Imagine a view of snow clad majestic mountains, deep valleys filled with beautiful flowers in full bloom, dark forests, calm streams and amazing waterfalls. Sounds something straight out of a movie set, right? Well, guess what? A place like this truly exists. Regarded as one of the most exhilarating treks, the Annapurna base camp trek is one of its kinds. Offering mesmerizing views, this trek is an absolute delight for trekkers. Therefore, people from all over the world travel to Kathmandu each year for this trek.
Table of Content:
- The Annapurna Base Camp Trek: A Quick Look
- Sacred Talk
- Best Time to Complete the Annapurna Base Camp Trek
- How Do You Get There
- Outline of the Itinerary for Annapurna Base Camp Trek
- Detailed Itinerary for the Annapurna Base Camp Trek
- Highlights of the Annapurna Base Camp Trek
- Backpacking List for the Annapurna Base Camp Trek
- Fitness for the Annapurna Base Camp Trek
- Useful Tips for the Trek
- Summing Up
The Annapurna base camp trek, much like the Everest base camp trek, is one that will satisfy your wanderlust (at least for a while). Its trail goes through mysterious forests, olde worlde villages, and blindingly beautiful snow, and is flanked with bewitching views of glistening white peaks of illustrious mountains.
The Annapurna Base Camp Trek: A Quick Look
- Where it is Located: Pokhara, Nepal
- Number of Trekking Days: 10 - 12 Days
- Trekking Grade: Moderate to Difficult
- Max Altitude: 13,550 ft
- Annapurna base camp height: 4130 meters
- Best Season: Spring and Autumn
- Nearest Airport: Kathmandu
- Livingit Grade: Advanced - Expert
The mountains in the Annapurna Base Camp Trek are believed to be sacred. Annapurna is a Sanskrit word and means full of food. However, Annapurna is believed to be the Goddess of Harvests. The Goddess Annapurna or Annapoorna is depicted as holding a bejewelled golden ladle in one hand, and a bowl full of porridge in the other. It is believed that, unless all her devotees have been fed, she does not eat a morsel herself. The Machhupuchare mountain that can be seen from the path of the Annapurna base camp trek is considered to be a sacred site related to Lord Shiva.
Not far from the Annapurna base camp trek circuit is the village of Ranipauwa, home to Muktinath, a place sacred to Hinduism and Buddhism, the two prevalent religions in Nepal. This place is also called Mukti Kshetra (Place of salvation) by Hindus and Chumig Gyatsa (Hundred Waters) by Buddhists.
A Fun Fact about the Trek
From the Annapurna base camp, you can see Annapurna I, the highest achieved summit by mankind for 3 years before the successful Everest expedition in 1953.
Best Time to Complete the Annapurna Base Camp Trek
The great thing about the Annapurna Base Camp Trek is the fact that you can trek here either during the summers or during the winters.
The two best seasons to complete the Annapurna base camp trek are spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November). For the botanists, monsoon (June to August) would be the perfect time for the trek.
However, if you are someone who doesn’t like to travel during the peak season when where there would be hundreds of mountaineers, you can trek during the winters (December to February). Winters are definitely cold during the nights but are pretty much bearable during the day. During most of the day, you would be able to enjoy clear skies and lots of snow.
- Spring: 21 to 26 degree Celsius (day); 12 to 17 degree Celsius (night)
- Autumn: 22 to 27 degree Celsius (day); 11 to 16 degree Celsius (night)
- Monsoon: 24 to 29 degree Celsius (day); 20 to 25 degree Celsius (night)
- Winter: 15 to 20 degree Celsius (day); 2 to 7 degree Celsius (night)
How Do You Get There
So, to begin your trek, you would need to reach Pokhara first and the best way to reach there would be via Kathmandu. From Kathmandu, you can take a flight or a bus up to Pokhara.
It is an approximately 40-minute flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara.There are daily flights between the two places usually between 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Buddha Air, Yeti Airlines and Simrik Air operate here. A return airfare for a single person can be anywhere between INR 5,500 to 9000 depending on the season and availability.
From Kathmandu, there are regular buses that leave at an interval of 15 to 20 minute to Pokhara. The buses start at 7:00 a.m. The ticket for a local minibus can cost you anywhere between 400 to 600 NPR for each individual while tickets for tourist buses can cost you anywhere between 800 to 1200 NPR for each individual.
