• ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREKKING GUIDE

    Snowy peaks reflected in a pool of water
  • ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREKKING GUIDE

ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREK

The Essential Guide

The Annapurna Circuit is a classic Nepal trek. It traverses wonderfully varied landscapes, from lush lowlands to the high-altitude Thorong Pass, with the majestic Annapurna Massif a near constant companion. A string of trekking lodges and clearly marked trails make this an easily accessible trek for both independent hikers and guided treks. It’s also a great option for experienced trekkers looking to tackle an epic Nepal trek on a budget, as the permit fees are low and a guide is not compulsory.

Spectacular scenery abounds, but alas, the Annapurna Circuit is not without flaws. Extensive road building over the last few years has changed the nature of this trek dramatically. Few days are now spent solely on trekking trails. But, armed with the right advice and useful tips for getting ‘off-road’, this is still a standout Nepal trek.

In this guide to the Annapurna Circuit we’ll cover everything you need to know to plan the perfect trek, including a suggested itinerary, budget breakdown, practical details, and more. We’ll also outline the best Annapurna Circuit side trips and add-on treks for those looking to extend their Himalaya adventure.

Want to know more about the Annapurna Circuit Trek itself? Check out our day by day account. You can also watch our complete Annapurna Circuit Instagram Stories, plus our video below!

WATCH THE VIDEO

ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREKKING GUIDE

Read through the guide or jump ahead to a particular section by clicking on the links below.

ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREK ITINERARY

Below is a possible Annapurna Circuit trek itinerary for a full 21 day trek. This is not set in stone, just a suggested route. Some people stay in alternative villages along the way or cut days off the start or end. We feel this route takes in the best scenery and highlights along the way and ensures ample acclimatisation opportunity on the approach to Thorong La (5416 m).

Distances and trekking times are approximate.

DAY 0Kathmandu → Bhulbhule8+ hours (by bus/ jeep)
DAY 1Bhulbhule (840m) → Ghermu (1130m)13 km / 5 hours
DAY 2Ghermu (1130m) → Tal (1700m)13 km / 6 hours
DAY 3*Tal (1700m) → Dharapani (1860m)6.5 km / 2 hours 30 minutes
DAY 4Dharapani (1860m) → Chame (2670m)16 km / 6 hours 30 minutes
DAY 5Chame (2670m) → Upper Pisang (3300m)14 km / 5 hours
DAY 6Upper Pisang (3300m) → Ngawal (3660m)10 km / 4 hours
DAY 7Ngawal (3660m)→ Braka/Manang (3540m)10 km / 4 hours
DAY 8Braka/Manang (3540m) → Ice Lake (4600m) → Braka/Manang12 – 16 km / 4 – 6 hours
DAY 9**Braka/Manang (3540m) → Yak Kharka (4050m)10 – 12 km / 3 – 4 hours
DAY 10Yak Kharka (4050m) → Thorong Phedi (4525m)/High Camp (4880m)8 – 9km / 3 – 4 hours
DAY 11Thorong Phedi (4525m)/High Camp (4880m) → Thorong La (5416m) → Muktinath (3700m)14 – 15 km / 6 – 8 hours
DAY 12Muktinath (3700m) → Kagbeni (via Jhong) (2810m)12 km / 4 hours
DAY 13Kagbeni (2810m) → Marpha (via Dhumba Lake) (2670m)20 km / 6 hours
DAY 14
Marpha (2670m) → Kokethanti (via Chimrang & Sauru) (2545m)19 km / 8 hours
DAY 15Kokethanti (2545m) → Ghasa (via Titi Lake) (2010m)21 km / 7 hours
DAY 16Ghasa (2010m) → Tatopani (1190m)16 km / 5 hours
DAY 17Tatopani (1190m) → Ghorepani (2860m)15 km / 6 hours 30 minutes
DAY 18Ghorepani (2860m) → Sunrise Poon Hill (3193m) → Tadapani (2630m)13 km / 6 hours
DAY 19Tadapani (2630m) → Ghandruk (1940m)6.5 km / 3 hours
DAY 20Ghandruk (1940m) → Pitam Deurali (2130m)10km / 6 hours
DAY 21Pitam Deurali (2130m) → Kande (1770m)6 km / 2 hours 30 minutes
(+ bus/taxi 1 hr to Pokhara)
DAY 0Kathmandu → Bhulbhule8+ hours (by bus/ jeep)
DAY 1Bhulbhule (840m)
→ Ghermu (1130m)
13 km / 5 hours
DAY 2Ghermu (1130m) → Tal (1700m)13 km / 6 hours
DAY 3*Tal (1700m) → Dharapani (1860m)6.5 km / 2 hours 30 minutes
DAY 4Dharapani (1860m)
→ Chame (2670m)
16 km / 6 hours 30 minutes
DAY 5Chame (2670m) →
Upper Pisang (3300m)
14 km / 5 hours
DAY 6Upper Pisang (3300m)
→ Ngawal (3660m)
10 km / 4 hours
DAY 7Ngawal (3660m) →
Braka/Manang (3540m)
10 km / 4 hours
DAY 8Braka/Manang (3540m) →
Ice Lake (4600m) → Braka/Manang
12 – 16 km / 4 – 6 hours
DAY 9**Braka/Manang (3540m)
→ Yak Kharka (4050m)
10 – 12 km / 3 – 4 hours
DAY 10Yak Kharka (4050m) → Thorong Phedi (4525m)/High Camp (4880m)8 – 9km / 3 – 4 hours
DAY 11Thorong Phedi (4525m)/High Camp (4880m) → Thorong La (5416m)
→ Muktinath (3700m)
14 – 15 km / 6 – 8 hours
DAY 12Muktinath (3700m) →
Kagbeni (via Jhong) (2810m)
12 km / 4 hours
DAY 13Kagbeni (2810m) →
Marpha (via Dhumba Lake) (2670m)
20 km / 6 hours
DAY 14
Marpha (2670m) → Kokethanti (via Chimrang & Sauru) (2545m)19 km / 8 hours
DAY 15Kokethanti (2545m) →
Ghasa (via Titi Lake) (2010m)
21 km / 7 hours
DAY 16Ghasa (2010m) → Tatopani (1190m)16 km / 5 hours
DAY 17Tatopani (1190m)
→ Ghorepani (2860m)
15 km / 6 hours 30 minutes
DAY 18Ghorepani (2860m) → Sunrise Poon Hill (3193m) → Tadapani (2630m)13 km / 6 hours
DAY 19Tadapani (2630m)
→ Ghandruk (1940m)
6.5 km / 3 hours
DAY 20Ghandruk (1940m) →
Pitam Deurali (2130m)
10km / 6 hours
DAY 21Pitam Deurali (2130m)
→ Kande (1770m)
6 km / 2 hours 30 minutes
(+ bus/taxi 1 hr to Pokhara)

*Days 3-5 could be done over 2 days instead of 3 if you prefer to cover more distance in a day. Overnight at Timang, Thanchowk, Koto or Chame between Tal and Upper Pisang.

**Add 3 days here for a Tilicho Lake side trip.

ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREKKING MAP

Below you’ll find our Annapurna Circuit Trek map with key points marked, possible side trips, and trek practicalities. You can also download this map for offline use with Maps.me. Be sure to download the Maps.Me app first (iOS/Android). Tap the menu button at the top left for more details, to toggle layers on and off, and to switch between satellite and terrain view. You can save this Google map by tapping the star. This is a useful online version of a popular paper trekking map of the region, with the NATT trails shown in red.


WHERE TO START & END THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT

Following the construction of dirt roads at the traditional start and end points of the Annapurna Circuit, there is no definitive answer to this question. Fifteen years ago most trekkers would have started at Besisahar and ended at Beni around 3 weeks later. These days, the road extends from Besisahar to Manang and from Muktinath to Beni. That leaves a 30 km, 3 day trekking trail between Manang and Muktinath. Hardly the Annapurna Circuit Trek of yore.

But it’s not all bad news. While the roads were literally built over the original trekking trails, many New Annapurna Trekking Trail (NATT) sections were created, offering alternative ‘off-road’ routes. Combining these new trails with what’s left of the original ones makes for a different, but still largely enjoyable experience. However, it makes the simple question of where to start and end much less clear cut.

