Annapurna Circuit by bike: things we wish we knew before riding

When we set off to ride the Annapurna Circuit last November we had some basic information from friends and the almighty internet. But getting good information about bikeability of the trail and selection of route were rather difficult to find. We learnt a lot along the way and want to share the most important points to consider when riding the Annapurna Circuit by bike.

Getting There

It is recommended to hike or bike the Annapurna Circuit counter-clockwise and that’s what we did. In our case we took a bus from Kathmandu directly to Bhulbhule. If possible, consider taking a tourist bus, pay a bit more and get there twice as fast! Our bus ride in a local bus took us the whole day with countless stops to pick up people.

Choice of Route

Get an easy start

In the lower parts of the Marsyangdi valley you have a few choices of trails. If you manage to find the right ones you can save a lot of energy that you might need once you are higher up. Coming from the town Khudi, to get an easy start into the Annapurna Circuit, make sure to cross to the right side of the Marsyangdi river (left + right always when looking upstream, our direction of travel). You can either cross over the big bridge about 700m after Khudi or cross at the suspension bridge about 1.7km after Khudi. If you stay on the left side of the river you will have to climb up the road just to drop down again later.

Follow along the road on the right of the river passing the village of Bhulbhule and continue up the valley until after you have reached Ngadi Khola. Continue up the road for about 1km until you reach a fork. At this point take a left and cross back to the main road on the left side of the river.

The road on the right actually goes up to Bahundanda, a little village with fantastic views of paddy fields. However after the village, the trail turns into a footpath that is rather difficult to ride, so it’s best left to the hikers. Crossing back to the jeep road on the left side of the river saves you some energy and brings you to Syange much faster.

Stick to the jeep road

I am sure we did not find the best trail all the time on our first attempt of the Annapurna circuit. But generally you can say that for most of the uphill on the Manang side it is recommended to stick to the jeep road. The hiking trail is often very exposed to the deep gorge and not rideable. That said, there are definitely a few singletracks between jeep roads which are worth looking for!

Descend through Lupra Valley

Before rushing downhill from Ranipauwa be sure to choose the best route! Descending on the jeep road to Kagbeni is not quite as interesting as the option through the Lupra valley (ACAP blue alternative route). The upper part of the trail is a flowy singletrack peppered with some switchbacks. But be careful as the lower part of the descent into Lupra valley is very steep and technical, and should only be ridden by advanced riders. Even if you have to walk your bike down this stretch, it’s still a very enjoyable ride and a change from the jeep road!

To get to Lupra valley stay up on the left side of the valley when leaving Ranipauwa. Traverse along the paths and you will end up on the right trail indicated by sign posts.

Sign post Lubra

If you are a less experienced rider it might be nice descending towards Kagbeni on the right side of the valley starting from Ranipauwa passing Jhong and Putak and the caves of Shangri-La. We did not get to explore this option since we were not jeep-supported and only had the energy to ride up to Ranipauwa once!

Check for river bed options

In the Kali Gandaki valley around Jomsom you can find multiple good shortcuts where you leave the jeep road and stick to the river bed of the Kali Gendaki river instead (of course, depending on river water levels!). You can find one of these shortcuts between Kagbeni and Jomsom. At point 28.80134, 83.76459 the jeep road turns away from the river and goes uphill. If you stay low and go along the river bed you will go along a nice singletrack and merge again with the jeep road after about 1.8km.
A similar shortcut exists right after Jomsom on the way to Marpha. Leave the jeep road at point 28.77667, 83.71480 to the right and follow along the hiking path. You will merge with the road again after about 2.3km.



Guest Houses

Himalayan Lodge & Bakery, Bhraka

Just before reaching the big town of Manang, your thoughts might be already focused on the upcoming Thorung La pass but: Don’t miss the Himalayan Lodge in Bhraka! Most people will stop anyways for a day or two in the Manang area so we recommend stopping at the village just before Manang to enjoy a night or two at the Himalayan Lodge. Here you can find home-made cakes and desserts as well as  delicious burgers and home-made pasta. The owners used to have a restaurant in Kathmandu and knows how to differentiate themselves from the monotonous dishes of the circuit! It might just be the best food you’ve had since the start of the circuit ;)

Hotel Bob Marley, Ranipauwa

Whether you just crossed the Thorung La pass or not does not matter but if you happen to be stranded in Ranipauwa you have to stay in this hotel. Afternoon to late at night, it’s Bob’s time to fill the restaurant with the sound of relaxing rhythms. For breakfast you can wake up to calm buddhist prayer songs. This place is a great hangout spot to enjoy a day or two and celebrate your achievements.

If you find any other treasures along the Annapurna circuit, be it a guesthouse or a trail, or some other dos and don’ts please let us know!

Stay warm

Guesthouses are usually equipped with blankets, but we were thankful to have our own down sleeping bags and a cotton liner. It gets really cold at night once you are higher than 3000m, and guesthouses may run out of blankets or provide ones that are not warm enough. You should also have a good warm layer to put on at night, like a lightweight down or synthetic insulation jacket.

Be prepared for everything

As a reminder, the described infos are as we experienced them on our first Nepal trip, but in Nepal, nothing is for certain. Our ride of the Annapurna circuit was interrupted by a tragic occurrance: Cyclone Hudhud passed through the Annapurna area without warning to travellers, dumping snow and massive amounts of rain, and caused an unnecessary loss of 49 lives. We were lucky to have only been caught in the downpour, and we called it a day after less than 2 hours of riding as signs of landslides were around and roads had become dangerous rivers. It is better to go slow and take it easy than ride into danger zones!

Higher up, the trails were deep in snow, and rescue operations were still taking place, so we decided to pass on the chance to cross the Thorung La. We turned back down at Manang, enjoyed a fast ride down to Besisahar and got to the other side of the circuit by flying from Pokhara to Jomsom and riding up to Ranipauwa/Muktinath. A decision that we didn’t regret!

Be prepared for difficult and adverse conditions along the trail, but also be prepared to change plans and turn back if necessary!

 

Please note that Adventure Tracks and its authors shall have no liability for the accuracy of the information and cannot be held liable for any accidents, third-party claims or losses of any damages.

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