ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREK - MUKTINATH TO JOMSOM
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 last part of our lifetime adventure, we hike from Muktinath to Jomsom.
The Ranipauwa village (often mistakenly called Muktinath) lies 3710 meters above sea level in Mustang District and is a significant hub for both hikers and believers.
If you trek the Annapurna Circuit counterclockwise, this will probably be the first village where you'll stay after crossing Thorong La.
The first thing we could see when approaching the settlement was the sacred Muktinath Temple very well known for both Hindus and Buddhist who pilgrim long distances to get to this religious site (that's the reason why Ranipauwa village is often called Muktinath).
The next thing we couldn't overlook was a snow-capped peak of 7th world's highest mountain Dhaulagiri (8167 m) towering above the Kali Gandaki Gorge.
Even though we were quite exhausted after crossing the saddle, shortly after we accommodated ourselves in a small hotel, we went to look around Ranipauwa. The small village is a mix of old rural life with the background consisting of snow-covered peaks, cows and horses wandering around, and bustling constructions of new hotels and guesthouses.
Apart from guesthouses, restaurants, small shops and street vendors (we couldn't resist buying a simple scarf), there is not much of attraction.
When we came back, the hotel was experiencing electricity shortage (this is common in Ranipauwa sometimes it takes days to get the power back on), but it started to work again later in the evening, and we could enjoy dinner in the well-lit dining room and didn't have to use our headlamps. The mood was high, and everyone felt relaxed.
We didn't want to finish our trek here yet, so in the morning we put on our backpacks again and continued down the road. Lucie's face got swollen, and our lips were cracked due to yesterday's long day hike on the direct sun even though we used a suncream and lip balm, so we tried to hike as much covered by scarfs as possible.
We didn't meet anyone who would continue the Annapurna Circuit from Muktinath, but we were soon about to find out why.
The path led us down, and we recognized Jharkot with its typical red Gompa situated on the hill. The scenery was nice-looking, and the landscape of Muktinath Valley was different again, but the dusty trail in combination with the traffic and road construction made the walk unbearable.
After what seemed like an eternity we arrived in Kagbeni, a medieval-looking settlement in Lower Mustang strongly influenced by Tibetan culture. We walked around the village for a while and tried to decide what's our best option.
Because we took a three-day long detour to Tilicho Lake, we did not have enough time to finish the whole circuit anyway plus we were not in the mood to continue on the extremely dusty road, so we asked in ACAP office when a next bus goes to Jomsom.
The lady told us there was a morning bus to Jomsom and there might be another one in the evening, but also "maybe not". She was very helpful, but despite all her effort and immensely useful information she provided us with, we were not any smarter, so we went to bus station and asked a drowsing older man how to get to Jomsom. He told us to wait a moment, and in five minutes we were sitting in a jeep and heading to Jomsom.
The way from Kabgeni to Jomson is unpaved, but luckily quite short, and we also probably took a shortcut and drove in a drying river. When we arrived at Jomsom, we knew there is not much to do so we wanted to get to Pokhara immediately. Luckily, right at the station was a bus with the engine on just about to leave to Pokhara.
There was a guy standing at the bus door persuasively crying "Pokhara Pokhara" so we didn't linger any longer and jumped in. Almost immediately we found out that there was not enough space for our legs, seats were wet, the ride was extremely uncomfortable and in less than five minutes even painful, as the bus was rocking from side to side on the uneven road.
The idea of spending minimum 8 hours in this vehicle made us jump out before we reached the end of the village. We decided to spend a night in Jomsom and first thing in the morning caught a jeep to Pokhara.
Our Travel Tip: ACAP is working hard on creating New Annapurna Trekking Trails (NATT). Especially the trail from Muktinath to Jomsom was heavily impacted by the road construction, so it is a great idea to bypass this section and still enjoy the beauty of the area. When we did the trek in April 2017, the making of NATT was still in progress and had gaps. The best decision was to walk from Ranipauwa to Kagbeni (check the option to avoid the road by hiking on the other side of the valley but the permission was required) then go by jeep to Jomsom and continue the hike from there.