Annapurna Circuit Trek for Beginners: A Complete Guide

By Glorious Himalaya on March 8, 2024 in Trekking

Annapurna Circuit Trek is one of Nepal’s most popular off-beaten trails in the Annapurna region. The trek’s difficulty range is easy to moderate, depending on your experience level. In this blog, we will discuss the Annapurna Circuit Trek for beginners, what kinds of challenges they can face, and how to reduce the challenges for beginners.

During the trek, beginners generally look for an easy trek in which they don’t have to hike at high altitudes or for a longer duration while hiking a significant distance daily. However, the Annapurna Circuit trek is far from meeting all those criteria. During the ACT, you have to reach an altitude of over 5000m, and the trek duration is about 10 to 15 days, trekking for 6-7 hours per day. But since the trek is situated in commercial areas and there are many teahouses, hotels, or lodges with services, some believe it is also appropriate for beginners. So, let’s get to know if the Annapurna Circuit trek is perfect for beginners.

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Overview

The Annapurna Circuit Trek is a beautiful trekking spot that takes you to the majestic adventure of the Annapurna Massif. The 10-15 days trek takes you around the circuit,

where you will see various terrains varying from lower to higher altitudes. You can see grassland meadows in lower altitudes and sub-tropical forests, valleys, peaks, and snowy mountains in higher altitudes. Annapurna Circuit Trek has everything for everyone. Some of its best attractions are Manang, Jomsom, Muktinath, Kagbeni, Thorong La Pass, Jhinu Danda, Tatopani, etc. During this trek, you’ll witness stunning mountain views like that of Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, and Fishtail mountains.

Is Annapurna Circuit Trek for beginners?

The Annapurna Circuit Trek is an easy-to-moderate-level challenge. ACT is generally easy to complete for season veteran trekkers, but it might create some challenges for beginners and newbies. The trek involves long days of walking and covering long distances daily. The daily hiking will not be on accessible roads, as you have to trek through varying terrains, steep ascents and descents, lush forests, and rough mountain passes.

Suppose you don’t have experience in trekking and mountain climbing. In that case, you might not know what to pack and take along, how to use trekking equipment and gear, or any idea of acclimatization, which can increase the risk of altitude sickness.

What Makes Annapurna Circuit Trek Difficult for Beginners?

Annapurna Circuit Trek is difficult for beginners due to the lack of experience, know-how, and ability to adapt to changing terrains, altitudes, and weather. Here are some factors that increase the trek difficulty for beginners during their Annapurna Circuit Trek.

Physical Endurance

The Annapurna Circuit trek takes about 10-15 days, and you must trek for 7-8 hours daily. The trek undoubtedly demands your physical endurance, so demand and keep your physical endurance at an all-time high. There are many steep ascents and descents, trekking through peaks and valleys, and as you gain altitude, the trek starts becoming slippery due to snow. So, before planning your trek, maintain your physical stamina and increase your endurance.

Altitude Sickness:

The highest point on the Annapurna Circuit Trek is Thorong La Pass, at 5416m. The risk of altitude sickness increases after an altitude of 3000m, so it is high at over 5000m. Hence, beginner trekkers must learn to acclimate, which may hinder their safety from altitude sickness. So listen to your body and your guides. Furthermore, do not rush to high altitudes, and stay hydrated so that you won’t suffer from altitude sickness.

Dynamic Weather

Another difficulty that beginners will face on a high-altitude trek is the dynamic weather. At one point, you will be staring at the sunny day, but suddenly, it changes to heavy black clouds and even heavy snowfalls.

How to tackle the difficulty of the Annapurna Circuit Trek?

Preparation:

Beginners should undertake some physical training and preparation before attempting the trek. This may include cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and hiking on varied terrain to build strength and endurance.

Guidance and Support:

Beginners should trek with a reputable guide or join a guided tour to ensure safety and assistance. Guides can provide valuable information on altitude sickness prevention, route navigation, and cultural insights.

Pacing:

Beginners should pace themselves and listen to their bodies during the trek. Taking frequent breaks, staying hydrated, and eating nutritious meals are essential for maintaining energy levels and avoiding exhaustion.

