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The Annapurna Circuit is an iconic, bucket-list trek in the Himalayas of Nepal. Over two weeks you’ll see jagged mountains, glacial plains, and fluttering prayer flags. You’ll reach an altitude of 5416m and stay with lovely Nepali families. There are many things to know before hiking the Annapurna Circuit trek so you can have a successful and safe experience. 
The prospect of hiking in the Himalayas for days at a time may sound understandably overwhelming. This list of things to know before hiking the Annapurna Circuit will hopefully help you organize for your trip. 
Annapurna Circuit trekking in Nepal, Thorong La Pass itinerary

Preparing for the Annapurna Circuit Hike

1. Pack as little as possible

One mistake that many people make before hiking the Annapurna Circuit is packing waaay more than they need.
At most, bring three sets of clothes: one for sleeping in, and two for hiking in. One set of hiking clothes should be lighter, and one set heavier, that can comfortably be layered. Bring 3-4 sets of socks and undergarments that you can hand-wash on the trail.
Bring minimal electronics. Just a phone, camera, maybe a Kindle, and chargers is enough. Bring a portable battery pack if you have one. Also…extra toilet paper. 

See my complete, but minimal, packing list in my Trekking in Nepal Packing List!

20 things to know before trekking the Annapurna Circuit. 20 tips for hiking the Annapurna Circuit. side trek to Tilicho Lake, side trek to Poon Hill sunrise, Manang, Pokhara to Besisahar, mountain bike on the Annapurna Circuit

2. Get your permits ahead of time

Purchase your trekking permits before hiking the  Annapurna Circuit, because there is no place to buy them along the trail. If you don’t have your permits at the checkpoints, you will be fined or turned back.

The two permits required to hike the Annapurna Region can be purchased at the tourist offices in Pokhara or Kathmandu. The permits you need are the Annapurna Conservation Permit (2000 rupees or $20 USD) and the Trekkers Information Management System, or TIMS (2000 rupees, $20 USD).

Don’t save buying permits until the last minute, because the offices close early. 

Annapurna Circuit Nepal required trekking permits TIMS

3. It’s easy to find trekking buddies

There are no problems hiking the Annapurna Circuit solo, even as a solo female. If you prefer to trek the Annapurna Circuit with others, it is easy to find another trekkers in Pokhara or Kathmandu. If you’re in Nepal during trekking season, just chat with people from your hostel. I guarantee there will be at least one other person thinking of embarking on the Annapurna Circuit trek in the coming days. 
Other resources to find trekking buddies are:

4. You can hire a guide or porter in Pokhara or on the Circuit

People who hike the Annapurna Circuit independently sometimes hire a guide or a porter to accompany them. Guides and porters for the Annapurna Circuit can easily be hired through the many tourist offices in Pokhara. 
A guide is someone who is highly knowledgeable about the Annapurna Circuit Trek and the culture and history of the Annapurna Region. They will probably have completed the Circuit countless times, have great English skills, and will be able to show where the trails and best viewpoints are. 
Porters are helpers who carry your luggage for you while hiking the Annapurna Circuit Trek. While you may carry a small bag, your porter carries a larger bag with your clothes and other heavy items. The English level of porters vary, and some cannot speak English at all. Because porters should also have experience on the Annapurna Circuit, they can also point you in the right direction on the trail. 
Annapurna Circuit Blog, Annapurna Circuit Itinerary trekking in Nepal

It’s best to hire a porter or guide from Pokhara, instead of through an agency in Kathmandu. Guides and porters from Pokhara and nearby villages are more likely to be experts on the Annapurna Circuit trek and region. Meet your guide or porter in person before setting off to spend two weeks in the wilderness together! 

