The Annapurna Circuit will challenge you physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is rated one of the best treks in the world and next to Everest Base-camp, is the most popular trek in all of Nepal! You’ll be surrounded with exceptional views of the Himalaya’s while trekking from village to village, staying at little tea houses, and experiencing local culture all along the way.
How to Get There
The Annapurna Circuit has multiple start and end points depending on your time and physical ability. Most guiding company’s offer a variety of routes that you’ll be able to choose from. The closest international airport is Kathmandu. From there you will likely join you tour company and hop on a bus to Manang.
Nepal has two trekking seasons: October through to November and mid-March to mid-April. The rest of the year is either to hot, to rainy, or to cold in the mountains. The best time is usually the end of October but the beginning of April is also great offering blooming flowers and warmer weather.
Guide or No Guide?
Since trekking the Annapurna Circuit is relatively in-expensive, hiring a guide is a good idea. Although many people do this trek alone we would highly recommend hiring a guide; especially if this is your first time trekking in Nepal! By doing this; you will learn more about the local culture and the area. Your guide will also book your accommodation and route ahead of time which could be challenging on your own if you don’t speak Nepalese. Safety is the next big reason that you should hire a guide. Most guides are well trained in the event of an emergency and have a lot of experience dealing with elevation sickness.
You will also have the option of hiring a porter. If you`re considering this trek, chances are your capable of carrying your own pack… but here’s a few reasons why you shouldn’t!
- Porters are very common in Nepal and most of them rely heavily on the income they make during trekking season.
- You loose your breath very easily at high elevations meaning it will take you much longer to travel the distances required on this trek. Many of the Nepalese porters grew up at these elevations and are less affected by the oxygen deprivation.
- Annapurna circuit is hard enough WITHOUT your full pack… trust me!
- It is VERY affordable. The cost of hiring a porter is around $20 USD per day. It’s not required; but a generous tip at the end of this long journey is always very much appreciated.
Gear & Clothing
Make sure to pack quality gear that you’ve tested out before leaving home! Buying your gear in Kathmandu is an option; although its not always the best quality. If you do need to buy or rent some gear, Shona’s Alpine is the place to go!
- Warm hat
- Thermal base layers
- A fleece jacket
- A down vest/another warm layer
- Wind/ rain coat
- Hiking pants
- Trekking socks
- Lightweight, quick drying underwear
- Hiking boots
- 40L backpack
- Down coat
- Down Sleeping Bag
- Camera & lenses
- Power bank
Hygiene & Medication
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Wet wipes
- Lip balm
- First Aid Kit
- Toilet Paper
- Altitude Medication
- Chlorine Water Purification Tablets
- Throat Lozenges
Food & Water
There are small stores scattered along the Annapurna Circuit that carry bottled water, candy bars, and other specific goodies. Keep in mind that s you climb higher and higher; so does the price! We recommend having two 1 L water bottles and water purification tablets. The water is cold and clear once you get into the mountains but it’s not safe to drink because of the bacteria. Water purification tablets are highly recommended because Nepal doesn’t have a recycling program; meaning every single plastic bottle you buy ends up in the trash!
Although the food is rumored to be “bland” tasting, we found it to be better than expected. At most restaurants, you’ll have the option between both American and Nepalese dishes. If you get the option to order a Yak Burger… do it! They are delicious! Although the food isn’t necessarily bland, the dishes can get quite repetitive. Each restaurant has a very similar menu with the staples being fired rice, fried noodle or Dal Bhat.
The views are spectacular and will leave you stopping simply because you need a minute to soak up the surrounding landscape. The trails are well traveled and the locals are always friendly; many of whom will stop and smile while you pass by.
During your trek along the Annapurna Circuit, you will ascend to a peak height of 5,400 m (17,716 ft) as you cross Thorong La Pass. Each day you’ll spend between 5-10 hours trekking a distance of anywhere from 8 to 20 kilometers. Although this seems like a lot, breaks are common and you usually take an hour or two for lunch.
Side Treks & Activities
These hot springs are well deserved after hiking for days on end so make sure you take advantage of the opportunity!
This side hike takes 3-4 days but is well worth the extra travel! The lake is absolutely stunning and new lodges have been built to make it easier to access. If you have the time, I would highly recommend that you make the trek to Tilicho Lake.
Ice Lake (Kicho Tal)
Ice Lake is another side trek along the Annapurna Circuit that can begin at either Braga or Manang. The hike itself is a distance of 10 km round trip with an elevation gain of 1, 060 m. Many people do this hike to prepare their body for the elevation gain of Thorong La Pass. It’s a beautiful blue alpine lake that remains frozen for most of the year.
ATM’s are scarce along the way so make sure you hit one in Kathmandu before leaving! $500 USD per person is recommended for a 14 day trek. At first, this may seem like a large amount to travel with but remember that you’ll need it to buy food, water, and anything else you’d like to purchase. Chances are you wont spend it all, but its better to be safe than sorry!
Health & Safety
Altitude sickness is common in the higher elevations of the Annapurna Circuit so be sure to start taking your altitude medication 1 day before reaching 3500 meters. It’s also a good idea to consult with your doctor before leaving home. Stomach bugs and a dry cough or also very common. Make sure to pack pain relief (Advil or Tylenol), throat lozenges, and flu medication.
Cardio training is important before attempting a long distance trek in Nepal. Make sure you’re training on a regular basis for at least a few months before hand. Hiking, running, biking, and even swimming are good work outs that will help with improving your cardio. If you live at sea-level, thet oxygen will probably be a bigger factor for you when trekking in Nepal. This can mean that it will take you much longer to catch your breath and you will become short of breath very easily.