The Ultimate Guide to Trekking the Annapurna Circuit

January 14, 2017

The Annapurna Circuit is considered to be an entry level trek in Nepal, and is the perfect option for those of you looking for an easier, shorter, and more straightforward trek compared to the other ones offered in Nepal (such as EBC and Three Passes). Here is the ultimate guide to trekking the Annapurna Circuit.

After trekking to Everest Base Camp and the Three Passes, I spent two weeks in Pokhara binging on coffee, bread, and fresh fruit, sleeping, and relaxing.

I didn’t think I’d ever be ready to tackle another trek, but was pleasantly surprised with the simplicity of the Annapurna Circuit.

The Ultimate Guide to Trekking the Annapurna Circuit

Preparing for your Trek

Buy Your TIMS Card: The TIMS Card is a necessary permit that’s required of every trekker. It gets checked at the entrance of the trek and again when you’re leaving. It costs 2,000 rupees and can be purchased at the Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu.

Buy Your Annapurna Region Trekking Permit: Another necessary permit that’s required of every trekker. It costs 2,000 rupees and gets checked multiple times on the trek.

When should I trek the Annapurna Circuit? 

The high season in Nepal is from September until November and April until May. I trekked the circuit from the beginning of December until mid-December, which is considered to be the beginning of low season. There were still quite a few people on the trek, and there was no snow while I was trekking, through it’s known to snow around that time of the year.

Where can I purchase trekking gear?

You can purchase trekking gear in both Kathmandu and Pokhara. There are a ton of shops selling knock off North Face items and random other brands for decent quality.

Are there any ATMs on the trek?

The last place I remember seeing an ATM was in Chame, so make sure you bring at least a few hundred dollars with you in case of any emergencies, since most places don’t have any ATMs.

Can I shower and use WIFI on the trek?

One of the more surprising parts about this trek was the amount of free wifi and free showers I saw! On the EBC & Three Passes trek, you had to pay between $2-5 to charge electronics, use wifi, and take a shower. However, on the Annapurna Circuit, every sinlge guesthouse had free shower, wifi, and charging, except for Tilicho Base Camp and Thorung High Camp.

Will I get altitude sickness?

There’s no way to know for sure if you’re going to get altitude sickness, so it’s very important that you listen to your body, stay hydrated, and never ascend too quickly.

Talk to your health care provider about altitude sickness. They may be able to prescribe altitude sickness medication for you if you’re worried.

The Ultimate Guide to Trekking the Annapurna Circuit

 

Budget

Bus from Pokhara to Besisahar

The local bus cost 300 ruppees one way (around $3). For those of you who are tight on time, you can choose to take a jeep all the way to Chame (which will cost around 3,500 ruppees), and even to Manang, which will cost even more. This will shave four to six days off of the trek, which is mainly on jeep road.

Accommodation & Food

I spent less on the Annapurna Circuit on a daily basis than I spent on the Everest Base Camp and Three Passes trek (mainly because I ate less since the trek was less strenuous).

We managed to get free accommodation every single night of the trek except when we stayed at High Camp. All you have to do is ask for free accommodation in exchange for eating all of your meals at their guesthouse. They’ll usually say yes!

Use aquatabs on the trek to save money on water bottle purchases. You can buy these at any pharmacy in Kathmandu or Pokhara.

Itinerary

This is the itinerary I took for my trek, however, you don’t have to stick to this! You can also choose to do the trek in the opposite direction, however, I highly recommend you don’t. Doing it counter-clockwise will help a lot with acclimatization and make the trek a lot easier.

Day 1: Pokhara to Besisahar

I was already in Pokhara for a week before I started the trek, however, you can choose to take a bus or jeep directly to Besisahar from Kathmandu. The ride will be around 4 hours.

Day 2: Besisahar to Ngadi

This was an easy trekking day. We had to stop early because one of the trekkers I was with had knee problems. The path is mainly on a dusty, dirty, boring jeep road.

Day 3: Ngadi to Tal (1,700 m)

This was a long day! The route is pretty easy until a major ascent at the end. We got to Tal in the dark.

Day 4: Tal (1,700 m) to Chame (2,700 m)

Today was an 8 hour day! Although we ascended 1,000 meters today, I really only felt the ascent in the beginning of the trek.

Day 5: Chame (2,700 m) to Upper Pisang (3,300 m)

Today was an easy, 5 hour day. I barely felt the 600 meter ascent, which was quite gradual. You can choose to sleep in Lower Pisang or Upper Pisang, and then take either route the next day.

The Ultimate Guide to Trekking the Annapurna Circuit

Day 6: Upper Pisang (3,300 m) to Manang (3,540 m)

You can choose to take the Lower Pisang or Upper Pisang route. The Lower Pisang route is along flat road, while the Upper Pisang route has a steep, 300 meter ascent, but offers spectacular views of the mountains. After the ascent, the route was quite steady.

Day 7: Acclimitization Day; Ice Lake (4,600 m)

It’s highly recommended you take an acclimatization day today to help your body adjust to the altitude. There are a few acclimatization hikes around Manang. I chose to do the Ice Lake hike, which I highly recommend!

