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Annapurna Sanctuary

The Annapurna Sanctuary is a high glacial basin lying 40 km directly north from the city of Pokhara. This oval-shaped plateau sits at an altitude of over 4000 meters,  and is surrounded by a ring of mountains, the Annapurna range in Gandaki Province of north-central Nepal. Annapurna I of the range, the tenth highest mountain in the world at 8091 meters / 26,545 ft above sea level is well known for the difficulty and danger involved in its ascent.

With the only entrance a narrow valley between the peaks of Himchuli and Machhapuchhre, where run-off from glaciers drain into Modi Khola River, the Sanctuary was not penetrated by outsiders until 1956.  Because of high mountains on all sides, the Annapurna Sanctuary receives only 7 hours of sunlight a day at the height of summer. The unique combination of heights and depths in the Annapurna Sanctuary has converged for an extraordinary variety of ecosystems in the area. The south-facing slopes are covered in dense tropical jungles of rhododendron and bamboo, while the north-facing slopes, in the rain shadow, have a drier colder climate similar to that of the near-by Tibetan Plateau.

The entire sanctuary was held as sacred to the Gurung people, one of the many native people to inhabit the area.  They believed it was the repository of gold and various treasures left by the Nāgas, the serpent-gods known in India. The sanctuary was believed to be the home of several deities, from Hinduism and Buddhism as well as older animistic gods. The peak of Machapuchare at the entrance was believed to be the home of the god Shiva, and the daily plumes of snow were thought to be the smoke of his divine incense.  Until recently, the local Gurung people forbade anyone from bringing eggs or meat into the Annapurna Sanctuary, and women and untouchables were prohibited from going there as well.

In recent years, the number of trekkers to the Sanctuary has increased substantially, in part because the Sanctuary forms the base of one of the major routes to the peaks of the Annapurna range. 

The Annapurna Sanctuary is now also the part of Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), which places restrictions on number of outside travelers, gathering of firewood, and domestic animal grazing into the region.  The entire massif and surrounding area are protected within the 7629 square kilometers (2946 square miles) of ACAP, the first and largest conservation area in Nepal. The area is home to several world-class treks, including Annapurna Sanctuary, Annapurna Circuit and Poon Hill.


The mountain is named after Annapurna, the Hindu goddess of food and nourishment, who is said to reside there. The name Annapurna is derived from the Sanskrit-language words ‘purna’ meaning filled and ‘anna‘ meaning food, and can be translated as ‘everlasting food.’ Many streams thus descending from the slopes of the Annapurna Massif provide water for the agricultural fields and pastures located at lower elevations.


Annapurna I was the first 8,000 meters (26,200 ft) peak to be climbed and conquered by humans. Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal, of the French Annapurna expedition led by Herzog (including Lionel Terray, Gaston Rébuffat, Marcel Ichac, Jean Couzy, Marcel Schatz, Jacques Oudot, Francis de Noyelle), reached the summit on June 03, 1950. Ichac made a documentary of the expedition, called Victoire sur l’Annapurna. Its summit was the highest summit above 8000 m for three years to have been conquered by humans, until the first successful ascent of Mount Everest in May 29, 1953.

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