The Full Guide to Nepal’s Annapurna Sanctuary Trek

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Celebrated for its amphitheatre of giant granite peaks, the Annapurna region of Nepal is an irresistible lure to both trekkers and climbers alike. But how many people know about it, is the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek the best-kept secret in Nepal’s trekking portfolio?

When trekkers are considering a trekking tour of the Nepalese Himalayas, Everest Base Camp naturally springs to mind. But that might not mean the trek to Everest Base Camp is the right trek 'for you' - and this can be the most difficult decision you'll make on your entire journey to Nepal.

So we've made the decision-making process a little easier for you, by putting together everything you need to know about discovering the jaw-dropping beauty of Nepal's Annapurna Sanctuary, and why you might choose to beat the crowds, and explore the Annapurna Circuit over the more famous Everest Base Camp Trek. Read on to discover why the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek is embedded deep in the hearts of the team here at Active Adventures. 

Skip to: AST vs. EBC | Trekking Seasons and Best Time | Start and Finish Points | Required Fitness | Elevation Profiles | Day to Day Itinerary | What's Included | Facilities and FoodOur Trips

Here's a look at what the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek 'AST' trip is like with us:

 

First of all, what are the benefits of choosing to trek in the Annapurna region, over trekking to Everest Base Camp?

For trekkers, the Annapurna is definitely the path less travelled, compared to the more popular Everest Base Camp Trek. At a glance, it’s obvious to see why – Mt Everest is the tallest mountain on Earth, so the bragging rights are irresistible. Standing at Everest Base Camp, perched on the Khumbu Ice-fall, surrounded by the buzz of climbers at Everest Base Camp, it might well be an experience that sits atop of the most trekkers’ bucket lists across the world.

But if the EBC ‘brag’ isn’t your primary focus, then you can’t surpass the beauty of the Annapurna Circuit. The quieter trails lead you deeper into the Nepalese lifestyle, connecting with the local culture, while experiencing a wider variety of Nepal’s most beautiful landscapes. The Annapurna region is decorated with ancient jungles, lush meadows, and jaw-dropping mountain vistas, while the EBC route is 100% alpine - from the moment trekkers arrive in Lukla.

And for those mountaineering enthusiasts, Everest Base Camp Trek visits (as the name suggests) Everest Base Camp, whereas the Annapurna Circuit visits both Annapurna and Machapuchare Base Camps – so you get two for the price of one! Not to mention that Annapurna 1 is widely regarded as a more technically difficult and intimidating climb than Mount Everest. So much so, that Ed Viesturs saved it to be the 14th summit, when he climbed all 14 of the world’s peaks over 8,000m (26,247ft) in elevation.

So with this in mind, the most important factors you should think about when choosing the Annapurna Circuit or Everest Base Camp are:

Culture

  • It’s a simple formula: Less tourism = more cultural immersion.

Interacting with climbers

  • You can get close to the climbers at EBC, but you cannot interact with them
  • Annapurna and Machapuchare Base Camp’s are so quiet, the climbers love to interact with trekkers!

A wider variety of landscapes

  • From the moment you arrive at Lukla Airport on board the Everest Base Camp Trek, you’re in the alpine
  • The Annapurna Circuit journeys from dense jungle, through lush meadows, out into the alpine – so you get to see it all! Especially the eclectic mix of wildlife that lives in each type of landscape.

A Fear of Elevation

  • Everest Base Camp Trek takes you to 18,000ft
  • Annapurna takes you to 13,500ft

Time Constrained

  • Everest Base Camp Trek takes 19 days to complete
  • Annapurna Circuit takes 14 days to complete

You have to see Mount Everest

  • You cannot see Mount Everest from the Annapurna region - that would be like seeing El Capitan in Yosemite while hiking in the Rockies. So if you’re excited about the benefits of trekking the Annapurna Circuit over the Everest Base Camp Trek, but you really want to see Mount Everest – you can always take a scenic flight on your free day in Kathmandu! It’s affordable, quick, and gets up close and personal with the highest peak on Earth.
 

 

The Best Time to Trek the Annapurna Circuit

Remember, Nepal is the home to the tallest mountains on Earth, and anyone that understands the unpredictability of mountainous regions will respect that the weather in Nepal is extreme. So extreme in fact, there are not 4, but 6 seasons! For a complete understanding of the trekking seasons in Nepal, head on over to our dedicated page ‘the Best Time To Visit Nepal’.

In summary, there are two windows of opportunity to trek the Annapurna Circuit:

Mid-February through to mid-May

Technically, spring begins in mid-March, but by mid-February the winter days are becoming longer and warmer, and the trails are starting to bustle with life. So these months cover the last month of winter, through spring, until the start of summer (which is a pre-cursor to the monsoon season).

Spring is the most popular time for climbers to summit Annapurna 1, so this is one of the most exciting times for trekkers to visit the Annapurna region.