The drive from Kathmandu to Pokhara would take approximately 5 to 7 hours. On your way, the beautiful valleys and hillsides would leave you mesmerized. Depending on the trail that you have chosen, your trek would either end in Nayapul or in Syauli Bazaar. If you had stopped at Syauli Bazaar, from there buses and private cars are easily available for Pokhara. It is important that you let the ACAP and TIMS office know that you are now exiting the trek.
Outline of the Itinerary for Annapurna Base Camp Trek
So, the Annapurna base camp trek would be 10-12 days depending on the trail that you have chosen. It might even take lesser number of days. Listed below is an itinerary that would give you a fair idea of what to expect from the trek.
Day 1: Arrival in Kathmandu (Altitude 1300m)
Day 2: Exploring the Kathmandu Valley. Most people like to explore the Kathmandu valley for one full day and then drive to Pokhara the next day
Day 3: Drive to Pokhara - (Altitude 910m)
Day 4: Drive to Nayapul and trek to Tikhedunga (Altitude 1525m)
Day 5: Trek to Ghorepani (Altitude 2800m)
Day 6: Hike Poon Hill (Altitude 3200m) and trek to Tadapni (Altitude 2570m)
Day 7: Trek to Chhumrung (Altitude 2170m)
Day 8: Trek to Dovan (Altitude 2630m)
Day 9: Trek to Deurali (Altitude 3230m)
Day 10: Trek to ABC (Annapurna Base Camp) (Altitude 4130m)
Day 11: Trek down to Dovan – Bamboo (Altitude 2310m)
Day 12: Trek to Jhinu (Altitude 17800m)
Day 13: Trek to Nayapul and drive to Pokhara
Now, you can adjust the days in between and reduce or increase the number of days of the trek depending on what you find convenient.
Detailed Itinerary for the Annapurna Base Camp Trek
Arrival in Kathmandu
To start your Annapurna base camp trekking adventure, you are to reach the Kathmandu airport. If you made the bookings through an agency, their representatives would pick you up from the airport. However, if you are travelling on your own, during the peak season, make sure that you have made the hotel bookings in advance. Dedicate this day for settling down and checking all your trekking equipment. If you don’t have any, you can purchase them here. Also, sort out your trekking permits if you are travelling on your own (That is without any agency).
Exploring the Kathmandu Valley
The next day, you can explore the UNESCO listed sites like Boudhanath, Kathmandu Durbar Square, Pashupatinath in Kathmandu Valley and Swayambhunath (monkey temple).
In the city, you would be able to notice an excellent amalgamation of cultures like Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism as well as Western influences. Once you have explored all the major attractions and tasted the local delicacies, you can get back to your hotel and get adequate rest as the next day is going to be an eventful one.
Drive/Flight to Pokhara
The next morning, you can start your journey to Pokhara. There are daily flights are available that can fly you out to Pokhara, but most people choose to drive as the views on the way are splendid. On your way, you would get to see beautiful landscapes, amazing scenic views, terraced rice fields, Marsyangdi and Trisuli Rivers along with the picturesque panoramic view of Lamjung Himal, Ganesh Himal and Manaslu.
Along with that, you would also be able to see most of the Annapurna Himalayan Range. Have your lunch on the way. If you had taken an early bus, you would reach Pokhara most likely by noon. Upon reaching, check in to a hotel, take rest for some time and then head out to explore the city.
Drive to Nayapul and trek to Tikhedunga
The next day, from Pokhara, drive to Nayapul by a van or a car. It would take you about 1.5 - 2 hours to reach. Upon reaching there, it is recommended that you have some food before beginning your trek to Tikhedhunga. This is perhaps the easiest climb of the entire trek. You would notice that the trek starts relatively flat with some absolutely stunning views.
At the start of the trek, you would also be able to spot several shops wherein you can stock on up food and winter wear. You would also be crossing a beautiful bridge on your way towards Tikhedhunga. Stop on the way to have lunch and rest for some time. After that, begin your trek again. On your way up this time, you would be able to spot terraces in the farms, horses, beautiful tea shops, waterfall, small streams and many such things that would leave you spellbound.
Once you reach Tikhedhunga, stop in any one of the tea houses for the night. Rooms are available for a rather affordable rate. Have food, enjoy the views from your room and get adequate rest for the next day.
