The Annapurna Circuit Trek is one of the most legendary trekking routes in the world and although some of the route is tarred these days, it still attracts thousands of trekking enthusiasts every year. In terms of numbers, it is the third most popular trek in Nepal. You can find in this blog post everything you need to know about trekking the Annapurna Circuit Trail: itinerary and altitude per day, cost, map, best season and much more.
Last Updated in April 2020
The total distance of the Annapurna Circuit varies between 160 and 230 kilometers (100-145 miles), depending on the options one chooses to trek. Because of the fact that some of the Annapurna Circuit Trek is tarred, trekkers choose to cover some of the Circuit with motorized transport. Other than logistics it also serves a gentle break after a long day of trekking.
Almost all trekkers do the Annapurna Circuit Trek in an anti-clockwise direction. This way the altitude gain is less and people are less prone to the effects of altitude sickness. The Thorung La Pass, at 5416 meters (17769 feet) is the highest point of the Annapurna Circuit Trek and is, together with the various peaks you will see on the route, an absolute highlight of the trek.
Where Is The Annapurna Circuit Trek?
The Annapurna Circuit Trek is a trek on the Annapurna Circuit. Simple as that. But where do you find the Annapurna Circuit? When you think Nepal and the Himalaya, your first thought is probably the Everest Base Camp trek. The Himalaya are of course massive and on the other side of Nepal, you can find mountains that are almost just as high as you would find in the Everest Region, the Khumbu region. You can find the Annapurnas close to Pokhara, about 6 hours northwest of Kathmandu. The small city, known as the City of Lakes, is the gateway to the Annapurna Massif.
This mountain is named after Annapurna, the Hindu goddess of food and nourishment, who, is said to have her home in the Annapurnas. The name Annapurna is derived from the Sanskrit. It is a combination of the words purna ("filled") and anna ("food"), and can be translated as "everlasting food". Many streams descending from the slopes of the Annapurna Massif provide water for the agricultural sector located at a lower altitude.
Mountains on the Annapurna Circuit
The Annapurna Massif is the main supplier of huge peaks on the Annapurna Circuit. This massif is home to one peak over 8000 meters, thirteen peaks over 7000 meters and sixteen more over 6000 meters. To give you some perspective: Mount Kilimanjaro is 5,896 meters high. The following peaks you can see when you are trekking the Annapurna Circuit.
- Annapurna I Central (8,041 m – 26,414 ft)
- Annapurna II (7,937 m – 26,040 ft)
- Annapurna III (7,555 m – 24,786 ft)
- Annapurna IV (7,525 m – 24,688 ft)
- Gangapurna (7,455 m – 24,457 ft)
- Annapurna South (7,219 m – 23,684 ft)
- Annapurna Fang (7,647 m – 25,089 ft)
- Khangsar Kang (7,485 m – 24,557 ft)
- Tarke Kang (7,202 m – 23,629 ft)
- Lachenal Peak (7,140 m – 23,425 ft)
- Tilicho Peak (7,135 m – 23,409 ft)
- Nilgiri Himal North (7,061 m – 23,166 ft)
- Nilgiri Himal Central (6,940 m – 22,769 ft)
- Nilgiri Himal South (6,839 m – 22,438 ft)
- Machhapuchchhre a.k.a. Fish Tail Mountain (6,993 m – 22,943 ft)
- Hiunchuli (6,441 m – 21,132 ft)
- Gandharba Chuli (6,248 m – 20,499 ft)
Annapurna Circuit Trail Length
The total length of the Annapurna Circuit is anything between 160 and 230 kilometers (100-145 miles). The length of the Annapurna Circuit depends on where ground transportation is used and not. Because a part of the circuit is tarred these days, some trekkers decide to skip this. For the same reason, a lot of trekking enthusiasts decide to do the Manaslu Circuit trek instead. Most itineraries offered for the Annapurna Circuit Trek these days are shorter than three weeks, which used to be the common duration of trekking the circuit.
When you are browsing itineraries, it makes more sense to look at the number of days than the distance. If you want to do the Annapurna Circuit Trek the right way, make sure to do it in at least 15 days. Below we give you a great example of a 15-day itinerary. If you have more time, you can also do it in 18 days. Both will allow for perfect acclimatization while being able to fully soak up the beauty of the Annapurna Massif.