September through to mid-November

Nepal’s autumn (fall) officially starts in mid-September, but the last two weeks of the monsoon season are definitely open for trekking. By early September the trails are drying out, but the crowds haven’t arrived yet – so although you may still be susceptible to the odd shower of rain, you’ll generally have the place to yourself, making it one of our favourite times to trek the Annapurna Circuit.

By mid-November the autumn (fall) becomes pre-winter, where the snowfall hasn’t arrived yet, but the temperatures will soon drop below a comfortable trekking level. Therefore, mid-November is the latest trekkers will depart on the 14 day trek of the Annapurna Circuit (taking them into early-December).

 

 

Start and finish points of the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek

International travellers visiting Nepal will enter through Kathmandu. From here, the most popular first step is to take a short flight to the beautiful lakeside city of Pokhara, where the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek begins.

From Pokhara, the Annapurna Circuit is an 11 day loop to Machapuchare Base Camp and Annapurna Base Camp, then back to Pokhara. From there it’s another short flight back to Kathmandu, before departing home again.

 

 

How fit do I need to be to trek the Annapurna Sanctuary?

You don’t have to be a professional athlete - to enjoy your trip with Active Adventures. You’ll be surprised at what you can achieve with our experienced guides at your side and a little camaraderie. That said you’ll definitely enjoy yourself far more if you do some preparation, so your body is conditioned and ready to enjoy and make the most of the outdoors.

We recommend that you start training for your trek in Nepal at least three months prior to stepping off the plane into the vibrant city of Kathmandu. Create a diary and plan your progression, starting with as little as a gentle 2 kilometre (1.2 miles) uphill stroll, three times a week.

By the time you embark on your Annapurna Base Camp trek, you should be able to:

    • Comfortably hike 15 kilometres (9.5 miles) in hilly terrain with a daypack.
    • Be comfortable hiking up to 6 hours a day with an elevation gain of 1000metres (3000 feet)
    • Have done at least one set of back to back long hikes. E.g. two days in a row of 6-hour hikes or an overnight hike with a long hike each day.
    • Have your boots comfortable and properly worn in though still in good condition

 

Elevation Profile

 

 

Annapurna Sanctuary Trekking Tour Itinerary - with daily trekking distances, elevations and meals provided

Day 1 — Arrive Kathmandu

Accommodation: Hotel Thamel Eco Resort, Kathmandu
Meals provided: (Lunch, Dinner)
Elevation: Kathmandu - 1400 metres (4600 feet)

Day 2 — Visit Swayambhunath Temple, fly to Pokhara

Accommodation: Pokhara Eco Resort, Pokhara (All meals)
Elevation: Pokhara - 827 metres (2713 feet)

 

Day 3 — Hike to Kyumi

Accommodation: Tea house, Kyumi (All meals)
Hiking distance: 12 kilometres (7.5 miles)
Elevation: Kyumi - 1200 metres (3937 feet)

Day 4 — Hike from Kyumi to Chhomrong

Accommodation: Tea house, Chhomrong (All meals)
Hiking distance: 9 kilometres (5.6 miles)
Elevation: Chhomrong - 2170 metres (7120 feet)

 

Day 5 — Hike from Chhomrong to Dobhan

Accommodation: Tea house, Dobhan (All meals)
Hiking distance: 11.5 kilometres (7.1 miles)
Elevation: Dobhan - 2600 metres (8530 feet)

Day 6 — Hike from Dobhan to Deurali

Accommodation: Tea house, Deurali (All meals)
Hiking distance: 5 kilometres (3.1 miles)
Elevation: Deurali - 3200 metres (10,500 feet)

Day 7 — Hike from Deurali to Machapuchare Base Camp

Accommodation: Tea house, Machapuchare Base Camp (All meals)
Hiking distance: 5 kilometres (3.1 miles)
Elevation: Machapuchare Base Camp - 3700 metres (12,140 feet)

Day 8 — Annapurna Base Camp (ABC)

Accommodation: Tea house, Dobhan (All meals)
Hiking distance: 3 kilometres (1.8 miles) to ABC, 11 kilometres (6.8 miles) to Dobhan
Elevation: Dobhan - 2600 metres (8530 feet)

Day 9 — Hike from Dobhan to Jhinudanda

Accommodation: Tea house, Jhinudanda (All meals)
Hiking distance: 14 kilometres (6.2 miles)
Elevation: Jhinudanda - 1780 metres (5840 feet)

Day 10 — Hike from Jhinudanda to Tolka

Accommodation: Tea house, Tolka (All meals)
Hiking distance: 9 kilometres (5.6 miles)
Elevation: Tolka - 1700 metres (5580 feet)

Day 11 — Hike from Tolka to Phedi, journey to Pokhara

Accommodation: Pokhara Eco Resort, Pokhara (All meals)
Hiking distance: 11 kilometres (6.8 miles)
Elevation: Pokhara - 830 metres (2720 feet)

Day 12 — Free time in Pokhara

Accommodation: Pokhara Eco Resort, Pokhara (Breakfast)
Elevation: Pokhara - 830 metres (2720 feet)

Day 13 — Return to Kathmandu

Accommodation: Hotel Thamel Eco Resort, Kathmandu (All meals)
Elevation: Kathmandu - 1400 metres (4600 feet)

Day 14 — Depart for home

(Breakfast)

 

What’s Included on the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek

All guiding services

  • Two experienced guides per trip. Each season we send over a team of experienced Active Adventures guides from New Zealand. One of these guides will lead your trip alongside our incredible local Nepalese guides, as well as a team of local porters. You won't find a better combination!

