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Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 8 Thorong La Pass

Annapurna circuit trek day 8 Thorang Phedi over Thorung Pass to Muktinath

Thorang La Pass
Thorang La Pass sign


If you missed day 7 of the trek, you can click here.

Getting ready for the pass

Breakfast was ready for us before we woke up.  I awoke to pots and pans being shuffled through like a deck of cards.  I expected a few curse words, but none came.  “Good old Nepal” I thought getting out of bed.  We were crossing Thorang La Pass today and we were already late.

After a delicious bowl of porridge, my guide and I started trekking.  It was dark and snowing.  The snow felt like starch on the ground; it griped your feet like a warm handshake.  A line of lights serpentined below us like a snake slowly inching its way up a hill.  It was 5:30 am and I was happy as a clam.

Be careful if you are hiking at night time.  People on the trail will blind you with their head lamps.  This is infuriating.  Fortunately, I only had to endure it for a short while as the sun began to rise and everyone turned off their lights in exchange for sunglasses.

High Camp and trekking in the snow

It was about this time when we reached High Camp.  High Camp is about a 30-minute hike above Thorang Phedi.  It has a few hotels and a pack station for horses.  Just outside High Camp the trail bends to the left and narrows to a couple of inches above a deep canyon.

Due to the snow blizzard, I could not see further than a couple of yards.  I deduced from the guard rail that it was dangerous and most likely beautiful.  The trail climbed higher and further around the mountain and eventually widened to provide a safe passage.  The parts that I could see were beautiful.  I can only imagine how it must look in clear weather.

Thorang La Pass
Thorang La Pass in the snow

The trail lead to 2 bridges over a dried up or frozen stream bed.  I chose the old bridge for shoots and giggles.  An old man ahead of me, higher up on the trail, knocked over part of a rock wall onto the trail and left it there.

If you are hiking, please be a good steward and leave the trail in the same or better condition for others.

When I arrived at the area I picked up the rocks and re-stacked them as best as my frozen hands would allow.  My hands were stiff and felt like rocks themselves.  I remember thinking, my hands would make a great addition to the wall.  Since I like my hands, I kept them for myself.

After fixing the wall and clearing the trail, I caught up with the man.  He seemed to be struggling with breathing.  I asked him if he was ok and he said to pass him.  I don’t understand how somebody can be so miserable in such a beautiful place.

Thorang La
Thorang La bridge and a disgruntled trekker

We shall pass

I had a slow and steady pace and I was passing people with ease.  I wanted to spend as much time as I could up there, but I also wanted to get out of the storm.  When the weather cleared, it was still beautiful.  Snow and rocks under mountainous peaks.  The only thing that changed was the direction and slope.

There are a few shelters along the path you can rest in.  Be careful about using them, because a lot of people also use them as toilets.  Please do not use the buildings as toilets.

Thorang La Sign
Thorang La Sign thumbs up!

We reached Thorung La Pass at 8:30 am.  I was surprised it only took 3 hours to reach the top.  There is a small tea house at the top.  The price of a cup of tea started at $4 and went all the way up to $6!  I was astonished.  That must be the most expensive cup of tea in the world.

[Note: The world’s most expensive tea is from China.  The tea is called Da Hong Pao tea and has sold for $28,000 for 20 grams.]

I left my gear outside and took a seat in the tea house and watched the people buy cup after cup of this tea.  The baristas refused to clean the cups between patrons, which made me question how hygienic this place was.  I opted out of buying tea in preference of metabolic warmth and hygienic conditions.  Be warned, they do not clean their cups.

When I came out of the tea house one of my trekking poles was missing.  Note keep an eye on your gear.  People can usually be trusted, but not when they want your gear.

The abominable trail down

After a brief rest in the tea house at the top of Thorung La Pass, we started trekking down the mountain.  The trek down was abominable.  Not because the abominable snowman was after me, which he was, but because the trail condition was terrible.

It was like 10,000 old disgruntled men came through and tore up all the rock fences and left the remnants scattered all over the trail.  Other parts of the trail narrowed to microscopic dimensions above a deep canyon.  Be careful when you do this trek.

At one point along the trail, I could not keep my footing; I started slipping uncontrollably.  I turned it into a game and turned myself into a human toboggan.  When I slid past people, I would say “quack quack” in my best penguin impression.  One girl even said look how cool he is.  I tried to keep my composure, but it was too funny.

We reached the bottom of the pass at about 12:00.  It was also the same time it stopped snowing.  I was happy because I had an excuse to do it again and because there were a few restaurants I could order food at.  I ordered French fries and received French fries with bugs cooked in rancid oil.  It was very disappointing.

You can read this article about what to expect before coming to Nepal.

Since I was still hungry, I ate the “food” and moped my way to Muktinath.  Now I know why that old guy was miserable; a cow must have peed in his corn flakes.  It happens more than you might expect.

Muktinath Temples and religious sites

Muktinath from Thorang La trail
Muktinath Village

We reached Muktinath around 2:00.  We stood under Dajong Paldip overlooking the city and the Dhaulagiri Range.  Most of the range was covered by clouds, but we had clear views of the city.  To our lefts were Muktinath Temple, Sarwa Gompa, Vishnu and Jwala Mai Temple, Sarwa Gompa, and Nepal’s largest statue of Buddha.

