One of the top treks in the world is the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. In this guide, you will find everything you need to know from an Annapurna Circuit Itinerary to what to pack and permits you need.
Hiking through the Annapurna Himalayas you will get some of the best views and memories to last a lifetime. Though the conditions here can be intense. This is certainly a hike you need to prepare for otherwise you could find yourself in grave danger. Luckily, if you are reading this you must be on the right page. So, let’s get into it a little further and find out the best Annapurna Circuit Itinerary, my experience and everything else you need and will want to know.
Annapurna Circuit Itinerary And Hiking Guide
Permits and Regulations
Before you even think about starting the Annapurna Circuit you are first going to need to correct permits. This includes the TIMS card and ACAP.
The TIMS card stands for the trekker’s information management systems and costs 2000 NRs per person. You can purchase one at the TIMS Counter at the Tourist Service Center in Bhrikutimandap, Kathmandu. They are open from 10 am to 5 pm, 7 days a week.
The ACAP stands for the Annapurna Conservation Area Permit. This allows you to enter the Annapurna Area and will need to be shown at many of the checkpoints along the trail. It costs 3000 NRs per person and can be collected at the same place as your TIMS card.
Accommodation On The Annapurna Circuit
When you are in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of your Annapurna Circuit itinerary you would probably expect cold rooms, no electricity and no running water. Though, honestly, the quality of accommodation on the Annapurna Circuit is thoroughly impressive. Especially at higher elevations where you know, someone would have had to carry each piece of furniture up these difficult paths.
In all, honesty one of the worse places we stayed on the trail was our first guesthouse in Bahunbunda. With no outlets in rooms, basic amenities, pay to use WiFi and no hot water I only thought the rooms must get worse from there as we are still fairly close to civilization. Though, I was pleasantly surprised the following day when we arrived at our guesthouse to find power in the room, free WiFi and a free hot shower. It was the best welcome ever after a long day of trekking.
The rooms on the trail are basic, though as long as there is a semi-comfortable bed that is all you will really need. The majority of your time will be spent in the common room at the guesthouse and if it is cold they should light a fire. It is about a 50/50 bet whether you will have an attached bathroom to the room, though these might cost an extra fee. Not once did we come across a heater in the room so make sure to bring some warm nontrekking clothes to sleep in.
The majority of nights on the trail we spent at free guesthouses. We trekked in May which is considered the shoulder season. So, if you are going trekking in the high season you may need up paying a small fee for the room. It really all depends on supply and demand.
Food On The Annapurna Circuit
Now do not expect to come across any restaurants on the Annapurna Circuit. Though you will find plenty of homely guesthouses with lovely locals more than happy to serve you. Whether you are wanting to stop in for lunch or just a simple cup of tea, they break up a busy day of hiking perfectly.
At these guesthouses, you will find a mixture of Nepali and Western Cuisine. Though don’t expect it to taste like home or something like a meal from a big city cafe. You will find plenty of chow mein served on menus as well as my breakfast favorite, Tibetan bread. There are also items like pizza, pasta and hamburgers, but don’t expect great things from them.
No doubt the number one food item when trekking the Annapurna Circuit is dal baht. The slogan ’24 hour power’ is commonly associated with the meal and it always consumed by the porters to give them plenty of energy. It is a plate with an assortment of lentil curry, rice, curried potatoes and pickled vegetables. The best thing about this dish is that there are free top ups on your plate. The guesthouse owner will keep coming over and topping up your plate until you request no more.
You are expected to eat dinner and breakfast at the guesthouse which you stay at. If you decide not to, you will likely be requested to pay more for the night. At the majority of guesthouses, we only ever paid for dinner and breakfast, not for the accommodation itself. This is how the locals make their money and if the menu looks a bit ‘pricey’, remember that you are sleeping there for free!