While the Ice Lake is unimpressive, the views of Annapurna II, Annapurna IV, Gangapurna and Tilicho Peak are breath taking.

Day 8: Manang (3,540) to Tilicho Base Camp (4,150 m)

You can choose to continue on to Yak Kharka, or take a few day side trek to Tilicho Lake, the highlest lake in the world! I STRONGLY recommend you take this side trek if you have the time, it was the highlight of the circuit.

This route is quite dangerous, part of the path goes along a landslide. The path is no wider than a foot at some parts, and there is a steep, 200-meter drop on one side. I’ve never been so happy to step on solid ground when we reached Base Camp.

Day 9: Climb to Tilicho Lake (5,030 m)

The entire trek to the lake and back to base camp takes around 6 hours. We left leisurely around 9:30 am, and were back at basecamp by 4 p.m. (we spent a while at the lake!) Bring enough water and food for the trek, there is nothing along the way.

Welcome to the highest lake in the world!

The Ultimate Guide to Trekking the Annapurna Circuit

Day 10: Tilicho Base Camp (4,150 m) to Yak Kharka (4,050 m)

Today is quite long, with a few ascents and descents. There is only one place to get food along the way, and it’s 20 minutes outside of Yak Kharka. Bring snacks for the trek if you think you’re going to get hungry!

Day 11: Yak Kharka (4,050 m) to Thorung High Camp (4,880 m)

You can either choose to spend the night in Thorung, or trek the extra hour (an extra 400 meter gain) to High Camp.

Spending the night at high camp will help you to acclimatize better for the pass the following day, and you don’t need to wake up as early to start the trek. Keep in mind that during high season the guesthouse at high camp can fill up as early as 11:30 am, so if you plan on staying there, make sure you arrive in the morning!

Day 12: Thorung High Camp—Thorung Pass—Mukinath (3,800 m)

The climb to the pass was gradual and much easier than I expected (probably because I was expecting something like the Kong Ma La from my previous trek!). You may feel the altitude on the pass, but you begin a very large descent quickly after the pass to Mukinath.

Day 13: Mukinath (3,800 m) to Pokhara

We were trekked out by this point. You can choose to continue the circuit and trek to Jomsom and take a bus from there to Pokhara, or keep walking all the way to Pokhara!

We took a 9 a.m. bus to Jomsom for 710 ruppees, then paid for a jeep (3,500 ruppees each) to take us straight to Pokhara, which took around 8 hours.

Other treks on the Annapurna Circuit include:

  • Poon Hill: This trek is known for its spectacular sunrise and panoramic view of the Himalaya mountains.
  • Annapurna Base Camp: This is quite a steep trek to base camp. I didn’t do this trek personally, but have heard from those who had done both base camp and the circuit that they preferred the circuit for the views.

The Ultimate Guide to Trekking the Annapurna Circuit

Packing List

The Annapurna Circuit was actually quite warm! I didn’t have to wear all of my clothes to sleep, and wore only a long sleeve shirt and fleece during the day.

Here is what I packed:

  • Osprey 40 L Farpoint Backpack
  • Kent Trekking Sneakers: Make sure your sneakers are broken in beforehand to help lessen the chance of blisters. Mine were still broken in and I got horrendous blisters within the first couple days of the trek.
  • 1 Down Jacket
  • 1 Hat
  • 1 Pair of Gloves
  • 2 Fleeces
  • 2 Windbreakers
  • 1 Pair of Leggings
  • 1 Pair of Spandex
  • 2 Pairs of Thick Socks
  • 1 Sports Bra
  • 2 Pairs of Underwear (you’re not going to shower!)
  • 1 Neck Scarf
  • 1 Pair of Snow Pants
  • 2 Sweaters
  • 1 Under Armor Shirt
  • 1 Long Sleeve Shirt
  • Baby Powder
  • Band-aids
  • First Aid Kit (anti-bacterial cream, wound wrapping, etc.).
  • Chapstick
  • Head Torch: This was one of the best things I brought. There were a few guesthouses that didn’t have any lights in the rooms, and the squat toilets rarely had any lights.
  • Deoderant
  • Baby Wipes
  • Toilet Paper: None of the guesthouses I stayed in had toilet paper or a bum gun, so if you didn’t have toilet paper with you, then…. well, that’s what your hand is for, right?
  • Nail Clippers
  • Lotion
  • Sunscreen: This is one of the most important items to bring. Make sure you use sunscreen on your nose.
  • Sunglasses
  • Brush
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Reusable Waterbottle
  • Map
  • Portable Speakers: Two of my friends brought their speakers with them, which made the quiet nights around the fire that much better.
  • iPhone
  • GoPro
  • Nikon DSLR: Easy to use, cheap DSLR camera for beginners like me.
  • Chargers
  • Passport
  • Fanny Pack
  • Credit Card

Items I didn’t personally bring:

  • Sleeping Bag
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