Hiking the Poon Hill Trek, in Nepal, was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.
If you, like me, 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, and enjoy long distance hikes, you will love the Poon Hill trek.
In this post, I explain everything you should know about the Poon Hill trek – from a detailed day by day description, to all the things you need to know to properly plan it.
Why You Should Hike The Poon Hill Trek
Nepal is hiking paradise. If you love hiking as much as I do you will end up going to Nepal at some point. 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 (which I may have) and a long time to be walked.
The Poon Hill Trek, an incredibly scenic and somewhat challenging multi-day hike that starts in Nayapul and goes through the tiny mountain villages of Tirkhedunga, Ghorepani, Tadapani, to eventually reach the lovely Ghandruk and then lead back to Nayapul.
The Poon Hill trek goes through a variety of climates and landscapes (from temperate forest to rice terraces and alpine region), and it gives the opportunity to encounter different cultures and ethnicities. More importantly so, throughout the hike the views of the Annapurna South are spectacular.
It is a challenging yet rewarding hike. On some days, the hike is almost completely uphill, which is hard on the lungs and on the quadriceps. On others, there are a lot of downhills, which on the other hand is hard on the knees. Add to this that it may (and will) rain and the trail becomes incredibly muddy, and it’s easy to imagine how hard it is.
Hiking the Poon Hill trek was a fantastic experience. Continue reading to discover what you need to know about it.
A Day By Day Itinerary Of The Poon Hill Trek
Day 0: from Kathmandu to Pokhara
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.
Pokhara is thought to be the adventure and tourism capital of Nepal. It is located at around 900 meters above sea level, and with a population of roughly 450000 people.
Unless you are flying there, the best way to travel from Kathmandu to Pokhara is by breaking the trip to do some fun activities along the way. You can go rafting in the Trishuli river, starting in Charaudi (about 3 hours drive from Kathmandu). Between the actual rafting and the jumping in the river, you are bound to have a real blast.
Pokhara is a pleasant place where to spend a few days in preparation for the hike (there’s many shops to stock on gear for the hike) – or to go back to afterwards. It’s main attractions are a beautiful 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.
Where to sleep and eat in Pokhara
Being such a major tourist hub, there’s a great selection of places to stay and eat in Pokhara. I slept at Swapna Bagh Hotel, which has good sized rooms with comfortable beds and powerful showers, a small but nice pool, and a good onsite restaurant. Moondance is one of the best restaurants in town, with a great selection of local and international dishes (think burgers, steaks and fabulous desserts).
Day 1: from Pokhara to Tirkhedunga
The first two hours of the day 1 of the Poon Hill trek are spent driving from Pokhara to Nayapul, the actual starting point of the hike, which is located at around 1000 meters above sea level. Nayapul if 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 above sea level; and then all the way to Tirkhedunga, which is at over 1500 meters above sea level. The hike around around 4 to 5 and it is a combination of flat and slight to steep uphill walk.
The views on the first day of the Poon Hill trek are lovely, though by far not nearly as spectacular as those of the other days. The mighty peaks of the Himalayas make a couple of appearances, but they look like a far away dream.
The trail initially follows a dirt road, so it is not uncommon to cross paths with motorbikes, jeeps, trucks and local people on their daily errands. It then goes through beautiful bamboo forests and pasture land (cows and buffaloes are a common sight). For a while, it follows the banks of Bhurungdi Khola river, which is quite a sight with lovely natural pools where kids jump to cool down.
Eventually, the trail goes past a beautiful large waterfall and it finally reaches the tiny Tirkhedunga, a lovely village to rest after a hard day of walking.
What to expect
As I have said before, the sights on the first day of the Poon Hill trek are pretty, but not nearly as spectacular as they get the following days.
Depending on the season, you will meet very few tourists along the trail. I walked the Poon Hill trek at the very end of May, which is supposed to be the start of the monsoon season and hence low season for tourism.
The first day of the Poon Hill trek is supposed to be the shortest and easiest, yet it may be the hardest. While the climb and the walk are technically easy, the heat can be almost unbearable. It may well be a seasonal thing. Either way, be prepared with lots of sunblock, a hat, and lots of water.
