• ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREKKING GUIDE

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

ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREK

The Essential Guide

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.

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.

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.

*Some of the links in this post are affiliate links – if you purchase a product or service via these links, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps offset the cost of running this blog and keeps us travelling so that we can continue to produce great content for you. We greatly appreciate your support!*

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.

OUR RECOMMENDED TREKKING AGENCY

We partnered with Himalayan Masters for our Langtang Valley, Gosainkunda, and Everest Three Passes treks, and found them to be professional and committed to a high level of service

To enquire about booking your own trek, get in touch via email at info@himalayan-masters.com and mention the code HOGG5 to get a 5% discount off the cost of your trip


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.

SEE MORE OF NEPAL ON THE LANGTANG VALLEY TREK

TREKKING THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT INDEPENDENTLY

UPDATE – The Nepal Tourism Board announced in March 2023 that as of April 1 2023 all international trekkers in Nepal are required to hire a licenced trekking guide and obtain the TIMS card through an authorised trekking agency registered with the government of Nepal. In reality, this change doesn’t seem to be getting enforced on the ground, with independent trekkers being issued ACAP permits and passing through permit and police checkpoints along the route without a TIMS card. We suggest checking the Annapurna Circuit Trek Facebook Group for on-the-trail updates as the situation evolves.

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.

Our Recommended Trekking Agency

Our recommended local trekking agency is Himalayan Masters, who we’ve partnered with on two major treks in Nepal, Langtang Valley/Gosainkunda and Everest Three Passes. They can arrange a guide only service, or inclusive packages for an Annapurna Circuit trek from $1200 USD.

The company is professional, committed to a high level of service, and competitively priced. They are the third agency we’ve trekked with in Nepal, and we can honestly say that Himalayan Masters provided us with the best guided experience we’ve had. What’s more, having met numerous other Himalayan Masters guides on the trail, and getting feedback from the trekkers with them, we’re confident that our positive experience with the company is one shared by others.

To enquire about a trek with Himalayan Masters just contact them via email at info@himalayan-masters.com to discuss your plans, and quote our referral code ‘HOGG5’ for a 5% discount off your trip cost.

You can also browse and book inclusive package tours via 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 info.

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

On an afternoon of bright light and deep shadow, a hiking couple stand on the rocky summit of Sgurr na Stri (one of the best hikes on Skye) overlooking the length of Loch Coruisk as it lies cradled amongst the sharp peaks of the Black Cuillin
Featured image for the Everest Base Camp trek guide, featuring a trekker walking on a rocky trail with mountain peaks in the distance
With Ama Dablam as a backdrop, a trekker and guide stop to enjoy the views while doing the Nangkartshang acclimatisation hike on the Everest Three Passes trek
A hiker and guide cross a flat, rocky section before Kongma La on the Everest Three Passes trek, with the snowy ridgeline to the east visible behind
A trekker and guide climbing the snow covered slope towards Laurebina Pass (4650 m), with the blue surface of Gosainkunda shining in the morning sun below
Snow covered guesthouses reflected in the bright blue waters of Gosainkunda
Trekkers enjoying mountain views and a well earned rest atop Kyanjin Ri (4586 m) in the Langtang Valley
Snowy mountain view with colourful prayer flags in the foreground, seen from the first Kyanjin Ri viewpoint (4300 m) on the Langtang Valley trek
Featured image for 'What to Pack for Trekking in Nepal', featuring trekkers, guides and porters crossing a suspension bridge on the Everest Base Camp route
A woman hiking with backpack and poles in front of a glacier wall
Backpacking Camping Gear Featured Image
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
A hiker descends the switchback ridgeline trail from Chaukhi Pass to Abudelauri Lakes on the Juta to Roshka trek in Georgia
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
On an afternoon of bright light and deep shadow, a hiking couple stand on the rocky summit of Sgurr na Stri (one of the best hikes on Skye) overlooking the length of Loch Coruisk as it lies cradled amongst the sharp peaks of the Black Cuillin
Featured image for the Everest Base Camp trek guide, featuring a trekker walking on a rocky trail with mountain peaks in the distance
With Ama Dablam as a backdrop, a trekker and guide stop to enjoy the views while doing the Nangkartshang acclimatisation hike on the Everest Three Passes trek
A hiker and guide cross a flat, rocky section before Kongma La on the Everest Three Passes trek, with the snowy ridgeline to the east visible behind
A trekker and guide climbing the snow covered slope towards Laurebina Pass (4650 m), with the blue surface of Gosainkunda shining in the morning sun below
Snow covered guesthouses reflected in the bright blue waters of Gosainkunda
Trekkers enjoying mountain views and a well earned rest atop Kyanjin Ri (4586 m) in the Langtang Valley
Snowy mountain view with colourful prayer flags in the foreground, seen from the first Kyanjin Ri viewpoint (4300 m) on the Langtang Valley trek
Featured image for 'What to Pack for Trekking in Nepal', featuring trekkers, guides and porters crossing a suspension bridge on the Everest Base Camp route
A woman hiking with backpack and poles in front of a glacier wall
Backpacking Camping Gear Featured Image
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
A hiker descends the switchback ridgeline trail from Chaukhi Pass to Abudelauri Lakes on the Juta to Roshka trek in Georgia
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