A Detailed Guide for Annapurna Circuit Trek
The Annapurna Circuit circles the Annapurna massif in central Nepal. The highest mountain in the Annapurna massif is Annapurna (8,091m) - the tenth highest peak in the world, and there are thirteen peaks over 7,000m and numerous ranges over 6,000m.
The length of the Annapurna circuit route is between 160-230km. This length varies based on your choice of trek startpoint and endpoint and how much you use road transport.
The Annapurna region opened for tourists only in 1977, after a dispute settlement between Khampa guerrillas that operated from this region into Tibet, locals residing in this region, and the Nepal army. Back then, the Annapurna circuit trek started from Dumre - a town along the Kathmandu - Pokhara highway, and ended at Pokhara. It took 23 days to complete this trek.
Nowadays, you can choose to complete the Annapurna Circuit Trek anywhere between 10 to 27 days, depending upon the side trips you take, acclimatization, and how frequently you use motor transport.
Thorong La Pass - 5,416 m
Annapurna Circuit trek lies in the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) and is the largest conservation area in Nepal, covering 7,629 square kilometers. The elevations in the Annapurna Conservation Area range from 790m to 8,091m.
This region is home to around a hundred thousand residents of various ethnicity. Gurungs and Magars live in the south of the ACAP, while Thakalis, Manange, and Loba inhabit the northern regions. Most of these residents are either Buddhists or Hindus.
You can find 1,226 species of flowering plants, 5,18 types of birds, and 105 mammal species in this conservation area.
The northern area that lies behind the high peaks, is the rain shadow area, comprising some of the most iconic landscapes - mainly in the Upper Mustang region - in Nepal.
The highest point of Annapurna Circuit Trek is Thorong La Pass at 5,416m. And, you will also be reaching Muktinath Temple - a common holy site for Hindus and Buddhists. Muktinath Temple is also known for its 108 sprouts and an eternal flame that has been burning at temple premises for thousands of years.
Finally, you will also visit Pokhara - the tourist capital of Nepal, known for its incredible beauty due to the snow caps surrounding it and the reflection of those snow peaks in several of its lakes.
Best time for Annapurna Circuit trek
Though Annapurna Circuit treks are possible throughout the year, weather influences the Annapurna Circuit trek experience heavily. Here is a brief month-by-month description of the weather conditions- mainly at the highest trek elevations.
In January, high-altitude paths are covered with heavy snowfall. The path crossing the Thorong La Pass gets treacherous and may even be blocked.
During February, March, and April, the days are warm, the skies are clear, and the trekking paths are in perfect condition, which lets you enjoy your trek to the fullest. Multi-colored blossoms of rhododendrons enhance your trek experience. In May, the temperatures are pleasant, but there are chances of pre-monsoon rainfall.
Monsoon becomes active during June, July, and August, which means there is heavy rainfall in trek regions, making the trail paths wet and slippery. The rivers and waterfalls become fierce because of torrential rain, but the vegetation becomes lush and green due to rainfall.
September, October, and November form autumn in Nepal, and this is the perfect season for Annapurna Circuit Treks. By September, the monsoon will have retreated, providing clear rainwashed views of the great mountains. Two of the biggest festivals of Nepal - Dashain & Tihar - also fall during this month, adding a festive mood to the whole trek region.
From late November and continuing to December, the temperatures at high trek elevations dips, making days cold and nights colder. However, you will get to enjoy the uncrowded treks that often provide thrill due to snow.