5. Bring all the money you’ll need for the trek from Pokhara

This is vital to know before hiking the Annapurna Circuit. There are NO ATMs on the trek if you run out of money, until you reach Jomsom after Thorong La Pass. Bring all the cash with you that you plan on spending, from Pokhara.
I spent about $20 per day on the Annapurna Circuit trek when I was hiking on a budget, and brought extra contingency money from Pokhara. It’s better safe than broke and sorry, so pack about 60,000 rupees, ($600 USD) before departing on the trek. 
See my Annapurna Circuit Trek Budget Breakdown in my Ultimate Guide
Nepalese Rupees with Everest image, budgeting for Nepal travel

6. Download maps.me, and buy a paper map

Maps.me is a free offline maps app that also has an outline of the Annapurna Circuit trail that you can download. If you keep the GPS on your phone on during the trek, it can help you navigate. 
At many shops around Pokhara and Kathmandu, you can purchase a map of the Annapurna Circuit region. Having a paper map is a great way to see how far you will have to trek, how many hours it should take, and see approximately where the trail will take you.
Ultimate Guide to the Three Passes Trek and Everest Base Camp. Permits, Budgeting for the Trek, How to get there, Three Passes Trek Packing List, Safety, Things to do in Namche Bazaar, Kongma La, Cho La, Renjo La, Gokyo, Lobuche, What not to miss trekking in Nepal

Logistics of the Annapurna Circuit Hike

7. It’s easy to reach the start of the Annapurna Circuit Trek, from Pokhara 

Unlike the Everest region, the Annapurna Circuit is easily accessible from Pokhara. From any tourist office in Pokhara, you can book a bus ticket to get to Besisahar, the village at the start of the Annapurna Circuit. Bus tickets cost about 600-700 rupees ($6-$7 USD), and depart early in the morning from the Pokhara Tourist Bus Station. 
You will need to get a taxi to the tourist bus station, which costs 300 rupees per taxi. During trekking season, you can easily find others at your hostel who are headed to the Pokhara Bus Station. 
The bus from Pokhara to Besisahar takes about 4 hours, so you will be in Besisahar, ready to start hiking the Annapurna Circuit, by noon! 
Pokhara Tourist Bus Station, bussing to Annapurna Circuit starting point, Besisahar 2018
Departing for the Annapurna Circuit from the Tourist Bus Station in Pokhara

8. Start hiking at Besisahar 

Many jeeps camp out at Besisahar to transport trekkers to different villages further along the Annapurna Circuit trek. You can skip several days of trekking by paying to take a jeep to villages like Tal or Chame. I was even told at a travel agency in Pokhara that it’s not worth trekking the first few days of the Annapurna Circuit because it is not scenic. 

This is FALSE, and it’s a mistake to skip the first few days of hiking the Annapurna Circuit. No matter what anyone tells you, start the Annapurna Circuit from Besisahar if you have time. 

The views of the small Nepali villages tucked between agriculture terraces, alongside a gushing glacial river, are breathtaking. I listened to the travel agency and took a bumpy, painful, 4-hour jeep ride to Tal for 1500 rupees ($15), and I regret doing so. For the extra two or three days of trekking, you can enjoy a peaceful trail while being exposed to Nepali village life. 
Mountain views on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal 2018 with River

9. Keep your permits handy

I mentioned before that you need to purchase trekking permits before you start hiking the Annapurna Circuit. While you may want to bury other valuables like cash and passports at the bottom of your backpack for safekeeping, keep the trekking permits somewhere easily accessible. 

There are many checkpoints along the way where you will be required to show, and get stamps on, both permits. 
One of many checkpoints along the Annapurna Circuit

10. Consider the Tilicho Lake side trek on the Annapurna Circuit

There is a wonderful side trek that you can do from the Annapurna Circuit: Tilicho Lake. It’s known as “the highest lake in the world for its size” and is great to acclimatize at before going over Thorong La Pass. 

Know before you start trekking that Annapurna Circuit, that Tilicho Lake is an overnight side trek. Allot yourself extra days and extra money to complete the Tilicho Lake side trek from the Annapurna Circuit.  

