The Annapurna Circuit trek became one of our favorite routes in Nepal. We’ve done several different routes including the famous Everest Base Camp, Poon Hill, and lesser-known like Langtang and Mardi Himal treks. We didn’t expect much from the route as we heard and read a lot about the road that was built in the park and completely spoiled the trekking route so we couldn’t even decide where to start walking. Now after completing the whole circuit we can say that the road wasn’t as bad as we thought and the scenery exceeded our expectations. Here is our detailed guide to the Annapurna Circuit we sincerely hope it’ll help you to plan the trek.
For a detailed day-by-day itinerary with distances, elevation profiles, places to stay and facilities on the route go to the Annapurna circuit trek itinerary.
Annapurna Circuit trek overview
- Distance – 260 km/161 mi (if walking the complete route)
- Days – 15-18 days
- Cost – about NPR 2440/US$22 per person per day
- Permits – TIMS card and Annapurna Sanctuary permit
- Guide – can be done independently, with a guide/porter or in a group
- Starting point – Bhulbhule (7 km after Besisahar)
- Finishing point – Nayapul
- Highest point – Thorong La Pass (5400 m/17 716 ft)
- Total elevation gain (in 15 days) – 11 685 m/38 336 ft
- Total elevation loss (in 15 days) – 11 358 m/37 263 ft
- Walking on the road – 68 km/42 mi out of 260 km but only about 24 km/15 mi are on a road with significant traffic.
- Accommodation – guesthouses
- Food – Nepali, Indian, Chinese, Western food
Different route options on the Annapurna Circuit
It was our first question when we started planning the trek and I must say it wasn’t easy to find an answer. After checking several websites and itineraries we got totally overwhelmed by the number of different options so we decided to walk the complete route in order to write a post that will help people to plan their Annapurna Circuit. Where to start and to finish depends on how much time you have and how far you want to walk.
Which route to choose depends totally on you but in my opinion cutting the circuit down to the walk over Thorong La pass you’ll miss out quite a lot. I’d suggest taking one of the longer routes and walk for 7-10 days to get an idea about the route and the diversity it offers to trekkers. The busiest part of the trek was from Manang to Muktinath before and especially after there will be fewer people, on the part from Jomsom to Tatopani we were hardly 10 trekkers a day compared to a couple of hundreds that go every day over the Pass.
Many people stop in Muktinath and take a bus from there to Jomsom, Tatopani, or Pokhara but we really liked the scenery on the way from Muktinath to Lubra, over Lubra pass. After Jomsom the scenery is very similar to the first part of the circuit (from Besisahar to Chame) so if you don’t have enough time you can finish the trek in Jomsom or skip this part and get by bus to Tatopani from where you can continue walking to Nayapul.
How to combine the Circuit with the Annapurna Base Camp trek
It’s possible to combine two routes Annapurna Circuit trek and Annapurna Base Camp trek, you’ll need about 3 weeks to complete it. First, you walk the Circuit all the way to Ghorepani from there continue to Tadapani (don’t confuse it with Tatopani, these are two different villages). Here is the itinerary;
- Day 1. Bhulbhule – Ghermu, 15km
- Day 2. Ghermu – Tal, 18km
- Day 3. Tal – Timang, 21km
- Day 4. Timang – Upper Pisang, 27km
- Day 5. Upper Pisang – Manang, 22km
- Day 6. Acclimatization day in Manang.
- Day 7. Manang – Yak Kharka, 10km
- Day 8. Yak Kharka – Thorong Phedi, 8,5km
- Day 9. Thorong Phedi – Muktinath, 15,5km
- Day 10. Muktinath – Jomson, 22km
- Day 11. Jomsom – Tukuche, 15,5km
- Day 12. Tukuche – Ghasa, 30km
- Day 13. Ghasa – Tatopani, 17km
- Day 14. Tatopani – Ghorepani, 17,5km
- Day 15. Ghorepani – Poon Hill – Ghorepani – Tadapani, 13km
- Day 16. Tadapani – Sinuwa, 13km
- Day 17. Sinuwa – Deurali, 14km
- Day 18. Deurali – ABC, 9km
- Day 19. ABC – Bamboo/Sinuwa, 15km/19km
- Day 20. Bamboo/Sinuwa – Ghandruk, 14km/10km
Where to start the trek?
