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Annapurna Circuit Trek: geographical fascinations along the trail

The things that makes Annapurna Circuit Trek so special is the variety of geographical features you encounter along the way. The scenery changes dramatically as the trail weaves in and out of the various valleys.

From snow-capped mountains to green hillsides and barren landscapes, there’s something new around every corner. Watching the landscape change as you walk higher up into the mountains is an experience you won’t soon forget.

Not only does it offer stunning views of some of the highest peaks in the Himalayas, but it also provides a fascinating glimpse into the cultures and lifestyles of the people in this region.

annapurna circuit valley

Therefore, it is no wonder that Annapurna draws in most Nepal-bound trekkers. Most trekkers prefer to approach the circuit counter-clockwise from Lamjung, ending the trek in Pokhara. This route allows for better acclimation to traverse the Thorung La pass successfully. The initial section of the trek outlines the eastern boundary of the Annapurna Conservation Area along the Marshyangdi gorge. And then follows through north to the arid valleys of Manang, beyond the Annapurna range.

Following the Thorung La Pass descent, the trail accompanies the Kaligandaki River along the windy banks and cuts through the Kaligandaki gorge between the massive Dhaulagiri and Annapurna ranges. The trail then swerves southeast to climb the high hills of Ghorepani.

Finally, it descends down the Modi Khola valley to reach Pokhara. You will come across various landscapes, cultures, and religions during the Annapurna Circuit Trek. It is truly an experience not to be missed. If you are planning on trekking the Annapurna Circuit, be sure to add these geographical highlights to your list:

Thorung La pass

Although not the highest pass in the world, Thorung La pass at 5,416m is the highest point on the trek. Uncertainty of weather and the risk associated with summiting the pass makes it a challenge to overcome. The summit is wide and has a board installed next to a cairn draped in prayer flags that congratulate trekkers on their success, most of whom probably take a picture here as proof.

thorang la pass

There’s also a tea stall just beside the board. The difficult climb to the summit is made worthwhile by the astounding views from the top. The ridge separating Manang’s arid topography, the Annapurna range, the Gangapurna, and other peaks make up the southern view. Thorung tse Peak is to the north.

The Kaligandaki gorge

The Kaligandaki River originates from the Nhubine Himal glacier in the higher Mustang region of Nepal, near the Tibetan border. The river flows along a gorge between the Annapurna range in the east and the Dhaulagiri range in the west. The two highest points on either side of the gorge are the Himalayan giants, Mt. Annapurna (8,091m) and Mt. Dhaulagiri (8,167m).

The Kaligandaki gorge (aka Andha Galchi) lies along the eastern boundary of the circuit, with the deepest point thought to be the Lete region, near the village of Tukuche. It is believed to be the deepest canyon in the world as the difference in height from the highest point on the sides to the river bed measures 5,571 m (18,278 ft).

Tilicho and Gangapurna lakes

One of the many bonuses of a Himalayan trek is the glacial lakes. The Himalayas in Nepal are a major source of a system of perennial rivers that flow south. The melting glacial water pool into lakes and trickle down the mountains, gaining momentum while converging with other feeder rivers to relentlessly continue towards the southern alluvial plains of the Terai region.

tilicho lake

While Tilicho Lake requires a detour from the main trail for a trip lasting three to four days, the effort is rewarded with outstanding views of the lake and the beautiful snow-covered ridges around. At 4,919m (16,138ft), it is considered one of the world’s highest lakes, given the area it covers.

gangapurna lake

Gangapurna Lake, located amidst moraines following a path below the town of Manang, is a treat to the trekkers’ eyes. It is mostly visited on the acclimation hike from Manang to the Chongar viewpoint.

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The arid trans-Himalayan region

The high-altitude ridges along the Annapurna range ward off the moisture-laden wind that flow from the Bay of Bengal in the southwest to create a dry, leeward topography on the other side. The result is an exotic desert scenery to the delight of trekkers, while the high peaks continue to dominate the skyline. The corroded cliffs, mountain caves, pastures of grazing yaks, yak herder camps, traditional villages of stone houses with narrow stone-paved alleys, and prosperous towns like Manang and Jomsom make for a terrain distinctly diverse from the lush green forested trail that one can find during the initial and final stages of the trek.

trakker walking in annapurna circuit region


The Annapurna Circuit is a must-do for any trekker looking to experience the best of Nepal. With its stunning geographical features, diverse topography, and rich culture, the circuit will surely leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.

Along with the Annapurna Circuit, trekkers can enjoy views of the Thorung La pass, the Kaligandaki gorge, Tilicho and Gangapurna lakes, and the arid trans-Himalayan region. The diverse scenery will delight trekkers of all ages and experience levels. So if you’re looking for an adventure in a beautiful and exotic location, be sure to add Nepal to your list!

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Being a travel and trekking guide for over a decade, I decided to expand my passion for a travel to be a tour organizer and build my team of travel experts. What's best about my passion is that I get to spend a considerable amount of time every single day with the legendary climbers and mountain lovers from all around the worlds. There's no greater achievement for me than having a set of regular friends around who always have stories of their great feat or their special encounters with the locals in the mountains to share.

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