Where to sleep and eat
Ramghai Evergreen Hotel is a good place for lunch. It has a lovely terrace overlooking the river, and while waiting for lunch to be ready, it is possible to relax in the beautiful garden or to walk all the way to the river to soak the feet in the incredibly clear water. Food is plain, but good – expect a selection of international dishes such as fried rice, and local ones such as the unmissable dahl baht.
Laxmi is a good tea house to sleep and eat in Tirkhedunga. It is very basic – as the rest of the tea houses along the way. There are various very basic twin rooms, with electricity (but no sockets, so batteries have to be charged at reception); a toilet on the upper floor, and one on the ground floor, where there’s also a shower with hot water.
Day 2: from Tirkhedunga to Ghorepani
On the second day of the Poon Hill trek you will be climbing all the way to Ghorepani, going from an elevation of 1500 meters above sea level to one of almost 2900 meters above sea level. That should already explain a lot about the difficulty of the day. It takes about 7 hours to hike the entire way, including the breaks.
Leaving bright and early from Tirkhedunga, the first 10 minutes of the hike are spent walking downhill. Then, past a bridge and having crossed the Bhurungdi Khola river, begins the climb 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.
Descriptions of the second day of the Poon Hill trek talk of around 3800 steps uphill. That is a massive underestimation: you will be climbing well over 5000.
Finally, on day 2 of the Poon Hill trek, the views open up to reveal the peaks of the Annapurna South. The pastures and cultivated fields you have seen the day before soon give way to an incredibly thick forest of oaks and rhododendrons.
The area seems to be too steep for villages to be built, but there are a few houses spread here and there – proof is that there’s a few locals that go up and down the stairs, carrying weights or leading a bunch of mules. There must be a school too, for in the early morning children are running all over in what seem to be school uniforms.
What to expect
The second day of the Poon Hill trek is hard – to many, it is painfully difficult. But I actually think it is totally doable – and it is not nearly as hot as on the first day. It does take a decent level of fitness, but more importantly what is needed is will power.
The good thing of hiking the Poon Hill trek in a group and with a guide is that members of the group support each other, and the guide is always ready to help, and to give information on what to expect next.
GOOD TO KNOW: Because of the increase in the altitude (almost 1400 meters difference from the starting point), altitude sickness symptoms may occur once in Ghorepani.
Where to sleep and eat
Green View Lodge in the village of Banthati is a good spot for lunch. They have a nice terrace with tables outside, as well as seatings inside in case of rain. The food is ok – pretty much the same variety and standard as throughout the rest of the hike.
In Ghorepani, Hotel See You is a good tea house with comfortable large rooms – mine had a huge double bed and windows on two sides, so I had an incredible view 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.
Hotel See You has a fantastic common room, incredibly cozy and with large windows for great views. There’s also nice stove that heats around which guests can sit, and a couple of cats that roam around, much to my entertainment (I love cats!). There is a good menu (which includes pancakes for breakfast).
Day 3: from Ghorepani to Tadapani
The third day of the Poon Hill trek is the best one in terms of sights. 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 3200 meters above sea level, you will be able to admire a fantastic sunrise over the Annapurna South range. There’s even a kiosk that serves tea, coffee and masala chai – which will be needed, to warm up against the bitter cold.
After about an hour at the viewpoint, the walk back to Ghorepani begins (around 45 minutes downhill), in order to have breakfast, pack the bags and start walking to Tadapani, which is at about 2650 meters above sea level.
Although the difference in elevation between Ghorepani and Tadapani is minimal, the first part of the day is spent walking uphill, and after lunch begins a steady downhill walk. The walk from Ghorepani to Tadapani takes around 6 hours.
The sights on the third day of the Poon Hill trek are simply spectacular: you will “wow” several times. You will have a chance to admire the entire Annapurna South Range, from various points of view – first and foremost that of Poon Hill.
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.
The view remains beautiful for the rest of the morning if the weather is nice. Once in Tadapani, the views continue being incredible.
What to expect
The third day of the Poon Hill trek is hard due to the incredibly early wake up call (after an almost sleepless night due to the altitude), the steady uphill walk for the first part of the day and the incessant rain that makes it almost impossible to recognize the trail.
After lunch, you will begin a steep downhill walk which is made all the more difficult under the heavy rain. You really need good rain gear to make sure you don’t get soaked.
The third day is also the one during which you meet more people: there is quite a crowd (not even remotely overwhelming) in Poon Hill.
