Home » Annapurna vs Everest: Your definitive trekking guide

Annapurna vs Everest: Your definitive trekking guide

written by James Shackell July 12, 2016

It’s the choice every keen Nepalese adventurer faces eventually: Annapurna or Everest Base Camp? Most travellers end up trekking both in the end, because Nepal is one of those countries it’s hard to only do once.

On the one hand you have Mt. Everest. It’s world famous, comes with plenty of trek cred, and half your friends will probably assume you’re summiting the thing and planting a flag on the top. On the other hand you’ve got Annapurna: more diverse, less high, with gorgeous rhododendron forests and fewer crowds. Whose scene reigns supreme? It’s a tricky decision…

Trekking

Everest Base Camp

A man wearing a backpack looks at Mt Everest

Photo by Lucy Piper.

Trekkers usually hike the Everest trail to get to the fluttering prayer flags of Basecamp, where many expeditions wait until their big ascents in May. The route itself is probably the most classically ‘Himalayan’ option in Nepal. The altitude is higher (you’ll reach 3420 meters in Namche Bazaar on Day 2), and you’re constantly surrounded by knife-like peaks. Gyoko Lakes and the lesser-trekked passes at Cho La are great detours from the usual trail, and Island Peak will get you some of the best views in the Himalayas.

Annapurna

A hiker wearing a backpack on the Annapurna trail

Photo by Christopher Moswitzer.

If you’re unsure of your mountaineering abilities, Annapurna is a slightly less taxing circuit. There are fewer steep climbs and the average altitude is much lower. Plus, instead of being funnelled into the Khumbu Valley on Everest, you can choose from a variety of trails, some of which don’t exceed 2000m in altitude. The descents on Annapurna are also a bit gentler, which can help the knees in the long run. And don’t discount the advantage of a circuit route: trekking new terrain every day without ever retracing your steps.

Getting there

Everest Base Camp

Hillary and Tenzing had to schlep it on foot all the way from Kathmandu in the 50s. No roads existed at the time. These days it’s a little easier, and travellers can take a short (and spectacular) flight from Kathmandu to the tiny airstrip at Lukla. The views on the way in, and the way out, are worth the journey alone.

Annapurna

The gateway to the Annapurna’s is the cool little town of Pokhara, sitting on the shores of the gorgeous Phewa Lake. It’s a laid back place where you happily just spend a week Zenning out with a good book, and you can reach it with by bus or plane from Kathmandu. Easy.

RELATED: MORE THAN MOMOS: A GUIDE TO NEPALI CUISINE

Scenery

Everest Base Camp

A smiling hiker on a hiking trail in Nepal

Photo by Lucy Piper.

If you’re coming just the mountains, for the biggest, wildest, most precipitous mountains you can find, Everest is the way to go. It’s a high altitude trek through some of the most spectacular scenery in all of the Himalayas. Trekking through the Gyoko Lakes, they literally surround you on all sides. But be aware, you pay for these views with sore calves and aching thighs.

Annapurna

Annapurna is a totally different side of the Himalayas. You still get huge, snow-capped peaks, but they’re more of a constant backdrop. The Circuit begins in the fertile lower foothills, winding through terraced rice fields, oak forests and rhododendrons galore (come in April for the full bloom). And mountain-lovers, don’t worry, there are still the incredible sites of Machapuchare and the 8000m giant Dhaulagiri to keep you happy. Annapurna just has more diversity to go with its stunning views.

RELATED: BEYOND BASE CAMP: 6 AMAZING DESTINATIONS IN NEPAL

Communities

Everest Base Camp

The valleys around Everest are traditionally the home of the Sherpa people and Buddhist monasteries, and you can feel the strong sense of spirituality as you pass through. Tibetan traders still visit the village of Namche Bazaar, as they’ve done for centuries, and in fact word Sherpa actually means ‘east people’ (the Sherpas migrated east from Tibet long ago). If you’re trekking the Everest trail in March or April, you’ll probably come across professional teams looking to make their summit climb in May.

