Annapurna Circuit Trek - Quick Travel Guide
Hiking Nepal's Annapurna Circuit is one of the most stunningly beautiful, life-changing experiences you can have on your travels, and we're pretty sure that, like us, you'll be absolutely captivated by the area from the very first day.
But take it from us wanderers, this is not a simple walk in the park (pun intended), and there's a great deal to factor into your planning before you even take those first few steps.
While it's super tempting just to turn up, hire a sleeping bag lace your boots, and take off, there are a few more incredibly useful things you need to consider before commencing Nepal's best trek.
Trekking to mounts like Annapurna becomes a great deal. From preparing for altitude sickness and deciding whether to hike solo or in a group to organizing your permits and accommodation.
In this blog, we have provided the full pack of insider knowledge you need before tackling the long, epic, and beautiful Annapurna Circuit trek for yourself.
Route Overview of the Annapurna Circuit Trek
The Annapurna Circuit is one of the greatest treks in Nepal if not the world - although road construction over the past two decades has severely impacted the trekking experience (more on this later). If you are a mountain biker the road on the western side makes for one of the most exhilarating and scenic mountain biking experiences!
The trek begins at Besisahar (which is a 7-8 hour drive from Kathmandu) and concludes in the Kali Gandaki Gorge - the disputed highest gorge in the world that separates Dhaulagiri (8,176 meters) in the West and Annapurna (8,091 meters) in the East.
The circuit is traditionally followed on an anti-clockwise trail - for acclimatization reasons - that circumvents the Annapurna Massif, taking trekkers through the Annapurna, Manang, and Mustang regions of central Nepal.
At its pinnacle, the trek crosses the Thorung La Pass (5,416 meters) before descending down to the town of Muktinath. From here the road construction activities that began in 2004 and were completed in 2008/09 have had a measurable impact on the Annapurna Circuit trekking experience.
The Nepalese government has realized that the road on both the Western (Pokhara-Muktinath) and Eastern (Chame-Manang) side of the circuit has had a negative impact on trekking tourism and have thus created a number of New Annapurna Trekking Trails (called NATT-trails).
These NATT-trails, marked blue and white, take trekkers away from the dusty and unpleasant roads and provide a much more pleasant trekking experience (where possible we have highlighted these NATT-trails in the Annapurna Circuit map below.
The Annapurna circuit or Annapurna Sanctuary Trek typically takes between 16-20 days to complete (depending on if you decide to tack on a diversion to Annapurna Base Camp and the Annapurna Sanctuary), and covers between 150-240 km (depending on when you decide to end the tour or use transportation vehicles).
The scenery on the Annapurna Circuit is extraordinarily beautiful, taking trekkers through rice-terraced paddy fields, subtropical forests, and glacial environments.
You will see a number of major mountains including the Annapurna Massif (I-IV), three 8,000 meter peaks - Dhaulagiri (8,176 meters), Manaslu (8,156 meters), and Annapurna I (8,091 meters) - as well as numerous peaks of 6,000 to 7,000 meters.
Days Required: 14-21 (Average Trekking Days)
Distance: The route varies between 160 km - 230 km depending on the start and finish points and optional side treks.
Altitude: Ranges from 820 meters at Besisahar to 5416 meters at the Thorung La Pass
Best Times to Trek: February - May and September - November
Annapurna Circuit Trek Map
14-day Annapurna Circuit Trek Itinerary
|Day 1||Drive from Kathmandu to Bhulbhule west of the Kathmandu||845m / 2,815ft|
|Day 2||Trek from Bhulbhule to Jagat||1,300m / 4,265ft|
|Day 3||Trek from Jagat to Dharapani||1,860m / 6,200ft|
|Day 4||Trek from Dharapani to Chame||2,610m /8,890ft|
|Day 5||Trek from Chame to Upper Pisang||3,300m / 10,826ft|
|Day 6||Trek from Pisang to Manang||3,540m / 11,300ft|
|Day 7||Rest and Acclimatization Day at Manang||3,519m / 11,545ft|
|Day 8||Trek from Manang to Yak Kharka||4,050m / 14,275ft|
|Day 9||Trek from Yak Kharka to Thorong Phedi||4,525m / 14,525ft|
|Day 10||Trek from Thorong Phedi to Muktinath Temple via Thorong La High Pass||5,416m / 17,756ft then 3,760m / 12,623ft|
|Day 11||Drive from Muktinath to Jomsom and Tatopani||1,200m / 3,940ft|
|Day 12||Trek from Tatopani to Ghorepani||2,860m / 9,385ft|
|Day 13||Early morning hike to Poon Hill - then trek to Birethanti - Drive to Nayapul, Pokhara||3,210m / 10,525ft then 1,039m / 3,250ft|
|Day 14||Drive from Pokhara to Kathmandu||1,350m / 4,450ft|
✅To learn about the itinerary in detail and book a 14-day trek to Annapurna Circuit, click Here.
Annapurna Circuit Trek Highlights
The grandiose view of a series of mountains ranging from 6000 m to 8000m in the Annapurna region. The trekkers can enjoy the best views of Annapurna I (8,091m) - the 10th highest mountain in the world, Annapurna II, Annapurna III, Annapurna IV, Machhapuchhre, Dhaulagiri, Gangapurna, Tukuche, Nilgiri, Tilicho Peak, Manaslu, and other sister peaks in the region.
Thorong-La Pass (5,415m), the highest point on the Annapurna Circuit, is the most challenging section of this trek, it is one of the famous viewpoints in the Annapurna region.
Tilicho Lake (side trip required), the lake situated at the highest altitude (4,919m) in the world, and the Kali Gandaki Gorge or Andha Galchi (between the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna), the deepest canyon in the world.
The trail between two of the highest mountains in the world: Annapurna and Dhaulagiri. The Muktinath Temple is one of the most important shrines of both Hindus and Buddhists. Natural Hot Spring at Tatopani to relax your tired muscles. Poon Hill is the second most famous viewpoint in Nepal after Kala Patthar in the Everest region. (Side trip required)
Sunrise/sunset view from Poon Hill and Thorung La pass. Beautiful and interesting ethnic Gurung, Thakali, and Magar settlements, like Ghorepani, Marpha, Jomsom, and Manang.
A huge variety of landscapes from lush green paddy fields, subtropical rainforest, deep valleys, and alpine slopes to an arid Tibetan plateau, and the deepest gorge in the world. Pokhara, Lake City, is a relaxing place to end the trip.
Trekking around Annapurna (especially Annapurna Base Camp) is one of the main reasons, why tourists come to Nepal. Unique long-distance trek through villages, with a picturesque view of mountains, runs for about 250 km and gives you an opportunity to live far away from civilization.
However, a lot has changed since this trek was first opened in the 1970s. Trekking trails became the road for the jeep, you could find wifi in some villages, gas showers with hot water, and many other facilities. But nevertheless, for many, this track is still a sort of challenge and if you are reading this, you must accept it.