Annapurna Trekking Routes: A Full Breakdown

The Annapurna Region is one of the most popular and famous trekking regions in the world. Whether you’re a novice trekker or an expert, there’s always a section of the Annapurna region that will be right for you. Possibly, one of the best places to visit in Nepal if you love a hike, the Annapurna region has a whole host of trails and jaw-dropping viewpoints that will leave you speechless.

One of the more famous treks is the Annapurna Circuit (which takes about 21 days) and is the perfect way to fully experience the wonder and magic of the region. Other famous treks include hiking to Poon Hill, standing at 3,210 meters, situated near Ghorepani. Most hikers try to be on Poon Hill early to see the sunrise and a stunning view of Dhaulagiri, Annapurna South, Machapuchare, and Singa Chuli. This is a sight to behold.

Due to the amazing changes in climate and landscapes, any trek within the Annapurna region will offer you the chance to pass through paddy fields, Lowland villages, subtropical forests and spine-tingling mountain ranges. Evenings will most likely be spent in a cosy teahouse. These traditional teahouses en route boast amazing local Dal Bhat and are ideal for meeting others hikers from around the world to discuss your incredible adventures with.

The Annapurna region was declared a protected area in 1986. Since then, the region has been very well maintained and its infrastructure comfortably supports the many trekkers that come through the area each year.

The Routes

There’s no doubt about it, the region of Annapurna is a trekkers paradise. Head out of a long, multi-day hike and you will be rewarded tenfold with routes scattered with hidden treasures such as subtropical lowlands, Tibetan temples, and spiky panoramic mountain views. Oh…and don’t forget to visit the traditional teahouses along the way!

There are many routes within the Annapurna regions, therefore, we are only going to highlight the ones we think you will love as much as we do:

The Annapurna Circuit – one of the most outstanding trekking circuits in the world. The Annapurna Circuit Trek generally takes 15-20 days, depending on fitness and experience.

Annapurna Base Camp – This 14 day hiking route  is a once in a lifetime experience and puts you up close and personal with Himalayan peaks standing above 7000 and 8000 meters.

Poon Hill – Is one of the best treks in the entire Himalaya if you are limited on time, and offers some of the best peak views in the world. The trek can be done in as little as 3 days, although 4 is more comfortable.

Tilicho Lake – The short but challenging hike to Tilicho Lake, one of the highest large lakes in the world, is one of the most impressive walks in the Annapurna range and is about a 3-4 day detour from the Annapurna circuit trek.

Full Route Breakdown:

Annapurna Circuit Trek is one of the most outstanding trekking circuits in the world and generally takes 15-20 days depending on fitness and experience. The route ranges between 160 -240 km long, depending upon the transportation facilities available.

So what to expect?

Starting in a little town called Besisahar at 760m high, you will gain elevation of around 190km as you pass through the Thorong La Pass – 5,416m high. The Annapurna circuit trek also touches the Base of Tibetan Plateau at Manang valley after passing through the river valley of Marshyangdi. As a result, this world-class trekking circuit gives you the opportunity to see over 10 mountain peaks all ranging above 6000m and offers a magical, in-depth insight into the Himalayan culture and way of life. As well being introduced to multiple Nepali and Tibetan communities, lost traditions and sub-tropical farming villages, during this trek you will also be exposed to panoramic views of flora, fauna, glacier rivers, dramatic waterfalls, natural hot springs and more.

The stunning scenery on the circuit includes views of each of the Annapurna mountains –  Annapurna I, Annapurna II, Annapurna III and Annapurna IV – as well as views of the Dhaulagiri, the Machhapuchhre and Gangapurna – among others.

The favourable seasons for this trek are autumn (September to November) and spring (March to May). During the autumn and spring season the weather is warm, and panoramic views of Mt Annapurna are visible. Other than these two seasons, winter (December, January and February) is very cold, causing for a somewhat more challenging hike even for experienced trekkers. During these months, expect very harsh weather conditions, including snowstorms. What’s more, during the summer and monsoon season (June to August), there are high risks of landslides, falls, and unfavourable weather encounters.

