The Annapurna Himal region of Nepal encompasses 2,600 sq. kms. of mountains terrain, containing some of the world's highest peaks and deepest river valley. The area has been wildly recognized as a naturalist's paradise. The upper sub-alpine steppe environment harbors some of the rare snow leopards and blue sheep. Other areas of the region protect bird species such as the multi-colored Impeyan, kokla, blood pheasant amongst a multitude of other birds, butterflies and insects. The conservation area has 100 varieties of orchids and some of the richest temperate rhododendron forest in the world.
The advent of tourism and the phenomenal rise in human population has triggered a process of environmental deterioration. In 1968 Nepal's King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation launched the Annapurna Conservation Area Project. With international help, the project aims to integrate environmental conservation with development that can sustain the area's reserve base. The project aspires to improve local living standards, protect the environment and develop a more "sensitive" form of tourism. One of its most important function has been to develop and teach courses on environmental education in local schools.
The Annapurna Himal includes the Annapurna Range and the subtropical area around Pokhara. This region offers relaxing as well as long and strenuous routes. Its climatic and ethnic diversity captivates and provides a taste of everything the country has to offer. Like its neighboring Dhaulagiri and Gorkha Himal the Annapurna Himal is located entirely within Nepal’s borders. In 1950 the Annapurna 1 became the first 8000 m peak in the world to be climbed successfully. The two mighty valleys of the Marshyangdi and the Kali Gandaki enclose the great range. The Annapurna circuit gains from these culturally and climatically diverse valleys which are connected by just one main pass, the Thorong La. The circuit is usually done counter-clockwise even though there are no compelling reasons for this.