Annapurna Circuit Itinerary: Complete Day by Day Trekking Guide

A path winding up a mountain side towards colourful flags with snow-capped peaks in the distance

The Annapurna Circuit Trek is considered one of the best long-distance treks in the world and for good reason. Famous for its stunning scenery, traditional villages and a chance to see some of the world’s highest mountains, it really has it all. Trekking its length is an adventure of a lifetime and provides a challenge of crossing one of the highest mountain passes in the world. Having successfully hiked it in 2019, I can safely say that it was one of my favourite travel experiences, period. Read on for my full Annapurna Circuit itinerary including my experiences, tips and advice for every stage of this incredible trek.

What is the Annapurna Circuit Trek?

The Annapurna Circuit Trek (or ACT) is a hiking trail in the Annapurna Conservation Area in Nepal. It’s considered one of the best long-distance treks in the world and famous for its stunning scenery. Its full length is around 230 km but the distance can vary depending on start/end points and whether any transportation is used.

It’s a teahouse trek which means that trekkers stay in basic teahouses (or guesthouses) along the trek’s route. Generally speaking, teahouses offer modest rooms, basic facilities and simple meals. However, the popularity of the Annapurna Circuit has seen teahouses along this trek improve in quality. You can now routinely find accommodation with western-style toilets, hot showers and extensive food menus. This makes the trek even more accessible, especially for first-timers.

The most popular route is to start in Besisahar or Bhulbhule and finish in Jomsom. Most travellers opt to take a short flight from Jomsom to Pokhara (around 15 minutes) instead of hiking the rest of the way (around six days). Being a completionist, you can guess which option I went for! Or just read on to find out…

With the road now running all the way to Manang, it is technically possible to skip up to five days of the circuit and start the trek from one of the many villages along the route. If you are desperately short on time, this is something to keep in mind. However, those that take this option will be missing out on some stunning scenery and excellent trekking.

Annapurna Circuit Trek in numbers

Location: Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal

Trek Duration: 10 -17 days depending on route.

Distance: 170-230km. This varies depending on start/end points, route and any optional treks.  

Highest Point: Thorang-La Pass – 5416m (17,769ft)

A hiker leaning on the Annapurna Conservation Area sign near the start of the Annapurna Circuit
Starting the trek and entering the Annapurna Conservation Area

Trekking the Annapurna Circuit independently vs with a guide

The Annapurna Circuit can be tackled easily without any support. The trails are well-marked, guesthouses are plentiful and most people complete the trek without any issues. There are, however, advantages to having a guide and/or porter with you.

Local guides know the trails better than anyone and can provide additional insight. They can point out notable mountains, find alternative trails and provide context to what you’re seeing. They also know the best guesthouses, places to have lunch and can adjust the itinerary depending on your needs, physical capability etc. We wouldn’t have been able to stay at Tilicho Hotel in Manang, for example, without our guide booking us a place in advance. A good guide can also help if you are suffering from symptoms of altitude sickness and spot more serious forms of it. Expect to pay around $15-$20 a day for a good guide. This price can be split between multiple people. It’s important to remember that this figure is just an estimation. Different guides may offer packages specific to certain treks. Always negotiate in advance to avoid confusion!

If you are looking to trek the Annapurna Circuit or any other trek in Nepal with a guide, I would highly recommend Dipak Khadka. He was our guide for the full 17 days of the trek and was an invaluable part of the team. His trekking experience and knowledge of Nepal is vast and I wouldn’t hesitate to use his services again! To check his availability, email him at dipak.khadka04@gmail.com

Trekking the Annapurna Circuit Independently

+ Cheaper

+ Total freedom

+ Can feel more of an adventure/accomplishment

– Have to make all decisions on accommodation/lunch stops.

– Unfamiliarity with trails, terrain, weather can lead to delays

– Have to be completely self-reliant

Trekking the Annapurna Circuit with a guide

+ Extensive knowledge of the trails, accommodation, weather patterns etc

+ Guide handles all logistics while on the trek

+ Enriches your experience of the trek

+ Can help adjust the itinerary to your needs

+ Guide fees benefit local economy

– More expensive

A porter can be hired to lighten your load by carrying your luggage, leaving you to enjoy the trek. Many trekkers employ porters on the trail – again expect to pay around $15-$20 a day. We didn’t use porters, instead leaving any unnecessary luggage in Kathmandu.

Complete Day by Day Annapurna Circuit Itinerary – 17 Days

One of the reasons this trek is so popular is it’s very easy to tailor to your fitness level, interests and available time. Ever since I decided to do the Annapurna Circuit, I knew I wanted to tackle the entire length of the trek.  Luckily I was able to find some travel companions who wanted to do the same. Here is my complete Annapurna Circuit itinerary based on starting the trek in Besisahar and finishing in Nayapul. This itinerary takes 17 days to complete but can be shortened on extended depending on time constraints, fitness and any side trips.

Day 1 – Kathmandu/Pokhara to Besisahar/Bhulbhule

Starting from Kathmandu

There are daily bus departures from Kathmandu to Besisahar, the starting point of the trek. Buses leave from Gongabu Bus Park, a station around 2.5km north of Thamel (30-45 mins walking) but are often parked a few minutes’ walk away on the Ring Road, outside BG Mall. Bear this in mind if buying tickets from the bus station – someone will usually point you in the right direction.

The journey time can be anything from 6 to 10 hours depending on traffic, road conditions and number of stops. Predicting journey times in Nepal can be a frustrating exercise – schedules are subject to changes and cancellations so it’s worth checking the latest information through a tour company or your accommodation. Our trip took seven hours – which included bathroom breaks and stops for breakfast and snacks. The buses are relatively comfortable but only some roads are paved and tend to zigzag a lot so brace yourself for a bumpy ride.

Be prepared to hold anything from chickens and bags to children during the journey.

English isn’t widely spoken and the place can be a little overwhelming so consider using a tour company to book your tickets. All of our travel arrangements were handled by Adventure Metro Everest Travel and Treks Ltd, a company I can personally vouch for (it belongs to a friend of a friend of a friend but they were fantastic). They offer tours, treks, packages, bus tickets and much much  more. 

People waiting outside a parked Nepalese bus with words "tourist" and "deluxe" written on it
This was considered a “VIP” bus.

Starting from Pokhara

Buses depart from Pokhara’s Tourist Bus Park a couple of times a day. Again, check for the latest schedules. There are many tour agencies in Pokhara that sell bus tickets and from my experience, they tend to all be priced very similarly (I checked with a few agencies who all gave me the same price).

The journey time is around 4-5 hours. Alternatively, there are more frequent buses to Dumre from where you can catch a local bus or a jeep to Besisahar.

Arriving in Besisahar

Most bus routes will terminate at Besisahar. You can either start trekking from here or take another bus or jeep to Bhulbhule. Whichever option you pick, the route is exactly the same for both cars and trekkers. It’s 9km between the two villages – around 1.5 hours walking or 30 minutes by road.

Besisahar is the largest village until Manang so it’s sensible to make any final preparations for your trek here.