CHECK OUT OUR FULL RANGE OF WALKING & TREKKING ADVENTURES HERE

Annapurna

Colourful prayer flags in NepalThe Annapurna Circuit passes through a lot of rural settlements where small farming communities cling to the sides of valleys and life is pretty much as it was a hundred years ago. You’ll meet the Gurung people here, especially in the village of Ghandruk. Along with the Buddhist chants that dominate the Everest region, there are traces of Hinduism and Animism in the Annapurnas, which give the trail a slightly different vibe. If you’re looking for more local flavour from your trek, Annapurna is probably the stronger choice.

Team Annapurna? Right this way. Or is Everest more your speed? We’ve got that covered too.

Feeling inspired?

You might also like

17 comments

Gideon September 29, 2019 - 2:46 am

Hi, I’ve trekked Nepal many years ago but this time want to go as far as Manang/Phedi on the Annapurna circuit then back the same way. I’ll be going early March next year. As I’ll be carrying my own stuff I don’t want to carry more that I really need, so my question is what sort of sleeping bag should I take? I’ll be staying in tea houses/lodges along the way but how much warmth/bedding do they provide?
Also, how much of that route now has to be done on roads and does it matter?

Reply
Bart December 10, 2019 - 5:19 am

Hi Gideon, just came back from the Annapurna Circuit and it was absolutely awesome! Great scenery and lovely villages day after day. Very diverse! I started in Besisahar and crossed Thorung La pass untill Poon Hill and down to Nayapul. I had read a lot of information on the internet before I left and some even said Annapurna wasn’t worth it anymore because of the road. Well, that’s just bullsh.. ! ofcourse there is a (very bad) dirt road going all the way up to Manang but there are new trekking trails bypassing the road so you hardly ever have to walk the road. Just get yourself a good map and keep your eyes open for the blue/white or red/white signs on rocks etc.
Besides, there is hardly any traffic going up to Manang so it doesn’t really matter at all when you walk it.
I also went as a solo traveler and carried my own gear. Took a 1kg comfy sleeping bag (warm down to -3 celsius) and that was perfectly fine. Besides, all guesthouses put a warm blanket on each bed, so you can put that on top of your sleeping bag for extra warmth. Although I was there in peak season (20 October – 15 November) I did not find it crowded at all. Often I was one of the few, or even the only guest.
There are plenty of sleeping options along the way so don’t worry about that. There is no heating inside the rooms and often also not in the dining room, so most people just go to bed early after dinner and wake up at 06:00.
Last advice: take a hiking pole (or two). You’re knees will be grateful when you’re 70 🙂
Any other questions? just let me know!

Reply
Anonymous February 7, 2020 - 6:22 am

Most tea house provide one balnket, but sometime you can have 2. Depends how many people are there. When I did it, I haven’t brought a sleeping bag, but I would bring one when if I go back!! Get’s pretty chilly as you gain altitude and I hate being cold. I would recommend a light sleeping bag, would be fine if you combined it with the blanket.

Reply
Samantha December 13, 2018 - 4:56 pm

Hi! I’m wanting to trek Annapurna but not sure whether to do ‘Annapurna Explorer’ or ‘Annapurna Sanctuary’. What have others done in the past? I’m 22, fit and healthy!

Reply
Samantha November 15, 2017 - 8:18 pm

Does EBC involve a serious amount of climbing steps or are the paths flat but steep inclines? Just completed the Inca Trail which wad no problem but there were an incredible amount of steps.

Reply
Rachel Atkinson May 24, 2018 - 7:37 am

Steps. Thousands of them. They get less the closer you get to Ebc.

Reply
Gloria Barker September 11, 2017 - 5:34 am

I have travelled a fair bit since I was widowed 17 years ago. I really want to go trekking, love the thought of Nepal & Himalayan trek but I wonder if I am too old now. I am a fit & healthy 74 year old, I have no wish to ‘climb’ any mountains but think the foothills would be great. Do you know of any groups of older adventure seekers. Any advice would be appreciated. Gloria Barker

