What to expect on the Annapurna Circuit
The Annapurna Circuit in Nepal’s Himalayas is one of the world’s top treks. The route is beautiful and varied, leading walkers on a journey past towering mountains, ancient shrines and friendly villages.
Taking a little over two weeks – usually around 17 days – the hike can be hard going at times, so it is only suitable if you have experience of walking long distances and have a good level of fitness. It’s not essential to have experience of trekking at altitude, but you may find it helps. Allowing for a bit of time exploring in Kathmandu and Pokhara, which are two stops included in the Annapurna Circuit trek with Explore, your trip will normally last for three weeks.
Here is a bit more information about what to expect from the Annapurna Circuit:
Your trekking tour itinerary will allow for acclimatisation days as you steadily walk higher into the mountains, but it is hard to know how your body will react if you have never undertaken this type of hiking before. The highest point of the journey is the Thorung-La Pass at 5,416 m, from where you will be rewarded with breathtaking views across the Annapurna range and even into Tibet on a clear day.
It’s also wise to prepare for strenuous ascents and descents, as you will be covering a lot of ground each day, especially as you come down from the high point of the route.
The walking is more than worth it when you see the views, though. The trail will take you past the tallest peaks in the Annapurna range, including Annapurna I, which stands some 8,091 m high, Annapurna II at 7,937 m and the 6,993 m summit of Machapuchare. One of the best things about the circuit is that you’ll see these amazing mountains from various angles, allowing you to view them in all their glory at sunrise from Poon Hill and to enjoy the sight of the sun setting behind them at Chame. As you walk, you’ll constantly have these towering peaks as your backdrop.
Challenges and rewards
Part of the fun of trekking is the challenge of reaching new places and pushing yourself as you go. The route from Besi Sahar to the Thorung-La Pass will take around nine or 10 days, allowing for a stop to help you acclimatise. On the day you tackle the pass, you will ascend almost 1,000 m, but the sense of achievement when you reach the top and look out over the valleys and mountains makes it all worthwhile.
Leaving from Thorung Phedi (which translates as Foot of the Hill) at 4,450 m above sea level, you will climb to the summit of the pass at 5,416 m. The trail has been in use by local herders and traders for centuries and at the top, you’ll find a Buddhist chorten adorned with the colourful prayer flags you see all over Nepal’s mountain communities.
The Annapurna Circuit isn’t all about strenuous walking, though, with plenty of wonderful places to relax along the way. One of the best of these is undoubtedly Tatopani, which is home to two hot springs. The water here has a magical quality and does wonders for your aching legs after around two weeks of walking. Make sure you take a swimming costume so you can climb in and let the natural springs soothe away the tension and pain in your muscles.