Annapurna Circuit - Nepal
This trek is achievable for most fit hill walkers and follows ancient paths that have long been used to facilitate the flow of trade between Nepal and Tibet. It is a sociable and fun holiday, not too demanding, and nights are spent in comfortable lodges where the food is fresh and of good quality. It's a circular trek, going up one valley and over a high pass to descend a different valley.
You don't need to be a super hiker for this trip, but by the end you will be feeling very mountain fit, suntanned and filled with positivity! Some of the views are really great, you can see the whole horizon filled with mountains from one end to the other. It's also very safe, and it's fair to say that this is a busy trek in the high season so you will meet many people. If you are looking for solitude then maybe think of a trek which is less frequented like the Manaslu Circuit or Kanchenjunga Circuit. Do call us if you want a chat about which trek is best suited to your needs and abilities.
Nowadays there is a road running up one of the valleys which makes it possible to do this trek in 11 days. We actually prefer to offer the whole trek, but feel free to contact us if you would like to go on the shorter trek and take a jeep out.
We generally have groups of up to ten, and you will be led by Sherpa guides who work for our own regional company called Adventure Alternative Nepal. The groups meet up in Kathmandu where we have a guesthouse if you wish to use it, or we can book one of the many hotels in the capital. From there it's a flight to Pokhara and a drive to the start of the trek. Rooms are normally twins in the lodges, but no problem if you want a single.
Our groups come from all over the world but we are a UK based company so our biggest demographic comes from there and Ireland. Age ranges are wide! From 20s to 70s, and all sorts of people who enjoy hiking and mountains. Nowadays we find people go trekking to get fit, lose weight, get away from it all, find themselves and make new friends.
This 300 kilometre circuit is a challenging but rewarding trek, walked in a counter clockwise direction along the Marsyangdi Valley climaxing at an altitude of 5416m on the Thorung La Pass. With spectacular deep valleys and magnificent mountains, it is among the most popular treks in Nepal.
As the name suggests, the trail encircles Mount Annapurna (8091m) providing a scenery and cultural diversity of people and land, from passing through charming villages, home to the Gurung people and trekking through subtropical jungle to a high, dry terrain resembling the Tibetan landscape.
Since 1996, we have been running many treks to Nepal and this breathtaking circuit of the Annapurna Region is a favourite. The average group size is 10 and you will have experienced Sherpa guides and an excellent team of porters who will assist you throughout your trek. Accommodation is in lodges which will provide a wide range of western and Nepalese food. Our programme allows you to choose freely from an a la carte menu.
The facilities for visitors are of a high standard, as is the food. We generally offer tea house treks with overnight accommodation in comfortable lodges, but we can also provide tented trips so you can concentrate on immersing yourself in a slow and easy daily routine, with only the elements, the mountains and the quiet character of the people to accompany you.
From your first enquiry you will have experienced people to talk to in the UK office who will give you an honest appraisal of the Trek. This personal service and warm welcome will also await you in Kathmandu where Pasang Tendi Sherpa from Khari Khola, runs AA Nepal. He has made nine expeditions to Mt Everest and also guides on Aconcagua. He speaks excellent English and will be on hand all the time. He understands that this is more than trekking holiday; this is often a spiritual experience.
We run our Annapurna treks from a permanently staffed office in Kathmandu and our dedicated team provide an excellent service. As well as Pasang Tendi, our other guides include Geljun Sherpa from Bupsa, Chiring Sherpa and Lopsang Sherpa.
All of the guides have been employed for over ten years with us, and they have been trained to our high standards personally by Director and high altitude climber Gavin Bate, who has climbed Everest 5 times. They know how to deal with medical emergencies and speak good English. They are very attentive and after so many years have a good understanding of western needs.
We give the full recommended wage and are a Responsible Partner for the International Mountain Explorers Connection. We provide clothing, food and tents for all of our staff and have proven policies for payment and tipping. This means that you are not hassled by people looking for handouts at the end of the trip, and the staff themselves are happier.
Read about Pasang Sherpa's (Adventure Alternative Nepal Director & Moving Mountains Nepal Vice-Chairman) involvement with the 2014 Rescue Mission to the Annapurna Range here.
