10 things to know for best Annapurna circuit trek

The Annapurna Circuit Trek is an iconic trekking route in Nepal that takes you through diverse landscapes and culture, offering stunning views of the snow peaks of Annapurna massif. 

However there are several detours, alternative routes and side hikes to get the best out of the trek. With the extension of the dirt road, Annapurna circuit trek could be done in as little as 8 days.

In this article I will talk about where to start and end your trek for a best short trek. You can also spend three good weeks of trekking in Annapurna. 

Also know the difficulty and cautions, so you can prepare well. 

Here are 10 things to know for the best out of Annapurna Circuit Trek : 

  1. Know how difficult the trek is ? 

    Annapurna circuit trek is a challenging trek suitable only for fit and experienced trekkers. The trek requires 6 hours of walking each day for about two weeks that involves ups and downs of up to 500 m each. The trail in the higher reaches goes over the rockery, scree and snow fields. Temperature may fluctuate between 30 to - 15 degree Centigrade. Weather may also change with potential rain and snow throughout the year. This trekking definitely needs sound fitness with strong determination and perseverance. 

    Good news is that with careful preparation ahead of time, this trek becomes one of the few treks in the Himalayas offering enough of challenges for many. 

  2. Choose the best itinerary 

    The road has been extended along both the Marshyangdi and Kali Gandaki valleys leaving only a few days of trekking off the road. However, only a few numbers of vehicles, alternate routes and the unregistable scenery are worth the 12 days trek. It has also been popular among trekkers to combine the Annapurna circuit trek with Annapurna base camp by driving down the Kali Gandaki valley. This requires about three weeks. 

    Here are some of the updated itineraries for Annapurna circuit trek : 

    Short Annapurna Circuit Trek : 

    Classic round Annapurna trek : 

    Annapurna Circuit trek with Ghorepani and Annapurna base camp 

  3. Alternative route and detours 

    There are several alternative routes and detours to take which avoids more touristy trails. Nar Phu valley is one such route opened only in 2003. Similarly, side trips to Milarepa cave, Gangapurna glacier, Ice Lake and Tilicho lake give deeper insight into the scenery and culture of Manang.

    Nar Phu Valley Trek : 
    Hidden in the citadel of high Himalayas, Nar and Phu are the very remote and unspoiled valleys in Annapurna. While the trek gives utmost wilderness experience, it is equally rich in culture and scenery. Located between the classic trails of Annapurna circuit and Manaslu, the Nar Phu valleys are the hidden gems that exhibit medieval Tibetan Buddhist lifestyle and culture. 

    Nar Phu village trek

  4. Weather risk in Annapurna Circuit Trek

    The bad weather is the major risk in Annapurna circuit trek. The high altitude and trans-Himalayan windy valley funneling wind may cause snow blizzards. About 28 people died in the region in the snow blizzard of 2014 April. The heavy snowfall triggered by late monsoon in October of 2022 also killed four and caused hundreds to be evacuated. If the weather gets worse the stretch of walking at 5000 m becomes very difficult with snow filling the area and the high velocity chilly wind making it hard to see the trail. 
    However for many this just makes it more adventurous. With simple caution and preparedness, it is possible to avoid the risk of bad weather.
    The best time to do the Annapurna circuit trek is in the months of September, November, March and May. Even though these months are considered shoulder seasons, they have normal predictable weather to cross the pass. As the weather pattern might change, get the weather update. Any kind of Tsunami in the Indian Ocean around the time of your travel may suddenly change the weather in the Himalayas. Avoid trekking in winter and rainy season. 
    Travel in a group. There are only a few lodges at the base of the Thorong La pass and pretty much all of the guests staying in a lodge will start together making all as one group. Follow the starting time and go as a group. 
    Postpone crossing the pass, the storm is imminent. If the storm comes midway, here are some actions to take. 
    Look if there are caves under rocks or overhang you can take shelter in. 
    If there are no shelters around, build one with stones, mattress or snow cave in a way to protect from the wind. Make fire or heat if you can. Otherwise make sure to keep your body dry and warm. Keep on doing some warm up exercise like moving arms, legs, fingers and toes vigorously to keep blood circulating. 

