WHEN TO GO?
Oct-Nov: This the peak trekking season for good reason. The skies are clear & fresh, the mountain views are superb, the weather is warm & sunny and the countryside is still a lush green from the monsoon. However, the popular trekking trails can become crowded highways and rooms in tea houses can quickly fill up by late afternoon.
Dec-Feb: Trekking over winter in Nepal is possible on many routes; however, some passes like Thorong La can be blocked by snow. The mountain views are perfect due to clear days and nights in the dry season. Temperatures can drop well below zero during the night at altitudes above 2,000m so be prepared with thermals, gloves and a warm sleeping bag.
Mar-Apr: As the weather warms up clouds start to appear & there can be sudden severe storms. However, the huge rhododendron forests in the Annapurna region are in full bloom and they provide a beautiful foreground to the snowy peaks. Trekking crowds are less in this season but by May it is hot and dusty at lower altitudes.
Jun-Sep: During the monsoon the trekking trails become wet and slippery. Landslides can occur where earth has been disturbed but trekking is still possible and very beautiful if you can brave the humidity at the lower altitudes! Trekking in Mustang and Dolpo is best at this time due to the warm, dry weather as the regions are blocked from the monsoon rains by the Himalayas.
There are many treks all over the Annapurna Region lasting from a few days to several weeks. The most popular trails have tea house accommodation along the way (approx. Rs100-300 per person) while camping is the only possibility on remote treks.
Poon Hill: The Poon Hill trek is the most popular trek for those wanting a short introduction to trekking. Passing through scenic Gurung villages and large rhododendron forests this trek offers spectacular views of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri ranges, especially at Poon Hill at sunrise.
Length: 4-7 days
Max. Altitude: 3,190m
Mardi Himal: As a relatively new trek, the route to Mardi Himal Base Camp is not only quiet and empty of trekkers but also more adventurous & close to nature as the small path winds through huge forests up onto a ridge bordered by rhododendron forests. There is tea house accommodation until High Camp, which sits directly below Machhapuchhre. The trek to Mardi Himal Base Camp is best done as a day trip starting early in the morning for a stunning sunrise.
Length: 4-7 days
Max. Altitude: 4,500m
Annapurna Sanctuary/Base Camp:
This trek is the most popular medium length trek in the Annapurnas. You can vary the route of the trek, either making a circuit including both ABC and Poon Hill or returning down the other side of the valley from Chromrong. The highlight of the trek is being surrounded by giant peaks including Annapurna I (8,091m), Annapurna South and Machhapuchhre at ABC.
Length: 7-12 days
Max. Altitude: 4,130m
Jomsom & Muktinath: The route up the Kali Gandaki River initially passes through terraced hills, Gurung villages and Poon Hill before entering the desert-like landscape of Mustang as you come to Muktinath, an important pilgrimage town for both Hindus and Buddhists and then onto Jomsom. There are several options for day hikes around this area & from Jomsom there are 20 minute flights to Pokhara or jeeps (then buses) to Pokhara. The easier option is to do this trek in reverse.
Length: 8-12 days
Max. Altitude: 3,802m
Annapurna Circuit: The Annapurna Circuit is regarded as one of the best treks in the world. A wonderful mixture of incredible mountain scenery and culture, the 3 week circuit passes through diverse Nepali villages and crosses the Thorong La pass. There is also the option to spend a few extra days trekking to the picturesque Tilicho Lake (4,919m), one of thehighest lakes in the world.
Length: approx. 3 weeks
Difficulty: Moderate – Hard
Max Altitude: 5,416m
Every trekker requires 2 permits to trek in the Annapurna Region: the ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Permit) and TIMS card (Trekker’s Information Management System).
ACAP: Rs2,000 + 1 passport photo
Blue TIMS Card: For trekkers accompanied by a guide. US$10 + 1 passport photo
Green TIMS Card: For trekkers without a guide. US$20 + 2 passport photos*
Every trekking agency can organise your permits for you in just a couple of hours for a small fee or you can visit the offices located in Damside.
A Nepali trekking guide manages everything for his clients on a trek, from transportation to/from the trek to food & drinks, nightly accommodation and porters. All trained, experienced guides should speak English well and be able to explain the local culture and mountain scenery that you pass through on your trek. It is not necessary* in the Annapurna Region to take a guide with you; however, if you are trekking in the peak season or in a large group guides are particularly useful when it comes to getting a place to sleep! Guides cost from US$25 per day, which covers their food and accommodation too.
Porters can be hired to carry your bags throughout your trek and usually one porter will carry the bags of two people. Generally porters do not speak English, but an increasing number do and they are known as porter/guides. If you choose to hire porters, ensure that they have adequate clothing and footwear for the trek you are to undertake. Regular porters cost between US$10 – $20 per day, including food & accommodation.
Independent trekking does not mean trekking solo, but trekking without a guide or not being a part of an organised tour. Before you set off, it is important to buy a map of your trek in any bookshop in Lakeside & to educate yourself about the route, altitudes & safety precautions of the trek you will be doing. When trekking independently you have a lot more freedom to choose the pace of your trek and the tea houses where you sleep; however, your safety is your responsibility. Food prices are standardised & fixed in a particular region but room prices are negotiable, especially in the low seasons when there is less competition for the bed!
Head Torch: For trips in the night to the outdoor toilet & around the tea house
Gloves & Beanie: From October until April night and early mornings can be very cold at high altitude and heat is lost most quickly through your hands, head and feet.
Sleeping Bag: Blankets are provided by tea houses; however, there can be shortages in peak season and in winter you’d need several to keep warm in the chilly rooms.
Sunglasses & Sunream: At high altitude the air is thinner & the sun is stronger and there is always the chance of snow.
Small First Aid Kit: Plasters, Ibuprofen, antiseptic & Imodium
Thermals: Nights are cold from October to April above 2,000m
Quick-dry T-shirts: Cotton t-shirts stay wet with sweat for a long time making you cold during breaks.
Water Bottle: Although you can buy plastic bottled water at every tea house in the Annapurnas, it is not good for the environment as most of it ends up littering the mountains or being burnt. Filtered drinking water to refill your water bottle is available at many tea houses for a small charge per litre.
Quick-Dry Towel: In case there is an opportunity for a hot shower after a hard day’s trek!
Money: There are no ATMs in the Annapurna Region (except one in Jomsom) so bring all the money you will need for your trek & transportation plus some extra in case of emergency. Independent trekkers can count approx. Rs1,500 – Rs2,000 per day for food & accommodation (more when you drink alcohol)
Map: Essential for independent trekkers as it shows where there are tea houses, medical facilities, altitudes & the route of your trek.
Soap: Most tea houses do not provide soap in their bathrooms.
Wet Wipes: When a shower is not possible then these are the next best thing!
* Since the recent tragedy in the Annapurnas, there is a push to make trekking with a guide compulsory in the Annapurna region or parts of. The information here is correct as of October 2014 but is subject to change regarding independent trekking & the green TIMS card.