Reply
T. A. Baxter September 19, 2017 - 7:49 am

Hi Gloria, i went trekking in Nepal (Annapurna region) at the time of the earthquake! I did Everest Base Camp from the Tibetan side last year with an organised group (7 in all). This year (in May) I went back to Nepal to do the EBC trek on my own. I arranged my flights (to Lucla) and my Sherpa through an agency. I wanted to trek at a “slower pace” and not holding anybody up! I am 74 years old and I keep quite active. I am not aware of any groups for “older adventurers ” this is why I chose to go on my own. I was always the “mother” or the “grandmother” of the rest of the Trekkers. Amazing experiences each time, and very very enjoyable – my age was not an issue, and yes, sometimes I was a little behind, but I never felt that I shouldn’t be there! In my opinion the Tibetan side of the EBC is an easier option, as you can go quite close to Everest by a 4 wheel drive and trek the rest of the way! I want to return to Nepal and do EBC via Gokyo lakes and Chi La Pass, but reading Peter’s comments (below) i take note that it might be a step too far! I will be 75 next year (but I still keep researching the Gokyo route)! Does hope that help?

Reply
John July 1, 2018 - 6:52 pm

Hey Gloria, in my prep for the AC in March-April 2017 I read about 8 year old children doing it and one 78 year old Israeli chap on his 8th circuit! If you’re smart and humble, I like your chances! I’ve never met him but that guy is now a bit of a role model for me. I hope you’ve done your first circuit by the time I read your post 🙂 Cheers

Reply
Peter September 11, 2017 - 4:43 am

Everest or Annapurna?
It’s easy really!
Everest BC is excellent BUT the trek (from Lukla) is ALL about getting to BC.

Annapurna BC trek is NOT just about getting there…you’ll get culture, meet REAL Nepalese folk at work (and play), far SUPERIOR scenery, learn much more..and Pokhara is MUCH nicer than Kathmandu.
Would recommend doing the extra 5 days to Chomrong and Poon Hill (that’s one (easy) climb that it is worth getting up early for to see the sunrise (they usually aren’t!)).
One caution, the Chomrong Extension has many steps and the weather in Annapurna is definitely more variable..even in Oct/Dec, but that is part of the fun and/or experience.

Also, I would not recommend doing Gokyo / Gokyo Ri and the Cho La Pass if it’s your first trip to Nepal…they are much harder than EBC and ABC, and Cho La is a very tricky descent.

Enjoy!

Reply
Anne September 11, 2017 - 2:20 am

Do both – we did (although NOT at the same time!). Once you have been to Annapurna (and Nepal in general) you will want to return – and what better place to return to than Everest base camp. We did the classic EBC route. I would love to come back and do other lesser known areas – but the other half is not so keen. He did suffer a bit on EBC – but just because one trip is tough doesn’t mean the next will be.

Reply
Raymond Carroll September 10, 2017 - 12:26 am

I trekked the Annapurna Circuit in 2012 – next month (October 2017) I’m trekking the EBC. Can’t wait to get there – I enjoyed reading your article, keep up the good work…

Reply
Rodrigo March 27, 2018 - 1:11 pm

Hi Raymond,
I am planning to take my 10 years old boy to trek Annapurna.
How do you think children would cope with the challenge? Do you recommend?
Thanks

Reply
Linda June 17, 2017 - 4:03 am

This is a great article and has been very helpful!

Reply
Libele April 15, 2017 - 2:49 am

Hello! i’m planing to do both in sequence. Do you think it is possible?

Reply
Philippa Whishaw June 19, 2017 - 11:55 am

Hello! Most certainly you can do both. In fact, Intrepid has a trip that combines both the Base Camp and Annapurna trails in one: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/nepal/annapurna-everest-102175 It’s important to have good fitness for this trip and to be aware of the chance of altitude sickness. Let us know if you have any more questions 🙂

Reply
VISHNU E October 28, 2018 - 3:24 am

Hi, I am so much interested in mountains and forests. I have been to several trekkings in India. Next, I am thinking madly of EBC. I am having one doubt. I am not worried much of mountain sickness, same time I am not neglecting them. I am an asthma patient from birth onwards. But till now I haven’t faced many difficulties in trekking.
Could you please suggest me some facts that I have to be taken care more of. I read some articles and travelogues. But I would like to get more suggestions.
Thank you so much….. Waiting for the moment to visit EBC…
Vishnu

Reply

Leave a Comment



Back To Top