Basically, you can start anywhere between Besisahar and Manang. By bus, you can get only as far as Ngadi from there your choice is to walk or to take a jeep. We started at Bhulbhule, 7 km from Besisahar just after the entrance to Annapurna Sanctuary. We started walking from Besisahar but after 2 km of walking on the busy road decided to catch a bus, that part of the route was the worst and the busiest on the whole circuit.
Technically Besisahar is not inside the Annapurna Conservation Area, it used to be the closest town to the park where you can get by transport before the construction of the road. We decided to skip that part of the road and start at Bhulbhule which is about 1 km after the park entrance (a checkpoint where you show your Annapurna permit).
Several people get by jeep to Syange which we reached by the end of our first day and start walking from here, we didn’t like the village too much and stayed in a guesthouse located in a quiet spot on the opposite side of the river in Ghermu, a small village.
After talking to several trekkers that we met on the route including a couple of groups we made a conclusion that Jagat is one of the most popular places to start the circuit. We reached Jagat at the beginning of the second day so if you start there you’ll skip only one walking day. The main thing you’ll miss by taking a jeep that far is Syange waterfall probably the only big waterfall on the route that you can get really close to.
Starting the Annapurna Circuit in Chame is another popular option that some companies offer not many individual trekkers go that far by jeep. We reached Chame on the fourth day of our trek. Chame is located at 2726 m/8943 ft above the sea level which is 2000 m/6561 ft higher than Besisahar or Pokhara some people might start having some slight symptoms of altitude sickness as a result of getting here too fast. The route gets busier the closer to Manang you get we couldn’t believe how many people were on the route all of a sudden.
Some groups (mainly Chinese) get by jeep all the way to Manang and start walking towards the pass even without taking an extra acclimatization day, in this case, the trek will take only four days (if you finish in Muktinath), you might spend as much time driving around as hiking. If you do it this way you get in a couple of hours from 700 m/2296 ft to over 3500 m/11 482 ft which increases your chances of getting altitude sickness.
Another reason we don’t recommend this option is that you miss out a lot on the way, one of the main highlights of the Annapurna Circuit trek for us was to see how much the scenery and the vegetation change as you go higher; we started with +30°C/+86°F surrounded by banana trees and coffee plantations and get to knee-deep snow and pine tree forest just in a couple of days.
Where to finish the Circuit trek?
Like with the starting points there are several options where to finish the circuit after Thorong La pass. In my opinion, if you don’t have time or don’t feel like walking all the way to Tatopani or Nayapul rather finish in Jomsom and take a flight back to Pokhara. We saw the road from Muktinath to Tatopani and in some places, it looked quite bad to drive takes the whole day and it’s not a very pleasant experience.
Muktinath is the first place after the pass from where you can take a bus or a jeep, many trekkers finish the Annapurna Circuit trek here. You can take a bus or a jeep to Jomsom, Tatopani or Pokhara.
Bus prices from Muktinath (a jeep will be more than double the price);
- to Jomsom – NPR 350/US$3,3 – 2 hours
- to Tatopani – NPR 1200/US$10 – 7 hours
- to Pokhara – NPR 1450/US$13 – 12 hours
Jomsom is another very popular place to finish the trek here you have two options of getting back to Pokhara; flying or taking a bus/jeep. Most people finish in Muktinath or here, after Jomsom we were only a handful of people walking. The main reason nobody wants to walk on from Jomsom is the road, many people think you have to walk on the road all the way till Tatopani but in fact, we hardly walked a couple of kilometers on the road between Jomsom and Tatopani, see more details about it in the next section.
Bus prices from Jomsom;
- to Tatopani – NPR 880/US$8 – 4-5 hours
- to Pokhara – NPR 1110/US$10 – 9-10 hours
- to Kathmandu – NPR 1700/US$15 – 20 hours
When we got to Tatopani we saw quite a lot of people again, many groups and solo trekkers take a bus from Muktinath or Jomsom to Tatopani, some want to split a long and exhausting bus trip to Pokhara (NPR 500/US$4), some continue walking from here to Ghorepani, some come off the hot springs. We didn’t go to the hot springs because the one in the village didn’t look too attractive, another one was about 2 km walk outside Tatopani, it was raining and we didn’t feel like walking there and back.