Tilicho Lake - 4,919 m
Annapurna Region Trek Highlights
- Marshyangdi and Kali Gandaki River Valley
- Pass yaks and their pastures
- Natural hot springs at Tatopani where you can choose to take a dip
- Jomsom - the headquarter of Mustang
- Tourist hub Pokhara
- Spectacular views of Mt. Annapurna (8,091m), Thorung Peak, Nilgiri, Chulu West, and Chulu East, Tukuche Peak, Dhaulagiri, Lamjung Himal, Annapurna II, and Annapurna IV
- Magnificent lakes, glaciers, deep gorges, and stunning waterfalls
- Visit Muktinath (a sacred temple for both Hindus and Buddhists) known for 108 stone faucets, and an eternal flame
- Tilicho Lake (4,949m) - one of the highest lakes in the world
- Blue sheep at Yak Kharka
- Visit the beautiful Manang district
- Visit Barge Monastery, the largest monastery in the Manang district
- Cross Thorong La Pass at 5,416 meters
- Poon Hill Viewpoint (3,210 m)
- Annapurna Base Camp (4,130m)
- Macchapuchare Base Camp (4,130m)
Annapurna Circuit Trek is a challenging trek, where you will reach an altitude of 5,416m/17,769ft at Thorong La Pass. The paths themselves are often rocky, steep, or even slippery at times. You will also be passing through several stairways, which are physically more demanding. Please note that the shorter Annapurna Circuit treks are more intensive due to the more distance to cover each day compared to longer ones.
There are several ways to experience the Annapurna Circuit treks. The duration of these trek range from 10 days to 27 days. Longer treks have fewer walking hours and more trails to cover. The shorter treks have more distance to cover and include longing bus rides.
It is the shortest Annapurna Circuit Trek, without days allocated for acclimatization. You will be traveling by bus to Chame, where the trek trails start, and from Tatopani (trek endpoint), you will take a bus to return to Kathmandu.
A moderate trek package with a day allocated for acclimatization. The trek trails start from Bhulbhule and end at Birethanti.
This is another moderate Annapurna Circuit trek. The trails start from Jagat and end at Birethanti. There is one day for acclimatization at Manang. This trek includes a short side trek to the Tilicho Lake - one of the world's highest lakes while on the way.
Comparatively, this is a long Annapurna Circuit Trek, but it includes sightseeing in Kathmandu before the trek start. The trails start from Bhulbhule and end at Birethanti. There is a day allocated for acclimatization at Manang.
It is a comprehensive trek that goes far beyond the introduction to the Annapurna region. This intensive trek will let you experience almost all of the Annapurna Conservation Area. In addition to the Annapurna circuit, you will reach Annapurna Base Camp and Machhapuchare Base Camp.
If you are normally fit, you can complete Annapurna Circuit Treks. However, the fitter you are, the more you will enjoy your trek. So, it is wise to engage in stamina-building exercises a few weeks before your Annapurna Circuit Trek. You have several options, such as jogging, cycling, or swimming. You can also take part in treks that last for six-seven hours while carrying a regular backpack.
Since you will be trekking through some of the most stunning and inaccessible landscapes, it is a good idea to bring with you a great camera to capture the incredible scenery. Of course, you can use your mobile, but the pictures captured may not turn out to be perfect.
Though you will be trekking during the day, at night, before going to bed, you will have plenty of free time. So, you can plan how you want to spend the evenings. You might bring books to read, or fun game paraphernalia such as chess, cards, or monopoly.
Annapurna Circuit Trek is a challenging trek deep inside the remote high Himalayas, so it comes with risks associated with high-altitude treks. Hence, adequate trek insurance is compulsory, and in addition to medical treatment, it should cover helicopter rescue and repatriation at the highest trek elevation - Thorong La Pass at 5,416m.
Heli-rescue is important because of the lack of good road infrastructure and health facilities in trek regions. In case of emergencies, we arrange heli-rescue using your insurance policy copy and other documents that you submitted to us before starting the trek. We consider keeping trekkers safe as a part of our duty.
Please be very careful while buying your insurance and call the insurance company and specifically ask, in addition to health treatment cost, if they cover heli-rescue up to 5,500m. Do not just rely on what insurance companies say on their website.
It is always a good idea to travel light. We assign porters to carry your main luggage, but the luggage weight limit is 9-kg per trekker. Two trekkers will share a porter, and the combined weight of a porter should not exceed 18-kg. However, if you want one porter for yourself, we can arrange this. You can store your extra luggage for free at the Discovery World Trekking for the duration of your trip.
The exact luggage you need varies on the trek duration, the time of the year you are trekking, and your preferences. In addition to clothing items, we advise you to bring toiletries, essential gear, and personal accessories.
Our trek packages cover most costs at trek regions, but they do not meet all the expenses. So you will need to carry personal spending money with you.
