Everest might be the towering peak of all and garners most of the trekkers and mountaineers, but the glory of being the most delightful one goes to the Annapurna Circuit trek. Often cited as one of the best long-distance treks in the world, Annapurna Circuit upholds every bit of its praise.
Located in the region of Annapurna massif that has one peak over 8,000 meters, thirteen peaks over 7,000 meters and sixteen more peaks over 6,000 meters, you can just imagine how awe-inspiring Annapurna Circuit trek is. Keeping aside the talk of a staggering range of Himalayas, the trek also lets you divulge in aesthetics of Nepali life and culture as you will witness Hindu settlements in the lower region and Tibetan-influenced culture as you upscale.
The trek is vast and long, yet, the constant surprise of variations in climate, topography, culture, and people will keep you intrigued. What’s more surprising is the geographical feature; there are two different river valleys you will cross, and there is Thorong La pass at 5,416 meters, which is even higher than Everest Base Camp.
There is more of Annapurna Circuit than the admiration by past trekkers and if you are counting days on embarking too, here are few things for your interest and information.
Why is Annapurna Circuit the best?
The Mountain View is exquisite
When you are trekking in Nepal, the one main thing that attracts you are the Himalayas. You will already experience what’s it like to have those tall peaks right in front of you, and the mountain scenery of Annapurna I-IV, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu, Tilicho Peak, Machhapuchhre, Gangapurna, Pisang Peak, Paungda Danda and numerous other of around 6,000 meters will leave you captivated.
High Altitude Settlements
As the trek proceeds, you will enter in the higher region where the climate is extreme, and life is definitely not easy. You will encounter remote valleys where the lifestyle is traditional; catering to trekkers, agriculture and yak herding is the way of their life. Manang is an exemplary valley you will come across that has glaciers and lakes, centuries-old monasteries and caves and rejuvenating Gurung culture.
Annapurna Circuit is the classic trek with off-the-beaten-path trails leading to quaint settlements which are living far from modern development. You can take a small detour of the regular itinerary that leads to the villages of Naar and Phu, which was restricted up until 2002 and only a few trekkers have made their way to this village. The detour will give you a good taste of off-the-beaten trails that has many unexplored areas surrounded by stunning peaks.
In Annapurna Circuit, you will walk past many things that will leave you amazed. There is Thorong La pass, the highest point of the trek, Kali Gandaki gorge, the deepest in the world between Annapurna I and Dhaulagiri, the desert-like valley of Kali Gandaki, natural hot spring bath at Tatopani and there is a whole lot of greenery too.
Plan your Annapurna Circuit Trek with this information
Best Time to go
It will be best to embark in Autum (September-November) and Spring (March-April). For the rest of the month, they aren’t best enough, espeically May is hot with scorching sun and monsoon bring rainfall and strom making the trail more than challenging, although upper section receives relatively less rain fall.
Permits you need
You must have TIMS card, and the next is Annapurna Conservation Area Permit, which can be obtained from Kathmandu, Tridevi Marg.
Danger of Altitude Sickness
Altitude Sickness is one of the few things you must not take lightly while trekking. Once you get over 2,500 meters, your body becomes more vulnerable to altitude sickness. Taking enough rests, drinking plenty of water, keeping a slow pace, eating a lot helps to cope with altitude sickness and you can take medicines as well. Annapurna Circuit goes over 5,000 meters which is very high, so almost everyone goes through mild symptoms like headaches or difficulty in sleeping.
Annapurna Circuit Cost
If you trek independently, then it can cost $700-$1000 per person, but you will have to take care of everything by yourself.
If you choose a local tour operator, it costs between $1200-$3000, which comes with the benefit of porters, permits, and accommodation. While western operators charges between $1500-$4000.
Annapurna Circuit is the longest trek that takes you towards extreme altitude region. So, it can be quite a challenge for beginners without prior training and experience.
Is Annapurna Circuit Solo trek possible?
Yes, it is very very possible. The trek difficulty is moderate and with proper fitness and exercising prior 4-5 weeks of trek, you can conquer Annapurna Circuit on you own.
During the first 2-3 days, it will be tougher, but as you move on, you will get used to walking carrying a backpack. Nepali are one of the most friendly people in the world and they will welcome you in every situation, so even if you are alone, you won’t feel lonely. Well, if you have enthusiasm and energy for Annapurna Circuit, then go for it.
What are the best side-treks in Annapurna Circuit?
It is the most popular side journey that most of the trekkers choose to embark on. Located at an altitude of 4,919 meters, Tilicho is a stunning lake amid mountains. We follow the same route up to Manang; the comes our detour to Siri Kharka and towards the lake. After exploring Tilicho, we move back to Siri Kharka and join the usual route form Yak Kharka.
Naar-Pho Valley is the remote region located over 4000 meters altitude. The side-trek to Naar-Pho takes relatively more time, adding about seven more days. It is a remote and isolated part with ancient settlements and steep-walled canyons. However, do not forget to take a trekking permit in this restricted area, which will be arranged by the trekking agency.
Guru Sangpo Cave
The side hike to Guru Sangpo cave takes around three hours of walk from Larjung. The cave is quite extraordinary with its spooky interiors, streams flowing into the subterranean crevices below and weird brian-shaped rocks. The cave is considered to be a manifestation of Yab-Yum, meaning the merging of male and female.
Gangapurna Lake is located in the south of Manang and takes only 30 minutes of walk. Your short walk will be more than rewarding as the view of the lake is mesmerizing with a greenish blue color and just above the lake is the viewpoint of an incredible line of mountains and lake itself. It is a glacial lake formed about five decades ago form Gangpurna mountain just above its south.
It is yet another stunning Himalayan lake at 4,627 meters, but least known. The side hike to Ice lake begins walking past Bhraka gompa and old settlement of Bhraka. Ice Lake is a divine lake blessed with an array of Annapurna III, Gangapurna, Singhu Chuli, and other mountains. It will be best not to side trek in winter because the snowfalls make the route slippery and dangerous.
What the routes to Annapurna Circuit Trek?
The way towards Annapurna Circuit trek is anticlockwise so that the daily altitude gain in slower and crossing Thorong La pass gets much safer and easier. Like every other trek, Annapurna Circuit trek is possible through different routes. Besisahar is the typical place to start this trek, however, but there are places like Jagat and Khudi too to start the trek.
The trek is already long that easily takes around 20 days, and if you want to customize it with side-treks or change route, then that is okay too; however, they will extend the numbers of days. Let us look at some of the most followed route by trekkers throughout the years, but remember, the below-mentioned routes are just an outline.
It is the most followed route that starts from Besisahar after 7-8 hours of drive from Kathmandu. We will gradually move forward keeping pace and get past Dharapani, Chame, Pisang, Manang, and Yak Kharka before we make our way to Thorong La pass. After this monumental moment, we will get towards the holy Muktinath and toJomsom, from where a flight will take us to Pokhara.
It is just the extended version of the typical route. We follow almost the same route as above, just with a small change that from Muktinath we move towards Tatopani instead of Jomsom. Ghorepani Poonhill is another famous trek in Nepal, and this route joins it. We will take a natural bath in Tatopani, explore the beautiful settlement of Gurungs and Magars in Ghorepani and Ghandruk, witness the most beautiful view of the sunrise in Poonhill and make our way towards Pokhara.
It is also the extended version of general route, however in a different way. We begin form Khudi and follow the almost same route to Thorong La and Jomsom. Now, we get towards Tatopani, which offers natural hot bath, then to Deurali and Ghadruk. Then, we finally arrive at Australian camp, another popular short trek in the vicinity of Pokhara.
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