Annapurna circuit trek is undoubtedly a world-class trekking experience and offers a magical, in-depth, insight into the Himalayan trail circuits and local traditions.

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The Full Annapurna Circuit Trekking Guide

All you need to know for a successful Annapurna Circuit trek.

Annapurna Base Camp Trek is simply magnificent and puts you up close and personal with Himalayan peaks – standing above 7000 and 8000 meters respectively. The Annapurna Base Camp trek isn’t overly strenuous, but requires strong physical fitness.

The trail is decorated with luscious green rolling hills, lively villages, scaling valleys and rhododendron forests. What’s more,  you are also rewarded with panoramic views of giant Himalayan peaks; including Annapurna massifs, Fishtail Peak and Dhaulagiri.

During Annapurna Base Camp Trek, trekkers get the opportunity to traverse through the villages inhabited by different communities such as Gurung and Magar, pass beautiful waterfalls, terraced farmlands, suspension bridges clad with prayer flags, witness romantic sunrises and sunsets over majestic glaciers all before reaching Annapurna base camp.

Diversity in landscape, vegetation, culture, traditions and religion all culminate in making this trek one of the most popular on planet earth.

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The Full Annapurna Base Camp Trekking Guide

All you need to know for a successful Annapurna Circuit trek.
Poon Hill

Poon hill is one of the best treks in the entire Himalaya if you are limited on time and offers some of the best peak views in the world.  The trek can be done in as little as 3 days although 4 is more comfortable. The trek is also extremely accessible and starts about an hour’s drive from Pokhara. 

Breathtaking mountain views dotted with enchanting villages and beautiful forests, the Poon Hill trek is a fabulous introduction to trekking in Nepal and watching the sunrise from here is an almost obligatory Nepalese experience.

The high point of the trek is Poon Hill (3200m) where one has fantastic views of 3 of the 10 tallest mountains in the world which include Dhaulagiri I (8,167m / 7th highest),Manaslu (8,156 m / 8th highest) and Annapurna  I (8,091m / 10th highest). You will usually spend the night at Ghorepani, where the views of Poon Hill are known to be stunning. What’s more – they even have small internet cafes, so you can catch up with friends and family to tell them all about your travels so far.

Tilicho Lake

The short but challenging hike to Tilicho Lake, one of the highest large lakes in the world, is one of the most impressive walks in the Annapurna range and is about a 3-4 detour from the Annapurna circuit trek.

Climbing steep, narrow trails through pine forests and scree slopes, you will need to have your wits about you for this one.  However, the challenging climb is worth it; you are rewarded with some of the most spectacular views in the whole of the region. 

The lake itself sits at the end of extensive glaciers that come tumbling down from Tilicho Peak and are often frozen. In the summer months (usually June to November) the stark contrast between the icy blue water, and the dramatic glaciers looming above is something to behold. It is important to note that the route up to the lake is not for the faint-hearted; a large part of the trail is high up on an almost sheer shale slope, where rock falls and avalanches are almost daily occurrences. However, if you do decide to take on this challenge, camping at the lake is a magical experience and who knows, you may get the chance to spot the extremely rare snow leopard in the distance.

Annapurna FAQ's Debunked...

Now we have giving you a breakdown of some the more popular trekking routes within Annapurna, we are going to quickly answer some frequently asked questions with as much honesty and transparency as possible:

1. Which route is best for me and why? –  All trekking routes within the Annapurna region are magnificent in their own right – all offering an abundance of climates, landscapes and wildlife – including yaks, horses, donkeys, cattle, mountain goats, monkeys and more. 

As such, the “best” route normally boils down to personal preference, especially considering each route offers a difference in scenery, difficulty, acclimatisation ease, popularity and time.

It is important that you are concious of your priorities and what you intend to get out of your trip from the start. For some, they have a great interest in photography, prefer a specific terrain and climatic zone, or simply have the sole aim of completing the 21-day circuit challenge successfully.

