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.
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
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.