Known as one of the greatest walks in the world The Annapurna Circuit Trek takes you through the widest variety of geographical and cultural zones in the Himalaya. From the subtropical region filled with lush fertile valleys of rice terraces, bamboo, and citrus trees to the edge of the Tibetan Plateau The Annapurna Circuit Trek has the greatest concentrations of top lodges and guesthouses in Nepal, so there’s always comfort close by.
The is the classic “horseshoe” trail route beginning in Besisahar and ending in Pokhara. Over the years some of the region has been open to road access which has benefited the local people with easier access to the main roads to Pokhara and Kathmandu. Our guides when possible, will stay clear of these routes and take you through trails which are mainly used by trekkers and local people including animal herders.
The Annapurna Circuit Trek is an enjoyable trail from the first time trekker to the experienced adventurer. The route takes you around the great Annapurna massif with awe-inspiring views of the Himalaya and a thrilling adventure hiking up the highest mountain pass in the world, the Thorung La at 5416 meters. You’ll also see one of the greatest pilgrimage sites in South Asia at Muktinath, where Buddhists and Hindus, some coming from as far away as South India, take blessings from the sacred fountains and springs. You’ll find having a guide always close by to explain to you the various cultures and traditions of the region along with communication with locals for information and photographic opportunities invaluable, making your journey fulfilling and complete.
As well, having a trained professional Nepali mountain guide that knows the trails and how to react to changing weather conditions will also give you peace of mind allowing you to relax and enjoy the trek knowing your safety is of utmost importance to them.
The Annapurna Circuit Trek can also be customized to fit your schedule and interests. Some choose to end their trek in Jomsom and fly to Pokhara. We also have another Annapurna Circuit Trek that spends a little more time around Muktinath, trekking to Kagbeni, and in between exploring some amazing Tibetan villages in Mustang. This is a wonderful alternative to those interested in an introduction to the landscape and culture of the restricted Upper Mustang region. This area was originally part of the Upper Mustang but is not restricted, therefore an expensive permit is not needed to visit here. Please see our other Annapurna Circuit Trek itinerary for more details or contact us if you want to customize your trek.
DAY 1 – KATHMANDU: ARRIVAL DAY
We will meet you at Tribhuvan International Airport and transfer you to your hotel in Kathmandu/Thamel. You’ll have time to relax and perhaps take a walk around Thamel. We can also suggest some places for lunch or dinner depending on your arrival time.
DAY 2 – KATHMANDU TO BESISAHAR
Besisahar 820m/2700ft Driving (7 hours)
We start our journey and drive from Kathmandu to Besisahar, along the way we’ll pass by traditional villages, the mighty Marsyangdi River and the subtropical landscape and vegetation of the region. We overnight at the classic starting point of the Annapurna Circuit-Besisahar.
DAY 3 – BESISAHAR TO SYANGE, CHAMJ
Chamje 1385m/4540ft Trekking (4 hours)
Our first day of trekking is a short four-hour walk ending up in Chamj. We will pass through traditional villages with Hindu Shrines and lush subtropical vegetation admiring the spectacular rice terraces. We’ll stop for lunch in Syange, where we may enjoy some Nepali chow mein, soup, bread, or dal bhat with extra helpings of rice and lentils. There are lots of choices for food along the trail. Annapurna has some of the best lodges in Nepal.
DAY 4 – CHAMJE TO BAGARCHHAP
Bagarchap 2160m Trekking (5.5 hours)
We start the morning with a typical breakfast of either oatmeal with apples, hot off the pan Tibetan bread with honey and jam, or toast with eggs and hash browns, coffee or tea. The trail is rocky and we cross the Marsyangdi River via suspension bridge taking in the early morning rays of light and the breathtaking views. It’s here where we’ll reach the gate to Manang District descending down to the pretty little village of Tal. Depending on time we may have lunch here before moving on. Walking by its stone chorten entrance, a sign we are getting closer to the dry zone and the Tibetan/Buddhist culture, we pass through Dharapani, (1920m), before reaching our destination for the night, Bagarchhap. This village is made up of flat roofs typical of the Tibetan style houses we’ll see more of when we climb into the dry zone. We are now getting a sense of the diversity of culture that makes the Annapurna Circuit such a special trek.
