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Annapurna Circuit, Nepal | Trekking Guide

Trekker, Traveler and Tiso Buchanan Street Team Member

This Autumn, Aleks from our Buchanan Street store decided to fulfil a dream by going trekking in Nepal.

From her experiences Aleks has put together a helpful guide to the Annapurna Circuit Trek! Make sure you also check out her blog on the trail.

This is her story...

It is very difficult to find just a one good source about the Annapurna Circuit. It took me ages to collect all necessary information. You can buy a map in Kathmandu, Pokhara or Besisahar but I recommend planning it earlier, just to know estimated time, distance, places to sleep and visit. Another useful tip – do not rely on one guidebook and if you don’t have time to prepare all of this, it is better hire a guide and pay them a proper wage.

Annapurna Circuit Trek Facts

1. Distance // Route varies between 160km – 230km depending on start and finish points and optional side treks.

2. Length // 10–21 days (the grand loop from Besisahar to Pokhara takes approximately 17–21 days but you can easily spend a month there too).

3. Difficulty // Moderate to challenging (mostly flat but there are some steep sections).

4. Starting elevation // 760 meters (2,493 feet) at Besisahar up to 3,450 meters (11,319 feet) at Manang, depending on your starting point.

5. Peak elevation // 5,416 meters (17,769 feet) at Thorong La Pass.

6. Guiding // Recommended but not required. Recommended especially when you have time to do side treks, want to use the best path options, worried about chances of high altitude sickness.

7. Accomodation // Teahouse. There are plenty options. Most of them have power outlets, WIFI, shower with hot water and western or squat toilet. However, expect basics.

8. When to go // Autumn peak trekking season is from October to early December; spring trekking season is in March and April. However, in my opinion, the monsoon season has its advantages too (see my blog).

9. Access // A 30-minute flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara or a car / bus from there to Besisahar or full day by ground transportation (Kathmandu – Besisahar, car: about 6hrs, bus: about 8-10hrs).

10.Documents // The Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP) and TIMS card can be purchased from the Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu, what takes about 30-40minutes, or Pokhara Tourist Police Office and Permit Office or through a registered guide. Each requires minimum two passport photos. Now, it is also possible to do it in Besisahar. However, they have different opening hours and, apparently, can charge more for it. You will use these to check-in at various checkpoints along the trek.

11. Best View // The way to and from Tal, the way from Dharapani to Chame, Upper Pisang, the way from Ghyaru to Manang, the view from above the Gangapurna Lake in Manang, Letdar, Thorung Phedi, High Camp, Thorung La Pass, Kagbeni, Marpha (unfortunately, we didn’t visit it due to bad weather), Tatopani, Poon Hill (unfortunately, we did not have enough time to do this hike).

12. Mountain View // There are panoramic sceneries of Himalayas, including of Mt. Dhaulagiri (8167m), Mt. Annapurna I (8091m) Mt. Manaslu (8163 m), Mt. Annapurna II (7937 m.) , Mt. Annapurna III (7555m), Mt. Annapurna IV (7525m), Mt. Annapurna south (7219m), Mt. Nilgiri (7041m), Mt. Fishtail also called Mt. Machhapuchhare (6998m), Mt. Hiunchuli (6441m), Mt. Lamjung Himal (6986m),Tukuche peak (6920m), Tilicho peak (7134m).

13. People // Communities of: Bramin, Chhetree, Tibetian sherpa, Thakali, Magars, Tamang, Gurung.

14. Flora // The trek starts from sub-tropical climate, terraced paddy fields and going through forest trees including oak, beech, fir and rhododendron. Finally, those give a way to forests of pine and, ultimately, juniper. Further the landscape is quite barren as a south extension of the Tibetan plateau. On the top the atmosphere is very unique, mainly because of high altitude ice desert over Thorung La Pass at 5416m. On the other side of the pass there is Kali Gandaki River which is considered the deepest ravine in the world, five times deeper than the Grand Canyon. The landscape comes back to sub-tropical and ends with lower forests and fields.

15. Fauna // Yaks, Blue Sheep (we were lucky to see them), Snow Leopard (very unlikely you will see them...), Mountain Goat and birds such as pheasant or long-tail birds among others.

16. What Worked // SIM card bought at the airport, merino wool baselayers, Arcteryx LT Beta Jacket – the most versatile piece in my kit, Grayl Ultralight Water Purifier – super quick and super light , Osprey Aura AG - the most comfortable backpack, Tundra - super warm sleeping bag and Merrell All Out Blaze Sieve Sandal as a footwear for light trekking and to use in the shower.

17. What Didn't Work // Lifeventure washbag was too heavy for backpacking, Sea to Summit Pocket Body Wash Leaves and Conditioning Shampoo Leaves did not work very well, the booked flight from Jomsom to Pokhara was cancelled due to weather, not enough time to experience it fully.

A NOTE ON KIT:

The below list does not cover everything but the most essential things that I took with me. Remember that it is better to wash your clothes with an environmentally friendly soap than carry more clothes than you need.

You don’t need to carry any food with you as you can buy everything from local people, from little snacks to big meals. The meals on the trek are basic with choices ranging from porridge, pancakes, and eggs for breakfast. For lunch and dinner, you can generally choose between Dal Bhat, fried potatoes with mixed vegetables, momos, or a pasta dish.

