn't rush and rested regularly. Over 400 dreading meters ascend finishes in Ghyaru village where we sat on the bench in front of the stupa while eating delicious freshly baked apple pies we had bought from an older Nepali woman and admiring outstanding views all around us.
The path from Ghyaru to Ngawal offers first glimpses of Annapurna III, 7555 meters high giant in the Annapurna Range. We walked through the old village of Ngawal where we had a quick lunch which consisted of fried rice with eggs and black tea. Not long after we finished our meals, we set off again on our way.
The mountains around seemed to us as almost someone painted them, and when we got to the meadow with grazing horses and Mount Chulu East peeking out behind hills, we just sat there for a while in silence.
After we crossed the pasture, the path went slowly back down and took us to abandoned looking Julu village which stands in the middle of wetlands. A dirt path led us to Braga around a hidden checkpoint, a worn-down wooden and metal shack, which we would have missed if it wasn't for a guy who told us, that this is a place where we should sign in.
Then we joined the main road again and carried on. When you reach Braga, you can continue on the way for another 25 minutes to Manang, but we saw dark clouds coming in our direction from there and called it a day. We found this small village a great place to stay as it was a good starting point for acclimatization trips, and for the well-deserved rest. After a long day walk, we treated ourselves with pastries from in-house bakery and locally produced buckthorn juice.