  5. Where and what to drive ?

    In the last few years, there have been extensive road construction in the Annapurna conservation area. However most of them are still unpaved dirt roads with only few vehicles plying. There are also detours and alternative routes to avoid the road. The awe-inspiring scenery and culture is worth the trekking despite the dirt road. Moreover the option of transportation has made it possible for trekkers to do several routes of Annapurna within limited time. So here is information about different sections trekkers can drive and type of transportation available. 

    Kathmandu to Besisahar and Bhulbhule: 

    There are local buses and microbuses available from Kathmandu to Besisahar or Bhulbhule. If you are planning to drive further, 4wd jeeps are available from Besisahar to Chame, the district capital of Manang. 

    If you are taking a private transportation from Kathmandu, drive till Shynage or Dharapani. This will avoid walking in the hot and humid valley basin. 

    Drive to Manang 

    For those short of time, it is also possible to drive to Manang from Kathmandu in a 4WD drive. It is about a 16 hours rough journey. 

    Muktinath to Pokhara

    There are regular local buses between Muktinath to Pokhara. Many trekkers also drive from Muktinath to Tatopani and then trek up to Ghorepani or Annapurna base camp. 

    4WD drive to the Manang village.

  6. Dormitory to luxury lodges in Annapurna Circuit

    Trekking in Nepal is popular as teahouse treks. For a long time, teahouses were known as simple commercial centers run by families to cater traders as well as local travellers. With the arrival of trekkers, teahouses were developed into lodges with private rooms, commode toilets and also started catering basic international cuisines.

    Thanks to the Annapurna Conservation Area Project for training locals, regulating standards and hygiene and managing rubbish that the Annapurna area has now well established teahouses. 

    Nights before Thorong La pass  

    Teahouses become colder as we go higher from Manang. Rooms are made in a way to accommodate more than two people. You may have to share a dormitory, especially one night at high camp depending upon the time of the year. 

    Comfortable lodges on the Annapurna Circuit Trek 

    While teahouses are basic with just small private rooms with space enough for only two beds, many tea houses are now also developed into hotels with bigger rooms, proper comfy beds and ensuite bathrooms. 

    These hotels with bed heating and an ensuite bathroom may cost from USD 25 to a few hundred dollars. The more luxury resorts are available in the Mustang side after Thorong La pass. If you are planning to walk the second half of the trek, Lo Mustang Himalayan Resort, Kagbeni Palace, Larjung guesthouse are some of the luxurious boutique places blend in local culture and architecture. 

    teahouses and hotels in Annapurna circuit trek

  7. Altitude and Acclimatization:

    • The trek involves significant altitude gain, reaching the highest point at Thorong La Pass (5,416 meters or 17,769 feet).
    • Proper acclimatization and gradual ascent are crucial to prevent altitude sickness and ensure a safe and enjoyable trek.
  8. Permits and Regulations:

    • Trekkers need various permits, including the Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP) and the Trekkers' Information Management System (TIMS) card, which can be obtained in Kathmandu or Pokhara.
  9. Cultural Experience:

    • The Annapurna Circuit Trek offers a rich cultural experience, allowing you to interact with diverse ethnic communities, including Gurungs, Manangis, Thakalis, and Mustangis, and experience their unique traditions and lifestyle.
  10. Emergency Facilities:

    • There are basic medical facilities and emergency evacuation options available along the trek, particularly in larger villages and at higher altitudes. 

Responsible Trekking:
Practicing responsible trekking, including proper waste disposal and respecting local customs and nature, is essential to preserve the beauty and integrity of the trekking region.

Before embarking on the Annapurna Circuit Trek, it's crucial to thoroughly research and plan, consider hiring a local guide, and be well-prepared for the challenges and rewards that come with this incredible trekking experience.