Watch Intrepid Road’s guide to Tilicho Lake

11. There are many ways to depart from the Annapurna Circuit

Once you’ve crossed over Thorong La Pass and reached Muktinath town, you will have many options to get back to Pokhara. 
From Muktinath
  • Jeep to Pokhara – This option costs no less than $80 USD per person, but may be negotiated down if there is a large enough group of people who want to share the jeep. 
  • Mountain Bike – Rent a mountain bike to go down to Tatopani, a town that is mostly downhill from Muktinath and can be reached in 1-2 days. The company that rents mountain bikes will take your large luggage down to Tatopani for you, and give you a small bag to rent for valuables you can use. This will cost about $60 USD per person.
Detour to Khagbeni
  • There is a one-day detour that you can take from Muktinath, to stay in a small oasis town of Khagbeni. The town is like an old labyrinth, with a large monastery in the heart of it and goats and other animals running wildly through it. After a night in Khagbeni it is also possible to take a jeep to Pokhara or rent a mountain bike to ride to Tatopani. 
From Jomsom
  • Fly to Pokhara or Kathmandu – there is a small airport in Jomsom where many trekkers (especially elderly ones) can choose to fly out. Flying is the most comfortable exit from the Annapurna Circuit, because you won’t be squashed in a rickety bus or jeep, and you will be finished trekking. Check flights from Yeti Air, which you will have to book in advance.
  • Jeep or Bus back to Pokhara – there are busses and jeeps that depart in the morning to take trekkers and locals back to Pokhara. If you arrive later in the afternoon, your options may be limited to a jeep shared with less people, making it more expensive (maybe $80 USD per person).
Walk to Nayapul, the official finish line of the Annapurna Circuit 
  • Walk and bus – After Thorong La Pass and a detour to Khagbeni, it took me three nights and four days to reach Pokhara. I stayed in Larjung, Tatopani, and Ghorepani, then saw the sunrise at Poon Hill before hiking down to Nayapul, where I caught the local bus back to Pokhara for less than 200 rupees ($2). 
  • Walk and walk some more – there are several villages between Nayapul, the end of the Annapurna Circuit, and Pokhara. You can choose to walk all the way back to Pokhara if you prefer.

12. Don’t miss the sunrise at Poon Hill

Another side trek along the Annapurna Circuit is the hike up to Poon Hill from Ghorepani. This side trek takes maybe an hour, but you should wake up before 5 a.m. for it. 

Many Annapurna Circuit trekkers stay their last night on the Circuit in Ghorepani, a relatively large town with many facilities including souvenir and book shops. Hiking up to Poon Hill for a sunrise view over the Himalayas is an epic way to end your time on the Annapurna Circuit! 

View from Poon Hill mountains, Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

Trekking Safety on the Annapurna Circuit

13. Don’t be afraid to trek solo

The Annapurna Circuit is a safe trail for solo trekkers, even solo female trekkers. The local Nepali people are used to seeing thousands of trekkers come through their villages every year, and many of them are extremely friendly and welcoming to trekkers. It’s also easy to meet other solo trekkers, so you can form a little group of friends like I did. 
To trek safely if you’re alone, keep track of where there are people in front of you or behind you so you don’t get lost. The trails are marked with red and white stripes, but if there seems to be a fork in the road and you don’t know which trail to take, wait until another trekker or group of trekkers comes along. Locals who may be walking between villages can also point you in the right direction
Erika's Travelventures hiking Annapurna Circuit mountains backdrop

14. Purchase high-altitude insurance

Before hiking the Annapurna Circuit, make sure your insurance covers high-altitude evacuations. Accidents do happen. 

World Nomads is a traveler’s insurance company that has an extra package you can purchase, even if you’re already on the road, that will cover high-altitude evacuations. 
Most standard insurance companies will not cover incidents that occur over 3000m (Thorong La Pass is at 5440m, and much of the Circuit is above 3000m). People need to be evacuated if they experience serious altitude sickness, or if they have a fall and break something, for example. 

15. Take at least one rest day around 3000m in altitude

One tip to prevent severe altitude sickness on the Annapurna Circuit is to spend one extra night, a ‘rest day’ around the towns of Manang and Bhraka. These are located at just over 3000m, and staying here gives your body a chance to adjust to functioning at this high altitude. 