DAY 5 – BAGARCHHAP TO CHAME
Chame 2710m/7090ft Trekking (6 hours)
We start the day with a hearty breakfast and make our way for some steep climbing through a forest of fir and pine once we get past the village of Danaque. We’ll meet some friendly villagers along the way. It’s perfectly fine to take pictures of people. Just make sure to have the guide ask if it’s OK first. After a gain of 500 meters, we’ll reach Timang, where we’ll continue along until Chame, the administrative center of Manang District.
On approach to Chame we get a good look at the towering Annapurna II, 7937 meters. There are lots of lodges and facilities in Chame, so if you need to pick up some extra supplies like soap, personal items, or snacks this is a good village to do a little shopping.
Being the administrative capital they have fairly reliable 3G network services here so if you have a local sim card you can catch up with friends and family by email, Messenger, Line, or even Facetime. Post some pictures or video on Instagram and Facebook to update everyone on your amazing adventure.
We settle into our lodge for the evening with a filling dinner of momos, either veg. or yak meat, maybe a pizza, pasta, or some delicious fried noodles or potatoes. Add some of the green chilli sauce from the bottle on the table to spice up your meal. Tea or even just plain hot water is a great way to stay warm and finish off your meal. It’s important to stay hydrated as we climb to higher elevations.
DAY 6 – CHAME TO PISANG
Pisang 3250m/10660ft Trekking (4 hours)
We start the day with a hearty breakfast. Most of the lodges will have the same dishes on their menu but if you see something different make sure to try it. Tsampa is a Tibetan porridge made from roasted barley flour. If you see this on the menu, give it try. You’ll only ever find this dish in the Himalaya. It’s hearty, filling, and delicious with a little sugar or honey.
The trail continues through thick forest. We cross the Marsyangdi Valley at over 3000 meters. We also see the commanding Paungda Danda rock face. Locals believe your spirit must climb Paungda Danda before you can reach the Kingdom of Heaven. We arrive at the village of Lower Pisang greeted by its mani wall at the entrance. Your guide will remind you but always stay to the left of these Buddhist shrines as it’s proper in the culture to move around shrines, temples, and stupas in a clockwise direction. It’s amazing and spectacular scenery, drier, colder, but breathtaking. After dinner we can stay warm by the stove with some hot tea or water, chatting with our group or meeting other trekkers before having a good night sleep.
DAY 7 – PISANG TO MANANG
Manang 3540m/11600ft Trekking (4 hours)
We are now in the drier region of the Upper Manang District. The surroundings and culture are very Tibetan-like. Mani walls, stone chortens, and stupas are seen everywhere including right on the trail to Manang. We pass through villages that are built with high stone walls that help to shelter us from the winds. We see yak herds and the wonderful village of Bragha, with its Buddhist Monastery that sits perched on the hill that overlooks the trail to Manang. It’s just a short walk now to our destination, Manang, where we’ll spend two days, resting and acclimating before moving on. Manang has plenty of lodges and shops where we can pick up extra supplies. There are lots of trekkers you’ll meet that come from around the world to walk the famous Annapurna Circuit. We’ll have a great night resting, having a hearty meal of momos, fried potatoes, or a yak steak, and chatting with our group around a warm stove.
DAY 8 – MANANG: ACCLIMATIZATION DAY
Manang 3540m/11600ft Rest Day
This is an acclimatization day so after breakfast we’ll head out for a nice hike, gaining some altitude before descending back down to Manang. Let’s have some breakfast first of toast and eggs, some hot oatmeal or a Tibetan pancake with some coffee and tea before heading out. An acclimatization hike may include walking up to get a good view of the Gangapurna Glacier above the lake which takes about an hour. Amazing photo opportunities here so don’t forget your camera! There are more strenuous hikes but it will be up to our guide and the group as to where we will go.