From Tatopani, we walked to Ghorepani, and again there were very few trekkers on the route, we asked at one of the guesthouses on the way how many people they see a day and they told us between 10 and 15 walking both directions. From Ghorepani to Nayapul the very end of the Annapurna Circuit trek you’ll see many trekkers walking in the opposite direction, the route here overlaps with the Poon Hill trek.
Some people walk from Tatopani to Beni I believe it used to be the end of the circuit before the road was built but most of the route goes along the busy road and technically the part after Tatopani is located outside Annapurna conservation area I wouldn’t recommend taking this options.
How much road walk is on the Annapurna Circuit?
Many people (including us) before the start of the circuit wonder how much road walk is on the trek. We made notes on the way to get the exact distance of walking on the road. Out of 260 km/161 mi of the route, we walked only 68 km/42 mi on the dirt road. Some parts of the road were very quiet with little traffic, some parts were quite busy. I’d say out of 68 km of walking on the road only 24 km/15 mi were on a road with significant traffic.
To make it easier I decided to split the whole route into four parts to show how much walking on the road you get on each part.
The first part of the Annapurna Circuit trek from Bhulbhule to Manang had the biggest part of walking on the road but the road was quite busy only in the beginning. We tried to avoid the road everywhere we could on this stretch, there are several alternative trekking routes but you should keep in mind that those routes are usually longer and involve steep ascends and descends.
From Manang to Muktinath there is not road only trekking route which is great as you finally can get completely away from cars and construction vehicles but the last part from Chame to Manang the road wasn’t busy at all.
Many people think on the part of the trek from Muktinath to Tatopani there is a lot of walking on the road but we hardly ever walked on it, the biggest part of the road we got on the way from Muktinath to Jomsom, the last 7 km were on the dusty road though you can skip some of it by walking down at the river.
From Jomsom to Tatopani we walked all the way on the new trekking route that goes on the opposite to the road side of the river, we could see the road most of the time but never had to cross it or even come close but it takes longer to walk on the trekking route than along the road.
The trekking route used to be where the road is now which means the walk from Jomsom to Tatopani was pretty easy, straightforward without unnecessary ups and downs. The main inconvenience of the trekking route is that all the infrastructure; hotels, restaurants, shops, etc. are on the opposite side of the river, on the roadside every day we had to cross to the other side to find accommodation.
The last part from Tatopani to Nayapul was partly on the road but with very few cars except for the last bit from Hile to Birtethanti where we got several tourist jeeps but no buses or trucks.
TIMS card and permits for the Circuit trek
For the Annapurna Circuit trek, you have to get an Annapurna Conservation Area permit (ACAP) and a TIMS card. The same permits you need for ABC, Poon Hill, or Mardi Himal trek. Both can be obtained at the Tourist Information Center in Pokhara (about 1,5 km from Lakeside) or at the Tourism Board Office in Kathmandu. Both offices are open Mon-Sun from 10am to 5pm. Totals cost – NPR 5000/US$43 per person.
The immigration office in Pokhara is located in the same building you can extend your visa there. To get a TIMS (trekkers information management system) card and a permit you’ll need your passport, insurance (nobody asks to show it to you but need the details to fill in the form), a contact person in Nepal (we usually give our hotel details) and 4 photos (can be taken at the office free of charge).
To get the TIMS card;
- First, fill the form that you get at the counter (name, insurance number, passport details, address in Nepal, contact information, etc.)
- Second, take a photo. No need to bring your own photos they take it right there at the office and it’s free of charge (4 passport size photos, it’s included in the price of your TIMS card).
- Third, give the filled form, two photos and pay NPR 2000/US$17 pp. (paid only in Nepalese Rupee) at the counter
- Forth, get your TIMS.
Note! TIMS card and permits are valid only for a single entry to the park every time you exit you’ll have to get a new TIMS card and a new permit to enter the park again.
To get the Annapurna Sanctuary Permit;
- First, after getting your TIMS card go to the next-door room and get the form
- Second, fill in the form
- Third, hand the filled form, passport, two photos and NRP 3000/US$26 pp.(paid only in Nepalese Rupee) at the counter.
- Forth, get your permit.
If you don’t get a permit before the trek you can get it at the first checkpoint but it’ll cost you NPR 6000/US$52 instead of NPR 3000/US$26 that you pay in Pokhara or Kathmandu. You can’t get a TIMS card at the entrance. We met a guy who didn’t get a new permit for the Annapurna Conservation Area (he had the old one and his old TIMS card). At the first checkpoint, he had to buy a new permit for NPR 6000/US$52 but he didn’t get a new TIMS card, he walked with the old one all the way and didn’t seem to have any problem. There are about 10 checkpoints on the route it’s difficult to go past all of them without being noticed.