Tarred Road on the Annapurna Circuit
Tar on the Annapurna Circuit? Correct. When you think of trekking in Nepal, you don’t think you would need to hike on tarred roads, would you? When talking about trekking, we talk about seasons. In a good season, it’s absolutely fine to hike the most remote trails but imagine the low season, when there is Monsoon and trails are muddy and inaccessible. A tarred road can make all the difference in the lives of locals. The trails you use for trekking and for fun are used by the local community to live their daily lives. A road which enables for quick access to goods and supplies is a massive upgrade.
“The Annapurna Circuit is currently tarred between Muktinath to Tatopani and from Besishar to Chame”, says Chhatra Karki of Nepal Eco Adventure. Nepal Eco Adventure has a 15-day Annapurna Circuit Trek on offer and Chhatra knows that the roads are not there to ruin the trekking experience. “The local communities profit a lot from upgrading the infrastructure. The area can not just live from the trekking industry alone.”
18-day or 15-day Annapurna Circuit Trek: Differences in difficulty and length
“Back in the day we used to offer an 18-day version of the Annapurna Circuit Trek but these days it makes more sense to do the 15-day version. The parts that are tarred can be bridged by a car. This allows trekkers to rest their legs a little bit and to recharge their batteries for the next stretch of trekking”, explain Chhatra of Nepal Eco Adventure. “In the past, people have said that you should do the Manaslu Circuit instead because it is a lot less touristy and it doesn’t involve any driving. However, the Manaslu Circuit is also very busy now and all the highlights of the Annapurna Circuit are still there.”
“Also,” Chhatra elaborates, “The Annapurna Circuit is not that busy as it used to be. The number of trekkers has reduced on the Circuit and in terms of difficulty one can say that the Annapurna Circuit is not too difficult.”
Chhatra is right. The Annapurna Circuit is not a very technical trek and in terms of difficulty it isn’t ranking very high either. “It really is for everyone”, Chhatra says. Below you can find an itinerary for the 15-day Annapurna Circuit Trek as offered by Nepal Eco Adventure.
Annapurna Circuit Trek Itinerary. Including Altitude (height) per day.
The Annapurna Circuit is best done in 15 days or 18 days. The 18-day version is in that regard more old school and just follows the trails where this is possible. More and more people choose to do the 15-day version, however. If you do the Annapurna Circuit Trek in 15 days, you are sure to have a small break halfway while still being able to enjoy all the highlights the Annapurna Circuit offers.
15-day Annapurna Circuit Trek by Nepal Eco Adventure
Day 01 – Drive to Besisahar (923m) and trekking to Bulbule.
From Kathmandu, we start early for our drive to Besisahar. We travel by bus arranged by us. The road up to Besisahar is of fair quality. Once we have reached Besisahar we walk about another two hours to Bulebule close to Marysangdi river. It’s an easy trek to Bulbule after the long bus journey. Once we reach there, we freshen up and spend the night there.
Day 02 – Trek to Chamje (1410m)
On the first day of the trek, we cross various suspension bridges, waterfalls and continue past rice paddies and forests. Once we reach the cliff in Jagat, we can view the Marsyangdi Khola below and rocky hills all around. The beehives at the top of the cliffs are an attraction for today. In a short while we will reach Chamje where we spend the night.
Day 03 – Trek to Bagarchhap (2160m)
As we move past narrow and steep valleys, through rhododendron, pine and bamboo forests, in the rocky folds of a mountain, we come across a bridge that takes us to a quick ascent and finally atop a climb to reveal a widening valley. After reaching the village of Tal, we have to move across barley, wheat and potato farms for a while before we reach Dharapani. From there we turn west through the fir and pine forests to reach Bagarchhap.
Day 04 – Trek to Chame (2710m)
From Bagarchhap we start ahead to reach a Danaque village and then a steep climb to reach a Tamang village with exquisite views of Manaslu, Lamjung , Annapurna and other mountain beauties. As we trek through a Tibetan village that acts as a transition between the lowlands and high hills, we follow a gradual flat path to Thanchowk, Kolo and finally to Chame.