Most packages do not cover accommodations and meals in Kathmandu before and after the trek. Kathmandu has a range of hotels/lodges/restaurants that suit all budgets, tastes, and preferences, and you can book many of these hotels/lodges online.
Moreover, you will need money for visa application, travel insurance purchase, souvenirs, tips, snacks, drinks, gear, etc.
We advise you to bring cash (major currencies) and exchange them for Nepalese Rupees in legal money exchanges in Kathmandu and all-over Thamel. Currently, 1 USD is almost equal to NPR.120.
You can choose to bring a traveler's cheque. However, if you bring a traveler's cheque, you need to go through lengthy processes to cash it. You can exchange currencies at banks and other financial institutions, but they will impose a charge of 4% or more as commission.
You can also bring your credit/debit card and withdraw Nepalese Rupees from ATMs all-over Kathmandu. Several of these ATMs are open 24/7. However, you can only withdraw a maximum of Rs.35,000 with a service charge of Rs.500.
Please note that you must exchange your currency in Kathmandu, as the trek regions do not have any financial institutions, and trek regions only honor Nepali Rupees.
We estimate that you will need about USD 10 to 20, per day as spending money in trek regions for various things such as internet access, drinks, snacks, water, etc.
If you are an Indian citizen, you do not need a visa to enter Nepal.
Citizens from most countries receive an on-arrival visa at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu or along the immigration check posts located at Nepal borders. Children under the age of 10 get free visas to enter Nepal.
For an on-arrival visa, you need a passport with at least six months of validity, a passport-size photo, and a visa application fee. The current rate is USD 50 for a 30-day stay.
Chinese and SAARC (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan) will get a free visa. However, the free visa is limited to 30 days for SAARC citizens per visa year.
Citizens from certain countries - Ethiopia, Iraq, Palestine, Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Cameroon, Somalia, Liberia, and Afghanistan - may not receive an on-arrival visa. So, if you are a citizen of any of these countries, you need to contact your local embassy.
Nepal government can change visa rules without notice, so to get the latest information, visit https://www.immigration.gov.np/.
As soon as booking your trek, we urge you to email your flight details to us. Once we get your flight details, we will send our company representative to Kathmandu Airport to receive you. When you arrive at the airport reception, you will find our representative holding a pamphlet with your name on it. They will present you with a marigold garland as a welcome gesture and take you to your hotel in a private vehicle. It will ensure you will not have difficulties navigating in a new country.
We provide free airport pickup and drop-off service for all trekkers who have booked trek packages with us.
We request all our trekking guests to arrive by 3 pm, at least one day earlier than the departure date. It will provide you with time to take part in the trip briefing, where we will go through your luggage to ensure you have packed all the essential things for the trek. The trip briefing also provides time for introduction, and we will also give you vital information about the hike.
Annapurna Circuit treks are very accessible. On your departure date, we will drive to the trek start point. The trek start point varies according to the trek package you choose.
Permits & fees
Annapurna Circuit Treks take place inside the Annapurna Conservation Area, so you require Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) permit for the trek. The cost of an ACAP permit for foreigners (except SAARC citizens) is Rupees 3,000 (~USD 30), and you can acquire this permit from Nepal Tourism Board Office at Pradarshani Marg, Kathmandu, or Tourism Board Service Center at Damside, Pokhara, or from the ACAP permit counter at Besishar. For SAARC (India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh) citizens, the cost of an ACAP permit is Rupees 200 (~USD 2).
In addition to the ACAP permit, trekkers also need a Trekkers' Information Management System (TIMS) card, which costs Rs. 1,000 (~10 USD). You can also get a TIMS card from Nepal Tourism Board Office at Pradarshani Marg, Kathmandu.
However, as a responsible trek operator, Discovery World Trekking will get these permits for you.
You do not need to worry about the language barrier while trekking in Nepal. There are around 122 dialects spoken in Nepal, but the lingua franca is Nepali. However, a sizeable population, mainly in the cities, speaks English. Discovery World Trekking has guides/Sherpas fluent in English, Japanese, and Spanish.
Remaining in contact
You will have no problem connecting with your friends and family from cities and towns in Nepal. Most lodges/restaurants in trek regions where you will be staying have internet access. However, you might need to pay a service fee to use it.
Discovery World Trekking remains in contact with each of its trek teams at least once a day through the trek lead. In high elevations, we communicate through mobile/cell phones. You also have the option to buy a local sim card in Kathmandu. However, we cannot guarantee that the signals will be strong enough.
Food & water
Annapurna Circuit Treks are long treks that involve trekking at higher elevations. Hence, you will need enough nutritious food. Discovery World Trekking selects the best lodges/tea houses/hotels to arrange plenty of nutrient-rich and tasty food for its valuable clients. The food choices are mainly traditional, Asian, or western.
However, in trek regions, you cannot expect to get all the food choices big cities provide. As your trek elevates, your food choices get narrower, and food gets expensive. Most Discovery World Trekking trek packages include standard meals -(breakfast, lunch, and dinner).
We suggest you to buy snacks and extra dietary food from big cities because they become expensive in trek regions.
You can buy packed mineral water from en route shops and tea houses during the trek. However, some trek regions do not allow plastic bottles. So, we advise you to bring a water bottle and fill it with boiled/filtered water from the lodges/teahouses. We strongly advise you against drinking water from rivers, taps, or wells in trek regions because the water may not be potable.
Similarly, it is best to avoid non-veg items, dairy products, and alcoholic drinks. Instead, you can take lots of fresh vegetables and liquids such as lemon tea, ginger tea, or garlic soup (must).
You can choose your own accommodations in Kathmandu. Kathmandu has all kinds of hotels/lodges that suit every taste and budget, and you can book several of these lodges/hotels online. Most Annapurna Circuit packages do not include accommodations at Kathmandu.
The trek infrastructure in Annapurna Circuit Treks is basic, but there is no need to camp outside. We select the best accommodations at trek regions to keep you warm and comfortable. In the trek regions, we will arrange lodges, having rooms with attached bathrooms as far as possible. In other places, you will be staying in standard rooms. All rooms are on a twin-sharing basis.
All the lodges you will be staying in will have electricity, running water, and internet. By paying a small fee, you can enjoy hot showers as well.
Our trek guides have completed intensive wilderness first aid training. They are government licensed and come from the remote high Himalayas. Our team carries first aid kits and the necessary equipment to face any situation during the trek. We trek together to ensure group safety.
High altitude treks come with a chance of catching altitude sickness. To remain on the safe side, our team carries an oximeter to monitor blood oxygen saturation levels. It allows us to detect the impending altitude sickness pretty early and take precautions.
There are ways to avoid altitude sickness. You must not skip acclimatization, drink plenty of water, and walk at your own pace. If you become aware of altitude sickness signs, tell your guide immediately. Look for the following signs:
- Tiredness and dizziness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Appetite loss
- Increased heart rate and shortness of breath
Here are ways to decrease the chances of altitude sickness.
- Do not skip acclimatization days
- Walk at your own pace
- Drink at least 4 liters of water every day
- Drink garlic soup
- Take enough food during trekking
- Keep your body warm
- Take plenty of rest after a daily hike
- Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated drinks.
Severe altitude sickness can be life-threatening, so in such cases, we will deploy a helicopter to bring the affected person back to safety and transfer them to medical facilities. For this reason, adequate trek insurance with heli-rescue is crucial for Annapurna Circuit Treks.
If someone falls ill, the trek leader decides whether to continue the trek or descend immediately after analyzing the situation. In any case, we will make sure you are safe and comfortable.
You might think that it will be hard for you to fly to a foreign country and trek on some of the most remote trails on Earth. However, you need not worry.
We will take care of you from the moment you land at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, and until you depart to your own country. We offer free airport pickup and drop-off service for all our trek guests. If you need help at any point during your stay in Nepal, you can contact us.
Discovery World Trekking believes in universal brotherhood, and we treat each of our valuable clients as our family members.
You now have enough information about the Annapurna Circuit treks. We believe that you now know the geography around the trails, places to visit, things to see, and the trek options you have.
However, if you need more information or want to customize your Annapurna Circuit trek, feel free to call/Viber/WhatsApp Paul at +977 - 9840055491 or email at [email protected] - anytime.