Activities and Highlights
The views! This is a great trek to get up close with the great peaks of the world, and there's nothing quite like having your breakfast pancake with a cup of Sherpa tea looking straight at Annapurna.
The sociability of the trek means that you've got all day to just walk and talk or just think. You wake up with the sun, go to bed when it gets dark, and feel healthy all day - it's really an adjustment from the mad hectic lives we lead to something more inbuilt in us as humans. You eat what you need to eat, enough for the days exercise, and over the weeks start to slow down and enjoy the moment.
Dates and Itinerary
The following information shows our general itinerary for open groups. However, with our own staff and resources in Nepal, we are able to adapt dates and itineraries to suit the requirements of small groups. For example, it is possible to a slightly shorter itinerary by flying from Jonsom to Pokhara and missing out some of the later portion of the general itinerary.
If you have a small (or larger) group of individuals who would like to alter the itinerary then please do get in touch to discuss options.
|5th April - 26th April|
|20th September - 11th October|
|1||Arrive Kathmandu [Itinerary Starts]|
|2||Rest & Briefing in Kathmandu|
|3||Kathmandu - Ngadi (drive)|
|4||Ngadi - Jagat|
|5||Jagat - Dharapani|
|6||Dharapani - Chame|
|7||Chame - Pisang|
|8||Pisang - Manang|
|9||Rest day in Manang|
|10||Manang - Yak Kharka|
|11||Yak Kharka - Thorung Phedi|
|12||Thorung Phedi - Thorung La - Muktinath|
|13||Muktinath - Marpha|
|14||Marpha - Kalopani|
|15||Kalopani - Tatopani|
|16||Tatopani - Sikha|
|17||Sikha - Gorepani|
|18||Gorepani - Poon Hill - Tadapani|
|19||Tadapani - Ghandruk|
|20||Ghandruk - Nayapul - Pokhara|
|21||Pokhara - Kathmandu (fly)|
|22||Kathmandu [Itinerary Ends]|
The main itinerary ends on day 22 after breakfast in Kathmandu and on the vast majority of occasions we are back in Kathmandu on day 21 with no problems. However, there are sometimes delays with the internal flights from Pokhara to Kathmandu. Therefore we recommend that you do not book international flights home that leave any earlier than the evening of day 22. This allows the possibility of making the internal flight (or drive if required) back to Kathmandu on day 22 if necessary. You can also arrange to stay an extra night in Kathmandu on the night of day 22 and fly out the following day. We can help you by helping to book the extra night's accommodation.
Please note: Due to the nature of trekking in the mountains and adventure travel, the itineraries here may need to be adapted on the ground to suit prevailing conditions of the mountains, weather and the group.
|1||1400m||Arrive in Kathmandu and transfer to Hotel or Adventure Alternative guesthouse.|
|2||1400m||Rest day and acclimatisation to jetlag. There is also the possibilty of Kathmandu city sightseeing. Trek briefing will follow.|
|3||840m||2 hours walking||Drive from Kathmandu for around 6 hours to Besi sahar (800m). Lunch will be had on the way to Besi Sahar and you will arrive in the late afternoon. Again we take a local jeep or bus to Bulbule, with the possibility of using our own reserve tourist vehicle. Here you enter into the Annapurna Conservation where your guide will register you at the ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Project) checkpoint. This journey is followed by a 2 hour trek to Ngadi.|
|4||1270m||5 hours walking||Breakfast in the lodge and ready for a steep morning climb through villages and green trees to Bahundanda (1270m), where you will have great views of the surrounding Himalayan peaks. It will take 2 to 3 hours to reach this point, walking slowly. From Bahundanda the trail drops steeply to Lili Bhir and then follows an uncovered trail to Ghermu (1140m), with its wonderful views of the tall waterfall across the river. A further descend across the Marsyangdi River on a suspension bridge will bring you to Syange (1080m) to have lunch. The trail then climbs a steep 150m and crosses a cliff face to the stone village of Jagat, balanced on the edge of a steep sided valley, where you will stop for the evening.|
