Trekking in Annapurna Region
The Annapurna Conservation covers an expansive area of 7,629 square kilometers. The elevations in this region range from 790 meters to the towering height of 8,091 meters at Annapurna. The ACAP is home to a diverse population of approximately one hundred thousand residents belonging to various ethnic groups. In the southern part of the ACAP, you will find communities primarily composed of Gurungs and Magars, while in the northern regions, the inhabitants are mainly Thakalis, Manange, and Loba people. The majority of the residents in this area follow either Buddhism or Hinduism, contributing to the cultural richness of the region.
The Annapurna Conservation Area boasts incredible biodiversity. You can encounter a staggering array of natural life, including 1,226 species of flowering plants, 518 types of birds, and 105 mammal species within its boundaries. The northern region of the ACAP, which lies beyond the towering peaks, is known as the rain shadow area. This area, particularly in the Upper Mustang region, features some of the most iconic landscapes in Nepal. The unique geography and scenery make it a fascinating destination for trekkers.
The highest point of the Annapurna Circuit Trek is the Thorong La Pass, situated at an altitude of 5,416 meters. As you traverse the circuit, you will also visit the revered Muktinath Temple, which holds significance for both Hindus and Buddhists. The temple is known for its 108 sprouts and an eternal flame that has been burning for thousands of years. Additionally, you will encounter the ancient town of Kagbeni, which offers a glimpse into the rich history and culture of the region. Upon completing the trek, you will visit Pokhara, often referred to as the tourist capital of Nepal. Pokhara is renowned for its breathtaking beauty, as it is surrounded by snow-capped peaks and boasts several lakes that reflect the majestic mountain scenery, creating a picturesque setting for visitors.
Trek grade and suggested itineraries
The Annapurna Circuit Trek is indeed a challenging adventure, particularly as you reach the high altitude of 5,416 meters at Thorong La Pass. The paths along the trek are often rocky, and steep, and can be slippery at times. Additionally, you will encounter stairways that require physical exertion. It's important to be prepared for the demanding terrain and altitude during the trek.
It's worth noting that the duration and intensity of the Annapurna Circuit treks can vary based on the chosen itinerary. Shorter treks tend to be more intensive as they require covering more distance each day, while longer treks offer fewer walking hours and more time to acclimatize. Here are a few options for experiencing the Annapurna Circuit Trek with different durations:
Annapurna Circuit Trek- 14 Days
This is a moderate trek package that includes a day for acclimatization. The trek starts from Bhulbhule and ends at Birethanti, covering the main highlights of the Annapurna Circuit.
Annapurna Circuit Short Trek - 11 Days
This is the shortest option, but it doesn't allocate specific days for acclimatization. The trek begins with a bus ride to Chame, the starting point of the trek, and ends at Jomsom-Pokhara. From Pokhara, you will drive or fly to Kathmandu.
Annapurna Circuit Trek with Tilicho Lake - 16 Days
Another moderate option, this trek begins from Jagat and concludes at Birethanti. It includes a day for acclimatization in Manang. Along the way, you will also embark on a short side trek to the mesmerizing Tilicho Lake, one of the highest lakes in the world.
Preparing for the trek from your side
To ensure a successful and enjoyable Annapurna Circuit Trek, it is advisable to engage in stamina-building exercises a few weeks before your trek. Jogging, cycling, swimming, and participating in treks with a regular backpack can help improve your fitness level.
Given the stunning and inaccessible landscapes you will encounter during the trek, it is recommended to bring a high-quality camera to capture the incredible scenery. While using a mobile phone is an option, a dedicated camera may yield better results.
During the evenings, after trekking during the day, you will have plenty of free time. Consider bringing books to read or fun game paraphernalia like chess, cards, or Monopoly to keep yourself entertained.
Trek insurance is compulsory for the Annapurna Circuit Trek due to the associated risks of high-altitude treks. Ensure that your insurance covers medical treatment, helicopter rescue, and repatriation at the highest trek elevation, Thorong La Pass (5,416m). Helicopter rescue is crucial due to limited road infrastructure and healthcare facilities in trek regions. Contact your insurance company to confirm coverage for heli-rescue up to 5,500m, as website information may not always be accurate.