We decided to take some time and tour the temples and sites.  We first came to a Buddhist monastery, which appeared to be in the process of being built or restored.  It had a beautiful court yard with a giant rock in the center surrounded by cobble stones.

We then followed the pathway down to Muktinath Temple.  It is a 3-tiered temple surrounded by a wall with water spickets pouring glacial water over a metal grate.  Anybody daring or dirty enough to run under the “1,000 water falls” will have their soul cleansed for nirvana.

bull head faucets at muktinath temple
Bull head faucets at Muktinath Temple

There are actually 108 waterspouts at the temple.  They are called muktidhara.  In addition, there are two pools of water called Kunda for submerging your body in.  A person is believed absolved of sins if they circumnavigate around the temple walking under the muktidhara then dipping into the kunda.

From here we passed a smaller temple.  A group of people were crowding around 2 monks lighting a paper fire in a small room.  I did not investigate out of fear of burning alive in a sacrificial religious ceremony I may have happened to walk into.

Next, we came to a large statue of buddha.  It cost over $130,000 and 3 years to carve.  The largest statue of Buddha in Nepal is at the Swoyambunath Temple in Kathmandu.


Finally, we looped around and walked adjacent to prayer wheels mounted in a mani wall.  The trail led us to a path lined by Sahdus with open outstretched palms and collection plates.  For a group of people who have renounced the world and its material positions, they sure get angry when you don’t give them money.

I saw two Sahdus get into a fight over a bottle of water as I was walking away.  I almost laughed because there is temple, 30 yards up the trail, that has 108 water spouts.


As we were walking through the “hall of sahdus” we passed several Indian people going to the temple on horseback.  The temple wasn’t that far from the Muktinath proper; I wondered why they would hire a horse to carry them when they could easily walk.  Maybe it was a religious act or for fun?  If you know pleas tell me in the comments.

The hotel managers were very aggressive in Muktinath.  Most of them wanted to charge for a room and demanded you eat all your meals as well as beverages there.  I chose a nice hotel on the far end of Muktinath, that wasn’t aggressive.  The hotel had very modest accommodations but the food and atmosphere was nice.

You can continue to read about day 9 here.

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Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 7 Thorung Phedi

Annapurna Circuit Tek Day 7 Thorang Phedi

Thorang La Pass
Thorang La Pass sign

Welcome to day 7 of the Annapurna Circuit Trek.  You will read about the some pretty spectacular places in this blog post.  The highlights of this post are the views above Upper Khangsar, an abandoned village, and hiking between Gundang and Syagang on the way to Thorung Phedi.  You will also read about and see pictures of blue sheep rutting, and digging salt.  This was a great day because of the experiences, views, and our proximity from Thorung La pass!  Kick back, relax and get your pin ready.  You will want to pin some of these photos or share them on Instagram.

Waking up in Shree Kharka

Abandoned village and Annapurna 2
Abandoned village and Annapurna 2

My guide and I woke up at 7 and ate breakfast in Shree Kharka.  We were on the trail trekking by 8:00.  The trail led us above Khangsar to an abandoned village with a stupa where we had phenomenal views of the mountains.  We could see Jhomsom Himal, Manaslu, Pisang Peak, Purkung Himal and many other beautiful mountains.  The area smelled fresh and earthy because it was surrounded by juniper bushes and dry grasses.  The entire experience was incredible.  We then hiked down and around a stone wall.  Below us, blue sheep were playing and rutting.

Blue sheep rutting and playing
Blue sheep rutting and playing

The stone wall wrapped around a large pasture area where yaks and horses were grazing.  The trail then began to incline and we came to a view point above Upper Khangsar.  Wow!  We had the most phenomenal views of the Manang Valley and the Annapurna range.  I know I say it a lot but, look! It is just so amazing.  We could also see Gundang and the Chulu Mountain Range (Gunggang Himal) behind us.  Heavy clouds started to come over the Annapurnas so we decided it would be best to make haste and hike to Thorang Phedi.

Annapurna range
Annapurna range

The Hike down from Upper Khangsar was a little steep and slippery because of ice on the trail.  At the bottom of the trail we crossed the Thorung River and started hiking on the other side.  We came to another abandoned village by Ghyanchang.  The Gunggang Himal range was right above it.  Chulu west, central and east could all be seen.  At this Point the sky was getting pretty cloudy and snow was starting to fall in the distance.  We passed Yak Kharka and Ledar opting for the preferred Thorung Phedi.

Getting caught in a snow storm and finding Thorung Phedi

Thorung Phedi was just out of reach when the snow storm caught us.  We had crossed the Thorung River again and entered another landslide area.  This area was a little different then the other landslide areas.  It had large flat boulders strewn along the trail below pinnacles of compressed conglomerate rocks.  The pinnacles almost resembled a castle.  It was very cool to see.    By now, we were under Mt. Syagang but could barley see it because of the snow.  Fortunately the trail was still very visible and we were only 30 minutes away from Thorung Phedi.

Thorung Phedi was crowded when we arrived.  But, I found a little tea house at the top of a hill that had plenty of room.  It also had two trekkers waiting for a helicopter to rescue them from their altitude sickness.  When you trek, be careful and make sure you acclimate properly.  You do not want to ruin a $5,000 vacation because you ascended too fast.  Note: At Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventure, you can do the trek for less than $2,500.  The rooms were nice at the tea house.  They had comfortable beds and electricity.  The toilet was outside and an eastern style squat toilet.  The food was delicious though.