|5||1960m||5 hours walking||Jagat to Dharapani. The rocky trail descends before climbing through forest to Chamje (1410m). Again you will cross the Marsyangdi Khola, and along the valley with a steady uphill climb to Tal (1700m), which was previously a lakebed and the first village in the Manang district. This will take around 4hours. After lunch the walk continues through the valley, then up a stone stairway before descending to another crossing of the Marsyangdi river, past Karte to Dharapani where you will rest for the night.|
|6||2710m||6 hours walking||Dharapani to Chame. In the morning the trail climbs steeply for around 3hours, gaining 500m to Timang village where you will take rest and have lunch. After lunch it takes another 3hours of walking on flat terrain through forests of pine and fir to reach Chame. There are excellent views of Annapurna II as you approach Chame. Chame is the headquarters of the Manang district and here you will see many lodges and have time to explore the village to use internet cafes, the bank and shop for local souvenirs and trekking gear.|
|7||3310m||5 hours walking||Chame to Pisang. Today is a relatively easy day. The trail is mainly flat and runs through deep forest in a narrow valley and recrosses to the south bank of the Marsyangdi River at 3080m. Lunch will be had in the popular spot of Dhukur Pokhari, where you will have a great first view of the Paungda Danda rock face. After lunch there is a steady, gradual climb for one hour to Pisang, where you rest overnight. From Pisang you will have stunning views of many magnificent peaks, including; Pisang Peak (6091m), Chulu West (6419m), Chulu East (6584m), Lamjung Himal (6986m), Annapurna II (7937m) and Annapurna IV (7525m).|
|8||3540m||4 ½ hours||Pisang to Manang. The walk today goes through the drier upper part of the Manang district through pine forests. There are two routes to Manang, we take the southern route via the airstrip at Hongde (3420m) and continue to Mungji (3500m) and past the extraordinary village of Bragha Gompa to Manang where there are plenty of shops, a museum and an HRA post which you can visit for their daily lecture on altitude sickness. There are stunning views of Gangapurna (7454m) from Manang village.|
|9||4600m||Rest day in Manang. Spend a day relaxing and acclimatizing with a day hike to the Ice Lake, high above the valley floor at 4600m.|
|10||4020m||4 hours walking||Manang to Yak Kharka. From Manang we have an ascent in the morning of almost 2000m towards the Thorung La and climb steadily, leaving the Marsyangdi Valley. Vegetation becomes sparse as we reach Yak Kharkha. We arrive in Yak Kharkha in time for lunch, and spend the rest of the evening here.|
|11||4540m||4 hours walking||Yak Kharka to Thorung Phedi. Today is a short walk and you will reach Thorung Phedi in the afternoon for lunch and spend the rest of the evening relaxing. The trail crosses the river at 4310m and climbs up through deserted scenery toward Thorung La. It is important to walk slowly and listen to your body. Fatigue from lack of oxygen to your muscles is common, but some people may feel nauseous and suffer from headaches. Drink lots of liquid and keep warm, give your body maximum opportunity to recover.|
|12||4516m||8 hours walking||Thorung Phedi to Muktinath. The day is long, but the efforts are worth it for the view from the top of Thorung La (5416m). We start early at 3am, have a quick breakfast then climb steeply for 5 hours to reach Thorung La at around 8 or 9am. The trail is well used and easy to follow, drink plenty of water and take your time. The pass is marked by chortens and prayer flags and there is even a tea shop along the way. The view of the Annapurnas, along the Great Barrier to Kali Gandaki Valley is astounding. From the pass there is a steady and sometimes slippery descent to Muktinath and you’re trekking poles will be helpful. The walk down from the pass takes 3 ½ hours. Take time in Muktinath to observe the Tibetan traders and the shrines, in a grove of trees. They include a Buddhist gompa, a Vishnu temple and the Jwalami (Goddess of Fire) Temple. This temple protects a spring and natural gas jets that provide Muktinaths famous eternal flame.|