I am not going to review any meat dishes because we’re vegetarians. However, I definitely recommend yak cheese and Dal Bhat! The last one is the national dish of Nepal and it calls ‘trekkers fuel’. Mainly because it comes with unlimited refills, which is great after a day of hard trekking! Now, you will understand when you see a t-shirt with ‘Dal Bhat – 24:7 Power’! In general, food in Nepal is delicious but quite spicy.

*Backpack // Osprey Aura 65L(I took the top part off and made 50L)

*Water filter // Grayl Ultralight Water Purifier

*Hydration bag //Camelbak Crux 3L Hydration Reservoir

*Water bottle //Hydroflask 21oz Flask

*Water bottle with a filter //Water To Go Bottle 50cl

*Purification tablets //Lifesystems Chlorine Dioxide Tablets

*Boots //Meindl Litepeak GTX

*Sandals //Merrell All Out Blaze Sieve Sandal

*Waterproof jacket //Mountain Equipment Manaslu GTX Pro

*Midlayer //Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody

*Down jacket //Rab Microlight

*Baselayer top //Icebraker Women’s Long Sleeve 200

*Trousers //Berghaus Ortler 2.0

*Socks //Smartwool PHD light, medium and heavy cushioned

*Gloves //Rab Powerstretch (warmer gloves needed in a high season)

*Sleeping bag //Tundra Pure -5 (I would take even warmer for high season)

*Walking poles //Black Diamond Womens Specific Trail Trekking Pole Pair

*Drysacks //Exped Classic

OUR ITINERARY:

Our schedule totally changed. I was planning to see Tilicho Lake which never happened. I think it is not worth doing detailed plan before you go because it may change under unexpected circumstances.

Day 1: Arriving to Kathmandu, a night at Village House (Thamel Marg, 29, Thamel , Thamel, 00977).

Day 2: Kathmandu – Besisahar by car: 6hrs.

Day 3: Besisahar (790m )– Dharapani by jeep: about 10hrs; a night at Lower Gyalsomdo Valley Cottage Restaurant.

Day 4: Dharapani (1960m) – Chame (2710m) by jeep + hike to Upper Pisang: about 2hrs + 5-6hrs; a night at Hotel Tukuche.

Day 5: Upper Pisang (3310m) – Manang: about 8hrs; 2 nights at Himalaya Singin.

Day 6: Manang (3540m): acclimatization day.

Day 7: Manang (3540m) – Letdar: about 4hrs, a night at Snowland Lodge? (the highest teahouse)

Day 8: Letdar (4230m) – Thorung Phedi (4540m) - High Camp: about 3-4hrs.

Day 9: High Camp (4800m) – Muktinath (3800m) -Ranipauwa through Thorung La Pass (5416m): about 10hrs.

Day 10: Ranipauwa (3710m) –Kagbeni: about 3hrs; a night at Hotel Shangrila.

Day 11: Kagbeni (2840m) – Jomsom (2660m) + local bus to Tatopani: about 3hrs + bus – about a few hours + fast trek from Ghasa to Tatopani due to landslides– about 3hrs.

Day 12: Tatopani (1040m)– Beni by jeep + Beni – Pokhara by mini bus: about 8hrs.

Day 13: Day in Pokhara (1400m).

Day 14: Pokhara – Kathmandu: about 7-8hrs.

Day 15: Day in Kathmandu + flight to Dubai in the evening.

Day 16: Half night at the airport + flight to Glasgow before the midday.

General Prices:

£££ // Prices rise with altitude and it is totally understandable. I am giving you examples of prices per person.

• Taxi from the airport: 700NPR

• 1 night in Kathmandu Village House + breakfast + free baggage storage: $11

• ACAP + TIMS permissions: 1150NPR + 1000NPR

• Private car with a driver/ bus from Kathmandu to Besisahar: $50 / $10-25

• Lunch on the way: about 350NPR

• 1 night + Dal Bhat (meal with refills) + tea + porridge + coffee in Besisahar: 1530NPR

• Vegatable soup + Momo + tea in Nagawal: 775NPR

• 2 nights + 2 meals + 2 breakfsat + drinks in Manang: about 4250 NPR

• Lunch + tea in Yak Kharka: 550NPR

• 1 night + dinner + porridge + tea in High Camp: about 2400NPR

• Lunch + coffee in Chabarbu: 550NPR

+

• Visa 15 days / 30days / longer: $25 (15 days)

• Flights: : expensive

• Insurance: expensive

• Vaccinations, drugs, also for high altitude sickness

Top Tips:

1. Respect local people, get time to know the culture before your adventure.

2. Learn about Nepali Customs & Etiquette.

3. Learn basic language, it's nice to try to learn the basics.

4. Learn a little bit of knowledge about the history and current situation would be very nice.

5. Don't take photos without asking permission.

6. Respect the fact that locals may be overwhelmed by tourists after previous experiences with some of them.

7. Don't give money to children, don't teach them that, help in a different way!

8. Buy their food, don't bring your own and stove with you.

9. Smile and be polite.

10. Respect the environment. Take all your rubbish with you.

11. Support local artists, craft makers, designers, farmers, organisations etc., like Woven (Wsdo Nepal), Pachamama Knitwear, egos-shoes, Child Rescue Nepal.

DHANYAVADA! THANK YOU

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