Our first ever trans-Himalayan trek to Nar Phu Valley and Thorong La Pass
North of the Annapurna Circuit, the Nar and Phu Valley (13,600') beckon the most dedicated high-altitude trekkers. Trip leader Cathy Ann Taylor heads up this first-ever MTS journey though the remote Nar Phu Valley region, which is as rugged and isolated as when it first opened to outsiders nine years ago. We’ll hike at a challenging pace, traversing the region’s high peaks and passes, forest cover, and alpine pastures, experience mountain life through encounters with the people of its virtually undisturbed villages, and camp in lofty alpine settlements at night. We’ll take the added challenge of ascending Kang La (17,200') and Thorong La (17,771') passes, where panoramic views of Annapurna II, Gangapurna, and Tilicho peaks will reward us.
18 days strenuous hiking at high elevation (maximum 17,771')
- Visit the remote valleys of Nar and Phu in the Manang region—a pristine little-visited area of farm terrace villages and chortens
- Journey through ancient Nepali villages and soak up the diverse culture of the country’s people and religious traditions
- MTS exclusive journey—our first exploration into the Nar Phu region!
Duration: 23 days Start Location: Kathmandu End Location: KathmanduDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Kathmandu
Arrive in Kathmandu by 2:00 p.m. on Day 1. A Mountain Travel Sobek representative will meet you outside the customs and immigration area at the airport. He or she will answer questions, brief you on the immediate arrangements, and escort you to your hotel. The trip leader will hold a short briefing in the hotel around 5:00 p.m. regarding trek arrangements and a general orientation to Kathmandu. Most flights from the U.S. require three days of travel and overnight en route (you arrive in Kathmandu on the third day). More specific details will be sent to you with your pre-trip information.
Day 2 : Kathmandu
Kathmandu (4,445') is one of three former medieval city-states in the Kathmandu Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with Bhaktapur and Patan. We will take a morning tour of Bhaktapur, which has preserved its ancient character and is an enchanting display of medieval Nepalese town life. A highlight is Durbar Square, with its many temples, remains of an ancient palace, and intricate Sun Dhoka (“Golden Gate”), a gilded copper gate crafted in 1753. In the afternoon, Kathmandu is yours to explore. By western standards, the city is intimate. You can visit the many interesting sights, shrines, and markets, or stroll in Kathmandu's fascinating Asan Tole bazaar. Don't miss Durbar Square, Thamel, Swayambhunath (the “Monkey Temple,” overlooking the entire Valley; go at sunrise or sunset!) and the King's Palace. You could also hire a driver to take you to the nearby ancient city of Patan. Lunch and dinner on your own.
Day 3 : Drive to Beshisahar (2,700') and begin trek
Drive via the Kathmandu-Pokhara Highway to Beshisahar. Our roughly six-hour drive takes us along the highway and then along the Marshyangdi River on a narrow paved road to Beshisahar. As the district headquarters of the Lamjung district, Beshisahar offers a great glimpse into daily life of the local population, along with spectacular views of the surrounding mountain peaks and the valley's lush terrain. Camp tonight just outside of Beshisahar.
Day 4 : Bahundana (4,300')
The trail that begins our six-hour hike passes through the Marshyangdi River before continuing through a series of villages along the way, where we catch glimpses of the Gurung community. We will stop at one of these villages, Ngadi, for lunch, before continuing the rest of our trek along the steep incline leading upwards to Bahundanda. Our steep climb will be rewarded at the top with an unhindered view of the entire landscape, punctuated by stunning snow-capped mountains. Stay overnight at camp outside the town of Bahunanda. (6 hours hiking)
Day 5 : Chamje (4,692')
After nearly a half hour of steep descent, followed by a level trek through rice terraces, we cross a stream and reach a small waterfall that marks the beginning of our ascent to Lali Gaon village, along the hillside high above the river. We'll view the sharp rift of the Marshyangdi valley up ahead, eventually following it down along the river via a winding downward path. Passing through Syange (3,610'), we witness its breathtaking waterfall before ascending once more, some 600-900 feet over the riverbed along the cliff side. We take one more major descent to arrive in Jagat, a stone village jutting out above the Marshyandi valley below. The remainder of our route takes us through forested terrain, the ascents and descents gradually diminishing as we reach our destination, Chamje village. Stay overnight at camp in Chamje. (6 hours hiking)
Day 6 : Dharapani (6,200')
As the border betwen Manang and Lamjung districts, the town of Tal, with its teahouses and friendly accommodations, is a major draw for this six-hour hike to Dharapani. To get there, we descend to the river, cross it by way of the suspension bridge, and ascend a steep, winding path to Sattale. We'll catch our first view of Tal from here. After our gripping climb along the cliffside, the flat terrain between the steep ridges will be a welcome change. From there, a green riverbank takes us the remaining way to Tal. We move on from Tal to face a high, zagging pathway through the narrowing valley, then trekking a short ways along the cliff beyond Karte village. Reaching the river, a suspension bridge takes us to our last short climb before the stone Kani heralds our reward: our arrival in Dharapani for the night. (6 hours hiking)