Two trekkers reaching Ghyaru (3700 m) at the end of a long climb from the valley below, with Annapurna II marking the skyline behind

Reaching Ghyaru (3700 m) on one of the NATT trails. The old trail (now road) lies far below, and Annapurna II marks the skyline behind



Two trekkers reaching Ghyaru (3700 m) at the end of a long climb from the valley below, with Annapurna II marking the skyline behind

Reaching Ghyaru (3700 m) on one of the NATT
trails. The old trail (now road) lies far below,
and Annapurna II marks the skyline behind



One thing most people agree on is that it’s best to tackle the Annapurna Circuit in an anti-clockwise direction, as the ascent towards Thorong La is more gradual and this aids acclimatisation.

You can access the various trailheads at the start of the trek from Kathmandu or Pokhara, with Pokhara being closer. Pokhara is also much closer to the various end points of the trek and it is advisable to travel to Pokhara first before returning all the way to Kathmandu. Note that if you plan to leave excess baggage in a hotel, it may be best to start/end in the same city. For this, Pokhara is the ideal choice.

WHERE TO START THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT

Technically, you can start the Annapurna Circuit Trek anywhere between Besisahar and Manang. However, we wouldn’t recommend starting anywhere beyond Chame (2670m) for acclimatisation reasons.

Purists and those with no time limit will want to start at Besisahar or Bhulbhule, 7km up the busy road and accessible by public bus. If you are short on time, you could skip the first one to two days walking and start at Jagat (1300m) or Chamje/Chyamche (1430m), or skip four days walking and start at Chame (2670m). You can reach all of these points by shared jeep from Besisahar (Jagat/Chamje approx 1000 Rs/4-5 hours, Chame approx 2000 Rs/7-8 hours).

As we were linking the Annapurna Circuit Trek with Manaslu Circuit, we joined the trail at Dharapani (1860m), approx half way between Chamje and Chame.

WHERE TO END THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT

Technically, you can end your Annapurna Circuit Trek anywhere between Muktinath and Beni, with Jomsom and Tatopani being quite common endpoints. Nayapul, Kande and Phedi are also popular endpoints, and trekking this far is certainly more of an actual ‘circuit of the Annapurnas’.

If you have time, our suggested route is to carry on all the way to Kande or Phedi via Ghorepani (plus Poon Hill), Ghandruk and Tolka. In our opinion Kagbeni (between Muktinath and Jomsom) is an absolute must visit place, so we would suggest ending your trek no earlier than at Jomsom. Marpha (just south of Jomsom) is also very nice. Ghandruk is a beautiful Gurung village with wonderful views and distinct architecture, so if you have time we certainly recommend extending your trek as far as here.

SEE WHAT THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREK IS ALL ABOUT

HOW MANY DAYS IS THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREK?

As you may have gathered already, the length of your Annapurna Circuit Trek will depend entirely on where you decide to start and end your journey. As a bare minimum it would take 6 days to trek from Chame to Muktinath, including 2 nights in or around Manang for acclimatisation purposes. A more standard schedule is about 16 days from Bhulbhule to Tatopani, or 18 days finishing at Nayapul. Ending at Kande would take about 20 days. Add 3 days if you want to include a side trip to Tilicho Lake. See our full trek itinerary outline above  to plan your ideal route.

MINIMUM NUMBER OF DAYS FOR THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREK

      • 6 Days: Chame to Muktinath
      • 12 Days: Bhulbhule to Jomsom
      • 15 Days: Bhulbhule to Tatopani
      • 19 Days: Bhulbhule to Kande

MINIMUM NUMBER OF DAYS FOR THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREK

6 Days: Chame to Muktinath

12 Days: Bhulbhule to Jomsom

15 Days: Bhulbhule to Tatopani

19 Days: Bhulbhule to Kande


WHEN TO TREK THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT?

Ultimately it depends on what you are looking for. With the best weather comes the biggest crowds, and with fewer crowds come freezing conditions or a complete lack of mountain views. Shoulder season can be a good compromise.

AUTUMN

If it’s dry weather, clear mountain views, and little chance of snow at high altitude you want, then October it is. The downside is that the trail is at its busiest. October is considered peak trekking season on the Annapurna Circuit, but September and November can be good alternatives.

A panorama of the snow covered Annapurna Massif, a trekker hiking the Annapurna Circuit trail in the foreground

Dry weather and clear mountain views on a sunny October morning



Snow covered mountains of the Annapurnas, a trekker hiking the Annapurna Circuit trail in the foreground

Dry weather and clear mountain
views on a sunny October morning



SPRING

March and April are considered to be the next best season to trek the Annapurna Circuit. The weather is generally clear although a little colder, particularly at higher altitudes. Mornings are sunny and flowers are in bloom. There is however a higher chance of rain, or snow at higher altitude, and melting ice increases the chances of landslides or avalanches – something we experienced trekking to Annapurna Base Camp in April.

WINTER

In winter, from December to February, temperatures at higher altitudes can plunge to -20℃ or colder at night. Daytime temperatures are more tolerable, but you will certainly need extra warm gear, crampons for trekking in snow and ice, and extra UV protection as the sun is at its harshest. The trails are much quieter at this time of year, with December the busiest of the three months. The skies are generally clear, making for fantastic views, but deep snow could make crossing the Thorong La difficult or impossible.

SUMMER

May to August is to be avoided. The monsoon is responsible for warm and wet weather, with cloud and mist making visibility extremely poor. We can testify to this. Our very first trek in Nepal (Annapurna Base Camp) was in June – we got soaked through on a number of days and hardly saw a mountain. Additionally, leeches are a big problem at lower elevation and there is increased risk of landslides.

TREK DIFFICULTY

The Annapurna Circuit is a moderately difficult trek and is challenging for two main reasons. First, it’s a relatively long trek. Most people cover up to 230km over 14-18 days or more. Second, it’s a high altitude trek. There are a number of days spent at 3500m or higher, including a 5416m pass crossing. Trekking at altitude is more demanding than trekking at lower elevations, requiring extra time and care to ensure your body acclimatises properly.

THE TRAIL

The trails are generally in good condition and straightforward to navigate. However, some sections are trickier underfoot due to landslides or loose scree. You’ll trek for an average of 6-7 hours a day, with plenty of up and down along the way. Weather conditions can affect the difficulty of the trek, with mud, snow or ice making it more challenging.

Trekkers crossing a landslide area of loose rocks, surrounded by looming cliffs, just before Thorong Phedi on the Annapurna Circuit

Most trails on the Annapurna Circuit are easily manageable, although some like this landslide crossing before Thorong Phedi require extra care



Trekkers crossing a landslide area of loose rocks, surrounded by looming cliffs, just before Thorong Phedi on the Annapurna Circuit

Most trails on the Annapurna Circuit are easily
manageable, although some like this landslide
crossing before Thorong Phedi need extra care



HOW MUCH WEIGHT WILL YOU CARRY?

The difficulty of the trek will also depend on how much weight you are carrying. If you are trekking without a porter, you will need to carry all your gear. A 15 kg backpack will feel much heavier at altitude, tiring you out and slowing you down. You don’t need to carry camping or cooking gear as trekking lodges (also called teahouses) are found regularly along the way, providing food and rooms. These are generally very comfortable and the meals filling.

YOUR EXPERIENCE

For trekking newbies, the Annapurna Circuit may prove challenging due to its length and the effort required to trek at altitude. If you have experience trekking for multiple days and are moderately fit then you will likely find the trek very manageable.

ALTITUDE

For any trekker, experienced or not, altitude sickness is one of the biggest concerns on the Annapurna Circuit. Be prepared in advance with a well stocked medical kit, do your research so you know how to prevent altitude sickness, what symptoms to look out for, how best to treat them and what to do if you or someone else develops HAPE or HACE. The Himalayan Rescue Association Aid-Post in Manang holds a free talk on altitude awareness at 3pm every day and it is very informative and worthwhile attending.

