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The Annapurna Circuit Ain’t What it Used to Be – Here’s an Alternative

Annapurna Circuit trek

One of my fondest memories in the three years I spent backpacking around the world was the three weeks I hiked along some of the world’s highest mountains on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. It was the perfect long-term trek: gorgeous scenery, places to stay in every village, and no roads, just footpaths. Alas, that idyllic time of the mid-90s and earlier is no more. The march of “progress” has irrevocably changed this once-remote region. I invited Rasmus Olsen from TrekBooking.com, a great resource site in Nepal, to tell us the real deal for 2015 onward. Take it away Rasmus!

The Annapurna Circuit trek in Nepal has been renowned as one of the world’s best treks for decades. In the last few years, however, road construction has been ongoing, making the famous trekking trail less attractive.

The best direction to trek the Annapurna Circuit trek has always been counter-clockwise as you will then gradually acclimatize. The normal trek starting point was Jagat at an altitude of 1,100 meters. From Jagat trekkers would hike to Dharapani (day 1), from Dharapani to Chame (Day 2), from Chame to Pisang (Day 3), and then from Pisang to Manang (Day 4), possibly spending an extra day there before climbing higher.

Today, a road has been built all the way from Jagat to Manang, so doing the above 4 trekking days is no longer ideal. The best trek starting point is thus Manang at an altitude of 3,500 meters.

Driving all the way up to 3,500 meters to reach Manang means, however, that you will need to spend one day for acclimatization upon arriving at Manang. Hereafter, you will then get 6 days of trekking, plus one more day of acclimatization at Yak Kharki at an altitude of 4,110 meters. On day 6 you will cross the famous Thorong La Pass, pictured at the top. It lies at an altitude of 5,416 meters, and after crossing the trek ends in Muktinath.

Previously the trek continued from Muktinath for days but now the road has also today reached all the way up to Muktinath, making this a good place to stop the trek.

In short, the previous 15-17 days Annapurna Circuit trek has now been shortened to an 8 day trek, including 2 days of acclimatization.

The question remains, however, should you still do this trek? If only having 8 days available then indeed, we highly recommend this trek. However, with 8 days available another great trek in Nepal would also be the Langtang trek.

trekking costs Nepal

Costs for Annapurna Circuit trek

A great number of trekking companies are still doing 14-15 days trekking tours on the Annapurna Circuit as many tourists still want to do the trek. Here is a cost breakdown of the current expenses:

• USD $20 for a trekking permit to the Annapurna Conservation Area, known as ACAP permit.
• $10-20 for a TIMS (Trekkers’ Informational Management System) card
• Food and accommodation per day of around $15
• $25 for a trekking guide per day (optional)
• $15 per porter (optional)
• $60 from Kathmandu (including transport leg from Muktinath to Pokhara, which is expensive)
• Margin to the trekking company of around $100-150

Today, doing the Annapurna Circuit with a trekking company will thus normally cost around USD 800-1000, pending the final trekking company you choose to go with. For more information on prices, check out prices for the Annapurna Circuit.

You can of course decide to do the Annapurna Circuit trek independently which will cut out guide costs and the fee to the trekking company. Bear in mind, however, that you will then need to arrange things yourself, carry your pack, and be required to be have thought through evacuation arrangements in case of an emergency. This is important to keep in mind, especially considering the recent tragedy on the Annapurna Circuit itself where the hurricane Hudhud in October 2014 caused adverse weather conditions, killing up to 32 people on the trekking trail (in the normally clear trekking high season in Nepal). Please therefore always take safety into account as well.

Manaslu Circuit Trek

Manaslu trekking Nepal

If you are looking for a great trekking experience and have 16 days available, the “New Annapurna Circuit” is today the Manaslu Trek. It’s called the “new Annapurna Circuit” as it lies just 50 km west of the Annapurna Circuit and also provides a fantastic trekking trail going in a circuit (around Mount Manaslu). The Manaslu trek is today considered one of Nepal’s best treks, giving you all the upsides Annapurna Circuit previously did:

• a perfect trekking trail with a high altitude variation from 700 meters to 5,100 meters
• a chance to cross a high trekking pass, the Larke Pass, at an altitude of 5,135 meters
• cultural inputs in terms of passing through many remote local villages and being able to visit several interesting monasteries.
• accommodation in guesthouses.
• fantastic scenery of mountains, waterfalls, forests, and rice paddies.

Go here to see typical Manaslu Trek prices if you book through a tour company.

