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Annapurna Base Camp Trek
The Annapurna Base Camp trek is one of the most popular hikes in Nepal. Why? Quite simply: the mountain scenery is incredible.
To main a few of the mountains you will be trekking amongst, there is Annapurna I (26,505 feet), Annapurna South (23,684 feet), Machapuchhre (22,943 feet) and Hiunchili (21,131 feet). These are arranged in a circle roughly 10 miles wide with a glacier-glazed amphitheatre at the centre which the locals, Gurungs, call the ‘Throne of the Gods’ (more commonly known to Westerners as the Annapurna Sanctuary). Machapuchhre is considered sacred by Gurungs and climbing it is forbidden, although a British party came within 200 feet in 1957.
The Annapurna Base Camp trek usually takes 10 to 15 days, depending upon how relaxed you take it, and the trek is of moderate difficulty.
Although the valley floor affords good camping if the weather is fair, you will usually stay in tea houses along the route. Please note that single rooms are rare. Cold showers are free, but hot ones must be paid for. Electricity usually costs NPR100 per hour. Read more Tea Houses – What to Expect.
The Annapurna Base Camp trek is the only trekking route in the region untouched by road construction. There are more than 100 kinds of mammal in the area, 60 kinds of reptile and amphibian, 450 kinds of bird and nine kinds of rhododendron!
The Annapurna range features some of the highest-possible mountain views. The finest moments of this trek are at sunrise, when the sun dances across the mountains. You will occasionally be granted 360-degree vistas at some of the higher points along the trail.
Annapurna Regional Map
The Annapurna Conservation Area is in the mid-western part of Nepal, from the Kali Gandaki river in the west to Marshyangdi in the east.
Recommended Annapurna Map
There are quite a few good maps available of the Annapurna region. The one we recommend is called Around Annapurna 1:125 000. It provides full coverage of the Annapurna Conservation Area and Annapurna Sanctuary, with detailed trails, walking distances and altitudes.
Annapurna Base Camp Itinerary
Please note that there are several Annapurna Base Camp trek itineraries that can be done. Below we have laid out the most popular version – 11 days, including a pre and post stay in KTM. It is possible to do the trek in a shorter time, but you would need to be very fit and well acclimatised. Equally, you could take a few more days and build in some time to rest and acclimatise. Click each day to read more.
You can either fly or get a bus to Pokhara, the second-largest city in Nepal, where the vistas of the Annapurnas are spectacular. Most treks either begin in Phedi or Nayapul, both of which take between 1-2 hours to drive to from Pokhara. Assuming you start from Nayapul you will trek for 5-6 hours to Ghandruk (from Phedi you would go to Landruk). Most of the trekking is uphill through amazing forests of mixed oak, rhododendrons and terraced fields.
From Ghandruk the trail descends to a river where you cross at New Bridge. At roughly 1,600 feet you start ascending again. The trail links to another from Landruk. A brief walk, including a stone staircase, brings you to Chhomrung, a village where there is a gorgeous view of Machhapuchhre (Fish Tail) and Annapurna South. This day covers 5-6 hours of trekking and is quite undulating.
One more stone staircase takes you downwards to cross the Chhomrung Khola. You follow the west bank of the Modi Khola, passing forests of oak, bamboo and rhododendron. You then ascend to Kuldighar and make your way down a long stone staircase, ending up at the village of Bamboo where you stay for the night. A shorter day (around 4-5 hours).
You pass the remarkable limestone Hinku Caves. The path here is well-defined and undulating, with many stone steps on the way. You then follow a winding stone path before arriving at the village of Deurali where you can stay for the night. Again, another short day: 3-4 hours.
Walking for two or three strenuous hours brings you to Machhapuchhre Base Camp, a patch of dirt and rocks – a moraine, as it’s formally known – enclosed by the snow-capped peaks of Annapurnas I and III and Machapuchare. You will being dying for a break here before continuing on into the Annapurna Sanctuary. Shortly thereafter (2 hours), you find Annapurna Base Camp, the highest point of the trek (4,130m/13,545ft) where you overnight. This campsite is rudimentary and there are no showers.