 

2. How fit do I need to be and do I need to train? – A basic level of fitness and good health is needed and training is highly recommended.

However, you do not need to be a professional athlete or a marathon runner. What is going to get you to the end of your challenge is a mental and emotional commitment to the cause. As long as you set time aside to prepare for the challenge ahead, success will be on your side! 

Simply reach out and ask, and GoKo will provide you with full fitness training notes and recommendations on how you can best build up your stamina in the last few months before the trek.

 

3. What are the accommodation options? – While on any trek within the Annapurna region with GoKo Travels, you will spend your evenings in a cosy teahouse run by local village people. These traditional teahouses en route are ideal for meeting others hikers from around the world and discuss your incredible adventures with.

 

4. What time of year is best to climb? – Despite being able to climb Annapurna all year round, it is clear that some months are MUCH better (and more advisable) than others. 

When deciding when is best to hike in Annapurna, there are several things you much take into consideration – such as temperatures, rainfall, visibility and crowds.

Most people choose to trek the Annapurna in spring (March-May) or autumn (September-November), as these seasons offer more moderate weather and better hiking conditions. However, due to its popularity, trails can come very busy and you can expect to see a donkey traffic jam or two.

Other recommended months include: December through to February. These months are much quieter and the weather conditions are generally good. However, during these months, you can sometimes experience very harsh weather conditions; so watch out for snowstorms. 

We do not recommend trekking during the summer and monsoon season (June to August), as there is high risk of landslides, falls, and unfavourable weather encounters. 

 

 5. What is altitude sickness? – Altitude sickness is an illness that can affect anyone at any time, despite their level of fitness or how many times they have trekked in a specific region. Altitude sickness can range from a mild headache and weariness to a life-threatening build-up of fluid in the lungs or brain at high altitudes. 

Symptoms occur when the rate of ascent into higher altitudes is too quickly that the body doesn’t get time to acclimatise. Altitude sickness generally develops at elevations higher than 8,000 feet (about 2,400 meters) above sea level and when the rate of ascent exceeds 1,000 feet (300 meters) per day.

The following actions can trigger altitude sickness:

  • Ascending too quickly (rapidly)
  • Overexertion within 24 hours of ascent
  • Inadequate fluid intake
  • Hypothermia
  • Consumption of alcohol or other sedatives

One way to avoid altitude sickness is allowing the body to get used to the altitude slowly (Acclimatisation). Acclimatisation is the process by which the body adjusts to high altitudes. The goal of acclimatisation is to increase ventilation (breathing) to compensate for lower oxygen content in the air. To compensate for this extra ventilation, blood needs to have a lower pH. In response, the kidneys excrete bicarbonate into the urine, which in turn lowers the body’s pH to accommodate for this extra respiratory effort.

During a GoKo trek, we take all the necessarily persuasions to ensure your safety and go out of our way to check in on how you are feeling to avoid altitude sickness affecting you in a severe way. The rule here is to be completely honest with your guides and group, and if you feel any of the below symptoms – speak up:

  • headache.
  • feeling and being sick.
  • dizziness.
  • serious tiredness.
  • loss of appetite (you will be walking for 5-8 hours per day – it is so important to eat enough food to maintain your energy – if you feel like not eating at any point during your trip, speak to your guides immediately).
  • shortness of breath.

TOP TIPS: Although Trekking has been long established in Nepal, trekking can be difficult in parts, with a lot of uphill and downhill climbing. Regardless, any healthy person with an established level of walking fitness can complete these climbs. However, stubbornness NEVER helps.

WALK AR YOUR OWN PACE & DO NOT RUSH: Slow and steady is the way to go – being fit or unfit is not the primary control here, it is how you deal with altitude and it can strike anyone at any time. So… look-up a smell the roses! The only reward for trying to prove something by being first is nausea, vomiting and a splitting headache!

GO SLOWLY: Plod on at a steady pace, pause, standing to rest – and you should be fine. Don’t care about whether others are ahead! There is plenty of time, so walk at YOUR pace regardless of how far behind you may think you are.

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