Annapurna Circuit Itinerary
1. Starting The Annapurna Circuit Pokhara To Bahundanda
Pokhara (1400m) to Besishar (820m) – 5 hour bus journey
Besisahar (820m) to Bhulbhule (840m) – 1 hour bus journey
Bhulbhule (840m) to Ngadi (890m) – 4 km hike which took 1 hour
Ngadi (890 m) to Bahundanda (1310m): 4 km hike which took 2 and a half hours
The start of the Annapurna Circuit is Besieshar and you will need to get yourself there. From the popular tourist hangouts of Kathmandu and Pokhara, there are daily departures to Besisahar. These bus tickets are able to be booked through the majority of accommodation providers or at tourism agencies in the town.
Starting from Pokhara
If you are starting from Pokhara the bus departs from the tourist bus station, just a short walk out of the main lakeside town area. They call it the tourist bus, though it is not. There will be plenty of locals packed on with you like sardines in a can. My recommendation is to try and get a seat toward the back of the bus to avoid the majority of the commotions.
Starting from Kathmandu
Infamous for its traffic, be prepared to get stuck in Kathmandu for a while after boarding the bus. The advertised trip is just 6 hours from Kathmandu, though it is more notoriously claimed to last between 8-12 hours. Many people mention that taking the microbus is the better option to travel between Kathmandu to Besissaar. You can find them at Gongabu Bus Park, though best to check with your accommodation to confirm this as things here like to change without warning.
Besisahar to Bahundanda
Once arriving in Besisahar you have the choice to either take another local bus to take you further up the road or start your trek. With wide muddy roads, we decided to take the local bus from Besisahar to Bhulebhule. This cost us just $1.30 / 200NRs. It was an extremely bumpy ride squished into the tightly compressed seats.
Starting our official Annapurna Circuit Itinerary in Bhubulehule is where we decide to get off and walk. Though, you can continue further up the trail to the village of Ngadi. The walk between these two towns is extremely easy flat terrain. So, if you are thinking of getting off the bus and walking, just do it. The 4 kilometers between Bhubhule and Ngadi only take us an hour to hike past many local houses and some up and coming infrastructure.
From Ngadi to Bahundanda is where you truly get your first taste of just some of the serene views on the Annapurna Circuit. With small local thatched houses, green rice terraces and a slower pace of life, this is where if first hit me how far away from the cities we really are. Life is simpler here as we hike past various Nepali women working in the fields. There is a steady uphill portion between Ngadi and Bahundanda which you should be aware of when planning your Annapurna Circuit itinerary. It slows us down a bit with the 4 hour hike taking 2 and a half hours.
The majority of guesthouses we saw in Bahundanda were extremely basic. They offered pay to use Wifi, no electricity in the room and no hot water. This was one of the few occasions on the circuit where we came across such simple accommodation. Though, if it is a clear day there are some amazing views from the teahouses to the Annapurna Himalayas in the far distance.
2. Bahundanda to Tal
Bahundanda (1310 m) to Ghermu (1130m): 5 km hike which took 2 and a half hours
Ghermu (1130 m) to Jagat (1300m): 3 km hike which took 2 hours
Jagat (1300m) to Chamche (1385m): 4 km hike which takes 1 hour
Chamche (1385m m) to Tal (1700m): 5 km hike which took 4 and a half hours
Day two was certainly one of the harder days for me in this Annapurna Circuit Itinerary. This was the first and only day it rained on the trail for us. Luckily it was not a complete downpour, but it was still enough to dampen spirits and leave us soaked.
Heading off in the morning from Bahundada to Ghermu the rain makes the paths a slippery mess. We try not to fall while maneuvering between stone trails and mud puddles. This is also where we come across the first bridge of many on the Annapurna Circuit.
It is a very easy walk to the nearby village of Syange where the track merges with the road. Trucks, jeeps and vans make their way past, bringing resources further up the trail as well as trekkers who have paid to start higher up the circuit. This is a relatively steep portion of the trail, rising nearly 200 meters in just 3 kilometers. Though, being on the road rather than rocky paths makes it a whole lot easier to navigate and easier on the legs.
The kilometer trek from Jagat to Chamche is an extremely easy walk with barely any incline. We reach the village by following the road with plenty of energy remaining. Though, from Chamche to Tal is where the day begins to go wrong.
