A Guide To The Poon Hill Trek, Nepal

Hiking the Poon Hill Trek, in Nepal, is an exhilarating experience.

If you never miss a chance to hike and think that this is a fantastic way to get close to nature, to learn more about the history, culture and way of life of a country, and even to meet other travelers, you will love the Poon Hill trek. 

Nepal is hiking paradise. The Annapurna Base Camp and the Everest Base Camp are the most popular hikes, for obvious reasons, but they to require a high level of fitness, a lot of time and most importantly quite a bit of money.

The Poon Hill Trek is definitely more affordable in terms of time and money. This challenging and very rewarding multi-day hike goes through a variety of climates and landscapes (from temperate forest to rice terraces and alpine region), visits different cultures and ethnicities. More importantly so, throughout the hike the views of the Annapurna South are spectacular.

In this post, I explain everything you should know before your hike, providing a detailed day by day description and useful tips that will help you plan for it.

Nepal
As the sun finally made an appearance on the Annapurna, I had to pose for a picture

Poon Hill Trek Planning Guide

Quick overview

OVERALL WALKING DISTANCE – 40 km/25 miles
OVERALL WALKING TIME – 3 to 4 days 
NECESSARY PERMITS – TIMS card and Annapurna Sanctuary permit required 
STARTING POINT – Nayapul, 2 hours drive from Pokhara
FINISHING POINT – Ghandruk 
MAXIMUM ALTITUDE DURING THE HIKE – 3,131 meters (10,172 feet) above sea level, in Pool Hill Peak
TOTAL ASCENT – 3,000 m
ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD – available at local guesthouses known as tea houses

When to hike the Poon Hill trek

The best time to hike Poon Hill is March and April in the spring, and September, October and November in the fall. That’s when the chances of rain are much less – however, especially in November and in March, it may get really cold (below zero) at night.

I hiked Poon Hill at the very end of May, at the beginning of the monsoon season and was caught in the rain every day, though the sun made an appearance every day offering incredible views; the trails were never crowded and we had no issue finding a place to sleep at night.

How to organize the Poon Hill trek

Independently

You can hike Poon Hill independently – the trail is well marked and easy to follow.

In order to do this, you will first need to get to Pokhara from Kathmandu. You can either take the bus on a ride that lasts around 8 hours or a short flight that last just 25 minutes.

To book a bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara, click hereFor direct flights, click here

Once in Pokhara, you will need to arrange transportation from Pokhara to Nayapul and back and arrange the hiking permits (more about that below). Keep in mind that if you are walking independently during peak season you may find it hard to find a place to sleep (the tea houses can’t be booked in advance, as they don’t appear in any booking engine).

Factor in the following expenses:

  • around 300 to 600 Rupees per night for a bed (on the basis of shared or private room);
  • 100 Rupees for a hot shower;
  • 100 Rupees to charge the phone and batteries;
  • 100 Rupees for wifi (though it hardly ever works);
  • between 200 and 400 Rupees for each meal
  • between 50 and 100 Rupees for a liter of water (the costs increase with the altitude);
  • between 400 and 500 Rupees for a half liter bottle of beer

Considering that the exchange rate is around 120 Rupees to $1 USD, the estimated daily cost of the Poon Hill Circuit hike can be anywhere between $15 USD and $30 USD per day, and between $75 USD and $150 USD for the entire hike. To that you must add the transportation and permit costs, and accommodation and food in Pokhara.

How to get the TIMS card and the Annapurna Sanctuary Permit

Any trek inside the Annapurna Sanctuary requires a TIMS card and a permit. You can get them at the Tourist Information Office in Pokhara – which is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. The total cost of the permits is 5000 Rupees (little over $41 USD) which must be paid in cash.

In order to get a TIMS card and the Annapurna Sanctuary Permit, you need the following documents:

  • A valid passport
  • The name and contact of someone in Nepal – it can be your hotel
  • Travel insurance – get yours here

To get the TIMS you will have to fill in the form, then go get your passport photo taken, and pay the 2000 Rupees (short of $17 USD) for the card. Remember that the TIMS is valid for one entry only.

Once you get the TIMS, you can get your Annapurna Sanctuary Permit. Once you hand in the filled in form, you will have to pay 3000 Rupees ($25 USD) to get the permit.

Poon Hill Nepal
I got to share my experience of hiking the Poon Hill trek with a fantastic group of people

On an organized hiking expedition

For the sake of making things easy, I would recommend joining a guided expedition. I hiked with a company called Royal Mountain, with 2 English speaking guides (one of them always walked at the front of the group, and the other at the back), and three lovely, funny and incredibly helpful porters.

The entire trip costed $600 USD, which may seem a lot compared to the minimal costs of doing the hike independently. Those $600 include airport transfers, accommodation in Kathmandu and Pokhara, transportation to and from the starting point of the hike, meals, guides and porters. You’ll also have someone taking care of the hiking permits.

You will have to add some extra money for water and other drinks you may want along the hike.

On a guided hike you will never have to worry about where you will spend the night, and you will have the comfort of two competent guides who can communicate with the locals; and of porters who can carry your stuff (no more than 10 kg per person); and the company of other likeminded travelers.