Where to sleep and eat
You can have lunch at the Tranquility Hotel in Naghethati. The menu was no different from that offered in other tea houses, and the service too (painfully slow when hungry). The place is actually very cozy, and the food good.
In Tadapani, you can stay at Fishtail View Top Lodge, a plain tea house with simple twin rooms set around a nice courtyard, and toilets and showers (actually piping hot) outside. The dining room at Fishtail View is nice and cozy, with a stove against which everyone hangs their wet clothes. There’s also a cat that roams the area and that enjoys a bit of attention.
Food at Fishtail View is good – the menu is the same one of other tea houses on the Poon Hill trek. The good news, however, is that real filter organic coffee is available here – as opposed to all other tea houses which only offer instant coffee. To a coffee lover like me, it was a real treat.
Day 4: from Tadapani to Ghandruk
The fourth day of the Poon Hill trek is an easy one compared to the others. Walking time is about 3 hours, and most of the walk is downhill. After an initial short climb through the thick forest, the trail pushes along to offer more incredible views and it eventually reaches Ghandruk, which is at 1950 meters above sea level.
Most people reach Ghandruk by lunch time. Once there, you will have to walk through the village and eventually hike all the way up to where most of the tea houses are located. The bonus is the possibility of actually visiting a village (one of the largest in the area).
The day starts with the incredible view of the Annapurna South from Tadapani. If it rains you won’t get to see the sunrise, but it is just as well.
The trail moves along beautiful flatlands, forests inhabited by monkeys (keep quiet and look up so as to spot them) and agricultural fields. It then crosses a suspension bridge over Khumnu Khola, and there are beautiful views of the creek. It also goes through an incredibly scenic tea plantation.
Yet the most interesting part of day 4 of the Poon Hill trek is the possibility of visiting Ghandruk and getting to know more about its people, its tradition and its culture. 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.
In the village, there is a lovely small museum and a nice temple.
What to expect
The fourth day of the Poon Hill trek is an easy one. It is mostly downhill (save for the bits inside the village). It is a short hike (only 3 hours) after which the rest of the day is spent chilling in the tea house admiring the view of the mountains, reading, chatting, eating, sipping tea and eventually stepping out to visit Ghandruk.
Where to sleep and eat
In Ghandruk, you can eat and sleep at Snowland Lodge. The place actually is a gorgeous traditional building and the views from the garden are just unreal.
You will have a small basic twin room with electricity located on the first floor, which you can reach via a narrow, rickety wooden staircase. There also are larger rooms that fit up to 5 people on the ground floor. Toilets (only squat) and showers with hot water are outside.
There also is a nice dining room, with meals cooked to order. The menu is similar to those offered by other places along the hike.
Day 5: from Ghandruk to Kimche
On the last day of the Poon Hill trek 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 all the way 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.
General Tips And Information For Hiking The Poon Hill Trek
When to hike the Poon Hill trek
I hiked the Poon Hill trek at the very end of May, which is the beginning of the monsoon season and probably not the smartest time to hike. If you decide to do the same, beware that you will get wet in the rain and at times the clouds obstruct the view – though to be fair, every time they clear the view was spectacular. The other side of the coin, however, is that it was never too cold, even at night, and that there aren’t many people on the trail as it is the end of shoulder season.
Having said so, March and April in the spring, and September, October and November in the fall are probably the best months to hike the Poon Hill trek, as the chances of rain are much less – however, especially in November and in March, it may get really cold (below zero) especially at night.
How to organize the Poon Hill trek
If you wish to walk the Poon Hill trek independently you will be glad to know that it is completely doable, and relatively easy to walk. Of course, it is necessary to first 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 here.
For direct flights from Kathmandu to Pokhara, click here.
Once you are in Pokhara, you have to then arrange transportation from Pokhara to the starting point in Nayapul and back; arrange the hiking permits (two passport size photos are required for this, and depending on the season there may be a line at the office); and if walking in 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).
The trail is mostly well marked, but there are some spots where you may get confused, take the wrong turn and end up being lost. Which is why I wholeheartedly recommend not to hike the Poon Hill trek alone (in fact, I never recommend hiking alone: you can read why here).
For the costs, these are some rough calculations:
- 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 115 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 of anything between $75 USD and $150 USD for the hike, to which the transportation and permit costs, as well as those of accommodation and food in Pokhara should be added.