TREKKING THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT INDEPENDENTLY

With the correct permits in hand, you can set off on the Annapurna Circuit independently. You may be trekking solo, with a partner or friend, or group of people you already know. Trekking independently means carrying all your own gear, navigating, and route planning. You will need to sort out all the logistics like permits, transport, and accommodation by yourself. But it doesn’t mean you’ll be alone. There are many independent trekkers on the Annapurna Circuit so you’re practically guaranteed to meet people and make friends along the way, unless you’re trekking in the quieter off-season.

A trekker resting at the end of a suspension bridge in front of mountain views on the Annapurna Circuit

Resting at the end of a suspension bridge on the trail between Manang and Yak Kharka, the jagged peak of Chulu West rising behind



A trekker resting at the end of a suspension bridge in front of mountain views on the Annapurna Circuit

Resting at the end of a suspension bridge on the
trail between Manang and Yak Kharka, with the
jagged, icy peak of Chulu West rising behind



Below are some of the pros and cons of trekking independently, to help give you a sense of what to expect. And if you plan to organise your own trek, just keep reading this guide. We cover everything you need to know, including permits, packing lists, trail maps, money matters, transport to/from the trailheads, and more.

PROS AND CONS OF INDEPENDENT TREKKING

PROS

This is the cheapest way to trek the Annapurna Circuit. You won’t have anything extra to pay for above and beyond your daily food and accommodation costs, permit fees, and transport to/from the trailhead. 

You have complete freedom and flexibility. You can choose how long to trek for each day, what route to take and where to stay. If you like somewhere, you can choose to stay an extra day without having to consult anyone else or consider their needs. 

It is easier to enjoy a bit of ‘alone time’ on the trail. If you are trekking with a guide or group it can be harder or more awkward to branch out and enjoy walking alone with your thoughts. 

Engage more with fellow trekkers along the way. You tend to interact more with others when not in an already established group. This can mean making more friends, having a wider variety of conversations, or exchanging a broader spectrum of thoughts and opinions. 

You’ll likely have more interaction with locals. If you are trekking with a guide it is common practice for them to deal with everything at the lodge and act as a go-between. It’s normal for your guide to take your order, bring out your food, and settle up the bill on your behalf, which means you may have little interaction with the owner or staff yourself. But you’ll be doing all of that if you trek independently.

CONS

With freedom and flexibility comes the need to do more research, preparation and daily planning. You will need to spend time organising things both on and off the trail. 

You are more vulnerable in an emergency situation or if you get sick. This is especially true if you are trekking solo. You should prepare as best you can with a comprehensive medical kit, emergency contact numbers at the ready and ideally an emergency communication device like the InReach Explorer

In peak trekking season you may find it harder to get a room. Trekking lodges prefer bigger groups with organised companies and will give preference to them over solo trekkers or those in small groups. If you find this is a problem you can adjust your itinerary to stay in less busy villages or lodges along the way. Another workaround is to group together with other independent trekkers and approach lodges as a group of say 8 or more.

Carrying 15kg day in, day out for two weeks or more can take its toll. And that weight will feel even heavier at altitude. It will certainly make the trek more challenging. 

You miss out on all the insights a knowledgeable, English speaking guide can offer. Your understanding of the region, and Nepal in general, may be much broader after spending 2-3 weeks in the company of a Nepali guide rather than going it alone.


PROS

This is the cheapest way to trek the Annapurna Circuit. You won’t have anything extra to pay for above and beyond your daily food and accommodation costs, permit fees, and transport to/from the trailhead. 

You have complete freedom and flexibility. You can choose how long to trek for each day, what route to take and where to stay. If you like somewhere, you can choose to stay an extra day without having to consult anyone else or consider their needs. 

It is easier to enjoy a bit of ‘alone time’ on the trail. If you are trekking with a guide or group it can be harder or more awkward to branch out and enjoy walking alone with your thoughts. 

Engage more with fellow trekkers along the way. You tend to interact more with others when not in an already established group. This can mean making more friends, having a wider variety of conversations, or exchanging a broader spectrum of thoughts and opinions. 

You’ll likely have more interaction with locals. If you are trekking with a guide it is common practice for them to deal with everything at the lodge and act as a go-between. It’s normal for your guide to take your order, bring out your food, and settle up the bill on your behalf, which means you may have little interaction with the owner or staff yourself. But you’ll be doing all of that if you trek independently.

CONS

With freedom and flexibility comes the need to do more research, preparation and daily planning. You will need to spend time organising things both on and off the trail. 

You are more vulnerable in an emergency situation or if you get sick. This is especially true if you are trekking solo. You should prepare as best you can with a comprehensive medical kit, emergency contact numbers at the ready and ideally an emergency communication device like the InReach Explorer

In peak trekking season you may find it harder to get a room. Trekking lodges prefer bigger groups with organised companies and will give preference to them over solo trekkers or those in small groups. If you find this is a problem you can adjust your itinerary to stay in less busy villages or lodges along the way. Another workaround is to group together with other independent trekkers and approach lodges as a group of say 8 or more.

Carrying 15kg day in, day out for two weeks or more can take its toll. And that weight will feel even heavier at altitude. It will certainly make the trek more challenging. 

You miss out on all the insights a knowledgeable, English speaking guide can offer. Your understanding of the region, and Nepal in general, may be much broader after spending 2-3 weeks in the company of a Nepali guide rather than going it alone.


TREKKING THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT WITH A GUIDE AND/OR PORTER

While trekking Annapurna Circuit with a guide and/or porter isn’t mandatory, many people still choose to do so, and there are plenty of good reasons to consider it. If you’re an inexperienced trekker it’s a sensible choice – an experienced guide can be invaluable when it comes to your safety. Hiring a guide can also enrich your experience on the trail, giving you the opportunity to learn much more about the history, culture, and geography of the land. Hiring a porter to carry your bag will put less strain on your body, making your trek much easier. Finally, hiring a guide and/or porter also provides jobs and supports the trekking tourism economy.

A trekker and guide stand smiling on the sunny trail to Ngawal on the Annapurna Circuit

Trekking the Annapurna Circuit with a guide and/or porter can provide you and the local economy with a variety of benefits



A trekker and guide stand smiling on the sunny trail to Ngawal on the Annapurna Circuit

Trekking the Annapurna Circuit with a
guide and/or porter can provide you and
the local economy with a variety of benefits



If you want to trek the Annapurna Circuit with a guide there are a couple of approaches you can take.

Firstly, arrange a guide (and/or porter) but organise everything else yourself (transport, trekking permits, pay-as-you-go for food and lodges, etc). This allows for greater choice and flexibility along the way, but you still have the benefit of trekking with a knowledgeable and experienced guide.

Secondly, book an inclusive package with a trekking agency or tour operator. This will cost one lump sum, with local transport, trekking permits, accommodation, meals and your guide and/or porter all included. This is ideal if you want to just turn up and have everything taken care of. You won’t have to worry about any of the logistics or decision making along the way.

Next is a rundown of the various options, followed by an outline of how best to choose a guide/trekking agency.

TREKKING WITH A GUIDE

If you’re relatively fit and can keep the weight of your bag to a sensible level (around 15 kg), then you may want to trek with just a guide. You can expect them to have a good level of English, know the trail and places on it well, and be knowledgeable about the history, culture and geography of the area. Professional guides are licensed in Nepal, so be sure to check this before settling on a guide. A guide costs around $20-30 USD per day, although some individuals or trekking agencies may charge more.

TREKKING WITH A PORTER-GUIDE OR PORTER

If you don’t want to carry all your own gear then it’s possible to hire a porter-guide or porter. Generally speaking, a porter is hired as part of a trekking crew alongside a guide. If you are an experienced trekker who needs nothing more than someone to carry your bag, then hiring a porter only is possible, but can lead to complications along the way. A porter-guide rolls two jobs into one, with that person carrying less than a porter normally would, and being less experienced than a guide.

Porter-Guide

Porter-guides tend to be trainee guides who will also carry your gear, usually up to 13 or 15kg. You can expect them to have better English than a porter, although not as good as a guide (although this may vary with experience). They are likely to have poorer communication skills than a guide and limited first-aid knowledge. A porter-guide costs around $25-$30 a day.

