ULTIMATE GUIDE TO ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREK
The Annapurna Circuit is an amazing adventure and one of the best treks in the world. Our complete guide will help you with planning and answer all the essential questions you might have. We provide you with travel advice on where to sleep, hiking tips, what to pack, when to go, day-by-day itinerary and costs of travel.
Annapurna Circuit Trekking Guide
Are you planning to trek the Annapurna Circuit and looking for all the essential information and answers to your questions You are in the right place.
We put together all the topics we wanted to know all about before our journey and created this Annapurna Circuit Ultimate Guide based on our personal experience to get you ready for your Himalayan adventure. To get the better idea, check our day-by-day Annapurna circuit itinerary.
When to trek the annapurna circuit
The recommended hiking season starts from September and ends in late November. These months guarantee you three things: warm weather with clear skies, shorter days, and a large number of hikers. March and April is a second/shoulder season with long days and nature in bloom, but it can get hazy in lowlands.
December through February are cold winter months, and path can be impassable because of snow, but we believe if you are experienced and well-equipped, hiking at this time of year must be incredible. The only downside could be difficulties to find open lodges. Probably the only not-recommended time to visit this area is the wet season from June to September. It rains a lot though usually not all day but you might be annoyed by leeches and there is a danger of landslides and rock falls.
We trekked the Annapurna Circuit from the end of March till mid-April, and it was a bit hazy for the first two days especially in the afternoon, but considering we were still at a lower elevation and in the valley, it did not bother us at all.
Once we've reached 3000 meters, the haze vanished, and the views were superb. It did not rain the whole trek, but we had snow couple nights just before we were about to cross the Thorung La.
Where to start the annapurna circuit trek
Due to ongoing road construction between Besisahar, Chame and Manang, the first part of the trek is getting less popular each year.
That's not necessarily a bad thing as the trail is less crowded. In fact, hikers will spread along the way, and you barely meet anyone during the day. The feeling when you start in a lush green forest with temperatures hitting 30°C and slowly make your way through the rice fields up to the snow-covered pass with freezing temperatures and 7000+ meters high peaks around you is indescribable. We started the trek in Besisahar and can only recommend you to do the same.
If you are short on time though, you might want to consider hiring a jeep which will take you to Manang and save couple days.
Nepal offers a large network of reasonably priced hotels and you can check the availability through our affiliate link. By clicking the link and making the reservation we will earn a small commision at no additional cost to you, and you will help us keep this blog running. Thank you!
Accommodation on the annapurna circuit
The Annapurna Trek is also known as Apple Pie trek for a reason. As you walk from village to village, tea houses and lodges are scattered relatively close to each other along the road, and they grant unexpected comfort for hikers in the Himalayas.
Thanks to this convenient lodging network, you can focus only on trekking and do not have to carry food, supplies or be worried where are you going to spend a night. It is customary to eat (dinner and breakfast) in the lodge where you sleep.
Prices are negotiable (although ACAP standardized prices of lodging and food to ensure minimum standards), but we believe in high season there is not enough space for bargaining. We hiked in shoulder season and were usually offered to pay only for meals, and the room was for free. Rooms are basic but considerably clean. The bed has a mattress and pillows (do not forget to bring a sleeping bag), and at the higher altitude, there were also blankets (we always use mummy liner under it because of hygiene).
Shared washrooms are standard, only a few times we had a room with an attached bathroom. A restaurant in the lodge is a multipurpose place, which serves not only for eating but also as a place to hang around, share stories and keep yourself warm.
Visa for nepal
All foreigners, except Indians, must have a visa. You can get a visa at one of the automatic registration machines at the airport and pay for it at the counter.
Price depends on the length of your stay, single-entry tourist visa costs $25 for 15 days, $40 for 30 days and $100 for 90 days. Officers require payment in USD, and it is better to have the exact amount or smaller bills with you. As almost everywhere around the world, your passport must be valid for at least six months before your arrival.
Permits for annapurna circuit trek
To trek Annapurna Circuit, you must obtain two permits: ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Permit) and TIMS ( Trekkers Information Management System). You can get both permits in Kathmandu or Pokhara, and it cost 2000 NPR each.
If you travel independently, visit the office of Nepal Tourism Board. We took the cab there from the airport and arranged the permits immediately after our arrival (address is Pradarshani Marg, Kathmandu 44617).
Branches are open every day and unless there is queue you should get your permits within 30 minutes. Prepare two passport photos for each application.
