Annapurna Circuit 13 day Trekking Guide in Nepal
Are you thinking about trekking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal? If you are undecided, full disclaimer, by the time you reach the end of this blog, you will certainly be booking your plane ticket to Kathmandu. Trekking the Annapurna Circuit was one of the best experiences of my life. Because of the tourism boom in Kathmandu and Nepal, there is more and more construction that is creeping slowly farther up the circuit. Now is the time to embark on this experience to get a feel of what “old Nepal” was like and is like in the mountain villages.
The Annapurna Circuit offered majestic mountain ranges, a challenging 12 day hike, a top height of 5416M, breathtaking views, and covering 3 different types of Terrain. Starting in the rainforest your first 3 days are walking along a beautiful river weaving through jungle trails. You then reach a desert type terrain, climbing up the base of the mountain for the next 3 to 4 days and then the last terrain is a desolate desert. Depending on your weather, any part of the trail could be covered in snow.
*Pro tip: If 12+ days is just simply too long, checkout the Annapurna Basecamp Guide
A History to How we Discovered Annapurna Circuit
First let us tell you, we had never completed more than a 5 hour hike, and certainly not an overnight hike. We didn’t own any backpacking gear. And frankly, we weren’t in the best shape of our life but we still were in fairly good shape. So if you are doubting yourself, we were quite beginner’s and did the trek. If we can do it, so can you!
The Stats of the Annapurna Circuit
- 160-230km depending on your route
- 5416m high at the Peak
- Highest Landpass in the world
- Voted as one of the best long distance treks in the world
- Pass through 57 mountain villages in your trek
- An experience of a lifetime
Quick Tips for Annapurna Circuit Trekking:
- March & April and October & November are the best times of year to go.
- Food and supplies. Don’t pack food and supplies. Maybe some snacks to start. You will find all the food and supplies at Teahouses you need along the way. Read more below about what to pack.
- Bring enough cash for the whole trip. There are no ATM’s along the way. We tracked all of our expenses along the way and over 20 days we spent approximately $800 USD.
- Decide if you are going to hire a guide/porter or not. More about this below. Lonely Planet also has a handy itinerary included.
- Be prepared for days without wifi or service, your hiking a mountain after all!
- Learn how to pack quickly and get an early start to the day to escape the heat.
- To prevent and reduce Altitude Sickness, consider the antibiotic, Diamox.
What to pack for Annapurna Circuit
There are lots of stores that have knock-offs and therefore the quality isn’t as high, but will last your trek. But there are stores that manufacture their owns goods or retail good quality equipment. We would suggest a store called Shona’s that manufacturers their own sleeping bags and the quality was wonderful! We have been super happy with them since we purchased the duck goose down -15 sleeping bag for $80usd. You will also find Sherpa outlets around. Sherpa is socially responsible brand that manufacturers their goods in Nepal and is a well known brand in North America.
About Accommodation on the Annapurna Circuit
Let us relieve yet another stress about packing, there are tea houses in each village where you can grab a simple room and enjoy a nice dinner and breakfast. During the day you will pass through approx. 2-3 towns for lunch or snacks. You don’t have to pack food, a tent or cooking accessories. All you need to worry about packing is your clothes, first aid kit, trekking essentials, and a sleeping bag is optional. Each guesthouse does provide fleece blankets in your room so you don’t need a sleeping bag. However it can get cold at the top and those fleeces might be a little cold. The fleece blankets are not washed put simply hung outside to air. You also do not get sheets so it’s good for hygienic reasons. The extra 2.5kg is noticeable weight but we were very happy we brought our own -15 sleeping bags.
To make it easy, here is a guide of what we packed for our trek for 2 people:
- 40L and 55L backpacks
- Filtering waterbottle (we brought Lifestraw) or Aqua Tablets
- First aid kit including, peroxide, bandaids, gauze, pocket knife, nail clippers.