Porter

You can expect very little from a porter other than that they carry your bag. Porters can carry up to 30 kg (maximum, but less is better), so you generally only need one porter for every two trekkers. Porters usually have very basic English skills and will often go ahead rather than trek alongside you. Porters generally cost $18-25 a day.

TREKKING WITH A GUIDE AND PORTER

If you want a knowledgeable guide with good communication skills and experience, as well as someone to carry your bag, then hiring a separate guide and porter is the best option.

This setup is most cost effective when you have a group with an even number of trekkers, as you generally only need one porter for every two trekkers. Most agencies allow up to five people per guide with the total cost shared by the group.

Porters dwarfed by orange and brown hued dry mountains before arriving at Yak Kharka on the Annapurna Circuit

Porters on the trail to Yak Kharka, dwarfed by the surrounding mountains



Porters dwarfed by orange and brown hued dry mountains before arriving at Yak Kharka on the Annapurna Circuit

Porters on the trail to Yak Kharka,
dwarfed by the surrounding mountains



CHOOSING A GUIDE/TREKKING AGENCY

The trekking industry in Nepal is huge and there are no shortage of registered trekking agencies and accredited guides competing for business. As such, it can seem a bit of a minefield when it comes to finding and choosing a guide, especially when looking online.

Finding a guide in Kathmandu or Pokhara

If you have a few days in Kathmandu or Pokhara and are comfortable not having anything pre-booked, it is definitely advantageous to shop around in person. It is much easier to get a sense of a trekking company and a guide when you meet them face to face. There are many trekking agencies in the Thamel area of Kathmandu, and along the main Lakeside drag in Pokhara.

Organise a guide before travelling to Nepal

If you want to organise a guide before you go, a recommendation from someone you know and trust goes a long way. Just make sure you get a guarantee of who your guide will be. We’re aware of people arranging with a particular company for a certain guide, only to arrive and discover that they have a different guide. As the guide is the person you’ll be spending all your time with, they (not the company) are the most important factor.

Guide Only (Pay-As-You-Go)

If you don’t have a recommendation but still want to organise a guide before you go, you can browse guide profiles here and here. Both sites outline the guides’ daily rate, experience and contact details so you can get in touch directly and discuss options with them.

Inclusive Package

An internet search will throw up numerous Nepal-based trekking agencies who tend to offer inclusive packages as opposed to guide only options. Do your research, compare different options, check independent reviews and ask lots of questions before finalising an agreement with one company. Be wary of any trekking agency requiring full payment up front. It should be possible to make a deposit and finalise payment when you get to Kathmandu/Pokhara.

You can also browse inclusive package tours on Tourradar, many of which are with Nepal based operators. Some of these are group tours, some are not. You can check exactly what is and isn’t included in the tour details for each, or ask Tourradar for more details.

A trekker and guide on the high trail to Ngawal with an expansive view over the Manang Valley

Trekking high above the Manang Valley on the way to Ngawal (3660 m)



A trekker and guide on the high trail to Ngawal with an expansive view over the Manang Valley

Trekking above the Manang Valley
on the way to Ngawal (3660 m)



Finding Trekking Partners

If you’re a solo trekker and want to hook up with others to share the costs of a guide, then take a look at this page. You can post a trip yourself, or look at existing trips and join one.

Female Guides

If you would like to hire a female guide, there are a few companies out there who can help with this. 3Sisters Adventure Trekking is an agency based out of Pokhara and comes very highly regarded.

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A GUIDE

Whether getting organised ahead of time or finding someone in Kathmandu/Pokhara, here are the main things to keep in mind when choosing a guide or deciding on a trekking agency.

Talk to as many guides/agencies as possible to compare prices and services

Ask about the guide’s experience with the trek

Have a conversation to gauge their level of English

Ask if they have had any safety training and ask to see the certificates if they say yes. Ask how they would handle an emergency situation

Ask whether they will drink alcohol on the trek (not necessarily a deal breaker, just use your judgement)


Talk to as many guides/agencies as possible to compare prices and services

Ask about the guide’s experience with the trek

Have a conversation to gauge their level of English

Ask if they have had any safety training and ask to see the certificates if they say yes. Ask how they would handle an emergency situation

Ask whether they will drink alcohol on the trek (not necessarily a deal breaker, just use your judgement)


After you’ve found someone you’re happy with, here are a few things to remember when finalising your arrangement.

Check that they are properly licensed and insured (ask to see proof)

Agree on the daily rate and number of days, or total price if booking an inclusive package (check exactly what is included/excluded)

Agree on who pays for your accommodation and food – you’ll likely pay-as-you-go yourself if hiring a guide only, whereas this will likely be included if you’re booking a full package

Confirm that the guide and/or porter covers their own food and accommodation along the way (this is usual regardless of whether you are hiring a guide only or booking a package)

Confirm whether you can choose which lodge to stay in, or if the guide will choose – if you are organising a guide only then we recommend that you agree beforehand that you make the final decision. If you are booking an inclusive package, your guide will likely choose


Check that they are properly licensed and insured (ask to see proof)

Agree on the daily rate and number of days, or total price if booking an inclusive package (check exactly what is included/excluded)

Agree on who pays for your accommodation and food – you’ll likely pay-as-you-go yourself if hiring a guide only, whereas this will likely be included if you’re booking a full package

Confirm that the guide and/or porter covers their own food and accommodation along the way (this is usual regardless of whether you are hiring a guide only or booking a package)

Confirm whether you can choose which lodge to stay in, or if the guide will choose – if you are organising a guide only then we recommend that you agree beforehand that you make the final decision. If you are booking an inclusive package, your guide will likely choose


If you’re booking an inclusive package, check the exact inclusions and exclusions carefully. Ask about the following:

Transport: How will you be getting to and from the trail (private jeep or public bus?)

Groups: Is it a group tour with others, or only for you/the people you are booking with?

Accommodation: Will you be sharing a room, and if so with how many people? Will you have an attached bathroom where possible?

Food: Can you order what you like or are your choices limited?

Drinks: What drinks are included and how many a day?

Permits: Are all permits included in the cost and will these be organised for you?


Transport
How will you be getting to and from the trail (private jeep or public bus?)

Groups
Is it a group tour with others, or only for you/the people you are booking with?

Accommodation
Will you be sharing a room, and if so with how many people? Will you have an attached bathroom where possible?

Food
Can you order what you like or are your choices limited?

Drinks
What drinks are included and how many a day?

Permits
Are all permits included in the cost and will these be organised for you?


MAKE SURE YOUR GUIDE/PORTER IS WELL EQUIPPED

Make sure your guide (and porter) have everything they need prior to setting off on your trek. If you’re hiring an experienced guide through a long established agency, then chances are they will be well prepared for conditions on the trail. However, this isn’t always the case. And younger, more inexperienced guides often don’t have the equipment they need. Porters too can sometimes lack what we would consider to be basic trekking necessities. We’ve seen some young porters with trainers on their feet that were practically falling off.

Check that your guide and porters have the following:

    • Warm clothing for higher altitudes
      (down jacket, gloves, hat, etc.)
    • Proper boots in good condition
    • Suitable waterproofs
    • Sunglasses
    • Headtorch

Warm clothing for higher altitudes (down jacket, gloves, hat, etc.)