Keep ACAP and TIMS forms with you while trekking because there are checkpoints along the way and you'll have to show it to officers. It is possible to arrange permits via travel agency for an extra fee, but it is unnecessary when considering how easy it is to get them on own.
How Much Money Do I Need To Carry With Me?
Annapurna Circuit is cash only, and it is not possible to pay by credit card along the way. There is an ATM in Jomson though not very reliable, and also withdrawal limit is very low.
That's why we decided to withdraw the cash for the whole trek in Kathmandu. ATMs withdrawal limit varies from 10 000 to 30 000 NPR, and the bank charges a processing fee 200 - 500 NPR every time. We had estimated the cost of the journey around Nepal and wanted to carry at least 100 000 NPR (less than 1000USD, two persons, 22days) for the whole stay.
It's also worth mentioning that you should always keep extra cash for an unexpected expense. If you’re not sure ho much money you need, check our article how much we spent trekking the Annapurna Circuit.
DRINKING Water while trekking in the himalayas
Tap water in Nepal, in general, is not drinkable, buy bottled water or use water purifier tablets or drops (nowadays you can buy water purification tablets which do not affect the taste).
It is recommended to use tablets because Nepalis, especially in the mountains, have problems with the cumulation of plastic bottles as they do not know what to do with it, so they usually burn it or bury it to the ground which is not exactly environmentally friendly.
You can also find ACAP safe drinking water stations along the way, 1 liter is about one third cheaper than bottled water. Check before departure where you can find drinking stations. Only one drinking station was out of order due to lack of water on our journey.
Transport to and from the annapurna circuit
Nowadays, the traditional start of the trek is in Besisahar. Bus from Kathmandu costs 430 NPR, and it is six to eight hours long, bumpy and tiring journey even though the distance is less than 200 km.
Gongabu Bus Park Station is close to Thamel area so you can get there on foot or take a cab. If you travel with a party of people, it might be worth considering to rent a minivan just for your group. You can also get to Besisahar from Pokhara, and it takes four hours. The end point of the trek is for everyone different, probably the most of all hikers end right after crossing saddle in Muktinath or Jomsom.
You can easily find a bus or jeep to Pokhara or Kathmandu from here. There is also an option to get in Jomsom and take an hour-long domestic flight to Kathmandu.
Safety in nepal
We didn't have any issues when hiking in the mountains and never felt threatened. As always, be cautious, do not leave your documents and money unattended.
We could say that people living along Annapurna Circuit are friendly, welcoming and know tourists bring money to the region only when they will feel safe. Wild dogs, rapid weather changes, or high altitude sickness pose a higher risk than random encounters with people.
Altitude sickness and how to prevent it
The real danger on Annapurna Circuit or generally in Nepalese mountains is an underestimation of symptoms of altitude mountain sickness (AMS). Persons exposed to a low amount of oxygen at high altitude are prone to experience symptoms of AMS. It is impossible to predict how your body will react in higher elevation, the only way how to protect yourself is to be patient and acclimatize properly.
Altitude sickness affects people in higher elevation, and everyone's body can react differently. A human body starts to feel high altitude effects already in 2400 meters. But the crucial altitude, where is recommended to stay for few days, until the body gets used to it, is around 3500 meters above sea level.
On Annapurna Circuit it means, for example, to stay at least two days in Manang with day trips to a higher elevation. After few days of acclimatization do not climb 300-400 meters or more a day, and always sleep at a lower altitude than was your highest point of the day. Drink lots of water and avoid alcohol during your hike.
We met several couples along the way who had health problems and had to head back. In most cases, they arrived directly from lowlands to Manang by jeep and did not acclimatize gradually.
Symptoms can be following: loss of appetite, headache, nausea, dizziness, insomnia, nose bleeding or shortness of breath - ok we experience almost all of them, but after rest or one night, everything went back to normal.
If the problems persist, take medication against the sickness, if you are not getting better, go immediately lower even though it should be in the middle of the night. Wake up staff in the lodge and ask them for help, do not wait until morning. Symptoms can evolve to HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema) or HACE (high altitude cerebral edema), and consequences can be fatal.
annapurna circuit packing list
It is not easy to decide what to bring along and what to leave at home when you know that you will have to carry it all the way up and the weather may vary from tropical heat to freezing snowstorm.
There is always compromise between things you must have and a certain level of comfort. You should consider carrying a maximum of 13 kg as you'll feel every extra kilogram with increasing altitude and fatigue. Remember that you must have water bottles with you which will add few kilograms to a total weight of your backpack.
