The Annapurna Circuit is one of the best bike rides in Nepal, offering a unique insight into the physical and cultural diversity of this fascinating country. From Kathmandu we travel by bus to the roadhead of Besisahar, and our ride initially follows the Marshangdi river through rice paddies, terraced fields and Hindu villages which lie in the shadow of the Annapurna and Manaslu ranges. As we ascend, the valley becomes narrower, waterfalls plummet from high above and the scenery takes on a rugged alpine appearance. The trail then bears west behind the Annapurnas to enter the trans-Himalayan region, populated by people of Tibetan origin whose prayer flags, Mani walls and monasteries are constant reminders of the thriving Buddhist culture. There are dramatic views of Annapurna II, Annapurna III and Gangapurna as we make the gradual ascent to the village of Manang. We rest and acclimatize for a day here before undertaking the challenging crossing of the Thorong La (5416m) that links the Marsyangdi and Kali Gandaki Valleys. (The Kali Gandaki river valley is the world’s largest gorge, a staggering 6,000 meters deep). At the top of the pass we savour majestic mountain views before descending to the holy temples at Muktinath. We further descend into the valley at Jomsom at the foot of world’s deepest gorge, cutting between the peaks of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri.
From Jomsom we follow the Kali Gandaki valley. This valley has long been both an important trading and pilgrimage route. The Thakalis, who populate the upper valley, had control of the once-profitable salt trade. Evidence of their wealth can be seen in the ornate construction of their villages, particularly Tukche. Moving south, we re-emerge from the rain-shadow in front of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri ranges into deciduous forests and fertile lands populated by Gurung and Magar tribes. As we near Pokhara, we again move into sub-tropical terrain populated by Chhetri and Brahmin people. This is a journey of tremendous contrasts, as we ride through different climatic zones and meet many different ethnic groups along the way. This ride is at all times back-dropped by fantastic mountain scenery and is a truly classic ride.