About Nar Phu Valley Trekking
Nar Phu Valley Trekking, opened for tourism only in 2003, is the least explored and most exotic trek in Nepal. Due to its isolated existence, Nar Phus Tibetan culture has remained undisturbed for centuries. They have retained their age-old nomadic yak-herding lifestyle. It is like travelling back in time to visit these enchanting stone villages beneath the snow capped Annapurnas.
Nar Phu Valley Trekking starts at Besi Sahar and follows the popular Annapurna Circuit Trekking route up the Marsyangdi River valley to Koto, where a the trail branches off into the Nar Phu Valley. It passes through a beautiful forest to a dharmasala, which accommodates local pilgrims travelling to Tashi Lhakhang Gompa in Phu. High in the valley there are plateaus and pastures where yak herders of the Nar Phu valley make winter settlements. The scenery is incredible: white rocks, juniper, evergreens, snow capped mountains, jagged glaciers and the Nar Phu River below. The trail has many ups and downs between plateaus and glacial streams, canyons and gorges.
A leaning monolith and line of chortens lead the way to Phu, home for about 40 households who migrate during the cold winter. We explore the crumbling ruins of two forts and visit the Tashi Lhakhang Gompa or dzong. Lama Karma Sonam Rimpoche fled from Tibet to Nepal in 1959 and lived at this gompa. Rimpoche was a renowned amchi or Tibetan doctor, as well as a thanka painter, and father of several children. (Some lamas are permitted to marry). We will see the women of Phu spinning yak wool and pounding mustard seeds for oil, and perhaps taste a cup of home-made alcohol chang.
We set out for the village of Nar. The name refers to the wild blue sheep, native to this region. We descend to an old bridge and cross over a deep, narrow gorge. A steep climb leads us to the gates of Nar, a village of about 65 households, chortens and gompas surrounded by fields of barley and mustard. The snowy peaks of Kang Guru and Pisang dominate the horizon. Traces of modernity, like electricity lines (usually not working) contrast the ancient surroundings. While some young ones are eager to wear modern garb, the old herders and their wives are usually in traditional Tibetan attire. It is easy to learn about their culture as most of village life takes place outdoors: spinning or weaving wool, carpentry or turning the prayer wheels. Leaving Nar we climb a gradual path up the valley to yak pastures with the razorback Pisang Peak in clear view. We descend to Kang La Phedi, 4620m, before making the ascent to Kang La Pass.
The zigzag trail of snow, ice and yak dung becomes steeper as we get closer to the razor-sharp ridge of Kang La, 5240m, which divides the Nar Phu Valley from the rest of Manang. From the pass the view of Annapurna II, Gangapurna and Tilicho Peak is magnificent. The steep descent on scree can be slippery. The remote Nar Phu Valley Trekking ends when we rejoin the Annapurna Circuit Trek at Ngawal. We then head west over the Thorong La Pass and down through lower Mustang before heading on to Jomsom. We finally fly back to Pokhara and drive back to Kathmandu next day.