While porters will be assigned to carry your main luggage, there is a weight limit of 12.5kg per trekker, with two trekkers sharing a porter. The combined weight of the porter should not exceed 25kg. If you prefer, you can arrange for a dedicated porter for your luggage. Additional luggage can be stored for free at Nepal Nomad Trekking for the duration of your trip. Pack clothing items, toiletries, essential gear, and personal accessories based on trek duration, season, and your preferences.
Although most costs in trek regions are covered in the trek packages, you will need personal spending money. This includes meals in Kathmandu before and after the trek, visa application fees, travel insurance, souvenirs, tips, snacks, drinks, and personal gear. It is advisable to bring a credit/debit card to withdraw Nepalese Rupees from ATMs in Kathmandu. However, please note that currency exchange must be done in Kathmandu, as trek regions do not have financial institutions. Budget around USD 10 to 20 per day for spending money in trek regions.
For visa requirements, Indian citizens do not need a visa to enter Nepal. Most citizens from other countries can obtain an on-arrival visa at Tribhuvan International Airport or immigration check posts. Ensure your passport has at least six months of validity and carry a passport-sized photo. The current visa fee is USD 50 for a 30-day stay. Citizens of China and SAARC countries may receive a free visa, with a 30-day limit for SAARC citizens per visa year. Citizens of specific countries should contact their local embassy for visa information. By considering these factors, being prepared physically, having adequate insurance coverage, and managing your logistics, you can have a smooth and enjoyable Annapurna Circuit Trek experience.
Know before the trek departure
As soon as you book your Annapurna Circuit Trek, it is important to email your flight details to the trekking company. This will allow them to arrange for a company representative to meet you at Kathmandu Airport. Upon arrival, you will be greeted by the representative, who will be holding a pamphlet with your name on it. They will present you with a marigold garland as a warm welcome gesture and accompany you to your hotel in a private vehicle, ensuring a smooth transition into a new country.
The trekking company provides free airport pickup and drop-off services for all trekkers who have booked trek packages with them. It is recommended to arrive at least one day earlier than the departure date to participate in the trip briefing. During the briefing, the company will go through your luggage to ensure you have packed all the essential items for the trek. The briefing also allows for introductions and provides vital information about the hike.
Annapurna Circuit treks are easily accessible, and on the departure date, you will be driven to the trek starting point. The specific start point varies depending on the chosen trek package.
For the trek, you will need permits and fees. An Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) permit is required, and the cost is Rs. 3,000 (~USD 30) for foreigners (except SAARC citizens) and Rs. 200 (~USD 2) for SAARC citizens. You can obtain the ACAP permit from various locations such as the Nepal Tourism Board Office in Kathmandu or Pokhara or the ACAP permit counter in Besisahar. Additionally, you will need a Trekkers' Information Management System (TIMS) card, which costs Rs. 1,000 (~USD 10). The trekking company will arrange these permits for you.
Language will not be a barrier during the trek as Nepali is the primary language spoken, but English is widely spoken, particularly in cities. The trekking company provides guides/Sherpas fluent in English, Japanese, and Spanish.
Staying in contact with friends and family is possible in cities and towns in Nepal. Most lodges and restaurants in trek regions have internet access, although there may be a service fee. The trekking company remains in contact with each trek team at least once a day through the trek lead, usually using mobile/cell phones. Purchasing a local SIM card in Kathmandu is an option, although signal strength cannot be guaranteed.
Food and water are important considerations during the trek. The trekking company selects the best lodges/tea houses/hotels to provide plenty of nutritious and tasty food for trekkers. The food choices include traditional, Asian, and Western options. However, as you ascend in altitude, the food choices become narrower and more expensive. It is advisable to buy snacks and extra dietary food from larger cities before starting the trek. Bottled mineral water can be purchased from shops and tea houses along the route, but some trek regions do not allow plastic bottles. It is recommended to bring a water bottle and fill it with boiled or filtered water from the lodges/tea houses. Drinking water from rivers, taps, or wells in trek regions is not recommended. Non-veg items, dairy products, and alcoholic drinks are best avoided, while fresh vegetables and liquids such as lemon tea, ginger tea, and garlic soup are recommended.
Accommodations in Kathmandu can be chosen according to personal preference, as the city offers a wide range of hotels and lodges to suit various budgets. Accommodations during the trek are arranged by the trekking company and are selected for comfort and warmth. Lodges with rooms and attached bathrooms are preferred, although, in some places, standard rooms are provided. All accommodations are on a twin-sharing basis and provide electricity, running water, and internet access. Hot showers are available for a small fee.