  • Make sure to use the ATM. There are at least a couple in town, about 5-10 minutes walk back from where the buses drop off. Ensure you have enough cash for accommodation, meals, alcohol, any guide/porter fees (If you are using their services) and for snacks and souvenirs. The next reliable ATMs are in Manang which you probably won’t reach until Day 6 so budget accordingly!
  • Ensure you have your TIMS card and ACAP permit. While I would always recommend to sort these at the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) in Kathmandu, they’re possible to acquire in Besisahar. The offices are also on the main road where the buses stop, close to the edge of the town. Unfortunately I don’t know whether the prices are different to Kathmandu, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you pay more here.
  • Grab lunch before setting off. By the time we got to our guesthouse in Bhulbhule, it was too early for dinner so make sure you fill up before the start of the trek.
  • Buy any snacks/gear/toiletries that you may have forgotten to get in Kathmandu. While most guesthouses sell cookies, chocolate and potato crisps/chips, the prices will increase the higher you trek.
  • Fill your water bottle. I strongly recommend using a refillable bottle and treating water as you go. Plastic is a big problem in the Annapurna Conservation Area so taking steps to minimise waste definitely helps. Make sure to drink at least four litres a day!

Besisahar to Bhulbhule

Once ready, you can head out of Besisahar along the dusty road to Bhulbhule. The road is wide and easy to follow without any major elevation changes making it an easy introduction to the trek. It runs along a small river and offers some nice views of the valley and the surrounding landscape. Eventually we reached an ACA checkpoint where you need to register your permit. It’s also a great photo opp with a big “Welcome to Annapurna Conservation Area” sign and some ice cold drinks from the fridge! We continued on our way as the path snaked through the valley before arriving to our guesthouse in Bhulbhule in late afternoon.

Notes:

  • If walking this section seems daunting, there are buses and jeeps that can take you to Bhulbhule and beyond. However, after a seven hour bus ride, walking seemed like a blessing!

Accommodation: Thorang La Guesthouse. Our first guesthouse of the trek was basic but comfortable. While the showers lacked hot water, we had a western toilet – not to be taken for granted on any trek in Nepal! The food was fine and meals were served on outdoor tables in the shade. There is a good mix of Western and Nepalese options on offer.

For a more detailed account of the Kathmandu to Besisahar to Bhulbhule section of the Annapurna Circuit itinerary, click that link!

Hikers walking along an unpaved path between Besisahar and Bhulbhule with mountains in the background
Walking to Bhulbule

Day Two – Bhulbhule to Jagat

Bhulbhule (840m) – Bahundanda (1310m) – Ghermu (1130m) – Jagat (1300m)

Distance: 16km

Time: 7 hrs 35 minutes (08:15 – 15:50)

While you could consider the previous day as “easing in” to the trek, there are no such luxuries on day two! We set off after breakfast and crossed the suspension bridge across the river. Here, we followed the road, passing a waterfall and the village of Ngadi. We also walked past a hydropower station, which our guide told us are an important source of energy in Nepal.

At this point most vehicles take the route on the left bank of the river while we followed the red and white markers indicating the main Annapurna Circuit trail. Seeing these means you’re always on the right track. You’ll also sometimes come across blue and white markers – these show alternative routes or side trips.

We followed the trekking route which started heading gradually up. As we climbed higher, beautiful views of the valley, river and the surrounding mountains opened up. We passed corn fields and terraces, with locals tending to crops and working in nearby villages. The next section is a bit tougher as the path zigzags up the hillside as it climbs towards Bahundanda.

Bahundanda (1310m) is a logical place to stop for a quick break. There are a few guesthouses and shops selling snacks and drinks. It’s actually the highest point of the day’s trekking but it doesn’t mean things get easy afterwards!

After leaving Bahundanda, the upper trail takes a scenic route through fields, villages and more rugged terrain. You can see the road hugging the cliffside on the other side of the river. Taking the walking route is way more picturesque and also offers some shade from the sun while the road is exposed to the elements.

The path zigzags up and down for a while until you reach Ghermu. This is where we stopped for lunch at Rainbow Restaurant. It had a spacious outdoor seating area and offered spectacular views of the Syange waterfall across the river. After Ghermu it’s possible to continue avoiding the road by following the blue/white markers to Jagat but we opted to rejoin the road. The walking trail is significantly longer (7km+ vs 4km) and steeper than the road section and it really depends on how much time you have and where you are stopping for the night.

Following the road, we took a punishing “shortcut” via a steep stair section (it’s signposted by red/white markers) but other than that it’s a pretty uneventful hour and a bit of walking to Jagat.

This is one of the longer days on the trek. Staying in Ghermu is one alternative to going all the way to Jagat.

Notes:

  • From Bhulbhule to Ngadi, you are following the road. There is no alternative
  • Take the walking route whenever possible. It’s more challenging than the road but the views are beautiful and it’s quieter.
  • The walking trail from Ghermu to Jagat adds around 3km and around an hour of walking time. It has tough, steep sections. Consider this when planning your day

Accommodation: Paradise Hotel, Jagat. A nice guesthouse, which backs out onto a spacious area overlooked by a cliff. It has chickens and goats roaming around and has a homely feel. One of the best showers of the trek but no western toilet. Extensive food menu (everything was delicious) and a comfortable hanging out area. There is wifi in the main area but may not reach some of the further rooms.

For a more detailed account of the Bhulbhule to Jagat section of the Annapurna Circuit itinerary, click that link!

Hikers walking past green fields near village of Ghermu as part of the Annapurna Circuit itinerary
The green landscape outside the village of Ghermu

Day Three – Jagat to Dharapani

Jagat (1300m) – Chyamche (1430m) – Tal (1700m) – Dharapani (1860m)

Distance: 15km

Time: 7 hrs 19 minutes (08:03 – 15:22)

Today, the trail mostly follows the river with the walking trail running along the right bank and the road along the left. Soon after leaving Jagat there is a short section that avoids the road by heading up a load of steps. It takes you high above the river and has some great views. The steps are steep and if you want an easy start to the day, this isn’t it! It only takes about 20 minutes though.

After passing some impressive waterfalls, we reached Chyamche but didn’t stop. Just after the village, there is a suspension bridge – the walking trail continues across the river and you can stay off the road for the rest of the day. The trail threads its way under huge boulders and past more waterfalls. The spectacular verdant landscape was not something that we associated with the Annapurna Circuit and we took time to take in the views as the path climbed higher above the river.

There is some stunning scenery along the way as well as chances to spot wildlife and local livestock among the green foliage. We arrived at the village of Tal late morning and had a long lunch. After Tal, the trail continues along the river, at times barely squeezing in between the water and the cliffs.

The next few hours involved walking in the rain that pounded us and even washed out sections of the road. We crossed the river a couple of times, switching between walking on the road and back along the trail. Eventually, we arrived at Dharapani and at our guesthouse for the evening. There is an ACAP checkpoint in Dharapani so make sure to check in with the authorities.

Notes:

  • The scenery is at its best between Chyamche and Tal – look out for waterfalls, incredible rock formations and some precipitous drops!
  • There is a small teashop just a few minutes’ walk from the gate welcoming you to Tal/Manang District. The views are great.
  • If you have time once at Dharapani, cross the river to a small village of Thonche. It’s quiet, has a beautiful mani wall and is great place to just stand and listen to the rushing Dudh Khola river.