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Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 6 Tilicho Lake Trekking

Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 6 Tilciho Lake Trekking

Thorang La Pass
Thorang La Pass sign


If you missed day 5 you can click here.

Trekking to Tilicho Lake was one of the most rewarding experiences on the Annapurna Circuit Trek.  The hike was a little difficult, but rewarding.  We had beautiful landscape views while Tilicho Lake Trekking.  The landscapes were decorated by snow covered peaks such as Tilicho Peak, Khangsar Kang, Tare Kang, and Om Myurpa.  We could also see Tilicho Lake Base Camp!  When I made it to the highest lake in the world (16,138 ft), I thought I reached the edge of the world.   Come trek to Tilicho Lake with me in this blog post.

Tilicho Lake trekking from Tilicho Base Camp
Tibetan Snowcock

I woke up at 5:30 and started getting ready.  Sun had not risen, but was casting enough light to start trekking without head lamps.  I grabbed my trekking poles and my guide and we were on the Tilicho Lake Trekking trail.  The sunrise came just after 6:00.  Golden arrows shot through the mountain tops and landed as glistening light on the snow.  Om Myurpa was the dominant mountain at the trail head.

The trail became steeper as we walked further.  We eventually came to an area that reminded me of the 99 switchbacks on Mt. Whitney.  At this point on the trail we met a heard of blue sheep and a flock of Tibetan Snowcocks.  It was enjoyable to see the wildlife.  I felt like I belonged up there.  At the top of the switchbacks the view opened up significantly.  We could see Roc Noir and Glacier Dome.  They were covered in blinding white snow.  The snow level was also much deeper at the top of the switchbacks.

We came to a rocky outcrop that presented itself as a viewing platform.  Tilicho Valley was to the north west of us, while the Annapurna ridge line was to the south.  Base Camp was hidden by the hills we crossed over.  As I looked north the only things I could see were Tilicho Peak and a small ridge on my left, a moraine on my right, and the most beautiful sky in front of me.  It looked like the world stopped.  I found the edge of the world!  It was amazing.  I felt like I could jump off and fly off into space.

Tilicho Lake

Tilicho lake
Tilicho lake and Muktinath range in the background.

Fortunately the earth is round and gravity maintains balance.  When I came to the edge, I saw a magnificent Lake covered in snow.  I could see some peaks in the Muktinath mountain range in the distance.  To the right of the lake is Idam Phra, which is nice.  The Tilicho Lake trail continues past the lake, between the mountains and through the Mandala Pass.  An optional route takes you through the Mesokanto La pass.  If you are into trail running, you might want to consider Mandala Pass.

Tilicho Lake stats and information

Tilicho Lake is at an elevation of 16,138 ft.  It is considered the highest lake in the world for its size.  It has a surface area of 1.9 sq miles and holds about 125 acre feet of water, which is about equal to 41,000,000 gallons.  The average depth of the lake is 279 feet.  Tilicho Lake does not have any native fish associated with the lake, but that might change due to an increased interest in stocking the lake as a commercial fishery.  The establishment of a commercial fishery in Tilicho Lake is highly unlikely though.

Tilicho Lake to Shree Kharka

I decided to turn back after 30 minutes of staring at the lake and the surroundings.  The snow was stating to get soft and more and more people were starting to crowd the view point.  We started hiking back down before the snow turned into slush.  I came to an avalanche area that worried me.  We passed it swiftly, but you could see where the snow melt was causing some sloughing.  We made it down to the base camp and had breakfast.

After breakfast we started hiking to Shree Kharka, which is about 3.5 hours from base camp.  We hiked the same trail back, passing the other avalanche areas.  The trail evened out as we got closer to Khangsar.  We came to Hotel Tilicho Peak, which is just before Khangsar.  The rooms were a little below average compared to the other tea houses, but they were nice.  The rooms had exposed electrical wires, but at least they had indoor electricity.

You can continue and read about day 7 of the trek here.

 Additional reading

This article as some good information for continued reading

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Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 4 Khangsar

Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 4 Khangsar

Thorang La Pass
Thorang La Pass sign


If you missed day 3, you can click here.

Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 4 Khangsar was the most memorable day of the trek.  I had an amazing time, because we hiked up to Milarepa cave and had phenomenal views of the Manang valley.  In addition, we saw Annapurna 2 and 4 at superb vantage points.  We could see from Lamjung Himal all the way to Tilicho peak, which is where we are headed to next.  Kick back, relax and get out your pins, because you are going to want to pin this post to your Pinterest.

Hiking to Milarepa cave

annapurna 3
Annapurna 3

We woke up at 6:30 and started walking to Milarepa cave.  The morning air was crisp and cool.  It stung our noses as we inhaled.  Our fast pace left heavy foot prints on the trail and dense clouds of exhaled air floating behind us.  The trail head was a half hour walk toward Mugie.  We passed Braga gompa and a pasture with grazing yaks.  The sound of the yak bells rang loud like tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture.  We crossed the Marsyangdi Nadi river, crossed a pasture, and started our ascend up Annapurna 4.

