Read This Before Hiking the Annapurna Circuit: 21 Essential Things to Know

Annapurna Circuit guide - everything you need to know before you hike

Post updated: 20/01/2020 | Planning to trek the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal? A great decision! Here's everything you need to know before your Annapurna trek, including trekking permits, hiking solo vs in a group, what to pack, when to go, and all the money matters. 

Hiking Nepal's Annapurna Circuit is one of the most stunningly beautiful, life-changing experiences you can have on your travels, and we're pretty sure that, like us, you'll be absolutely captivated by the area from the very first day.

Winding through some of the world's tallest mountains and diverse climatic zones (from tropical to freezing alpine peaks), intensive days spent on your feet, and enjoying the beautiful hospitality of the Nepalese people and their quaint mountain villages: the 16 days you'll spend on the Annapurna Circuit trail are some of the most inspiring and challenging you'll ever encounter, and the arrival back to Pokhara will feel so rewarding.

But while it’s super tempting to just book a flight, lace up your hiking boots, and head off into the vast wild, take it from us, wanderers: this is not a simple walk in the park, pun intended! (If you’re looking for a shorter Nepal trek, why not try the Ghorepani Poon Hill trek!).

In fact, from preparing for altitude sickness to organising your permits and accommodation, there’s a huge amount of knowledge and planning you need to factor into your pre-trip preparation before you even take your first few steps.

For a start, should you go solo or in a group? Will you be able to get snacks en route? and what time of year guarantees the best visibility?

From two people who trekked the Annapurna Circuit successfully [book the trek we did with Intrepid Travel here], but wish they’d had a few more tips up their sleeve while doing so, here’s the essential insider knowledge you need before tackling the long, epic, and beautiful Annapurna Circuit trek for yourself.

pssst… want to edit your photos like us?! We’ve just released our brand new collection of presets, including the Nepal Preset Pack specifically designed for your epic Nepal adventures! Check out the full range here now.





Before we get into the nitty-gritty of what you need to know about the Annapurna Circuit, here are a few quick facts about the trek for the stat-lovers amongst you!

Location | Central Nepal

Trek length | Generally 16-20 days

Distance | this varies depending on route and whether you take optional side treks, but generally between 170km - 230km

Height of Annapurna 1 Main (the highest mountain in the Annapurna Massif) | 8091m

Highest point of the trek | Thorong La Pass - 5416m (17,769ft)




Hiking in Nepal isn't a 'turn up whenever you like and off you go' kind of affair; seasonal changes (particularly around the monsoon period) have a massive impact on where, how, and what you can hike here. 

The periods for hiking the Annapurna Circuit are October - early December, and late Feb - April.

Go outside of these times and you risk the already tricky Thorong La Pass being totally snowed under (or worse, like what happened during the 2014 Nepal blizzard disaster) or heavy monsoonal summer rains causing slippery and dangerous conditions. 

We did our Annapurna Circuit hike with Intrepid at the end of Feb - March and found the weather conditions pretty much perfect; balmy and hot on the lower sections, and crisp with some light snow at the higher levels and the Pass.

RECOMMENDATION | Hike the Annapurna Circuit in September, when the skies are clear, the mountains green, and the paths less crowded.

Views from Thorong La pass on the Annapurna Circuit


Since the trail opened in 1977, most trekkers have followed an Annapurna Circuit itinerary that begins in Besishahar and heads in an anti-clockwise direction over the Thorong-La Pass and down into the Jomsom Valley.

The main reason for this is acclimatisation. When following the trail anti-clockwise, you have almost 2 whole weeks of acclimatisation (and leg-training!) before you begin the leg-and-lung-breaking final ascent up and over Thorong La (5416m).

Going the other way, you’d only have 2 days to acclimatise, as well as tackling some intense 1700m+ incline days along steep, rubbly paths straight up.

There’s also very limited access to teahouses in the later days, which means if you do succumb to altitude sickness due to the speed of your climb, you may struggle to find help.

