NOTE: As of 2019, Tea House Lodges at ABC (4130m) were still damaged.
Most sleep at Machhapuchhre Base Camp (3700m), instead, but it’s often booked out as well. It would be a good idea to carry a tent as a back-up.
AT A GLANCE
Most hikers think of Kathmandu and Everest when they hear the word Nepal, but Annapurna (close to Pokhara) has been a more popular destination.
- Annapurna Sanctuary is a shorter alternative to the Annapurna Circuit
- it’s an up-and-back trek for which you should already be acclimatized
- fewer villages, more wilderness
- unfortunately, as of 2018, there are not enough beds nor restaurants in the higher sections during peak season. Consider carrying your own bag, tent & campstove as back-ups. The alternative will be sleeping in the dining room on or under tables.
- Oct – Nov best months
- Mar – May next best
- up to 10 days recommended depending on start and finish.
- bad weather is a real risk. Over the years, hikers have been trapped at ABC, unable to descend
- 4130m (13,550 ft) is the highest elevation
- if it’s been snowing, you might not get past Doban
- ACAP permit, TIMS card required
- some hire a guide and/or porter(s) but it’s fairly easy to do independently if you are acclimatized
- independent hikers buy food as they go and stay in simple lodges
- the Annapurna region is inexpensive, but more expensive than in the past. Many hikers run out of cash. Budget at least $30 / day / person and carry more for emergencies.
- be clear — you might have to QUIT if you suffer altitude sickness (Acute Mountain Sickness or AMS).
- wifi and electricity available at most guest houses, sometimes at no extra cost
Why We Like This Hike
- the astonishing history of Annapurna mountaineering
- you walk from lush sub-tropic to high altitude through the Modi Gorge
- finally reaching an amphitheatre of huge Himalayan peaks
- it’s a lower destination than the Everest region for similar close-up vistas
- the Annapurna massif has one peak over 8,000m (26,000 ft), thirteen peaks over 7,000m (23,000 ft), and sixteen more over 6,000m (20,000 ft). It’s 55km (34 mi) long.
- very little gear is needed
- you can easily get pack weight down to 10kg (22lbs)
- walk with no tent and little food (unless you want to have a back-up plan)
- safe and easy to hike solo
- no need to speak Nepali, only English
- food is good and quite safe (compared with Kathmandu)
- the Gurung mountain culture is charming but this particular route goes through fewer village than most other Nepal hikes
- hot springs near Jhinu Danda (1750m)
- new airport will be opening in Pokhara 2021. Easier access.
- for sure the worst thing about Himalayan treks is getting to and from the trailheads. Local buses, shared jeeps and private vehicles are all slow. The roads terrible and sometimes dangerous. Best of bad options, for us, is paying for an expensive regular taxi at the start. Taking the inexpensive local bus on the return.
- Lonely Planet: Between Doban and Machhapuchhare Base Camp there are several places where avalanches occur. This is the only major trekking route in Nepal with significant avalanche danger, and you must enquire locally about whether the trail is safe. In March 2002 three German trekkers were killed between Deorali and Machhapuchhare Base Camp.
- independent hikers need to manage their own health and medical issues. Bring a first aid kit.
- you MUST bring footwear you love and trust. Almost everyone brings walking shoes as well as guest house shoes for the evening.
- some buy Diamox in Nepal. It’s called Diamox Sequels in the USA.
- some even carry a course of antibiotics, just in case
- Waterborne diseases are a big concern in Nepal. Treat water. Don’t trust that water used in restaurants is safe. If worried, order a “sizzler“. Your meal arrives very hot, covered with gravy, sometimes in flame. Order vegetable. Meat cannot always be stored safely before cooking. Refrigeration in Nepal is compromised by electricity cuts.
- both men and women are advised to wear modest clothing respecting local culture
- sunglasses / eye protection needed
- looking at the map, you don’t realize how many climbs and descents are needed to get to ABC. Be warned.
- Beyond Chhomrong, camping is restricted to ACAP-designated campsites and hotel construction is strictly controlled. ACAP regulations prohibit the use of firewood, so all campers and hotels must cook with gas or kerosene.
