The Annapurna Circuit is considered one of the most beautiful, yet accessible, hikes in the world. During the trek you traverse from the Hindu-dominated lush lowlands to the Buddhist barren highlands. The trek goes counter-clockwise and reaches its summit in Thorung La (pass) at the height of 5416m, or 17,769 feet. Road construction is threatening this trail, so it is advisable to go quickly and enjoy the serenity before jeeps begin zooming all the way to Manang. Even if your vacation time is limited, you can fly to Nepal and complete the trek within 14 days.
Nepal has the highest mountains in the world. Where else can you hike in view of Everest, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Lhotse or Manaslu?
It has a tradition of catering to foreigners: everyone speaks English, it is safe and you can arrange and purchase in Kathmandu or Pokhara everything needed for the hike.
Tea house trekking does not require carrying food or a tent. Most villages along the trek have adequate accommodations and plenty of places to eat. A nice meal by the fireplace in a lodge and a hot shower at the end of the day are treats that you will not have if you go camping.
While many people do hike this trail during the busy season, it never feels crowded, and you will meet interesting people from all over the world.
Historically the trek started at Besi Sahar, but since the road is being extended, it is possible to catch a jeep further up the river valley close to Chame, thus cutting two days off the trek. I did not find the trek particularly difficult, though it is important to stay at least two nights in Manang as part of the altitude acclimation process. The first few days of the trek are spent walking in warm lush valleys and as you gain altitude, the mountains begin to appear, temperature drops and vegetation diminishes. The Nepali-Hindu population makes way for Tibetan-Buddhists.
Once you leave Manang, you will spend two nights gaining altitude preparing to cross the highest point of the route, Thorung La pass, where the air is thin and cold. The crossing is usually done early in the morning and from there you quickly descend over 1600 meters to the pilgrim village of Muktinath, a pilgrim place for Hindus. The high pass should not be a problem as long as the weather is good and you have taken it easy during the hike. From Muktinath, you can catch a jeep to Jomsom and from there, hop on one of the numerous daily flights back to Pokhara (and from there to Kathmandu).
People in good physical shape who are not too susceptible to altitude sickness can complete the trail in 10 days, including an obligatory rest day in Manang, which means one can fly to Nepal, get organized in Kathmandu and recover after the trail within a two-week period. A nice break from routine!
When to go
Spring and fall are the best months (March-May and September-November). If you go before early March, you may find the pass inaccessible due to snow. Summer is monsoon season (too much rain). The air is clearest in autumn.