Travel insurance for the trek
The Annapurna Circuit is a high altitude trek through remote and difficult to access areas of Nepal having travel insurance is highly recommended. In fact, it’s required for getting the hiking permit. Nobody has ever asked us to show our insurances but when you fill the form they ask you to provide the name and the phone number of your insurance company.
There are many travel insurance companies but we’d recommend using one that has experience in covering outdoor activities and working in the region like World Nomads. Nepal is one of their top hiking destinations with thousands of people buying World Nomads insurance policies for trekking here so they know local specific.
The World Nomads insurance is very flexible you can buy one that covers the entire trip or just the period of the trek. For example, if you have cheaper travel insurance that doesn’t cover high altitude hikes you can buy World Nomads policy covering only the hike. You can get insurance just a day before the planned activity or even the same day, it takes just a couple of minutes, quick and easy. Get a quote right now!
Annapurna Circuit trek cost
I know many trekkers planning a trip to Nepal deciding between doing the Everest Base Camp trek or the Annapurna Circuit as both routes take more or less the same time. Overall the cost of the trek was quite a bit lower than the EBC cost. Mainly because of the transport cost you can get to the starting point of the Annapurna Circuit and back by a local bus. To get to the start of the Everest Base Camp trek and back you’ll have to fly to Lukla the flight is around US$300 return.
The TIMS card – NPR 2000/US$17, the Sanctuary Permit – NPR 3000/US$26, total NPR 5000/US$43 per person.
At the beginning of the trek at lower altitudes, a meal costs NRP 500/US$5 basically anything from local Dal Bat to Spaghetti or Momos. As you go higher food is getting more expensive after Chame a meal will cost NRP 600/US$6 on average. The best value for money is actually Dal Bat usually you get bottomless rice, dal, and roasted vegetables it will definitely be enough to make you full.
We tried to stay away from meat dishes like chicken or beef we’ve never had any stomach issues but met some travellers who had after eating meat or chicken. It’s different as you go higher there will be many dishes (steaks, burgers) with yak meat there are many yaks around so I assume the meat will be fresh. At the highest altitudes, the cost of a meal goes up to NRP 800/US$7,5. Overall food options and prices at tea houses were more or less the same you usually get trekking in Nepal.
Breakfast (porridge, omelette, muesli etc.)
- at lower altitudes – NRP 300-400/US$3-4 pp.
- at higher altitudes NRP 500-600/US$5-6 pp.
Lunch/dinner (Dal Bat, spaghetti, fried rice, spring roll, momo etc.)
- at lower altitudes – NRP 450-500/US$4-5
- at higher altitudes – NRP 700-800/US$7-8
- at lower altitudes – NRP 200-250/US$2
- at higher altitudes – NRP 300-450/US$3-4
- At lower altitudes from NRP 50/US$0,5
- At higher altitudes from NRP 120/US$1,1
- At lower altitudes from NRP 20/US$0,2 per cup
- At higher altitudes up to NRP 90/US$0,9 per cup
It is another significant expense if you don’t have any filter or purification. We didn’t buy water on the route just before coming to Nepal we bought a LifeStraw bottle, we used it all the time and it worked great we could refill it on the way from any water tap or stream which means we didn’t have to carry extra water or buy plastic bottles. A 1l bottle of water costs between NRP 50 and NRP 100.
It’s very cheap on the Annapurna Circuit trek, the average price for a double room with or without an attached bathroom is NRP 200-300/US$2-3, they might ask more but always agree with that price in the end. A room for one person is about NRP 200/US$2 average. You have to eat dinner and breakfast at your guesthouse if you don’t you’ll pay much more for the room. Food, not accommodation is the main income for locals.
Sometimes we were not charged for the room at all even when we were supposed to we figured out that if you eat 3 meals like we usually did they think you spend enough money and don’t charge you for the room. Some places say in the beginning you can stay for free if you eat there.