Our Annapurna Circuit itinerary with Intrepid looked like this:

Day 1 | Kathmandu to Bandipur (by car)

Day 2 | Bandipur to Bahundanda via Besishahar (car to Besishahar, then hike to Bahundanda)

Day 3 | Bahundandah to Jagat Lamjung (1290m)

Day 4 | Jagat Lamjung to Dharapani (1920m)

Day 5 | Dharapani to Chame (2630m)

Day 6 | Chame to Lower Pisang (3190m)

Day 7 | Lower Pisang to Manang (3540m)

Day 8 | Acclimatisation day in Manang, including a short hike to higher altitudes - and a movie night at the town’s ‘cinema’!

Day 9 | Manang to Yak Kharka (4018m)

Day 10 | Yak Kharka to Phedi (4450m)

Day 11 | Phedi to Muktinath (3800m) via Thorong La Pass summit (5410m)!

Day 12 | Muktinath to Jomsom (2800m)

Day 13 | Jomsom to Pokhara (by plane)

Day 14 | Free day in Pokhara

Day 15 + 16 | Travel back to Kathmandu before the tour ends at midday the following day (read our Kathmandu guide here)!

*Note: since we completed our trek in 2016, this Annapurna Circuit itinerary has changed.

Check the new route and book your own trek here


One of the most debated topics when it comes to hiking in Nepal is this: do it with an organised group, or heave on a rucksack full of your stuff and go it alone? 

Personally, we opted for a group hike on Intrepid's 16-day Annapurna Explorer trek, but we definitely encountered just as many keen hiker going it alone or with a friend. In short, both are absolutely viable options, and each comes with its own merits and disadvantages.


As two travellers used to independent/solo travel on our own terms, the thought of suddenly being bound by a group and its personalities, plus a set itinerary, and all that comes with these two things were a little daunting. But as it turns out, it absolutely needn't have been.

See, when you hike with a group, you’re hiking with a ready-made cheer squad, a team of local guides and porters who a) know the way b) know the signs of altitude sickness (more on that below) and c) can share tidbits of info you'd otherwise miss out on. 


  • Everything (including teahouse accommodation, permits, etc) is organised for you by the trekking company, you just need to bring snacks and money for meals/tips.

  • Travelling with a reputable travel company also means that your local guides and porters are exceptionally well-versed in local knowledge, first aid, emergency response, etc.

  • A local is always on-hand to share expert knowledge

  • Your team of porters also carry your heavier luggage, so you just need to keep putting one step in front of the other with your daypack on your back.

  • Other people to support and be supported by - which can go a long way when you're all exhausted and out of breath in the final days!


  • Can be more expensive than going it alone - but we actually felt it was worth it in this instance!

  • If you're used to independent travel, being bound to someone else's plan (and group personalities) might be a shock, to begin with!



It's definitely not rare to see people self-navigating the Annapurna Circuit by themselves, or hiking together in small groups.

Given that the Annapurna trek is also one of Nepal's more popular routes, you'll also bump into a whole lot of other trekkers following a similar path, so you can either buddy up and walk together, or walk amongst the wild solo and regroup for a game of cards later that night.


  • Having the freedom to go where you want, when you want, and without having to account for a group

  • Often a lot cheaper than booking through a tour company

  • You get the best of both worlds; solo trekking during the day and a group atmosphere at the teahouses at night


  • You're responsible for carrying all your gear, finding accommodation, and organising all your permits, itinerary, etc. You'll need to work out when you'll arrive at a teahouse, and during busy periods, have a backup plan if it's already full.

  • Not having a trained professional around to help you identify potentially dangerous areas, altitude sickness symptoms, or monitor the speed/distance of your hike (it's important to go slow to avoid altitude sickness!).

  • Safety: there are risks in going it alone. While Nepal is a notoriously friendly and welcoming country, there have been instances of solo hikers disappearing on solo treks. While these incidents are few and far between, it's worth bearing in mind.

  • For female hikers, we'd also recommend travelling with a female guide and porter, to avoid any potential harassment incidents.

BOOK | Walk in our footsteps and book your own Annapurna Circuit group trek with Intrepid Travel here

BOOK | This 18-day Annapurna Circuit trek with G Adventures

A group hike through Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit



While you don’t need to be marathon fit to complete the Annapurna circuit, it’s definitely worth putting in some hard yards at the gym, in the mountains or around the block before you leave.

For the most part, the days are manageable; 5-6hrs and 10-15kms, with plenty of rest, long lunch breaks and a few rest days in between.