Accommodation: 3 Sister Guesthouse. It’s on the edge of town, past the ACAP checkpoint and right by the path to the suspension bridge that leads to Thonche. It wasn’t spectacular. Squat toilets but hot showers are available.

For a more detailed account of the Jagat to Dharapani section of the Annapurna Circuit itinerary, click that link!

Hikers following a narrow trail between a rushing river and a cliff
The trail squeezes between the river and imposing cliffs near the village of Karte

Day Four – Dharapani to Chame

Dharapani (1860m) – Timang (2750m) – Koto (2600m) – Chame (2670m)

Distance: 15km

Time: 4 hrs 30 mins (07:30 – 12:00)

If you haven’t yet done so, check in at the ACAP checkpoint before continuing. You have a few options at the very start of the day. Follow the road, take the blue/white marked route through Odar or cross the river and follow the walking trail through Thonche. I did the latter even though it can be easy to miss this section. Look out for the Lapke Pass arrow at the side of a purple guesthouse or just find the suspension bridge at the edge of the village. Then follow the familiar red/white markers.

The trail crosses back and rejoins the road at Bagarchhap. After passing a small waterfall by the road, the trail leaves the road and heads up a steep stair section. You’ll be gaining a lot of the day’s elevation over the next hour or so – around 600 metres. It makes sense to pace yourself and take breaks. The winding path eventually leads to Timang, set amidst beautiful scenery. The area is almost Alpine in its appearance. It’s a good place for a break even though I pushed on straight on towards Chame.

After Timang, the walking gets easier. You are mostly following the road all the way to Chame but it meanders through pine forests, past waterfalls and through villages so I didn’t mind it. There are a couple of sections where it veers off the road to wind down needle-covered forest paths.

There is a checkpoint in the village of Koto but aside from that there’s not much point in lingering. Chame is only a short distance away and it makes sense to just push on. After arriving to Chame, we spent the rest of the day relaxing. It’s a good opportunity to catch up on chores or pick up supplies.

Notes:

  • It’s a beautiful day’s walking with stunning scenery. Look out for the Alpine-like meadows and cows with huge bells in Timang. Pine forests are a constant feature and there are many glimpses of snow-covered peaks
  • Chame is one of the bigger villages between the start of the trek and Manang and provides a good opportunity to stock up on snacks, medicines, gear etc.
  • There is a hot spring in town – it’s a little less exciting than it sounds (it’s a small manmade pool) but is easy enough to check out if you have time.
  • I had lunch at Hotel New Shangri-La in Chame. They do delicious apple pie!

Accommodation: New Tibet Hotel & RestaurantJust after the bridge on the way out of Chame. Spacious dining/social area, hot gas showers, western toilets and good food. There is a rooftop for relaxing on when the weather is good.

For a more detailed account of the Dharapani to Chame section of the Annapurna Circuit itinerary, click that link!

Steps hewn into the mountain side overlooking mountains near the village of Timang
Steps climbing precariously towards Timang

Day Five – Chame to Lower Pisang

Chame (2670m) – Bhratang (2850m) – Dhukur Pokhari (3240m) – Lower Pisang (3200m)

Distance: 15km

Time: 3 hrs 50 minutes (08:03 – 11:53)

After looking for some supplies first thing, we set off from Chame along with many other trekkers. It’s a popular place to spend the night so if you want to avoid the crowds, an early start is important. Most of the day’s trail follows the road but the views more than make up for it. Everyone was in an upbeat mood – apart from a group of mountain bikers who were trying to cycle uphill. Rather them than us! After just over an hour we arrived in Bhratang. Incredibly, it was home to an apple farm which had its own café, accommodation and even a sauna! We tried the freshly squeezed juice in the glorious sunshine. It’s also a good spot to refill water bottles.

Pushing on, we continued on the road until we reached a bridge. The trail immediately climbed sharply up through a pine forest. Again our surroundings reminded us more of Europe or North America than Nepal! We continued the climb until the path evened out near the village of Dhukur Pokhari. There are a few guesthouses around and many stop for a break but we pushed on.

The path headed down into the valley as we followed signs for Lower Pisang. We passed lakes, grass fields and snow-covered slopes as the river meandered between Lower and Upper Pisang. We reached our guesthouse before midday giving us time to take an acclimatisation walk to Upper Pisang. There are stunning views of the area from the viewpoint at the monastery above the traditional village.

Notes:

  • Lower Pisang (3200m) and Upper Pisang (3300m) are first places where it’s possible to start experiencing altitude sickness symptoms. Bear this in mind when deciding where to sleep. An acclimatisation walk to around 100 metres above where you are spending the night is recommended from here on until the pass.
  • Upper Pisang is quite traditional so worth exploring if you have time.
  • The next day is one of the toughest and longest. Rest up today!

Accommodation: Eco Cottage Lodge & Restaurant. We spent a lot of our day here due to arriving early. The food was good – from delicious noodles and Tibetan bread for lunch to pizza and garlic soup for dinner. There were some electricity problems so we kept losing power and access to wifi but that’s quite normal for the area. There is a gas shower – we just needed to ask the owners to turn it on. Blankets are available if needed.

For a more detailed account of the Chame to Lower Pisang section of the Annapurna Circuit itinerary, click that link!

Hikers walking up a path towards Upper Pisang village with stone houses nestled on top of one another
Heading up to explore Upper Pisang

Day Six – Lower Pisang to Manang

Lower Pisang (3200m) – Ghyaru (3730m) – Ngawal (3660m) – Braga (3439m) – Manang (3540m)

Distance: 22km

Time: 8 hrs 20 minutes (07:45 –16:05)

There is an important decision to make at the start of the day. There are two available routes to Manang from Lower Pisang which differ significantly in difficulty. It’s possible to follow the road all the way to Manang – an easy and quick walk of around 3 to 4 hours. The longer, more challenging way is to follow the trekking route through Ghyaru and Ngawal which will take closer to 6-7 hours.

I’ll be honest – the trekking route is one of the tougher days on the whole trek but it also offers hands down some of the most incredible views you’ll get on the Annapurna Circuit. The trekking route also reaches the altitude of around 3700 metres so altitude sickness is also a possibility. If you are feeling good and have no issues with fitness, I would definitely recommend the trekking route. In the worst-case scenario, the next day is an acclimatisation day so you can get some rest in. We chose the trekking route. If you do decide to go by road, it’s a very straightforward walk to Manang and you can’t get lost.

We headed out of Lower Pisang and followed the trail, stopping to take photos of the incredible scenery. It was a clear day and we could see Annapurna II (7937m) with its distinctive face. We passed a long mani wall (on the left as you’re supposed to according to Buddhist beliefs) and took a break. The next section is one of the toughest of the day. The climb to Ghyaru is long, steep and difficult. Switchbacks zig-zag all the way up to the village and the morning sun didn’t make it any easier. It’s all worth it though as once you reach Ghyaru, you will be treated to some of the best views of the entire trek.

Ghyaru is a popular spot for a break and there will be loads of trekkers taking a time out, snacking and posing for photos. After leaving the village, the trail climbs up towards a pass marking the day’s highest point but it’s a steadier incline than this morning. This is another great place to stop and take in the views. It’s hard to pick where to look – from Annapurna II and surrounding peaks in the distance to the sprawling valley below and forest-covered slopes, the scenery is spectacular.