Proper boots in good condition

Suitable waterproofs

Sunglasses

Headtorch


MORE TREKKING & HIKING ADVENTURES

A hiker trekking in Georgia, descending the rocky shale slope from Atsunta pass and heading towards the green valleys of Tusheti below
A walker on the old military road among the dramatic mountain scenery of the Lairigmor, a real highlight of the West Highland Way
A scene of the mountains and lakes of the Geghama Range in Armenia
A view of Buachaille Etive Mor on the West Highland Way
A hiker stands reflected in Udziro Lake, looking at the distant peak Shkhara
A white horse grazing on the grassy slopes of Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
Two hikers traverse the grassy ridge on Day 2 of the Panorama Trail
A view of Tetnuldi peak from Latpari Pass on the Ushguli to Chvelpi hike
The twin peaks of Ushba and Chatyn-Tau, seen from the trail on Day 2 of the Mestia to Ushguli trek in Svaneti, Georgia
A hiker on the steep final approach to Gul Pass, on the Chuberi to Mestia section of the Transcaucasian Trail in Svaneti
Mountains reflected in Kelitsadi Lake on a still morning
Two hikers and a dog rest on a rock in front of an unnamed lake on the Black Rock Lake trek
A hiker climbs the shale switchback trail to Atsunta Pass on the Shatili Omalo trek, with the layered mountains of Khevsureti behind
Backpacking Camping Gear Featured Image
A hiker descends the switchback ridgeline trail from Chaukhi Pass to Abudelauri Lakes on the Juta to Roshka trek in Georgia
A woman hiking with backpack and poles in front of a glacier wall
The settlement of Abano in Truso Valley, with the old monastery on the right and Zakagori Fortress seen behind
One of the best views of Gergeti Trinity Church, seen from the hiking trail to Gergeti Glacier and Mt. Kazbek
Hikers descend from the viewpoint at Kojori Fortress in Georgia
A narrow trekking trail in Upper Mustang stretching off into the distance amidst some bizarre rock formations, with the snowy peak of Dhaulagiri in the background
Trekkers on a trail approaching a round orange rock formation with a plateau stretched out into the distance in Upper Mustang
Sunrise hitting the Annapurna Mountains in Nepal
Trekkers look out while descending from the Larke Pass on the Manaslu Circuit Trek
A catamaran sails on the calm water at sunset off the south coast of Jeju Island
A female Olle Trail hiker standing by a Hallabong mosaic mural, looking out to sea on Jeju Island
Looking out from wat Pha Lat over Chiang Mai, reflected in the still water and surrounded by lush green vegetation
Peanmeanach Bothy on the Ardnish Peninsula in February
Sunrise reflections on the mirror-like surface of Alauddin Lake in the Fann Mountains of Tajikistan.
Hiking Hallasan: South Korea's Highest Peak
Looking towards one of Saryangdo Island's suspension bridges from the ridge hiking trail, with the road bridge and surrounding islands in the distance, South Korea
A hiker trekking in Georgia, descending the rocky shale slope from Atsunta pass and heading towards the green valleys of Tusheti below
A walker on the old military road among the dramatic mountain scenery of the Lairigmor, a real highlight of the West Highland Way
A scene of the mountains and lakes of the Geghama Range in Armenia
A view of Buachaille Etive Mor on the West Highland Way
A hiker stands reflected in Udziro Lake, looking at the distant peak Shkhara
A white horse grazing on the grassy slopes of Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park
Two hikers traverse the grassy ridge on Day 2 of the Panorama Trail
A view of Tetnuldi peak from Latpari Pass on the Ushguli to Chvelpi hike
The twin peaks of Ushba and Chatyn-Tau, seen from the trail on Day 2 of the Mestia to Ushguli trek in Svaneti, Georgia
A hiker on the steep final approach to Gul Pass, on the Chuberi to Mestia section of the Transcaucasian Trail in Svaneti
Mountains reflected in Kelitsadi Lake on a still morning
Two hikers and a dog rest on a rock in front of an unnamed lake on the Black Rock Lake trek
A hiker climbs the shale switchback trail to Atsunta Pass on the Shatili Omalo trek, with the layered mountains of Khevsureti behind
Backpacking Camping Gear Featured Image
A hiker descends the switchback ridgeline trail from Chaukhi Pass to Abudelauri Lakes on the Juta to Roshka trek in Georgia
A woman hiking with backpack and poles in front of a glacier wall
The settlement of Abano in Truso Valley, with the old monastery on the right and Zakagori Fortress seen behind
One of the best views of Gergeti Trinity Church, seen from the hiking trail to Gergeti Glacier and Mt. Kazbek
Hikers descend from the viewpoint at Kojori Fortress in Georgia
A narrow trekking trail in Upper Mustang stretching off into the distance amidst some bizarre rock formations, with the snowy peak of Dhaulagiri in the background
Trekkers on a trail approaching a round orange rock formation with a plateau stretched out into the distance in Upper Mustang
Sunrise hitting the Annapurna Mountains in Nepal
Trekkers look out while descending from the Larke Pass on the Manaslu Circuit Trek
A catamaran sails on the calm water at sunset off the south coast of Jeju Island
A female Olle Trail hiker standing by a Hallabong mosaic mural, looking out to sea on Jeju Island
Looking out from wat Pha Lat over Chiang Mai, reflected in the still water and surrounded by lush green vegetation
Peanmeanach Bothy on the Ardnish Peninsula in February
Sunrise reflections on the mirror-like surface of Alauddin Lake in the Fann Mountains of Tajikistan.
Hiking Hallasan: South Korea's Highest Peak
Looking towards one of Saryangdo Island's suspension bridges from the ridge hiking trail, with the road bridge and surrounding islands in the distance, South Korea

TREKKING THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT ON A GUIDED GROUP TOUR

Trekking the Annapurna Circuit as part of a guided group tour is also an option. There are a number of international companies who run fully inclusive small group tours with set departure dates. These are often guaranteed to depart as soon as one person books, which is ideal if you are limited on time or have fixed dates that you can travel.

These tours tend to include everything from your arrival in Kathmandu to your departure, meaning all of the logistics are taken care of and all you really need to do is organise your travel insurance, international flights and packing. International tour companies work with the very best local trek operators, so you can expect professional service and highly experienced guides. It certainly takes the hassle and uncertainty out of finding reliable and experienced guides or trekking agencies yourself.

You can book onto the tour as a solo traveller or with others, knowing that you’re guaranteed a group of trekking buddies to share the journey with. Naturally, all of this expertise, organisation and ease of booking comes at a price, with this option being the most expensive way to trek the Annapurna Circuit.

Porters resting at the roadside on the Annapurna Circuit

Porters carrying bags for an Intrepid group tour take a roadside rest near Dharapani



Porters resting at the roadside on the Annapurna Circuit

Porters carrying bags for an Intrepid group
tour take a roadside rest near Dharapani



RECOMMENDED ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT GROUP TOURS

Two of our favourite international small group tour operators are G Adventures and Intrepid. Both companies advocate responsible and sustainable tourism, a vital consideration when choosing who to spend your money with. We’ve travelled with G Adventures in Central America and the Maldives and can highly recommend them.

Exodus are another company who specialise in trekking trips in Nepal (and elsewhere), working with local Nepali partners for over 30 years. They tend to include a bit more when it comes to meals and other things, as well as opting for slightly alternative trekking routes. You also have the option of including international flights with Exodus.

Generally speaking, Exodus appeals to a slightly older market than G Adventures or Intrepid, although people of all ages can book on any of the below group tours.

G Adventures Annapurna Circuit Tour

 G Adventures have an 18 day itinerary starting and ending in Kathmandu which includes about 13 days trekking between Jagat and Nayapul.

Intrepid Annapurna Circuit Tour

Intrepid offer an alternative 15 day itinerary starting in Kathmandu and ending in Pokhara which includes about 11 days trekking between Besisahar and Jomson.

Exodus Annapurna Circuit Tours

Alternatively, Exodus have a 15 day Mini Annapurna Circuit itinerary and a full 22 day Annapurna Circuit itinerary to choose between. They both take the high route to Upper Pisang and Ngawal, and the longer itinerary includes Kagbeni and Marpha, which is a definite bonus in our opinion.

ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT PERMITS

In order to trek the Annapurna Circuit, there are two separate permits required per person. Here we’ll outline what they are, how much they cost, what you need to get them, and where to get them. If you’re booking an inclusive package or group tour, your trekking agency/tour company will likely sort these for you. If you are trekking independently, each trekker needs to go to the office in person to apply (you cannot have one trekker apply on behalf of others).

ANNAPURNA CONSERVATION AREA PROJECT PERMIT (ACAP)

This permit covers the entire Annapurna Conservation Area and is valid for one entry and one exit. It covers everywhere on the Annapurna Circuit Trek, and if you plan to carry on to Poon Hill, Annapurna Base Camp or Upper Mustang, it will also cover you for these treks (as long as you don’t exit the area in between). There is no time limit on the permit.

