The Annapurna Circuit Trek is a trip amidst the mountain ranges lying in central Nepal. The entire length of the journey ranges between 160-230 km depending on the starting point and end of the trail.
The trek passes through two river valleys and reaches its highest point at the Thorong La Pass (5,416 m), also known as world's highest pass. The 18-22 days expedition helps you circle the Annapurna Massif while enjoying its spectacular view.
History behind Annapurna Circuit Trek
The Annapurna region was opened to foreign visitors in 1977 after a decade lengthy disputes between Khampa guerrillas, the locals, and the Nepal army were resolved.
The former trek started from Dumre, lying between Kathmandu-Pokhara highway, and ended in Pokhara. It took about 23 days to complete the round-about trip.
The construction of roads between Pokhara in the west and Dumre in the north, leading up to the Kali Gandaki Valley started in the 1980s. The way now reaches up to Chamje village in Manang district and Muktinath in Mustang.
Out of the previous 23 days of the trek, only five walking days are without a motor road. Different paths and roads were identified in sections so that the way could be partly avoided. Still, the presence of the road has changed the villages' location, appearance, and atmosphere.
The road allows travel simpler, thus growing the popularity of mountain biking in the region. Companies renting mountain bikes to visitors in Muktinath and Jomsom started since 2011. As the road sees so little traffic, you can go downhill following a dirt road or a single track from Muktinath to Tatopani and go down nearly 3000 meters in 2-3 days.
Over the past few years, new places close to Annapurna have been developed for trekkers including Upper Mustang, Naar-Pho Valley, Manaslu and Tsum Valley. Trekking in these areas is generally limited and subject to extra licenses, costs and other restrictions.
Itinerary of Annapurna Circuit
Day 1: Kathmandu (1,400 m) to Besisahar (820 m) via a private taxi or a bus (6-7 hrs).
The trek starts on the second day of the trip.
Day 2: Besisahar (820 m) to Khudi (790 m)
Day 3: Khudi (790 m) to Bahundanda (1,310 m)
Day 4: Bahundanda (1,310 m) to Jagat (1,290 m)
Day 5: Jagat (1,290 m) to Dharapani (1,920 m)
Day 6: Dharapani (1,920 m) to Chame (2,630 m)
Day 7: Chame (2,630 m) to Upper/Lower Pisang (3,190 m)
Day 8: Upper/Lower Pisang (3,190 m) to Manang (3,520 m)
Day 9: Rest in Manang and acclimatize
Day 10: Manang (3,520 m) to Letdar (4,250 m)
Day 11: Letdar (4,250 m) to Thorong Phedi (4,500 m)
Day 12: Thorong Phedi (4,500 m) to Muktinath (3,800 m) via Thorong La Pass (5,416 m)
Day 13: Muktinath (3,800 m) to Marpha (2,665 m)
From here onward you can take a private car to the next destination, or you can keep walking.
Day 14: Marpha (2,665 m) to Lete (2,470 m)
Day 15: Lete (2,470 m) to Tatopani (1,160 m)
Day 16: Tatopani (1,160 m) to Ghorepani (2,775 m)
Day 17: Ghorepani (2,775 m) to Birethanti (1,050 m) and then to Pokhara (1,400 m)
The length of the trek varies depending upon the speed of the trekkers, rest days, and number and range of the side trips if any.
Hiking the entire circuit may take from 8 to 25 days on an average. Some trekkers take a flight back to Kathmandu from Jomsom which shortens the trip by six days.
When is the best time for the Annapurna Circuit Trek?
According to trekkers and mountaineers, the best time to embark on the Annapurna Circuit is from October to early December and from the end of February to April.
The months outside this period is quite tricky, and the chances are that the Thorong La pass would be entirely covered in snow. Besides snow the monsoon rain causes the trail to be slippery and extremely dangerous.
Former visitors suggest that the Annapurna Circuit Trek is best during September when the sky is clear, mountains are green, and the trail is less crowded.
Why is the Annapurna Circuit Trek's Itinerary anti-clockwise?
The trail of the trek heads in an anti-clockwise direction starting from Besisahar, then moving up to Thorong La pass and then down to Jomsom Valley.
The main reason behind this path is acclimatisation. By following the anti-clockwise itinerary, trekkers get almost two weeks for acclimatisation and leg-work before embarking on the final ascent up the Thorong La pass.
Going in the clockwise direction you only have two days to acclimatise and must walk along 1,700 m plus inclined paths.
Also, the later days of the trek have limited access to tea houses and lodges. Hence if you're subjected to altitude sickness, it may be hard to find help nearby.
Quick facts about Annapurna Circuit Trek
Location: Central Nepal
Trek Length: Usually 18-22 days
Total Distance: depends on the route you take and whether you embark on other optional side trips, but usually the circuit measure between 160-230 km
Highest point of the Trek: Thorong La Pass (5,416 m)
Height of Annapurna I: 8,091 m
Essentials for the Annapurna Circuit Trek
- Lightweight cotton pants, shorts, and skirts for female
- Down jackets
- cotton t-shirts, long-sleeved cotton shirt
- thermal underwears, raincoat
- lightweight trekking boots
- thick woollen socks and thin inner cotton socks
- bag pack
- sunscreen, lotions, and sunblock
- personal medical supplies
Things to Remember for the Annapurna Circuit
- Trekkers must be of sound health before starting the journey
- A trekking permit is required for the Annapurna Circuit
- The trail is long, hard, and tough to complete
- The Annapurna Circuit provides spectacular views of the Annapurna Conservation Area
- You may suffer from altitude sickness during the trek
- Only carry what you need
- Have a sufficient supply of medicines in case of medical emergencies