As this is a very long and detailed article on the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, we recommend using the quicklinks below to navigate to the sections that interest you most. Alternatively, bookmark this page for future reference.
The Annapurna Sanctuary Trek is one of the most popular treks in Nepal after Everest Base Camp. Its climate varies from sub-tropical to Alpine, so there is a wondrous selection of flora and fauna, and you will come across many ethnic groups.
This trek is somewhat strenuous but requires no prior trekking experience. Most people take between 10 and 16 days to carry out this trek
The Annapurna Sanctuary Trek is the best option if you would like to get spectacularly close to the Himalayas but have no time for the acclimatisation required of other treks such as the Annapurna Circuit or the Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek. The highest altitude attained is 13,550 feet which, although still high, is lower than most treks in the region.
The Annapurna Himal is a huge massif with several peaks above 23,000 feet. A section of this range forms an amphitheatre by the name of the Annapurna Sanctuary, containing Annapurna I, Fang, Gangapurna, Glacier Dome, Hiunchuli and Machapuchhare. With so many surrounding mountains, sunlight is restricted to only 7 hours a day in summer.
At 26,545 feet, Annapurna I is the tenth highest mountain in the world. It was the first of more than 26,000 feet to ever be summitted – in June 1950 by a French party led by Maurice Herzog. Herzog’s classic account of his summit went by the title of Annapurna: The First Conquest of an 8000-Metre Peak – which we highly recommend.
The only entrance to the Sanctuary is a narrow pass between Hiunchuli and Machapuchhare. The sanctuary is regarded as the dwelling place of Shiva, the harvest goddess. It was not entered by outsiders until 1956, and only recently was the bringing of eggs or meat or the admission of women and Dalits – untouchables – permitted. The Annapurna Sanctuary Trek winds its way through the valley below the mountains. The route has been used by traders for centuries and you will share the trail with locals hefting bags of rice and crates of chickens.
Accommodation on the trek is usually in tea houses. The teahouses are almost always family-owned and are usually of good quality. Toilets are usually housed in an outside structure and will sometimes be squatters. “Flushing” is effected by means of a bucket of water. Hot showers are usually available at additional cost.
The Kali Gandaki river is one quarter of a mile wide and ensconced by the world’s deepest gorge. In winter, it is virtually dry but during the monsoon in summer it is gorged with rainwater. Fossils can be found on the banks of the river.
Please Note: The trails on the trek are generally good, however, they can often be fairly steep and the path through the forest when you approach the sanctuary can be slippery. It is possible to trek without a guide.
You will meet many other trekkers along the way. A map and guidebook ought to be sufficient (see below for recommendations).
Please remember to plan your day to avoid trekking after nightfall.
The Sanctuary is located 29 miles due north of Pokhara, Nepal’s second city, 13,120 feet above sea level. See the map schematic below.
There are two maps for this region. We recommend by Ian P Johnson and Around Annapurna 1 : 125 000: Annapurna Conservation Area – Annapurna Sanctuary. It includes detailed trails, walking distances and altitudes.
We have also provided links and recommendations to new guides and maps below.
Please note that there are several Annapurna Sanctuary trek itineraries that can be done. Below we have laid out the most popular version – 13 days, leaving from Kathmandu. If you want to make your own way to Pokhara then you could probably organise this with your operator or guide.
Click each day to read more...
You arrive at Tribhuwan International Airport in Kathmandu, where you stay overnight at a hotel. This is the City of a Thousand Temples, where every second day is a festival and there are several UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
There is a 30-minute flight to the lakeside city of Pokhara then a drive of less than an hour to Nayapul. You start your trek here. In 15 minutes or so, you reach Birethanti, a large village featuring many shops and tea houses. The trail goes along the north bank of the Bhurungdi Khola, climbing steadily until Hille is reached. At the end of a short climb is Tikhedhunga where you stay for the night.
After Tikhedunga, there is a steep climb to the large village of Ulleri. The ascent then continues, but more gently. You will pass through forests of oak and rhododendron before reaching Banthani. You then continue to Nangethanti. An hour after that, you come to Ghorepani where you stay for the night.
You arise early this morning and hike to Poon Hill. Here you are presented with the best possible view of the fabulous Annapurna and Dhaulagiri ranges. You then return to the tea house for breakfast and walk to Tadapani.