Day 7 : Koto (8,800')
Today's journey leads us away from the main Annapurna trail to the Nar Phu Valley toward the northeast. On our way to Koto, a small, ethnically diverse village influenced by the ways of Tibetan Buddhists, we'll get a taste of what lies ahead off the beaten path. Encounter serene forest, captivating views of the towering Annapurna II and the Manaslu mountain range, and a stream crossing on this five-hour, gradually ascending trek. Stay overnight at camp in Koto. (5 hours hiking)
Day 8 : Dharamsala (11,000')
Today we’ll leave the regular trekking route to head into a newly opened area. Setting out from Koto early for this challenging, somewhat longer day, we cross the river and hike a wooded trail in the river's direction toward the Nar Phu valley. Our path, cut into the rock face high above the Phu Khola River, winds beside several caves and behind a waterfall that emerges dramatically from the precipice. The waterfall, the widening vistas and the thinning vegetation signal that we have nearly reached our destination for the evening. What better, more fitting place to unwind after a particularly challenging day, than the Dharamsala, which translates roughly as "pilgrim's resting place." (6 hours hiking)
Day 9 : Kayang (13,050')
The views of a towering glacier, the seasonal settlement villages of Meta, Junam, and Chako, and the colorful wildlife, make today one of the most visually stunning hikes of our journey. From the valley, we follow a small river as we ascend steeply to the plateau's pastureland. We reach Meta kharka first, one of several semi-permanent winter settlements in the Nar area. Surrounded by staggering mountains, the trek across the plateau is truly breathtaking. Reaching the second kharka of Junam and hour after leaving Meta, we take in a close-up view of the looming glacier that meets the elevated pastures. After passing Chako, the third kharka, we reach Kayang, where we camp for the night. (6.5 hours hiking)
Days 10 - 11 : Phu Village (13,050')
After taking the steep descent to the river bed and following its path, we trek along a route from which the ancient chortens of Nar and Phu become visible for the first time. We cross a series of streams, navigating their glacial terrain and rugged bridges, before wandering the enchanting gorges and canyons that lead to the steep footpath toward the villages of Phu towering above. At the site of the Phu gate, called Pupigyal Kwe, where the flatlands start to veer upward, we'll pass the ruins of two timeworn forts before heading up the trail to the city's lower reaches, visiting the dwelling of Lama Karma Sonam on the adjacent hill, and camping for the night at Phu Village. (6 hours hiking)
Next day we'll venture from our base camp at Phu Village on an excursion around Phu Valley. We'll tour the summer grazing kharka of Ngoru, a three-hour walk up the valley past the gompa (monastery). We'll interact with locals and experience mountain life firsthand.
Day 12 : Mahendrapul (11,808')
Descending again through Phu gate, we follow the riverbed, past Kayang and back to Mahendrapul. We stay overnight at Mahendrapu, taking in the experience of the settlement life on the plateau. (7-8 hours hiking)
Day 13 : Nar (13,600')
To cross the deep gorge that leads up the path to Nar gate, we descend steeply, making our way across the seasoned bridge poised over the stunning scenery below, and climb upward on the other side. We'll pass the antiquated Gyalbu Kumbu and Satte Gompa monasteries below us, making our way to the top of the hill and the Nar gates, catching another glimpse of the characteristic, colorful chortens before arriving at our evening's destination, to camp overnight at Nar. (4 hours hiking)
Day 14 : Kangla Phedi (14,800')
We spend the morning exploring the lively town of Nar, where the villagers are bustling with their wool spinning and weaving, oil pressing, and yak herding. After lunch, we hike up to Kangla Phedi (base of Kang La Pass) for overnight. (3 hours hiking)
Day 15 : Cross Kang La Pass (17,200') and trek to Ngwal (12,050')
Depending on the possibility of snow and the effects of the altitude, the relatively basic trek across Kang La Pass may prove challenging. The pass gives us a breathtaking view of Annapurna II, Gangapurna, Tilicho peak, the peaks surrounding Tilicho and the airport at Hongde. The initially steep descent tapers gradually to a more level decline. We will take our time along the Pisang route to Ngwal, taking in the captivating landscape of this less frequented route off the main Annapurna circuit. On our way we'll pass a meditation cave high up in the hills, marked by prayer flags and chortens. Formerly a focal point of religious life, Ngwal still displays a fascinating array of prayer wheels, along with its old stone streets and exquisite architecture. Stay overnight at camp in Ngwal. (about 7 hours)
Day 16 : Manang (11,600')
Hike along the Marshyangdi River and the surrounding pine forests, passing Braga and the adjacent farming terraces. Taking in the landscapes, the views of Tilicho Mountain, and the Annapurna range along the way, we eventually arrive in the small town of Manang. Stay overnight at camp in Manang. (3 hours hiking)
Day 17 : Letdar (12,776')
Walk to the village of Thankay, past Manang, and continue up past yak huts to Letdar.(5 hours hiking.)
