The Annapurna Circuit is a trek within the Annapurna mountain range of central Nepal. The total length of the route varies between 160–230 km (100-145 mi), depending on where motor transportation is used and where the trek is ended. The trek rises to an altitude of 5,416m on the Thorung La pass, touching the edge of the Tibetan plateau. This trek crosses two different river valleys and encircles the Annapurna massif, crossing Thorung La (5416m/17769 ft), the highest pass on this trek. Practically all trekkers hike the route anticlockwise, as this way the daily altitude gain is slower, and crossing the high Thorong La pass is easier and safer. The mountain scenery, seen at close quarters includes the Annapurna Massif (Annapurna I-IV), Dhaulagiri, Machhapuchhre, Manaslu, Gangapurna [7455m/24459 ft] and Tilicho Peak (7134m/23406 ft). Numerous peaks of 6000-8000m in elevation rise from the Annapurna range. The trek begins at Besisahar or Bhulbhule in the Marshyangdi river valley and concludes in the Kali Gandaki Gorge.
Besisahar can be reached after a seven-hour drive from Kathmandu. The trail passes along paddy fields and into subtropical forests, several waterfalls and gigantic cliffs, and various villages. Annapurna Circuit has often been voted as the best long distance trek in the world, as it combined, in its old full form, a wide variety of climate zones from tropics at 600 m asl to the arctic at 5416 m asl at the Thorong La pass and cultural variety from Hindu villages at the low foothills to the Tibetan culture of Manang Valley and lower Mustang. Continuing construction of a road has shortened the trail and changed the villages.[clarification needed] With construction of the road, mountain biking is becoming popular, with Mustang in particular is becoming one of the world's most popular mountain biking destinations.
He trek usually takes about 15–20 days, leaving from Kathmandu with a stopover in Pokhara before returning to the capital. The trail is moderate to fairly challenging and makes numerous river crossings over steel and wooden suspension bridges. Tea houses and lodges along the circuit are available for meals and accommodations. Some groups may opt for tents but these are typically only for those destined for side trips away from lodges such as climbing a peak
Marsyangdi river valley near Pisang
Day 1 - From Kathmandu, travel west to Besisahar [820m/2690 ft] via private vehicle or public bus, taking six to seven hours.
Day 2 - Trek to Khudi [790m/2592 ft]
Day 3 - Trek to Bahundanda [1310m/4298 ft]
Day 4 - Trek to Jagat [1290m/4232 ft]
Day 5 - Trek to Dharapani [1920m/6299 ft]
Day 6 - Trek to Chame [2630m/8629 ft]
Day 7 - Trek to Upper/Lower Pisang [3190m/10466 ft]
Day 8 - Trek to Manang [3520m/11549 ft]
Day 9 - Rest day in Manang [3520m/11549 ft]
Day 10 - Trek to Letdar [4250m/13944 ft]
Day 11 - Trek to Thorung Phedi [4500m/14764 ft]
Day 12 - Trek to Muktinath [3800m/12467 ft], crossing the Thorung La en route
Day 13 - Trek to Marpha [2665m/8743 ft]
Day 14 - Trek to Lete [2470m/8104 ft] (now often with car or mountainbike)
Day 15 - Trek to Tatopani [1160m/3806 ft] (now often with car or mountainbike, day 14)
Day 16 - Trek to Ghorepani [2775m/9104 ft]
Day 17 - Trek to Birethanti [1050m/3445 ft] and travel to Pokhara
Day 18 - Return to Kathmandu [1400m/4593 ft]
Depending on the speed of the trekkers, number and length of side trips and rest days taken, acclimatization, weather and where the trek is finished, hiking the Annapurna Circuit can take anything from 8 to 25 days. Many trekkers short on time choose to fly out from Jomsom Airport, which shortens the trek by 6 days compared to the original AC.
It is also possible to continue from Ghorepani to Tadapani, Ghandruk, Landruk and then to Phedi, which follows the old Annapurna Circuit from the time when the road was not yet extended to Beni. This more faithful variation takes three days instead of the shorter one-day exit from Ghorepani to Pokhara outlined above. A popular addition to the AC is a visit to Annapurna Base Camp, ABC (also called Annapurna Sanctuary). This trail turns to the north from Tadapani and rejoins the old AC at either Ghandruk or Landruk. A visit to the ABC adds about 5 days to the duration of the Annapurna Circuit, slightly less than the normal trek duration to ABC, as trekkers coming from the AC are already acclimatized and "trail hardened".