At first, the trail leads sharply downhill through forests but later it eases as you approach the village of Gurjung. The walk to Chhomorung is fairly easy. You stay at Chhomorung for the night. There are many chalet-style, wooden lodges in Chomrong (2210m) which have great views out toward the prominent Machhapuchhre (Fish-Tail Peak). A brilliant place to end the day!
The trail descends to Chhomorung Khola and then ascends to Khudighar where there is a checkpoint. In less than 2 hours of trekking we reach the village of Sinuwa where we take a welcome break. From here, the trail continues to climb through terraced fields and then through forest of rhododendron and bamboo to the ridge crest at ‘Sinuwa Hill Top’ which you should reach after a further hour. You stay the night at Bamboo.
You begin the day by traversing the bamboo and rhododendron forests before arriving at Dovan where you stop for lunch. You will stay the night at Hinko, or in particular, Deurali, which is on the ridge above.
This day, the trail rises on the way to Annapurna Base Camp. Here, the mountain scenery is at its most spectacular with towering mountains surrounding you.
Now it is time to explore the Hidden Valley before returning to Dovan. You will have the option to walk from your camp to Annapurna South Basecamp (4130m) which is a distance of only 4 kilometres. Along the walk you will witness increasingly impressive mountain views and jaw-dropping scenery. At South Basecamp you will be rewarded with views of the entire south face of Annapurna.
You trek to Jhinu Danda, where there is a hot spring in which you will doubtless spend time in the evening.
Two hours is spent walking downhill to Phedi, which is fairly easy. At Phedi, the road links to Pokhara, a half hour drive away.
You return to Kathmandu.
Here is a great video overview of the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek by The Globe Less Travelled.
It’s just over 3 minutes long.
Books dedicated to the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek are Trekking the Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna Sanctuary in the Nepal Himalaya in the Nepal Himalaya by Ian P Johnson and Annapurna Sanctuary and Circuit by Alonzo Lucius Lyons.
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).
You are also welcome to have a look at our recommended list of Nepal books and guidebooks Library for more options.
To complete the trek using a tour operator and guide service you can expect to pay between $2,000 and $3,500. Completing the trek unsupported could be done for as little as $1,000.
An Annapurna Conservation Area Project permit and Trekker Information Management System registration are required for the Annapurna Sanctuary trek. If you are part of an organised tour group these will be arranged for you, but if you are trekking unsupported you will have to bring four passport-sized photographs and go to the offices of the Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu to apply for permits. We recommend bringing copies of your passport and insurance policy. The offices follow government working hours and days, and are not open on Sundays.
In spring, forests erupt with white, red and pink rhododendron flowers.
September-November is high season when there are few clouds and clear views.
There is less than half an inch of precipitation in November, but temperatures can get very cold in the Winter (Nov-Feb).
The Annapurna Sanctuary Trek ascends to some high altitude points. At its highest point, the Annapurna Base Camp, you will reach an altitude of 4,130 meters (13,550 feet). Fortunately, because of the treks length, the opportunities for appropriate acclimatisation are good, and hence the prevalence of moderate or sever altitude sickness is low.
Even so, 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 you read our detailed article on Altitude Sickness and Acclimatisation.
The Annapurna Sanctuary 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.
Trekking the Annapurna Sanctuary requires a number of essential pieces of trekking gear. The Annapurna Sanctuary Trek is long and moderately difficult. It exposes you to a range of altitudes where temperatures fluctuate dramatically between night and day.
Much of your gear can be rented or bought in Kathmandu or Pokhara, but we strongly suggest bringing the most important pieces of equipment with you.
To help you plan and prepare for your trek we recommend reading our gear section.
Climbing insurance is vital for Annapurna Sanctuary Trek. If an accident or incident should occur that requires immediate medical assistance and evacuation you will most definitely want adequate trekking insurance that can cover the costs of air ambulance and treatment.
Make sure you have insurance that covers you for any travel related risks, like lost, stolen, damaged or delayed baggage; interruptions and flight delays and tour operators default.
Please read our article on travel and trekking insurance in Nepal. The article provides great information on what type of insurance you'd need.