ACAP PERMIT COST

3000 NPR per person
(payable by cash in local currency)


Annapurna Conservation Area Project Permit (ACAP)

An example of the Annapurna Conservation Area Project Permit (ACAP)



Annapurna Conservation Area Project Permit (ACAP)

Annapurna Conservation Area Project Permit (ACAP)



TREKKERS’ INFORMATION MANAGEMENT SYSTEM CARD (TIMS)

You’ll need to show this, along with your ACAP permit, at multiple checkpoints along the way. It is for your own safety.

TIMS PERMIT COST

2000 NPR (independent trekkers)
1000 NPR
(trekking with a guide)
(payable by cash in local currency)


TIMS PERMIT COST

2000 NPR (independent trekkers)
1000 NPR
(trekking with a guide)
(payable by cash in local currency)


Trekkers’ Information Management System Card (TIMS)

An example of the Trekkers’ Information Management System Card (TIMS)



Trekkers’ Information Management System Card (TIMS)

An example of the Trekkers’ Information
Management System Card (TIMS)



WHAT YOU NEED TO GET YOUR TREKKING PERMITS

Copy Of Your Passport

Passport Photos x 4

5000 NPR in cash

Completed Form x 2
(available at the office, come
prepared with the following info):

Estimated Entry/Exit Dates
Entry/Exit Points
Trekking Route Outline
Travel Insurance Policy Details
Emergency Contact Details
Address in Nepal


Copy Of Your Passport

Passport Photos x 4

5000 NPR in cash

Completed Form x 2
(available at the office, come
prepared with the following info):

Estimated Entry/Exit Dates
Entry/Exit Points
Trekking Route Outline
Travel Insurance Policy Details
Emergency Contact Details
Address in Nepal


WHERE TO GET THE ACAP PERMIT AND TIMS CARD

You can apply for both at the Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu or Pokhara. The permits are issued on the spot. You might get your photo taken for free at the office, but take passport photos just in case.

Nepal Tourism Board Kathmandu

Pradarshani Marg, Kathmandu 44617

GPS: 27.7020, 85.3169

Open 10am – 5pm Daily

(arrive at least 1 hour before closing)

Nepal Tourism Board Pokhara

Lakeside Rd, Pokhara 33700

GPS: 28.1988, 83.9690

Open 10am – 5pm Daily

(arrive at least 1 hour before closing)


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ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT BUDGET

The total cost of trekking the Annapurna Circuit will largely depend on how you choose to do it. The cheapest option is to trek independently, carrying all of your own gear. The most expensive option is to book a group tour with an international company. Trekking with a guide and paying-as-you-go, or booking an inclusive package with a local trekking agency will fall somewhere in between. In this section, we’ll give a ballpark figure for each approach, plus a detailed breakdown of all the costs involved so you can compare the various options.

APPROXIMATE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT COSTS

Independent Trekker 18 Days
$470-600 (solo trekker, approx.
$30-35 less if sharing a room)

Trekking With A Guide 18 Days
$830-$1140 (solo trekker)
$650-$870 (two trekkers sharing guide)

Trekking With A Guide and Porter 18 Days
$1154 – $1590 (solo trekker)
$812 – $1095 (two trekkers sharing guide/porter)

Inclusive Package 14-18 Days
$900 – $1400 (solo trekker)

International Group Tour 15-22 Days
$1400 – $2300 (solo trekker)


PERMIT COSTS

The combined cost of the ACAP and TIMS permits are 5000 NPR (4000 NPR if trekking with a guide), approx $41 USD.

ACCOMMODATION BUDGET

The average price for a twin room is 400-500 NPR, approx $3-4 USD per night. The price is generally the same regardless of whether the room is used by one or two people.

Some lodges along the Annapurna Circuit are quite up front about offering free rooms as long as you buy 2-3 meals a day. If somewhere is freely offering this, then by all means take them up on the offer. BUT, please don’t expect this, or ask lodge owners to give you a room for free if they are not openly advertising this. Perpetuating the cycle is bad news for local lodge owners and trekkers alike, as it lowers income and results in little incentive to provide good service. On other treks in Nepal, such as the Manaslu Circuit, lodge owners have agreed a standard price for rooms and food in each community, but unfortunately this practice doesn’t seem to have taken hold along the Annapurna Circuit yet.

We spent a total of 3800 NPR (approx $31 USD) on accommodation. That was for two people sharing a room for 10 nights between Dharapani and Kagbeni.

The cheapest we paid for a room was 400 NPR (in Ngawal and Thorong High Camp), and the most expensive was 900 NPR (in Muktinath).

We got 3 free nights’ accommodation, two in Manang and one in Yak Kharka. In Manang the lodge openly had a policy of not charging for the room as long as 3 meals a day were eaten in the restaurant. In Yak Kharka we didn’t even realise until we were handed the bill that the room was free of charge.

A large sunlit room with double and single beds at the Hotel Himalayan Singi in Manang on the Annapurna Circuit

This large room in Manang was free of charge when staying 2 nights and eating 3 meals a day



A large sunlit room with double and single beds at the Hotel Himalayan Singi in Manang on the Annapurna Circuit

This large room in Manang was free of charge
when staying 2 nights and eating 3 meals a day



FOOD AND DRINK BUDGET

Food and drink costs can vary widely from person to person. This depends on how much you consume and how often you treat yourself to real coffee, a slice of apple pie, and so on.

We spent an average of 2700 NPR per person per day (approx $22 USD) on food and drinks, including treats like apple pie, coffee, and a couple of beers along the way. Without these treats we spent an average of 2350 NPR per person per day (approx $19 USD).

We usually ate porridge or an omelette with Tibetan bread for breakfast, dal bhat for lunch and dinner, and had the odd shared snack in the afternoon (momos, veg pakora or such like). We splashed out on a hummus platter in Muktinath, indulged in coffee and cake in Manang, had the odd desert, and Del drank copious amounts of tea on a daily basis.

A large blue and silver thermos flask of tea sits alongside a metal mug on a colourful tablecloth in the Windhorse Restaurant at Thorong Phedi on the Annapurna Circuit

A thermos (small pot) of tea at the Windhorse Restaurant in Thorong Phedi (4525 m)



A large blue and silver thermos flask of tea sits alongside a metal mug on a colourful tablecloth in the Windhorse Restaurant at Thorong Phedi on the Annapurna Circuit

A thermos (small pot) of tea at the Windhorse
Restaurant in Thorong Phedi (4525 m)



Compared to the Manaslu Circuit, we spent approx. 700 NPR/$6 USD more per person per day on food and drink. This was mostly because the option for treats like fresh coffee, cinnamon buns or apple pie were more prevalent and too good an opportunity to pass up! We also had shorter trekking days in general, so the temptation to order an extra pot of hot chocolate or an afternoon snack was greater.

We suggest a food budget of 2400 – 2700 NPR (approx $20 – 22 USD) per person per day.

MISCELLANEOUS COSTS

Most lodges, especially higher up, charge around $2-3 for a hot shower (gas or solar heated). If you want to use electricity to charge your phone, camera batteries, etc., this is usually $1-2 per item or hour.

TRANSPORT BUDGET

Transport costs vary widely depending on whether you travel by local bus or private jeep, and whether you fly from Jomsom to Pokhara or go by land from your end point. The absolute cheapest option is starting at Besisahar/Bhulbhule and ending at Nayapul/Kande/Phedi, using local transport to and from these points.

Taking a local bus to and from the main trailheads should cost no more than a total of $10 – $20 per person, depending on whether you are travelling to/from Kathmandu or Pokhara.

A local shared jeep from Besisahar to Chamje at the start of the trek should cost no more than a maximum of $30 per person, with tourists often being charged more than locals (who might pay around 1000 NPR).

This would bring total transport costs to around $50 or less per person if you are taking local buses and shared jeeps.

