- Key Points to Know Before You Go
- Health and Fitness
- The Best Time to Complete the Circuit
- How Long Will it Take to Complete
- Where Does it Start and Where Does it Finish
- Technology Along the Circuit
- Is It Worth Hiring a Guide or Porter
- A Permit is Essential
- Items to Pack and Take With you On Your Trek
- The Annapurna Circuit Itinerary
If you’re a fan of India and all it has to offer and you’re searching for the perfect circuit to complete in the Himalayan Mountains, then the Annapurna circuit is a must.
Even if you have never visited India before but enjoy completing trails around the world, then this circuit should be in your top 10 to explore.
Based in Nepal, the Annapurna massif itself contains the 10th highest mountain in the whole world. It is an extremely difficult and challenging climb to the summit, even for the most elite and professional mountaineers and explorers. It most certainly pushes them to their limits and tests their skills and endurance.
The Annapurna massif contains a whopping 30 peaks and is 55 kilometers long. The highest peak is called the Annapurna I Main (10th highest in the world) and is an incredible 8,091 meters or 26,545 foot in height. It’s also one of the most dangerous mountains to climb due to steepness and weather elements. The other peaks range in height, with thirteen of them being over 7,000 meters or 23,000 feet. Sixteen are over 6,000 meters or 20,000 feet.
But don’t worry, you won’t be trekking to the extreme with the Annapurna circuit. This is based in the Annapurna Conservation Area that surrounds the massif instead.
If you are a keen trekker, I’m sure you’ve heard about the Annapurna circuit as it’s very well-known. It’s one of the best treks to complete in the conservation area. But just to let you know, there are another two treks in this conservation area, one which takes you to the base camp via the Annapurna sanctuary route and another called the Jomson trek. This takes you to both Jomson and Muktinath.
The great news about the Annapurna circuit is that it also encompasses the Jomson trek, so you get an amazing route and can sink your teeth into the trekking lifestyle.
You can indulge in 160 to 230 km, or 100 to 145 miles of this circuit, depending on where you end your trek. You may need to jump on a bus. Also, another reason this is a must-do trek for the keen explorers is that you will trek in various climates. This includes the arctic and tropical zones, making this an exciting trek. Plus, culturally you will pass through Tibetan and Hindu villages, which will add a special touch to this trek.
On the scenery side, you will be able to capture some amazing photographs to take back home so you can relive the memories forever. There are many different mountain scenery shots to take, plus lake shots and local village life shots. Who knows, you may love taking photos so much that you run out of space on your memory card! So remember to pack a few large-capacity memory cards for your journey, as you may only complete this trek once.
Key Points to Know Before You Go
As with any trek or adventure, knowledge and planning beforehand are paramount. You need to know the route, where you can stay, and if your body can cope with the altitude. Also, are you physically fit enough? There’s no point going if you are not. There are many other factors to consider, such as if you plan to stay in local accommodation or whether you prefer to camp.
Health and Fitness
Before you go, you need to check what the recommended vaccines are. Make sure you get the vaccinations in good time before the trip, as some may require more than one injection.
Possible vaccines include hepatitis A and B, rabies, typhoid, and Japanese encephalitis. There might be others, however, so checking is a must. If you have had some of these before, ensure they are up to date, as some require a top-up.
You must have a good level of fitness before you start this exploration as you’re going to be climbing over various terrains, and you’ll be crossing over bridges that are not what you are used to in your everyday life. You will also be walking for long periods, depending on how quickly you’d like to complete the trek, so you need a good level of fitness.
You may benefit from completing a training program before you go, to encompass long walks and rocky terrains. This will increase your endurance and stamina.
The Best Time to Complete the Circuit
As with all adventures, there are always better times of the year to complete each trail. This depends on the typical seasonal weather fronts.
The best time to complete this trail is between September and November, as the monsoon season will have just finished, which is prevalent between June to September. It may be best to go in October to ensure the monsoon season is well and truly finished.
If you don’t mind a little wet weather and would prefer to see the beginnings of spring, then March to May is a good time to complete it.
How Long Will it Take to Complete
Typically, it will take you between 17 to 18 days to complete, but it may take others 21 days or more. This will depend on whether you would like to rest for longer durations between each point or decide to take part in extra adventures and day trips when at each checkpoint.
To ensure a comfortable trip, you should make sure your calendar is free for at least three weeks. After returning home, you may need to rest before you start going back to everyday activities. Or, you may want to spend more time exploring the major city before completing the circuit.
If you don’t have a spare three weeks to complete the entire circuit, don’t worry – you can still partially complete it. Your trek can come to an end at Jomson, where you can take a flight to the end of the trail at Pokhara. This will take six days off the total trek but will still give you an excellent adventure and time to gain valuable experiences.
Where Does it Start and Where Does it Finish
The Annapurna circuit begins at Besisahar and finishes at Pokhara.
To reach the starting point, you will need to take a bus from Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. This will take around 7 hours to get to the starting point. So make sure you factor this into your planning.