They’ll be a little time to wander around the village later in the day where you may be held up with a traffic jam of goats passing through. We’ll meet up for dinner at our guesthouse or lodge before retiring for the night. 3G service is not always reliable here but most lodges offer wifi for a fee if you want to catch up with emails or post a photo or two.
DAY 9 – MANANG TO YAK KHARKA
Yak Kharka 4050m/13290ft Trekking (3 hours)
Rested and acclimated in Manang, we are now ready to push on to the higher elevations. Our biggest day is just around the corner when we’ll hike up the Thorung La Pass at 5416 meters. Today we leave Manang after breakfast for a short hike to Yak Kharka. Along the way, we get some of the best views of the Annapurna massif. It’s a short hike because we still need more time to safely acclimate our bodies, reaching 4050 meters at Yak Kharka. The vegetation is sparse and we have now left the Marsyangdi Valley for the Jarsang Khola Valley. It’s here where locals forage for yartsa gunbu, a mummified caterpillar fungus that’s considered the viagra of the Himalaya, fetching prices up to $50,000 a pound!
DAY 10 – YAK KHARKA TO THORONG PHEDI
Thorung Phedi 4450m/14600ft Trekking (3.5 hours)
It’s important to stay fuelled and hydrated especially at these high altitudes so have a hearty breakfast before we leave Yak Kharka for Thorung Phedi, our last stop before summiting the Thorung La Pass. We’ll cross a wooden bridge at 4310 meters over the Jarsang River before arriving at the first base camp of the Thorung La Pass, Thorung Phedi. You’ll notice the extreme cold, once the sun drops. We’ll have dinner and probably turn in shortly after finishing our meal as we will wake up well before sunrise for our ascent of the Thorung La Pass.
DAY 11 – THORONG PHEDI TO MUKTINATH VIA THORUNG LA PASS
Muktinath 3800m/12460ft via Thorung Pass 5416m/17800ft Trekking (6.5 hours)
The Annapurna Circuit is known for being a moderate trek but this day will be the toughest as we rise early, 3-3:30am for our hike up to the highest point on the trail, The Thorung La Pass at 5416 meters. It’s important to leave the pass before the mid-morning as the winds become quite strong making it more dangerous to trek. After a quick nourishing breakfast, we’ll prepare to start our climb. Our first stop for a short break will be at the Thorung High Camp, about an hour into the trek. We will reach the highest point at the pass after 2-3 hours more of hiking, taking some time to enjoy the amazing views of the Annapurnas and the Kali Gandaki Valley on the other side of the pass and celebrate and savour our triumph.
Make sure to take lots of pictures with the friends you’ve made and your guide and porter so you can share later online. The descent down to Mukitinath and Ranipauwa will be slow and arduous. If there’s fresh snow on the ground it will be slippery at times.
There won’t be any lodges or guesthouses until we near Muktinath, the Hindu/Buddhist temple and shrine complex that draws pilgrims from all over South Asia. We’ll stay in the village of Ranipauwa, next to Muktinath.
DAY 12 – MUKTINATH TO MARPHA
Marpha 2670m/8760ft Trekking (6 hours)
We have lots of walking to do on this day so we’ll rise early, have a big breakfast of hot oatmeal or porridge with apples, some toast or Tibetan bread, or eggs and hash browns, and coffee and tea. We’ll pass through the great Kali Gandaki gorge and lower Mustang region before arriving at Jomsom, the starting point for those trekking to the Upper Mustang region. We’ll have lunch here and take a break from the winds. Moving on from Jomsom we’ll have a chance to gaze at the amazing peaks of Nilgiri, 7061 meters, and the 7th highest mountain in the world, Dhaulagiri, 8167 meters. Our destination for the day is Marpha, the apple and apple brandy capital of Nepal. You might choose to finish off this long day with a nice shot of brandy by the fire.Most of the people in this region are Thakali. They are successful in business as traders as well as hotel and guesthouse owners.
DAY 13 – MARPHA TO GHASA
Ghasa 2010m/6600ft Trekking (6 hours)
We are now in the last few days of trekking and although these sections seem long, they are relatively easy days for the Annapurna Circuit Trek. We will have another couple of days where we have to ascend again, but for now, enjoy the hike downhill!