Where to sleep and what to eat on the Annapurna circuit trek trail?

Trekkers can get teahouse accommodation and dining along the trail on the Annapurna Circuit Trek. Here’s what to expect in terms of sleeping arrangements and food options:

1. Accommodation:

Teahouses are the most common form of accommodation on the Annapurna Circuit Trek. These basic guesthouses offer simple rooms with beds, blankets, and occasionally attached bathrooms. While facilities may vary from teahouse to teahouse, most provide meals and hot showers for an additional fee.

2. Food:

  • Local Cuisine: Teahouses along the Annapurna Circuit serve a variety of Nepali and Tibetan dishes, providing trekkers with hearty meals to fuel their journey. Popular dishes include dal bhat (rice with lentil soup and vegetables), momos (dumplings filled with meat or vegetables), noodle soup, fried rice, and chapati (flatbread). These meals are typically made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients and offer a taste of the region’s culinary delights.
  • Western Options: Besides local cuisine, many teahouses offer a selection of Western dishes such as pasta, pizza, sandwiches, and pancakes. These options cater to the preferences of international trekkers and provide familiar comfort food during the trek.
  • Snacks and Beverages: Along the trail, trekkers can find a variety of snacks and beverages to energize them throughout the day. Popular snacks include chocolate bars, nuts, dried fruit, and energy bars. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and soft drinks are also available at teahouses along the route.

Overall, the accommodation and dining options on the Annapurna Circuit Trek cater to the needs of trekkers of all levels, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable experience amidst the stunning landscapes of the Himalayas.

What permits are required for the Annapurna Circuit?

Two permits are required for this trek. These permits help regulate tourism and ensure the safety and conservation of the area. Here are the main licenses you’ll need:

  • Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP): This permit is mandatory for all trekkers entering the Annapurna Conservation Area, which includes the Annapurna Circuit. It helps fund conservation efforts and sustainable tourism initiatives in the region. You can obtain the ACAP at the Nepal Tourism Board office in Kathmandu or Pokhara and at various entry points along the trekking route.
  • Trekkers’ Information Management System (TIMS) Card: The TIMS card is another permit required for trekking in Nepal, including the Annapurna Circuit. It helps track trekkers and provides emergency assistance if needed. You can obtain the TIMS card at the TAAN office in Kathmandu, Pokhara, or through registered trekking agencies.

Obtaining these permits before starting your trek is essential, as failure to do so may result in fines or restrictions along the trail. Additionally, carrying these permits during the trek is mandatory, as they may be checked at various checkpoints along the route. By obtaining the necessary licenses, you ensure compliance with local regulations and contribute to the conservation and sustainable development of the Annapurna region.

What are some cultural and other highlights of this trek?

The Annapurna Circuit Trek offers a rich tapestry of cultural highlights, allowing trekkers to immerse themselves in the vibrant traditions and heritage of the Himalayan region. Along the way, trekkers can encounter diverse ethnic communities, ancient monasteries, and traditional villages, providing unique insights into the local culture. Here are some cultural and other highlights of the Annapurna Circuit Trek:

  • Gurung and Thakali Villages: Throughout the trek, trekkers pass through several Gurung and Thakali villages, known for their distinct culture, architecture, and traditions. These communities have preserved their rich cultural heritage for generations, allowing trekkers to experience traditional village life firsthand.
  • Buddhist Monasteries: The Annapurna Circuit is dotted with Buddhist monasteries and stupas, providing spiritual sanctuaries amidst the breathtaking mountain scenery. Trekkers can visit ancient monastic sites such as Braga Monastery in Manang and Muktinath Temple in Mustang, where they can witness religious rituals and interact with monks.
  • Mani Walls and Prayer Flags: Throughout the trek, trekkers encounter colorful Mani walls adorned with inscribed stones and prayer flags fluttering in the breeze. These sacred symbols are integral to Tibetan Buddhist culture and symbolize blessings, protection, and spiritual guidance along the journey.
  • Local Festivals and Celebrations: Depending on the timing of the trek, trekkers may have the opportunity to witness traditional festivals and celebrations in the villages along the Annapurna Circuit. Festivals such as Dashain, Tihar, and Losar are celebrated with colorful rituals, music, dance, and feasting, offering a glimpse into the vibrant cultural traditions of the Himalayan communities.
  • Pokhara Valley: The trek typically ends in the lakeside city of Pokhara, known for its tranquil atmosphere, stunning views of the Annapurna range, and vibrant street markets.
  • Marsyangdi River Valley: Trek through picturesque villages, terraced fields, and lush forests along the Marsyangdi River valley, soaking in the scenic beauty of the surrounding landscape.
  • Manang Valley: Explore the traditional Tibetan-influenced villages of the Manang Valley, including the charming town of Manang, situated at an altitude of 3,540 meters (11,614 feet).
  • Thorong La Pass: Challenge yourself with the ascent to Thorong La Pass, the highest point on the trek at 5,416 meters (17,769 feet), and enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding Himalayan peaks.
  • Muktinath: Visit the sacred pilgrimage site of Muktinath, revered by Hindus and Buddhists alike, and explore the area’s ancient temples, monasteries, and natural springs.
  • Kali Gandaki Gorge: Trek through the world’s deepest gorge, the Kali Gandaki Gorge, with towering cliffs on either side and stunning views of the surrounding peaks.

What are some essential packing tips for this trek?

Preparing for the Annapurna Circuit Trek requires thoughtful packing to ensure a successful and comfortable journey. Here are some essential tips and items to consider:

1. Understand the Season:

  • Know the season: The optimal trekking periods are between October and early December and late February to April.
  • Climate variation: The circuit winds through diverse climates, from tropical plains to alpine zones. Be prepared for temperature fluctuations.

2. Pack Lightly:

  • Avoid unnecessary items: Prioritize essentials and leave behind non-essential items.
  • Quick-drying clothes: Pack lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing that dries quickly.
  • Layering: Opt for layers to adapt to changing temperatures.

3. Clothing Essentials:

  • Two quick-drying T-shirts: For daily wear.
  • T-shirt for sleeping: Comfortable sleepwear.
  • Long-sleeve T-shirt: Provides sun protection.
  • Fleece sweater: Keeps you warm during chilly evenings.
  • Thermal pants and shirt: Essential for cold weather.
  • Hat: Useful in the cold morning and evening time
  • Gloves: Handful in the chilly morning and evening
  • Sandal or sports shoes: Useful in teahouse stay

4. Outerwear and Gear:

  • Rainproof wind jacket: Protects against rain and wind.
  • Warm jackets: Bring adequate insulation layers.
  • Hiking boots: Sturdy footwear for varied terrain.
  • Micro Spike or Crampon: If you are trekking in the winter season.
  • Head torch: Essential for evening use.
  • Sleeping bag: Good quality and warm.

5. Other Essentials:

  • Cash: Carry some cash for emergencies.
  • Duffel bag: Holds most of your trekking gear.
  • Backpack: Keep it light for day hikes.
  • Medicines: Include any necessary medications.
  • Reusable water bottle: Stay hydrated.
  • Purification tablets: To purify drinking water

Preparation and Training

Before embarking on the Annapurna Circuit Trek, it’s essential to prepare both physically and mentally for the challenges ahead. While the trek is suitable for beginners with a reasonable level of fitness, it’s essential to train and acclimatize properly to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are some preparation tips:

  • Cardiovascular Exercise: Engage in regular cardiovascular activities such as hiking, walking, jogging, or cycling to improve your endurance and stamina.
  • Strength Training: Incorporate strength training exercises to build muscle strength, particularly in the legs and core, which will help you tackle the uphill and downhill sections of the trek.
  • Altitude Acclimatization: Familiarize yourself with the effects of high altitude and take precautions to acclimatize gradually during the trek by ascending slowly, staying hydrated, and listening to your body’s signals.
  • Gear and Equipment: Invest in quality trekking gear and equipment, including sturdy hiking boots, warm clothing, a reliable backpack, trekking poles, and essential items such as a sleeping bag, water bottle, and first aid kit.
  • Mental Preparation: Mentally prepare yourself for the physical challenges and uncertainties of trekking in remote mountain terrain. Stay positive, flexible, and open-minded, and be prepared to embrace the journey with an adventurous spirit.