The journey from Chamche to Tal is certainly the most difficult of day two. We managed to follow the wrong paths multiple times, leading to backtracking multiple times. Though, apart from that, there is also the large rockslide which has covered the side of one hill. The path zigzags through the rockslide, making one last massive push to complete the day.
We enjoyed staying at the village of Tal. It is hidden deep in the valley floor with an impressive waterfall as a backdrop.
3. Tal to Timang
Tal (1700 m) to Dharapani (1900m): 6 km hike which takes 2 and a half hours
Dharapani (1900m) to Bagarchap (2160m): 2 km hike which takes 1 hour
Bagarchap (2160m) to Danaqyu (2200m): 2 km hike which takes 1 hour
Danaqyu (2200m m) to Timang (2710m): 4 km hike which takes 2 and a half hours
To get back on the trail from Tal you have either two options. The first is to navigate an extremely steep path up to the road and the second is to follow the river around on the right side. I recommend following the river around and to enjoy being off the winding around as you will be spending the majority of the day on it.
At the village of Karte is where there is a large suspension bridge which will take you back to the road. From there it is an easy walk Dharapani. This section is relatively easy, while compared with the rest of today.
The trek from Dharapani to Bagarchap is easy with no overly impressive sights or eventful moments. The same goes for the walk from Bagarchap to Danaqyu. We just appreciate the scenery, the waterfalls and the local goats.
The portion from Danaqyu to Timang is certainly the most difficult portion of day three. With a 500 meter incline over 4 kilometers, I only recommend doing this if you still have plenty of energy and it is still relatively early in the afternoon. The steep ascend cuts through a zigzagging round, oversteps created by wobbly river stones and dodgy cliffside drops. There are minimal flat portions and you will certainly need to take multiple breathers as you make your way to Timang.
Timang was my favorite village on the Annapurna Circuit. There were impressive views over the Himalayas, rolling clouds and friendly locals. I highly recommend planning your Annapurna Circuit itinerary to spend one night there.
4. Timang To Chame
Timang (2710 m) to Thanchowk (2570m): 4 km hike which takes 1 and a half hours
Thanchowk (2570m) to Koto (2640m): 3 km hike which takes 1 hour
Koto (2640m) to Chame (2710m): 2 km hike which takes half an hour
This is one of the easiest days on the trail. Just a 7 kilometer hike over 3 hours. Chame is actually the headquarters of the Manang district so if you are needing supplies this is the place to be. There are many different shops here catering to trekkers you can pick up everything from the important snickers bars to gloves, hats or ankle/knee braces.
Heading off from Timang to Thanchowk the trail continues on the road. It drops over 100 meters which makes a nice change from the steep uphill the previous day. Through paddocks, past locals and happy livestock it is a pretty uneventful portion of the trail.
The same goes from Thanchowk to Koto as the green fields continue on. Though portions of the road alternate from dry dirt to unstable rocks. This is another easy portion of the trail which you can do in a speedy time.
Koto is only a mere 2 kilometers from Chame and takes no time to complete. I recommend spending your afternoon exploring this interesting town. There are various types of teahouses here, from the most basic to luxury hotel quality. If you are looking for a nice place to recuperate you will certainly find something here. Many guidebooks also speak about a local hot spring but do not bother. This is the most where locals do all their laundry so it is dirty and constantly busy.
5. Chame To Upper Pisang
Chame (2710 m) to Bhratang (2850m): 7 km hike which takes 2 hours
Bhratang (2850m) to Dhukur Pokhari (3240m): 6 km hike which takes 2 hours
Dhukur Pokhari (3240m) to Upper Pisang (3310 m): 1.5 km hike which takes 1 and a half hours
If you do decide to take a jeep up a portion of the Annapurna Circuit, make sure you get off at or before Chame. The views between Chame to Upper Pisang are some of the best in this Annapurna Circuit Itinerary and you will not want to rush past them.
