This stunning trek brings hikers up through magnificent alpine terrain to one of the gems of the Himalayas; the amphitheater of mountains known as the Annapurna Sanctuary. Also known as Annapurna Basecamp, this area is used as the basecamp for climbers intending to climb the namesake mountain or others in the area. Following a well-trodden path, and with many options for sleeping along the way, this trek is an easy choice for experienced and inexperienced trekkers alike.
Closest Major City: Katmandu
Costs: Less than $1000 with guide and porter
Length: 8-10 Days (excluding travel days)
When to Go: Spring or Fall
To do this trek you must acquire permits from the Nepalese government. These include the Annapurna Conservation Area permits fees and the Trekkers’ Information Management System fees. These can be easily acquired and are not too expensive.
Fly into the international airport in Katmandu, the capital of Nepal. Then fly or bus to the major city of Pokhara. We strongly recommend that you take a few days to acclimatize to the high elevation by spending a few days in either Kathmandu or Pokhara. They are both also wonderful cities with very interesting culture to explore. From Pokhara, take a bus for two hours to Phedi where the trek begins.
Map shows one-way only
Starting the Phedi the trail steadily gains elevation all the way to the final objective. For the first five or six days you will be almost exclusively climbing. The trail is well maintained, but contains many sections of stone steps – laid out like a staircase – which make the going at times difficult, especially if wet. These ledges require you to take massive steps, which at elevation can be difficult.
The trail continues all the way to the basecamp, however some people choose to stop the trek or take a full rest day at Machhapuchhre Base Camp, only a couple hours short of Annapurna. We think this is unbelievable, as the scenery from Annapurna Basecamp is incredibly awe-inspiring. The basecamp is at the bottom of a 360-degree amphitheater of steep walled mountains. If you want to do a rest day, do it in the sanctuary itself, after all there are several teahouses right there! Note that anywhere beyond and including Machhapuchhre is extremely cold. Bring a few extra down layers to keep you toasty in the evenings.
From your teahouse you will get unbelievable views to the summit of 8,000 meter peaks, with glimmering snow and beautifully jagged rock. It is easy to spend hours marveling at the stunning beauty of these serene mountains. Though the area is popular with climbers and trekkers, you will immediately forget anyone is beside you as you get lost in the view.
On the return journey, you will cover ground a lot faster. From the village of Kimche you will have the option of taking a jeep all the way back to Pokhara, which many trekkers chose to do.
Along the trail you will pass through dozens of small villages, all with cute teahouses to stop at for snacks or for a nights rest. None of these hostels accept reservations, which makes skipping the guide and porter a relatively easy option (assuming you don’t mind carrying your clothes). Some teahouses even have WiFi!
You will need to bring your own sleeping bag for the teahouses, and make sure you have a warm one. Especially when you are up high approaching the sanctuary the temperatures really drop! No need to bring a Thermarest or other air mattress as all the teahouses supply a foam mattress.
The teahouses also serve food, and supply almost all your meals along the trek. They serve pretty basic fair (both traditional and international styles), but they make it fresh when you show up. This means lunch typically takes over an hour, so plan accordingly.
A major concern in any trip to the Himalaya is health. Trekkers should focus on two aspects of health: elevation and stomach bugs.
For many people the elevation will be quite difficult to deal with. Though you may not be covering an immense distance each day, the miles you do feel harder due to the elevation. It is hard to stress how important is it to take time and listen to your body when on this trek. Consider budgeting extra time for the trek so you can hike slowly and not gain too much altitude each day, ideally not more than 300m gain from bed to bed each day. We also recommend going to a doctor before the trek and getting medication for altitude sickness. These drugs only help with symptoms of elevation, and don’t make your body acclimatize faster.
While in Nepal, it is worthwhile to be very careful of what you eat and drink to minimize the chances of stomach problems. We focus on ensuring everything is cooked thoroughly and served very hot and this has worked well in the past for us. We like fresh dal bhat, fried eggs and piping hot french fries. On our last trip to Nepal this is what we ate every day and we didn’t get sick once.
With stunning views, reasonable accommodation and an easy to follow trail, it is pretty difficult not to recommend the Annapurna Basecamp trek. For anyone with an adventurous spirit and an eye for mountains, the week and a half spent on this trek will satisfy and amaze. A fantastic combination of accessibility and beauty!
1. Drive to Phedi and trek to Landrung (1550m)
2. Chomrong (2100m)
3. Himalaya hotel (2850m)
4. Machhapuchhre Base Camp (3700m)
5. Annapuran South Base Camp (4130m) [easy day]
6. Doban (2505m)
8. Kimche then take jeep back to Pokhara