A Trek to Ghandruk and Annapurna Circuit

Naturally Nepal – Once is not enough!

By Ramesh Tiwari

“Your visit to Nepal is incomplete without the visit of Ghandruk , a mountain village located in Kaski district of Nepal . If you have not visited Annapurna region including Ghandruk , we suggest you to trek this sanctuary “, opine trekkers visiting Annapurna Circuit.

The Annapurna trekking route is considered one of the 10 most popular trekking routes in the world, where more than 45,000 trekkers enjoy gorgeous Himalayan views, peaceful and beautiful villages each year.

Nayapul on the way to Ghandruk.
Nayapul on the way to Ghandruk.

Annapurna Conservation Area covers different trekking trails around Kaski , Mustang , Manang and Lamjung districts situated at an altitude between 790 m. to 8091 m. above sea level. ACA not only consists of world’s deepest river gorge – Kali Gandaki Gorge-, the area is rich in biodiversity and is a treasure house for 1,226 species of flowering plants, 102 mammals, 474 birds , 39 reptiles and 22 amphibians as well. More than 60 per cent of the trekkers visiting Nepal trek to Annapurna sanctuary each year.

The Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), covering an area of 7629 sq. km. of five districts in western region of Nepal, is the first conservation and largest protected area in the country. The first pilot project of ACAP was launched in Ghandruk Village development Committee (VDC) in 1986.

The Ghorepani  Poon Hill Trek, Ghandruk Trek, trek to Annapurna Base Camp ( ABC) , Mustang , Manang, and Lamjung have attracted thousands of trekkers around the world . A trekker finds himself in a ‘ Shangri-La’ visiting the trails full of rhododendron forests (national flower of Nepal), beautiful traditional villages of various ethnic communities, streams, cultural and natural landscapes. The Ghandruk trekking is considered a short and enchanting trekking destination in Annapurna region of Nepal.

Ghandruk Village with Annapurna and Machhapuchhre himalayan ranges in the background, Photo Courtsey: http://holeintheclouds.net/
Ghandruk Village with Annapurna and Machhapuchhre himalayan ranges in the background, Photo Courtsey: http://holeintheclouds.net/

A trekker can enjoy spectacular glimpses of magnificent Himalayas- Annapurna 1( 8091 m ) , Annapurna II ( 7937 m) , Annapurna III ( 7575 m ) , Annapurna IV ( 7525 m ) , Annapurna South (7219 m ) , Macchapuchhare ( 6993 m ) , Lamjung  Himal ( 6932 m ) , Hiun Chuli ( 6441 m ) , Gangapurna (7454 m ) , Nilgiri, Mardi and other Himalayas during trekking to Annapurna Circuit. Many travel writers and media persons have recommend   trekking to Ghandruk. The best seasons for trekking in the Annapurna region are spring (February – April) and autumn (September- November).

Ghandruk, situated at an altitude of 1950 m. above sea level, is a trekker’s paradise and one of the most famous Gurung settlements in Nepal. Ghandruk Village Developmet Committee, with 986 households and 5529 population, covers a vast area with VDC borders Modi Khola in east, Deurali, Ranidanda and Tangsing in west, Annapurna Himalayan ranges in north and Modi and Sandhikhola in south. Majority of people living in Ghandruk VDC are Gurungs (56 per cent), Dalits (30 per cent) and Khas- Aryas and others (14 per cent).

Ghandruk, a touristic village with nearly 300 households, is a success story of community based responsible and eco-tourism in Nepal. The inhabitants of Ghandruk have maintained tradition and modernity together. Ghandruk is a Gurung village with stone-roof traditional small houses.

One of may streams seen on the way to Ghandruk and Annapurna Circuit.
One of may streams seen on the way to Ghandruk and Annapurna Circuit.

More than eight micro hydro projects have fulfilled the demand of electricity at a time when we don’t have power for 12 hours a day in the urban areas. Ghandruk is open to the world with cable TVs and the people there can watch all the popular TV channels. Local people are actively involved to make the village green, safe and clean and are very cautious to sanitation.