- Please do not buy bottled water on the trek
- mobile phone service access rapidly improving. Get a SIM card from Nepal Telecom Namaste. Data inexpensive.
- “squater” pit toilets wer the norm but western sit-down toilets are increasingly available. Bring your own toilet paper.
- bring a tiny combination padlock for your door in lodges
Visa on arrival for most nations at Tribhuvan International, Kathmandu in 2019:
Multiple entry 15 days US$ 30
Multiple entry 30 days US$ 50
Multiple entry 90 days US$ 125
You can pay with credit card or other major currencies. The visa on arrival process is much faster and simpler than in the past. No need to bring passport photos as machines now take your mugshot photo.
In 2019 while on the trail we spent about $30 / day. No alcohol.
You might budget $40 / day / person to be on the safe side.
Very frugal hikers might average $20 / day.
Indie Traveller spent $200 over 7 days in 2017.
Costs for bed and food tend to increase the further you hike from a road.
Carry more cash than you need for your planned trip in case of emergency. Bring Nepalese rupees. It’s a cash economy in the mountains.
In 2019 the most we could take out of a bank machine at one time in Pokhara was 35000 NPR (about $300). We used Nabil Bank machines withdrawing directly from our bank cards, not credit card, to reduce the transaction fee cost and avoid interest.
Independents need to buy their own hiking permits for the Sanctuary:
- 2019 $20 (NPR 2,000) / person TIMS (Trekkers Information Management System) card.
- 2019 $30 (NPR 3,000)/ person Annapurna Conservation Area Park (ACAP) permit – single entry
It’s easiest to purchase permits in advance of your hike:
- Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu
- Nepal Tourism Board in Pokhara (faster, easier)
In the past you needed to bring passport photos. In 2019 those offices take your photo while there. No cost.
Evacuation by helicopter is expensive. Payment must be guaranteed in advance. Bring your credit card, just in case.
Consider purchasing good insurance coverage for this trip. World Nomads, for example, offers policies covering hikers up to 3000m, 4500m or 6000m.
In 2019 we bought 30 day visas for Nepal. And World Nomads insurance for those same 30 days.
Altitude sickness is an important consideration. If not acclimatized, you need to schedule enough days climbing up from Lakeside, Pokhara 593m.
From Pokhara, most popular is starting at Phedi. Get there by bus, jeep or taxi.
Finishing the trek, it would be ideal to descend to Deorali (3140) and climb back up on the Mardi Himal trek.
If you need to get to Pokhara, walk towards Phedi or Naya Pul. You will most likely find a jeep or bus on the way.
This site is mainly for independent trekkers. But if you really want or need a guide compare offers like these:
It is tempting to sign on with an organized international tour from abroad.
Talking to tour group hikers on the trail, however, a good percentage once there wish they had done it on their own. There are a number of downsides to being locked into the group itinerary.
If you wait until you arrive Nepal there are dozens of local companies eager to sign you on. Some are great, others less reliable. We would join up only with a company for which we had personal references.
Only TAAN registered trekking agencies in Kathmandu and Pokhara can legally organize treks and provide the services of a guide and/or porter with insurance. Be aware that no one else, no hotel, no street broker, no nice person you just met, not even a trekking guide is legally authorized to organize a trek. During the main seasons the agencies run regular group treks, both tea-house and camping styles …
If you do not sign on with a tour, you can still hire your own local guide or porter at any village or lodge en route. We like this option better.
A guide will show you the way, but not carry your gear. They may be Nepali or foreign. Many hikers are happier to be led — though you certainly can do this hike on your own without a guide. A good guide may enrich the trip for you.
A porter guide from the Trekking Workers’ Association of Nepal is a local who speaks English who may also carry a limited load, perhaps 15kg (33lbs). You can hire a porter guide if and when you need one on the trail for something like US$20 / day plus tip (2019). There is often an insurance fee added.
Check the website of one such porter guide to give you an idea of how it works – Devendra Pun.
Certainly, trekkers regularly have trouble with guides:
- some can be insistent on where they want you to stop each night. This sometimes leads to conflict.
- they ask for more money, or gear they “forgot” to bring
- they may want to change / shorten the itinerary
- they may ask you hire an additional porter once you get on the trail
Most international hikers arrive via Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathamandu. It’s not very good.
