Monday, 10 December 2012 2:37 PM
If you are looking for a challenge on your next holiday, consider booking a trip that will take you trekking in the Himalayas. One particularly striking route to follow is the trail that leads to the Annapurna Sanctuary – a natural amphitheatre ringed by mountains.
Here are just a few of the reasons why this is a fantastic choice for an active break.
1. The mountains
Nepal is renowned for its amazing mountains and is home to Everest, the world's tallest peak, as well as several other summits that stand more than 8,000 m high. If you hike to the Annapurna Sanctuary, you'll have the chance to see one of them up close – Annapurna I, which is 8,091 m tall.
Within the sanctuary you're surrounded by towering mountains and the glacial basin is only accessible via one pass that was created by the Modi Khola River. Among the peaks that you'll see around you are Annapurna South, Hiunchuli, Singu Chuli, Baraha Shikar and Tharpu Chuli.
To enter the sanctuary, you'll walk between Hiunchuli and Machhapuchhare, the latter of which is also known as the fishtail mountain due to the distinctive shape of its twin summits.
Before you even reach the Annapurna Sanctuary you'll have experienced some spectacular views of the Himalayas, though, as you will have ascended Poon Hill for a breathtaking panorama of the snow-capped peaks as the sun rises.
2. The varied scenery
The mountains and valleys in Nepal are home to a wide array of habitats, with dense bamboo and rhododendron forests covering some slopes, while others have been cleared for farming and are divided into terraces. As you climb higher, the landscape will become more barren, particularly around the edge of the Annapurna glacier, which you'll visit during your time walking in the Annapurna Sanctuary.
Once you're inside the sanctuary, you should notice the contrast between the south-facing slopes, which are covered by forest, and the north-facing slopes that are much more arid. This is due to the restricted sunlight that enters the plateau as a result of the high mountains – during the summer there is just seven hours of daylight here.
3. The challenge
The trek from Pokhara to the Annapurna Sanctuary is not the most challenging route you can take in Nepal, but it will certainly give your legs a workout, as you'll be hiking up and downhill for the duration of your break.
There are some steep ascents – such as the route to the top of Poon Hill – while the descents can be more difficult than you may imagine, especially when they are prolonged. The maximum altitude you'll reach on this itinerary is 4,130 m, so you should have time to acclimatise as you walk.
So, although it's strenuous hiking in places, it makes an excellent introduction to walking in Nepal and is a good option if you're looking for an active break that will lead you past truly spectacular scenery.
4. The culture
While much of your walking holiday will be about the amazing landscapes you walk through, you'll also have the chance to see how local communities have grown in the area – and how they survive.
The farming terraces that are cut into the sides of sloping valleys and mountains are impressive to see and you'll pass through and stop in various villages during your trek. The Gurung people live in the area around the Annapurna Sanctuary and this plateau is a sacred place for them.
It is believed that Hindu and Buddhist deities, as well as animistic spiritual beings, inhabit the sanctuary and it is therefore often referred to as the throne room of the mountain gods. Your guide can explain further about the local beliefs surrounding the Annapurna Sanctuary if this is something you're interested in learning more about.