Heading off in Cham towards the apple village of Bhartang we come across many local workers stabilizing the roads. The views are extremely impressive with snow-capped mountains, turquoise rushing rivers and pine tree covered landscapes. It is an obvious arrival in Bhratang with apple trees growing everywhere surrounded by large fences with signs warning trekkers to keep out. This small, but the bustling village is a popular stop to pick up a delicious apple pie before continuing on your way.
After Bhatrang you will quickly come across one of the most photographed portions of the trail, a part of the road which has been carved into the mountainside. With a straight drop into the river below it is one of the most unique portions of the road I have seen. From there it is another short walk when you will come across the impressive Swarga Dwari. This bowl-like mountainside has been shaped by the wind over the years to become what it is today, a gateway to heaven. The path then cuts through the zig zag of the road up a fairly steep hillside, from there it is a simple walk down to Dhukur Pokhari.
It is a relatively easy walk between Dhukur Pokhari and Upper Pisang through neat grass fields until the high route begins. The small path leads up the righthand side of the valley to Upper Pisang.
6. Upper Pisang to Ngawal
Upper Pisang (3310m) to Ghyaru (3730m): 5 km hike which takes 3 hours
Ghyaru (3730m) to Ngawal (3680 m): 5 km hike which takes 3 hours
It is an easy walk from Upper Pisang until you reach the bottom of the hill where Ghyaru is situated upon. This hill is one of the harder sections os the trail as it zigzags back on itself as you slowly climb your way up the 300 meters. It took us over an hour to climb this small section alone. At the top, you will get some impressive views of the nearby snowy mountains and low valley floor.
Ngawal might be lower in altitude than Ghyaru, though you will still need to ascend a bit further until you descend back again. The small mountainside trail is a nice change from the road and it is not overly difficult as you climb another 500 meters. If you are suffering from altitude sickness symptoms like I was this can be quite testing.
7. Ngawal To Manang
Ngawal (3680m) to Humde (3330m): 2 km hike which takes 1 and a half hours
Humde (3330m) to Braka (3450m): 6 km hike which takes 3 hours
Braka (3450m) to Manang (3540m): 2 km hike which takes half an hours
From Ngawal it is a steep descent back onto the valley floor. This is where the high trail meets back up with the lower trail and the Annapurna Circuit hikers merge back again in Humde. It is a short hike, though best to take it easy as it can be tough on the knees.
From Humde to Braka it is a relatively easy walk over 3 hours. We keep to the road and dodge the occasional jeeps and motorbikes which whizz past every so often. The same is which Braka to Manang. It is a simple hike following the road alongside the river.
Manang is a popular town where you should have a rest day with the other trekkers. There are plenty of teahouses, ranging in quality, bakeries, movie cinemas and shops.
8. Manang Rest Day
You should spend your one day once you reach Manag in the Annapurna Circuit Itinerary as a rest day. You should spend a couple of nights here to adjust to the altitude, ultimately assisting your body to adjust to the higher altitudes to come. If you have plenty of energy you can do the side trek to the Ice Lake which is a steep full day trek.
9. Manang to Yak Kharka
Manang (3540m) to Gunsang (3900m): 3 km hike which takes 2 hours
Gunsang (3900m) to Yak Kharka (4050m): 7 km hike which takes 3 hours
It may only be a short 3-kilometer hike to Gunsang, but with an elevation increase of over 300 meters, it is not easy. The road ends and now we are on a small path. Prepare for traffic jams of horses and yaks.
Turning a corner the village of Gunsang can be seen in the distance. A large valley provides amazing panoramic views across on our left to the nearby mountain ranges.
Heading out of Gunsang the hike to Yak Kharka is a lot easier than the first portion of today. It may be longer, but it has a steady, barely noticeable incline of 150 meters over 7 kilometers. There are plenty of swing bridges to cross over and the terrain has now turned completely barren. Just small shrubs cover the ground at this altitude.