Most trekkers either return to Deurali on a different route that generally winds its way downhill, or go all the way back to Bamboo. If you choose the later it will be about a 7-8 hour trek.
It is staircase time once more. This is another long one, with bamboo and rhododendron forests to either side. You go to Kuldighar and Sinuwa, then on to Modi Khola. The day ends with a sheer climb in the direction of Chhomrung, before descending to to Jhinu Danda. About 5-7 hours trekking. There are hot springs about a 20 minute walk from Jhinu Danda.
You trek through villages and terraced fields, eventually reaching Syauli Bazaar, then Nayapul. About another 6 hours trekking. From Nayapul the drive back to Pokhara takes about 1-2 hours.
The flight back to Kathmandu is spectacular, looking down on the Himalayas.
Annapurna BC Video Overview
An absolutely brilliant video overview of the Annapurna Base Camp Trek by Ben Southall from Best Life in the World. It’s 07:29 long, but worth every minute. ENJOY!
For amazing photography check out Annapurna Base Camp Trek: A Photographic Journey by Sanjeev Mathur.
For a super entertaining read on the Annapurna region we recommend You Couldn’t Make it Up!: Ordinary Guy, Extraordinary Life by Mike Freedman.
Preparing for Annapurna Base Camp Hike
When is the best time to trek to Annapurna Base Camp?
The Annapurna Base Camp trek can be accomplished throughout the year. Autumn, from September to November, and spring, from March to May, are the best seasons. The rhododendron forests bloom in spring. Taking the trip in winter – from December to February – will free you of crowds but the Base Camp is sometimes closed due to snow. The monsoon season is unpleasant, very wet with lots of leeches.
How much does the Annapurna Base Camp trek cost?
The cost for an Annapurna Base Camp trek ranges from $1,000 for an unsupported / non-commercial trek (assuming $100 a day is enough to cover all your accommodation needs, food, permits and perhaps some support from a local guide) to $2,500 upwards for all-inclusive commercial treks (generally including return flights from Kathmandu to Pokhara).
How difficult is the trek to Annapurna Base Camp?
The Annapurna Base Camp trek is of moderate difficulty. You will be trekking for 4-7 hours a day for over a week, so you will need to be relatively fit. The best way to prepare is to get as many miles under foot on trails in your home country.
Are permits required for this trek?
An Annapurna Conservation Area Project permit and Trekker Information Management System registration are required for the Annapurna Base Camp trek.
If you are joining an organised tour, these will be arranged for you, but if you are looking to go it alone you will have to bring four passport-sized photographs and go to the offices of the Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu to apply. We recommend bringing copies of your passport and insurance policy. The offices follow government working hours and days, and are not open on Sundays.
Is altitude sickness a risk on Annapurna Base Camp?
The Annapurna Base Camp Trek ascends to some high altitude points. At its highest point, the Annapurna Base Camp, you will reach an altitude of 4,130 meters (13,545 feet). Luckily, because of the treks length, the opportunities for acclimatisation are good, and hence the prevalence of moderate or sever altitude sickness is not high.
Nonetheless, it is important to have a clear understanding of the risks associated with high altitude trekking and how the body acclimatises to high altitude.
We recommend reading our detailed article on Altitude Sickness and Acclimatisation.
What gear do I need for Annapurna BC?
Trekking the Annapurna Base Camp requires a number of essential pieces of trekking gear and equipment. The Annapurna Base Camp Trek is relatively long and moderately hard. It exposes you to a range of altitudes where temperatures fluctuate significantly between night and day.
Much of your gear can be rented or bought in Kathmandu or Pokhara, but we suggest bringing the most important pieces of gear with you.
What travel insurance do I need for Annapurna Base Camp hike?
Trekking insurance is vitally important in Nepal. This is particularly true on the Annapurna Base Camp Trek which is remote. If an accident should occur that requires medical assistance and evacuation you will most certainly want the right trekking insurance that can cover the costs of air ambulance and further treatment.
Make sure to have insurance that covers you for any travel related risks, like damaged, lost, stolen or delayed baggage; flight delays and interruptions; and tour operators default.
This article on travel and trekking insurance provides great information on what type of insurance you need, as well as provides an easy quote calculator from a leading travel operator.