The Annapurna Circuit is considered to be one of the world’s best treks, and every year thousands of tourists come to Nepal to undertake the journey. But what’s so captivating about this 230 km route around the Annapurna peaks?
Well, everything. The views, the ever changing landscape, the people you meet, the prayer wheels… No wonder it’s on the bucket list of many travelers.
For all of those still debating if ACT is the right trek for them, and for those who already decided that it is- here are the answers for some of the most frequent questions about it. Questions that you have probably been asking yourself, or thinking about them when planning your trip. Let this be your basic guide to this incredible trek, and an invitation for an adventure.
How long is the trek?
The length of the trail depends on where you start and end your trek, therefore it can be anything between 160-230km. It can be done in as few as 10 days, or as many as 28 days, if doing side trips. Usually it takes either 10 or 14 days to do the shorter version, and 18-21 for the full route.
Some example routes:
- Besisahar to Nayapul (full route) – 18 to 21 days
- Besisahar to Birenthanti – approx. 17 days
- Besisahar to Tatopani (then bus and jeep to Pokhara) approx. 15 days
- Besisahar to Jomsom (then a flight or jeep to Pokhara) – approx. 13 days
- Jagat to Tatopani – approx. 12 days
- Chame to Jomsom- approx. 10 days
When is the best time to go?
The best weather for trekking in the Annapurna region is during autumn (September to November) and spring (March-May). The skies are clear then and you will get a chance to enjoy some outstanding views of the Annapurnas and Dhaulagiri peaks. Keep in mind that even though it is not monsoon season anymore it will be much warmer and humid in the lower regions (jungle) and you still may encounter an unexpected shower or two. It will also be much cooler above 3500m. Even though it’s not technically winter you will need warm clothes and a down jacket.
Is it difficult?
The Annapurna Circuit trek (ACT) is considered to be a moderate trek. It doesn’t involve technical climbing but it’s good to have some hiking experience. The trek will go through different terrain and the roads will change. You may encounter jeep roads that get muddy after a rainfall, rock steps, steep ascents and descents full of loose rocks, and creeks crossing the trail in the most unexpected places just to name a few. The higher you climb, the harder the trek will become due to the altitude, so take some rest when needed and remember to acclimatize properly (max. 400m in altitude per day).
Is there are risk of getting altitude sickness?
There is a risk since you will be hiking above 3000m. Different people react to altitude in different ways, no matter their fitness level or experience in the mountains. That’s why you should learn and understand what altitude sickness is and what the symptoms are beforehand. You can ask your local travel medicine specialist, search online or attend one of the lectures organized in Kathmandu. There’s also an option to attend the high altitude sickness lecture in Manang organized by the Himalayan Rescue Association.
What is the lodging like?
The ACT is a teahouse trek, which means there are guesthouses in almost every village. Some are better than others, but generally rooms are basic and come with shared bathrooms. Blankets are provided but it’s a good idea to bring your own sleeping bag as it gets chilly in the higher levels and there are no heating systems inside the buildings. Usually you will have to dine at your lodge in order to get a room. Some places may offer hot gas showers for an additional fee, so take advantage of that while you can because above Manang you won’t get the chance to shower at all until you reach Muktinath, on the other side of the pass.
How much money do I need?
2000 NPR (approx. US$20) per day should be fine for covering your room and three basic meals per day. If you want to splurge a bit more and buy some additional snickers bars, have a continental meal for dinner or drink heaps of hot chocolate, then think of spending up to 3000 NPR per day ($30).
- room for three – 350 NPR
- roll of toilet paper – 80 to 120 NPR
- oatmeal – 250 NPR
- Snickers bar – 150 to 350 NPR
- fried rice- 350 NPR
- dal bhat – 400-600 NPR (don’t forget about free refills on this one!)
- yak burger – 900 NPR
- hot chocolate- 150 NPR
Keep in mind that prices may get higher together with the altitude.
Where does the trek start and where does it end?
The original route starts in Besisahar and ends in Nayapul. Even though this is the longest option, it allows you to acclimatize properly and enjoy plenty of different landscapes and climate zones. That’s why the ACT is considered to be one of the most beautiful treks in the world.
For those having less time there are other options. You can take a jeep all the way up to Chame, skipping part of the trek. After the pass there’s the option of flying from Jomsom, or taking combined jeep and bus rides to Pokhara.
Do I need any permits?
Yes. You will need the Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP) and Trekker’s Information Management System Card (TIMS card), which are $20 each for individual trekkers. Both can be obtained at the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) in Kathmandu. You will need your passport and passport sized pictures with you as well (but if you don’t have pictures there’s a possibility of taking them at NTB).
Should I hire a guide/porter?
The ACT can be done without a guide or porter, however it’s good to know your options. Having a guide may be useful if you are completely new to trekking or if you are traveling just by yourself. Porters can literally ease the burden by carrying your stuff during the trek. You should definitely consider hiring one if you have an existing medical condition (back problems, bad knees etc.)
Is there Wi-Fi on the trek?
Most guesthouses will offer Wi-Fi, either for free or for a small charge. However, since you will be in the mountains the Wi-Fi might not be working on any given day for many reasons, so don’t rely on it. And anyway, being offline for awhile can be surprisingly beneficial!
Article by Daga Gątkiewicz.
Top image: Andrey Samsonov.
Want to learn more about this area? Have a look at Inside Himalayas:
Lower Mustang, A Land of Lamas and Buddhism
Mountain Biking Around Lower Mustang
9 Reasons to Travel to Lower Mustang This Season
Upper Mustang: Travel to the Hidden Kingdom
Exploring Lo Manthang, Capital of Upper Mustang
Ice Climbing and Winter Adventures in the Annapurnas
Alone But Never Lonely: The Annapurna Circuit in Winter
Feeling inspired? If you would like to visit this area, here are some of the treks Royal Mountain Travel can offer:
Mountain biking!! that must be an awesome experience. Someday I will be there.
YAK BURGER got me like “i wanna go there right now”, literally. One day I will do this circuit for sure. Thanks for the insight.