- Trekking poles
- 2-3 pairs of hiking socks each
- Decent pair of hiking boots (Important: already broken in, trust us you don’t want those blisters at the beginning of your trip)
- Solar light (my favorite travel accessory since for those power outages)
- 2x headlamps
- 2x goose down -15 sleeping bags
- 1 Base layer pants and shirts each
- 1 down jacket for insulation each (we used Eddie Bauer Storm Down’s)
- 1 outerlayer jacket (why 2 jackets? One acts as your insulation, the other as your wind protection. Don’t even think about bringing your regular winter jacket with you. You are trekking after all and only use your jackets for 30% of the trek. You want to dress in layers)
- Fleece throw on jacket
- 2 t-shirts each
- Sports bra and undergarments
- Hats for the sun
- Flip Flops for at night
- Toueqes for the cold
- Sunglasses (Polaroid)
- Warm gloves (we included a baselayer glove)
- Pair of shorts
- Pair of water and windproof pants
- 1 pair of yoga pants
Altitude Sickness on the Trail
Should you get a Guide for the Annapurna Circuit?
Park Entrance Fees & Tickets
The TIMS system works to keep track of trekker’s locations across the trail in case of rescue. The TIMS card is a tracking system tracking your progress along the route and which checkpoints you make it too. It is mandatory that you stop in at the checkpoints in each town. The TIMS officers are always really nice.
What does Trekking the Annapurna Circuit Cost?
The meals and menu on the Annapurna Circuit are a set menu and prices by the Annapurna Conservation Group. That being said, the meals are still very affordable. It is approximately 200 ruppes, $4 for a Dal Baht Meal Set. We ate Dal Baht meal sets almost every lunch and dinner with porridge for breakfast. Dal Baht is a local Nepalese dish with lentil soup, rice, curry, vegetable and pickle. Each guesthouse makes it differently so it’s never the same. Dal Baht was nourishing and delicious! Along the trail, Dal Baht has endless refills so you will not be hungry. Be kind to your guesthouse, they make everything from scratch so try to order the same, thing if you are in a group. Most guesthouses do not have stoves or gas and are cooking by woodfire.
We kept track of all our expenses, we spent $800 US for 18 days for 2 people for our accommodations and food expense. This did not include guide, but included our bus trip to get there and our private taxi to Pohkara.
How Long does Trekking the Annapurna Circuit Take?
- 14 including 2 days of travel and 12 days of trekking from Bhulbhule to Jomson. Fly out of Jomson and with a rest day and acclimation day
- 18 days from Besisahar to Poonhill including 2 days of travel
We didn’t have a schedule to adhere by and really enjoyed the journey, so kept walking past Jomson, so our trek was from Besisahar to Tatopani over 18 days.
Itinerary for 14 days
For simplicity, we will choose the most common time frame for tours and that most people use as a guideline for the Annapurna. This was also the same timeframe it took us so you can see exactly how long we spend for each day. We kept with us a GPS to track our altitude, our miles, and time spent on each of our days. So you can see our exact stats. Here is a map from a fellow trekker that you get given at the start which is a helpful reference for our itinerary below.
Just click the “+” button next to the day to expand the day Itinerary.
Day 1 - Travel from Kathmandu to Besisahar
Day 1 is a travel day and if you wish, a 2 hour walk from Besisahar to Bulebule. To start your journey to Besisahar or Bulebule you need to catch a bus from Kathmandu. We caught the 8 am bus out of Kathmandu, which arrived around 2 pm in Dumre. The city has a couple local restaurants for lunch so we grabbed a bit to eat here before finally catching our bus to Bulebule. We paid 50 more rupees to get to BuleBule instead of Besisahar. We had read in a lot of guide books that the drive between Besisahar and Bulebule is a dusty road that can be busy with traffic. In fact, if you choose to you can get a 4×4 to Chame to start your trek, but we wouldn’t recommend missing the beginning. It was pouring down rain that afternoon so we went direct to Bulbule.
Most tourist buses will take you direct to Besisahar or drop you off in the town Domre to transfer to Besisahar. Make sure you know which bus you book. To get from Kathmandu to Besisahar there are a couple options that include:
- Private car or bus
- Tourist bus direct to Besisahar (suggested)
- Tourist Bus to Domre and change to a local bus to get to Besisahar.
Our Experience travelling from Kathmandu to Besisahar
This part of the experience was not as enjoyable for us. The agent we booked with said it would be no problem and a quick bus change half way through. Before boarding the bus we made sure the driver knew we were getting off at Domre. After a pit stop, some amazing scenery, crazy winding roads down a mountain, you get dropped off in the town of Domre. The sales people are waiting for you, they will offer 500 rupees (the same price you paid from Kathmandu to Domre) to get to Besisahar, which is an hour ride. Our bus agent told us the local bus was 30 rupees. Being the only tourists around, the agents went around to every bus person telling them not to sell us tickets for anything less than 500 rupees each. We had help from a police man who told us to pay 200 rupees.
After half way through our bus ride, the bus ticket agents on the bus all got drunk and tried to give us back our money and demand 500 rupees again. It’s all part of the story!
Day 2 - BULBULE to JAGAT
We started out in Bulbule. We had arrived by bus later in the afternoon around 6 pm the day before and it was raining like crazy so we didn’t get to see the area. Bright eyed, and ready to go, we got breakfast from the guesthouse and hit the road. The path started where our teahouse was so we started off along a small trail that followed alongside a river. Our first introduction to the trail was beautiful!
Today we walked from Bulbule to Jagat which was a total of 16.65 km at an average of 6.5km/hr over a period of 8 hours. Moving duration was 6hrs 42 minutes. I would pause the time at lunchtime, but the non-moving time would indicate me stopping to take pictures, take a drink of water or take a quick breather or break in the shade. We started at 780 m and climbed 470 m today to a maximum of 1251 m, so it was a long gradual climb today.
This was the first day of trekking with my approx. 12 kg backpack so was a bit of a shock. A lot of itineraries suggest you go from BulBule to Bahundanda but we trekked further this day. We also met 3 other guys along the trail that we became friends with and were all walking with no guide that we decided to stick together, and did so up until Day 8.
Day 3 - Jagat to Dharapani
Today we walked from Jagat to Dharapani which was a total of 19.76 km over a period of 7 hours 49 minutes. Today was an ascent of 865 meters to a maximum 1880m.
This day was beautiful also following a river.
Along this day was where we passed through my 3rd favorite town on the trail, Tal. In the morning you will find a steep descent to a river bottom and then a steep ascent to the other side. After a long ascent you will find yourself at the entrance of the city of Tal. The bright blue river along a long sandy riverbend weaves beautifully through 2 mountain ranges. Stop in the town of Tal for lunch that day. The guesthouses and restaurants in this town were so colorful, I wanted to stop and stay in this town it was so cute.
Keep trekking through to Dharapani. Follow the trail along and above the river, crossing bridges over the river.
When we arrived in Dharapani, the whole town had been without power for 3 months and did not know when the power line would be fixed. The people here were so nice and accommodating given the circumstance. Dharapani is a decent sized town with quite a few guesthouses to choose from. Some of the more popular guesthouses are towards the end of town.
Day 4 - Dharapani to Chame
Today we walked from Dharapani to Chame which was a total of 15.6 km over a period of 6 hours 09 minutes. Today was an ascent of 876 meters to a maximum 2727m. Now that you have reached an altitude of 2720M in Chame, you will start to feel the chill. It gets cold up here!
In Chame we stayed at a family run guesthouse, and played with the Children at night and had a great evening sipping Masala tea around a wood stove with other trekkers. The first guesthouse that had an evening woodstove. You will meet some amazing people along the way. Everyone we met on the trail was so friendly and happy.
Along this part of the trail, if it’s a clear day, you will get views of the stunning Mansalu Mountain Range. This mountain range is one of the top highest mountain ranges in the world at just over 8,000M.
Day 5 - Chame to Upper Pissang
Today we walked from Chame to Upper Pissang which was a total of 15.6 km over a period of 6 hours 09 minutes. Today was an ascent of 876 meters to a maximum 2727m.
In this part of the trail, you can choose to go to Upper Pissang or Lower Pissang. As you can see from the map, there is a trail that continues relativiely flat, or you can choose the challenging route to Upper Pisang, which offers some of the most astounding views of the Annapurna Mountain Range.
Naturally, we chose the Upper Pisang route and the views did not disappoint. They were incredible!
This day was quite a big push to get to the top, and when you arrive you will find your first introduction to Yak Cheese, try some from the wonderful shopkeeper and enjoy the view and accomplishment. After this viewpoint, the village behind it is really special, all made of bricks and stones.
When you arrive in Upper Pissang, there are 2 options, a lower or mountainside village.
By this time it’s been a long day, but push yourself and go up alongside the mountain. The view looking at the range is incredible from here. Plus tomorrow you continue from the upper village.