Private Transport Costs

A private car between Kathmandu and Besisahar would cost anywhere from $110-180

A private jeep all the way to Chamje could be around $300

A private jeep from Besisahar to Chamje is likely to be around $180. These costs are per vehicle, not per passenger, so the cost can be shared amongst a group.

A private jeep between Jomsom and Pokhara could be $300 – $450 for the vehicle. 

A flight between Jomsom and Pokhara is approx $125 per person. 

A taxi from Kande/Phedi to Pokhara is around $15-20.


Private Transport Costs

A private car between Kathmandu and Besisahar would cost anywhere from $110-180

A private jeep all the way to Chamje could be around $300

A private jeep from Besisahar to Chamje is likely to be around $180. These costs are per vehicle, not per passenger, so the cost can be shared amongst a group.

A private jeep between Jomsom and Pokhara could be $300 – $450 for the vehicle. 

A flight between Jomsom and Pokhara is approx $125 per person. 

A taxi from Kande/Phedi to Pokhara is around $15-20.


GUIDE & PORTER COSTS

You can expect to pay around the following:

$20-30 per day for a guide

$18-25 per day for a porter

$25-30 per day for a porter-guide

The cost of a guide can be split between a group, usually up to 5 trekkers. A porter can carry around 20-25kg (absolutely no more than 30kg) so the cost can be divided between two. A porter-guide will carry around 13-15kg, so the cost can be shared between two trekkers if you are both travelling light or carry some of your own gear.

Tipping Guides & Porters

Tipping your trekking guides and porters isn’t compulsory, but it is recommended and is a good thing to do. You’ll need to factor the cost into your overall budget and be sure to have enough money with you to give the tip at the end of your trek. The following figures are generally accepted guidelines:

INDIVIDUAL TREKKERS

Guides – 5 USD per day

Porters – 3 USD per day

GROUPS

Guides – 10 USD per day

Porters – 5 USD per day


The costs are covered by everyone in the group, hence they tend to be higher when there are more people.

Additionally, if you are trekking as part of a large group tour with a head guide (and maybe an assistant guide), they are usually given 10-15% of their daily rate from the group as a whole. In these situations, it’s worth finding out the total number of guides and porters in your group beforehand, as well as the number of fellow trekkers, so you can budget accordingly. You won’t necessarily know their daily rate, but someone experienced enough to be working for an international company will likely be at the higher end of the scale. You can ask the company or head guide for advice.

Trekkers approaching a large stone gate beneath prayer flags on the Annapurna Circuit

Trekkers and their guide following the trail to Ngawal on the Annapurna Circuit



Trekkers on the dry trail towards Yak Kharka, surrounded by sparse vegetation

Trekkers, guides and porters on the
trail from Manang to Yak Kharka



How good was the service?

While it is good practice and expected to tip, if you’re unhappy with the level of service then it’s entirely up to you whether you tip less, or maybe even not at all. This could be anything from poor communication to bad advice, or perhaps even drunkenness. On the other hand, if your guide or porter has gone above and beyond, then by all means tip more.

MONEY ON THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT

The amount of money you need to take on the Annapurna Circuit Trek will depend on whether you’re paying as you go, or on an inclusive prepaid package. If you are on an inclusive tour then you’ll just need money for any food or drinks over and above what’s included in your package. If you are paying as you go, then you’ll need to have enough cash to cover all costs: accommodation, food, drink, etc. (see budget section).

On the trail, everything is payable in the local currency, Nepalese Rupees (NPR). Take plenty of small denomination notes as change isn’t always readily available, particularly at higher altitudes. If you have a few days in Kathmandu or Pokhara beforehand, pay for things in big notes to build up your supply of small ones. Also beware that ATMs have max withdrawal amounts, and your bank may have a max daily withdrawal limit, so you may not be able to withdraw the total amount that you need all in one day. Plan ahead.

There are ATMs in Besisahar, Jomsom and Nayapul, however it is best to withdraw your cash in Kathmandu/Pokhara instead of relying on these local ATMs. A few of the more expensive places to stay do accept card payments, but there is often a hefty fee. Generally speaking, you must pay in cash for everything.

ACCOMMODATION & FACILITIES ON THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT

Accommodation on the Annapurna Circuit is in lodges/guesthouses, sometimes called teahouses. These lodges are often clustered together in local villages, or settlements that have sprung up specifically to cater for trekkers. They are basic but comfortable, and provide all your meals. Accommodation is similar to what you find on other teahouse treks, although the standard is generally a bit higher than on something like the Manaslu Circuit, for example. Places do vary in size, decor and state of repair, but most things are pretty standard.

Guesthouses clustered around the trail at Yak Kharka, with snowy mountains in the background

Guesthouses clustered around the trekking trail in Yak Kharka (4050 m)



Guesthouses clustered around the trail at Yak Kharka, with snowy mountains in the background

Guesthouses clustered around the
trekking trail in Yak Kharka (4050 m)



ROOMS

Rooms usually have two single beds and a small window. Sometimes there’s a table, too. Some places will have rooms with extra beds which can be handy if you’re travelling as a trio or quad. Pillows and blankets are always provided but a sleeping bag is recommended (don’t expect the blankets to be particularly fresh or clean). Think of the blanket as supplementary to your sleeping bag when it gets cold.

TOILETS

 It’s best to assume that you will have shared bathroom facilities, although many lodges do have some rooms with attached bathrooms. These usually cost around 200-300 NPR more than a standard room.

Shared bathrooms may be inside the main building or in an outhouse. They can have a western style flushing toilet or a squat. They usually have a sink for washing your hands, cleaning your teeth, etc. Things tend to become more basic in places at higher altitude. You’ll need to have your own toilet paper and soap isn’t always provided so make sure you have hand sanitiser too. Generally speaking, used toilet paper goes in a bin (battered old metal can or such like) next to the toilet. You flush the squat toilet by scooping water out of the nearby bucket with whatever receptacle is provided.

SHOWERS

Showers, if available, are usually in a separate room to the shared toilet. If you have an attached bathroom it will likely have a shower head, too. The shower head may or may not actually attach to the wall. While many places advertise ‘hot showers’, the chances of it actually being hot depend on whether it is gas or solar heated. Gas showers are more reliably hot, but of course that gas bottle has to be brought from somewhere and it is often more important for cooking or heating. For a hot solar heated shower you need to time it just right in the late morning/early afternoon, and of course it needs to be a sunny day.

Either way, there is often a shower charge of $2-3, and chances for a hot shower dwindle the higher you go. Water pressure isn’t always great and you might need to hold the shower head low to the ground for the best results. Between Manang and Muktinath it can be so cold that the thought of getting undressed in a freezing cold room to stand under a lukewarm piddle of water isn’t too appealing anyway. Best to be prepared to keep yourself clean with wet wipes.

DINING ROOM

There’s always a dining room where meals are served, and it’s a good place to hang out and get to know your fellow trekkers. The higher you go, there will usually be a fire in the central stove around dinner time, although this is by no means guaranteed. Take advantage of it when you can.

Flames in a cast iron fire inside a dining room on the Annapurna Circuit

Getting the fire started early on a cold afternoon at the Kamala Hotel in Dhukur Pokhari (3200 m)



Flames in a cast iron fire inside a dining room on the Annapurna Circuit

Getting the fire started early on a cold afternoon
at the Kamala Hotel in Dhukur Pokhari (3200 m)



COURTYARD/GARDEN

Many guesthouses have a courtyard or garden. These can be big or small, full of static wooden benches and tables or moveable plastic ones. These usually make for a nice place to eat lunch in the sun.

Trekkers sit for lunch in the garden of a teahouse, with cloud topped mountains in the background

Sunny gardens like this one at Thanchowk (2700 m) are popular places for lunch



Trekkers sit for lunch in the garden of a teahouse, with cloud topped mountains in the background

Gardens like this one at Thanchowk (2700 m)
are popular places for an outdoor lunch



BUSY TREKKING SEASON

In the busy trekking season you may find it harder to get a room if you are trekking solo or in a small group. Lodge owners tend to prefer large groups trekking with guides as this means lots of business and less hassle dealing with individual trekkers (guides often act as go-betweens and sort out all the bills, food orders, etc). If you find this to be an issue, opt for less popular overnight stops along the way, or group together with other independent trekkers and approach lodges as one large group.