Day 05 – Trek to Pisang (3240m)
We first pass through the older part of Chame, climb up to Telekhu and continue on a long, leveled trail through forests underway to Brathang. The trails rounds a bend and once we continue ahead we need to cross back to the south bank of Marsyangdi River on a suspension bridge. Then the trail takes us on a gentle ascent over a pine forested ridge and then levels again as we move from the upper part of Manang valley to Pisang.
Day 06 – Trek to Manang (3540m)
The town of Pisang is the start of the upper region of the Manang district. On this day, the trek climbs to Braga, a Tibetan styled village. The houses here are stacked upon each other forming verandas with each others rooftops. The main attraction is the Gompa, the largest in the district, with a vast array of statues in display and perched on a high crag with the view of the entire village. After a while we reach Manang, where we freshen up and spend the night.
Day 07 – Acclimatisation in Manang
As we are reaching higher altitudes, we need to acclimatize to avoid the risk of altitude sickness. Manang is the perfect spot with its beautiful natural setting and a hike up to Khangsar in the afternoon for a short detour.
Day 08 – Trek to Yak Kharka (4120m)
Now that we are rested, we feel rejuvenated to continue on our trek. As we move past the tall trees towards the alpine grass and junipers, we reach meadows where a few horses and a number of yaks are grazing around. The serene environment with meadows and steep slopes of Yak Kharka is the perfect place for us to spend the night. We can also choose to walk for an hour to reach Letdar and spend the night there
Day 09 – Trek to Thorung Phedi (4.560m)
Trekking to Letdar helps getting acclimatized to the increasing altitude as we ascend along the east bank of Jarang Khola. In some time we reach a meadow surrounded by vertical cliffs, the Thorung Phedi. Sighting of blue sheep and snow leopards have been reported a few times in the area, whereas Lammergeyers and griffons are quite common. We spend the night here.
Day 10 – Over Thorung La (5.416m) to Muktinath (3.802m) – 8 hours
Today we will hike for about 7-8 hours. The trail is comparatively easier having been trodden for years, but could get difficult with strong winds in the upper regions. The trail is believed to have been used for hundreds of years to take sheep and yaks in and out of Manang along with other trading goods. We reach Thorung Phedi in about 6 hours. After we reach Thorung la pass, our hike will be rewarded with beautiful views of Annapurna, Gangapurna and a heavily glaciated peak of Khatungkang. When are a done with a descent of about 1600m, we view the glorious Dhaulagiri standing in the distance. After a while, the trail becomes less steep and enters grassy fields and meadows to finally reach Muktinath. In Hindu religion, Muktinath refers to a place of nirvana which houses a temple and a number of monasteries, making it a holy site for Hindus and Buddhists alike. The main attractions of the site are the Jwalamai temple with a spring and an eternal flame as well as the 108 water spouts that pour holy water. These are visited by thousands of pilgrims every year.
Day 11 – Trek to Jomsom (2750m) via Kagbeni.
From Muktinath, we follow a trail part of the Jomsom trek where we descend through meadows, streams and fruit trees to finally reach Kagbeni. We look around the old village and then moving downwards. From Kagbeni we reach Jomson, Kali Gandaki valley.
Day 12 – Drive to Tatopani (1190) – Hot Water Springs
The road from Marpha to Kalopani goes via a new trail past Chokhopani village which is a traditional Thakali village. The panoramic views of the Himalayas include Nilgiri, Dhaulagiri, Tukuche, Annapurna and many other snow-capped peaks. From here we cross a river and a newly constructed road that will make us finally reach Kalopani.
Day 13 – Trek to Ghorepani (2750m)
Today we move from Tatopani through villages of midland Nepal with terraced fields and inclined farmlands. As we hike and ascend we move past rhododendron, magnolia and other vegetation of the area. We finally reach Ghorepani as we witness the beautiful mountains in the evening sky. We rest in Ghorepani to make an early start pushing for Poonhill in the morning.
Day 14 – Ghorepani – Poonhill – Nayapul. Drive to Pokhara – 7 hours
We have an early morning ascent of Poonhill for the sunrise. This has to be the highlight of the trek as we make our trip to the vantage point early in the morning with sunrise. Once you see the snow-capped peaks highlighted in the changing golden rays of the sunrise, it will be one of the most unforgettable moments of your life. The peaks in the scenery include the Annapurna range and Dhaulagiri. Known as a photographer’s paradise, we can spend some time here taking breathtaking pictures of the spellbinding surroundings, capturing the spectacular moments in a frame. We then descend to Ghorepani for breakfast and then trek for 5 hours down to Nayapul. The first part of the trek down until Tikhedhunga is quite steep down hill. From there we move past terraced fields for a few hours to reach Nayapul. From there a short drive will finally take us to Pokhara.
Day 15 - Return drive to Kathmandu and transfer to hotel – 7 uur
After enjoying beautiful Pokhara and its natural and cultural beauty, we begin our drive towards Kathmandu. After about 6-7 hours, we finally reach Kathmandu. We can either rest or go discover the tourist attractions in the capital city.
Best Season for the Annapurna Circuit Trek
The Annapurna Region, along with the rest of Nepal has 4 distinct seasons. Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. The months from March to May and from October or November are the most popular for trekking at the Annapurna Massif. If you are thinking of doing the Annapurna Circuit in the wet season, know that this is possible. The Annapurna Circuit sits in a rain shadow, which allows for trekking during monsoon as well.
Spring (March to May)
Spring is the perfect season for the Annapurna Circuit Trek. It is your best chance to see rhododendron in full bloom and to spot the most beautiful birds. You can expect it to be quite busy on the trials.
Summer (June to August)
When talking trekking in Nepal, not many people would advise you to go trekking in summer, which is the time of monsoon. However, as the Annapurna Circuit finds itself in a rain shadow, it is perfectly suited for trekking during the wet season.
Autumn (September - November)
Autumn is by far the most popular trekking season in Nepal. Because of the little bit of rain that the Annapurnas received (it doesn’t get much), everything is vibrant and has come back to life. Teahouses book up quickly and it is generally very busy on the circuit.
Winter (December - February)
Winter is the trickiest season when it comes to trekking the Annapurna Circuit. Although teahouses remain open, it can happen that the wintery conditions cause the Thorung La Pass to close. This, however, doesn’t have to mean that you can’t do or complete the circuit. Just make sure to plan in a few days of margin. Else you might get late for work.
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Annapurna Circuit Map. Trekking the Annapurna Trail.
The following map by Nepal Eco Adventure of the 15-day Annapurna Circuit gives a good impression of which way to go.
Tips for the Annapurna Circuit Trail
At the Bookatrekking.com offices we know a lot about trekking in Nepal and about the Annapurna Cricuit. Our knowledge can’t beat the expertise of our local partners though. We spoke to Chhatra to ask him what we definitely shouldn’t miss when doing the Annapurna Circuit. “One of the absolute highlights are the Tatopani Hot Springs. The springs are situated at the border of Nepal and Tibet and it is here were trekkers get a chance to fully relax and recharge the batteries. Hot water, perhaps a nice drink. It is what makes the Annapurna Circuit special”, says Chhatra. Another highlight according to Chhatra is the cuisine in the area. “On the Annapurna Circuit you will meet the Gurung and the Thakali people. The Thakali are famous for they ways with food. Their cooking is very famous in Nepal. In Kathmandu you also have to go to a Thakali restaurant if you watn to taste the best food. In the Annapurna Himalaya you find yourself among the Thakali, so you can imagine how good the food is on the Annapurna Circuit.”
But there is more. “There definitely is,” agrees Chhatra. “People often forget that one of the highlights in the whole area is in fact Pokhara. After doing trekking in the Annapurna this is a great place to relax, get a massage and enjoy the lakes.”
How To Cross the Thorung La Pass
We also spoke to Chhatra about the famous Thorung La Pass. This pass is for many people an obstacle needs to be overcome. Chhatra, who has years of experience in the Nepali Himalaya, the Thorung La Pass is much more than just a challenge for trekkers. “You mustn’t forget that the Throung La Pass is a famous trading route. The trails is quite wide, not too technical and it is used for the movement of goods and supplies.” It is not hard to cross the pass and only in winter there are moments when the pass is closed. For trekkers this can mean that their Annapurna Circuit Trek gets delayed. “Sometimes you have to wait a day or two before you can continue your way. This is part of the excitement that comes with the Annapurna Circuit. It is just important that people have some days to spare after the trek, just in case”, explains Chhatra calmly.
