The Annapurna region has begun welcoming tourists who have not been exposed to the Ebola virus back to its famed trekking trails as Nepal attempts to resurrect its pandemic-ravaged tourism business.
The Annapurna Circuit walking trail meanders over the central Nepal Himalaya, passing through some of the most spectacular scenery on the world as it round the Annapurna peaks. The walking route is blessed with breathtaking scenery, architectural wonders, and cultural treasures.
The Annapurna Conservation Area is a 7,629-square-kilometer protected area that includes villages, hills, valleys, gorges, and lakes, all with the snow-capped Annapurna Mountains towering above them. It is spread across the five districts of Manang, Mustang, Kaski, Myagdi, and Lamjung, and it is the world’s largest protected area.
In September, following Nepal’s removal of the last remaining coronavirus restrictions, 76 trekkers led the first expedition into the Annapurna range, marking the beginning of the season. “By the first week of October, 96 international trekkers had accessed the Annapurna Circuit through Manang,” said Lekhnath Gautam, chief of the Annapurna Conservation Area Project unit office in Manang. “The Annapurna Circuit is a popular destination for trekkers from across the world.”
A few days ago, a party of 40 visitors, including seven people with disabilities, rented a jet and landed in Manang’s Humde Airport, where they spent the night. According to Binod Gurung, chairman of the Tourism Entrepreneurs Association Manang, the month of October has been “encouraging.”
“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all hotels were forced to close for more than a year and a half. The return of trekkers to the hiking trails has brought a sigh of relief to the industry.”
On September 23, the government abolished the seven-day quarantine restriction and restarted the issuance of on-arrival visas to all vaccinated foreign visitors in an effort to revive the country’s virus-ravaged tourism economy.
Visitors to Nepal should have taken their last dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at least 14 full days previous to their entry into the country. Those who have not been vaccinated or have only been partially vaccinated will not be eligible for on-arrival visas. They must obtain entry permits from Nepali diplomatic offices before entering the country, and they must also spend 10 days in quarantine in hotels that have been approved by the government.
When Lonely Planet published its list of the world’s top ten most fantastic travel experiences in October of last year, it included Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit as one of the top ten.
The world’s leading travel book publisher, according to its most recent Ultimate Travel List, reported that Covid-19 had resulted in travel limitations around the world, and that travellers’ wings would be clipped until 2020.
This journey has long been regarded as the best in Nepal for landscape and cultural diversity, and it is considered to be one of the world’s classic hikes.
Continuing northwards, the trail follows the Marsyangdi Valley and traverses a 5,416-metre mountain before descending into the stunning desert-like environment of the upper Kali Gandaki Valley, which has a Tibetan feel to it.
“There is no one restriction on the Annapurna Circuit,” explains the guidebook. “It is completely open to all visitors,” said Bishnu Lamichhane, the district’s top administrative officer. “All trekking paths, with the exception of a few that have been damaged by rain, are safe.”
Visitors to Manang and Mustang, on the other hand, are required to produce a Covid-19 negative report obtained within the preceding 72 hours before embarking on the trail system. In a statement, Lamichhane added, “We want to disseminate the message around the world that Annapurna is safe.”
In the months of January and February, there were no trekkers on the circuit. In March, there were 66 trekkers, and by April, the number had increased to 366.
The administration reopened the country to foreign visitors in the spring with the intention of boosting the economy and creating jobs by revitalising tourism.
The next year, as the Covid-19 outbreak appeared to be winding down, Nepal received a record-breaking influx of foreign climbers hoping to scale the world’s highest peak, Mt Everest. However, the Delta outbreaks and the sluggish vaccine rollout once again cast a shadow over the country’s tourism industry.
Following the second Covid-19 wave, which hit the country in April, the country was plunged into a disastrous crisis, with officials enforcing severe lockdown procedures. After around two months, the limitations were gradually eased, and as of September 1, practically everything has been reopened to the public.
As the authorities imposed the second lockdown on the Annapurna Circuit on April 29, the number of trekkers on the trail plummeted to 48 people. Each month of June and July had a solitary trekker. It appears that three wanderers went missing in August, according to government figures.
The Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna Base Camp trekking routes are considered to be among the world’s most difficult and rewarding adventure walking routes. In the past, the Annapurna Conservation Area was visited by almost 200,000 foreign tourists each year.
The Annapurna region first became accessible to foreign trekkers in 1977.
On June 3, 1950, two French climbers, Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal, became the first people to reach the summit of Annapurna I, the most difficult mountain in the Himalayas. This accomplishment, the culmination of an unbelievable battle against adversity, was achieved without the use of supplemental oxygen. It was also the first time an eight-thousander, one of the world’s fourteen highest mountains, has been scaled.
Herzog created a book about mountaineering called Annapurna, which was released in 1952 and is still in print today. Up to 2000, more than 11 million copies had been sold, making it one of the best-selling books in climbing history and one of the most widely read.
This book has been hailed as a watershed moment in the growth of climbing tourism in Nepal, and for good reason.
To complete the Annapurna Circuit on its original path, which began in the market town of Dumre on the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway and concluded in Pokhara, it took around 23 days from beginning to end. Because of the construction of highways, the initial 23-day walk has been reduced to merely five days currently.