The hiking trails in Nepal’s Annapurna Ranges are among the most beautiful and impressive in the world.
While not quite as well-known as its towering neighbour in the east (Everest is 8848 m/29,028 ft), the Annapurna Ranges offer a range of different trails, from a seven-day trek to Annapurna Base Camp, to an 11-day circuit that’ll take you to altitudes of almost 5500 m (18,044 ft) through flame-red rhododendron forests, shady stands of oak and ice-covered alpine rivers.
Spoiler alert: they’re challenging, and will put you well out of your comfort zone, regardless of how worn in your hiking boots are. But they’re so worth it.
Our Annapurna Ranges trips
Which trek is right for you?
Want to experience a little bit of everything, like beautiful landscapes, tiny mountain villages, and dizzyingly high altitudes? The Annapurna Circuit will take you through wooded canyons and over swaying suspension bridges, into isolated mountain communities, and across the famed snow-covered Thorung La Pass (5416 m/17,769 ft) on an 11-day trek (with a few days either side in Kathmandu and Pokhara for preparation and trek recovery).
Annapurna Base Camp
Unlike the circuit trail, the trek to Annapurna Base Camp (4130 m/13,549 ft) is up and down the mountain – and up, down and around several other points along the way! Your days will be spent climbing up several thousand steps – then climbing down several thousand more. But the reward is the epic vistas of rhododendron forests, bamboo thickets, and fiery sunsets against Machhapuchhare Mountain (the locals call it Fish Tail). The almost-7000 m (22,943 ft) mountain is one of the only mountains in Nepal that has never been summited, as it’s believed the Hindu god Lord Shiva lives on its peak
Annapurna Homestay Trek
This trek is less challenging than the Circuit and Base Camp treks, but you’ll still need a reasonable level of fitness for this trail. On average, you’ll be trekking up to seven hours each day. Most days consist of climbing – and descending – hundreds of ancient stone steps, but you’ll be rewarded with beautiful sunsets and experience local life in rural Gurung villages, where you’re unlikely to see any other tourists. This trek also gives travellers the opportunity to chat with their homestay hosts.
Why choose Intrepid
Meet the team
When you’re trekking with Intrepid in the Annapurnas, you’re in safe hands. Along with your leader, you’ll also be hiking with at least one assistant guide and a team of porters. Your hiking crew are there to keep you safe on the trail. Your assistant guide and porters are all local to the Annapurna region, and know the area inside and out.
"I really hope to be a trekking leader one day. I want to share my travel experiences and lead people in the best possible way.
I became a porter because I love exploring my country. The best thing about my job is meeting new people and learning from them.
The Annapurnas are so beautiful, I can’t choose my favourite thing about them. Every part of the mountains is the best."
Shanti Tamang, 21 years old.
Everest is world famous, and comes with plenty of track cred. For any trekker worth their salt, it’s the mountain trek to tick off your bucket list. You’ll be shadowed by some of the world’s highest peaks every day, pass by emerald-green lakes, through temperate rainforest and across snow-covered mountain passes. It’s beautiful. It’s challenging. Your calves/knees/feet will hate you for it (but your sense of achievement will be through the roof!).
Intrepid’s Everest treks start in Kathmandu, with included flights into Lukla, where your trek starts immediately.
Annapurna is a slightly less taxing trek – but only a little. There are fewer steep climbs and the average altitude is much lower. You’ll sleep at 4130 m (13,549 ft) on the Annapurna Base Camp trek, and cross the challenging Thorung La Pass (5416 m/17,769 ft) on the Annapurna Circuit Trek, but will almost immediately descend to Muktinath (3800 m/12,467 ft). The landscape is perhaps even more beautiful than the Everest region (if that’s even possible), and you’ll have more of chance to meet the locals.
Intrepid’s Annapurna treks end in Pokhara, a chilled out town set beside Phewa Lake, the second largest in Nepal. It’s a lovely spot to relax and recover from your trek, with great food and cheap massages readily available, not to mention hot showers and comfortable beds at your hotel. Need a little extra R&R after your trek? Check out our 3-day Pokhara Escape trip here.
Like Everest, the best times to trek the Annapurna Range are pre- and post-monsoon: March to April and September to November. If you want to catch the rhododendrons in full bloom, book your trek for March or mid-April. Around 70% of the region’s rainfall occurs between June and September, so avoid these monsoon months and you’ll have a high chance of a dry trek.
You’ll be walking between four and eight hours each day, although changes in altitude can affect hiking time and distance.