How To Train for the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal
If you live anywhere else other than the Himalayas, it will be hard to get your legs ready for higher altitudes. After all, it doesn’t get much higher than Nepal. This is why we have to be clear upfront: Unless you have hiked at a higher altitude before, it will be difficult to get a 100% ready for your adventure. If that sounds bad to you, then comfort yourself with the fact that there is absolutely no need to be 100% ready.
You are not climbing K2 or Mount Everest and you are not running a mountain race. This is trekking. You are actually supposed to take it easy. Taking it easy is a rule of thumb when you want to prevent altitude sickness while out in Nepal. It doesn’t matter how fit you are, once you are out there on the trails, you have to stick to your own pace. But of course, the fitter you are, the more you can enjoy your days. Get fit!
Hike and Hike Even More
One solid approach to get the hang of what you do is to rehearse. The best practice for climbing is climbing. Seeing that you are keen on a multi-day trekking experience, we accept that you enjoy walking. Awesome, do it more. If you are fortunate to be encompassed by some hills or even mountains, the time has come to see them all the more frequently. When? In the event that you are new to this, we recommend beginning a half year before the start of your trek, essentially going for a 60 minutes (or two) hike every seven days.
When you get the hang of it, after around three weeks, you will have an ideal opportunity to reinforce your power. Convey a pack of 10 to 15kg and include a more drawn out climb of three hours to your week. On the off chance that this way of life is different to you, you will before long receive the rewards of this moderate exercise.
Some of the health benefits of trekking and hiking include a lower risk of heart disease, improved blood pressure and sugar levels and of course it helps to control your weight. Once you are ready for the hills, it only gets better. According to Gregory Miller, president of the American Hiking Society, ”a 5% to 10% incline equals a 30% to 40% increase in calorie burn.” Our personal health benefits are a clearer mind and an elevated mood. Trekking keeps us sane.
After a good few months of solid hiking, it is time to put your endurance to the test. Do back to back long hikes. You can simulate a few days of constant trekking by going hiking for a few days. Easy at that. Plan a smaller trekking holiday or keep it simple by hiking your favorite route on repeat. If you are comfortable hiking for 4 hours a day, 3 days in a row while carrying a 10kg to 15kg backpack, you will be fine.
One misconception about trekking is that the ascent is the hardest on your body. Wrong. Descending is actually very demanding. When you hike downhill, your quadriceps is being put to work. If you notice any overly sore muscles and weak spots in your quads while going out on hikes, it can be wise to add some strengthening exercises to the mix. If your quads and glutes are suffering, your knees and ankles might also take too much strain.
One way to get stronger is to do some basic exercises. You don’t need a gym membership, as merely using your bodyweight can already give you the results you are looking for. Once or twice a week, depending on how you are feeling, you can do two sets of 10 lunges, 10 squats, and 10 step ups. If you want to push yourself a bit more, you can try to add some pull ups and push up to your routine. Going the extra mile in your strengthening is, however, really not necessary. You can already enjoy trekking when you just stick to the basics. This is not a fitness competition.
Simulate Altitude Training
One sure way to up your training is to mimic elevation training. As we said before, unless you live at altitude, it is extremely hard to pretend you are in Nepal. This is not about your legs but about your lungs. If you can’t find mountains to hike on, you can always find plenty of stairs. That’s not the point, the point is to create a similar oxygen situation. The reason why your body is showing symptoms of altitude sickness (AMS) is that you are short on oxygen. If you want to know what it is like to hike in thin air, you can use an elevation mask.
An elevation mask is an elevation reproduction gadget that restrains your intake of oxygen. Usually utilized by endurance athletes who contend at a higher altitude. Likewise, hikers and trekker can also benefit from it. When you are going trekking in Nepal, there is definitely no compelling reason to go this far, yet in the event that it settles your stresses, you out it an attempt.
On the off chance that you are thinking about to roll out exceptional improvements in your way of life, always make sure to consult a medical professional first. Especially if you want to mimic altitude.
