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Annapurna Circuit route went through road construction but how is the situation of Annapurna Circuit Trek after road construction? 

The road construction has connected Manang and Mustang. Similarly, it has made the route more accessible for the locals in the region. While it has made positive strides in the infrastructure development sector, many trek and nature enthusiasts have complained about it. The reason? The tranquility of Annapurna Circuit Trek has been threatened and affected. 

The starting point of the trek is from Dumre where it ends at Beni. Trekkers can take the opposite route as well. Dumre is usually preferred by trekkers as it serves as an important acclimatization stop. The road construction for the region started in the early eighties. It began with the north of Beni and Dumre. At present, the road construction has connected the main road to Chame in Manang and Phedi in Mustang. 

Despite the easy accessibility to the route, it has rather become a subject of debate for many. The road has made the route dusty and noisy. So, many trek enthusiasts wonder whether the Annapurna Circuit Trek after road construction is still worth it. 

In this blog, we will shed some light on this topic. We will explore topics like newly opened alternative routes, roads you should avoid while trekking, and why the Annapurna Circuit Trek still retains its previous charm. So stick with us until the end. 

Annapurna Circuit Trek 

The Annapurna Circuit was first opened for trekkers in 1977. Due to its pristine beauty and diverse flora and fauna, it soon became a popular trekking destination. The trek circles the Annapurna massif. You can see the majestic Annapurna mountain which is the world’s tenth-highest mountain from up close. 

You can also view mountains like Machhapuchre (Fishtail), Gangapurna, Hinchuli, and Dhaulgiri ranges. During the trek, you will also pass by one of the world’s highest passes, Thorong La Pass. It sits at an elevation of 5416 meters. The trail to the Annapurna Circuit passes through the Annapurna Conservation Area. So, you will be traveling through the rhododendron, oak forests, and highland pastures. 

The trail goes deep into the region’s valley and deep gorges (Kali Gandaki River) while passing by charming villages like Manang, Chhomorong, Ghorepani, Tadapani, etc. En route, you will pass by ancient monasteries, stupas, and gompas. You will also get an opportunity to visit the Muktinath Temple which is a sacred pilgrimage site for Hindus and Buddhists.  

The Annapurna Circuit is not only popular for its scenic beauty. It also provides a rich cultural exploration experience. The region is home to ethnic groups like Gurung, Magar, and Thakali. You can also witness the influence of Tibetan Buddhism at higher altitudes in the region. The trek provides the unique opportunity to immerse into their culture, tradition, and local customs.

The entire Annapurna Circuit is 150 miles long. Before the road construction, the trek took around 18 to 23 days. However, the trek duration has significantly become shorter. Now you can complete the entire trek within five days. But there are alternative routes that you can take to explore new sections of the Annapurna Circuit.  You can check out our Annapurna Circuit Trek here!

Attractions Of Annapurna Circuit Trek 

There are many reasons why Annapurna Circuit Trek is popular among trekkers. Even after the road construction, these attractions remain the same. Moreover, it has given access to the regions that were previously inaccessible. Take a look at the major attractions of the Annapurna Circuit Trek:

Pristine Nature and Scenery 

The pristine nature and scenery of Annapurna Circuit attracts trekkers and nature enthusiasts. The trail goes from subtropical green forests to alpine meadows. Similarly, you can witness magnificent mountain views of the Annapurna massif and other surrounding peaks. The trail passes by scenic landscapes, deep gorges, and lakes like Tilicho and Dhumba. 

You will also come across picturesque and famous villages like Ghorepani, Tadapani, Mustang, Marpha, Tatopani, and several others. These villages provide a glimpse into the local customs and lifestyle of the locals. You can also learn about their culture and get a look at the age-old architectural style. 

En route, you will cross the Thorong La Pass which is one of the world’s highest passes. It is situated at an elevation of 5416 meters. Likewise, you can take a detour to villages like Naurikot which is popular among Nepalese youths.  

Diverse Flora and Fauna

The Annapurna Circuit Trek is famous for its diverse flora and fauna. The trek goes through the Annapurna Conservation Area with diverse ecosystems. You can witness the forests of rhododendrons, oaks, juniper, and bamboo while also passing by highland pastures.  

The conservation area is home to 1200 species of plant species including ferns and mosses. There are endangered animal species like red pandas, snow leopards, Himalayan black bears, Himalayan tahr, and many more.  Similarly, more than 400 bird species are inhabiting the conservation area.  

During the Annapurna Circuit Trek, you will easily encounter many flora and fauna. If you are traveling in May and June, it coincides with honey hunting time. In October and November, the migratory birds travel back to Nepal. Based on the time of your trek, you can witness a variety of flora and fauna. 