10. Yak Kharka To Thorong Phedi Base Camp
Yak Kharka (4050m) to Churi Ledar (4200m): 1 km hike which takes half an hour
Churi Ledar (4200m) to Thorong Phedi (4450m): 5 km hike which takes 3 and a half hours
This portion of the trail is an extremely easy gradual uphill. Though, thanks to the altitude it is still necessary to take a breather every 10 minutes or so. The 150 meter climb over half an hour into Churi Ledar is barely noticeable, maybe these amazing views are taking our mind off it all.
Out of Churi Ledar, there is a large suspension bridge taking us over the river to the other side of the valley then up a steep ascent. The climb is treacherous and the small rocks prevent getting a decent grip. For each step forward it feels like taking two steps back as you begin to slide back down the mountain. The difficult trails carved into the side of a mountain are not the easiest to navigate, though it is just a quick 15 minute walk to the next portion of the path.
This is one of the most dangerous spots we will come across today and certainly one of the more dangerous parts of the trail. This landslide zone has caused numerous injuries and at least one death throughout the years. You need to be careful that the path does not slip out below you, as well as watching out for falling rocks. After about 20 minutes the landslide area finally ends and we arrive straight into the lodges at Thorong Phedi.
11. Thorong Phedi Base Camp To Muktinath
Thorong Phedi (4450m) to High Camp (4850m): 1 km hike which takes 2 hours
High Camp (4850m) to Thorong La Pass (5416m): 5 km hike which takes 4 hours
Thorong La Pass (5416m) to Charabu (4230m): 6 km hike which takes 6 hours
Charabu (4230m) to Muktinath (3800m): 4 km hike which takes 3 hours
Walking up out of Thorong Phedi to High Camp it is obvious to see how steep of a climb this is just going to be. Ascending about 400 meters in a kilometer is not going to make for an easy climb at all. The ascent is steep as we zig-zag back and forth on the extremely thin path covered in rocks.
Heading up away from High Camp I am feeling a lot better today than I was yesterday morning. The trail ascends gently behind our lodges until they are completely out of view, blocked by the endless rocky mountains. We zigzag endlessly following the trail while dealing with the overwhelming feeling of momentary excitement due to the numerous false passes. This goes on for what feels like hours while mountain sickness slowly starts to come over. At 5416 meters the oxygen levels here are less than half of what they are at sea level.
From our descent from Thorong La Pass the first hour and a half is a steady descent. The land is barren, just hundred of rocks making up the ground. We zigzag slowly down the mountain. It is a difficult descent as you try to avoid slipping on the loose rocks.
We watch as the small village of Charabu gets closer and closer. The first portion of the trail is rather steep, but then it flattens out into fields. Coming across a herd of yak nearby a suspension bridge we spot the first signs of Muktinath. It is a rather large, sprawling village, though, unfortunately for us, the lodges are quite far through it.
We follow the path up and down to the village of Muktinath. Walking through temple areas we watch those worshippings make their way past us on horseback. Muktinath has been an important place for pilgrims over the past 3000 years.
12. Muktinath To Jomsom
Muktinath (3680m) to Jomsom (3330m): 23 kilometer bus ride which takes 1 hour
The bus is just packing on the crowds as we arrive at the bus station which is literally just a shed with a couple of buses waiting out front. James purchases us two tickets and I jump onboard. There are about 10 other trekkers already sitting in the seats. I guess we get charged premium prices to secure a seat. Though, the locals and pilgrims must pay less on a first in first serve basis. The middle of the bus is packed with backpacks all stacked on top of each other as the driver tries to fit everyone in.
The seats in local buses here are extremely close together and the bags in the middle prevent from being able to stretch out fully. It is not the most comfortable ride as we pass by the villages of Kagbeni and Eklebhatti.
Thankfully we see the village of Jomsom in the distance. It stretches out quite far, full of flat-roofed two-story buildings. In the far end is where we stay and where you will find the majority of teahouses.
13. Flying from Jomsom To Pokhara
Jomsom (2720m) to Pokhara (1400m): 160 km flight which takes half an hour
In Jomsom, we decided flying back to Pokhara would be the best decision for us. We were both unwell and taking a bus down would have been horrific in the vomiting state we were in. The plane tickets cost $100.00 each which was certainly the most expensive part of the Annapurna Circuit. Though, being on one of the small planes, taking off from a crazy short runway and experiencing the whole airport which is run by the military was certainly a highlight. Also, you cannot beat the views from that plane.