Due to severe traffic congestion and the airport running out of its maximum capacity, the government of Nepal decided to construct more international airports, notably, Nijgadh International Airport, Pokhara International Airport and Gautam Buddha Airport.
In 2019 we flew into Kathmandu. Walked over to the domestic terminal. And flew on to Pokhara skipping Kathmandu altogether. Sit on the right (mountain side of the plane) for excellent views.
If you sign on with a guided trip, logistics will be organized for you. This section is for hikers traveling to Nepal independently.
- most hikers buy a tourist visa at the airport
- a couple of days sightseeing in Kathmandu or Pokhara is standard while you adjust to the time zone change and while waiting to purchase your trekking permits. Don’t stay too long in polluted Kathmandu city as there’s a chance you’ll get SICK from the air and water.
- you can rent or buy gear in Kathmandu or Pokhara if needed, though selection is limited
- the best bus Kathmandu – Pokhara is Greenline.
- $25 one way in 2019
- buffet lunch at a riverside resort included
- 6-8 hours depending on traffic
In Pokhara there are hundreds of commission touts that will tell you anything you want to hear about Annapurna Base Camp.
Instead, ask at the Nepal Tourism Board in Pokhara where you buy your permits. In fact, the very best source of up-to-date information is to hang out at the office talking to other trekkers. Ask if any have done the Sanctuary recently.
- Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN)
- Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Community Trail (AKA Nepal Community Trek AKA Annapurna community Eco-Lodge trek)
Best Trekking Guidebooks
Check to be sure you’re buying the most recent edition. We normally purchase a paper copy for advanced research at home. And a digital copy for use on the trail.
These guidebooks include Annapurna Sanctary:
- Lonely Planet Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya
- Cicerone Annapurna: A Trekker’s Guide (2017) – Bob Gibbons and Siân Pritchard Jones
Best Travel Guidebooks
Other Recommended Books
Get your guidebooks in advance. Most of these will be available in Nepal. There are great bookshops in Kathmandu.
- Annapurna – Maurice Herzog, 1950 first ascent, climbing classic
- A Beard In Nepal (2012) – Fiona Roberts
- Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal (2011) – Conor Grennan
- A Nepalese Journey: The Essence of the Annapurna Circuit (2002) – Andrew Stevenson
- The Snow Leopard – Peter Matthiessen
- Travelers’ Tales Nepal – Rajendra S. Khadka
- Nepal Trek – A Woman Alone (2006) – Kay Petterson Shaw
- Annapurna Circuit – Himalayan Journey (1998) -Andrew Stevenson
- True Summit: What Really Happened on the Legendary Ascent of Annapurna (2002) – David Roberts
- Conquistadors of the Useless: From the Alps to Annapurna – Lionel Terray, climbing classic
- Annapurna South Face – Bonington & Willis, climbing classic
- Annapurna: 50 Years of Expeditions in the Death Zone – Reinhold Messner, 2000
- Annapurna: A Woman’s Place – Arlene Blum, 1998
- East of Lo Monthang – Peter Matthiessen, 1995
- The Ascent of Rum Doodle – W.E. Bowman
- Annapurna: Trekking Map and Complete Guide – 162 pages (2012) – Partha S Banerjee
There are many similar maps available in Pokhara. Check the options when you get there.
Online Maps / Apps
In 2019 most hikers relay on mobile phone apps. We used the free Maps.me app.
Best Web Pages
- Trek to Annapurna Base Camp: all you need to know!
- Stunning Nepal – Annapurna Base Camp Trek – The Definitive Guide
- TrekkingPartners.com (find others to hike with you)
Best Trip Reports
- Pete R – Complete Guide On Trekking Annapurna Base Camp Independently
- El Big Monday 2018 – ANNAPURNA BASE CAMP 2018
- Indie Traveller 2017
- SATWIK PAUL – Every Turn More Mesmerizing than the Last
- Matt Huntington 2017
- Jonny and Hannah
Click PLAY or watch a solo trek on Vimeo.
Click PLAY or watch an April 2019 trek on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch a guided trek on YouTube.
Some of the other best hikes in the Annapurna region include:
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