Expect a bit of everything! Paths, stone steps, suspension bridges, river beds (there’s a waterfall or two you’ll need to skip over) and muddy trails.
Definitely. Don’t try doing this trek in sneakers! You’ll need comfortable, sturdy, water-resistant boots, with good ankle support. Make sure your boots are broken in before your trek – wear them on practice hikes, to and from work, around home or the office, everywhere!
Start walking. Like, right now. Walk everywhere, and include some long walks as well – aim for about 20 kms (12 miles). Go hiking on weekends and get used to walking in unfamiliar terrain. Take a backpack with you, filled with what you might need on your trek, so you get used to walking with a challenging weight. Step up your leg-based cardio – cycling, swimming and football are great, as are spin classes, squats and lunges. Oh, and take the stairs every chance you get.
On the Annapurna Base Camp Trek and Annapurna Circuit Trek, you’ll be staying in basic teahouses – shared rooms, communal dining areas, and bathroom facilities (western and squat toilets, and showers). On most nights, you’ll be sharing a room with one other trekker (of the same gender), however there will be some nights where you may be sharing a room with five other trekkers (and possibly even your entire group). Most rooms have two beds with a blanket and a pillow, however you’ll want to have a sleep sheet, sleeping bag and makeshift pillow case. At the teahouses, you’ll need to pay for filtered drinking water, hot water for showers (which is often not hot), Wi-Fi (which is likely to be very slow), and electricity for charging devices (which you’ll probably need to queue for). Consider taking a reliable power bank instead.
On our Annapurna Homestay trek, you’ll be staying with Nepalese families, usually in a separate building in the backyard of their house, or on the upstairs floor. Some homestays provide showers (you’ll need to pay for hot water), while others will give you a bucket of warm water for washing. There are usually two beds per room, with bedding provided (but again, BYO sleep sheet, sleeping bag and pillow case).
You’ll have breakfast and dinner each day at your teahouse or homestay, while lunch is usually at a teahouse along the trail. Most teahouses also sell chocolate bars, chips and cans of soft drink too, so you can load up on a few snacks to munch on along the trail. Keep in mind snacks on the trail get more expensive the higher in altitude you get, so consider stocking up in Pokhara or Kathmandu.
Surprisingly good! The most common (and tastiest) meal in the Annapurnas (and Nepal, more generally) is dal bhat – rice and lentils. The best thing about dal bhat, apart from getting the energy you need to get through days on end of strenuous hiking, is that you get as many refills as you like. Along with rice and lentils, dal bhat also consists of veggie curry, pickles, and pappadums or bread. Some teahouses also have spaghetti and cheese, grilled chicken, and pizza on their menus.
You sure can, so don’t forget to pack a reusable water bottle and/or bladder. The teahouses sell safe filtered drinking water, however it gets more expensive the higher in altitude you get. Keep in mind you’ll need to be carrying around two litres with you when you set out each morning, and fill up again when you stop for lunch. You can also use water purification methods, like tablets, drops and UV pens – fill up your bottle at a tap, follow the instructions on the packet, and you’ve got safe drinking water.
You’ll carry whatever you need throughout the day in your daypack. The rest of your gear – clothes, toiletries, sleeping bag – will be carried in a duffel bag by a porter. Your bag can’t be any heavier than 10 kgs (22 lbs).
What don’t they do? They carry your stuff, take meal orders at the teahouses, prepare food, teach you Nepalese words, play card games with you, help out in emergencies, and keep your spirits lifted when you feel like you can’t face another flight of steps.
Make sure you check out the packing recommendations in your Essential Trip Information (and be sure to pay attention to the time of year you’re trekking in!). For a general guide, read our blog on what to pack for your Annapurna trek.
Lots of people feel more comfortable trekking with their own gear, but there are opportunities to pick up anything you might have forgotten. There are plenty of shops in Kathmandu and Pokhara where you can buy or hire sleeping bags, waterproof pants, hiking poles, or a few extra pairs of socks – although we definitely recommend bringing worn-in hiking boots. Most shops sell cheap knock offs of big-name brands. Your leader can show you where the best shops are, and help with renting or buying anything you need.
At the end of your tour, consider donating any unwanted gear to the KEEP Porters Clothing Bank. The Clothing Bank was set up in 2009 to provide porters with suitable clothing for trekking in a mountain environment, and reduce the number of unnecessary illnesses and fatalities which occur each year.