All accommodations

  • Local tea houses chosen for their comfort, cleanliness and charm.

All meals

  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Rest assured you'll be well fed and well hydrated.

All activities

  • Trekking, trekking permits, Nepalese government royalty fees, temple visits (Swayambhunath), local markets and maybe even cricket with the locals!

All domestic transport

  • Airport transfers.
  • Domestic flights to and from Pokhara.

Hiking poles, down sleeping bag and puffer jacket

  • To keep you warm on your journey, so you don't have to bring your own

Itinerary with 3 acclimatisation days 

  • With an easy going pace and 3 days to acclimatise as we hike towards EBC, you'll be set up to succeed!

 

What are the facilities like on the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek?

Accommodation

The Annapurna Sanctuary trek has a mixed bag of accommodations due to limitations within the Sanctuary itself. Most tea houses sell beds rather than rooms, therefore in some locations rooms can be quite small and host 4-6 people. Pillows are provided but you may like to bring your own pillow case. As with the Everest Base Camp route, the tea houses in this area have a common area for eating meals and relaxing, which can get very busy during peak season. Bedrooms are usually accessed from outside, and locks and keys are provided.

Bathrooms

Like most of Nepal, outside of Kathmandu, you'll experience a variety of western and Asian style toilets. In some places though Asian style bathrooms are the only ones available. If you're stopping along the trail you might have to use something even more rustic!

Food

As you might expect the food available on the hiking trails, at the tea houses, and local cafes is different to the experience you're likely to have in Kathmandu or Pokhara. If you have dietary requirements, travelling to a country like Nepal can be daunting, but it's not impossible! 

 

Our Trips

Discover our 14 day ‘Annapurna Sanctuary Trek’ which explores the eclectic cities of Kathmandu and Pokhara, and encompasses the trekking journey to Machapuchare and Annapurna Base Camps. Along the way you’ll be accompanied by the world’s most hospitable, safe (and fun) kiwi trip leaders, and you’ll also have local Nepalese guides by your side throughout the entire journey. This powerhouse of talent will keep you safe every step of the way – you’ll eat (and drink) well, rest in comfort, and the support of bilingual guides will connect you to the local Nepalese culture – which is one of the most beautiful, heart-warming, welcoming, inspiring and peaceful in the world.

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The Copland Track is located south of Fox Glacier on…

Multi-day Hiking in New Zealand's Backcountry, and 8 Reasons to Go Guided

The team here at Active Adventures are an outdoorsy bunch!…

6 Inca Trail Tips to Make the Most of Your Machu Picchu Trip

My flight was booked! My dream of hiking the Inca…

Things to Do in Machu Picchu: How to Get the Most out of Your Experience

Although it's one of the most well-known archaeological wonders of…

Top 10 Views in New Zealand

With the help of our Facebook fans and with some…

The Seven ‘Wonders’ of the Galapagos: Best Things to Do and See

As individuals who thrive on adventure, we love to travel…

Top 4 Facts About the Himalayas That Will Take Your Breath Away

When visiting the Himalayas, you'll get as much of a…

Why Joining a Small Group Tour is the Bee's Knees

I better start by explaining the term ‘Bee’s knees’… I’ve been doing…

The Top 10 Things To Do in New Zealand

Are you planning a vacation in the land of the…

The Top 4 Things To Do In The Peruvian Amazon

Stretching 96,922 square kilometres across the country, the Amazon comprises…

Pisac Market and Hike to Pisac Ruins

The village is perched high in the mountains and surrounded…

Mustang Adventure 2018: Trip of a Lifetime for Body, Mind and Soul

When thinking about hiking in Nepal, a lot of people…

Top 10 Guest Photos 2018

New year, new…. annual photo competition winner! Here at Active…

Tiaki Promise - What You Need To Know

As Kiwis we grow up with a deep connection to…

Top 10 things to do in Iceland!

Are you a keen explorer? In the market for a…

Benefits of Travelling Alone & Tips to Plan Like a Pro

Solo travel is on the rise and we’re stoked about…

Top 10 Guest Photos 2019

It's that time of year again folks, it's our annual…

Replace Your New Year's Resolution with one of these Bucket-List Hikes

New Year's resolutions are notoriously difficult to stick to, most…