After 20 minutes of hiking we could see Pisang Peak, Tilicho Peak, Manaslu, Lamjung Himal, and Thorong Peak in the distance.  We could see most of the valley, which was becoming increasingly smaller.  Braga gompa stuck out among the villages and trees.  We continued climbing through a thick pine forest and snow.  In addition to the wonderful views, we found the ruins of an old village along the trail.  It was cast aside in favor of less remote locations.  Furthermore, just past the ruins was a desolate stupa in the middle of the forest.

It was at this time that we began to see deer and sheep tracks in the snow.  I was so excited.  Unfortunately, we did not see any today.  We did however, see Annapurna 2 and Annapurna 4 as we came to a clearing.  They seemed to jump out at us saying “surprise!”  The mountains were so close, I thought we could summit them and be back in time for dinner.

Milarepa Cave

Milarepa Cave
Entrance to Milarepa Cave

Some people believe Milarepa was a witch who went to the cave to practice black magic.  Other people believe he was a saint, because he had the power to transform hearts.  This song, Song to the Hunter , is an example of changing an evil person into a good person.   I could not find any hints as to which belief is correct.  However, I did find a beautiful area with more fantastic views of the Annapurna mountains.

The cave was locked when I visited.  The monk with the key stays at the cave in fall.  If you want to see inside the cave, you will have to visit from October to December.  I do not think there is much to see inside the cave.  There is a lot more to see outside the cave, which is where I spent all of my time.  There is a stupa further up the mountain.  It takes 1 hour to get there, but you have a phenomenal view of Annapurnna 2 and 4 when you arrive.

Returning to Manang and checking out

The majority of the trail coming down was slippery from the snow melt.  You need to be very careful hiking down.  I highly recommend wearing crampons if you do the hike in the snow.  The views were so spectacular.  After we reached the road side we continued walking towards Manang.  We passed a few groups of people that were eating apple pie.  They should read my blog!  After packing our bags and eating breakfast, I asked for the food bill.  You could imagine my surprise when I received a room bill too.  I asked the owner to remove the fraudulent charges, which he did with a little resentment.

Trek to Khangsar

We finally left the tea house at 12:00.  Only another couple of hours and we will be in Khangsar.  The hike out of Manang was delightful.  The entire way to Khangsar, we had excellent views of Annapurna 2, Annapurna 3, Gangapurna, and Tilicho Peak.  We walked along the river in a dry sparsely forested landscape.  My guide pointed out some blue sheep.  I didn’t get a good look at them so, I’m not counting it.  We crossed Thurong Kola and hiked up a steep ravine.  At the top of the ravine was a plateau where you can see the Marsyandi Nadi river and the Thurong Kola meet.  There are also a few old building that resemble dilapidated castles up there.

We rested and watched other people hike over the bridge and up the ravine.  After a few minutes rest, we started hiking again.  We reached Khangsar at 3:30.  I still had some time, so I hiked to the stupa at the top of Upper Khangsar.  On the way, I ran into a heard of 20 blue sheep.  They were beautiful.  The sheep were digging the soil and eating the salts.  I was able to get surprisingly close to them before they ran away.  I made it to the stupa and took a few pictures.  There is also an abandoned village up there.

When I arrived back at the Maya Hotel & Restaurant, it was time for dinner.  I ordered vegetarian curry and mashed potatoes.  However, I received vegetable soup and mashed potato soup.   I was so disappointed.    Read this article on what to expect before coming to Nepal, so you will not have this happen to you.  Despite this blunder, I had an excellent stay at this tea house.  The owners were fair, and  the rooms were clean.

You can click the link here to read about day 5 of the trek.

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Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 3 Manang Trek

Annapurna Circuit Trek Day 3

Thorang La Pass
Thorang La Pass sign

If you missed Day 2, you can catch it here.  My day 3 Manang trek was amazing.  It was amazing because, the mountains are incredible, the valley landscape is stunning, the temples and monasteries are beautiful, and the wildlife is kind of friendly.  My guide and I hiked for 5 hours.  We stopped in Manang, which is a little cheeky, and rustic.  However, Old Manang on the north end of town is traditional and beautiful.  So, kick back, relax, and join me as I take you around the Annapurna Circuit in this anti-harrowing journey.

Waking up in Upper Pisang

I would be lying if I told you it wasn’t cold.  It was freezing.  Last night, it snowed again.  I was delighted to wake up to a fresh coat of powder and clear views.  I went outside and took a few photos of the landscape.  You could see all the way to Lamjung Himal on the left and Tilicho Peak on the right.  You could see Annapurna 2, Annapurna 4, Gangapurna, and others.  It was essentially the entire massif.

Manaslu and Annapurna 2
Manaslu and Annapurna 2

After breakfast, a delicious meal, my guide and began our Manang trek.  We left at 8:30 and the clouds were already starting to form.  However, I was happy, because my attention was on the landscape in front of us.  The terrain was like a simple melody.  While it was mostly grasslands, there were trees and shrubs that accented the tune.  The climate was charged by cool winds, like the slow entrance of an overture.  The whole movement felt swift and empowered.