Usually donations of used jackets and trousers/pants from Westerners don’t fit Nepali porters (who tend to be smaller). However, donations of other clothing items like socks, boots, sunglasses, warm gloves and sleeping bags are always welcome. Your leader can ensure that your donation is passed on.
The weather can be vastly different depending on when you travel, so it’s best to prepare for everything. In lower altitudes – anything below 3000 m (9842 ft) – the days can be warm to hot and very sunny (you’ll be glad you packed a cap), however the evenings can get quite cool. Night time and winter temperatures can drop to well below 0 degrees Celsius (32 F), so thermal layers and a good down jacket are essential.
No matter what the temperature, or how cloudy it is, always use sun protection! The atmosphere is thinner at high altitude, so UV rays are more extreme.
Every so often, the trail is hit with conditions that make it unsafe for trekkers – blizzards, avalanches, landslides and earthquakes. In the event of adverse conditions, your leader will be guided by Intrepid’s Operations teams in Kathmandu and Pokhara. They will advise on the best possible itinerary in the region for the group, making alternate accommodation bookings (if required) at no extra cost to the traveller.
There are no ATMs, credit card facilities or opportunities to withdraw cash in the Annapurna ranges. Make sure you withdraw enough cash to get you through your hike before your trek starts. Your leader can help you out.
They do. Your leader will be equipped with an advanced first aid kit for the duration of your trek. They also carry a portable altitude chamber (on all trips that go above 4200 m/13,779 ft), oximeter and oxygen, and a satellite phone; defibrillators are accessible in most of the teahouses we stay in. Don’t forget to carry your personal medicines in your daypack. You’re responsible for them!
Acute Mountain Sickness is the reaction of the body adjusting to decreasing amounts of oxygen. Normally, the higher the altitude, the less oxygen your body gets to carry on with its normal functions.
Altitude sickness most commonly occurs from above 3000 m (9842 ft) but this is different for everyone. And there’s no way of knowing how susceptible you might be to functioning at altitude, so it’s essential you monitor your own health. Symptoms of altitude sickness occur gradually and may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Disturbed sleep or drowsiness
- Swelling of the hands, feet or face
Absolutely! Intrepid have invested in the highest standards of training of our staff, including advanced altitude training delivered by local doctors who undergo refresher training every two years. We also train them on how to respond in the case of a moderate or severe case of altitude sickness – which will always mean organising for the affected traveller to descend immediately. During your briefing at the start of your trip, your leader will talk to you about symptoms of AMS and how to recognise them.
While there’s no definitive way to avoid altitude sickness, you can help your body acclimatise to the increase in altitude by:
- Drinking plenty of water – at least four litres per day, as well as other fluids like tea and soup.
- Avoiding alcohol, tobacco and substances that might cause dehydration or interfere with the body’s ability to delivery oxygen to your vital organs.
- Eating small meals that are high in carbohydrates (like dal bhat!).
- Taking it easy and having regular breaks. Walk at a slower pace than you normally would. It’s not a race, and it’s important to take your time.
Yes – there are three key, potentially life-saving drugs that our teams carry on the mountain. These are Dexamethasone, Diamox and Nifedipine, as per the High Altitude Safety Protocol/PEAK medication policy. These medications are used to treat cerebral and pulmonary oedema, which are the two potentially life-threatening complications of severe AMS. Our mountain guides are fully trained on the use of these drugs for altitude-related illnesses.
Yes. Each crew has a medical porter who has an oxygen tank, in case trekkers need it.
Our leaders, assistant guides and porters are all trained in First Aid. Depending on your condition, your leader or assistant guide will work with our local operator to evacuate you to a safe place or hospital via helicopter.
Mobile phone coverage in the Annapurnas is improving, but it’s still patchy in many areas. Intrepid leaders carry satellite phones to communicate with operations teams in Pokhara and Kathmandu in the event of an emergency.
We use porters on our treks instead of yaks to carry bags and equipment. Even though animal transport is much cheaper, we have found the animals aren’t treated well and there is no weight limit enforced while using these animals as carriers. We have a detailed Porter Policy in place, to ensure our porters are respected and treated in a dignified way.
At the end of your tour please consider donating to the KEEP Porters Clothing Bank. Contrary to the belief that porters are well-adjusted to the cold and altitude of the Himalayas, every year many porters suffer from a variety of illnesses such as altitude sickness, snow blindness, hypothermia and frostbite and some even die as a result. The Clothing Bank was set up in 2009 to provide ill-prepared porters with better clothing suitable for trekking in a mountain environment and reduce the number of unnecessary illnesses and fatalities which occur each year.