Itinerary for the Annapurna Circuit Trek

There are various points at the start and end of the Annapurna circuit trek. So, it depends on where you start and end your journey. However, beginning your trek from a lower elevation is always advisable. Here are two popular and standard trekking itineraries for this trek.

Annapurna circuit trek itinerary with Jomom Flight

Day 01: Drive from Kathmandu to Syange (1100m/3608ft): 8-10 hours

Day 02: Trek to Dharapani – (1960m / 6430ft) 7-8 hrs

Day 03: Trek to Chame (2710m/8891ft) 7-8 hours

Day 04: Trek to Pisang (3,300m/10824ft): 5 – 6 hours

Day 05: Trek to Manang (3,500m/11,482ft): 6 – 7 hours

Day 06: Acclimatization Day

Day 07: Trek to Yak Kharka (4,110m/13,484ft): 3 – 4 hours

Day 08: Trek to Thorang Phedi: (4420m/14501ft): 3-4 hours)

Day 09: Trek to Muktinath (3,800/12,467ft) via Thorong La (5,416m/17764ft): 7 – 8 hours trek

Day 10: Trek to Jomsom (2800m / 9186ft) via Kagbeni – 6-7 hrs trek

Day 11: Fly to Pokhara: 25 minutes

Day 12: Drive to Kathmandu: 6-7 hours

Annapurna circuit trek itinerary without Jomom Flight

Day 01: Drive from Kathmandu to Syange (1100m/3608ft): 8-10 hours

Day 02: Trek to Dharapani – (1960m / 6430ft) 7-8 hrs

Day 03: Trek to Chame (2710m/8891ft) 7-8 hours

Day 04: Trek to Pisang (3,300m/10824ft): 5 – 6 hours

Day 05: Trek to Manang (3,500m/11,482ft): 6 – 7 hours

Day 06: Acclimatization Day

Day 07: Trek to Yak Kharka (4,110m/13,484ft): 3 – 4 hours

Day 08: Trek to Thorang Phedi: (4420m/14501ft): 3-4 hours)

Day 09: Trek to Muktinath (3,800/12,467ft) via Thorong La (5,416m/17764ft): 7 – 8 hours trek

Day 10: Drive to Pokhara by local bus. – 10 hours drive

Day 11: Drive to Kathmandu: 6-7 hours

Moreover, you can check the itinerary of the short Annapurna Circuit Trek and Tilicho Lake with Annapurna Circuit.

Best time to go on the Annapurna circuit trek

The best time to embark on the Annapurna Trekking is during the spring and autumn, typically from March to May and September to November, respectively. During these months, the weather is generally stable, with clear skies, mild temperatures, and minimal rainfall, offering optimal conditions for trekking. Spring brings vibrant blooms to the rhododendron forests, while autumn offers crisp, refreshing air and stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountain peaks. These seasons also coincide with cultural festivals and the harvest season, providing trekkers with unique cultural experiences along the trail. Avoiding the monsoon season (June to August) and the colder winter months (December to February) ensures a safer and more enjoyable trekking experience on the Annapurna Circuit.

Conclusion

Hence, the Annapurna Circuit trek is fun and challenging, even for beginners. However, certain aspects of the trek might be challenging due to a lack of experience, such as acclimatization, altitude sickness, long distances and durations, and dynamic weather conditions. Some of these challenges can be minimized by trekking in ideal seasons like Spring and Autumn and by hiring guides and porters who will help you navigate around easily.

However, for some challenges, you have to gain experience to improve yourself. Properly acclimatizing might be tough at first, resulting in altitude sickness. So, when you are a beginner, always listen to your guide, do not rush to the altitude quickly, and carry medicines in case of emergencies.

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