We walked for miles in silence.  We passed monasteries on our right while the river gently flowed around its banks on our left.  You could almost feel Buddha and Nirvana (no not the band).  Our silence was interrupted by a wild horse neighing and approaching us.  I greeted the horse with an open palm.  It smelled me, then started nibbling the salt off my hands.  It reminded me of my childhood.

Next, we came to Humde.  It was once a thriving village with an airport that delivered supplies and provided passage.  Due to governmental disagreements, it is now decommissioned.  Humde is at about the halfway mark to Manang.  Walking past it was disappointing because it was a reminder of the corruption within the government.

Annapurna 3
Back side of Annapurna 3 from Ghyaru

Manang Trek

We stopped for lunch in Bhraka.  It is also called Braga, and Brathang.  This place has a huge apple orchard and processing facility.  Coming into it, you walk through a corridor-like passage with bamboo fencing on both sides.  The whole scheme is to keep people from going into the orchard and picking fruit.  Somebody should tell them they can make a lot more money by charging for the fruit that visitors pick.

The apple season is in October, which aligns perfectly with the peak trekking season.  If you go, be careful of tainted apple pies.  When I had lunch, I ordered a slice of apple pie ($1.50).  I asked the waiter if it was hot.  He then proceeded to touch the entire pie and all the other baked goods in the store to show me they were hot.  He then asked me to touch them too.  All it takes is one person with dirty hands to spoil your food and cause you illness.

On the way to Manang, there is a look out post with a lot of kairns.  This is a great spot for pictures.  You can see the entire Annapurna Massif from here.  There is also a tea shop nearby.

As we entered the Manang valley we could see antiquitous monasteries, ancient cave dwellings, and beautiful mountain views.  We passed yak pastures with shrines in the center, and signs advertising Ice Lake and Milarepa Cave.  As we hiked next to the Marsyangdi Nadi river,  we passed Braga and Bojo gompas.  Finally, we were in Manang.

Hotel in Manang

Gangapurna Lake and roof tops in old Manang
Gangapurna Lake from the roof tops of Manang

My guide picked the tea house in Manang.  It was an ok place.  The rooms were a little small but had a charging outlet.  There was two western style bathrooms for each floor to share.  Also, the rooms were a little dirty with wrinkled sheets.  The beds had a slanted head rest, like a demanding pillow.  The room reminded me of a grungy dungeon with a charging outlet.

The best part about the room was its price, because it was free!  The food was ok, and the people were nice.  I was happy here.  I unpacked my gear and ventured into old Manang.

Old Manang is on the north end of the village.  It is full of collapsed mud buildings and animal shelters.  If you hike to the end of the village you can see Gangapurna Lake.  If you have an extra hour to spare, you can hike down to the lake.  You can also have great views of the lake by climbing up the east end of the village.  The locals are friendly, but some of them might call you names.

There is also a check point in the center of Manang.  A very nice woman was there when I checked in.  the building has a ton of information about things to do and see in Manang.  There is also a clean water drinking station, and a museum next to the check point.  The clean water drinking station charges $0.8 to fill a liter bottle.

Fast forward to next day…

The following morning, I asked to pay for my bill.  The hotel owner tried to charge me for the room and double charge me for dinner.  I lost all respect for him.  I know we all make mistakes, but this is becoming a common theme on the trek.  Make sure you check you bill before you pay.  Check the item prices and the items. To find out how the rest of the day proceeded, you can click here to read about day 4 of the trek.


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How to prepare for the Annapurna Circuit

Annapurna Circuit Preparations

Thorang La Pass
Thorang La Pass sign

The Annapurna Circuit is one of the most trekked trails in Nepal. Because of its popularity, you can find a plethora of information about it.  This blog post is part of a series that takes you along on the Annapurna Circuit Trek.  In this post, you will learn about Annapurna Circuit preparation activities.  You will also find out the actual cost of the trek.   In addition, You can see a trekking map, elevation map, packing list, an itinerary, and the distance covered on the trail.  Let’s get started with a packing list, and pre-trip preparations.


You can access a comprehensive guide to the Annapurna Circuit on my blog post “Everything you want to know about the Annapurna Circuit.”

Pre-trip Annapurna Circuit preparation

Before you go, you will need to buy a TIMS Card.  Most of you will buy a green card (Registration Card for Individual Trekkers) for $20.  Some of you will buy a blue card (Registration Card for Group Trekkers), which is normally $10.  You can buy your card through Upper Himalayan Treks and Adventures or by visiting the Department of Immigration’s office in Pokhara.  You will also need to buy an entrance ticket; proceeds will go to the National Trust For Nature Conservation and costs just $22.6

Packing list

Ok, you’re all set and ready to go? Not yet,  you need to pack first silly.  The following list is the ultimate Annapurna Circuit trek packing list.  And by ultimate, I mean practical and light weight.

  • 12 pairs of socks (you have to keep your feet in good condition)
  • 1 underwear
  • thermals (top and bottom)
  • trekking pants
  • hiking shoes
  • athletic shirt
  • hat
  • cold weather jacket
  • sun glasses
  • sun screen
  • positive attitude

I would also recommend a tooth brush, tooth paste, and toilet paper.  You will not need a sleeping bag. You will only need one extra change of clothes as there is laundry service on the trail.  There are also tepid water heaters for showers, but it’s your call.