You don't have to carry food with you as you'll get a proper meal in your lodge at the end of the day. We had only few muesli bar snacks with us.
What should you have in your backpack?
functional underwear (no description needed :-) )
hiking socks & boots (break your boots in before the trip, it will prevent blisters)
hiking poles (will help you when hiking downhill, uphill and are great for establishing walking rhythm)
t-shirts - short and long sleeve, fleece jacket (we used the long sleeve t-shirt to prevent sunburnt)
waterproof jacket, rain poncho, rain trousers (it might rain and snow anytime, so it’s better to come prepared)
down jacket (it will help you keep warm during the cold evenings)
hiking trousers, leggins, shorts (shorts are very useful for the jungle part as the temperature was hitting 30+ degrees of Celsius)
scarf/ hat/ gloves (we recommend you to bring winter gloves in case of snowstorm)
sunglasses & sunblock 30+ (the sun is extremely strong in higher altitudes)
hygiene - basic things such as toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, soap, cream repacked into small sealed containers, toilet paper
headlamp, torch + extra batteries (you might be tempted to use only your iPhone flashlight, but we recommend you to bring proper headlamp anyway)
sleeping bag + mummy liner (the accommodation might provide you with blankets though)
travel towel (light and fast drying is the best option)
water bottle & purifying tablets (Nepal has a huge problem with plastic waste, you can help to reduce the waste)
clothes for free time & flipflops
travel guide, something to read (to kill free time if you arrive early in the accommodation as there is not much to do)
electronics - cell phone, tablet, kindle, camera, lenses, tripod, chargers, extra SD cards, power bank, etc
documents, passports, money, credit cards, travel insurance
glasses, contact lenses
snacks (the APC trek is demanding and challenging and some high nutrition snacks will help you pull through)
first aid kit (Acetazolamide (Diamox) for altitude sickness is a must have)
dry sacks (to keep your clothes and electronics dry)
What Amenities to Expect on the annapurna circuit?
We were genuinely surprised by the quality of service along the way. We could connect to Wi-Fi (do not expect high speed and sometimes the connection is not reliable or down) in almost every lodge except a few just before Thorung La.
Almost everywhere is advertised hot shower even though it was very often cold (the host with a big smile on his face will inform you "today may be no sun"). If there is no hot water, you can ask for a bucket, and the host may warm it up for you. The only place we had to pay extra was in Yak Kharka (4035 m), and there was a water outage in Thorong Pedi due to freezing temperatures.
Highest Point of Annapurna Circuit
The highest point on APC is Thorung La Pass, 5416 meters above sea level. For most of the hikers, this is the highest point they've reached so far in their lives.
The most elevated lodge where is possible to spend a night is Thorung High Camp Hotel in 4850 meters, but the night here can be cold and uncomfortable because of the altitude so instead of pushing your limits it is better to stay in Thoroung Pedi the night before crossing the pass. The place lies 4540 meters above sea level, and we slept lightly and woke up several times during the night.
You can conquer 5000 meters before crossing Thorung La on a notable side trip to the world's highest lake of its size - Tilicho Lake (4919 m). The viewing point of the lake is 5010m.
Side Trip to Tilicho Lake - Worth Extra Days?
Once you get into planning your Annapurna Circuit itinerary, you will face a tough decision, if undertook the way to Tilicho Lake, the world's highest lake of its size in the hight of 4919 meters. Is it worth it? Short answer, YES! Ok, do you want to hear a long one?
If you have three extra days to spare and you feel physically fit, this trek will not only help you with acclimatization, but you'll also beat the crowds, and enjoy the ultimate beauty. Still undecided? We'll make it easier for you this is a must-do!
Check the weather forecast before you go, and walk from Manang (Manang is the best place for acclimatization) to Tilicho Base Camp and back before the sun gets too high as the heat in the afternoon may loosen rocks on the steep slopes above you.
How fit do I need to be to trek APC?
Depending upon your starting point, you'll most likely walk seven to sixteen days, about at least five hours a day at high altitudes. We wouldn't set off on this trip without preparation.
Anyone moderately fit can do it, try to walk during the week with a backpack at least a month before leaving and you might also consider adding a basic workout. Do not underestimate this part as we believe you want to enjoy the trip.
If you are not sure you'll be able to carry a heavy backpack every day, take into consideration hiring a porter who will take care of your bag, and your only task will be the walking part. Do not forget you are responsible for you guide's or porter's equipment.
There were cases when porters walked the whole circuit only in flip-flops. Make sure your porter has adequate equipment for mountain conditions.