Prices depend on how far you go and if you use a bus or a jeep. Bus from Pokhara to Besisahar costs NRP 265/US$2,5 pp., bus from Besisahar to Bhulbhule – NRP 150/US$1,4 pp., a jeep from Besisahar to Manang (the end of the road) – NRP 5000/US$45 pp. but I believe this price is negotiable and depends on your negotiation skills and what kind of jeep you take. If it’s a jeep that transports tourists it will be more expensive if you can get on a jeep that carries supplies it’ll be cheaper. We met a tourist that paid NRP 2500/US$22 pp. to get from Besisahar to Chame in a supply jeep.
* We didn’t pay for accommodation (5 nights) in Upper Pisang, Yak Kharka, Thorong Phedi, Muktinath, and Ghandruk.
How much money to bring?
I’d suggest having a minimum NPR 2800/US$25 per person per day, some days you might spend less some days more, it will be enough to buy 3 meals, a couple of teas and pay accommodation. Note! If you don’t use any water filter system and buy water along the way add NPR 100-200/US$1-2 per day.
For a comfortable walk without counting every dollar to make sure you have enough to last you till the end, I’d suggest budgeting NPR 3400/US$30 per person per day. Note! Always add some extra days to your itinerary in case you get sick, the weather is too bad to continue, you need more time to acclimatize, etc. It’s fine if you have some extra money left better than not having enough.
How much money did we spend on the Annapurna circuit?
In 15 days for 2 people
- Food and tea – NPR 54 000/US$484
- Permits – NPR 10000/US$90 (NPR 5000/US$45 per person)
- Accommodation – NPR 3000/US$27
- Real coffee (Espresso, cappuccino) – NPR 2800/US$25
- Transport – NPR 1380/US$12
- Other – NPR 2000/US$18
Total: NPR 73180/US$656 or NPR 2440/US$22 per person per day*
*We didn’t buy water on the circuit but if you do add NPR 150-200/US$1,5-2 pp. to your daily budget.
Where to draw money on the Annapurna Circuit?
Besisahar – the gateway to the Annapurna circuit and the last place before Thorong La pass with ATMs.
Chame – you can draw money at the Royal Garden Hotel & Restaurant, it’s on the route, on the way out of the town. They charge 12% you pay by Visa card to their account and they give you cash. We drew NPR 15000/US$135 just in case. Maybe there are other places on the way before Chame where you can do the same all you need is to find a place with a card machine. Note! There is an ATM in Chame but it’s only for local people, tourists are not allowed even inside the bank.
Jomsom – there are several ATMs some work only with Visa, some only with local cards, some accept everything. We drew money at Mega Bank Nepal Limited it was the only one in the town that worked for us.
Nayapul – the end of the Annapurna circuit, there are two or three ATMs here.
The best time to do the trek
Like any other treks in Nepal, the best months for the Annapurna Circuit trek are March-April and October-November. As for our experience, we never hiked in Nepal in autumn only in March-April, we heard that October is the busiest month with many people on all the trekking routes which we don’t really like for this reason we, in general, try to skip the peak season. March is a great time for hiking but you might be unlucky (like us) and get a lot of snow and closed pass early in March.
From May to September it’s monsoon season in Nepal not a good time for hiking. December to February are winter months which means lower temperatures and a lot of snow, some guesthouses might be closed during that time.
Accommodation on the trek
We were really surprised by the facilities of the guesthouses on the Annapurna Circuit; every place we stayed had electricity, hot shower and wi-fi (at no extra cost) these were sort of standard thing for a guesthouse to have. For some people who want to disconnect from the world on the trek, it might be a disadvantage to have wi-fi everywhere, for us it was really great every day we could check that our site works fine, there are no technical problems, etc. It was great that we could charge all our devices every day we had a power bank but never really used it.
All guesthouses have blankets you always can ask for an extra one or two if it’s really cold. We had light summer sleeping bags but most of the time slept without them under the blankets. Even at Thotong Phedi where it was quite cold, we slept in our warm clothes under two blankets.
The facilities at higher altitudes e.g. Thorong Phedi and High Camp are more basic no power outlets in the room, no or very poor wi-fi, no hot shower, etc., to charge your phone or to use wi-fi you pay extra.
The main inconvenience we had in the most guesthouses (especially those located higher) is the toilet, most places don’t have a Western sit-down toilet but an Asian hole toilet that you flush with a bucket of water. More expensive rooms have an attached bathroom but most of the time that attached bathroom doesn’t have running water to have a hot shower you have to use an outside bathroom. Having an attached toilet is very nice especially at higher altitudes you don’t have to go out every time you want to go to the toilet.
