The Annapurna Circuit trek is widely hailed by many as the holy grail of trekking since it was first opened to everyone in the early 1980s. The 128-mile horseshoe-shaped route of the Annapurna Circuit trek, circles Nepal’s breathtakingly beautiful Annapurna range. The highest point of the trek is the Thorung La pass, which rises to an altitude of 5,416m and touches the edge of the Tibetan plateau.
The Annapurna trek is a challenging for hikers, with treks usually lasting between three and nine hours per day. Porters and guides are available to help with your daypacks, and the Guide company takes care of all park permits and internal flights. You will witness the Sherpa way of living, experience their hospitality, and get to meet like-minded travelers over delicious local meals in the various teahouses that you stop at overnight. Accommodation is usually in traditional local teahouses, which are comfortable but basic. During the Annapurna trek, one encounters all kinds of vegetation and the tiny mountain hamlets are a delight to visit. The local staple of Dal Bhat is a must experience during the this trek.
There are two major variants to trekking the Annapurna region, one is the Annapurna Base Camp Trek (The ABC Trek) and the second is the Annapurna Circuit Trek. Here is a comparison. The Annapurna Circuit has often been voted as the best long distance trek in the world. The Annapurna Base Camp Trek is physically more challenging than the Annapurna Circuit Trek as it has very little flat terrain, which constantly rises and dips. On the Annapurna Circuit trek, the altitude climb is much more gradual, usually spread out over 6 hours with minimal descent. Climbing through hilltop villages, terraced rice fields, and buff pastures, both trails offer cultural immersion, with the opportunity to meet and interact with the locals. The Annapurna Circuit Trek offers more exposure to the local culture as compared to the Annapurna Base Camp Trek. Another point of note is that for the Annapurna Base Camp Trek, since we climb up and descend the same trail, we run into trekkers going both directions. The Annapurna Circuit Trail is relatively quieter. The Annapurna Circuit is on track to become entirely accessible by road, while the ABC trail consists of about 5% road trail. The trail goes along paddy fields, subtropical forests, gigantic cliffs, and you will encounter several waterfalls and various villages during the trek.
The incredible progression of culture, difficulty, altitude, geography, views, etc. make the Annapurna Circuit trek worth the full 2-3 weeks. It is advisable to give at least 2 days for acclimatization before the trek so that the body can adapt to the sudden change in altitude. Most itineraries you see will have this acclimatization period included in the itinerary. Try to avoid alcohol before and during your trek, and make sure you eat lightly and drink plenty of water.
The Annapurna circuit sits within a rain shadow, which means that it is possible to trek most parts of the circuit all year-round, including the monsoon period, unlike most of the Himalayas. October and November are usually considered to be the best season for this trek, as the trail is considered to be vibrant and clean after the monsoons. Due to the construction of a road along the trail, the time taken to complete the trek has been greatly reduced. It has also led to the increasing popularity of Mountain Biking in the region.
The trek around the Annapurna Base Camp is invigorating, exciting and exhilarating, giving hikers a chance to walk amidst the Himalayan giants and the breathtaking scenery. It is also about meeting people on the same journey as you and the sense of achievement that comes on completing the trek. This is definitely an experience of a lifetime!
You may also like to read about the Everest Base Camp Trek, associated costs, how to prepare and perhaps contemplate a comparison with Kilimanjaro before finally making a decision. If you then sway towards climbing Kilimanjaro, here is a complete guide.
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Ghode Pani, Nepal
Ghode Pani, Nepal
Ghode Pani, Nepal
If you wish to extend your trip or experience some other activities around the region, you can consider the Chitwan Jungle Safari, which is home to about 800 rhinos, or try white water rafting in one of Nepal's famous rivers like the Bhote Koshi, the Trishuli or Budhi Gandaki. You can also experience some excellent Paragliding in Pokhara, a microlight flight or even a heli-tour which offers incomparable sights of the region. Nepal is also becoming an excellent destination for Mountain Biking, especially around the Mustang region.
It is strongly advised that you get traveler's insurance. Some operators will not allow you to proceed on the trek if you don't have travel insurance. The insurance cover chosen should provide adequate protection for the full duration of the tour to cover personal injury, death, medical expenses, repatriation expenses, helicopter rescue, air ambulance and adequate cover for baggage.
You can get a visa in Kathmandu airport upon arrival for $25 USD (or equivalent in other major currencies) for a 15 day visa or $40 USD for a 30 day visa. Please bring 2 photos for the visa. Expect to have some waiting time in the queue for obtaining your visa. You can also get your visa prior to coming on the tour by contacting your closest Nepali embassy.
Depending on when you plan to travel it's important to have the proper clothes and be prepared for unexpected weather. Fairly well-worn hiking boots/shoes are a must! For arrivals between November and the first two weeks of March, we recommend bringing a jacket suitable for zero degrees Celsius. For tours at other times please bring a jacket suitable for 4 to 6 degrees Celsius. The daytime weather tends to be warm or pleasant. A more detailed list is provided by each operator in the Activity Details page.