Some days on your trek will involve 16 hours at high altitude starting at 4am. Other days can be over 20kms through the "Nepalese flats" (aka rolling hills) or in the snow. And then there’s the final day from Muktinath to Jomsom (you can discover all about that yourself!).

Our advice is to build your general cardio (the fun stuff!) for at least a month prior to leaving as well as a few consecutive days of long-distance walking.

Get your feet used to being in boots day after day. If you want to, try altitude training before you leave. We didn't do this, but we've heard good reports. You’ll be grateful you made the effort when the time comes to lace up those boots up again for the 6th day in a row.

A group hike along the Annapurna Circuit near Manang


No matter when or how you're hiking the Annapurna Circuit, you'll need to organise both a Trekking Information Management System (TIMS) permit, and an Annapurna National Park Permit (sometimes also known as the Annapurna Conservation Area Permit).

As of 2019, the permits should set you back about USD $50 total: the APC Permit is USD $30 / NPR 3,000 per person, while the TIMS Permit is USD $20 / NPR 2,000 per person.

These will need to be checked at various checkpoints along the trek.

If you're hiking with an organised tour group, your guides will likely manage these for you.

If you're hiking by yourself, you'll need to organise these at either the Nepal Tourism office based in Kathmandu, or the Pokhara tourist office before you begin the trek. 

Make sure you bring a minimum of 4 passport photos for the trekking permit too! 




"It’s always further than it looks. It’s always taller than it looks. And it’s always harder than it looks."

That’s a quote about the ‘three rules of mountaineering. We’re not really sure who came up with it, but they’re pretty spot on except for one detail: It’s also always completely worth it.

We’re going to get all tough love on you here: the Annapurna trek is long, tiring and physically and mentally tough. Depending on which route you take, you’re going to be hiking for 13+ days - probably longer than your first high school romance.

Some days will be really physically tough.

You’ll be living out of a backpack with a very limited supply of clothing, sleeping on some rock hard beds, eating only carbs (we didn’t say it was all bad!), drinking chlorinated or steri-pen filtered water [2020 update: we now recommend travelling with The Grayl water filtration and purification bottles — our favourite piece of travel kit!], all while having no internet access to check your Facebook (again, not all bad).

Sound daunting?

Well yeah, maybe it is.

But trust us, when you’re standing in awe of the peaks around you, bonding with your group over a cup of hot chocolate, or celebrating crossing the Thorong La Pass these challenges become so insignificant you’ll wonder why they got you down in the first place.




You know that feeling you get when you spot a hottie across the dancefloor for the first time?

The hairs stand up on the back of your neck, your heart pounds like a kick drum, and you have this existential crisis about being so freaking small in this universe and how could all this amazingness actually even exist.

Well, this happens Every. Single. Day. in the Annapurna region.

With every step, the scenery in front of you changes and the mountains reveal something new; rolling clouds, the breathtaking terrain, the towering mountains or the smiling locals.

Need convincing? Here are 30 photos that will inspire you to visit Nepal

It’s literally the definition of awe-inspiring. Them feels are good for the soul and you’ll leave feeling all giddy about the world.

The stunning scenery of the Annapurna Circuit, Nepal


Run the London Marathon? Completed the Hawaiian Ironman? Smash out spin classes four times a week? We commend you for being so awesome in your activewear, but it won’t help you with altitude sickness.

Altitude sickness can affect anyone, including the fittest athletes alive (and Sir Edmund Hillary - the first summiteer of Everest!) so make sure you take all the necessary precautions after 3000m.

That includes taking Diamox (if you wish, but consult with your doctor), staying hydrated, fuelling up and getting adequate rest. If you feel symptoms, let your guide know and take action.

This is serious shit; Miranda developed HAPE, high altitude pulmonary oedema (basically, your blood vessels constrict and leak blood into your lungs,  and left untreated, you can drown.. gross, right?) while hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in Africa, and it was a horrific, long term recovery.

We recommend reading up on altitude sickness  before you leave.

Overlooking a lake on the Annapurna Circuit, Nepal


We’ve actually written a full guide to accommodation in Nepal - read it here

If you're expecting to stay at the Shangri-La, you'll be disappointed. If you apply a little common sense and realise the Annapurna circuit is pretty remote, you'll be satisfied with the basic accommodation options available.