During the busiest of trekking periods it is also possible that lodges (especially in smaller settlements) may be full and it isn’t unheard of for trekkers to have to sleep in the dining room. Saying that, this isn’t a problem we encountered while trekking in October.

‘FREE ROOMS’ ON THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT

As previously mentioned in the budget section, there is a practice of offering free rooms in return for eating all your meals at certain lodges on the Annapurna Circuit. It is normal (and an expectation) for trekkers to eat their meals at their chosen guesthouse anyway, so there really isn’t a need for lodge owners to offer this. But, some do. By all means, take them up on the offer if they are freely advertising this. But please don’t use this as an excuse to demand free rooms everywhere you stay. It does little to encourage good service and denies locals much needed income.

On other popular treks in Nepal, lodge owners have made a stand against this and introduced standardised pricings across all lodges in each village. Unfortunately, this is yet to happen on the Annapurna Circuit.

FOOD & DRINK ON THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT

Food and drink on the Annapurna Circuit is similar to what you find on Nepal’s other popular treks, however options are definitely more varied compared to treks like the Manaslu Circuit or Upper Mustang. ‘World cuisine’ like pizza, pasta, fried rice, noodles, burritos, tacos, pakora or burgers are commonly on offer alongside Nepali staples like dal bhat, soups and momos. That’s not to say the standard of said ‘world cuisine’ is up to much, but if you are fed up with eating the same thing day in, day out, there are choices to be had. Prices rise and fall depending on the altitude and ease of supply, and food is always more expensive than in Pokhara or Kathmandu.

POINTS TO NOTE

You’re expected to eat dinner and breakfast at your guesthouse. Lunch will generally be at a different place somewhere along the trail unless it’s a short day and you arrive at your destination earlier

Try to order the same as the people you’re trekking with. Your food will usually arrive more quickly and less fuel will be needed to cook it

Think carefully before ordering meat. Refrigeration, storage and kitchen standards mean that eating veggie is the safest option. Yak meat is likely the freshest


POINTS TO NOTE

You’re expected to eat dinner and breakfast at your guesthouse. Lunch will generally be at a different place somewhere along the trail unless it’s a short day and you arrive at your destination earlier

Try to order the same as the people you’re trekking with. Your food will usually arrive more quickly and less fuel will be needed to cook it

Think carefully before ordering meat. Refrigeration, storage and kitchen standards mean that eating veggie is the safest option. Yak meat is likely the freshest


FOOD

Dal Bhat

Dal Bhat is the classic trekking dish. A combination of dal (lentils), rice, veg curry, pickle and vegetables, this staple of the Nepali diet is a great option. It comes with a guaranteed refill of rice and curry, and usually some extra dal too. The fresh vegetable component varies, and pretty much disappears at high altitude until after the Thorong La.

It’s usually ready pretty quickly – great if you’re stopping for lunch and don’t want to wait an hour. Dal Bhat is what all guides and porters eat so it’s constantly being prepared, unlike more western style dishes which always have to be made to order. And as the whole cooking process requires less energy, this means that it’s better for the environment too.

  • A serving of classic Nepali dish dal bhat on a brass plate, sitting on a peach coloured wooden table
  • A serving of classic Nepali dish dal bhat on a brass plate, sitting on a peach coloured wooden table

Although it sometimes seems a more expensive choice, the option for free refills makes it worth it, and this meal will give you all the energy you need. Dal Bhat ranges from about 450 – 800 NPR on the Annapurna Circuit. We eat it twice a day every day when trekking in Nepal, and love it.

Note that while free refills are totally normal and acceptable, it’s not OK to order one dal bhat to share between two people. The thought had never even occurred to us until we saw some lodges with signs up stating this, so clearly some trekkers had attempted to save money by doing this…

BREAKFAST

Breakfast options range in price from about 300 – 500 NPR and include porridge, muesli, pancakes, omelettes, boiled/fried eggs, and various breads (fried Tibetan bread, buckwheat bread, chapatis, and so on). Often you can get them with jam or honey, sometimes with apples. You can order these dishes any time of day, and it’s common to place your breakfast order the night before.

LUNCH & DINNER

Besides the ubiquitous dal bhat, lunch and dinner dishes include soups, pasta, fried rice, momos (a kind of dumpling), pizzas, spring rolls, and plenty more. The variations usually revolve around veg, cheese, tuna, tomato, or ‘mixed’, with most of these ingredients coming out of a can. Pasta dishes usually come fried rather than boiled.

A bowl of veg noodles on a colourful table cloth in an Annapurna Circuit dining room

A bowl of vegetable noodle soup, not too heavy but filling enough for a light meal



A bowl of veg noodles on a colourful table cloth in an Annapurna Circuit dining room

A bowl of vegetable noodle soup, not too
heavy but filling enough for a light meal



Bigger settlements like Manang or Muktinath have greater variety, including yak burgers and steaks, Tex-Mex or Israeli dishes. The quality and interpretation of meals can vary greatly when it comes to non-Nepali dishes. Have a subtle nosey around the dining room to see what looks good before ordering to avoid any nasty surprises!

Prices range from 350 – 800 NPR for a main meal, depending on what you get and the altitude you’re at.

DESSERT

Sweet treats on offer include the likes of pancakes, rice pudding, custard pudding, apple pie, apple fritters and Mars or Snickers Spring Rolls (deep fried chocolate bars). Thought you could only get that in Scotland, didn’t you? Prices range from around 250 – 500 NPR.

DRINKS

Hot drinks are on the menu at every guesthouse, with an often huge range of options stretching from regular black tea and instant coffee to masala tea, lemon ginger honey tea, and hot chocolate. Prices range from 50 – 150 NPR per cup, depending on altitude and the drink ordered. ‘Pots’ (thermal flasks) of various sizes are also always available, which is sometimes good value and sometimes not – one guesthouse’s medium pot is another one’s small. Take a look at the size of the pots before ordering if you want to make sure! You can also order just hot water.

SNACKS

Chocolate bars, packets of biscuits and other snacks are usually available to buy from lodges, and shops in bigger places like Chame, Manang, Muktinath and Jomsom are well stocked. If you want things like granola bars, trail mix or such like, it’s better to stock up in Kathmandu or Pokhara.

DRINKING WATER ON THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT

The Annapurna Circuit is physically demanding and drinking plenty of water is a must. The first few days at lower altitudes can be hot, so expect to need a lot of water. At colder, higher altitudes you might feel less thirsty, but drinking lots of water helps you acclimatise. Planning to have at least 3-4 litres of water a day is a good place to start.

WHERE TO GET WATER

Filling up water is easy. Taps in, at or outside guesthouses mean there are plenty of places to fill up your bottles and/or water bladders. This can be at the place you’re staying, a lunch stop, or a communal tap used by locals. If you find yourself empty on the trail, there are often streams of cold, clear water that do the job nicely.

It’s a good idea to fill up water bladders and bottles before bed. This is handy for two reasons: one, it will save you time in the morning; and two, water sources can sometimes be frozen first thing in the morning, especially at higher altitudes.

Three stone water taps in a stone wall, tied with one yellow, one white and one red flag

Probably the fanciest water taps on the trail, right next to the apple farm and equally fancy coffee shop at Bhratang



Three stone water taps in a stone wall, tied with one yellow, one white and one red flag

Probably the fanciest water taps on the
trail, right next to the apple farm and
equally fancy coffee shop at Bhratang



STERILISATION

Use an effective sterilisation method to make sure your water is safe to drink. Our preferred method is the Steripen Ultra. It uses ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and treats one litre of water in 90 seconds. The bulb has a lifetime of around 8,000 treatments, making the initial cost (about $100 USD) seem cheap when you realise how many litres of water that is. If you happen to use up the bulb, the company will replace it for free. We use our Steripen in conjunction with a filter to keep any weird floaty bits out. It’s quick and hassle free, especially when compared to using purification tablets, and the Ultra model is rechargeable via USB.

Other popular means of sterilisation are Lifestraw, Grayl,