Nepal is known to be one of the world’s best-hiking destinations. Not only do you have access to the mighty Himalayas, but also to numberless other peaks, routes, and surprising hiking trails. Even the popular regions of Everest and Annapurna feature so many options that you don’t know what you choose unless you’ve done a thorough research.
The Ghorepani Trek and the Annapurna Base Camp Trek are perhaps the two most popular treks near Pokhara in the Annapurna Conservation Area. However, while both treks are enjoyable, they differ in some key ways. So how do you decide which route fits you better? In that case, it’s helpful to compare the two treks based on the difference in route, altitude, and the minimum time frame needed for each trek.
The Ghorepani Trek is also called the Poon Hill Trek or the Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek, as hiking to Poon Hill at sunrise is one of its highlights. The trek starts in Nayapul (45 km from Pokhara, a one hour drive). Then, it follows a clockwise circuit going up through the villages of Birethanti, Ulleri, and Ghorepani (hence the name of the trek). On the second day, you can hike to the top of Poon Hill (hence the second name of the trek), where you can admire the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Ranges. From Ghorepani village follows a succession of steep ups and downs passes through other traditional villages, such as Tadapani, Ghandruk, and Syauli Bajar. Finally, the trek ends back in Nayapul.
On the contrary, Annapurna Base Camp Trek starts in Syauli Bajar (the ending point of Ghorepani Trek). Then, it goes up along the Modi Khola Valley via traditional villages such as Ghandruk, Chinu (Jhinundanda), Chomrong, Bamboo, Doban, and Deurali. After that, the route climbs further to Machhapuchare Base Camp and finally to Annapurna Base Camp. You must return on the same road from Annapurna BC to Chhomrong village on your way back. From there, you can backtrack to Syauli Bajar. Or you can trek via the villages on the eastern side of the Modi Khola Valley – such as Landruk, Dhampus, and Phedi, extending the trek by a couple more days.
A trekking circuit or a backtracking route?
One of the main differences between Ghorepani Trek and Annapurna BC Trek is the configuration of the route. Ghorepani Trek is a circuit, usually trekked clockwise. So you will see different places daily, with expansive views of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Ranges from Poon Hill and Upper Ghorepani village. The only section you backtrack is from Birethanti to Nayapul, and is less than three kilometers. Still, this section can be avoided if you take a jeep back from Syauli Bajar directly to Pokhara.
The Annapurna BC Trek usually follows the same route on the way up and back down. This means you only go up when you go to the base camps, and when you return, you only go down. You will also see the same places as you go up and back. Also, you’ll be limited to the views of the Modi Khola Valley and the villages alongside it. Nonetheless, once you get to the high-altitude base camps, you will be right in the middle of the Himalayas, where you will be surrounded by amazing snow-capped peaks (something you won’t experience on Ghorepani Trek). On the return, you can bring a bit of variety to the standard backtracking trail if you choose to trek through the various traditional villages back to Pokhara.
A couple of days versus a week or even more
The Ghorepani Trek usually takes four to five days for someone of an average physical condition. If you want a short trek to see how it feels to trek in the Himalayas, this is a good choice. If you want a longer trek, the Annapurna BC Trek takes seven to eight days, and you need to reserve more time for it.
If you can afford even more time, a combo option between the two treks would give you the best of both worlds. Start in Nayapul and go clockwise along the Ghorepani Trek to Ghandruk. From there, head to Chomrong and the Annapurna BC. Once you backtrack from the base camp to Chomrong, choose to return to Pokhara through traditional villages.
Depending on your physical condition, this combo-extended version between the two treks might take between ten days to two weeks. Still, it’s all worth the effort if you have enough time. And you don’t need to pick favourites either. You get to cover both treks in the extended version and see the best from both routes.
Lower altitude villages or higher altitude mountains
If you haven’t trekked at higher altitudes and don’t know how your body reacts, keep in mind that over 3000 meters, your body might start to face altitude sickness. Though Poon Hill is at 3193 meters high, it is just short one-hour push, and then you are back at the average altitude of Ghorepani Trek, which goes around 2500 meters. You won’t encounter any higher altitudes than that on Ghorepani Trek.
Annapurna BC lies at 4130 meters high, though. It might be tempting to climb up there quickly, but make sure not to rush and take time to acclimatize in the lower villages along the trek. If you know you have had altitude sickness before, consider going as slow as possible and only if you feel good, without risking your health. This is another reason the combo version between Ghorepani Trek and Annapurna BC Trek is a good choice. You have enough time for acclimatization and don’t take as many risks while climbing to higher camps.
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