The cultural and physical diversity of Nepal's Annapurna region

The cultural and physical diversity of Nepal's Annapurna region

Your first day or two trekking in Annapurna are a glorious affirmation that you’ve picked the right adventure. Varied terrain makes the trail a welcome combination of demanding and gradual: you might spend a long slog ascending a spectacular stone staircase, but afterwards you ramble through gentle, golden fields of wheat. The path tests heavy legs, but beautiful forests of rhododendron and magnolia, alive with birdsong, and hillsides studded with rice paddies and banana groves, waterfalls and perched villages, make it an energising feast for the senses. Annapurna can mix the gentle with the raw, and an adventure here moves gloriously from verdant slopes to rugged surroundings, such as the Himal’s famed sanctuary. And above all, the grand peaks of Annapurna and Gangapurna look on, a matchless backdrop of raw, stark beauty – steep slopes of dark crags and bluffs leading to jagged ridges and snow-coated peaks serrating the brilliant blue sky.

At midday the light hitting the Annapurna range is intense, the air crystal-clear, the white snows blindingly spectacular. The best time to see the mountains in their full glory is, however, when the sun lingers lower: at dawn or daybreak. Climb the hill in Deurali as the afternoon light fails, find a seat and settle in for a close-up of the Himalayas at their most seductive. Slowly, the white peaks turn gold and shadows lengthen in the forested hills nearby. The brilliant blue above turns tawny as the sun dips, and soon the world is ablaze: a reddening amber fills the sky, Annapurna’s peaks bleed into a pink-rose, the mountains’ ashen granite faces soon become black as midnight. The sun disappears, and the thin ribbon of purple appearing above the darkening summits ushers in the night sky, and Himalaya’s endless canopy of stars.

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