Scared Pilgrimage Site

There are many ancient monasteries, stupas, and temples along the Annapurna Circuit route. The region is rich in cultural heritage. Muktinath temple in Mustang is the popular sacred pilgrimage site for Hindus and Buddhists. Therefore, thousands of people visit the temple annually. The temple sits at an elevation of 3710 meters. 

The temple complex has a Vishnu temple, a monastery, and 108 water spouts. The water spouts are believed to be natural springs and are considered holy water. It holds religious and spiritual significance. Since the road has reached Muktinath, more people have started visiting this sacred site.  

Yartung Festival

The Yartung Festival is celebrated between mid-August and early September. It is usually celebrated in Annapurna’s Upper Mustang, Kagbeni, and Muktinath regions. People from Gurung and Sherpas ethnic communities celebrate this festival. 

During the festival, the people from these communities come together. They dress up in their traditional attire and celebrate with dance, music, and cultural performances. The festival is celebrated as an expression of gratitude to nature. The people seek blessings and pray for a successful harvest and prosperity. 

The highlight of the festival is the horse races. Men and women participate in the races separately. Skilled riders participate in the thrilling race amidst the scenic landscape. 

Ancient Caves And Petroglyphs

The Annapurna Circuit Trek route also passes by many old villages. Among them, Nawal village is one of the oldest villages in Manang. The Ne Guru Cave is an hour’s walk away from the village. Local believes that this cave is connected with Gurusampo Cave in Mustang. 

The Gurusampo Cave is one of the centuries-old caves of Manag district. It lies right below the Dhaulagiri Icefall. The cave is full of weird-shaped formations that resemble the human brain. Another interesting trek you can take during the Annapurna Circuit Trek is at Eaklebhatti. The village sits in between Kagbeni and Jomsom. You can witness petroglyphs on rocks here. 

Natural Annapurna Trekking Trails (NATT)

The Natural Annapurna Trekking Trails (NATT) has been under development since 2010. It was put forward by the joint effort of the Government of Nepal and the Annapurna Conservation Area Project. The aim behind these alternative routes is to provide detours for trekkers away from the road. 

For the detours, NAAT has utilized the trails that locals have been using for generations. These local paths are being repurposed as alternative routes for trekkers. Similarly, the NATT has also provided the solution for the Annapurna Circuit Trek being destroyed after road construction. 

These trails are marked with red/white and blue/white markers. Trekkers can identify these markers and take the route away from the road. This way, trekkers can still enjoy the beautiful and tranquil trails of Annapurna Circuit. They can still enjoy the classic charm of the trek away from dusty roads.  

Here are some advantages of the New Annapurna Trekking Trails are as follows: 

New Alternative Routes

Thanks to NATT, many new alternative trails have opened. It has provided access to places which previously was not possible. These new routes have added an element of excitement and adventure to the classic Annapurna Circuit Trek. Now trekkers can take detours to extend their trekking experience. 

Some of the alternative routes include: 

  • Ghorepani – Poonhill or Ghandruk from Tatopani (descend to Pokhara)
  • Annapurna Circuit Trek along with Annapurna Base Camp 
  • Panchase Trek from Nayapul
  • Naar – Phu Trek from Chame and many more

Many trekkers have explored new alternative routes. They have provided positive feedback and have raved about the routes. While the road construction has spoiled the trekking experience, it is still worth doing. The scenery and views are still unspoiled. The new alternative routes have opened new doors for exploration.

Short Trek Option

With the new alternatives, there is now an option for trekkers to shorten their trek. It is especially advantageous for trekkers who have limited time but still want to do the Annapurna Circuit Trek. 

The trek from Besi Sahar as the starting point, takes around 21 to 24 days to complete. However, the new road access to Manag has helped to cut down the trek duration significantly. You can take a jeep ride up to Thorang and begin your trek from there onwards. 

The starting point aside from Besi Sahar can be Bhulbhule, Syange, Jagat, and Dharapani. Due to the new roads, you can choose any of these points and begin your trek. However, there are things trekkers have to be careful of. The rapid ascending can lead to altitude sickness. And you may miss many beautiful scenery and sites while traveling on a jeep. 

Timeless Natural Beauty

While the road has disturbed some parts of the Annapurna Circuit’s beauty, it has not ruined everything. You will see that the natural beauty remains the same as you trek through these new alternative routes. The trail goes through the scenic forests of Rhododendrons. Similarly, the mountain views and scenery remain frozen in time. 

The road construction has made minor changes. But the large part of the Annapurna Circuit remains timeless. The adventurous and fun trekking experience makes it still worth your time. Moreover, you may return to try the new alternative routes. 