From here on in, it’s a long but relatively straightforward walk all the way to Manang. First, the trail winds through Ngawal, a small village that’s an ideal lunch stop. Afterwards, the path heads through the forest before you rejoin the road near Braga. Unfortunately I wasn’t concentrating on the surroundings too much as I was feeling sick so the whole Ngawal – Braga section was a bit of a blur.

Some trekkers choose to stop for the day at Braga but we decided to continue to Manang which is about 3 kilometres away. That sounds easy but today is one of the longest and toughest days of the trek and so even this pretty flat section is a challenge. I do think making that final push to Manang is worth it though. It’s one of the biggest towns on the trek and has some of the best facilities on this side of the pass. Not to mention coffee. Yes, real machine-brewed coffee. I can see you running to Manang as we speak!

Notes:

  • Majority of the day’s elevation gain is from the steep climb from the mani wall to Ghyaru. Take care, drink plenty of water and take time to rest afterwards. I started feeling the symptoms of ALS after Ghyaru and it wasn’t a pleasant second half of the day.
  • The views are some of the best of the entire trek. Don’t rush and take time to enjoy the stunning scenery.
  • At 22km, this could very well be the longest day of the trek (it was ours). Some trekkers choose to stop and stay in Braga
  • If you need to do laundry, make sure to do it as soon as you arrive in Manang as it can take up to 24 hours

Accommodation: Tilicho Hotel. Easily our favourite place on the entire circuit. Spacious and comfortable rooms, western toilets, hot showers and cosy hang out spaces. The food is tasty (try the Yak Burger!) and there is a good selection of drinks at the bar. Now for the best part. Tilicho Hotel has an in-house bakery and coffee shop. One that serves REAL, freshly-brewed coffee from an actual machine. The delicious cakes and pastries are some of the freshest and delicious that I’ve ever tasted too. It’s all very affordable too considering where you are. Oh and you don’t need to be staying at Tilicho Hotel to enjoy the coffee/bakery either! Which is handy as the place is very popular and can get booked up.

For a more detailed account of the Lower Pisang to Manang section of the Annapurna Circuit itinerary, click that link!

A landscape view of Annapurna II peak and forest-covered mountain slopes from Ghyaru
Views of the valley and the Annapurna II in the background. Not sure which peak? Look out for that face on the mountain!

Day Seven – Manang Acclimatisation Day – Day Hike to Ice Lake

Manang (3540m) – Ice Lake (4600m)

Distance: 16km return

Time: 6 hrs 45 minutes (08:15 – 15:00)

Getting an acclimatisation day in Manang is very important even if you don’t feel any symptoms of altitude sickness. It can hit people at different altitudes so you might feel fine at 3500m but start feeling sick at 4000m. At this point of the trek, it’s all about preparing yourself for the crossing of Thorong-La Pass (5416m). With an almost 2000m altitude gain over the next three days of hiking, it’s vital to prepare your mind and body as well as possible.

  • There is a choice of day hikes that will further help with acclimatisation, including a tough 7-hour return trip to the Ice Lake (Kicho Tal). Read on for my experience of this hike!
  • If you particularly flush with time (and fitness), you can attempt a 3-4 return day hike to Tilicho Lake.
  • If that all sounds like too much hard work, you can spend your day hanging out in Manang resting and preparing for the rest of the trek. There are a few shops where you can pick up gear, provisions and anything you may be missing (I got some much-needed sunglasses).
  • Make sure to attend a useful talk at the Manang Clinic (3pm daily) where volunteer doctors explain altitude sickness, its symptoms and how to prevent and combat it. We found it super useful! You can also check your blood oxygen levels, stock up on meds and talk to the doctors.
  • There is also a cinema that has daily film screenings, cafes and places to get your laundry done.

Since we are clearly gluttons for punishment, we set off for the Ice Lake after breakfast. It – or rather, they (turns out there are two of them) – lie at 4600m so it’s a big 1100m elevation gain. This technically goes against the concept of a “rest day” but the hike definitely helped us acclimatise. Taking the road back to Braga, we eventually headed up along the zigzagging path above the village. There are some sweeping views of the mountains across the valley.

The higher we got, the more snow we started noticing. The path got pretty slippery at times and we were lucky not to tumble down the mountain a few times. There is a small tea house on the way which makes for a perfect place to take a break. Eventually, the path reaches the shores of the lake. It did turn out that there are, in fact, two lakes here. The first one, Lower Ice Lake is about a hundred meters lower than the Upper Ice Lake. Both are definitely worth checking out.

It’s a long, knee-busting but ultimately not-too-taxing descent back down the mountain and Manang. There is still plenty of time to relax and do chores in the afternoon/evening.

Notes:

  • Your body knows best. If you feel that you need a day to recuperate, skip the hike and relax. I would still recommend some light walking to 100-200 metres higher than where you will spend the night.
  • Your shopping options become extremely limited (not to mention, pricey) from here until Mukhtinath. Make sure to stock up on anything you may need for the next 3 days.
  • Did I mention the coffee and bakery at Tilicho Hotel? Yes, yes I did. You can literally enjoy it for the whole day if you wanted to…

Accommodation: Tilicho Hotel

For a more detailed account of the Manang Acclimatisation Day section of the Annapurna Circuit itinerary, click that link!

A lone hiker walking across the Ice Lake surrounded by mountains near Manang
A lone walker crossing the Ice Lake during an acclimatisation walk from Manang

Day Eight – Manang to Yak Kharka

Manang (3540m) – Ghusang (3950m) – Yak Kharka (4100m)

Distance: 10.8km

Time: 3 hrs 41 minutes (08:30 – 12:11)

It’s time to hit the trail again! Today isn’t a super tough day but most of the elevation gain comes in the first half of the walk. Soon after leaving Manang you can finally wave goodbye to the road – for now. For the next three days it’s just the trekkers with no motorised vehicle access. A big sign makes a point to encourage visitors to enjoy the trekking in peace and we were only too happy to oblige. As if you weren’t already, today is a great day for enjoying the views – the scenery is incredible as the trail heads higher and higher.

We passed yaks grazing on the mountain slopes, goat herds and mule trains – our kind of traffic! The walk to Ghunsang is most challenging with around a 400 metre elevation gain. Once in Ghunsang, there is a café with some rooftop seats for enjoying the views. It’s a good chance for a bathroom break and to refill water bottles.

The trail continues to weave its way up with spectacular views of snow-capped peaks in the distance. After Ghunsang it levels out and while there are usual ups and downs, it’s a fairly easy walk all the way to Yak Kharka. The path is pretty narrow in places so take care when passing/being passed and give way to mules and yaks.

We arrived in Yak Kharka just after midday and had a lengthy lunch at our guesthouse. We were staying at the edge of the village, a little higher than most other guesthouses. Afterwards, we took our now customary acclimatisation walk. It was an easy stroll to Ledar and back. Some people prefer to spend the night there but we were trying to stick to not gaining more than 500 or so metres elevation a day.

After coming back to Yak Kharka, we spent the rest of the day playing cards, drinking tea, eating and keeping warm by the oven. There were quite a few other trekkers staying here and the place had a social atmosphere. It ended up being one of the most fun evenings of the trek!

