I’ve given you the lowdown on which towns Oli and I enjoyed the most along the Annapurna Circuit, towns we think shouldn’t be missed and now I want to describe a couple of the day trips and detours that shouldn’t be left out either.
The circuit alone is stunning enough, I mean look at these vistas!
However, two of the side trips we did had us in awe, mouths agape, crazy eyes and all. While it means adding a few extra days onto an already long, holiday consuming trip, they are well worth it for the full Annapurna experience.
The Ice Lake at Bhraga.
From Bhraga and Manang you will spot ACAP signs to the Ice Lake, a one day hike up to 4,600m. We stayed in Bhraga which meant the climb was pretty gruelling, but helpfully acclimatising, 1100m up. It took us around 4 hours to get up and 2 ½ to get down.
Starting early is a must in order to make the most of your time at the lake, and while it’s a steep start, wrap up as it is super cold at this time. Bring plenty of snacks as along the way the tiny paths will open up onto huge plains looking out over the mountains. You’ll no doubt want to catch your breath lounging around on the way up.
One of the rules of the circuit, to ease your ascent to Thorung La, is to climb high and sleep low. The Ice Lake is the perfect place to do so and a few hours in you’ll really start to feel it. We couldn’t believe how out of breath and slow we became once we reached 4000m, but later when we did the pass we found it, relatively, easy. Make sure to take your time to fully enjoy it. The journey is lovely.
And the top is well worth it.
Stupidly we only brought snacks and no lunch. All we wanted to do was enjoy the incredible view but after such a climb we were starving and the way down, which seems so much steeper on descent, was not fun. The lodges will make a packed lunch for you and then you can enjoy a few hours up there, circling the whole lake.
Oh and in case anyone was confused by the name, the lake ices over almost half the year, we were just a little early!
This is the most popular acclimatisation trip but it will add a few days to the circuit. At 4919m Tilicho Lake is one of the highest in the world which means the trek to get there is not a walk in the park. But, wow, is it worth it.
Starting from Manang the first few hours of the trek push you through gorgeous hills along a bright blue surging river. In October the autumn colours are absolutely stunning.
After you pass Shree Kharka, a great place for lunch or even an overnight stay if you have more time, the path starts to get more treacherous until you pass a danger sign and are literally walking in a landslide. While the path is well trodden, by trekkers and pack-horses alike, it can be pretty terrifying! As long as you take it slow and get out of the way of the animals, it’s actually an incredible hike, like being on another planet almost.
It’s a long day though so make sure to start early so you can reach Tilicho Base Camp with time to relax. The place only has two lodges but they have plenty of rooms. Its important to say that this may have been the coldest of all our nights on the Annapurna and the early hike to the lake in the morning was just as chilly so bring layers!!
We would definitely recommend spending the night at Tilicho again the next day as the hike up to altitude can really tire you out. With views like this you won’t want to rush down again in order to push on to Yak Kharka or back to Manang. There is a little shop at the top selling overpriced tea so grab a cup and take it all in.
Taking acclimatising lightly is not something to do on the Annapurna Circuit. It isn’t a difficult trek, as treks go, but you are heading to the highest pass on earth and if you don’t prepare then you risk the chance of getting sick and being unable to complete your epic journey. And you’ll miss out on these incredible views too!!
We also must give an honorary mention to the lakes and icefalls outside of Larjung which are supposedly incredible but we never managed to reach because of a huge landslide. These are especially good if you are taking the clockwise route.
Have you ever had to acclimatise for a big trip? Did you go somewhere this beautiful to do it? And how about any other stunning lakes around the world you may have seen?
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