Continuing On The Annapurna Circuit
If you do not want to fly to Pokhara from Jomsom you can continue on trekking the Annapurna Circuit via hiking and taking buses all the way back to Pokhara. If you have plenty of free time you could perhaps even do the Annapurna Base Camp trek or Poon Hill.
Packing Tips For The Annapurna Circuit
I was greatly unsure whether or not to purchase hiking boots or do it in my sneakers. After speaking with Shona she said the sneakers would be fine and I trusted her advice. The terrain there are not overly difficult. Though you will want something you can comfortably wear all day. Just be aware of snow levels as you do not want to be walking around in nonwaterproof shoes in ankle deep snow. One guy on our trek was 55+ years of age and was doing it in a pair of sandals.
We had no problem not bringing with us a pillow or sleeping bag. There were always plenty available at guesthouses which was perfect for us. Though I am unsure what it would be like during the busier trekker months. I purchased a sleeping bag liner, though I never used it on the Annapurna Circuit. Considering I am used to hostel dorm beds I did not find the teahouse rooms unclean and never had an issue jumping straight into bed.
There are many things that people told us to pack for the Annapurna Circuit which we ultimately did not need. If you are arriving in Nepal to do the Annapurna Circuit and have absolutely no trekking gear, don’t worry. We were in this position and from online recommendations headed straight to Shona’s Alpine.
Shopping In Kathmandu
There was no warm welcome, it is just straight business here. Though, the team there were able to kit us out with all necessary trekking gear, including missing out on sales by truthfully telling us what we don’t need. My major tips which I will pass onto you are:
- You do not need a puffer jacket unless you are trekking in one of the colder months. If you are to get it wet, either from the rain or snow, they become incredibly heavy and very hard to dry. Instead, we purchased a wind breaker jacket and a fleece jumper.
- Buy woolen socks instead of cotton. They do not hold onto smells as much so you can hang them up overnight to wear the next morning.
- Buy a decent, heatproof water bottle. Usually, I am the kind of person to recycle the same disposable drink bottle for months at a time. Though, spending $12 on a drink bottle in one of the world cheapest countries was one of the smartest decisions. It became a hot water bottle on freezing nights and provided relief to sore muscles.
Also if you are a plus size lady or gentleman I highly recommend purchasing clothing in your home country. It can be incredibly difficult to source larger sized clothing in Asia countries. Even in Nepal where it is a Western trekkers shopping paradise. All in all, we had no issues with the quality of the clothing we purchased and it held up extremely well throughout the Annapurna Circuit.
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Want more Annapurna Circuit Inspiration? Check out….
- POKHARA TO BESISAHAR & BAHUNDANDA- STARTING THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT- DAY ONE
- BAHUNDANDA TO TAL ON THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT- DAY TWO
- TAL TO TIMANG ON THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT- DAY THREE
- TIMANG TO CHAME ON THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT- DAY FOUR
- CHAME TO UPPER PISANG ON THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT – DAY FIVE
- UPPER PISANG TO NGAWAL ON THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT- DAY SIX
- NGAWAL TO MANANG ON THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT- DAY SEVEN
- MANANG REST DAY ON THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT- DAY EIGHT
- MANANG TO YAK KHARKA ON THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT- DAY NINE
- YAK KHARKA TO THORONG PHEDI (BASE CAMP) ON THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT- DAY TEN
- THORONG PHEDI TO HIGH CAMP ON THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT- DAY ELEVEN
- HIGH CAMP TO MUKTINATH VIA THORONG LA PASS ON THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT – DAY TWELVE
- MUKTINATH TO JOMSOM ON THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT- DAY THIRTEEN
- FLYING JOMSON TO POKHARA AND FINISHING THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT- DAY FOURTEEN
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