Favorite thing: Trekking Annapurna is a daunting task but an incredibly rewarding experience. Most travel agencies in Kathmandu and Pokhara will go on treks no matter what the political or weather conditions so you need to be careful. If you need a reputable trekking agency I cant provide one that I have personally used with great experiences then please contact me and I would be more than happy to help. Cheers.
Whilst trekking in the Annapurnas, you will trek/stay in many amazing villages. This is a great way to get to know the local people in their own setting. It is a real pleasure to just wander through the narrow pathways and watch people going about their daily lives.
Fondest memory: Waking up to an Annapurna sunrise is something you will never forget...
Favorite thing: One of the days along the trek I started thinking about the trek and how I’ve changed the way I thought about it over the course of the trek. It allowed me to put this experience in perspective. By this experience I mean the multi-week trek, something I’ve never done before. There are several mental cycles one has on such a trek. You start with anticipation as you prepare for an exciting trek. You start off with an adrenaline boost given off by the amazement of what you are doing as you hike in awe for the first few days, seeing new amazing stuff each day. You then grow a mental discipline and rhythm that will allow you to continue with the arduous trek. After a week or so you began to question yourself. “What the hell am I doing? What have I gotten myself into now?” You have no choice, but to tough it out to the end as your so far from civilization. Then, it all comes to an end. You finish the trek and you are faced with a new dilemma - “now what?” Can you go back to the way you where before the trek? At that point starts the process of what travelers refer to as reverse culture clash.
Favorite thing: As I mentioned before, we were on vacation so we had no time pressure. On average, we started around 8 AM. We walked for a few hours taking a few brakes and enjoying the scenery. We had lunch between 12-2 for an hour. Then we set walking again until 5 or 6 in the evening (sometimes we fell behind and had to walk past 6, but that was rare). One thing is sure; we took our time to enjoy the scenery at various brakes throughout the day.
There are plenty of treks to chose from depending on your time frame. Word of advice, no matter what trek you chose make sure you have a few extra days just in case you get stuck up in the Himalayas. Remember, you will be walking in remote areas, some of which are days or weeks away from a road or airport. You shouldn’t have the pressure of time behind your back as you will already have the pressure of the trek itself. Also keep in mind that weather may not be perfect when you’re up there so you may want to stay put in one point until it clears up either for security or to appreciate the views. The Thorong La for example is closed at various times in the year due to severe snow storms.
With that said, there are several multi-day treks one can undertake in the Annapurna Conservation Area. These range from a day trek to month long treks. The trek we set out to do was the Annapurna Sanctuary treks (recommended length 7-11 days) and Annapurna Circuit (recommended length 16-21 days) combined. Kristof and I were fit though, so we knew we may go at a faster pace then most, which suited us well. We had no time-frame in mind, except that we had estimated it to take about 25 days for the combined trek. In the end, we added the worthwhile side-trek to see the stunning Lake Tilicho (3 days, accessed from Khangsar. This side-trek fits right in with those doing the Annapurna Circuit trek.
Favorite thing: There are no banking facilities along the trek so budget accordingly! Expect to spend less then the average in Nepal. If you eat conservatively (selecting the cheap rice and dhal combo and straying away from beer) then expect to spend about $10-12 USD per day. If you like your beer each night and will prefer to order westernized meals along the trek (this are available) then expect the price to soar to $15-20 USD. This doesn’t include the fees of porters or guides, if you do take that then add anywhere from $4 to 10 USD per day for their services. All in all, you could be looking between $12 to $30 USD depending on how comfortable you want the trek to be. We did it at a shoe-string budget and it turned out to be about $12 per day (this doesn’t include the equipment, insurance, or permits though).
Favorite thing: Please take a note that the Annapurna Conservation Permit does not include entry to the restricted zone of Upper Mustang. You require a special permit for that carries with it a steep fee of $700 USD for the first ten days (regardless of whether or not you use all of the time allotted to you) and $70 USD for each additional day if required. We were hiking on a budget so that wasn’t going to happen :). Although a bit illegal, we did sneaked into the Upper Mustang Special Zone on a leisure day walk we did from Kagbeni. Read more about it in the relevant “Things to Do” tip.
Favorite thing: Pokhara serves as a base to treks into the Annapurna Sanctuary. We went ahead and set up camp here for a few days preparing for the trek. The first thing on the agenda was getting a permit. We walked down the lake side to the Annapurna Conservation Area Project office. The permit costs $20.00 USD (regardless of how long you spend inside the sanctuary, 1 - unlimited days). You must also submit 2 pictures. It was a smooth process as we got in and out of the office quickly. We where quite impressed. You can also get a permit in Katmandu. If you wait until you reach the conservation area (or if you lose the permit during the trek) they will charge you twice as a penalty.
To see all those beautiful mountains you have to go to Pokhara in Autumn. In other times of the year you won't see any mountains at all, because they are hidden in misty clouds. You should not go in Summer, as the Monsoon makes the pathes dangerous.
I was very lucky, that I saw Machupucre Mountain in March!
We were on the last day of our Annapurna Santuary trek, and it so happened to be Christmas day. Our cook surprised us with a cake ( that he freshly baked from an 'improvised' oven up in the mountains).
The live chickens that we bought eariler from the villagers were transformed to plates of fried/curry/stew dishes. It was our first time eating fresh chicken meat after 2 weeks of trekking and a staple vegetarian diet
It was the most memorable Christmas Dinner I ever had in my life
The 2 days around Jomsom goes mainly through a desert like area, actually a -at least in December-mainly dry riverbed on which you can by the way find a lot of fossils!
You should leave early mornings as the gentle winds change into huge duststorm from around noon, which is not much enjoyable.
A highly recommended side trip from Ghorapani is the short climb to famous Poon Hill, a viewpoint from where you can overview the whole mountainrange including the peaks of Dhaulagiri (8167m) and Annapurna I (8091m).
According to other VT'ers you have to go there by sunrise. Well, I missed it but was still a very impressive sight!
A lot has been said about the Pass. But how to prepare depends also on the conditions.
In our case there was no snow and the weather was perfect. We left around 7.30am from Thorung Pedi. It took about 2,5 hrs to the pass and another 3,5 hrs to Muktinath (including some short stops).
If the circomstances are bad (snow), you need to start very early (say 6AM) in order to arrive in Muktinath before dark.
Also in this case don't forget good sunglasses!
In my opinion the most scenic and pleasant part of the circuit is between Bryaga / Manang and Kagbeni.
I would recommend to slow down the pace in this area and take in some sidetrips as there's a lot to see.
You need to acclimatise anyway!
The evenings, after dinner, can be terribly cold and boring.
Jump in the sleeping bag and smoke local ganja! It's usually of very good quality, and a great fun way for relaxation and timepassing. Also if you usually don't smoke.
Consuming Snickers recommended.
Note: smoking TOO much will NOT improve your condition and mental health, especially at higher altitude!