Notes:

  • You may spot more animals than usual today. Aside from yaks, mules and rodents keep an eye out for eagles circling majestically above.
  • Take the time to enjoy those views!

Accommodation: Himalayan View Hotel. Located a little higher than the rest of Yak Kharka, it’s on the way to Ledar. It has an extensive food menu but only bucket showers.

For a more detailed account of the Manang to Yak Kharka section of the Annapurna Circuit itinerary, click that link!

A hiker posing for a photo on the Annapurna Circuit Trek trail between Manang and Yak Kharka
Taking a break from walking to take some photos among the stunning scenery on the way to Yak Kharka

Day Nine – Yak Kharka to Thorong Phedi

Yak Kharka (4100m) – Ledar (4200m) – Deurali Tea House (4440m) – Thorong Phedi (4450m)

Distance: 6.5km

Time: 2 hrs 25 minutes (08:32 – 10:57)

There are two options for today’s trekking. You can either have a pretty short day and only walk as far as Thorong Phedi (4450m) or head all the way up to High Camp (4880m). The issue isn’t the distance between the two – it’s only about 1 km and 1.5 hours walking – but the altitude. You would be going above the recommended 500 metres a day elevation gain and regardless of the option you choose, it will be the highest you will sleep on the Annapurna Circuit. If you manage to get any sleep that is! At these altitudes you are only getting around 55% of oxygen you would get at sea level.

So, even though on paper, today’s walking isn’t super tough, you will get tired quicker than usual which is important to keep in mind. Next day is summit day – you will be crossing the Thorong La Pass – and where you stay will also determine how long your day will be and how early you will start.

We decided to stay at Thorong Phedi to avoid spending the night at almost 4900m. We set off from Yak Kharka and retraced yesterday’s acclimatisation walk to Ledar. Following the river for a while, we crossed yet another suspension bridge. After a tough climb, we reached a small tea hut where everyone takes a breather from the challenging section. You can buy snacks and water here if need be.

Not long before reaching Phedi, we came across a sign warning trekkers of landslides in the area. Sure enough, we soon came up behind a queue of people. Turns out rocks were falling from the top, narrowly missing hikers. The danger here is quite real as a guy in front of us told stories of people getting injured on the trek due to falling rocks.

We negotiated the 40 or so metre section thanks to local guides and porters who kept a lookout and signalled when it was safe to cross. They told us to run as fast as we could. I can’t say I’ve ever tried running at 4500m with two backpacks on but I know that I’ve never been that out of breath before!

Safely through, we reached Thorong Phedi and dropped our bags. We did our usual acclimatisation walk, climbing around halfway to High Camp before heading down. There are two guesthouses here and Thorong Base Camp Lodge has a bakery and a spacious dining and social area. That’s where we spent most of the day – eating cinnamon rolls, drinking tea and hanging out with other trekkers.

We decided that we would set off from Thorong Phedi at 4 am to try and beat the masses departing from High Camp before sunrise. That meant a 3 am wake-up call so an early night was definitely in order.

Notes:

  • It may seem like a tough call on whether to stay in Thorong Phedi or head to High Camp. Honestly, it felt like a 50-50 split from observing people today in terms of who stayed and who continued up. For us it came down to not wanting an 800m elevation gain at this altitude in one day. On the other hand, summit day is a VERY long day when starting from Thorong Phedi.
  • The café and bakery at Thorong Base Camp Lodge is a fun way to spend your time in Thorong Phedi.
  • Make sure that you prepare for summit day tonight. Fumbling around in the middle of the night isn’t practical especially on very little sleep! You’ll thank yourself later!

Accommodation: Hotel New Phedi. It’s located just above the Thorong Base Camp Lodge and its bakery and is a separate guesthouse. While you can use the bakery all day long, remember that if you have negotiated a free stay in a guesthouse, you will need to order dinner and breakfast at your accommodation. As we stayed at New Phedi, we needed to head back there for dinner.

For a more detailed account of the Yak Kharka to Thorong Phedi section of the Annapurna Circuit itinerary, click that link!

Hikers resting on stones overlooking snow covered mountains of the Annapurna Conservation Area
Having a breather after a tough climb

Day Ten – Thorong Phedi – Thorang-La Pass – Muktinath

Thorong Phedi (4450m) – High Camp (4880m) – Thorang-La Pass (5416m) – Muktinath (3670m)

Distance: 15.1 km

Time: 8 hrs 28 minutes (04:00 – 12:28)

Well, here it was! Today was the day we would finally be attempting to cross Thorong-La Pass. At 5416m, it’s one of the highest navigable passes in the world. Our alarms went promptly went off at 3am and we hauled ourselves out of bed for what would be one of the longest days on the trail.

After breakfast, armed with headtorches, we were the first group to leave Thorong Phedi for the long climb to High Camp. It was just after 4am. It can be slow going following others in the dark so if you want to avoid people, be prepared to set that alarm! Since we didn’t have anyone in front of us, we reached High Camp in just 50 minutes. Average advertised time is around 1.5 hours.

After a quick stop at High Camp to use the facilities, we started making our final ascent to Thorong-La. The first section is a single-file affair so you’re only going as fast as the person in front. There are limited opportunities to pass people. After crossing a steel bridge, the trail opens up a bit more and people tend to spread out a bit.

The trail was covered in snow but it wasn’t too slippery and was relatively easy to navigate. It’s marked by yellow/white metal poles and flags. The sun was only just beginning to come up and cover the mountain tops in its glow. It may have been a cold morning but at 5000 metres the sun’s rays are pretty strong. I went ahead of my group as I had a lot of energy this morning and wanted to get to the pass as quickly as possible.

I still felt like there was a while to go but after coming over a small hill, I suddenly saw loads of prayer flags in front of me. Just like that I was at Thorong-La Pass! The feeling was incredible, and I was ecstatic to be there after all the effort on the trek. It took around 1hr 50 mins to summit from High Camp and 2hrs 40 mins from Thorong Phedi (a break in High Camp aside).

Remarkably, there is a small tea hut at the top selling steaming mugs of hot tea, snacks and yak cheese! Eventually, more and more people started to arrive including my group. We embraced and congratulated each other on our achievement. There was an incredible feeling of camaraderie and accomplishment in the air as we all laughed and celebrated with all the other trekkers we’ve spent the last few days with. It will definitely go down as one of my most special memories ever.

After gaining over almost a 1000m in just a few hours, it was time to descend down to Muktinath – a whopping 1700m lower than the summit! It’s a knee-busting, slippery, in parts icy, in parts muddy and overall pretty arduous descent. Others may disagree but I would take going uphill over downhill any day!

There are a few places to stop for breaks/snacks. The path eventually becomes flatter and easier to follow but after a long day, it’s still important to watch your step. The landscape also changed dramatically. Small villages pockmarked the reddish mountain slopes – in stark contrast to the snow-capped peaks towering around them.

Eventually we arrived in Muktinath – a bustling town that’s also an important Hindu pilgrimage site. There are loads of guesthouses, shops and cafes in town so there are plenty of opportunities to reward yourself for today’s achievements!