It is recommended that trekkers take the high trail from Pisang via Ghyaru and Ngawal to Manang, as the views are spectacular and the two villages along the route are some of the best preserved samples of Tibetan style villages still in their original state. Sleeping in either of these villages assists with acclimatization, as they are located already higher than Manang. Another side trip gaining popularity is the visit to Tilicho Tal, a lake. There are now lodges along the trail and near the lake at so-called Tilicho Base Camp, so tents are no longer required. If one wishes to cross to Jomsom via the Tilicho route, outdoor camping (and thus a tent) is required. At certain times of year, snow conditions can make the crossing dangerous or prevent it altogether.
In October 2014, Seth Wolpin achieved the fastest known time in 72 hours and 4 minutes. He started in Besisahar and finished in Naya Pull, following all New Annapurna Trekking Trails.
Annapurna circuit weather
While much of the Himalayas cannot be trekked in the wet season, much of the Annapurna circuit actually sits within a rain shadow. This means that it is possible to trek most parts of the circuit all year-round, including the monsoon period.
Trekking in the wet season is often encouraged as hikers avoid the crowds that plague the summer months. However, the days are often damp and many of the views are obscured by cloud.
October – Novembert This is the most popular hiking season in Nepal. Due to the recent monsoons, everything along the circuit is refreshed, clean and vibrant. Views are usually clear and the night sky is extremely visible. Though the weather is generally warm, nighttime temperatures drop below freezing. This is the busiest period on the circuit and tea houses book up very quickly.
December – March This is the coldest period on the circuit. Depending on the altitude, day time temperatures will be cold and night time temperatures drop well below freezing. The trade off is that the trails are much less busy. Thorung La Pass, which stands at over 5,000 meters, is often blocked with snow and may be closed for days on end. Unless the snow blocks most trails, tea houses still remain open during this period. Clouds prevail more frequently, but clear days are still common. Towards March the rhododendrons start flowering, which brings hill sides alive with flaming colours. Unfortunately, this period is also when avalanches are most common.
April – May Because of the warming weather, April to May is the second most popular trekking season on the Annapurna Circuit. Most of the snow has dissipated, leaving crystal clear skies. There is often a strange haze that can be seen from the lower altitudes during May. However, this soon passes and cannot be seen from higher up the trail. As the monsoon period builds towards the end of May, the days become hotter and more humid which makes trekking at lower altitude quite uncomfortable.
June – September This is the monsoon period. Although there are stories of torrential downpours, mudslides and hordes of leeches, this is rarely the case on the Annapurna Circuit, particular the northern section. Whilst the south section of the Annapurna Circuit near Pokhara does get a lot of rain, the northern parts often receive less than 10% of the precipitation due to the location within a rain shadow. The upside of trekking in the monsoon period is that many of the flora species flower during this period, making the trek exceptionally beautiful. This is also the time when the Tilicho Lake side trek is relatively easier.
The Annapurna area was opened to foreign trekkers in 1977 after the disputes between CIA backed Khampa guerrillas operating from the area into Tibet, and the local populace and Nepal army were settled. The original trek started form the market town of Dhumre situated at the Kathmandu - Pokhara highway and ended in Pokhara, and took about 23 days to complete. Road construction started in early 1980s both from Dhumre to the north and from Pokhara to the west and then up the Kali Gandaki valley. The road has now reached Chamje on the Marsyangdi river valley and Muktinath on the Kali Gandaki side. Of the trek's original 23 days, only 5 walking days of the trek are now without a motor road. In places new trails and routes have been marked so that the road can be partly avoided. The existence of the road has nevertheless changed the area, appearance, and atmosphere of the villages. The road facilitates transport, increasing the popularity of mountain biking in the area. Since 2011, companies in Muktinath and Jomsom rent out mountain bikes to tourists. As the road sees very little traffic, and one can ride downhill (dirt road and/or single track) from Muktinath to Tatopani and descend almost 3000 meters in 2–3 days.
New areas near Annapurna have been opened for trekkers in the past years, such as Upper Mustang, Naar-Pho Valley, Manaslu and Tsum Valley. Currently, trekking these areas is restricted and subject to extra permits, costs, and other limitations.
Communications Multiple locations of the trek circuit now have an Internet connection. This multi-district circuit's trekkers can use wireless internet across different districts like in Kaski, Myagdi, Lamjung and Mustang. Cellular 3G is also available at some locations. Coordinates: 28.794671°N 83.937368