All guesthouses are more or less the same there are no fancier hotels to stay on the route like in Pokhara or Kathmandu. Rooms are very basic usually they have two single beds, blankets, sometimes a table and a chair. Most of the time hikers sit in the dining area it’s the warmest place in a guesthouse; people drink tea, play cards, talk, etc. You go to your room only at night.
Food on the Circuit
Guesthouses menu is quite diverse and usually includes Nepalese, Chinese, Indian and Western dishes; spaghetti, pasta, noodles and rice with vegetable/chicken/cheese and tomato sauce; omelet, fried, boiled or scrambled eggs with potato/cheese/vegetable; Dal Bat (rice, roasted vegetable, chapati and lentil soup), momos (local dumplings), all sort of soups (chicken, vegetable, garlic, tomato, noodle etc.); pizzas and pancakes; different types of bread (chapati, Tibetan bread, toast); porridge and muesli (oats, cornflakes, muesli with honey, jam, apple or banana).
There is a huge variety of hot beverages; different teas (lemon, ginger, Masala, milk, mint etc.), instant coffee, etc. Some bigger places like Manang, Chame, Jomsom even have Mexican dishes, burgers, wood-fired pizza, and real Espresso coffee. As you can see there are really many options you don’t have to eat the same food, you can try something different every day. If you’re vegetarian, vegan or just stick to a certain diet you’ll be able to find suitable food as well. Our main problem was a lack of fresh things like fruit and vegetables, especially at higher altitudes.
As I mentioned before the best value for money on the Annapurna Circuit trek is local Dal Bhat it’s usually bottomless, you can ask for extra rice, dal or vegetables again and again if you’re on a tight budget it’s the best dish to order. We really liked local soups they’re always good. To make a meal more filling you can order Tibetan bread or chapati with it. For breakfast, we usually ate an omelette, fried eggs or porridge.
Many villages and towns have small water purification stations where you can get safe drinking water it’s cheaper than buying 1l plastic bottles and much better for the ecology. We never used it because we had a LifeStraw bottle that we refilled from normal taps, streams, and rivers. It was a great money-saver on the trek and we never had any stomach problem the filter worked perfectly.
Walking the Annapurna Circuit independently vs with a guide
We prefer to trek independently when it’s possible for us it’s more interesting to find the way, arrange accommodation, carry our own backpacks, etc. but I understand some people want to spend their holiday in a more relaxed way. If you decide to do a guided tour I’d suggest booking it through a reliable company like G-Adventures or Intrepid Travel. Both have guided tours; Annapurna Circuit trek with G-Adventures. The tour includes all transportation, guide, porters, and accommodation on the route, before and after.
We didn’t do the Annapurna Circuit trek with any of these companies (we usually hike independently) but we met a G-Adventures group and asked them about the tour. Tourists were very happy with their guide, itinerary, porters, and services. The guide looked very professional, every night he gave a briefing about the next day walk, challenges on the way etc. He arranged their bills, menu, made sure they have enough blankets, water etc. So we got the impression that the tour was a good value for money and a great option for first-timers and solo trekkers.
More tours and activities in Nepal
- Everest Base Camp & Annapurna Circuit trek with Intrepid Travel
- Annapurna Sanctuary with G-Adventures
- Kathmandu to Dheli Adventure with G-Adventures
- Nepal; Himalaya Highlights with G-Adventures
- Nepal: Annapurna Hike, Bike & Raft with Intrepid Travel
- It’s cheaper than a tour
- It’s more adventurous you do all the logistics and planning yourself
- You’re more flexible you decide if want to walk further or stay somewhere longer etc.
- It might be a bit difficult to plan and to walk on your own if it’s your first hike
- You’ll have to sort out any issue or problem on the way on your own
Hiking in a group
- It’s easy no need to worry about route planning, finding accommodation, logistics, packing light because you have to carry your own backpack etc.
- If you’re lucky to find a knowledgeable guide who speaks good English you can learn a lot about local culture, food, lifestyle etc.
- It’s more expensive
- You have to stick to your group even if the itinerary doesn’t suit you well or you’d like to stay somewhere longer or walk further and faster.