Notes:

  • Start early if you want to avoid crowds and queues. This means 4 am from Thorong Phedi or 5am from High Camp.
  • This is the hardest day of the trek and you might need to give yourself a mental push. But the hard part is almost done!
  • The scenery throughout the day is pretty special. Enjoy the trekking as it’s one of the most rewarding days on the Annapurna Circuit
  • Muktinath is technically the name of the temple which draws all the pilgrims. The village that you are staying in is called Ranipauwa. However, locals and tourists alike refer to it as Muktinath so don’t worry about it!
  • You can visit the temple as well as the Buddhist monastery at the other end of town.
  • The best place for coffee, delicious food and celebratory drinks is Hotel Bob Marley.

Accommodation: Royal Mustang Hotel. Located at the far edge of Muktinath/Ranipauwa, this place feels a bit dated but is spacious and comfortable. Hot showers are a big plus but there are no Western toilets. There is a coffee machine in the cafe and the food is pretty good too.

For a more detailed account of the Thorong Phedi to Muktinath via Thorang-La Pass section of the Annapurna Circuit itinerary, click that link!

A man stands with raised arms behind a sign for Thorang La Pass, the highest point and a highlight of the Annapurna Circuit itinerary
The highest point of the trek – Thorang La Pass (5416m). This was an incredible day!

Day Eleven – Mukhtinath to Jomsom

Mukhtinath (3670m) – Kagbeni (2810m) – Jomsom (2830m)

Distance: 20.4 km

Time: 7 hrs 11 minutes (08:54 – 16:05)

After a monster day yesterday, you’ve earnt yourself a late start! We certainly did! After fuelling up on coffee and a big breakfast, we continued on to Jomsom. There are a number of routes you can take today. There is a walking trail that goes through Lubra and avoids a big chunk of the road that’s a good option for trekkers. We were particularly keen to check out the village of Kagbeni so our route would take us along the new paved road out of Mukhtinath.

To start the day, we followed a path through small villages, trying to avoid the road for as long as we could. Buses and jeeps ferrying pilgrims were frequent and this was the most traffic we have encountered since starting the trek. For the first hour, however, we passed terraced fields, crossed mountain streams and dodged grazing animals.

After reaching the road we followed it all the way to Kagbeni. The landscape now was so different to previous days – almost desert-like! We reached Kagbeni mid-morning and went for a walk around the village. The highlight was the Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling Monastery. We were lucky to explore the complex and check out the incredible frescoes and artefacts of the old monastery building which is only open on request or on ceremonial days!

Kagbeni itself is a maze of small alleyways lined with stone houses, tiny archways and, interestingly, erotic statues! It’s one of the more traditional villages we have seen so far. At the edge of the village, we got a tantalising glimpse of the Upper Mustang region – which requires special permits to visit. At $500 for a 10-day permit, it’s not cheap. Understandably it’s considered somewhat off-the-beaten-track!

After lunch we continued on to Jomsom. This was probably my least favourite part of the entire Annapurna Circuit Trek. Pretty much the entire walk is along the dusty road or the largely dry riverbed. The road was unpaved and the strong wind continually blew dust in our faces. We had to give way to frequent buses, jeeps and motorbikes – which all blew even more dust in the air.

At one point we had to cross a flooded section which took a while and required us to take off our shoes. After what felt like an absolute eternity, we finally arrived to Jomsom. There is a checkpoint where you go through the usual process of showing your permits. The town is one of the biggest along the Annapurna Circuit and serves as a transport hub. It has its own airport and many choose to end their trek here and take a 15-20 minute flight to Pokhara.

We explored the town a little, had coffee and then caught up with some more people we met on the trail to celebrate the end of their trek. We, on the other hand, still had another six days of trekking to go!

Notes:

  • Jomsom is a bustling town with loads of guesthouses, restaurants and shops. There is even a branch of the popular Himalayan Java Café coffee shop chain. It doubles up as a cool art gallery and live music space too!
  • It’s possible to skip the day’s walking by catching the bus from Muktinath to Jomsom (or even all the way to Tatopani and Pokhara!). Prices start at 400 NRP and go all the way up to 1500 NRP for a bone-crunching and soul-destroying ride to Pokhara.
  • Flights from Jomsom to Pokhara depart daily (multiple departures but always before 10am). Search on Skyscanner or purchase flights direct at https://www.yetiairlines.com/. The standard price seems to be £90/$120/13,300 NPR one way.

Accommodation: Xanadu Guest House. This centrally located guesthouse looks out over the airport so is a great place to stay if you’re taking an early flight. There is a cute coffee shop area, a well-stocked food and book store and a modern washing machine. The rooms are clean and comfortable, there is hot water and western toilets. Food was good and you can watch planes take off and land over the huge breakfast. It’s not the cheapest but definitely worth splashing out.

A paved road leads towards distant mountains near the village of Kagbeni
A paved road leads out of Mukhtinath towards Kagbeni. It’s one of the busier sections of the whole trek in terms of traffic despite this photo!

Day Twelve – Jomsom to Tukuche

Jomsom (2830m) – Marpha (2670m) – Tukuche (2590m)

Distance: 13.05 km

Time: 3 hrs 27 minutes (08:50 – 12:17)

We had a bit of a slow start today. With the hardest part of the trek over we took our time over breakfast and watched the planes and airport activity for a while.

After settling the bill, we took off from Jomsom and made our way along the river to Martha. Once there, we were surprised to find a charming village with traditional stone houses and a monastery overlooking the whole Gandaki River valley. You can climb the steps to the top and there are some great views of the village’s stone-lined rooftops and the fields and mountains beyond. The town is also well-known for its apple orchards and every shop and guesthouse sold dried apples, jams, juice and even brandy made from the fruit.

We left Martha and crossed the bridge, following the trail away from the road. The landscape on this other side was becoming greener and more spectacular by the minute. The path meandered along streams, through forests and across suspension bridges. Snow-covered mountains provided a stunning backdrop. This was all in stark contrast from the more arid landscape that we’ve seen over the last couple of days.

We arrived in Tukuche and dropped our bags at the guesthouse. It was still early so we had lunch before going for a slow walk around the village. There is nothing remarkable about the village but there is a guesthouse with a cool bakery that’s run by a Dutch owner that’s worth checking out!

Notes:

  • It’s possible to cross the river in Jomsom but we would need to double back on ourselves a bit in the morning. Plus, we also wanted to check out Martha as we heard good things about it so were ok to sacrifice some trail time.
  • There are a couple of detours you can do such as a visit to Chhairo – a Tibetan settlement a little away from the trail.
  • If I did the trek again, I would spend more time checking out Martha. It’s a really pretty village with loads of little alleyways and cool spots to explore.

Accommodation: Tukuche Guesthouse. Located near the middle of the village but tucked away on a side street. The place is cosy and has a courtyard for relaxing/eating in. There is a rooftop with good views of the area. Food was good and owners friendly. Rooms are small but comfortable. Hot showers and wifi are available.

Hiker walking past a stone wall on the western side of the Annapurna Circuit Trek
Walking towards Tukuche among fields and apple plantations

Day Thirteen – Tukuche to Ghasa

Tukuche (2590m) – Kalopani (2530m) –Ghasa (2010m)

Distance: Around 20 km (my watch died so not sure of exact distance)

Time: 7 hrs 00 minutes (08:25 – 15:25)

After setting off from Tukuche, we followed the riverbed for a while. There are no safe crossings to the walking trail during certain times of year so we had to follow the road for a bit. You can double-back and head the way you came to the nearest bridge but that will add time to what is already a pretty long day.  We walked past small villages as the path weaved between fields with short stone walls on either side of the path.