|13||2680m||4 hours walking||Muktinath to Marpha. An easy day, descending through desert-like land into the Tibetan-influenced village of Kagbeni (2840m). From Kagbeni to Jomsom (2760m) the trail is dusty and rocky, but fairly flat. Jomsom is like the “city centre” of the region and the first of the Thakali villages of the Kali Gandaki River. It is worth taking some time to visit the hospital and visitor centre here. Continuing south will lead you to the stone village of Marpha, which has a gompa and small shrines. You will stop here for the evening.|
|14||2480m||6 hours walking||Marpha to Kalopani. The walk is flat for around 4hours to Larjung. The trail leads you around Chhairo Gompa to Chimang village, which provides wonderful views of Dhaulagiri (8167m), the world’s sixth largest mountain. The walk continues through Khobang and Larjung, the base for an expedition up the Dhaulagiri Icefall, offering a good view of Nilgiri North (7061m) and leads you into Kalopani.|
|15||1190m||6 hours walking||Kalopani to Tatopani. The trail takes you through Ghasa, the last Thakali village in the valley, and then branches down the east side of the narrowing gorge for a couple of hours. The trail rejoins at Rupse Chhahara (1560m) where you will have lunch alongside the Rupse waterfall. After lunch it is a short walk to Tatopani, known for its hot springs.|
|16||1930m||4 hours walking||Tatopani to Sikha. An uphill walk through a forest of rhododendrons and Ghara village, which is surrounded by stoned walls and farming land where they grow wheat, potatoes and other vegetables for the local people. Lunch will be had in Ghara, where there is great view of Dhaulagiri (8167m). After lunch, the trail leads steadily uphill on rocky ground and uncovered surroundings to Sikha for around one hour.|
|17||2853m||3 ½ hours walking||Sikha to Gorepani. A short walk, mainly uphill through Sikha village to Gorepani. You will arrive in the afternoon for lunch and relax here for the night, and prepare for the trek to Poon Hill in the early morning.|
|18||3210m||6 hours walking||Gorepani to Tadapani. Early morning climb for around 1 – 2 hours to Poon Hill (3210m) to see the sunrise over the Himalayas, including the Doulagiri and Annapurna Range. Back at the lodge for breakfast and a walk descending for 4 – 5 hours to Tadapani.|
|19||1940m||4 hours walking||Tadapani to Ghandruk. The trail leads downhill through a pine forest for 4hours, until you reach Ghandruk. On the walk you will have beautiful views of the Himalayan range.|
|20||840m||5 hours walking||Ghandruk to Nayapul & Pokhara. An easy descent of 700m for 5hours to Nayapul. Drive from Nayapul for one hour to Pokhara where you’ll stay overnight, ready to depart on an early flight to Kathmandu the next morning.|
|21||1400m||Pokhara flight to arrive in Kathmandu in the morning. The remainder of the day can be spent resting and/or sightseeing.|
|22||1400m||Itinerary ends after breakfast. You can depart Kathmandu later this day, but see note above about possible internal flight delays.|
Annapurna Circuit cost: £1,295.00
- Airport Transfers
- Internal flight from Pokhara
- Accommodation in Kathmandu for 3 nights – twin/double rooms
- Accommodation in lodges/ tea houses (twin rooms with beds/ mattresses)
- Three meals per day during the trek, and hot drinks (e.g. tea/coffees/juices)
- Annapurna Conservation ACAP permit fees , TIMS Permit
- Sherpa guides (English speaking, trained in first aid)
- Porters (1 per group member, carries about 15kgs)
- Staff food, insurance and equipment
- International flight to Kathmandu (~£600.00)
- Meals and drinks in Kathmandu (~£40)
- Personal costs like drinks, laundry, hot showers, bottled water (~£100)
- Trip Insurance
- Visa ($30 for two weeks)
- Airport departure tax for some tickets (£15 paid in Nepalese rupees)
- Tips (~£30)
- Sightseeing Tours
Cost of Add-Ons and Some Optional Extras
Spa hotel in Kathmandu: £60.00
Located just outside of Kathmandu is the lovely Spa Resort, Park Village. We can arrange transfers and accommodation at the resort for you. People can then select and 'pay as you go' for the various pamperings and treatments. They also offer classes in yoga and have lovely trail walks in the surrounding hills. This option is all about rest, relaxation and rejuvenation.
Chitwan National Park: £350.00
A three day trip with river rafting included. Travel out of the city, clamber on board the raft and float down to Chitwan, stay in a lovely hotel and in the morning ride an elephant through the jungle. Great way to end your trekking holiday, let the elephant do the walking!
Everest Summit View flight : £150.00
Take a plane from Kathmandu and fly over the top of Everest, circling the world's highest peak.
Moving Mountains Village Trek: £350.00
This is a wonderful 7 days trek extension which starts when you approach Lukla on the way back from Everest. Two days further and off the beaten trail is two villages which our charity had been developing over the last decade. You are welcome to come and see what we've been doing and get involved. This is beautiful trip, like stepping back in time and will introduce to the traditional ways and cultures of the local people.
Not all about money
Our prices are competitive and good value, and we offer quality, service, security and an ethical stance on tourism in a developing country. We don’t want to be so expensive to run fewer trips and have our staff idle, but on the other hand we believe that running cheap trips that promote the practise of skimming budgets would result in the porters getting next to nothing, which is something we cannot consider.
Additionally we plan treks with sufficient rest days and with achievable daily altitude increases which gives good time to acclimatise. Reducing the number of days may make the price cheaper but the chances of successfully completing the trek also greatly reduce.
We include professional staff and a porter for each member. We do not operate kitties and we use an excellent hotel in Kathmandu with which we have built up a strong relationship over the years.
We have our own licensed company in Kathmandu, Adventure Alternative Nepal and full time staff to operate all our treks, climbs and tours in Nepal.
You must have an insurance policy which covers trekking at high altitude and helicopter rescue in the event of an evacuation.
Doing a trek for seventeen days straight inevitably is tiring and it's certainly a benefit to be fit, but don't forget that during the trek you are exercising every day and you will end up wonderfully mountain fit and weather beaten! So do train beforehand, do lots of walking with a day sack, but don't overdo it. It's not a marathon, but there are lots of hills to go up and down! The high pass is quite challenging too. Work on your thigh muscles, calf muscles and shoulders for carrying the bag (it's only about 5kg but it feels like 10 when you've been walking uphill in the sun). The days aren't too long, the path is fine, and the porters help a lot, but the enjoyment of this trip will be much more if you have worked on your fitness before the holiday. For those people who want to lose a bit of weight, this trip will be perfect. Come back toned, healthy, detoxed and several kilos lighter!
Type of Terrain
The Annapurna Circuit is a well trodden path all the way though this can be rocky and uneven in parts. It is not precipitous and there is no rock climbing or ‘mountaineering’ which requires equipment. It is a walk all the way, although some of the hills can be steep and never-ending!
You will meet many people along the way, and also yaks. There is only one rule of the road when meeting an oncoming yak, and that is to always ensure you step to one side, towards the inside of the trail, to avoid the cliff edge on the other side!
Poles are useful but not necessary, depending on whether you have problems with knees and if you have a personal preference for using them. Higher up, the open slopes and moraine may give you added reassurance with a pole, but again the path is quite easy to follow.
The highest point of the trek to Thorung La Pass (5416m) climbs steeply, and at times the pass can be slippery so care must be taken. But the path is well used and the ascent is not overly difficult.
Lightweight hiking boots with a high ankle are recommended for the trek, to protect you against possibly going over on an ankle, heavy boots will be hot and heavy and cumbersome. Cross trainers are popular, but cold in the morning up high.
The total distance covered throughout an Annapurna Circuit trek is approximately 300km. Every day the trek starts after breakfast at about 8.30am (except for the early morning treks to Thorung La Pass and Poon Hill) and there are many opportunities to stop and take photos, or have a cup of tea. The pace is slow and the itinerary allows for acclimatisation and also rest days.
Kathmandu is at an approximate altitude of 1400m and the drive to Besi Sahar will take you down to a height of 800m. With Thorung La pass standing at 5416m, the Annapurna Circuit trek gains a total of 4616 metres from Besi Sahar and 4016 metres from Kathmandu.
Accommodation will be in comfortable lodges and tea houses run by local families, unless people specify a preference for tents. Each lodge has a central communal area with stove, while the bedrooms are unheated with two beds and mattresses and pillows. You will need to bring a sleeping bag (3 season is normally enough), and the lodge will lend you a blanket if you ask.
The lodges generally have showers which are powered by gas and they use the infamous ‘drop’ toilets (some lodges use a flush system now). Sometimes we use tents which are two person mountain tents, and we will provide foam mattresses. The tents are pitched close by the lodge and eating is done indoors.
The trek is not a forced march and the pace is always slow, the days generally being shorter than a day hike at home.
We do recommend that you embark on a good fitness programme at least 6 weeks prior to your trip though, and one that builds up general stamina and specific leg muscle groups. There is nothing like hiking with a rucksack to train for a trek in the Himalayas, so the best advice is to get out into the hills as often as you can. You are likely to carry about 5 kilos in your day sack so this is a good weight to work with.
If you are going to be using the gym then concentrate on step machines which work on the thigh and calf muscles, and try to build your heart rate up to 50% above resting rate. Any cardiovascular activity is good, but remember that swimming will not train the correct muscle groups so it must be added to other exercises to be effective. Exercise groups like bodypump, Pilates and aerobic are all excellent preparation for a trek like this, especially those which work on core strength, balance and stability.
Adventure Alternative Support
The porters will carry your main bag up to a maximum weight of 15 kgs and cater for all the group needs, including assisting you if you need to go back down the valley. Unless specifically tenting, all accommodation is in lodges or teahouses which are very well equipped, warm and sociable.
Pasang Tendi Sherpa is our operations manager in Kathmandu and Director of Adventure Alternative Nepal. He organises all the staff, equipment, permits and hotel arrangements. You will have his telephone number, or the staff at the hotel desk can call him for you. He is the organiser, translator, problem solver, advisor and the main link between you and the UK office. He will talk to the Sherpa guides regularly on the mountain and can make arrangements while you are on trek.
You also have continued support from the main office in Northern Ireland. Should a problem arise of significant proportion then you only need to call us, there is still an opportunity to communicate since most lodges now have satellite phones.
- The basic idea of the kit we will take is to keep you warm, dry, protected from the sun, able to move efficiently on the mountains and able to be comfortable in the evenings and night.
- There is a detailed list via the menu below and to the right but the main points to cover are as follows:-
- BAGS - Large Duffle bag/Rucksack ~80L (for a porter to carry) + Medium Daypack ~40L (carried by you)
- SHELL - Top and bottoms to keep off wind/rain
- INSULATION - Warm layered system to keep you warm- body hands & Head
- BASELAYER - Thin layers to wick away sweat and to strip down to when it gets hot
- FEET - Comfortable, Waterproof boots to support your ankles over rough terrain. Lighter footwaer to change into in the evenings.
- SLEEPING - Warm sleeping bag to get a good nights sleep at the lodges
- EATING/DRINKING - Water bottles & favorite snacks for during the day
- WASHING & MEDICAL - To allow you to wash and maybe stave off a headache or blister
Additional Kit Info
Luggage Allowance on Internal Flights
Please note that standard luggage limits on internal flights are 10kg in the hold and 5kg as hand luggage. You can pay for extra luggage allowance at 120rupees(~0.75GBP)/kg. However, note that the amount that the plane can carry also has a limit! You can of course wear your trekking boots and jacket to help cut down on the weight of your bag. You will also have left any city clothes or extra travel kit in Kathmandu.
Kathmandu has an area called Thamel which is full of hundreds of equipment shops, each one an emporium of new, used, quality and fake equipment all very reasonably priced for rental and buying. You can buy almost anything needed for any trek.
- All our guides are personally trained by Gavin Bate, Company Director and high altitude climber who has made 6 expeditions to Mount Everest.
- We offer small scale, authentic adventures, which support the local economy.
- We do not contract out our trips, we employ full time staff, offering job security and good benefits, and we are continually improving our quality service year on year.
- All the staff in our UK office have been to Nepal so you can chat to people who understand what it’s like to go out for the first time, before you go.
- We are passionate about responsible tourism and our company supports sustainable development in Nepal in a real way. (include award logo).
- Adventure Alternative underwrites the charity Moving Mountains.
- Financial security guaranteed.