Guesthouses and teahouses are dotted along the whole trek, starting from Besisahar all the way to Jomsom. They're pretty little things made from rock and wood and provide a welcome relief at the end of a long days trekking.

Rooms at each teahouse are generally twin-share, with enough space to spread out. 

As the altitude increases the accommodation becomes more basic, however, the higher you go the happier you'll be with any form of bedding! Each teahouse has a common area which is usually stoked with a fire in the evening. This is where you'll spend most of your time, eating dinner and meeting fellow travellers.

Most teahouses make their money from food, so expect to pay slightly more than you would in Kathmandu. We do recommend buying food and drinks at teahouses.

Firstly, it will lighten your load, and secondly, it provides much-needed income to what are sometimes fairly poor communities.

We have also heard of people bargaining for free accommodation in exchange for paying for food and drink. However, we'd encourage anyone travelling to these areas to be fair, pay for both your accommodation (not more than a few USD) and your food, and help to support communities that desperately rely on tourist dollars for their survival.

Most teahouses will have basic amenities, such as showers and toilets.

Up until Manang, you'll be able to have hot, solar-powered showers, although be prepared to fight for the first position, as they do run out quickly! You do have to pay for warm showers, but it's definitely worth it.

You are also able to charge your electronic devices, although this comes at a small cost. Alternatively, we always travel with our trusty solar charger to keep our devices charged throughout the day (trust us, the sun is out in full force, even when it's cold here!).


Hotel Gangapurna on the Annapurna Circuit, Nepal



There are legends in Nepal; super-strong guys who glide up and down mountains carrying all your stuff on their shoulders and neck. They’re called Porters, and they do this so you can concentrate on accomplishing your goal without the extra baggage.

While their feats are super-human, they are in fact quite human, with real human muscles and backs that are equally prone to injury.

Help them out here by bringing only what you really need (10kgs or so), so ditch the hair straightener, the three pairs of jeans and the full make-up bag as you won’t need it.

We've written a thoroughly in-depth Annapurna Circuit packing list to help you best prepare for this trek. 


Hiking the Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
Walking across a suspension bridge on the Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

everything you need for the annapurna circuit - our annapurna circuit packing list



Picture this: you're enjoying a tasty dinner in a cute little teahouse with your group after a long day's trekking. The mood is jovial as you wolf down your plate of Dal Bat, and once you're done you play a few rounds of cards before retiring to your cosy room for the evening.

Then, at 2am, disaster - in the form of an urgent toilet trip - strikes. Ten minutes later, it strikes again. And again, and again, and again.. Until 7am rolls around and it's almost time to start hiking again, but you basically haven't moved from the toilet floor all night.

That's pretty much exactly what happened to Mim in the early days of our Annapurna trek - though we honestly can't work out how on earth she became so ill considering all but one other person escaped without illness, and many people ate Dal Baht that night too!

Had it not been for our trusty medical kit full of goodies (aka Immodium, rehydration salts, and water purification tablets to treat water for said rehydration drinks), the chances of her actually being able to leave her bed, let alone walk, would have been pretty slim.

Be prepared with a well-stocked medical kit for the unexpected moments, little emergencies, or bloody great big blisters, and you'll never miss a step! 


pack for the planet: our eco-friendly packing guide



Trekking through the balmy temperatures in those early first days you’ll probably be asking yourself what the heck you brought all these warm clothes for. You’ll realise why when you get to 3,000m.

The Annapurna trek covers everything from tropical to alpine climatic zones. Some days you’ll be hiking in shorts and a t-shirt consuming your fourth litre of water on yet another water break.

Other days you’ll be wearing all of your clothes as the brutally cold -15c wind freezes your water solid in its flask.

The range of climatic zones you pass through is awesome and sure makes for some epic views. Just be prepared every day and ask your guide what temperatures to expect and which essentials to throw in your daypack and you’ll be ready to face it all.




As your mind wanders while trudging through the snow on your way to Thorong La pass, you’ll probably be dreaming of your favourite meal; a chicken parma, killer veggie curry, or Fro-Yo with all the toppings you like.

You don’t need to fear for your taste buds; the food in the Annapurna region is really freaking good, and pretty varied.