Just past Larjung, we reached a section of the river that sprung up in front of us. The road bent around but instead of following it, decided to wade in barefoot. We had to cross a few small channels and the water was absolutely freezing.

Soon after we crossed a suspension bridge and headed back to the hiking trail. This next section is the most pleasant of the day. There are small villages and forested areas overlooking the river. We headed through a dense pine forest before reaching a more open area. Cows grazed in between trees and huge boulders that littered the scene. Mountains provided a familiar backdrop. It was one of the most beautiful sections of the western side of the Annapurna Circuit.

Unfortunately, our joy was all too brief. After lunch in a small village, we joined the road again and this time stayed on it until the end of the day. It’s a long and dusty slog towards Ghasa. The road zi-zagged loads and we got loads of pitiful looks from people on buses and air-conditioned jeeps. I found this to be the most miserable part of the entire circuit.

There is an alternative to walking on the road but it adds a significant chunk to today’s distance. It’s possible to walk via Titi Tal lake from Kokhethanti, passing Chhoya and continuing just past Ghasa before crossing the river and backtracking.

Whichever way you arrive to Ghasa, you’ll find a pretty village lying in the valley. The setting, surrounded by mountains, was picturesque.

Notes:

  • Whichever route you take, it’s a long day. If you want to avoid the road, it will probably be the longest of the entire trek. Plan ahead.
  • The best views of the day are along the section between Kokhethanti and Chhoya. Ghasa is also beautiful.

Accommodation: Eagle Nest Guesthouse. Comfortable rooms, hot showers, wifi (more reliable in the dining area). I really liked this guesthouse – the owner was friendly, the food was good and overall the place was clean. The views are stunning.

Green fields sprinkled with stones and flanked by big mountains.
The Western part of the Annapurna Circuit is much quieter and, in places, greener than the more popular Eastern section

Day Fourteen – Ghasa to Tatopani

Ghasa (2010m) – Kopchepani(1620m) – Tatopani (1190m)

Distance: 14.2 km

Time: 3 hrs 55 minutes (08:26 – 12:21)

Luckily there is minimal road walking over the next few days so it’s time to really enjoy that scenery! Today didn’t disappoint as we left Ghasa after breakfast bound for Tatopani.

As the path descended towards the river, we had our first obstacle in the form of huge stones blocking the path. It seemed like a landslide and we had to scramble while watching our step. The rocks safely negotiated, we crossed a suspension bridge and followed the river for a while. Steps hewn into the cliffside took us higher above the river.

The landscape was incredible with the cliffs towering above the path as we took in the scenery. Trees clung to the slopes and there was loads of vegetation. The trail passes small villages where cows and goats roamed around and kids waved hello. As we headed through the lush forested areas, we could glimpse the dusty road on the other side of the river.

Despite descending almost a 1000 metres today, there are still a couple of tougher uphill climbs. Heading up these steep stair sections is made all the more difficult by the heat. This was the warmest it’s been for a while as we were descending to our lowest altitude since Day 3!

We arrived to Tatopani and checked in to our guesthouse. We spent the rest of the day relaxing as we had a long day ahead of us tomorrow!

Notes:

  • One of the best days for scenery on this side of the pass. The walking trail passes charming villages and weaves through lush green sections.
  • Once in Tatopani, you can check out the hot springs. Similarly to Chame, it’s another man-made pool. The steps down to the springs are at the end of the garden at Dhaulagiri so it’s worth at least having look.
  • Tatopani has several stores and restaurants and it’s a good place to stock up on snacks and toiletries. It’s not huge but the main strip is definitely geared towards trekkers. Many people skip the section between Jomsom and Tatopani before trekking the last stretch of the Annapurna Circuit so you’ll find more people here than in most places on this side of the circuit.

Accommodation: Dhaulagiri Guesthouse. It’s a beautiful place with sprawling gardens, flowers in bloom and loads of greenery. Ran by a very well-travelled and knowledgeable Nepalese owner, this place has everything from delicious food to comfortable bungalow rooms and beautiful grounds. It’s right on the main street in the village, on your left as you walk through.

Hikers passing a small house and a walled garden on the way to Tatopani
There is some great scenery along this part of the trek

Day Fifteen – Tatopani to Ghorepani

Tatopani (1190m) – Ghara (1700m) – Shikha (1935m) – Chitre (2390m) – Ghorepani (2880m)

Distance: 15.65 km

Time: 8 hrs 12 minutes (08:02 – 16:14)

Just three days away from the end of the trek, the Annapurna Circuit throws up an absolute curveball. Just a day after descending 1000 metres, we would climb almost 1700m by the time we arrived in Ghorepani. Yep, that’s by far the biggest elevation gain of the entire circuit! Today was definitely one of the toughest and longest days of the whole trek.

We followed the road out of Tatopani and went through a checkpoint. It’s the usual process and doesn’t take too long. After crossing the river, there is an option to follow the dirt road up or take a more direct route through the forested area. We decided on the latter and headed up sets of stone steps higher into the forest. The trail passes small farmhouses, terraced fields and offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, pockmarked with houses clinging to the slopes. There is no signage along this route but as long as you just follow the steps up, you’ll eventually rejoin the road at the top.

There is some road walking interspersed with following the trail through bustling villages. The route is clearly marked and there are plenty of opportunities for a break. Just as the trail started climbing and getting more challenging, it was time for lunch. We stopped in Shikha which turned out to be a strategic decision on our guide’s part. We still didn’t feel that we’ve gained that much elevation which only meant one thing. The second half of the day would be brutal.

We weren’t wrong. After Shikha, the trail heads almost exclusively up. The next few hours basically consist of nothing but stairs. It’s one of the toughest sections of the whole trek. After a long, hard slog, the trail eventually reaches a gate welcoming trekkers to Ghorepani Poon Hill. Sadly, there are still loads more stairs to negotiate.

Ghorepani is one of the busiest villages along the entire Annapurna Circuit. It serves as a hub for hikers tackling the Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek, a shorter and more accessible route that serves as a gentler introduction to the Annapurna Conservation Area as well as those who just want to see the sunrise at Poon Hill.

Notes:

  • Beautiful scenery along most of the route today
  • Take a nice long lunch break. The second half of the day is tough. It’s stairs, stairs and more stairs.
  • Decide if you’re going to trek up to Poon Hill for sunrise the following day. It’s not a tough or long walk but I do recommend getting there early. You’ll get the best vantage points and experience the majesty of the mountains around you in peace for longer.
  • You are back at higher elevations – have your cold gear to hand.

Accommodation: The Sunny Hotel. A big and rather ugly building overlooking a basketball court. The rooms were tiny but the beds quite comfortable. The food is ok. The place was very busy and it feels like somewhere that gets booked up by tour agencies rather than relying on solo trekkers. Avoid if you are after something more authentic.

A view of a small village and the surrounding mountains between Tatopani and Ghorepani
Take regular breaks and enjoy some of the awesome views today. It’s a long walk!