You will fly into the city of Kathmandu from the States. Before completing this circuit, you should spend at least a couple of days in Kathmandu as it will give you time to climatize. It’s great to explore and have some fun – maybe treat yourself to a nice hotel before you start your trek. Or you may want to save that for after you’ve completed the trek so you can rest and reward yourself.
Just so you know, the circuit trek is in an anticlockwise route. The main reason for this is because the altitude gain by using this route is slower, so much better for all trekkers.
You will find ‘teahouses’ that you can stay at each night, instead of camping in a tent. This is great if you don’t fancy taking a heavy tent with you and having to pitch it each night after a long day of trekking – or dismantle it every morning!
A ‘teahouse’ is a room you can rent. It may be within a family home or be a separate building purely providing accommodation to trekkers.
Facilities at each teahouse will vary, and the condition and cleanliness will be different in each teahouse. A good point to know is that you should ask to see the room before agreeing to stay. This way, you can get a look at the condition and if it’s suitable for your needs. Most places will have a shared toilet and shower facilities.
If you are going during a busy time, it’s best to get to the teahouses as quickly as you can to grab the best ones. Also, beware that during the busier times, the cleanliness of some places won’t be as good as when in the low season due to the high turnover.
Most teahouses will have showers that you can use, but these are mostly solar-powered, so make sure you take a shower early before the sunlight disappears. Some places might have very basic facilities, and you might be using a bucket to have a quick freshen up.
If you would like a little bit of luxury during your trek, the good news is that there are a few hidden gems within the trail that not everyone knows about. Some are found in places that are not in the main towns where trekkers stop at each night. If you prefer this type of luxury, you will need to plan ahead to ensure you factor in these little towns and beautiful places to stay.
These types of teahouses will need to be factored into your itinerary if you want to use them. The luxury teahouses are:
- Annapurna Guest House – Located in Kalopani. It has great views of the Annapurna I mountain.
- Ngawal Mountain House – Based in Ngawal.
- The farmhouse – Located between Chame and Upper Pisang. It has a fantastic lodge feel.
- Tanpopo – Based in Marpha. It has a Japanese inspired look.
- Food – What’s on Offer
Foodwise, teahouses can provide you with meals. Some meals may be included with your stay, and you will have to purchase others.
It’s a good idea to have your evening meal and breakfast at the teahouse that you stay at, as this will save time, meaning you can get some much-needed rest. Don’t worry – you won’t be going hungry on this trek as there are plenty of food establishments and teahouses where you can refuel your body and top up your energy levels.
The Nepalese staple of dal bhat can be found everywhere along the circuit. It includes rice, lentils, potatoes, and some vegetables. This tasty dish is a must-have as it will provide a good amount of carbs for your body. If you get bored of having that every night, there are plenty of other options, such as French fries, omelets, fried rice, and fried noodle dishes.
If you want to try something a little bit different on your trek, some places will serve Yak. It normally comes in a burger form, but it’s worth a try if you like to experiment. Or you may plan only to eat a vegetarian diet while completing the trail.
For breakfast, you can fuel up on eggs and porridge to keep you going on your morning trek.
Technology Along the Circuit
The good news is that many teahouses have wifi, which is mostly free apart from some places. This is great if you would like to reconnect with the world or upload some of your photos for others to see what you’ve been up to for the day. It’s also great to check in with the family and your friends.
Reception-wise, the signal can be a bit weak and not what you’ll be used to at home, but it does give you a little bit of a connection to the world.
Although, as such beautiful views and exciting culture surround you, the lack of wifi will stop you from being glued to your screen all night long so you won’t miss out.
This trail is popular for people from all over the world, so it may be a great opportunity to make new friends with other trekkers and absorb information from them instead.
Is It Worth Hiring a Guide or Porter
There are mixed opinions on this. Some trekkers prefer to make their way around the circuit without help. However, hiring at least one or the other is advisable.
A guide can be very handy for traveling ahead and getting to the teahouses first before other trekkers get there. They can secure you a good place to stay for the night. This is a must in busy months, as you don’t want to arrive and have nowhere to sleep that night. They will also know the best teahouses for you to stay in, so they will ensure you have a nice clean and respectable place to stay.
Another great reason is that they speak the local language and can arrange anything additional for you, which you may not be able to do yourself. Plus, they can advise you on the must-see areas and trips. Also, safety is another main reason. They’re good to have around in case of an emergency; they can communicate efficiently and get the help required.
Proters are very handy and will carry your luggage or backpack for you. This will allow you to move freely and take in all the amazing views and experiences without worrying about heaving around heavy goods or leaving them somewhere. Plus, by using a porter, you’re helping the local community by providing work, so it’s a win-win situation.
A Permit is Essential
To enable you to trek the circuit, you will need to purchase a permit.
You can pick one up in Kathmandu before you head to the starting point. There are a few places where you can obtain the permit: the Nepal Tourism Board or the Annapurna Conservation Area Project office. Please check opening times before you go to ensure you have the up to date opening hours.
There are two permits that you will need to get, a TIMS (Trekkers Information Management System) and an ANCAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Entry Permit).