You can book your Poon Hill hike here or here.

If you’d rather join an organized trip to Nepal that also includes a lot of hiking (as well as the Poon Hill trek), G Adventures has some excellent ones:

  • Annapurna Sanctuary: an incredible tour of Nepal that starts and ends in Kathmandu and included the Poon Hill trek and the Annapurna base camp. Perfect for hiking junkies.
  • Annapurna Circuit Trek: similar to the previous tour, but with even more hiking!

What to pack

Pack as little as possible, even if you plan on hiring a porter. Spread between the daypack you will keep with you for the day and the duffel bag the porter will carry, and including what you need to wear, here is a good packing list:

Other items you should carry are:

  • Toilet paper and wet wipes: it is not available in tea houses.
  • A good sunblock, a first aid kit and prescription drugs.
  • A refillable water bottle: in an effort to reduce plastic waste, the Nepalese government encourages everybody to drink water that has been boiled and filtered.
  • A sleeping bag: although all tea houses have blankets, they don’t always have clean sheets so a sleeping bag, or at least a sleeping sheet give some extra comfort.
  • A quick dry towel
  • A power bank
  • Snacks such as protein bars, trail mix or cereal bars.

Also, don’t forget to take some cash. There are no ATMs at all along the trail, and you’ll need cash for drinks and to tip the guides and the porters.

For a detailed guide on what to pack for a long term hike, check out my post The Perfect Hiking Packing List For A Long Distance Trek.

Nepal
Tea houses are very basic but incredibly cozy

Accommodation and food along the Poon Hill trek

You will be sleeping in tea houses – called bhatti in Nepalese. These are very basic yet cozy guest houses with plain rooms – think two twin beds, and a small bed side table. There’s a light in the room but no socket for electricity. Toilets (usually squat) and showers (with an additional fee for hot water) are outside. There’s wifi for an extra fee, but it hardly works.

Tea houses also cook meals. Food is surprisingly good given the conditions, and there’s actually a really good selection of dishes. The only thing that may be missing is good coffee so bring some ground coffee from home and just ask for hot water to brew it.

Poon Hill
Dahl Bhat power, 24 hours quickly became our motto along the trail

Possible nuisances

Leeches

Leeches typically come out when it rains. To avoid them getting on you, always stay on the trail and bang your feet on the ground if you stop in a place where they may be leeches long enough for them to crawl on you. It’s amazing how those little things can crawl on the legs without being noticed, and once they suck on the blood, they release a substance that doesn’t allow it to coagulate. Wearing hiking boots (rather than shoes), long socks and pants is generally helps protect yourself against them.

Altitude sickness

You may get some altitude sickness on the second day, when you reach Ghorepani. Drink lots of water to stay hydrated, and take notice of any issues such as nausea or strong headaches and warn the guides if that is the case.

Poon Hill Trek Itinerary

Pokhara

Set at 900 meters (2,952 feet) above sea level and with a population of roughly 450000 people Pokhara is the typical starting point of hiking and adventure expeditions in Nepal. It can be reached by bus from Kathmandu, on a ride that can take anything between 5 and 9 hours; or by plane, on a flight that lasts no more than 30 minutes and that offers spectacular views of the Himalayas.

On the way to Pokhara, you can stop by the Trishuli river for a rafting expedition starting in Charaudi (about 3 hours drive from Kathmandu). Once in Pokhara, you can start preparing for your hike and gather all the necessary gear – unless you have it already.

The main attractions in town are the lake, that offers splendid sunset views and where it is pleasant to walk around; the International Mountain Museum, which has a great exhibit that takes visitors through the most famous expeditions on the Himalayas, as well as the flora, fauna and cultures of Nepal; and the World Peace Pagoda.

Check out the best hotels in Pokhara here.

Nepal
Lovely sights along the first day of Poon Hill trek

Day 1: From Nayapul to Tirkhedunga

TOTAL WALKING DISTANCE: 9.2 kilometers / 5.7 miles.

This is the one of the easiest days of the hike – although it can get quite hot depending on when you are walking.

Nayapul, at about 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) above sea level, is where everyone stops to get the permits to hike.

Once past the bridge, the real walking starts: first to Birethanti, which is at 1065 meters (3,494 feet) above sea level; and then all the way to Tirkhedunga, which is at over 1500 meters (4,921) above sea level. The hike takes around around 4 to 5 and it is a combination of flat and slight to steep uphill walk. For some time, the trail follows the Bhurungdi Khola river, which is quite a sight with lovely natural pools where kids jump to cool down.

Eventually, it goes past a beautiful large waterfall and reaches the tiny Tirkhedunga, where you’ll spend the night.

LUNCH – Ramghai Evergreen Hotel has a lovely terrace overlooking the river and a beautiful garden.

SLEEP – Laxmi, a basic but comfortable teahouse.

Poon Hill
Posing triumphantly after finally reaching Ghorepani

Day 2: From Tirkhedunga to Ghorepani

TOTAL WALKING DISTANCE: 12.9 kilometers / 8 miles.

