Annapurna Circuit Trek - 16 Days: One of the Classic Treks in Nepal

One of the classic treks in Nepal, this popular route takes you all the way from subtropical jungle to high-altitude plateau, culminating in Thorung La at 5418m.

Highlights

  • Descend into one of the deepest gorge's in the world - the Kali Gandhaki
  • Reach 5418m over Thorung La, the highest point of the trek
  • Take a side trip to Tilicho, a high-altitude lake at 4915m
  • Veer off into the remote valleys of Nar & Phu
  • Customize this trek in a variety of ways to match your interests

Overview

Fast facts
Min. duration 16 days
Max. elevation 5416m (Thorung La)
Start/finish Bhulbule/Tatopani
Difficulty Challenging
Trek style Teahouse

Known as one of the most diverse treks in Nepal, the Annapurna Circuit ascends 4622m before dropping down onto a high-altitude plateau that takes you south along the Kali Gandkhi river valley. Road construction has changed the nature of this trek over the years (pushing as far north as Muktinath in the west and Manang in the east), but it still remains a beautiful trek that can be done in many different ways - from a short 9-day itinerary to a month-long journey around the entire Annapurna massif.

Muktinath
The village of Muktinath (3670m)
Thorung La
Looking west from Thorung La (5418m)
Trekking between Muktinath and Jomsom
Hiking between Muktinath and Jomsom
Village of Marpha
Village of Marpha (2630m)

Brief Itinerary

From Pokhara, you'll take either private jeep or public transport to Besisahar, from where you officially start your trek.

Day Destination Altitude Duration
Day 1 Bhulbule 819m 2.5-3 hours
Day 2 Ghermu 1156m 5-6 hours
Day 3 Tal 1670m 5-6 hours
Day 4 Chame 2700m 6.5-7.5 hours
Day 5 Upper Pisang 3316m 4-5 hours
Day 6 Manang 3537m 6-7 hours
Day 7 Manang 3537m acclimatization day
Day 8 Letdar 4230m 3.5-4.5 hours
Day 9 Thorung Phedi 4534m 2 hours
Day 10 Muktinath (via Thorung La, 5418m) 3671m 6-8 hours
Day 11 Kagbeni 2850m 2.5-3 hours
Day 12 Jomsom 2750m 2.5-3.5 hours
Day 13 Marpha 2670m 1.5 hours
Day 14 Larjung 2558m 3-4 hours
Day 15 Ghasa 2114m 5-6 hours
Day 16 Tatopani 1250m 4.5-5.5 hours

Best Season

Generally, the best (and busiest) time to trek the Annapurna Circuit is the spring and the fall, although a shortened itinerary (focusing on the norther, drier region of the circuit) is a great option during the monsoon. It's only during the winter that causes issues as Thorung La pass if often closed due to snow.

Accessing this Trek

The safest direction to complete this trek us counter-clockwise, which allows for gradual acclimatization as you make your way toward Thorung La. Traditionally, the route starts in Besisahar and ends in Tatopani, but road construction has opened up a number of options at both the beginning and end of your trek On the.

Road construction

Over the past few years, road construction has made much of the western and eastern sections of the Annapurna Circuit accessible by bus and jeep. The roads are bumpy dirt tracks, at best, but many trekkers now opt for shorter version of this trek by starting farther up the valley (3-4 days into the traditional route) and ending even as early as Jomsom (then taking a bus to Beni or flying to Pokhara).

Kali Gandakhi Valley
Looking north up the Kali Gandakhi valley toward Tatopani, with the road heading toward Jomsom on the left

Permits & Regulations

If you're trekking in the Annapurna region, you'll need to purchase a TIMS card ($10) and an Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP) ($20 USD) before you go. There will be multiple checkpoints along the way where you'll need to show these.

Accommodation & Meals

As with other treks in Nepal, teahouses are available along the entire Annapurna Circuit, and all your meals, snacks and water can be purchased along the way.

Variations to this trek

There are a variety of ways to do this trek, a few of which are listed below.

Tilicho lake
Tilicho lake (4915m), accessed via a 3-day side-trip from the village of Manang

A shortened version

Given the road construction, this trek can now be done is as few as 8-9 days by starting as far north as Manang (3537m) and ending as early as Muktinath. If you decide to shave off the initial days of the trek, be sure to follow a proper acclimatization schedule before you attempt to cross Thorung La pass.

The 'full' Annapurna Circuit

From Tatopani (Day 16), you can continue east by following the local village trails along the Ghorepani trekking route, to Ghandruk, and finally ending in Nayapul from where you can take a jeep or bus back to Pokhara. This adds an extra 4-5 days onto your trek. If time is not an issue, you can even consider continuing farther to Annapurna Base Camp.

Including Nar Phu Valley

These two remote valleys of the Annapurna region are a great way to experience a desert-like landscape of Upper Mustang without paying for the $500 permit. From Kota Uppar (Day 3 of the Annapurna Circuit), branch north up the valley toward the villages of Nar and Phu. It's possible to complete a small circuit and link back up to the Annapurna Circuit by crossing the Kang La (5300m) and re-connecting at Humde.