As our operations were closed this Spring, a small team of office staffs decided to do Annapurna Circuit Trek crossing Thorong La at 5416 meters in April. The motive of the trek was to assess the route, check the services, make pictures & videos and also to break the monotony of being shut down for so long.
Annapurna Circuit Trek was one of the most popular treks in Nepal and is still among the favorites of many international trekkers visiting Nepal. It is a beautiful trek that passes through the Marshyangdi Valley and offers great scenery and cultural diversity. The hike up is very scenic with amazing mountain views of Himalayan giants like Annapurna, Gangapurna, Tilicho Peak, Pisang Peak and the Chulu range. Besides the natural beauty, the area is also very culturally rich with ancient traditions of the Gurungs and the Manange people, beautiful and old monasteries and quaint settlements of the locals. For the wildlife, Himalayan Thars, Monals, Musk Deer and even the elusive Snow leopard can be spotted while on the trek.
In terms of difficulty, the trek is a fairly challenging trek and the major highlight of this trek is crossing the Thorong La Pass at an altitude of 5416 meters and arriving in Muktinath, a religious town following the Kali Gandaki Valley. Overall, Annapurna Circuit trek is a classic trek and one of the most diverse treks in Nepal. The extensions of the roads have cut the trek short but the trek is without doubt one of the most fantastic trekking experiences in the world. If you are planning to embark on this beautiful journey, the following tips might come in handy to you.
Annapurna Circuit Trek Itinerary:
The main logic behind a standard itinerary for a Himalayan trek is not to miss a single highlight and yet get well acclimatized at the same time for a successful trip. The development in Nepal has resulted in road construction even in the remotest parts of the country and affected many treks in Nepal. Similar is the case in Annapurna Circuit trek as well. The trek which used to take 22 days in the past can now be done in half the time with an extension to Tilicho lake, one of the highest glacial lakes in the world. To skip the roads, not miss any major highlights and get well acclimatized while trekking up, we suggest you the below itinerary and tips:
Day 1: Drive to Chame (Approx. 2650m) via Besisahar
Drive time: 10 – 11 hours (4 -5 hrs black topped road and 5 hrs off road)
Lodge: Hotel New Shangrila
Tip: It is always good if you leave Kathmandu early after breakfast. Though local transportation is available, it is good to hire a private vehicle, especially for the off-road section.
Day 2: Trek to Upper Pisang (Approx. 3300m)
Walk time: 5-6 hours
Lunch: Dhikur Pokhari
Lodge: Hotel Manang Marshyangdi
Day 3: Trek to Ngawal (Approx. 3650m)
Walk time: 5-6 hours
Lodge: Hotel Mountain View
Tip: Ghyaru and Ngawal are both beautiful old settlements of the local people. To enjoy these villages, take the upper trail via Ghyaru and get inside the village to explore more.
Day 4: Trek to Manang (Approx. 3519m)
Walk time: 5 hours
Hotel: Hotel Tilcho
Tip: After your lunch, take a visit to one of the oldest and the most beautiful monasteries in the region. The monastery is more than 600 years old with large number of Buddha statues and offers a great view from the top.
Day 4: Acclimatization day at Manang (Approx. 3519m)
Walk time: 4 hours
Hotel: Hotel Tilcho
Tip: Go for walk to the Gangapurna Lake and follow the trial up to the top of the hill at 4300 meters, a perfect acclimatization day. If you want a longer day, one can also go for an excursion to the Ice Lake.
Day 5: Trek to Tilicho Base Camp (Approx. 4200m)
Walk time: 4 hours
Lunch: Sri Kharka
Hotel: Hotel New Himalaya
Tip: Watch out for landslide and rockfall sections after Sri Kharka and hour before reaching the Base Camp.
Day 6: Trek to Tilicho Lake and back to Sri Kharka (Approx. 4080m)
Walk time: 8 hours
Lunch: Tilicho Base Camp
Lodge: Himalayan Hotel
Tip: Start the day pretty early before sunrise with a light meal. After getting back from Tilicho Lake, rest at the Base Camp while enjoying your breakfast.
Day 7: Trek to Yak Kharka (Approx. 4018m)
Walk time: 5 hours
Lunch: Yak Kharka
Lodge: Hotel Dream Home
Day 8: Trek to Thorong Phedi (Approx. 4533m)
Walk time: 5 hours
Lunch: Thorong Phedi
Hotel: Thorong Basecamp Lodge
Tip: Watch out for rock fall section about 30 mins before reaching Thorong Phedi.