Trek to Ghorepani
Before heading out towards Ghorepani, it is recommended that you have a good breakfast. Just as you begin, you would notice loose and cobbled stones staircase on the way up. This would be a bit challenging steep walk as compared to the previous day. The picturesque scenery would keep you distracted from the seemingly unending uphill climb.
You can stop at Banthanti for lunch and to rest your legs for some time. Beyond Banthanti, the trail would lead you through resplendent oak and rhododendron forest. It would take you about 6 to 7 hours to reach Ghorepani from Tikhedhunga. Once you reach there, you would notice that it is a rustic village with a lot of character. Have dinner there and stay in one of the teahouses/lodges for the night.
Early Morning Hike to Poon Hill, Trek to Tadapni
On this day, get up really early, say at about 5 a.m., and begin to hike up to Poon Hill to experience the panoramic views of the Himalayas and the amazing sunrise. Walk carefully as you would literally be climbing in the dark. As you keep walking up, the view is truly breathtaking. In the entire Annapurna base camp trek, this is one place where the views of sunrise are truly stunning.
You would notice hues of sunrise, with a golden orange line emerging from absolute darkness. It would take you about 45 minutes to climb and once you get there, on your left would be the Dhaulagiri ranges. As you turn, you would also be able to see Machapuchare Mountain along with the rest of the Annapurna ranges. A beautiful blend of pink and blue in the sky would make the mountains appear even more beautiful.
After you have experienced the beautiful sunrise amidst the mountains, head back to your hotel, have breakfast and then trek to Tadapani, where you would be staying for the night.
On this day, you would be trekking for approximately 4 to 5 hours. From Tadapani, the trail descends downwards and would take you through lush green forests. This trail would also seem difficult as compared to the other days. After walking for about 45 minutes, the trail would become rather steep downhill and would take you through the very beautiful terraced fields towards Kimrung Khola.
Upon reaching there, you would have to cross a suspension bridge and then walk towards Gurjung. Once you make it to Gurjung village, the trail ascends straight towards Chhomrong at an elevation of 2170 meters. Once you reach Chhomrong, stay there for the night at a tea house/lodge.
Trek to Dovan
When you wake up the next day, you would be greeted with the intermittent views of the mountains right from your room. The snow-capped mountain tops would leave you mesmerized. Have your breakfast and then get ready for the day ahead of you. On this day, the trail would descend down a long stone staircase right through the village.
You would also be passing a bakery which is one of the last chances to stock up on all the things that you might need. As you walk further, you would be crossing a suspension bridge over the Chomrong Khola. Now, the trail would ascend up towards several small farms and the path would take you through a forest filled with rhododendron, oak and hemlock trees.
Have lunch in any of the small shops there and then head out again towards Modi Khola Valley. Follow a rocky path there leading towards the bamboo forest. Keep walking and at a height of 2505 meters, you would reach Dovan. There are several tea houses there wherein you can stay for the night. Here, there is a waterfall on the steep side of the valley that crashes hundreds of meters down to Modi Khola.
Trek to Deurali
The trek from Dovan it is a quiet walk in the jungle towards the Himalayas. When you begin walking from Dovan, you would be passing the Hinku Cave which is a popular resting place amongst locals and tourists. After this, you would be crossing a glacier lake wherein you can see the water gushing underneath it. It is honestly an amazing experience.
You might be tempted to stop there and click a few pictures but it is better to not take the risk. Water gushes at a really high speed beneath and therefore you wouldn’t want to linger too long there.
As you keep walking further, you would notice bits of snow dotting the landscape. Soon you would reach Deurali from where you would be able to get the most impressive and striking views of the mountains.
Trek to ABC (Annapurna Base Camp)
Finally, the day of ABC trek is here. On the way above Deurali, the valley would widen and become less steep as compared to the past few days. You would be walking down the stone staircase and this is considered as a pretty dangerous spot as it is a hotspot for avalanches so it is advisable to not stop there for too long. This is the exact place where a few people died decades ago due to an avalanche.
Keep walking further and you would be able to see the majestic White Mountains up close. After the Machhapuchhre Base Camp, the trail turns towards the left and it is a rather pleasant walk up towards the Annapurna Base camp.
In this stage of the Annapurna Base Camp trek, you would notice that the air is a lot thinner now. It is at this stage, that you might feel the altitude too. Avoid the temptation of rushing and walk slowly. You would soon notice that you are able to see one of the best views of the mountain.