There is also a very popular temple at the top here that you can go visit after you get settled in your hotel. This area gets a lots of wind, all the flags were going crazy in the wind and you could see the snow clouds blowing off the snow peaks of the brilliant mountain range. This is a once in a lifetime view to take a moment to enjoy it. Upper Pissang was one of our favorite moments and towns.
Day 6 - Upper Pisang to Braga
Today we walked from Upper Pisang to Braga which was a total of 18.15 km over a period of 7 hours 25 minutes. Today was an ascent of 505 meters to a maximum 3763m.
From Upper Pisang you find yourself trekking along these single file trail along the side of a mountain with some very neat viewpoints along the way. Towards the end of your day, there is a trail that has the red and white markings that goes up quite a steep mountain. We followed the trail here, but it turns out that most guides don’t take this trail and instead continue along a slow incline trail that is much easier. The trail that we followed takes you up a mountain to a huge plateau, along this plateau found completely deserted stone villages.
When you descend from this plateau you find yourself walking through a very large completed deserted village with only very few signs of life. There are 2 guesthouses in the distance you can see from the plateau before you descend. Walking through the abandoned village of Braga was straight out of the apocalypse. Sides of buildings had crumbled into the streets, old ancient buildings were locked up, and cobwebs everywhere. The pictures don’t do it just how unique this was. The story to this magical village is that the government traded them with passports for their guns while they were rebel towns in the 60’s, and upon the offer everyone abandoned the town.
There are 3 or 4 hotels on the road at the bottom after you have walked through the abandoned village. Here you can find tons of delicious baked goods along this whole street. The Hotel New Yak was a superb guesthouse.
Day 7 - Acclimatization Day
Today is acclimatization day. An acclimation day is a best recommended climb to take as you ascend higher. In the world of trekkers, there is a common phrase to Climb high, sleep low. There are 3 options here in Braga or Manang that you can access an acclimatization trek. You can trek the IceFalls, IceLake, or instead take a 2 extra day detour through Tillicho Lake to visit the worlds highest elevation lake. Tillicho Lake has amazing reviews.
Today we chose to trek from Braga to IceLake!
Which was a total of 11 km over a period of 6 hours. In our trek to Ice Lake, we ascended to 4547 meters and came back down and slept at the same level of 3454m.
This helps your body to adjust to the climb when you do it again the second day. Ice Lake is the highest altitude ice lake in the world. So we took a small backpack and some essentials for a day hike. This is a very challenging climb but is a fun day without your backpack and some even more spectacular views at the top.
This was our first time seeing wild Yak’s at the top as well.
Day 8 Rest Day in Menang
A heavily suggested and almost mandatory day is a rest and acclimitization day when you reach 3500m. For the Annapurna this rest day is in the city of Manang. A beautiful little city along the trek and the last town that does have a road to it. Because Manang is at the recommended rest altitude of 3500M, the city is quite developed to accommodate a day of fun for trekkers. There is even a movie theatre here! So find yourself a nice lodge and watch one of the movies playing, “Everest”, “Into the Wild”, and the original “Everest”, all very suiting movies to the experience.
Today we walked from Braga to Manang, a short hour long walk with very little elevation gain of 81 meters.
Note: if you are taking altitude sickness antibiotics, you want to start taking them here.
Day 9 Manang to Yak Kharka
After your arrival to Manang at 3500M it is important that you only ascend 500 meters a day to properly acclimatize your body. You will find yourself ending in Yak Kharka which was a total of 9.69 km over a period of 3 hours 30 minutes. Today was an ascent of 491 meters to a maximum 4002m. Because of the 500 meter ascent limit you will find your days are a lot shorter. You will be feeling the effects of acclimatization at this point and everything you do, may seem just a little harder.
After you leave Manang, all the mountain villages afterwards do not have road access. You will see a lot of pack horses transporting goods along this trail.
You will not get solar heated showers from here. The terrain begins to become a lot more desolate here. There is not an abundance of firewood. At night in your guesthouse you will find a large table with blankets for over your legs and a dung fire below the table to keep you warm. Sounds gross, but it doesn’t smell and you will be very grateful for the warmth.
After approx. 2,500 meters you will start to notice seabuckthorn juice and tea is very popular. These berries are incredibly high in vitamin C and are grown on thorny bushes that only grow 1,300 meters or higher. Try the juice warmed up, it is delicious! We stopped for some juice and enjoyed this wonderful view.