A compromise option – hiring a guide/a porter
You can hire a guide or a porter (or both) yourself which will be cheaper than doing a tour and easier than walking on your own. We never hired a guide or a porter but we asked around in Pokhara to find out the price, to hire a guide you’ll pay about US$25 per day and for a porter US$20 per day, he can carry between 20-25 kg so you can split one porter between 2 or 3 people. You don’t have to pay extra for their food, water or accommodation, the price per day includes it, they sort it out themselves at guesthouses.
How to get to the trailhead from Pokhara?
If you’re deciding where to stay before and after the Annapurna Circuit I’d definitely suggest Pokhara. It’s much better than Kathmandu. Lakeside is a nice area with many hotels, restaurants, gear shops, and tour agencies you can buy and book here whatever activity you want to do in Nepal. The area around the lake is beautiful with not much traffic. You can walk around, enjoy the views, rent a boat, etc. There are many things to do in and around Pokhara including a couple of easy hiking trails e.g. a route to World Peace Pagoda that you can combine with the Panchase trek or the Sarankgot trail.
You can get to Besisahar (the starting point of the circuit) from Pokhara or Kathmandu. Buses from Pokhara leave from the Old bus terminal, it’s better to take a morning bus in order to arrive earlier in Besisahar. The price is NRP 265/US$2,5, it can take anything between 4 and 6 hours. A taxi from Lake Side to Old Bus Terminal is NPR300-400/US$3.
Best places to stay in Pokhara
Lakeside is the main touristy area of Pokhara it’s filled with hotels, guest houses, restaurants, bars etc. here you can find accommodation on any budget from cheap homestays to fancy spa hotels. We stayed for quite a while at OYO 11460 Hotel Romantica and stored our luggage there every time we went hiking. The hotel was nice; clean with good facilities, we really liked the staff the girls that work there are very nice and helpful. Another place we stayed in was Hotel Lake Shore the rooms are smaller but a little bit fancier, the shower was very nice (the best shower we had in Nepal), the breakfast was very good with several options.
- Budget options | Pokhara Youth Hostel | OYO 128 Hotel Dream Pokhara | Gauri Shankar backpackers hostel |
- Middle price | Pokhara Boutique Hotel | Pokhara Choice Inn | Pokhara Batika | Hotel Middle Path & Spa |
- Luxury | Temple Tree Resort & Spa | Glacier Hotel & Spa | Hotel White Pearl |
How to get to the trek from Kathmandu?
A bus from Kathmandu to Besisahar will cost about NRP 500/US$5, the journey takes between 6-7 hours, buses leave in the morning between 6am and 7am from New Bus Terminal in Kathmandu. The easiest way of getting to the right bus stop is to tell your taxi driver that you’re going to Besisahar, he’ll know the right bus station. A taxi from Thamel (Kathmanu’d main touristy area) to the Bus Terminal is between NPR400-500/US$4.
Best places to stay in Kathmandu
We’ve stayed at several hotels in Kathmandu in different parts of Thamel. Keshar Mahal Marang Street is by far our favourite area to stay in the city It’s a small and quiet dead-end street in Thamel with hotels, hostels, restaurants and coffee shops. The street is a 5-minutes walk from the main touristy area with hundreds of shops and agencies. There are a couple of great restaurants nearby including our favourite coffee shop Himalayan Java Coffee.
There are a couple of hotels on the street we stayed at Aryatara Kathmandu Hotel for quite a while. It’s a very nice place, big rooms, comfortable beds, good breakfast (included), great hot shower, AC, wi-fi, TV, etc. The room price includes free airport pick-up (for international flights only). The staff is extremely helpful and friendly. We stored our extra luggage here every time we went hiking for free without any problem.
- Budget | Hostel Milarepa | Shangri-la Boutique Hotel |
- Middle price | Oasis Kathmandu Hotel | Hotel Blue Horizon |
- Luxury | Fairfield by Marriott Kathmandu |
Getting back after completing the Annapurna Circuit trek
There are several points where you can finish the circuit, the main are Muktinath, Jomsom, Tatopani, Nayapul from all these places you can catch a bus back to Pokhara or to Kathmandu. A bus ride to Kathmandu from Muktinath or Jomsom will be extremely long and exhausting, it can take up to 20 hours. It might be better to go first to Pokhara and chill at the lake for a couple of days and then go back to Kathmandu.