This is by far the hardest day, but you will finally get a glimpse of the Annapurna South and walk through a thick forest of oaks and rhododendrons. You will be climbing all the way to Ghorepani, going from an elevation of 1500 meters (4,921 feet) above sea level to one of almost 2900 meters (9,514) above sea level, climbing well over 5000 steps. It takes about 7 hours to walk there, including the breaks.

Once you get past the Bhurungdi Khola river, you’ll start climbing uphill to the Magar village of Ulleri, where groups generally stop for a well deserved break. The next break is for lunch, and after that, it is once again uphill walking all the way to Ghorepani.

Because of the increased altitude (almost 1,400 meters or 4,593 feet difference from the starting point), altitude sickness symptoms may occur once in Ghorepani. 

LUNCH – Green View Lodge in the village of Banthati has a nice terrace with tables outside, as well as seatings inside in case of rain.

SLEEP – Hotel See You has large comfortable rooms and fantastic views of the mountains. Rooms even have sockets to charge batteries. The toilets are on the upper floor (there are both regular ones and squat toilets) and hot showers are downstairs.

Nepal
This was the view once the rain cleared in Tadapani

Day 3: From Ghorepani to Tadapani

TOTAL WALKING DISTANCE: 3 km /1,8 miles from Ghorepani to Poon Hill (roundtrip) + 9.7 km / 6 miles from Ghorepani to Tadapani.

The third day is the best one in terms of sights – provided you are not caught in the rain. You will have to wake up at 3:30 am and start walking at 4:00 am, for a steady uphill hike of one hour to finally reach Poon Hill.

Once at the top, at an elevation of 3,200 meters (10,498 feet) above sea level, you will be able to admire a fantastic sunrise over the Annapurna South range.

Poon Hill is often actually completely covered in haze, and the view may be completely blocked. Apparently, it is like that most of the time, and on certain occasions it rains too. There are only 25% chances for the haze to clear. 

After about an hour at the viewpoint, you will walk back to Ghorepani (around 45 minutes downhill), have breakfast, and start walking to Tadapani, which is at about 2,650 meters (8,694 feet) above sea level. The walk from Ghorepani to Tadapani takes around 6 hours.

LUNCH – Tranquility Hotel in Naghethati.

SLEEP – Fishtail View Top Lodge in Tadapani, a nice tea house with simple twin rooms set around a nice courtyard, and toilets and showers (actually piping hot) outside. The dining room has a lovely stove.

Day 4: From Tadapani to Ghandruk

TOTAL WALKING DISTANCE: 6.5 kilometer / 4 miles

The day starts with the incredible view of the Annapurna South from Tadapani. You will be walking for about 3 hours, mostly downhill. After an initial short climb through the thick forest where monkeys live, the trail pushes along to offer more incredible views and it eventually reaches Ghandruk, at 1,950 meters (6,397 feet) above sea level. You will be crossing a suspension bridge in Khumnu Khola, and walk through scenic tea plantations.

Once in Ghandruk, you will have to walk through the village and eventually hike to the tea house where you will be by lunch time. The bonus is the possibility of actually visiting a village (one of the largest in the area). Ghandruk is a Gurung village famous for the leading role of women. These assumed leading positions in the every day life and in the political and social aspects of the village once the village men had joined the British army.

SLEEP AND EAT – Snowland Lodge, a gorgeous traditional building with a nice dining rooms and fantastic mountain views.

Nepal Poon Hill
The view from the tea house in Ghandruk was just jaw dropping

Day 5: From Ghandruk to Kimche

TOTAL WALKING DISTANCE: 2.9 km / 1.8 miles

On the last day you will have to walk from Ghandruk to Kimche. Officially, the trail goes all the way back to Nayapul but most companies will have everything arranged so that a jeep will meet your group in Kimche and drive you back to Pokhara.

After 4 full days of hiking, the one hour walk to Kimche literally feels like a walk in the park. The views are still very pretty, needless to say. 

Nepal
With the lovely guides and porters

Final Remarks And Recommendations

Hiking Poon Hill trek is not a race. It is a great occasion to take in the gorgeous mountain views, the beautiful nature of Nepal, and to get to know the local culture a bit better. It has to be an enjoyable experience, and it surely was to me.

I always recommend people to hike at their own pace, and once they find a suitable rhythm, keep at it. 

Finally, make sure to get a good travel insurance before you travel. Get a quote for a good travel insurance here

Further Readings

Looking to do more hiking? Make sure to check out the following posts:

Legal disclaimer: I was a guest of the Tourism Board of Nepal and PATA during my visit to Nepal. All the views and opinions expressed are my own and based on my personal experience. The views expressed are honest and factual without any bias.

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Find out what to expect when hiking Poon Hill, Nepal - via @clautavani

5 thoughts on “A Guide To The Poon Hill Trek, Nepal”

  1. Awesome post along with relevant article and photographs.
    Appreciate it for sharing your trekking experience. Reading your blog was quite interesting. It seems like you have enjoyed a lot during your stay in Nepal.
    All the best wishes keep on blogging.

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