For more information on treks in Nepal, check out what’s currently considered the 12 most popular trekking routes in Nepal.

On this blog, check out a story on the short Poon Hill trek and see travel prices in Nepal

You can also search tours with G Adventures for other options. 

Article by Rasmus Olsen, photos courtesy of TrekBooking. All information was accurate at time of publishing, but please confirm current rates and rules when making your Nepal travel plans.

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Sam Smith

Wednesday 4th of March 2020

Manaslu Circuit Trek begins from the beautiful drive to Dhadingbeshi-Aarughat from Kathmandu. The Manaslu Mountain in itself is the world's eighth tallest mountain and being in its foothill could be loaded with the enterprise. Aarughat is the little occurrence town lying in the bank of Budhi Gandaki River associating Dhading and Gorkha area of Nepal. The word Manaslu is exceptionally flawless as it implies soul or acumen in Sanskrit. This mountain loaded with the soul will rub the vivacious soul into your scholarly personality and encourages you to get renewed once you backpedal to your nation of origin.

Nearly trekking for 13 days astounding Larkey La Pass will show up in your Manaslu Circuit trekking trail. The Manaslu Circuit trek trail drives you until the point that the high camp of Mount Manaslu from where you can see the productive mountains extremely closes.

From this intersection, the trekking moves towards the Bhul Bule of the Lamjung region from where the transport drive will take you back to Kathmandu.

Amir Adh.

Monday 13th of January 2020

Manaslu is certainly a great alternative to regular annapurna circuit! Check updates about Manaslu Trek in my company site's Manaslu Trek Forum.

David

Wednesday 25th of September 2019

Annapurna Region Trekking Annapurna region trekking is popular as the second most rewarding tourist destination and the second most preferred trekking trail in Nepal after everest region trekking.Trekking in Annapuran region is relatively less strenuous than the trekking in Everest and other regions. Mt. Annapurna, one of the eight highest mountains in the world standing at the height of 8,091 m (26,538 ft) is the centre of the highlight of this trekking. The fabulous cultural and natural world endowed by this region is remarkably astonishing. The traditional settlements, different ethnic groups ad their life style, high pastures, abundance presence of flora and fauna, and most importantly, the breath-taking Himalayan range are the major notable fascinations of this trekking. Every second, Mount Annapurna tends to be more beautiful as is encircled by a number of awe-inspiring Himalayan ranges which include the Annapurna range, Dhaulagiri and Machhapuchhre - the famous fish-tail mountain that dominates the skyline above Pokhara. In addition, this area possesses the Kali Gandaki, the world's deepest gorge which is the frontier between mount Dhaulagiri and mount Annapurna.

Pasang Lama

Monday 16th of September 2019

Annapurna Circuit Trek is very liberal when it comes to trek put in destination with the construction of roads on the both parts of the trek you have option of completing the trek within 10 days. But however, if you want to experience the real Annapurna circuit trek, roads aren’t real concern as there are several inner routes constructed to avoid them and provide you with genuine natural experience. The landscape changes very soon and in the matter of just 2 weeks you will experience all climate zone, from subtropical to alpine. Furthermore, the challenge exists walking from 800 meters to one of the highest passes of Thorong La at 5,400 meters but nevertheless, the sense of achievement is immense and the pain is soon forgotten.

Tim

Thursday 22nd of November 2018

I would suggest that this information on the Annapurna circuit may have been accurate in 2015 but is no longer accurate in 2018. My friends and I just returned having spent 23 days on the trek. We trekked from Chamje to Naya Pal and included many of the side trips (Upper Pisang, up towards Gang La, Ice Lake, Tilicho Lake, Jhong, Dhumba Lake, Windy Pass, Thini). Rough estimate is we put on about 200 miles and spent maybe 2-3 days total on the new jeep road. Several of the days we saw very few trekkers because they had not heard about the New Annapurna Trekking Trail (NATT). As an example, we trekked Muktinath to Kagbeni via Jhong and saw 1 mountain biker and no trekkers the whole day. The guys laying it out are Prem's Trekking and are marking the whole new route with the white/red type mark you find in Europe. Side trails off of that are marked blue/white. It's longer and more challenging but so worth it. Check it out.

Tim Leffel

Monday 26th of November 2018

Right, well that's not what people think of when they hear or book "Annapurna Circuit" trek. I'm not sure that barely different name is going to do much to set it apart, so they might need some branding brainstorming on that. It does sound much more interesting though than what the classic trail has become. I was just there this year and met several people who had done the regular one in two weeks or less, roads to roads.