You would clearly be able to see the magnificent Annapurna I, 8091 meters, Machhapuchhre (Mt. Fishtail) 6997m, Annapurna South 7219m and the panoramic views of several other mountain peaks. The views of the mountains that you would get here would linger in your memories forever. The experience is truly unexplainable.
Head back to the tea house and stay there for the night.
Trek down to Dovan – Bamboo
Wake up the next day with the experience of the previous day still fresh on your minds and grab a cup of hot tea or coffee with some breakfast and get ready to head out. Trek down to Dovan or Bamboo via Deurali, MBC and Himalaya.
The trail is similar and you might spot quite a few familiar faces. On the way have your lunch and as you reach Dovan, rest in a tea house for the night.
Trek to Jhinu
On this day of the Annapurna Base Camp trek, from Bamboo, begin to walk upwards for about 30 minutes. The walk is rather pleasant and would take you through a jungle. Walk up to Sinuwa and then head back down to Jhinu.
Book a room for yourself in the tea house there and grab your lunch. You can again make your way to the hot spring and it would take you approximately 20 minutes. After you have had a relaxing bath, head back to your room and stay there for the night.
Trek to Nayapul and drive to Pokhara by car
On this day of the Annapurna Base Camp trek, get up early and have your breakfast. Today, make your way to Nayapul via Birethanti. The walk till Nayapul would take you about 4-5 hours. From here, you can hire a car up to Pokhara.
The road has some really spectacular views that you would be able to enjoy. You can either stay at Pokhara for the night or take a flight back to Kathmandu on the same day. You could even choose to drive till there.
Highlights of the Annapurna Base Camp Trek
The Annapurna base camp trek is perhaps the most favoured and classical treks in the world. The Annapurna massif includes the tenth highest peak of the world. Being said that, Annapurna trek has enticed mountaineers from all over the world.
The trail up to the mountains would take you through places that you would be left stunned by its beauty. The trail would take you through tranquil and mesmerizing landscapes, lush green Rhododendron, alpine and bamboo forest and small and pretty Nepali villages.
Right as you reach Pokhara, you would get to see the views of the majestic mountain. Now, as you begin the trek and reach Ghandruk, you would be able to get clear views of Hiunchuli, Machapuchare and Annapurna South. The spell bounding views of Machapuchare and Annapurna massif would remain with you all the way till Sinuwa. As you pass Dova and come out of the forest past Deurali and the Himalayas, the Machapuchare would appear before you. Be ready to be stunned by the glory of the mountain.
Near Jhinu Danda, there is a natural hot spring. It is believed that if you bathe in this natural hot spring, it would cleanse you spiritually. The locals also believe that the water of this hot spring has healing qualities and can ease your pain and aches. Bathing in the lap of the mountains is truly a once in a lifetime experience and you wouldn’t want to miss that.
The Annapurna Conservation Area Forest Trail
On the way up to the mountains, you would be passing through a variety of vegetation. You would be surrounded by fern, rhododendron and bamboo as you trek from Ghandruk to Chomrung. The trail would mostly take you through forests and as you cross Sinuwa, you would enter the Annapurna Sanctuary. From here, the forest would become dense and you would be able to spot tall oak trees. As you move up higher towards Deurali, you would notice tall grass and trees like Daphne. The thick bark of these trees is used by the locals to manufacture paper. As you move further and are near to the Machapuchare base camp, the terrain would soon turn alpine. All along this section, you would notice flowering plants in full bloom if you have visited just after the monsoon.
A Taste of the Nepali Culture
The locals that you would come across throughout the trail are a mix of ethnic groups like Brahmans, Mongoloid Himalayan people in the Himalayas and the Chhetris in the lower elevation. Magar and Gurung people can also be found because of the Gurkha Regiment. Also, all along the trek, you can find tea houses scattered everywhere. There are small lodges which can accommodate 20-25 people and are run by the local people. By interacting with them and with the porters and guides, you would get an insight into how they live their life.
If you’re lucky enough to go for the Annapurna Base Camp Trek in the 5 day Tihar festival, make sure to be a part of any one of the days to appreciate the animals we, more often than not take for granted. In the period of these 5 days, animals and birds like crows, cows, and dogs are worshipped on these days for symbolic reasons.
Backpacking List for the Annapurna Base Camp Trek
Before you head out for the Annapurna Base camp trek, you would need to pack for a few essential things. The items that you pack would be dependent on the season that you are going in.
