Off the Beaten Path: Discovering Hidden Gems and Side Trails on the Annapurna Circuit Trek

By Glorious Himalaya on February 26, 2024 in Trekking

There are several hidden gems and side trails from the Annapurna Circuit Trek, so you don’t have to limit yourself to the familiar trek others go on. Let’s explore them in more detail.

Annapurna Circuit Trek is one of the most popular treks in Nepal. It is slightly more challenging than Everest and Annapurna Base Camp. While significant places and attractions are on the main trail, like Jomsom, Kagbeni, Muktinath, and Thorong La Pass, you will not enjoy a few hidden gems of trails if you don’t know about them.

There are a few fantastic side trails on the circuit trek, like Tilicho Lake, Kilcho Lake, Nar Phu Valley, and Dhampus Trek. These treks are highly underrated as they also provide an opportunity to explore the exceptional Annapurna region, give you a chance to see majestic mountain views, and immerse yourself in a new culture. So, let’s get into it in more detail.

The Annapurna Circuit Trek stands as one of the most esteemed trekking routes globally, providing adventurers with an unparalleled opportunity to immerse themselves in the awe-inspiring beauty of the Himalayas. While the main trail is well-trodden and dotted with popular stops like Thorong La Pass and Muktinath, numerous hidden gems and side trails on the Annapurna circuit trek offer unique experiences away from the crowds. In this travel article, we’ll explore some of these lesser-known treasures, inviting intrepid travelers to venture off the beaten path and discover the hidden wonders of the Annapurna Circuit.

Hidden Gems and Side Trails

Nar Phu Valley:

Nar Phu Valley is one of the hidden gems of the trails in the Annapurna region. It is a remote trek that takes you to Nar and Phu village. It lies in an isolated area, as most remote settlements are not touched. Both Nar and Phu villages are inhabited by the Tibetan Refugees named Khampa.

One of the major attractions of the Nar Phu Valley is the stunning mountain view, like Pisang, Thorong Phedi, and Kang Garu. Furthermore, you will also get to explore impressive glaciers and high passes like Thorong La Kanga La Pass.

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There are a few ancient monasteries in both Nar and Phu Valley, which you can explore. The pristine and serenity of the villages leave you spellbound.

Kicho Tal (Ice Lake):

Kilcho Lake, or Ice Lake, is another popular side trail from the Annapurna Circuit Trek. Ice Lake is very fun during the Spring and Autumn seasons, but it becomes hazardous during winter, so don’t go on this trek in winter.

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The main trail is on its way to Thorong La Pass from Manang, but there is a short hike to Kilcho Lake, which is very beautiful. The hike is extremely rewarding, but it is also very challenging. During this trek, you will also get stunning views of mountains like Annapurna, Fishtail, and Dhaulagiri. If you are lucky, you can spot some endangered wildlife like Himalayan Thar, Snow Leopards, Musk Deer, etc.

Tilicho Lake Side Trek:

Tilicho Lake is the most popular and exciting side trail on the Annapurna Circuit Trek. If you have spare time during your ACT trek, give time to this side trek, as you won’t be disappointed. Tilicho Lake lies at 4919m, meaning it is Nepal’s highest lake. Tilicho Lake has become one of the most beautiful places to trek from the off-beaten path during your circuit trek.

Tilicho Lake is also sacred to Hindus and Buddhists. Many pilgrims from Nepal, India, and China trek the trail for religious purposes. From the peak of Tilicho Lake, you get a fantastic view of the mountains, like Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Hiunchuli, etc.

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The Tilicho Base Camp trek offers stunning views of the surrounding peaks and glaciers and the chance to experience the tranquility of the remote Himalayan wilderness.

Dhampus Peak:

The summit of Dhampus Peak boasts stunning panoramic views of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri mountain ranges. You can see Dhaulagiri at 8167m, Annapurna First at 8091m, Annapurna Second at 7739m, Annapurna Third at 7555m, Annapurna Fourth at 7525m, Annapurna South at 7219m, Hiunchuli at 6441m, Machhapuchhare at 6998m, Nilgiri at 7040m, Lamjung Himal at 6988m, Tukuche peak at 6920m, and many more.

When trekking through the region, you’ll have the opportunity to experience the stunning beauty of the rhododendron forest in full bloom, cascading waterfalls, charming mixed culture villages, meandering rivers, and terraced rice fields. You’ll also learn about the unique lifestyle and culture of the local communities, including the Magar, Gurung, and Bhotye people, who call this place home.

Tips for Exploring Off the Beaten Path

Plan Ahead: Research the side trails and hidden gems you’re interested in exploring and plan your itinerary accordingly. Be sure to allow extra time for detours and unexpected discoveries.

Be Prepared: Some of the side trails and hidden gems may be more challenging or remote than the main trekking route, so be sure to pack appropriate gear and supplies, including a map, compass, and emergency provisions.

Respect Local Culture: When visiting remote villages or sacred sites, always respect the local customs and traditions. Ask permission before taking photographs and adhere to any guidelines or restrictions that may be in place.

Stay Flexible: Weather and trail conditions in the Himalayas can be unpredictable, so be prepared to adjust your plans accordingly. Stay flexible and open-minded, and embrace the spirit of adventure as you explore off the beaten path.

Introduction to the Annapurna Circuit Trek

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Spanning approximately 160-230 kilometers, the Annapurna Circuit Trek is a classic Himalayan journey that encircles the Annapurna massif, showcasing a rich tapestry of landscapes, cultures, and experiences. While the main trail passes through iconic villages like Manang and Jomsom, countless side trails and hidden gems await exploring by those willing to venture off the beaten path.

Last words

Annapurna Circuit Trek is one of the best trekking destinations in Nepal. The trek is relatively straightforward: You reach Thorong La Pass and then return, but there are several hidden gems along the way that you can explore. The side treks, like Tilicho Lake Trek, Nar Phu Valley Trek, Dhampus Peak Trek, etc., stand independently.

These hidden trails are significant in exploring a few more remote areas of the Annapurna region. They take you to mesmerizing places where you will get stunning views of valleys and mountains and get to know these local people’s culture.

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