Day Sixteen – Ghorepani – Poon Hill – Ghandruk

Ghorepani (2880m) – Poon Hill (3200m) – Ban Thanti (3150m) – Tadapani (2630m) – Ghandruk (1940m)

Distance: Ghorepani to Ghandruk only 14.4 km, Including Poon Hill 17.5km

Time: 7 hrs 00 minutes (08:21 – 15:21), around 8 hours total walking if including Poon Hill

If you are tackling Poon Hill this morning, it’s an early start and a 30-45 minute walk up to the top. There is a huge watch tower at the top which offers panoramic views of the mountains. You’ll be able to spot Annapurna I (8091m), Annapurna South (7219m) and dozens of other peaks. The views are stupendous. Afterwards, it’s back down to the hotel for breakfast.

We set off towards Ghandruk and joined throngs of people climbing steps out of Ghorepani. It reminded us of the endless stairs from yesterday but luckily this section isn’t anywhere near as long.

We reached the top of the section and took some photos at a viewpoint. We didn’t want to get stuck behind people so didn’t stay long. The trail now descended into the forest with lush vegetation, waterfalls and caves. After passing through the village of Ban Thanti, the trail leads through another forest overlooking the mountains. We spotted groups of monkeys in the trees and baby goats playing in villages.

The trail is very up and down – descending into ravines for some sections and heading above the trees in others. The views continue We had lunch at Tadapani before continuing mostly downhill to Ghandruk.

Notes:

  • It’s a long day, especially if you go up to Poon Hill in the morning. For reference, we left Ghorepani for Poon Hill at around 4 am and came back around 6:30. We took our time having breakfast and packing and left for Ghandruk at 8:20
  • You can theoretically head all the way down to Nayapul and save a day. It’s around 20km with a lot of road walking. Our itinerary took us from Ghorepani to Ghandruk but if you did want to head to Nayapul, it’s pretty straightforward.
  • Drink in all the views in Ghandruk. The last day of walking isn’t too exciting so this is your last chance to enjoy some of this incredible mountain scenery.

Accommodation: Excellent View Lodge. The guesthouse seemed new, with colourful doorways, nice bathrooms and a modern dining room. It’s located above the rest of the village and provides some amazing views. There is a spacious terrace for relaxing outside and you can have breakfast there if the weather is good. One of the nicest places we’ve stayed!

The sun rising behind mountain silhouettes at Poon Hill. This is one of the main highlights of the Annapurna Circuit itinerary
Waiting for sunrise at Poon Hill

Day Seventeen – Ghandruk to Nayapul

Ghandruk (1940m) – Birethanti (1025m) – Nayapul (1070m)

Distance: Around 11 km

Time: 3 hrs 40 minutes (08:55 – 12:35)

We took our time getting ready today as we savoured our last morning on the trail. We milled about, had breakfast and caught up with our journals. It was a beautiful, sunny day with not a hint of the rain that covered the area the night before. We enjoyed some of our last views of the mountains and packed our bags. Setting off from Ghandruk, we made our way towards Birethanti – where we would be leaving the Annapurna Conservation Area.

While the views for the first hour were great, the day’s walking is pretty uneventful. It’s a mostly downhill walk with a big section following the road down to Birethanti. We passed through a few villages and eventually the path came out by the river and followed it all the way down. There were a lot more trekkers around. Most were starting the Annapurna Base Camp trek, the Ghorepani Poon Hill trek or one of the other routes in the area.

This was one of the least enjoyable walking days of the trek. Partly due to it being very hot – we got sweaty in no time. However, we also knew that the trek was coming to an end.

Eventually we reached the ACAP checking post in Birethanti and grabbed a couple of ice creams before crossing the bridge and waited as our guide got our TIMS cards checked and stamped one last time. Soon after we passed a sign thanking us for our visit to the Annapurna Conservation Area. Our trek was almost over.

Notes:

  • Birethanti is a bustling village and you can find things that you may have been missed on the trek. We bought ice cream and bananas which we craved for a while!
A path flanked by protective railings in the mountains between Ghandruk and Nayapul. This is the last section of the Annapurna Circuit
Walking down towards Nayapul on the last day of the trek

Nayapul to Pokhara

From Birethanti, there is still a matter of walking to Nayapul where buses and jeeps are ready to take trekkers back to Pokhara. It’s around a two-hour ride along pretty bad roads. We managed to negotiate the price to 200 NPR with a drop off to Lakeside rather than Pokhara bus station. Lakeside is where the majority of accommodation, bars and restaurants are so a drop off here makes things easier.

Accommodation in Pokhara

Pokhara is a great start/end point for any trek in the Annapurna Conservation Area. Its easily accessible by bus, has a very laid-back vibe and makes for a perfect place to unwind after a tough trek. You can also leave any luggage that you won’t need on the trek here. Most hotels and hostels in Pokhara will happily store your bags for free or a small fee.

Budget: Pushkar Backpackers Hostel Pokhara (friendly well-travelled owner, clean rooms, hang out spaces, good location), Zostel Pokhara, Kiwi Backpackers Hostel Pokhara

Mid-Range: Hotel KarunaHotel Middle Path & Spa, Hotel Point, Pokhara Boutique Hotel

Top End: Hotel White Pearl, Hotel White Himal, Temple Tree Resort & Spa, Hotel Barahi

Accommodation in Kathmandu

Kathmandu is the first point of entry for most visitors to Nepal. As well as the capital, it’s a traveller’s hub – plan your treks, get your permits and buy all your gear here. There is plenty to see and do in and around the city as well. It’s as chaotic as it is fascinating.

Budget: Zostel Kathmandu (popular hostel chain – good location, tasty food and comfortable rooms) , Wander Thirst Kathmandu, Metro Eco Hotel (friendliest owners, family-cooked meals, located just outside of Thamel but super close to everything)

Mid-Range: Hotel Jampa, Hotel Buddha, Norbulinka Boutique Hotel, Kantipur Temple House

Top End: Yatri Suites and Spa, Bodhi Boutique Hotel, Kathmandu Guest House

Related Posts

Day One: Kathmandu to Besisahar to Bhulbhule: Starting the Annapurna Circuit

Day Two: Bhulbhule to Jagat on the Annapurna Circuit

Day Three: Jagat to Dharapani on the Annapurna Circuit

Day Four: Dharapani to Chame on the Annapurna Circuit

Day Five: Chame to Lower Pisang on the Annapurna Circuit

Day Six: Lower Pisang to Manang on the Annapurna Circuit

Day Seven: Manang Rest Day and Ice Lake Hike on the Annapurna Circuit

Day Eight: Manang to Yak Kharka on the Annapurna Circuit

Day Nine: Yak Kharka to Thorong Phedi (Base Camp) on the Annapurna Circuit

Day Ten: Thorong Phedi to Muktinath via Thorang-La Pass on the Annapurna Circuit

Looking for an easier introduction to hiking? Check out the 30 Best Urban Hikes Around the World.

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Looking for the best hikes in Africa, Asia and Europe? Or have you always wanted to hike in South America, Australia and New Zealand?


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A pinnable image of a man walking across a frozen lake surrounded by mountains
A pinnable image of a hiker raising his arms at Thorong-La Pass

 

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