Most of the people in Ghandruk are associated with hospitality industry. It was only in 1970 AD that entrepreneur and teacher Shanker Man Gurung had established first hotel – Fishtail Hotel in Ghandruk , later known as Hotel Milan. As the number of trekkers increased each year visiting Annapurna region , more than 25 hotels and trekking lodges (teahouses) provide quality services to the domestic and international tourists these days.

‘ The construction of two roads – from Besisahar ( Lamjung ) to Chame of Manang and the second from Beni of Myagdi to Muktinath has adverse effects on tourism development of the region,’ remark travel professionals. So is the case with Ghandruk , where about 13  km. road is constructed up to Syaulibazar ,on the way to Ghandruk village.

Despite various problems in the region, the number of trekkers visiting Annapurna circuit has not decreased, but the days of trekking and stay is not so encouraging these days. Nearly 45,000 tourists had visited the Annapurna region in 2012. The number of Chinese trekkers visiting the area has increased in recent years besides trekkers from USA, European and Asian countries.

It was in 1995 AD that this scribe had accompanied a Japanese mountaineers group led by the world’s first woman Everest summiteer Ms. Junko Tabei visiting Ghandruk , Landruk , Pothana and other areas of Annapurna trail. Japanese climbers and trekkers were highly impressed due to red carpet welcome during their visit of the area. Some of the Japanese are associated with activities of social development including health and education even today. Earlier trekkers could enjoy excellent hospitality and cultural shows organized by ‘ Aama Samuha’ (Mother’s Club) there, the situation has changed in recent years.

Most of the people of Ghandruk have migrated to different cities including Kathmandu valley and some of the youths have joined British Army. As a large number of people from ethnic Gurung community are less interested to have difficult livelihood in Ghandruk and so have migrated to UK and Hong Kong, some of the people from other community from different parts of the country including Rais have settled there since long. Nevertheless, a tourist can enjoy Gurung art, culture and traditions visiting ‘ Old Gurung Museum ‘ and ‘ Traditional Gurung Costumes and Jewellery Center’ in Ghandruk.

Ghandruk is in the process of change. Construction of road from Nayapul (42 km. from Pokhara en route to Baglung) to Kimche Chane and building of concrete houses has changed the face of the traditional village in recent years. If you are not  interested to trek being very close to natural beauties , you can use vehicles from Nayapul to Syaulibazar and Kimche Chane passing through Birethanti,Lamakhet and Chimrung  ( nearly 13 kms) . You can trek from Syaulibazar and Kimche Chane to Ghandruk village in about 45 minutes.

Another trail to reach Ghandruk and Chhomrong is from Phedi , 30 minutes drive west from Pokhara. The trail passes through Dhampus , Pothana , Bhichok Deurali ,Tolka village , Landruk  , Modi Khola bridge ,Ghandruk and Chhomrong ( 2170 m ) .

Syaulibazar - You can use vehicle upto this point from Nayapul.
Syaulibazar – You can use vehicle upto this point from Nayapul.

In spite of transportation facilities from Nayapul to Syaulibazar and Kimche Chane, we recommend you to trek for 5/6 hours from Nayapul to Ghandruk village enjoying scenic beauty around Modi khola, snow capped mountains , stone paved trekking trails, varieties of flora and fauna being very close to mother nature. You can even reach to Ghandruk village in horse riding from Nayapul – the entry point to Annapurna base camp, Annapurna Circuit, Ghorepani-Poon Hill and Ghandruk trek. Ponies transport consumption goods from Nayapul to Ghandruk, Chhomrong and other villages.

Enjoy your trek to Ghandruk – a village on the lap of Annapurna South and Machhapuchhre (Fish Tail Mountain)!

(The Writer is editor of e-paper on travel and tourism – Travelbiznews.com and former editor-in-chief of Gorkhapatra National Daily.)

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