Day 18 : Thorong Phedi (15,100')
Continue through alpine country to a high camp either below or above Phedi, just at the foot of the Thorong La, the pass we cross tomorrow.(3 hours hiking.)
Day 19 : Over Thorong La (17,771') to Muktinath (12,467')
We make a very early start today for the crossing of the Thorong La. First we ascend steeply from the river on a yak and pony trail to a rock ledge and notch at 15,350 feet. From here, we continue ascending over a large moraine to the summit plateau of the Thorong La at 17,771 feet (there is a possibility we may encounter snow on the pass). The trail which descends to the shrines at Muktinath is steep but not difficult, and there is no exposure whatsoever. (8-9 hours hiking.)
Day 20 : Jomsom (8,888')
In the morning we’ll visit the temple and holy shrines of Muktinath before heading for Jomsom. Muktinath, meaning place of liberation, is an important pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Buddhist. Located in a poplar grove, the holy shrines here include a pagoda-style Vishnu Temple with its courtyard of 108 brass water spouts stands in the center of the complex and Marme Lhakhang, a Buddhist Gompa. In another ancient temple are small natural gas jets that ignite a perpetual holy flame next to a spring which produces sacred water. This combination of earth, fire and water gives Muktinath its profound religious significance.
Descend gradually through fields and popular groves, then steeply into the Kali Gandaki River valley, reaching the valley floor at Eklai bhatti (lone hut) and Kagbeni. Follow the valley southward to Jomsom with its wonderful views of the Mt. Nilgiris (23,166’ and 22,772’). (5 hours hiking)
Day 21 : Fly to Pokhara (2,690')
Morning flight to Pokhara, a lively town set beside Phewa Lake with fantastic views of the Annapurna Range. Rest of the day is free to realax or explore the town on your own.
Day 22 : Fly to Kathmandu
Late morning flight to Kathmandu. Upon arrival in Kathmandu, transfer to hotel. Rest of the day free
Day 23 : Fly home
Transfer to the airport and depart Kathmandu on homeward-bound flights. Most flights require an overnight en route.
DATES: Best time to go: October Departures: No group departures scheduled. Private departures are available on the dates of your choice, pending availablity. Call us for details.
$180 - Special permit fee
Shangri La Village
Shangri~La Village, Pokhara is a discreet, compact resort which is a 5 minute drive from the airport and 3km from the Phewa lake, with 65 meticulously designed rooms surrounded by spacious landscaped gardens and a panoramic view from every room.
Shangri-La is a premier five-star deluxe hotel. It is centrally located and within a short walking distance to the former Royal Palace and the bustling Thamel market. The hotel has pool & gardens and three restaurants, several shops, and a bookstore.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.
Cathy Ann Taylor
Cathy Ann Taylor, a high altitude trekking guide for Mountain Travel Sobek for the last 20 years. Cathy Ann has trekked all over Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan, with well over 150 trips in the Himalayas (she still considers the Himalayas her “second home”)! A devout hiker and mountain biker, she leaves no trail undiscovered, and her passion for the mountains, caring nature, and boundless energy are renowned. Her experience, knowledge, positive attitude (she can find the good in anything!), and her wonderful rapport with the local staff will enhance your experience. With the help of caring and like-minded individuals she has been able to manage the sponsorship of ten remote village children, all of whom are in boarding school and one who is about to graduate from University in Australia. She consistently gets rave reviews from members of her groups and has quite a following. Cathy Ann is active in the Breast Cancer Fund and has participated in eleven expeditions, including Mount McKinley, Cho Oyu, Mount Fuji, Mount Shasta, and Mount Rainier, which helped increase awareness of breast cancer (she alone has raised over $350,000 for the cause!). She has also reached the summit of Ama Dablam (22,500') in Nepal and Argentina's Aconcagua (22,834'), the highest peak in South America. Cathy Ann received an honorable mention in Hooked on the Outdoors magazine's Outdoor Person of the Year Awards, January 2006, and also received a letter of recognition for her fundraising and environmental work from Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.