From Pokhara to Muktinath – our tour to the Annapurna

November 18, 2012 in Nepal, On the road

Most areas in Nepal have no roads, and there are not many places in the mountains that can be reached by motorcycle. One exception is the road to Jomson, and from there further on to Muktinath, next to the Annapurna range. However, even this road exists only since a few years, and the word “road” actually doesn’t describe it very well.

In total we took 4 days / 3 nights for the tour. But it is possible to do it in a shorter time (more travel information at the end of this post).

On the first day the first kilometres took us from Pokhara to Beni on very good roads. On the way, there are many places with spectacular views on the mountains, especially on the Machapuchhre with its very characteristic 7000 m high peak. It is also possible to take a detour via Baglung. The road will take you high above the gorge, but it much more difficult to drive and not paved.

Just after Beni the road gets very bad – mud, rocks, loose stones, and deep dust make it really hard to ride here. At many places it is not possible to go faster than walking-speed. However, the magnificent landscape compensates for the rough riding. The road follows the deep gorge of the Kali Gandaki River, and lots of spectacular waterfalls come down over the steep slopes. There are little settlements along the river, which are accessible only over spectacular suspension bridges.

The first night we spend in Ghasa. We had planned to go a little bit further, but we were too tired from the difficult and exhausting riding.

The next day we then went further up into the mountains. Luckily, the road was a bit better from that point on, so that we could go a little faster. The valley is much wider in that area, and not so steep. In Marpha we went for a short detour into the old centre of the historic village, which is definitely worth a visit. Cars cannot get into the village.

The next place we reached was Jomsom, which is the most important settlement in that area. It is easily accessible by plane, and therefor a popular starting or finishing point for many treks. But apart from that there is nothing particularly interesting.

Just after Jomsom the road led us through the river bed with some loose gravel and stones, and a few water crossings caused wet feet. After that the road went steep uphill towards Muktinath. The landscape there is very beautiful with white peaks, brownish slopes, deep gorges, and lots of little villages.


When we reached Muktinath, we first went to see the beautiful temple above the village, before we then looked for a guest house for the night. There is plenty of choice there.

Muktinath lies at an altitude of 3500 metres, and now in November, it got very quickly quite cold after the sun had disappeared behind the mountains. It didn’t take long and we were wearing every bit of warm clothing we had. In the night the temperatures fell well below the freezing point, and even in our room the thermometer showed only 4° C. We were happy that we had our sleeping bags with us that night.

On the third day, after a freezing morning, we went back down to Jomsom. On the way further down, we stopped again at the beautiful village of Marpha, before we had to face the worst part of the road again. It took us two more hours until Tatopani, where we stayed for the night.

Tatopani is well known for its hot springs, and the next morning we went for a bath in the hot water, which was steaming in the cold air of the morning – great experience.

The rest of the way down to Beni required once more our full concentration before we reached the paved road back to Pokhara.

This trip was definitely worth the effort despite the bad roads. We have seen another different facade of the Himalaya, after those that we saw in Pakistan and India.

And here are some more travelling facts: In total we made approximately 350 km. There were lots of guest houses all along the way, fuel was available in Beni. During winter time a sleeping bag and warm clothes are recommended. Two permits are required to go up to that area: the TIMS for 20US$ (trekking permit, which is needed even if you go by road), and the ACAP for 20000 NRp (the entrance fee for the Annapurna conservation area). You can get both permits in Pokhara, but you have to bring 4 (!) passport photos.