There are several side-treks you can do on this rest day, including trek up to the Ice Lake, or visit a large monastery or some caves. This is also where the side trek to Tilicho Lake starts. 
Remember the Golden Rule while trekking at high altitude: Trek High, Sleep Low. You should only sleep about 500m above where you slept the night before. Although it’s good to acclimatize by trekking to high altitudes (trek high), to spend the night, you need to go back down to no more than 500m above your last stop (sleep low). 
Ice Lake Side Trek on the Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

What to expect while on the Annapurna Circuit Trek

16. Accommodation could be free if you eat your meals at the guesthouses

Traditionally in Nepal, before large hotels and lodges were built in the mountains, trekkers stayed at teahouses or local guesthouses. In exchange for eating both dinner after arrival, and breakfast before departure, and paying for these meals, the accommodation would be free. 
I only paid for guesthouses on the Annapurna Circuit once the elevation became over 3000m, but still only $1-4 per night. Larger hotels and lodges are more likely to charge for accommodation than family-owned small guesthouses, but may have nicer facilities like an attached bathroom, outlets in the room, good wifi, and thicker walls. 
Breakfast at Tal Guesthouse Annapurna Circuit 2018

17. Food and accommodation for trekkers is plentiful

It’s good to know before hiking the Annapurna Circuit that you don’t need to worry about lack of food or accommodation. Guesthouses are plentiful at each village, and there are villages about every 1-2 hours of trekking. 
At the end of the day, you can just wander up to a building and ask if the owners have rooms open. For lunch in the middle of the day, you’ll often see trekkers resting at picnic tables outside while being served food from a nearby guesthouse. 
Manang guesthouse Annapurna Circuit Nepal 2018

18. The variety of food is awesome

You won’t be eating the same thing over and over on the Annapurna Circuit if you don’t want to. The most budget-friendly meal in terms of quantity for cost, is Nepali dal baht, where you can get one or unlimited refills depending on the guesthouse. You can eat this every day like the locals do, or try something new! 
Other food you can eat along the Annapurna Circuit include pasta, veggie or yak burgers, fried noodles and fried rice, and momo dumplings. For breakfast, guesthouses will serve pancakes, oatmeal, fluffy deep-friend Tibetan bread, or chapati. This is just to name a few options! 
Food on EBC trek, Dahl baht eating on EBC trek, Everest region trekking. Ultimate Guide to Everest Base Camp Trek, Three Passes Trek, Nepal Trekking

19. Sleep with your electronics to keep their batteries charged

This is a good tip for hiking the Annapurna Circuit, or anywhere where the temperature drops significantly at night. If you sleep with your electronics (phone, portable battery, GoPro, etc) in your sleeping bag, their batteries stay warm and full. 
If your electronics spend a night laying somewhere in the room, the cold temperature will likely cause their batteries to drain, causing panic and frustration! 

20. Annapurna Circuit vs Everest Base Camp – how do they differ?

If you only have time for either the Annapurna Circuit or Everest Base Camp, I would recommend the Annapurna Circuit! 
The Annapurna Circuit trek is much cheaper than the Everest Base Camp trek. The Everest region is most commonly accessed by flight ($380 round-trip from Kathmandu), and the costs for things like food, water, and charging electronics is 2-3x higher. While the Annapurna Circuit guesthouses often offer free WiFi, in the Everest Region you have to pay $6 per 200 MB used. 

The scenery is much more variable along the Annapurna Circuit also, from deep green valleys and ice blue rivers, to large glacial plains and picturesque mountains. The Everest Region has colorful villages, and the mountains are undoubtedly big and bad, but they’re a bit monotonous in color.

See my full blog post comparing the Annapurna Circuit vs Everest Base Camp Trek.  

Landscapes on the Annapurna Circuit vs Everest Base Camp, which to trek in Nepal Annapurna Circuit or Everest Base Camp

You ultimately can’t go wrong on any trek in Nepal, so if you’re interested in the Everest Base Camp Trek, or the even more epic Three Passes Trek, check out my other Nepal blog posts! 

See my full Annapurna Circuit Packing List

Check out my Ultimate Guide to the Annapurna Circuit, or watch Intrepid Road‘s Vlog!