Your pack shouldn’t be more than 20 pounds.  You should also secure a guide, and porter for your trip.  This is especially true if you want to go on the side trails, which I highly recommend.  Believe me, your knees will thank you for keeping your pack weight down.

When to trek the Annapurna Circuit

Rhododendron Flowers
Rhododendron tree on Poon Hill

Go in late March, or early April because, this is the best time to visit.  Small crowds, wonderful weather, and beautiful rhododendron flowers make mid-spring the best time to go.  The rhododendrons are better seen from Ghoripani and Poon Hill, which you can do as a side trek to the circuit.

You will also see some really wonderful blooms in Chame.  This leads me into where to start the circuit.

Where to start the Circuit

Most people trek the Annapurna Circuit in a counter clockwise direction because it is easier to acclimate.  Most start trekking from Besishahar, which I do not recommend. Instead, you can start trekking from Chame which is about 63 miles further up the circuit.  While far, this can ultimately be worth it. If you trek from Besishahar, you will walk in clouds of dust as you follow vehicle traffic all the way to Chame.  However, if you start the trek from Chame you will not have to breath as much dust since there will only be a few cars that can kick it up.

If you climb in an anti clockwise direction, your daily elevation gain might cause you altitude sickness.  But, if you go slowly, it shouldn’t be a problem.  If you go counter clockwise, you will want to start trekking near Tatopani.  This way you can visit Poon Hill and see some amazing landscapes along the way.  If you want to start the trek at the very beginning, you will start in Nayapul.  And if you don’t want to start in Nayapul or Tatopani, you can to start near Jhomsom or Kagbeni.

Tomorrow, we start the trek!

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Everything You Wanted to Know About The Annapurna Circuit Trek

Annapurna Circuit Trek

Thorang La Pass
Thorang La Pass sign

The Annapurna Circuit Trek, sometimes referred to as ACT, is the primary destination for many international tourists.  According to Nepal’s Immigration Board, the Annapurna Massif is the 2nd most popular destination for foreigners entering the country.  Chitwan National Park is the most visited area outside of Kathmandu.  In this blog post I will answer all your burning questions about the Annapurna Circuit Trek, including when is the best time to go?  Annapurna Circuit cost?  Do I need a guide?  And many other questions.  This post contains a lot of pictures.

Kick back, relax, and get out your note pad and pencil, because you are going to want to take notes! Or at least copy and paste.

When is the best time to trek the Annapurna Circuit?

Most people do the trek in late September through early December (fall season).  The month of October is considered the “best time” by many to take the trek. In addition, other people often prefer the spring season of February through April which can be a beautiful time of year to make the trek.

For many people the winter season, December through February, is too cold and thus I do not recommend. In contrast, the summer season, June through August, is considered too hot and dangerous.

Fall Season

September through December is the “best time” to trek Annapurna.  It is characterized by clear and phenomenal mountain views, fresh apples, and hoards of trekkers.  This is the most popular time to visit Nepal.  The temperatures or the region are pleasant.

During this time Tilicho Lake (2 to 3-day side trek off the main path) is not frozen and covered under snow.  In the higher elevations, and late in the season you will encounter colder temperatures.

Spring Season

Annapurna massif
Manang Valley and Annapurna 2

February through April is the “2nd best time” to trek Annapurna.  You will likely have great, although sometimes a little hazy, mountain views.  You will also have opportunities to see the rhododendron forests during bloom in April.  For the best rhododendron blooms, go on a side trip to Poon Hill.

During the spring season the temperatures range from slightly chilly in February to mildly humid and warm in April.  In April, you can also expect sporadic evening rain showers.

Winter Season

If I wasn’t so fond of the rhododendron blooms, this would be my favorite time to trek Annapurna.  Its cold enough to trek without sweating, and there are fewer people to contend with when you are trying to find a room at a tea house or take the perfect picture.  The winter season is from December through February.  The conditions can be a little hazy to cloudy at times, but you shouldn’t have any difficulty getting some remarkable views.

You can expect the nights to be cold.  You may want to pack a sleeping bag for this season (remember that this will be extra weight on your pack), or you can ask the tea house staff for an extra blanket or two.

Summer Season

The summer season is the worst time to visit Nepal and trek.  The Annapurna region does not receive as much rain as other areas, but it still receives a lot.  Summers, June through September, are hot, humid and wet.  Many landslides and car accidents occur during the summer season making it the most dangerous time to travel.  I do not recommend visiting Nepal in the summer unless you want to see amazing rain storms, visit the pristine high mountain lakes or Upper-Dolpo or Mustang.

How Much Does the Annapurna Circuit Trek Cost?

Annapurna circuit trek menu
The cost of common food items

The cost of the Annapurna Circuit Trek depends on your itinerary, how much food are you going to be eating, price of a guide, and price of a porter.  I will answer each circumstance independently.  The absolute minimum amount of money you can do the trek with is currently $32.  This fee covers your Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS) Card, and the entrance fee for the Annapurna Conservation Area.

If you are planning on staying in the tea houses and eating in restaurants the price is going to be much higher than the price quoted above.  Most restaurants will let you stay for free if you buy all your food from them.  Be careful though, because some of the tea houses will still charge you for your room.  The cost of your trip also depends on where you start trekking from.  The Itinerary below is for the complete circuit.  There is also an option to start your trek in Chame and end it in Jomsom.

