Annapurna Circuit - The Route
The Annapurna Circuit has long been considered by hikers as the ultimate route. With a diverse landscape, well-marked routes and the comfort of teahouses along the way, as well as the challenge of crossing Thorung La at 5,416m above sea level, it seems it was just that. But infrastructure development has brought vehicles along the route, effectively shortening it year by year.
When we initially decided to attempt the Annapurna Circuit, we only knew one thing: that we knew nothing.
That is the best place to start, in my opinion, as it keeps you humble. You are more open to advice and 100% teachable when you realise that you have no skills or experience in this matter, and you listen with a keen ear.
So we started from scratch. One of the things we had to research, was the route. The Annapurna Circuit is usually hiked from East to West. Traditionally, Besisahar was the conventional start of the route, but as vehicles increased along the route, many hikers have opted to start further North. After much Youtubing, Googling and asking around, we decided to start our hike at Chamje.
The advice we received most often was to ascend slowly and take extra time acclimatising to the extreme heights. Therefore we identified Manang as our first acclimatising stop, and Yak Kharka as the second. (For the uninitiated, “acclimatisation” is the process of allowing your body to get accustomed to lower levels of oxygen in the air at high altitudes. In practice, this means that we’ll sleep in one place, but hike during the day to a higher place and then return to the place where we slept the previous night. In other words, “hike high, sleep low.”) Another piece of advice we received was to allow for unexpected delays, so we booked two nights’ accommodation in Pokhara after our hike, which could be canceled if we took more time than expected to complete the route.
One of the main advantages that teahouse trekking in the Himalayas offer, is the fact that villages are close to each other (2-5km apart), which means that you could be extremely flexible in your choices on where to eat and sleep. If you want to walk a little bit more or less than you’d initially planned on any particular day, you are free to do so. There are shops (for snacks and drinks), medical posts and safe drinking water stations along the route. This translates to less stuff in your backpack and more energy in your body for the climb.
As the friends who will be joining us have a limited amount of days’ leave from their employers, we knew we wouldn’t have enough time to complete the whole Circuit. Therefore we decided to end our hike at Muktinath and rent a vehicle to take us back to Pokhara from there.
The official hiking calendar for our group is given below, however, we are all aware that this is a flexible program, and we’ll report on the actual itinerary when we return from The Annapurna Circuit.
Day 1 - Chamje [1430m] to Dharapani [1860m]
Day 2 - Dharapani [1860m] to Chame [2670m]
Day 3 - Chame [2670m] to Ngawal [3660m]
Day 4 - Ngawal [3660m] to Manang [3540m]
Day 5 - Acclimatisation at Manang
Day 6 - Manang [3540m] to Yak Kharka [4050m]
Day 7 - Acclimatisation at Yak Kharka
Day 8 - Yak Kharka [4050m] to Thorung Pedi [4525m]
Day 9 - Thorung Pedi 4525m to High Camp [4925m]
Day 10 - High Camp [4925m] to Muktinath [3760m] via Thorung La [5416m]
Of course, anything could happen in the mountains, and once we're back, we'll share our actual itinerary with you.
In the meantime, you may want to read our adventures while preparing for this journey: