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5 Best Side-trips of Annapurna Circuit

The Annapurna Circuit Trek is the ultimate trek in terms of variety and adventure in Nepal. With her you will shrug shoulders with polite Brahmins, gutsy Gurungs, regal Ghales, smiling Lobas and hospitable Thakalis. With her, you will earn bragging rights for scrambling past one of the highest mountain passes and gliding through one of the deepest river valleys. With her, you will have mountains for breakfast, plunge pools for lunch and the milky way for dinner. Musk Deer, Blue Sheep, Griffons, and Monals will give you company while primulas, irises and rhododendrons will light up your way.
And besides the obvious, the Annapurna Circuit trek also offers alluring bonuses that you would want to grab and add up to your itinerary. Know the Best Side-trips of Annapurna Circuit.

1. Guru Sangpo Cave:

Brain-shaped rock formation in Guru Sangpo Cave
Brain-shaped rock formation in Guru Sangpo Cave

Possibly one of the best side-trips in Annapurna Circuit Trek, Guru Sangpo Cave is a 2 hr 40 mins walk from Larjung. The trail to Guru Sangpo goes through the village of Naurikot as well. Once you reach the cave and enter inside, you will forget all your miseries. The inside of the cave is spooky, to say the least with the stream flowing into the subterranean crevices below and weird brain-shaped rock formations. The main cave is supposed to be a manifestation of Yab-Yum, or in other words, the merging of male and female. The cave somehow is a metaphor for the masculine and feminine forces in the world, the rocky walls of the cave are the male force while the water that flowed is the female force. And the weird lifeforms that grow there was the result of the meeting of this masculine and feminine force. The world inside this cave is magical if you start to understand the meaning of every other weird forms that are present. Some structures even appear as a male and female organ. Yab Yum will finally make sense to you then.
Altitude: 3020m/ 9908ft
Lunch pack: light snacks

2. Tilicho lake:

This is hands down the most exciting and sought after side trips in the entire Annapurna circuit and one cannot blame anybody for wanting to do this side trip. Although Tilicho lake is not the highest altitude lake in the world, at 4919m, it is definitely very high. And it is a big lake too, the area that it covers is a little under 3.5 square km. Tilicho lake is a stunning glacial lake with Tilicho peak and the grand barrier nearby keeping their watchful eyes over the lake. If Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt (take your pick) pose in front of the Tilicho lake your eyes would still be fixed on the lake, that stunning lake! Some people not only take this side trip for the sheer beauty and experience but also for some crazy antics. In 2000, a Russian diving team made a world record for the highest altitude scuba dive. Surely only Russians are capable of such a record. But just recently on 7 March 2016 that record was broken by a Polish guy by scuba diving at 5985 m in Cazadero lake, Argentina. Surely, only a Polish could have broken a record held by a Russian.
Nonetheless, you don’t have to scuba dive to take away the experience of being at Tilicho lake.
Altitude: 4919m/ 16138 ft
Lunch pack: not required

Tilicho Lake

3. Gangapurna Lake:

First, you need to look for a sign directing towards the Gangapurna lake to the south of Manang. Then start your walk towards the lake. It is a fairly short walk to Gangapurna lake (30 minutes), one that won’t exhaust much of your energy and will bless you with the awesome view of the lake. Gangapurna lake is a very young glacial lake formed about 50 years ago and what a lake it is! It takes merely 20 minutes to get to the lake from Manang village. With a color that resonates a greenish blue tone, this one is a crowd pleaser for sure. The serenity and beautiful views it provides should be compelling enough reasons for a stop and some photographs. The name Gangapurna is derived from the fact that the lake’s water trickles down directly from Gangapurna mountain just above it to its south. You won’t see the lake freeze in winter so don’t bring along your skates just yet. Just above the lake, there is a viewpoint by the name of Chongkor which provides breathtaking scenes of mountains and the majestic Gangapurna lake itself. It will also help for the acclimatization purpose if you indeed decide to take the climb. The trail is the same for both sidetrips.
Altitude: 11568 ft/ 3525 m
Lunch pack: Not required

Gangapurna Lake

4. Milarepa Cave:

Among the many sidetrips in this region, Milarepa cave is one of the most famous. This side trip (over a 2 hours hike from east of Bhraka) is very well one of the most exciting places, not only because of the scenery visible from the cave but also the story behind it. An eccentric Tibetan poet named Milarepa is said to have meditated in this cave somewhere during the 11th century whilst his journey in the Himalayas. Milarepa meditated and lived solely on stinging nettle that is said to have transformed his whole body green. One will be surprised to see stinging nettles still growing outside the cave. If you see Milarepa’s illustration in any book or papers then that depiction most probably will be in the color green. The story goes that a hunter named Kera Gumpa Dorje was hunting deer with his dog. After seeing a deer, both the hunter and the dog started chasing the deer which after a while sought refuge behind the meditating Milarepa. The poet refused to hand over the deer and the hunter refused to leave without killing it. After a long discussion, Milarepa’s magical influence caught on and the hunter gave up hunting and became Milarepa’s disciple. You can still see the bow of the hunter hanging on the cliff above the cave.
Altitude: 4200 m/ 13780 ft
Lunch Pack: Light Snack

Milarepa Cave

5. Ice Lake:

For this side trip, you start off by walking past the Bhraka gompa and the old settlement of Bhraka. We suggest you not to take this side trip during winter and during snowfalls as the route to the Ice lake can be very very slippery and dangerous. So be very well prepared if you are willing to take the risk of seeing the lake in its frozen state. Once you reach Ice lake you will be blessed with a beautiful panoramic view of Annapurna III, Gangapurna, Singhu Chuli and other smaller mountains. If your luck favors you can have some yak milk by paying the yak shepherds who live just beside the lake.
Altitude: 4627 m/ 15180 ft
Lunch pack: necessary!
Ice Lake

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