Annapurna Circuit Trek Itinerary

Day 01: Start trek in Bessisahar and trek to Bhulbule. 2,756 ft, 03 hrs

Day 02: Trek to Ghermu. 3,707 ft, 06 hrs

Day 03: Trek to Tal. 5,577 ft, 05 hrs

Day 04: Trek to Chame. 8,695 ft, 07 hrs

Day 05: Trek to Upper Pisang. 10,892 ft, 05 hrs

Day 06: Trek to Manang village. 11,550 ft, 06 hrs

Day 07: Acclimate in Manang and go on local hikes.

Day 08: Trek to Yak Kharka. 13,238 ft, 04 hrs

Day 09: Trek to Thorong High Camp. 15,000 ft, 04 hrs

Day 10: Cross Thorong-La (17,769 ft) and trek to Muktinath. 12,172, 07 hrs

Day 11: Trek to Jomsom. 9,000 ft, 8 hrs

Day 12: Trek to Marpha. 8,694, 04 hrs

Day 13: Trek to Lete. 7,381 ft, 06 hrs

Day 14: Trek to Larjung. 8,392 ft, 4 hrs

Day 15: Trek to Ghasa. 6,594 ft, 06 hrs

Day 15: Trek to Tatopani. 3,904 ft,05 hrs

Day 16: Finish the trek to Nayapul (3,510 ft, 7 hrs) and be chauffeured to Pokhara.

Rooms can range in price from free to $5.  I didn’t find any rooms more than $5 or less than $2.  You will find the price of a plate of lentils and rice to range from $5 to $8.  For the most part the price is consistent at $5.  The price of a complete trek lasting 16 days is about $350.  This price only includes tea house accommodations and food.

Guides and Porters

You probably want a guide and porter too.  The Annapurna trek trail is well defined.  You can easily find your way without a guide.  If you want to go on the side trails, you will also want a guide.  A guide’s fee is normally $20 or $25 per day.  It depends on the guide and the season.

I highly recommend a porter.  They are cheaper than knee surgery, and less painful than a sprained ankle.  A porter’s fee is normally $15 to $20 per day.  This price depends on how heavy your pack is and the season.

Annapurna Circuit Chame to Jomsom

The 10-day Annapurna Trek is also available.  It takes a little over half the time of the complete trek and you don’t have to inhale a lung full of dust each time a car passes you.  This section of the trail doesn’t have cars.  There will be motorcycles though.  A private jeep from Besi Shahar to Chame will cost about $25 to $30.  At the end of your trek you can take a bus from Jomsom to Nayapul for about $8.  You can also take a private jeep for about $20.  All other expenses on the trek are the same.

Do you need a guide and porter?

Short answer is no.  The trail is easily navigated without the assistance of a guide.  If you are going on any of the side trails, like Tilicho Lake, Gangapurna Lake, Ice Lake, Milarepa Cave, and Guru Sangpo Cave, you will want a guide. You can follow these links for more information on lakes and Pokhara Caves in Nepal.

The side trails are marked with blue and white paint.  The side trails are also called New Annapurna Trekking Trails (NATT).  There is a greater probability of getting lost or injured on these trails then on the main trail, which is marked by red and white paint.

Guides provide an excellent service.  They can tell you which mountains you are looking at, the elevation of the mountains, the best places to spend the night, the amount of time it takes to get from one location to another and are essentially a knowledge bank for you on your journey.  They can also help you if you are injured.  In addition, some insurance carriers will not pay for your medical evacuation if you do not have a guide.  So no, while you do not need a guide it is better if you have one.

I also highly recommend hiring a porter.  They will help you keep your pack weight off you body.  This can save your hips, knees and ankles from a painful injury.  You are also less likely to get altitude sickness if you do not over exert yourself.  Porters are also inexpensive.

How many miles is the Annapurna Circuit trek?

The complete circuit stretches from Bessisahar to Nayaphul.  It is 145 miles long.  The abbreviated trek from Chame to Jomsom is 52 miles.  NOTE that these distances do not account for altitude gains and losses.  The actual distance traveled will most certainly be longer.

Food and Calories on the Annapurna Circuit Trek

Walking 145 miles is no easy task.  Especially when you are climbing mountains and carrying a pack.  You can expect to burn about 440 calories per hour hiking.  This equates to about 3,500 calories burned per day.  There are 204 calories in one cup of cooked rice and 230 calories in one cup of lentils.  If you eat two plates of rice per day, you are losing about 2,632 calories or 0.74 lbs of body fat.  I lost about 25 pounds while trekking for 36 days.

In my opinion, most of the food being served up in the tea houses is not appealing.  Dishes that are called “lasagna” are noodles with ketchup.  “Pancakes” are doughy blends of wheat flower and water.  “Pizzas” are bread with ketchup and cheese.  At some point in my travels I gave up trying unknown menu items and stuck to ‘lentils and rice’.  At least you can have free refills when you order this dish.  You can follow this link to read my blog post on what to expect before coming to Nepal.

How many people visit the Annapurna Conservation Area each year?