Your ultimate Annapurna Circuit Gear List.What to Pack for Trekking in Nepal.
Your gear is your best friend while being out in the mountains. It, in fact, doesn’t matter where you are going, your equipment is key. In extreme cases, gear can make the difference between life and death. In every case, the right equipment can make the difference between you having a good time and ending up miserable. You have booked your tickets, your guide in Pokhara is waiting and now you rock up with a too-heavy backpack, a jacket which is not thick enough and shoes that are very likely going to give you blisters. What a waste. Pack the right gear and make more of your Annapurna Circuit Trek. Before we start, note one important thing. This is trekking and not climbing. Hence, you can leave the ropes, the chalk and the carabiners in your closet.
Packs to Carry
If you have to carry something for a prolonged time and you choose what you carry, then don’t compromise. The bags that you bring on your trekking should be of decent quality and you want to be used to them. Don’t swap a winner backpack for a new untested one a week before you head out. Assuming you will have porters to assist you on your trek, you need the following:
- Duffel Bag
- Rucksack with Rain Cove
Your Feet Need Comfort
We don’t always give our feet the attention they deserve. That may sound weird to you, but just think about what they have all done for you. You can’t go anywhere without your feet. So for your upcoming trekking in Nepal, you better make sure you look after them. Or do you want blisters on the Circuit?
- Hiking Boots
- Sandals or Shoes
- Hiking Socks
- Trekking Poles
- Inner Socks
Dress for the Occasion
The trails in the Annapurnas can be a bit of a catwalk as some people like to sport the latest and most expensive outdoor fashion trends. You don’t have to go overboard. Find a healthy balance between comfortable and durable.
- Thermal Baselayer
- Fleece Pullover or Jacket
- Light Weight Thermal Tops
- Waterproof Jacket
- Sports Bra for Her
- Hiking Shorts
- Hiking Pants
- Waterproof Pants
Sleep Is Everything
A good night of sleep is the best recovery. Your wellness during trekking relies partly on the energy you are tanking in the night. Our partners for the Annapurna supply you with a comfortable down sleeping bag. If that saves you some crucial space when flying in to and out of Kathmandu. If you are on your own, take note of the following:
- Sleeping bag
There are multiple reasons for covering your head. Whether it’s sun, snow or rain: It is likely it strikes your head first. Protect yourself against sun rays and bring something that keeps you dry when it gets rough.
- Wool Hat
Your hands are just as important as your feet. They are likely to go cold first, so make sure you look after them. Bring something warm and durable. Your fingertips will thank you later.
- Fleece Gloves
- Heavyweight Waterproof Gloves
No one is the same and everyone has his own level of comfort. There will be things missing on this list, simply because you attach more value to them than others. Bring what you want to bring. The next things are definitely worth bringing:
- Water Bottles
- Head Lamp
- Wet Wipes
- Pain Medication
- First Aid Kit
Leave This in the Closet
There always things that you can just leave at home. Light and Fast: The lighter your backpack, the easier your life on the trails will be. Ease is a joy. Here is what you should not bring along.
- Unnecessary Electronics
- Classic Towel
- Revealing Clothing
One last thing: Whatever you pack, make sure you don’t overpack. Someone needs to carry all that stuff.
Annapurna Circuit Trek Cost
Whether you are interested in a 15-day or an 18-day Annapurna Circuit Trek, the cost of the trek sits around a 1000 EUR or 1100 USD per person. The shorter versions are almost the same price as the longer versions as you will be enjoying motorized transport on the tarred sections of the Annapurna Circuit. In terms of tipping, you can expect to pay about 10-20% of the total price of the trek to your guide and porter(s).
How To Find a Trekking Company. The best Annapurna Circuit Trekking Companies
There are several websites where you can book your Annapurna Circuit Trek. Important to consider is that the cheap providers are probably not very good for their staff. The income is relatively low in Nepal and some organizations like to make use of it.
At Bookatrekking.com we try to make a selection of providers who have everything in order, take good care of the staff and nature. However, they are obliged to indicate their lowest price on the internet. Here you will find all our offers for the Annapurna Circuit Trek.If you want to find out all you need to know about trekking in the Himalayas, don't forget to read our long-read article about Nepal trekking!
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