Tipping is a gesture of thanks to your guides and local porters and is expected in Nepal. The level of the tip should reflect the level of satisfaction from and personal involvement with your guide. However, we recommend you spend about 10% of your total trip cost for tipping the entire local staff. A good rule of thumb is to tip 15% of their salary which comes out as one day's wages per week of trekking. It’s a good idea to take some nice envelopes with you to put the money in when giving out your tips to make the staff feel appreciated. Note that over tipping can raise expectations and potentially cause problems for future trekkers. That said, lots of visitors to Nepal fall in love with this beautiful country and wish to do something more. There are several ways of doing this.Many trekking Agencies have set up funds to enable their trekking staff to send their children to school, and others have paid for training of porters to help them up the ladder to become guides and therefore have a better earning potential. There are also several good charities that you can support.
You can bring water purification tablets ( or buy them in Kathmandu ) or fill your bottle for a nominal fee from the recognized and regulated pure-water stations along the trek. As a last-resort you can also purchase bottled water at the lodges but this is not recommended as Nepal faces a huge waste management issue on these trails. It is very important that you drink at least 3 liters of pure water daily during the trek.
You may experience altitude related sickness on treks that go above 3000 meters. If you have a health condition which might cause problems please consult a doctor on the advisability of doing the trek.
Some major currencies (USD, AUD ,EURO) are accepted for both visa and in general. There are plenty of ATM's in both Kathmandu and Pokhara and credit cards are accepted in limited shops and many restaurants in Kathmandu and Pokhra. However, once you are out of the cities, all you can use is cash. It is best to convert your currency to Nepali rupees in Kathmandu or before, as it is accepted everywhere in Nepal.
These facilities will be available in most of the places in your hotel reception by paying some service charges. Remember to bring TWO and THREE pin travel adapters! There are telephones in some villages along the trekking routes from which you can make international calls. Usually, your guides will have access to a local mobile phone. You can share the number of the guide to your family or you can make a call from the guide’s mobile and pay them directly for the international call.
The Annapurna trail is usually open throughout the year. From early September the monsoonal rains decrease. By end of September through to December the weather is usually stable with mild to warm days and cold nights. This is the most popular trekking season. February, March, April, May, June, October, November, December are the best months to do this trek. There may be bit of snow during the month of January, February and December. The temperature can range from as high as 20 deg C to as low as -10 deg C.
Most teahouses (lodges) on the Annapurna trail cook a range of mostly vegetarian fare. Pasta, tuna bakes, noodles, potatoes, eggs, daal bhat(rice and lentils), bread, soup, fresh local vegetables and even some desserts like apple pies and pancakes. You will also find a lot of garlic on the menu as it assists with acclimatization. It is recommended that you eat some every day. The lodges mostly serve the vegetarian meals. We always recommend a vegetarian diet during this trek to avoid food poisoning. Eating heavy meals and non- vegetarian meals at the high altitude is not really safe for the stomach. You can always get hot chocolate, tea, and hot lemon drinks, as well as soft drinks, and treats like chocolate and crisps. For those operators who include meals in the price, the dinner and breakfast will usually be at the lodge you'll stay, while lunch is usually taken enroute.
There will be two people accommodated in each room for the duration of the tour. If you prefer private accommodation, you'll usually find an option for single supplement. These may cost anywhere between $200 to $350 for the entire duration of the trek.Also note that during the trek, there are some lodges which won't have sufficient rooms to provide private accommodation. So, even if you purchase single supplement you may end up sharing a room for some days of the trek.
Most operators book standard rooms at three star hotels in Kathmandu and Pokhara with breakfast usually included. Along the trekking routes, teahouses/lodges generally provide basic clean facilities with a mattress and a quilt or blanket. Some operators also provide sleeping bags if needed (usually returned after the trip) but it is a good idea to always have your own sleeping equipment. The lodges in trekking routes usually provide single and double rooms, or occasionally a dormitory. Sometimes the dinner is around a bonfire. In tea houses, the food is prepared in the kitchen, which you shouldn't enter without permission. The toilets in tea houses are basic and are always outside the room.
Yes, an airport representative from your chosen local operator will be there to greet you at the airport. He will be displaying a sign board outside the airport terminal. Upon arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel by a tourist vehicle. This is mentioned explicitly in each itinerary.
The Annapurna trek is suitable for average people who are moderately fit, thus no previous experience is required. Some physical fitness programs such as running, swimming, hiking is recommended before you embark on your journey. Persons suffering from a pre-existing medical condition must seek medical advice/consent before considering the trek. Whilst on the trek, it is common to experience some discomfort before being fully acclimatized. To prepare for trek you should begin training at least two to three months before your departure. As a guideline, an hour of aerobic exercise three to four times per week would be considered a minimum requirement. The best preparation is bushwalking involving relatively steep ascents and descents. If you can manage a couple of valley to ridgeline ascents comfortably, you will be able to enjoy the trek to the fullest.
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