However, remember that you are going to be there for just a few days and you wouldn’t need as many things as you might when going to some other place for a vacation. Listed below is a checklist that you can follow.
- A Trekking backpack: Choose a trekking backpack that has comfortable straps and a rain cover. It should be sturdy enough so that it can easily carry the weight of all the things that you have packed.
- Trekking shoes: The trekking shoes you choose should be high ankle ones and must have a really good grip as the trail is going to be really slippery.
- A Trekking pole and a flashlight: Some parts of the trek tend to get a little tricky, so it’s better to carry a trekking pole with you. Also, carry a reliable flashlight and headlamp, along with some batteries for night/early morning treks, or trails that lead you through forests.
- Water Bottle: Carry at least two water bottles, of one litre each. Also, make sure that you are carrying at least one thermos flask which can be used to carry warm water or tea or coffee.
- Snacks: Carry along some snacks like dry fruits, energy bars, granola bars, chocolates and electrol.
Clothes and Shoes
- Warm Clothes: The clothes you carry depend on the season that you are travelling in. Thick warm clothes must be packed for winters whereas thin woollens would work fine for summers.
- T-shirts: Carry at least 2-3 Comfortable full sleeves T-shirts, so you can change them frequently.
- Sweater: The nights in the Annapurna area get a bit chilly, regardless of the season. So a thick woollen sweater or a fleece jacket is recommended.
- Flip flops: Carry a pair of flip flops for when you aren’t trekking and just exploring the place that you have stopped at.
- Windproof and waterproof pants and jackets: The weather in the Himalayan region is unpredictable, so carry windproof and waterproof pants and jackets.
- Trekking pants and thermal inners: This trek has some rough patches. This, along with the cold weather, requires you to carry trekking pants and thermal inners.
- Cotton and woollen socks: As you’ll be trekking through snow and sleeping in really cold conditions, carry at least 5 pairs each of cotton and woollen socks.
- A good sunscreen
- Hand sanitizer
- Wipes and Toilet paper
- Lip Balm, Toothpaste and toothbrush
Personal Medicine Kit
Always consult a doctor before coming on the trek regarding your fitness and what medicines to carry.
- Volini Spray
- Crepe Bandage
- A Bottle of Dettol
- Any other medicines that you need
To go on this trek, you need to get official permits. For this, you need some documents as a proof. So carry the originals and at least 2 photocopies of:
- ID Proof (drivers licence, Aadhar Card, Voters ID, etc.)
- Medical Certificate signed and approved by you and your doctor
Fitness for the Annapurna Base Camp Trek
The Annapurna base camp trek is a long one, spanning over a period of at least 10 days. The trail takes you through thick forests, freezing snow, and rough patches of rock formations. To get through this, you need to have a lot of endurance and stamina. Indulge in some pre-trekking exercises at least a few months before the trek, especially if this is your first time. Start with jogging, running, or swimming and slowly add some strength training and high-intensity workouts, like the Tabata workout. If you have experience in trekking, it will help.
Useful Tips for the Trek
- Always stay hydrated and refill your water bottle at each chance that you get. Your bottle may not be entirely empty but, it is best to remain prepared as there might be chances that you may not find a water source ahead.
- Have sufficient cash with you and do not rely just on the ATM’s. In the hilly areas, the ATM’s might not have cash or may be closed on holidays.
- Interact with the locals. They might know a shortcut or might be able to provide you with useful tips.
- Stock up on food if you spot a shop on your way.
- Pack light. Pack only the things that would be useful are really essential.
- Get acclimatized. This is essential as if your body doesn’t acclimatize, it can be a serious issue.
- Now that you literally know everything about the Annapurna base camp trek, what better time than now to head out for it. Also, be prepared to be astonished by the beauty, serenity and calmness of the place.
- Also, this might be a moderately difficult trek, but it does require you to be fit. Therefore, begin to prepare your body at least a month in advance by indulging in exercises. If you have done all your planning, it’s time to head out and explore.
The Annapurna Base Camp Trek is one that will replenish your soul and make all your worries disappear. The rich culture and simplistic lifestyle of the villages you pass by on this trek, the mountains that stand tall against the cold winds, the nature in its rawest, purest form, will definitely make you appreciate life. So, wait no more, go for the Annapurna Base Camp Trek and come back with a heart full of memories!
Have you ever been on a trek before? How was your experience with it? Feel free to share them with us.