On an organized hiking expedition
For the sake of making things easy, I would recommend walking the Poon Hill trek on a guided expedition. I did it 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. But keep in mind that these $600 include airport transfers, accommodation in Kathmandu and Pokhara, transportation to and from the starting point of the hike, meals, guides and porters.
You will have to add some extra money for water and whatever other drinks you may want along the 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; of porters who can carry your stuff (no more than 10 kg per person) – because trust me, the hike is hard enough without weight on the back; and the company of an incredibly fun and supportive group.
These are some excellent guided Poon Hill treks:
- Ghorepani Poon Hill trek – the classic tour: of all the options, this is the most inclusive one, as it also includes a few nights in Kathmandu.
- Ghorepani Poon Hill trek (5 days) – perfect if you prefer a very small group.
- Ghorepani Poon Hill trekking – an excellent option if you are on a tighter budget
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 for the Poon Hill trek
My advice for doing the Poon Hill trek is to pack as little as possible. This is not an occasion to show off any cool outfit, but to rejoice with nature and take a break from the stresses of daily life. And even when getting a porter, it is simply considerate to take as little as possible and making his life easier.
Having said so, spread between the daypack and the duffel bag the porters carried, I suggest carrying the following:
- A pair of really good hiking boots: I saw people walking in running shoes, but it does get slippery when it rains and having the extra ankle support helps.
- A pair of flip flops: they were essential to rest my feet after the hike, and to shower.
- Two pair of hiking pants: one of them was a pair of Kuhl quick dry pants; the other a plain pair of comfortable Kuhl pants.
- A pair of leggings I could change into at night. They were ok to go to dinner, and to sleep in.
- Three or four t-shirts: I had two colorful Kuhl cotton t-shirts as well as a couple in more technical material that dried quickly.
- A long sleeves t-shirt I used at night.
- Socks: I mostly carried cotton socks and I was ok since it wasn’t cold, but I also added a pair of hiking socks that had extra padding.
- A light sweater: I wore it at night, and when I walked to Poon Hill at sunrise.
- A rain proof jacket: I was sure that the one I had was water proof, but it wasn’t. It may have protected me against some light rain, but in the thick monsoon rain I ended being soaked to the bone. Make triple sure that the jacket is indeed water proof and carry an extra rain poncho just for good measure.
- My beauty case included the basics, to which I added a good sunblock(which I especially needed on the first day when there wasn’t much shade) and any possible drug I may need (I have asthma) and which I luckily didn’t need at all.
Other items you should carry are:
- Toilet paper and wet wipes: it is not available in tea houses.
- 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 back, or at least a sleeping sheet give some extra comfort.
- A quick dry towel
- A power bank
- Snacks: I had some protein bars; others in my group had trail mix or cereal bars.
Also, don’t forget to take some cash. There are no ATMs at all along the trail, and cash will be needed to pay for drinks and, at the end of the hike, to tip the guides and the porters (trust me, they will deserve it!).
Curious to know what I normally pack? Head over to read “My Ultimate Packing List.”
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.”
Accommodation and food along the Poon Hill trek
Throughout the Poon Hill trek, trekkers eat and sleep in tea houses – called bhatti in Nepalese. These are very basic 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 usually outside. There’s wifi for an extra fee, but it hardly works so it may be a good time to detox from internet and social media (unless carrying a local SIM card that receives well in the mountains too).
Despite being so modest, the tea houses are incredibly cozy.
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. It may be a good idea to bring some ground coffee from home and just ask for hot water to brew it.
Soon after starting to hike on day 2, someone in my group noticed some weird looking bugs on the ground. We immediately realized they were leeches. We kept seeing them throughout the rest of the hike – they come out more with the rain.
TIP: 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 a good idea to protect against them.
Altitude sickness is hardly an issue on the Poon Hill trek. The elevation never gets extreme. Yet, it is a good idea to drink lots of water to stay hydrated, and to take notice of any issues such as nausea or strong headaches and warn the guides if that is the case.
Final remarks and recommendations
Hiking the 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.
I am sure you will enjoy every minute of your Poon Hill trek.
Looking to do more hiking? Make sure to check out the following posts:
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- Top 10 Tips For Hiking In Tibet
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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