TIMS is a basic permit to trek within Nepal. It goes towards the security and safety for trekkers. You need a ANCAP permit because the Annapurna area is a conservation area that is protected. Part of the funds goes towards the maintenance of the conservation area.
Items to Pack and Take With you On Your Trek
There are several essential items that you should take with you so you can complete the circuit. This includes the right clothing, sleeping items, basic necessities, and safety kits.
Here are some of the main items you will need:
- A sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and a pillow. – Even though you will be staying in a teahouse, a sleeping bag is still essential. It will provide you with warmth, as some teahouses won’t be equipped with the best bedding. Also, depending on the cleanliness of your teahouse, it’s probably better to sleep inside your sleeping bag for hygiene reasons. If you like to sleep with a pillow, you may consider bringing a blow-up one for the same reasons.
- Clothing – You will need to have adequate clothing. Follow the 3-layer clothing technique to keep you warm. This includes a base layer, middle layer, and the external layer. Think about the best materials to wear that will help to keep your body sweat-free.
- Hiking boots – Bringing the right hiking boot that offers comfort and can withstand mixed terrains is paramount. After all, you are going to be spending every day on your feet. Don’t forget to pack a few blister plasters, just in case!
- Hats, gloves, socks, and sunglasses – To keep you warm during the day and night and you may need to bring a hat that can protect you from the sunlight. You don’t want to be suffering from heatstroke. The sunglasses will be needed to protect you from the UV light.
- Small backpack – You will need this if you’re using a porter to keep the items that you will need during the daytime.
- Water bottle – Hydration is very important while out trekking and throughout the day.
- First aid kit – This should include items like sterile dressings, hand sanitizer, plasters, scissors, medication, and other items to help in case of an emergency. This will only be needed if you are traveling independently without a guide.
- Toiletries – Items like sun cream, soap, baby wipes, lip balm, shower gel (if you are staying in the right teahouses), and any other items will help you stay fresh. If you’ll be washing your clothes while trekking, then a suitable clothes cleaner is essential.
- Power packs – If you want to use your electrical items while away, you will need a rechargeable power pack. In most teahouses, you will find charging outlets in the shared spaces, although some may have an outlet in your room.
- Head torch – This may sound like a random item to take, but there is a high chance you will experience power-cuts during your trek around the circuit. They are useful when a hands-free light is needed.
The Annapurna Circuit Itinerary
Many different itineraries can be followed when trekking around this circuit. The pace you go, and the amount of time you spend in each place is up to you.
More advanced explorers will be able to complete it quicker and will enjoy trekking longer distances each day.
The below itinerary captures the main checkpoints of the circuit and is good for all trekkers. It’s based on a 17-day plan:
Day 1 – Having already arrived the previous day from Kathmandu, you will be at the starting point, which is Besisahar. It’s advisable to stay the night before you start as a great night’s sleep will be needed. From Besisahar trek to the town of Khudi, this is a nice, easy start.
Day 2 – Khudi to Bahundanda. This is now the start of some decent hiking. It is over 6-miles to reach Bahundanda. You will be walking along the Marsyangdi River and will see great green scenery.
Day 3 – Bahundanda to Jagat. It’s approximately a six and a half-mile trek, so nice and easy trek. You will need to save your energy for tomorrow’s hike, which will be longer. Get an early night and an early start so you can take in all the sights you will see the next day.
Day 4 – Jagat to Dharapani. This is an 11-mile trek. Enjoy the scenery! There are some great things to see along the way.
Day 5 – Dharapani to Chame (Over 10-miles). This a great opportunity to see one of the mountains within the Annapurna massif. Don’t forget to keep your camera with you if you are using a porter service.
Day 6 – Chame to Pisang. This is a 10-mile hike.
Day 7 – Pisang to Manang. It’s best to follow the easier course, which will be just over 9 miles, but if you are an expert hiker, you can challenge yourself with a 10-mile trek over rougher terrain.
Day 8 – The good news is no hiking today – unless you want to. You can recharge your batteries and allow your body to climatize to the altitude.
Day 9 – Manang to Thorung Phedi via Yak Kharka. This is around a 10-mile trek all.
Day 10 – Thorung Phedi to Muktinath. This will take you over the highest point of the circuit.
Day 11 – Muktinath to Tukuche. This will be via Kagbeni.
Day 12 – Tukuche to Ghasa. The great news is although its 11-miles, this trek is easy terrain.
Day 13 – Ghasa to Tatopani. Just over 11-miles.
Day 14 – Tatopani to Ghorepani. This will take you on a large uphill hike.
Day 15 – Ghorepani to Poon Hill. Not much longer to go.
Day 16 – Poon hill to Naya Pul. You have nearly completed the circuit at this point. This is also your last night within the circuit, so enjoy it.
Day 17 – Naya Pul to Pokhara. Treat yourself to a taxi; you deserve it.
Just remember, you can easily adapt the above itinerary to suit your specific needs and add extra relaxation days.
The main thing is to have plenty of fun, stay protected, and enjoy every moment. Go get your trek on!