The Annapurna Massif is as epic as you imagine it - with one peak reaching over 8,000m, thirteen peaks over 7,000m and sixteen more over 6,000m, all within a 55 kilometer stretch. This compact mountain range is confined by the Marshyangdi River to the north and east, the deepest gorge in the world, the Kali Gandaki to the west, and Pokhara valley to the south - this is natural geography on a titanic scale, and it has to be seen to be believed.
The Massif sits in the Annapurna Conservation Area in the central north of Nepal and it is here that you’ll find Annapurna I. This was the first mountain over 8,000m to be climbed, Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal reached the summit in 1950 and it is still considered one of the most dangerous mountains in the world.
Trekking is extremely popular in the region with lots of options available, here we’ll give you a place to start with some popular trekking routes, the climate around the Massif and some history of the area.
If you’re visiting the Annapurna Massif, your length of stay and level of fitness may be a deciding factor in which trek you decide to do. We’ve pulled together three of our favourites with varying time frames and views that pack a punch.
The Annapurna Circuit
The Annapurna Circuit circumvents the Annapurna Massif and can take anywhere from 14-21 days to complete depending on fitness level, starting points and optional side hikes. During this trek you’ll walk between 160 and 230 kilometres (99-143 miles) in total and the altitude will reach as high as 5,416m, so it's a challenging undertaking.
The highest point on the trek is Throng La Pass (5,416m). In 2014 the Pass was hit by a wild storm which took 43 lives; so whilst the circuit is much safer than the climb to the summit, this is a reminder that Mother Nature is always in charge, and preparation is key.
This truly is a once in a life time trip and considered as one of the best trekking experiences in the world.
Poon Hill Trek
If you'd like a taste of trekking in the Annapurna region but you don’t have time to explore the entire circuit, consider the the Poon Hill trek. This route will take you between 3 and 5 days and it is often described as one of the most beautiful in the region.
There are plenty of tea houses for you to stay at along the way and fitness is less of a concern than many other hikes in the Annapurna Massif region, partly due to the manageable terrain which can be easily broken into shorter distances, and also because altitude isn't really in play here - you won’t be hiking any higher than 3,210 meters.
Once you reach the top of Poon Hill you will be rewarded with magnificent views of Annapurna I and Dhaulagiri, both of which are over 8,000m high (as well as countless other peaks) - it is one of the greatest viewpoints in the world.
The Annapurna Sanctuary Trek
The Annapurna Circuit is a lengthy undertaking and a big time commitment, whilst Poon Hill, for many, is a bit too short to class as a true Himalayas adventure. Luckily, there's one more gem in this region, and it's the one you can experience on our 'AST' adventure.
Just like the Annapurna Circuit and Poon Hill, this trek gets you away from civilisation, and into the true Himalayan wilderness, and at only 9 days, we think it's the perfect length to allow you experience the other bits of Nepal you shouldn't miss - like Kathmandu.
Our guests and guides love this trek, from soaking in the natural hot springs of Jhinudanda, watching the sunrise over Machapuchare, to visiting Gurung settlements and taking in the 360-degree views from Annapurna Base Camp.
To see our detailed itinerary head to the 'Annapurna Sanctuary Trek' page or get in touch with one of our travel gurus today. You can give us a call, or an email or chat with us live right here on the page by clicking the chat icon in the bottom corner.
As with most of the regions in Nepal, the best time to visit the Annapurna Massif is in Spring (March-May) or Autumn (October – November) with moderate temperatures, low amounts of rainfall and clear views of the mountains.
Autumn is directly after monsoon season, making it a popular time to head over with bright green hillsides, blossoming rhododendrons and a fresh, excited feeling on the trails. It also means that it’s busy, so be prepared to share your experience with other like-minded people and pre-book your accommodation - or leave that to the experts by choosing an all-inclusive guided trip.
The Annapurna circuit is best avoided in the winter months, parts of the track will often close due to heavy snowfall meaning your trip might be cut short. Likewise, monsoon season is best avoided on the trails, the downpour brings mud slides and leeches!
For a much more detailed look at the climates of Nepal and when is best for a visit, check out our Best TIme to Visit Nepal page.
The History of the Annapurna Massif
Annapurna means ‘Goddess of the Harvests’ or ‘The Provider’ and is home to many of the world’s tallest mountains. The region was inhabited by the Gurung people in the 6th century who travelled from Tibet and you'll still find the Gurung people there today.
The tallest of the mountains in the massif is Annapurna I (8,091m), first climbed on June 3rd, 1950 by Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal. It was the first of the ‘over 8000m’ peaks to be summited - it is still widely acknowledged as one of the most dangerous mountains in the world for climbers.
Roughly 33% of climbers attempting to reach the summit of Annapurna I will perish in the attempt - an unenviable stat which makes it more dangerous than Everest or K2. It is generally agreed that the mountain is more avalanche prone than many of the other giants in the area, along with the fact that it is less commercialised than most and therefore more difficult on less established routes, making it unpredictable and deadly.
The summit of the mountain is made of limestone, which likely means that it was formed at the bottom of a warm ocean millions of years ago. This also means that over time the mountain is shrinking!