In 2016 83,419 people entered the Annapurna Conservation Area.  In 2012 102,570 people visited Annapurna.  The quantity increased to 113,213 in 2013.  The number of visitors increased again in 2014 to 124,998 people.  In 2015 the number of tourists entering the area declined to 114,418 visitors.  It declined further in 2016 to 83,419.  There was a period of decline in tourism primarily due to the May 2015 earthquake that devastated Nepal.  It could also be due to the construction of roads in the Annapurna Conservation Area, which makes trekking uncomfortable. However, tourism has since started to pick up with visitors in the Annapurna Conservation Area was 144,409 in 2017. Those numbers continued to increase in 2018.

Annapurna Circuit Trek VisitorsThe average number of visitors entering the area by month

The highest point on the trail

The highest point along the trail is located along the Thorung La Pass at 17,769 ft.  The elevation at the start of the trail in Bessishahar is 2,756.  The trail’s incline is gradual, however, the elevation gain of the trail is dependent on starting and stopping points.  It averages about 1,500 feet elevation gain every day until you get to Thorung La Pass.  The slope coming down from the pass is steeper.  The average elevation loss per day is 1,782 feet.

It is for this reason, that people prefer to trek the Annapurna Circuit counter clock-wise because of the gradual elevation gain.  Hiking this direction allows people to acclimate easier.  You can also hike the circuit in a clock-wise direction but your elevation gain per day will be greater.  Hiking in this direction will make it difficult for you to acclimate.

What are some good side treks?

Milarepa Cave
Entrance to Milarepa Cave

Going on the side trails are what makes your trek unique and different from everyone else.  You can have a completely different experience than anybody else just by following the blue and white markings.  Be careful though.  Some of the side trails can take you deep into some heavily forested areas that can be treacherous at times.  If you do go on the side trails, it is highly recommended that you take a guide and/or at least a hiking partner with you.

Tilicho Lake

Tilicho Lake is a phenomenal side trek I highly recommend.  The lake has a surface elevation of 16,138 feet.  It has a surface area of 1.9 square miles.  The lake is surrounded by mountain peaks and blue sky.  In the spring and winter, the lake is still frozen and under a couple feet of snow.  In the fall and summer, the lake is turquoise blue and beautiful.

Tilicho lake
Tilicho lake

Milarepa Cave

There are 2 different Milarepa Caves.  One is in Tibet and the other is on the Annapurna Circuit just below Annapurna 3.  Saint Milarepa, a Tibetan monk, came to the cave to meditate.  While he was meditating a hunter found him.  Saint Milarepa noticed the hunter and began to talk to him.  After talking the hunter hung up his bow, broke his arrows, and became a disciple of Milarepa.  There is a famous Nepali song that commemorates the event

Milarepa Cave is closed in the winter and spring.  You can still visit it when it is closed, but you will not be able to go inside the cave.  The views you will receive at the cave are worth the 3-hour hike off the main trail.  You will be a stone’s throw from the summit of both Annapurna 2 and Annapurna 4.  You can see the valley below and the monastery in Ghyaru, Pisang Peak, and mountains Kangaru and Runam.

Gangapurna Lake

Gangapurna Lake is a small lake outside the village of Manang.  It was created by a glacier and is dammed by a glacier moraine.  You can see it from the northern edge of Manang and coming down from ice lake.  The hike down to the waters edge takes 1 hour.  At the lake there is a tea house you can stay at.  This is a great hike if you have a few hours of down time.

Ice Lake

It takes 5 hours to get to Ice Lake from Manang.  It is a strenuous hike that climbs over 3,000 feet above Manang.  The trail leads you to a plateau that looks out on Annapurna 3, Gangapurna, and Tilicho Peak.  This is an excellent side trek if you are staying in Manang and need to acclimate.

Completing the circuit

Before you complete the circuit, you will be very close to Annapurna Base Camp, and Poon Hill.  I highly recommend visiting both areas.  Be warned, in the busy season they are full of people!  It is best to go during the spring season when the rhododendrons are blooming in April.  You will not have the best weather and you won’t have to fight with people for your views.

Poon Hill

Rhododendron Flowers
Rhododendron tree on Poon Hill

Poon Hill is a 1-day hike off the main road from Tatopani.  You will hike through some villages and an old growth grove of rhododendron trees before arriving at Ghorepani.  You can visit Poon Hill on the same day if you have some extra time.  It takes about 1 to 2 hours to get there.  If you go after the sunrise you will not have to pay a fee.  You will probably want to visit Poon Hill in the morning to get the clearest views and to see the sunrise.  It costs about $0.5 to enter the area.

Annapurna Base Camp (ABC)

Annapurna Base Camp is a little further off the main trail.  The trail head is near Ghorepani.  From Ghorepani you can trek to Annapurna Base Camp in 8-days.  The trek down takes 3-days.  The trail is sometimes inaccessible in the winter due to snow.  You can see Machhapurchhre, Mardi Himal, Annapurna 3, Annapurna 1, Bharha Chuli (Fang), Annapurna South, and many other marvelous peaks while hiking to ABC.

Annapurna Pictures

Annapurna massif
Manang Valley and Annapurna 2




Map of the Annapurna Circuit
Annapurna Circuit Trek Map
Annapurnan 3
Annapurna 3

Other questions, comments, or concerns?

If you have any questions about the Annapurna circuit that you would like me to answer, please let me know in the comments.  Label it with a #badass if you read all the way to the end.

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