Altitude sickness is a concern during the trek, so it is essential to be aware of its symptoms and take precautions. Adequate fitness for the duration and elevation gain of the trek is important. Hydration is crucial, and trekkers are advised to drink at least 3-4 liters of water per day. Eating heavy non-veg meals and consuming alcoholic beverages are discouraged. Acclimatization and a gradual ascent are key to avoiding altitude sickness.
It is advised to pack appropriate clothing and equipment based on the season you choose to trek. Multiple layers of clothing are recommended, especially for winter treks. Good trekking gear is essential for challenging weather conditions. Adequate footwear, warm and windproof clothing, waterproof gear, and a water bottle are among the items to consider.
When to travel for the Annapurna Circuit Trek largely depends on personal preference. The ideal seasons are autumn (September to November) and spring (March to May). These seasons offer favorable weather conditions, with warm days and cool nights. Autumn provides stunning mountain views, but it can be crowded. Spring offers blooming rhododendrons and fewer crowds. Monsoon/summer (June to August) should be approached with caution due to rain and leeches. Winter (December to February) is cold, challenging, and not recommended for trekking due to snow-covered trails.
For communication, electricity is available to charge electronic devices along the trekking route. Power is usually provided by solar panels, and a small fee may be required. Internet facilities are also available, but a fee may apply.
Obtaining a local SIM card is recommended for internet and communication services. Ncell and NTC (Namaste) are popular SIM card options that can be purchased at the airport or shops in the hotel area.
Safety is a top priority during the Annapurna Circuit Trek, and the trekking company takes necessary precautions to ensure the well-being of trekkers. The trek guides have undergone intensive wilderness first aid training and hold government licenses. They come from the remote high Himalayas and have extensive knowledge of the trekking routes. They carry first aid kits and the necessary equipment to handle any situation that may arise during the trek. The guides trek together with the group to ensure everyone's safety.
Altitude sickness is a concern during high-altitude treks, and the team takes measures to monitor and address it. They carry an oximeter to monitor blood oxygen saturation levels, enabling them to detect signs of altitude sickness early and take necessary precautions.
To decrease the chances of altitude sickness, it is important not to skip acclimatization days and walk at your own pace. Adequate hydration is crucial, and trekkers are encouraged to drink at least 4 liters of water daily. Drinking garlic soup, consuming enough food, keeping the body warm, taking plenty of rest after each day's hike, and avoiding alcoholic and caffeinated drinks are also recommended.
Recognizing the signs of altitude sickness is important, and trekkers are advised to inform their guide immediately if they experience tiredness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headache, difficulty sleeping, appetite loss, increased heart rate, or shortness of breath.
In severe cases of altitude sickness, which can be life-threatening, the trekking company has arrangements for helicopter rescue. Adequate trek insurance with heli-rescue coverage is crucial for Annapurna Circuit Treks. If someone falls ill, the trek leader will assess the situation and decide whether to continue the trek or descend immediately, prioritizing the safety and well-being of the affected person. The company ensures that trekkers are safe and comfortable throughout the trek.
With trained guides, necessary equipment, precautions for altitude sickness, and emergency arrangements, the trekking company aims to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for all trekkers undertaking the Annapurna Circuit Trek.
Experience the difference between being cared
Nepal Nomad Trekking understands that traveling to a foreign country and trekking on remote trails may seem daunting. However, we assure you that we will take care of you every step of the way, starting from the moment you arrive at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu until your departure. We offer free airport pickup and drop-off services for all our trek guests, ensuring a smooth transition upon arrival and departure.
If you encounter any difficulties or require assistance during your stay in Nepal, Nepal Nomad Trekking is available to help. We believe in universal brotherhood and treat each of our clients as valued family members. You can rely on our support and guidance throughout your journey.
Indeed, you now have a comprehensive understanding of the Annapurna Circuit treks. You are familiar with the geography of the trails, the stunning places to visit, the remarkable sights to see, and the various trek options available to you. Armed with this knowledge, you can make informed decisions and plan your Annapurna Circuit trek according to your preferences and requirements. Whether you choose a shorter or longer trek, prioritize acclimatization, or opt for side trips, you are well-equipped to embark on this remarkable adventure in the heart of Nepal's Annapurna region. Enjoy your trek and the awe-inspiring beauty that awaits you along the Annapurna Circuit!