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.

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.

Comments
  1. Rebekah Voss

    I was in Nepal not too long ago. If only I’d had read this post before I left. This just gives me a goal for next time I’m there…great stuff, Rasmus!

  2. Uptourist

    I find it unfortunate to see great places take the downturn. As much as you want to preserve its beauty it will still depend on the people that live in it and the people that manage it.

  3. claire

    That is not an alternative it is a different circuit!
    An alternative to walking on the road is using the NATT ( New Annapurnas Trekking Trail) which allows to walk on beautiful natural trails instead of the road, and still stay the nights in the same villages .
    Look it up :)

    • Graham

      Thank you!

  4. JB & Renee

    I’ve been to Nepal just once in 1997, and to this day I still call it the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to in my life. At the time, I wasn’t fond of taking pictures but I remember hating myself for not bringing a camera. I was almost in tears many times because of how beautiful the scenery was. Wonderful people too. My heart goes out to them during this trying time.

  5. Raj

    Following the recent earthquake in Manaslu region. There are many confusion about the landslide and trail condition. some of the traveller they recently explore the trail and they found the truth and share their experience . The link below from the different travellers might be a useful for everyone.

    Manaslu Trek Guide Nabaraj experience overall trail and tea houses

    ManaslucircuitTrek.com October 1st 2015

    Manaslu Circuit Land slide By MICHELLE MARIE

  6. Mape

    Andrew and Prem had recently marked the trail with primary and secondary color to avoid the road while trekking Round Annapurna.

    Check my recent blog post about Annapurna Circuit Trek After Earthquake

    Cheers

  7. Pradeep

    Manaslu is certainly a great alternative to regular annapurna circuit! Check updates about Manaslu Trek in Manaslu Trek Forum

  8. Shaurab Lohani

    The blog is very right about Annapurna circuit but there are far better treks in the modern day in Nepal. Yes, they are quite expensive no doubt but treks like Dolpo circuit, Manaslu Circuit, and Langtang (although it is not a circuit) . So checkout other interesting treks in Nepal which is far more better and natural http://themountaintrails.com/budget-trekking/manaslu-circuit

  9. Babu

    Mt Everest Base camp trek is cheapest trekking destination as compare Annapurna Base camp , Amanaslu trekking.

  10. Raj

    The adventure of lifetime, trekking in Nepal can be possible throughout the year but Autumn and Spring are the best. Manaslu trek could be the best alternative for Annapurna circuit trek. Check out the current updates about Annapurna Circuit here http://www.trekkingbuzz.com

  11. Mike Hudson.

    In the 30 years that I have been trekking in Nepal I have never once used a company. The wilds of Nepal are best enjoyed with the minimum number of companions…in this case just ONE. My Sherpa guide, Tenzi, has delivered me to great destinations with the minimum of fuss..and dollars, while benefitting from the fact that he collects the monies I would otherwise have spent with a tour company. Be adventurous. Don’t be afraid.

    • Richard Alderson

      Hi Mike,
      Thanks for the information. We would like to do the Annapurna Circuit Trek with our 8 year old son. Would the trek be too difficult for him ?

  12. Notgivingyou Name

    6 days? What were you on? Everyone I talked to said it took at least 12, it took us 15 days

    • Tim Leffel

      It took you 15 days to walk from Manang to Muktinath? If you read carefully, that was the “road to road” time if only trek that part.

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