New Discovery

The new alternative routes allow you to explore paths out of the main trail. Now you can trek through off-the-beaten paths through various small villages, monasteries, and religious sites. You can skip the normal routes and explore new ones. Who knows, you can discover hidden gems while exploring.

The Annapurna Circuit is filled with cultural and architectural treasures. You can come across ancient monasteries, statues, and gompas with unique architecture. For example, you can witness stone houses in Tukuche, tumbled-down houses in Kagbeni, traditional houses with age-old wood carving frames, and many others. 

The circuit has been given the name the “Living Trai”l. As you explore the region, you will figure out the reason behind the name.  

Roads To Avoid During The Annapurna Circuit

As we mentioned above Natural Annapurna Trekking Trail (NATT) has been undergoing. Thus, new routes have been opened for trekking. Trekkers can avoid the dusty and noisy road to tranquil and off-the-beaten trails. 

Since the new alternative trails are new, trekkers may get lost. To help direct the trekkers so that they stay on the off-the-beaten paths, the trails are marked. These new routes are marked with red/white and blue/white paints. 

Red and White Markers

These are the primary markers for the main trails. Follow the red and white markers to avoid the roadway. 

Blue and White Markers

These are the secondary markers after the red and white markers. The purpose of the blue and white markers is also the same. You can stay on the trekking path following these markers. 

Status of Annapurna Circuit Trek After Road Construction

You might be wondering what is the status of Annapurna Circuit Trek road construction. The route is open and running smoothly.  But there are road construction projects for the future.

The Government of Nepal is planning for further road construction in the Annapurna region. They are looking to connect Chame to Manang in the east and Pokhara to Muktinath in the west. The road construction to date has largely focused on the western region. Now, the government is looking to focus on the eastern part as well. 

Currently, the road has reached Muktinath. It has made the trail dusty and many trekkers end their trek at Muktinath. While it has discouraged trekkers, locals are looking forward to the development. It has had a positive impact on the region. 

The road has given locals accessibility to better health and other services. Similarly, locals can now trade their local products to a wider market. They can now ship their products at lower cost. Additionally, the road construction has made the region more accessible to tourists from India. 

The road construction has made the Annapurna Circuit Trek route dusty and noisy. The frequently traveling jeep leaves pollution on the route. So, many trekkers and enthusiasts have voiced their concerns. The complaints are mainly from those who have trekked through the main trails with roads nearby. 

To solve this problem, the New Annapurna Trekking Trails will play a crucial role. These trails are opened to preserve the experience of the classic Annapurna Circuit Trek. Trekkers can still enjoy the pristine nature and scenic views in a peaceful atmosphere. 

Annapurna Circuit After The 2015 Earthquake

Nepal was hit by a devastating earthquake of 7.9 magnitudes in 2015. Many Nepalese lost their lives. The earthquake also damaged a lot of historic buildings, monuments, and properties. It affected many regions of Nepal. 

Fortunately, a large portion of the Annapurna region was spared by the earthquake’s effect. The trails, properties, and sites of the Annapurna had received minimum to no damages.  A structural and earthquake engineering firm from California, Miyamoto International studied the effect of the 2015 earthquake in the Annapurna region. They found that only 1 % of the route and 3% of the settlements were affected. 

Since then, Annapurna Circuit has been operating normally. The 2015 earthquake has left no physical reminder of its effects in the region.  

Wrapping Up

The Annapurna Circuit Trek after road construction has affected sections of the trekking route. It has spoiled some parts of the natural beauty and disturbed the tranquil atmosphere. However, it has not ruined the route entirely. The new alternative routes under New Annapurna Trekking Trails (NATT) have opened new doors for fresh adventure and experience.

Do not think that the classic Annapurna Circuit Trek charm has been lost. The trek is still worth doing and trekkers can still enjoy the scenic beauty. The Government of Nepal, Annapurna Conservation Area Projects, and locals are still putting their efforts into preserving the natural beauty of the Annapurna region. So, no need to hesitate to join the trek. Explore the region and its off-the-beaten trails with the Annapurna Circuit Trek. 

Tej Bahadur Gurung

With an experience of almost two decades, founder Mr. Tej Bahadur Gurung has established Nepal Alternative Treks as a widely recognized and reliable tourism operator. His degree in Tourism Studies and devotion to the sector has given him in-depth knowledge about trekking, climbing, cultural, and geological aspects of the country. He is a pioneer in introducing the concept of ‘off-beaten tracks’ and ‘alternative routes’ as well as treks and tour packages surrounding it.

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