Bus prices vary depending on the distance. A bus from Nayapul to Pokhara is NRP300/US$3, a bus from Muktinath to Pokhara – NRP 1450/US$13. Jomsom is the only place on the Circuit from where you can fly to Pokhara, it takes less than 1 hour compared to 10+ hours by bus but it’s much more expensive about US$125 one way.
What to pack for the Circuit trek?
Annapurna circuit is a tea house trek you basically need only clothing, a small sleeping bag, personal hygiene items, a first aid kit, and a couple of electronic devices, you can really pack light. We had the same gear and clothes for the Circuit as we packed to Everest Base Camp trek.
Backpack – a 40-50L backpack will be enough the lighter your backpack is the easier it’s for you to walk. It might be not that important if you have a porter that carries your stuff.
Sleeping bag – all tea houses we stayed in on the Annapurna Circuit had blankets, it was really cold only between Manang and Muktinath, basically two nights, we used our summer sleeping bags with blankets otherwise we didn’t even unpack them and used only provided blankets. You can always ask for an extra blanket.
Hiking poles – there are many steep ascents and descents on the route, in total, you go up and down more than 11000 m in two weeks so having the poles will be quite handy especially when you go over Thorong La pass.
Headlamp – all tea houses we stayed had lights in the room (except those in Thorong Phedi and High Camp) but you’ll need a torch or a headlamp when you go over Thorong La pass (most people start walking in the dark) as well as if you walk to Ghorepani you’ll need a headlamp for the sunrise walk to the top of the Poon Hill.
Waterproof pouch for documents, money, phone etc.
Small combination lock – you can use it to lock your room in a guest house, some places have big padlocks but sometimes they’re rusted or there is no key, etc. We always use our own lock.
Hiking shoes – just before coming to Nepal we both bought new hiking shoes, Salomon X Ultra 3 GORETEX. These shoes are amazing, very comfortable, waterproof, our feet weren’t sweating or getting cold. We’re super happy we bought these shoes. And I really like the colour of my new Salomon shoes.
Hiking socks – we always wear merino wool socks for hiking, they work great; last long, don’t absorb odours, protect your feet from blister etc.
Down jacket – we used ours quite a lot on the trek for wearing inside and outside, they are great; warm, light and pack small. We hiked in March and it was quite cold from 3000 m up.
Beanie – we wore them quite a lot in the mornings when we got to higher altitude from 3000m+.
Buff – we wore them a lot as the sun protection instead of putting sunscreen all over our faces and necks.
Hiking towel – most of the guesthouses if not all of them have a hot shower but you don’t get towels you’ll definitely need one.
Smartphone – the route is marked quite well and there are many trekkers walking the circuit though if you’re planning to walk the complete circuit for some parts in the beginning and at the end of it having Maps.me navigation app on your phone is quite handy.
Kindle – Campbell always takes his Kindle Paperwhite with on hikes. If you’re an owner of Kindle by joining Kindle unlimited program by Amazon you’ll get access to thousands of e-books and audiobooks.
GoPro HERO8 we used it a lot for taking photos and videos we had our camera with as well but ended up almost never using it all the photos you see in our posts are taking with GoPro.
Garmin Fenix 5X thanks to this watch we could add elevation profiles, distances, maps etc. to our post so for us it was really worth buying it.
Toiletries & miscellaneous
- First Aid kit
- Lip balm with SPF
- Outdoor soap sheets
- Humid tissues
- Hand sanitizer
- Toilet paper
Annapurna trekking map (make sure to buy an updated version) or Poon Hill trek map, we had the first one and it was quite handy on the trek, we bought it in Pokhara, there are a couple of shops in Lakeside with many trekking maps and guide books.
Recommended books and guidebooks
- Lonely Planet Nepal (Travel Guide), 2018. Paper book & Kindle
- Trekking Everest: Base Camp, Kala Patar and Other Trekking Routes in Nepal and Tibet. Cicerone, 2019. Paper book & Kindle
- The Snow Leopard by Pieter Matthiessen. Paper book & Kindle
- Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer. Paper book & Kindle.
- Yak Girl: Growing Up in the Remote Dolpo Region of Nepal by Dorje Dolma. Paperback & Kindle.
- Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan. Paper book & Kindle
- A Step Away from Paradise: The True Story of a Tibetan Lama’s Journey to a Land of Immortality by Thomas K. Shore. Paper book & Kindle