Annapurna Circuit – Nepal’s Classic Circuit Trek

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On this page you will find a comprehensive and impartial guide to the Annapurna Circuit Trek.

As this is a very long and detailed article on the Annapurna Circuit Trek, we recommend using the quicklinks below to navigate to the sections that interest you most. Alternatively, bookmark this page for future reference.

Route Overview

The Annapurna Circuit is one of the greatest treks in Nepal, if not the world – although road construction over the past two decades has severely impacted the trekking experience (more on this later). Note: if you are a mountain biker the road on the western side makes for one of the most exhilarating and scenic mountain biking experiences!

The trek begins at Besisahar (which is a 7-8 hour drive from Kathmandu) and concludes in the Kali Gandaki Gorge – the disputed highest gorge in the world that separates Dhaulagiri (8,176 meters) in the West and Annapurna (8,091 meters) in the East.

The circuit is traditionally followed on an anti-clockwise trail – for acclimatization reasons – that circumvents the Annapurna Massif, taking trekkers through the Annapurna, Manang and Mustang region of central Nepal.

At its pinnacle the trek crosses the Thorung La Pass (5,416 meters) before descending down to the town of Muktinath. From here the road construction activities that began in 2004 and completed in 2008/09 have had a measurable impact on the Annapurna Circuit trekking experience.

The Nepalese government have realised that the road on both the Western (Pokhara-Muktinath) and Eastern (Chame-Manang) side of the circuit has had a negative impact on trekking tourism and have thus created a number of New Annapurna Trekking Trails (called NATT-trails). These NATT-trails, marked blue and white or red and white, take trekkers away from the dusty and unpleasant roads and provide a much more pleasant trekking experience (where possible we have highlighted these NATT-trails in the Annapurna Circuit itinerary below).

The Annapurna circuit typically takes between 16-20 days to complete (depending if you decide to tack on a diversion to Annapurna Base Camp and the Annapurna Sanctuary), and covers between 150-240 km (depending on when you decide to end the tour or use transportation vehicles).

The scenery on the Annapurna Circuit is extraordinarily beautiful, taking trekkers through rice terraced paddy fields, subtropical forests, and glacial environments. You will see a number of major mountains including the Annapurna Massif (I-IV), three 8,000 metre peaks – Dhaulagiri (8,176 meters), Manaslu (8,156 meters) and Annapurna I (8,091 meters) – as well as numerous peaks of 6,000 to 7,000 meters.

Please Note:

The Annapurna Circuit is situated in the Annapurna and Mustang regions of central Nepal. It is home to the Annapurna Massif. The schematic below illustrates Nepal’s trekking regions (not to scale).

Regional Map

The Annapurna Circuit is situated in the Annapurna and Mustang regions of central Nepal. It is home to the Annapurna Massif. The schematic illustrates Nepal’s trekking regions (not to scale)

annapurna-trek-map

Recommended Map

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In terms of a single detailed map we recommend the Himalayan MapHouse’s, New Annapurna Trekking Trails Map, which can be bought in Kathmandu, Pokhara or on Amazon UK here (unfortunately it is not on Amazon US yet).

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Altitude Profile

The schematic diagram below shows the route altitude profile for the Annapurna Circuit.

annapurna-circuit-altitude-map

Itinerary

Below is a detailed Annapurna Circuit itinerary. Where possible we have highlighted the NATT-Trails that can be used to avoid the road. Please note that this is a typical Annapurna Circuit itinerary. Some tour operators offer variations on this route.

Click each day to read more...

Day 1-2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7 

Day 8

Day 9

Day 10

Day 11​​​​

Day 12

Day 13

Day 14

Day 15

Day 16

Day 17

Day 18

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Please Note:From Muktinath onwards the classic Annapurna Circuit has been severely impacted by the road that joins Jomsom to Muktinath. If you choose to trek this route be prepared for an unpleasant and dusty experience, as jeeps wiz by you. Thankfully there are alternative options via the New Annapurna Trekking Trails (NATT-trails).

Suggested route options from Muktinath

If you are not on a set tour we suggest the following route:

  • Trek to the charmingly wonderful town of Kagbeni (2,800 meters) for an overnight stay. We recommend taking the high trail out of Muktinath via Jhong, as this offers better mountain views
  • From Kagbeni to Jomsom take a jeep as dust driven from the common winds in this region and the constant flow of vehicles on the road make for unpleasant trekking
  • From Jomsom take the new NATT-trail (marked in red and white) to Marpha (2,665 meters) where you can stay overnight and then continue following the route set out from Day 13 below

Also Note: As the road starts in Muktinath, you can cheat and catch a truck all the way to Jomsom to continue your trek or catch a flight to Kathmandu if you need to shorten your trek (we highly recommend not skipping Kagbeni though). You can also get a bus from Muktinath all the way back to Pokhara if you have run out of time. If you are a mountain biking fanatic you can rent a mountain bike to take one of the most amazing rides down and out of Muktinath – this area of Nepal is fast becoming mountain biking Mecca

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Video Overview

A beautiful video overview of the Annapurna Circuit Trek by Michał Zachara and set to the Rudyard Kipling poem If, narrated by Sir Michael Caine It’s 03:32 long.

Route Variations

There are a number of route variations on the Annapurna Circuit. Here are three worth mentioning.

If you don’t have much time in the Annapurna Circuit you may want to consider the Poon Hill TrekThe Royal Trek or the Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek (also called the small Annapurna Circuit).

  • Annapurna base Camp Trek
  • Naar-Pho Valley
  • Tilicho Lake

It is possible to include a five day diversion to Annapurna Base Camp onto the Annapurna Circuit trek. This involves continuing north from Tadapani so as to join the old Annapurna Circuit at Landruk.

Read more about the Annapurna Base Camp Trek

Recommended Guidebook

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If you would like to get an up-to-date guide book with maps that include the NATT-Trails then we recommend either Andrées de Ruiter and Prem Rai’s guide, Trekking the Annapurna Circuit, or Sian Pritchard-Jones and Bob Gibbons guide, Annapurna: A Trekker’s Guide.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does the trek cost?

Are permits required for this trek?

When is the best time to trek?

Is altitude sickness a risk?

How difficult is the trek?

What gear do I need?

What travel insurance do I need?


Insurance Information

Trekking insurance is a must in Nepal. This is particularly the case in the Annapurna Region, which at stages is very remote. If an accident should occur that requires medical assistance and evacuation you will definitely want trekking insurance that can cover the costs of air ambulance and treatment.

Moreover, it is prudent to have insurance that covers you for any travel related risks, like lost, stolen, damaged or delayed baggage; flight delays and interruptions; and tour operators default.

This article on travel and trekking insurance in Nepal provides detailed information on what type of insurance you need, as well as provides a quote calculator from a leading travel operator.

Other Routes

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Everest Base Camp Trek

The Everest Base Camp Trek is one of the most popular and iconic treks in Nepal. Trekkers get to retrace the early footsteps taken by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on their historic Everest expedition in 1953. Discover the Everest Base Camp Trek.

Langtang-Valley-Trek-routes

Langtang Valley Trek

The Langtang Valley Trek is a relatively easy trek and is often far less busy than other popular treks in the Everest and Annapurna region. The trek can be done in seven days, however, it usually takes 10 to 12 days. Discover the Langtang Valley Trek.

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Manaslu Circuit Trek

Robin Boustead, author of Nepal Trekking & the Great Himalaya Trail: A route and planning guide, pronounced, “Many would argue that the Manaslu Circuit trail is the best general trek in the country.” Discover the Manaslu Circuit Trek.

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