On this day we descend over 600 meters in total. Our destination for the day is the last Thakali village we’ll visit and the furthest south Tibetan Buddhism appears in this region. Ghasa is famous for bird watching and the vegetation includes wild marijuana! We’ll pass through pine, birch, and rhododendron forests before finally reaching Ghasa. Along the way more views of Nilgiri North, 7061m, Annapurna I 8091m, and the 7th highest mountain in the world, Dhaulagiri I,8167m.
DAY 14 – GHASA TO TATOPONI
Tatoponi 1110 meters Trekking (6 hours)
This is another long day on the trail with a steep descent down to 1100 meters. Better start the day with a good breakfast of eggs, toast, fried potatoes, or even a plate of chow mein if it’s on the menu, plus coffee and tea. We’ll stop to admire the beautiful Rukse Waterfall and we’ll have more views of Annapurna I, the 10th highest mountain in the world. Of all of the 8,000 meter peaks, Annapurna is know as one of the most dangerous to climb.
Tatoponi means hot water in Nepali and in fact, it is home to natural hot springs along the Kala Gandaki River. You’ll have a chance to take a dip in the hot springs and soothe those achy muscles. Afterwards, we’ll settle in our guesthouse at the village and prepare for dinner.
DAY 15 –TATOPONI TO GHOREPANI
Ghorepani 2870m/9410ft Trekking (6 hours)
We’re going back uphill today so get ready for an ascent that will seem tough after the last few days but worth the effort for the incredible views that await us. We’ll travel through the villages of Phalate and Chitre and see more rhodendron forests, monkeys and a variety of birds. Many of the people of this region serve in the Ghorka Regiment of the Nepali Army and Indian Army. We’ll make a crossing of the Kali Gandaki River and admire the views of Daulagiri and the Annapurna range.
We’ll stay in Ghorepani, have a big dal bhat dinner with extra helpings of rice and lentils, or maybe a pizza, some momos and potatoes or whatever else looks good on the menu. Apple pie sounds perfect as well after the long day. We have a big day tomorrow with a sunrise hike to Poon Hill!
DAY 16 – GHOREPANI TO POON HILL, POKHARA
Poon Hill 3200m/10500ft Trekking (6 hours)
We wake up early so we can make it to the top of Poon Hill for (weather permitting), a spectacular sunrise over Mt. Dhaulagiri 8167m, Tukuche Peak 6920m , Nilgiri 6940m, Varaha Shikhar 7847m, Mt. Annapurna I 8091m, Annapurna South 7219m, Annapurna III 7855m, Machhapuchhre 6993m, Annapurna IV 7525m, Annapurna II 7937m.
This is a popular spot for trekkers, especially those that aren’t up for the high Himalaya where we’ve just been. So expect lots of people at the top. We’ll enjoy the expansive views of the Himalaya, take some pictures and selfies we can share later with our friends before heading back down. We have a long trek to Naya Pul where we’ll be met by drivers for an hour long ride to Pokhara.
We’ll stay the night in Nepal’s second biggest city near lakeside. You have many choices for restaurants in Pokhara, so what will it be? Indian, Italian, international? You will also have time on your own to do a little bit of shopping for souvenirs and gifts at the shops that line the lakeside area.
DAY 17 – POKHARA TO KATHMANDU
Pokhara 1000m/3280ft Flight (22m )
We have breakfast at our guesthouse then drive to the airport for our short flight to Kathmandu. We will be met at the airport by our driver who will take us back to the hotel in Thamel. You have the rest of the day free to yourself to explore, do some last minute shopping, and have a nice lunch somewhere around Thamel. We have our big farewell dinner on this night with a cultural show and a chance to reminisce about our amazing adventure.
DAY 18 – KATHMANDU: DEPARTURE DAY
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John Saboe, Trek Leader John Saboe is an adventure traveler, entrepreneur. Podcast host-“Far East Adventure Travel”-iTunes, broadcaster/live streamer. I’ve trekked in 4 regions of Nepal and explored Pokhara, Lumbini, Chitwan National Park, and Bardia National Park. I’ve also visited the […]