Poon Hill Trek

Located in northwest Nepal within the Annapurna Conservation Area, Poon Hill is one of the most popular trekking destinations in the country, famed for stunning sunrise and sunset views of the Himalayan range. At an altitude of 3,210 meters, the viewpoint offers unobstructed vistas of peaks like Dhaulagiri (8,167 m), Annapurna South (7,219 m), Machhapuchchhre (6,993 m) and more.

For trekkers, the highlight of a Poon Hill trek involves making the early morning climb up to the summit to catch the sun rising over the mountains, bathing the peaks in a warm golden glow. The viewing tower sits atop a hill that requires climbing over 500 steps to reach. But the majestic panorama visible from the top makes the effort extremely rewarding. From here trekkers can also get eye-level views of village rooftops dotted on the green hills beneath.

The Poon Hill trek route typically starts from Nayapul, a small town about an hour's drive from Pokhara city. From there, the trekking trail takes people along winding paths cutting through rhododendron forests and stone-built hamlets to reach Ghorepani village which acts as the base camp for Poon Hill. The trail branches to reach adjacent viewpoints like Tadapani and Ghandruk village, offering their own unique Himalayan views.

The 48 km Poon Hill Circuit makes for a popular short trek that can be completed in 4 to 7 days depending on pace. Dozens of cozy mountain lodges and teahouses catering to backpackers line the trails offering food and night stays. The routes are also culturally fascinating, providing a glimpse into Gurung and Magar villages thriving in Annapurna's lap for centuries. For these reasons, Poon Hill remains a bucket-list trekking destination for travelers interested in Himalayan walking holidays.

Though Poon Hill can be trekked year-round, the clearest views are during the autumn and spring seasons when visibility tends to be best. During the monsoon months from June to August, cloud cover often obscures the mountain views. The route may also be prone to leeches during this wet season. However, some trekkers enjoy the route for its emerald green landscapes and reduced crowds.

Ghorepani village where most Poon Hill treks begin/end offers some great day hikes to enjoy the area further. One popular option is trekking from Ghorepani to Pun Hill which lies at a slightly lower elevation but still offers fantastic Annapurna views that rival Poon Hill. The route is also culturally fascinating as over 60% of locals belong to the Gurung indigenous group.

Most lodges at Ghorepani, nearby villages, and throughout the route are humble but cozy affairs. They offer basic room and board services but trekkers should not expect any luxuries. Places to stay are generally clean, and heated and provide decent food like daal bhaat (rice and lentils), pasta, eggs, etc. Some also have solar-heated showers available.

The Poon Hill trek requires a licensed guide for solo trekkers. The permit can be obtained at the Annapurna Conservation Area entry gate. Trekkers looking for porter services to carry bags can be hired through lodges usually at rates of Rs 1000-1500 per day. Guides/porters also help trekkers acclimatize better and understand trail conditions.

Altitude SicknessĀ 

As Poon Hill sits at 3,210 meters, some trekkers may need an extra acclimatization day built into their itinerary (usually at Ghorepani village base camp). Key symptoms of altitude sickness include headaches, nausea, trouble sleeping, and loss of appetite. Alerting your guide is crucial so they can modify routes to give time for adjustment. Taking medicine for headaches can temporarily help alleviate symptoms.

Packing TipsĀ 

Weather changes rapidly in the mountains so packing good layers is a must. Quick-dry synthetic fabrics, down or fleece jackets, waterproof coats, gloves, scarves, and a hat are recommended. Good hiking shoes are vital as are trekking poles. Bring along sunscreen as UV rays at higher altitudes can quickly burn skin. LED headlamps and power banks are other useful items for the teahouse treks.

PermitsĀ 

In addition to a TIMS permit (Trekker's Information Management System), those trekking independently also need an Annapurna Conservation Area Permit issued by the ACAP entry gate. Permits help regulate tourism flow thus aiding conservation. Foreigners pay approximately Rs 2000-3000 for permits valid for ten days depending on SAARC/Chinese/Other nationalities.

Getting ThereĀ 

Most take early morning tourist buses from Pokhara or Kathmandu taking 5-7 hours to reach Nayapul trailhead. Some reach trailheads like Ulleri further uphill via jeep or taxi to skip extra walking. Flights from major cities to Pokhara are available. Porter and rescue services can be arranged at the ACAP office in Pokhara before setting off.

Acclimatize and PaceĀ 

Yourself The trails have gradual ascents allowing most healthy individuals to trek slowly. But take rest days as needed and be wary of over-exertion at higher altitudes. Stay hydrated and listen to your body. Gaining elevation too rapidly can spur acute mountain sickness. Descend immediately if symptoms persist or worsen.

Respect Local CultureĀ 

The settlements around Poon Hill and Annapurna Conservation Area are centuries-old with rich cultural heritage. Be respectful by dressing modestly when visiting temples. Ask permission before photographing locals. Refrain from giving money or gifts directly to children as it encourages begging. Instead, donate to local schools.

Travel LightĀ 

Hire porters to lighten heavy backpack loads. Most teahouses provide blankets and warm bedding so carrying sleeping bags is unnecessary unless camping. Travel light to walk at ease enjoying magnificent scenery around each bend. Stop frequently for photography breaks and conversations with friendly locals.

Pre-book Lodging

Given the popularity of the Poon Hill trek, lodges tend to book out fast, especially during peak seasons. Pre-booking stays via email or calls allows for creating a smooth itinerary between villages. Most teahouse owners have contacts to reserve spaces at the next lodge. Booking early also lets trekkers select rooms with attached baths if preferred.

Sample Local CuisineĀ 

The traditional staple is nutrient-dense daal-bhaat-tarkari (lentils, rice, and vegetables) but lodges cater to tourists with continental dishes too. Try popular items like chimpan rice (animal fat fried rice), juju dhau yogurt from Bhaktapur, alu paratha (potato stuffed bread), and tongba fermented millet beer. Carry a water purifying bottle to safely try local water.

Visit Nearby AttractionsĀ 

Consider taking on some extra days to visit neighboring hill stations like Tansen Palpa offering epic Himalayan vistas along with rich cultural heritage in ancient palaces. Or extend your trek to Jomsom to witness beautiful landscapes in the Lower Mustang region. Paragliding and ultralight flights from Sarangkot or Pokhara onto Annapurna make for unforgettable experiences too.

Respect the EnvironmentĀ 

Help sustain the pristine beauty of the Annapurna region by not littering. Carry back non-biodegradable waste and dispose properly in towns. Ensure guides and porters follow similar eco-friendly principles. Using water, electricity, and other resources sparingly also helps conserve precious Himalayan habitats and resources.

Travel with PurposeĀ 

Consider spending a few meaningful hours volunteering at local community schools near villages like Khumjung, supporting education for children in impoverished mountain areas. Or assist organizations working towards rebuilding sustainable eco-trek routes damaged by storms/floods as well as avalanche control. Finding purpose creates deeper connections.