Expect a lot of carbs - our group was even treated to a Yak Burger over 3,000m altitude in Manang! - and seasonal veggies, soups, momos and the most famous mountain meal of all, Dal Bhat.

Dal Bhat is a traditional Nepalese meal consisting of rice, a lentil-based soup and other condiments, and it’s generally all you can eat so you’ll never go hungry. As they say on the mountain: ‘Dal Bhat Power!’

You'll be surprised by the amount of bakeries, stocking everything from strudel to doughnuts. We recommend stopping at each of these as they're amazing!

READ | Learn more about the delicious food you can eat with this Nepal food guide.

The food on the Annapurna Circuit is absolutely delicious



While the hike may break your leg muscles, it certainly shouldn't break your bank balance. As we've mentioned, we hiked the Annapurna Circuit on a group tour, which meant that everything except our daily meals and tipping was covered in the overall fee and had been paid before we arrived.

If you're hiking the circuit solo, expect to pay anywhere between USD $700-1000, which will cover your lodgings, food, and permits. 

On the topic of food, budget for about $20 USD per person a day and you’ll be able to grab all the goodies including your meals, drinks and some snacks.

We'd also recommend stocking up on a heap of hiking snacks (trail mix, chocolate bars, granola bars, etc) to keep in your daypack for long walking days.

Plus we can assure you of one thing: there is nothing quite like a celebratory mars bar at the summit of your hike! 

One thing you do need to note is that you won't encounter an ATM until you finish in Jomsom. So stock up on Nepalese Rupees before you start the hike. To keep that amount of money safe, stash it in your daypack, and always keep it on you.




Throughout Nepal generally, tipping isn't compulsory (particularly when it comes to restaurants and drivers), but it is kind of expected when it comes to guides and porters.

Many of the locals involved in the hiking industry here actually rely upon the tips they receive from leading groups or carrying your gear. 

As a guide, for your leader, you should normally set aside USD$3-4 per person, per day.

For your porters, a recommended amount would be USD$4 per traveller per day, which is split amongst all the porters on your trek.

Basically, factor in about USD$150 in cash to your budgeting, and make sure you have it separate to the rest of your cash (in case you forget and use it on all the noms!). 




If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll already know that we never, ever, leave for our travels without travel insurance (here's why!) - especially when undertaking a hike at altitude like the Annapurna Circuit.

Whether it's a sprained ankle, severe altitude sickness, or a natural disaster (let's not forget the 2015 Nepal earthquake), the unexpected can, and does, happen and it's always better to be prepared.

Our personal choice is World Nomads, with added coverage for high-altitude trekking.

A monk from Manang Monastery, Nepal
Overlooking a suspension bridge on the Annapurna Circuit


For many people, long treks are all about mountains and self-accomplishment, and that's totally ok.

But the Annapurna Circuit is upheld as a significant cultural and sacred trail by the Nepalese, so it's important that you as a visitor also a) behave accordingly, b) show respect for various sites along the way (dressing appropriately, not littering, etc), and c) take the time to chat with the locals and trying to understanding their way of life and beliefs up here.

After all, one of the best parts of travel is the total immersion in another culture, right?




Due to their altitude and remoteness, many of the villages on the trail don't have adequate waste disposal methods. Instead, they either have to burn the rubbish off (not ideal), or carry it off the mountain themselves (also not ideal). 

In peak season, thousands of hikers traverse the paths of the Annapurna Circuit.

When you stop to think about the impact that many people are likely to have on the surrounding environment and the disposable products (in the form of plastic bottles, food wrappers, sunscreen bottles, etc) that they're undoubtedly bringing with them, you quickly realise that a lot of waste is either being burnt, or left, behind on the mountains. 

Be a responsible traveller on the Annapurna Circuit: only use a reusable water bottle, pack a tote bag or two and carry all your trash out of the national park with you. 

BUY | This Reusable water bottle is seriously the best investment we’ve ever made on our travels.

We use the Grayl water purification bottles, which allows us to fill up from any water source, anywhere in the world, meaning we’ve not bought a plastic bottle in 18 months.




Once you've reached your teahouse for the evening and got settled in, you'll find yourself with plenty of time to chill out, socialise, eat (Mim's fave!), and get yourself prepared for the next day.