Day 9: Cross Thorong La (5416 m) and trek to Muktinath and drive to Jomsom (Approx. 2743m)
Walk time: 9 hours, drive 1 hr
Lunch: Packed Lunch
Lodge: Tilicho Lodge
Tip: Make an early start so that you are at the top of the Pass before noon. Get yourself a packed lunch from the hotel to enjoy at the top of the Pass. Keep you crampons ready and trekking poles handy for the descent.
Also, coordinate with your Agent/Guide to have a vehicle standby at Muktinath to drive to Jomsom.
Day 10: Fly to Pokhara (Approx. 822m)
Tip: If you have a day or two to spare, spend it in Pokhara basking in the beauty of this amazing lakeside city – you won’t regret!
Day 12: Fly to Kathmandu (Approx. 1400m)
Things to Know
As Annapurna Circuit Trek is one of the oldest and well-connected trekking areas of Nepal, finding accommodations is not a problem during this trek. There are abundant lodges in all the stops with price ranging from USD 10 to USD 120 depending on the level and standard of the services provided. It is only in Thorong Phedi and Thorong High Camp, the two small settlements before the Thorong La pass, accommodations might get a bit tight due to limited availability and the high number of trekkers visiting the area. Just make sure you carry a sleeping bag (-20 Celsius) for a cozy sleep and double check with your agent if they have confirmed the rooms for you.
Like accommodation in the Annapurna Circuit Trek, the food availability during the trek is also not a problem. All the lodges will have full menu with food ranging from Nepali, Indian, Italian and continental. We suggest you to be an eggetarian during the trek though meat is available through out. Talk to your guide for the best food to eat as he will have access to the Kitchen. As the popular trekking saying goes, “Dal Bhat Power 24 hour, noodle power only half an hour”, go for local foods especially Dal Bhat, a good mix of carb and protein.
Water can be refilled pretty easily in all the lodges and there are water sources/taps along the trail. We discourage the purchase of bottled water (as it contributes to plastic waste) and therefore suggest to use purification tablets or water filtration systems. One can also buy hot water in the lodges from USD 5-10 depending on how high you are.
Electricity and Charging
Compared to other trekking areas in Nepal, electricity is not a problem in the area. There are good charging facilities in all the lodges and the charges for it is also nominal. It is only at Tilicho Base Camp, Thorong Phedi and Thorong High Camp, there might be some issues with charging as the settlements are on solar back up. Make sure you have a good power bank especially for the nights in these places.
Annapurna area is well connected in terms of telecommunications and internet facility. You can find mobile network easily to Khangsar and internet connection throughout the trek. There will be a charge for the usage of internet, which will also be higher as you trek higher.
One needs regular trekking gears like boots, hiking pants, good base layers, Dri Fit t shirts, down jackets, Poncho and wind cheater. Sunscreen, sunglass and hats are also very important for the trek. On the technical side, it will be a safe bet to carry ins step crampons and trekking poles which come in very handy for snowy trail and descent after Thorong la pass.
You will need two governmental permits to complete the trek – Annapurna Area Conservation Project fees (ACAP) and Trekkers Information System Management System ( TIMS). Your Travel Agent will easily sort both these permits for you.
You can hire a jeep straight to Chame from Kathmandu. Options of local transport to Besishar is available and you have to change another vehicle for Chame.
For Muktinath-Jomsom section , local jeep options, both sharing and private hire are available. You can also take a 20 minutes’ flight to Pokhara or take local transport to Pokhara, both available on full hire or individual basis.
Best Time to Travel
Spring season from March till May and the Autumn season from September till December is the best time to visit the region. During Spring, the sky is clear, days are warm and the views open up really good. Autumn season also has clearer days, good views but is slightly drier and colder compared to Spring.
Winters are also okay to trek if you can cope with the cold. Just make sure you have enough warm clothes.
The area receives slightly lesser rain compared to other areas due to its topography, especially Manang and upper areas. Hence, once can also trek the area during monsoon.
(This is a personal account of Anuj Pandey, General Manager of Explore Himalaya Travel and Adventure. For more details on this trek, please go to https://www.explorehimalaya.com/packages/annapurna-circuit-trekking/ . For any enquiries, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org)
I chose Explore Himalaya for this expedition as I believe we will be looked after quite well and our expedition will run smoothly.
We work with the motto "Tourism for Development". Explore Himalaya Community Service Project was conceived to empower underprivileged segments of Nepal.