Day 10 Yak Kharka to Thorong Pedi or High Camp
The trek from Yak Kharka is where you will see your last glimpses of the Annapurna Mountain range, be sure to take some last mental snapshots of this one.
Along the last hour of your trek to Thorong Pedi, you will find yourself walking through a landslide zone. A small trail that curves alongside a mountain with loose rocks covering the whole slope of the mountain. Watch your step here. It’s a phnonmenal walk to experience!
At Thorong Pedi is one main guesthouse that is quite large, around 150 units and a huge restaurant that has a wonderful vibe. At this height at night the temperature got to about -24, so the wood fire furnace in the guesthouse is a nice spot to sit and play some games around.
Day 11 Thorong Pedi to The Summit to Mutikinah
This part of the trek, is most likely to have snow. We were lucky with no snow, but people their 5 days prior found it impassable due to the snow.
On the Trail to the Summit
Before leaving Thorong Pedi, heed the sign that indicates the trail markers change from red/white spray paint to black poles. Black poles with flags in case of snow.
The trek from Thorong Pedi to Highcamp was quite steep and a lot of switch back and windy trail.
We trekked 5 km to the top at an average speed of 1.3km/hr and ascending 843M to the peak at 5366M.
The trek from Highcamp to the Pass was the most challenging day so far, there were many false summits, and the terrain is very similar so looks and feels never ending. We trekked pretty fast this day because we left a little too late in the morning so were worried about being late over the pass. You will feel the affects of altitude the most here. You might get light headed, nausea, or a headache. But you feel it the most in your ability to walk fast. It’s unnatural to walk a snails pace when you know you can walk faster, but your lungs won’t allow it.
It was such an inspiring moment to reach the top! To know that we set this challenge for ourself, and we had carried our own bag, and physically completed something like never before in our lives. Trekking through the Himalayan’s mountains over the highest landpass in the world is an accomplishment.
At the top there is even a teahouse so take a moment to enjoy the top with a hot Masala Tea at the chilly peak.
Descent from the Summit to Mukitinah
The second half of our day was from the peak down. This is just as much as a challenge as going up. Now you descend the mountain down to Muktinah at 3600M. That is approx. 1700M descent! The trail here can be quite steep continuously with beautiful valley views the whole way down.
Such a large ascent only is 9.4 km in length. You will arrive into Muktinah in the late afternoon and this will easily feel like your longest day yet. The view of the valley of Muktinah is quite spectacular as you descend.
It’s time to have a beer and cheers to your accomplishment!
Day 12 Mutkinah to Jomson
Some choose to enjoy a rest day in Muktinah after a hard 11 day push to make it over the pass. This choice can also depend on how much longer you are trekking, whether you are ending Jomson, Tatopani or Poonhill. We choose to take a rest day here in Muktinah, just to enjoy the beautiful scenery of this city. Muktinah also has some famous temples that we met Nepalese who had trekked 31 days to get to this temple. The temple is fairly close to the city but a nice leisurely walk on your day off.
For the itinerary purposes we will continue with our trek from the next day if you decide not to take a rest day. The next day on our Itinerary is to trek from Mutkinah to Jomson.
We trekked 10.96 km from Muktinah to KagBeni over 3 hours and 30 minutes.
Most itineraries walk from Mutkinah to Jomsom, so the second part of your day would be another 10 km over 2 hours and 57 minutes.
When you arrive in Jomson you will be feeling much better at a lower altitude of 2720M. You trek to Jomson will include walking along a huge riverbed.
You have successfully completed the 13 day trek over the Annapurna Circuit!
Day 13 - From Jomson fly or bus to Pohkara
Here in Jomsom you have 3 choices, you can fly by a small aircraft, you can take a bus to Pokhara or you can keep walking. If you choose the last option to continue walking, you can trek to Tatopani or trek Poonhill and end in Birethantl. We chose to keep going and got caught in a huge rain storm getting soaked so we ended in Tatopani. Along our trek to Tatopani, we continued to walk along the huge riverbed and through more cities.
And we discovered Marpa, one of the most beautiful towns along the whole trail.
Where all of the old buildings through the town were painted in white and red.
Cross bridges and saw the Dhaulagiri mountain range at 8167 meters high.