Evenings were some of our favourite times on the trek, as without all our devices and a wifi connection at hand, we had plenty of time to play cards (hint: always travel with a pack of playing cards!) with our group, or lose ourselves in a good book.

Speaking of books, we're also huge fans of reading books based in/around the places we're currently travelling through, as it really brings the landscapes around us to life. Here are some of our all-time faves:


We never travel without our trusty, dogeared second-hand copies of a Lonely Planet guide. They're full of interesting facts and historical content and make for great bus reading.

While some information can change rapidly in this online world, ours really haven't let us down yet. Pick up your Nepal Lonely Planet travel guide now. 




We read Michael Palin's Himalaya while high up in the mountains of the Annapurna Circuit, and it really gave the book (and the place!) a whole new meaning. 

Whether you're into tales of traversing mountains, captivating love stories, or insights into Nepal's rich cultural heritage or politics, these books about Nepal absolutely have you covered! 





Every day, our group dedicated at least 5-10 minutes each day to pondering how good the summit chocolate would be at the top.

Not sure what this mysterious, albeit delicious-sounding, treat could be?! 

This is the ultimate celebration at the highest peak of your trail (in this case, Thorong La Pass); your favourite chocolate bar, carefully stashed in your bag for the whole trip, and gloriously savoured at the summit.

It may seem like a small thing, but we kid you not: when mixed with the sheer elation and satisfaction of having completed the hardest part of your trek, that chocolate will taste like sheer heaven.

A chocolate on the Annapurna Circuit, Nepal


If you’ve read this blog for a while, you already know that we’re massive advocates for sustainable travel, and ensuring that our trekking adventures don’t come at the cost of environmental or cultural damage to the people and places we visit.

We’ve actually written a super-comprehensive guide to responsible trekking in Nepal, including the Annapurna Circuit, which you can read here.

In the meantime, here are a few quick tips to keep in mind on your Annapurna Circuit trek:

Trek with a company that aligns with your values | Seek out sustainably-minded companies that care for their employees and the environment

Respect your porters | Ensure that the porters and guides you use aren’t being exploited financially or physically

Don’t use plastic | Plastic pollution is a huge problem here. Don’t buy bottled water (use The Grayl!), avoid plastic-wrapped food, etc.

Stick to the trails and leave no trace | Don’t wander off the trails, pick up your rubbish, minimise your overall impact on the areas

Respect the local culture | Nepal’s mountains are more than just hiking paths; they’re sites of rich cultural, religious, and historical significance. Treat them, the people who call them home, and their local culture with respect. Also, haggle fairly.

READ | Our comprehensive guide to responsible trekking in Nepal (it really is vital!)






We have a heap of essential reading before tackling the Annapurna Circuit:

ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT PACKING LIST | Everything you need to pack for the Annapurna Circuit

HIKE POON HILL INSTEAD | Our ultimate guide to hiking Poon Hill, Nepal

CITY GUIDES | Our essential guide to the best of Pokhara, our ultimate guide to Kathmandu, and the best places to visit in Kathmandu

NEPAL TRAVEL GUIDES | The best places to see in Nepal, and your ultimate Nepal travel guide

RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL | Responsible travel is important. Learn our top general responsible travel tips, discover how to trek responsibly while in Nepal, and all of our top sustainable and responsible travel tips for Nepal too

KATHMANDU TO POKHARA | How to get from Kathmandu to Pokhara

TRAVEL INSURANCE | Don’t leave home without travel insurance (seriously, don’t!). Click here to get the best deals with World Nomads, our trusted travel insurance provider

PHOTOGRAPHY | Love our photography? Wondering what gear we use to get all of our photos around the world? Click here to view our detailed photography gear guide, as well as our top travel photography tips!

ECO-FRIENDLY PACKING ESSENTIALS | Don’t leave home without our favourite eco-friendly travel essentials

Have you completed the Annapurna trek yourself? Planning to hike the Annapurna Circuit soon?
Share your stories and tips for trekking the Annapurna Circuit with other readers in the comments below!

Psst... If you're considering doing the Everest Base Camp trek (which is equally incredible - Mark did it in 2013), check out 'how to prepare for a trek to Everest Base Camp' by the awesome Flashpacking Duo.

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That, and you're officially a legend.