A Guide to the Annapurna Base Camp Trek
July 10, 2018
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In May of 2014 I spent two weeks completing the Annapurna Base Camp trek, otherwise known as the ABC trek, in Nepal. These were truly two of the best weeks of my life. I am embarrassed to admit that it has taken me 4 years to finally get around to write this post, however better late than never! The Annapurna Base Camp trek is one of the most popular hikes in the world, and for an excellent reason! While not as challenging as the Everest Base Camp trek, it is still both physically and mentally difficult. The trek will take you through all four seasons, where you can experience rolling green hills, jungly terrain, and a snowy mountain-capped sunrise. Read on to find out everything you need to know about completing the Annapurna Base Camp trek.
A Guide to the Annapurna Base Camp Trek in Nepal
The Basics of the Annapurna Base Camp Trek
- The complete Annapurna Base Camp trek typically takes anywhere from 6 to 11 days, depending on starting points, fitness level, and length of time hiked each day.
- The maximum elevation of the hike is 4243 meters (13,917 ft).
- The best time to do the hike is from October-December and March-May.
- While the hike is quite a challenging one, it can be done at any pace to accommodate many fitness levels and ages.
- For those who are looking for an even longer, more challenging trek, you can consider doing the full Annapurna Circuit.
Booking a Guide: Adventure Mountain Explore
Since I was traveling with my mom who was in her 50s at the time, we decided to go the safe route and booked a guide for our journey. We booked our Annapurna Base Camp trek through a local tour operator, Adventure Mountain Explore, and couldn’t have been happier! Our guide, Ramesh, truly made our experience to be the wonderful one that it was, providing us with an incredible amount of helpful, insider knowledge throughout! I personally wouldn’t consider hiking to Annapurna Base Camp any other way!
We booked the standard 15 day Annapurna Base Camp trekking package with AME. This trip cost was actually super affordable, at $1135 USD per person. For comparison, companies like REI run the same trip for triple the price. Additionally, the benefit of booking with a local company, is that the group size is often smaller and more intimate.
The standard Annapurna Base Camp trek with the company is 15 days, however you can check out the shorter tour option here!
Getting to Nepal
There are no direct flights to Nepal from the United States, Europe, or Australia. This means that you will need to connect in one of the nearby countries. I recommend looking at connecting flights from India or China. China offers a 72 hours transit visa for some of their cities. If you have the time I recommend spending a day or two in China.
The Trekking Route
The route that we took included the following stops:
- Annapurna Base Camp (ABC)
These stops will differ based on how fast you hike and how many hours a day you are hiking. Since we had booked and paid for a full 15 day tour, we choose to take our time and thoroughly enjoy each of the stops along the way. Our route was slightly different from what was advertised online, but I wouldn’t have done it any other way. It is possible to complete the hike in as few as 6-7 days, depending on how much you hike per day. We averaged 5-6 hours per day on our trip.
Day 1: Arrive in Kathmandu and spend some time settling in. Since we booked with AME, they had arranged the accommodation for us. If you’d prefer to arrange it on your own, you’ll find that there are plenty of basic, affordable guesthouse options.
Here are a few that I recommend:
Day 2: I recommend spending a day exploring the city of Kathmandu. There is plenty to see and do in the city. I visited the city just one year before the devastating earthquakes. Luckily, the city is slowly being rebuilt. Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, is crazy and chaotic, yet charming in it’s own way.
- Stroll through the Thamel area. This is the main tourist area, and where you’ll find shops to pick up any additional hiking gear that you may need. Always remember to bargain! I’ve included a full packing list below for you.
- Visit Kathmandu Durbar Square. Durbar Square is a located in front of the old royal palace, and the square itself is a UNESCO Heritage Site. The square is located in the city center, only a 10 minute walk from Thamel. Unfortunately, many of the surrounding buildings were destroyed in the 2015 quakes.
- Pay a Visit to the Boudhanath Stupa. The Boudhanath Stupa is a must on any Kathmandu itinerary. The icon eyes of the buddha have looked out over Kathmandu from the tower of Boudha Stupa since the 14th century.
Kathmandu – Pokhara
Day 3: On Day 3 you’ll drive from Kathmandu to Pokhara. This is approximately a 6-7 hour drive. The drive can either be in a private car or on a bus, depending on the trekking package selected. Pokhara is where you with start and end the Annapurna Base Camp trek. Typically the trek starts from a town just 2 hours outside of Pokhara called Nayapul.
Pokhara to Ulleri
Day 4: It’s time to start hiking! You’ll drive to Nayapul in the morning (2 hours) and from here you’ll start the trek to Ulleri. Be prepared for a lot of flights of steps and some elevation gain!
Elevation: 1,480m/4,855ft Hiking Time: 4-5 hours
Ulleri to Ghorepani
Day 5: On the second day of the trek you’ll hike from Ulleri to Ghorepani. The trail is more of less the same as the same before, however with more significant elevation gain. The views from the guesthouse at Ghorepani was one of my favorites. This part of the trail tends to be a bit busier, as you’ll also find hikers completing just the round trip hike to Poon Hill.
Elevation: 2,860m/9,383ft Hiking Time: 6-7 hours
Ghorepani to Chuile
Day 6: This will likely be your earliest morning, as you set to hike to the top of Poon Hill around 4am, to reach the top before sunrise. Unfortunately we experienced our one day of bad weather, and ended up turning back before reaching the top, as there was no visibility. This is supposed to be one of the best viewpoints on the trail, with panoramic views of the Annapurna circuit, so definitely send me some photos if you make it! After returning from Poon Hill and grabbing some breakfast, you’ll start the trek to Chuile.
Elevation: 2,630m/8,628ft Hiking Time: 4 hour
Chuile to Chomrong
Day 7: Trek from Chuile to Chomrong. For me this is where I started to really feel the altitude, so we had a relatively short hiking day. Be sure to take it slow if you’re not feeling well. Chomrong was the last place that we showered, since it gets to cold after this point of the trek. Definitely a good thing to keep in mind!
Elevation: 2,360m/7,742ft Hiking Time: 4 hours
Chomrong to Dovan
Day 8: Today you’ll hike from Chomrong to Dovan. The tea house offers some incredible views of the mountains. There is also a waterfall nearby that you can check out once you arrive. I found it to be the perfect stop to relax and read my book.
Elevation: 2,600m/8,530ft Hiking Time: 6 hours
Dovan to Deurali
Day 9: Today you will hike from Dovan to Deurali. Many people choice to continue all the way to Machapuchare Base Camp, but we decided to take it slow for my body here. While not severe enough to stop hiking, I was showing some rather intense altitude sickness symptoms (headache, vomiting, diarrhea).
Elevation: 3,200m/10,498 ft Hiking Time: 5 hours
Deurali to Annapurna Base Camp
Day 10: Trek from Deurali to Annapurna Base Camp. We stopped at Machapuchare Base Camp (MBC) for a late lunch before making the final camp to Annapurna Base Camp. The temperatures will be significantly cooler at the higher altitudes, so be sure to pack enough layers. When we left Deurali I was wearing a tank top, and by the time we reached Annapurna Base Camp it was blizzarding.
Elevation: 4,130/13,549ft Hiking Time: 5-6 hours
I cannot stress it enough, if you are not feeling well, descend to MBC, or lower if neccessary. Below I will cover altitude sickness more thoroughly, but it is not something that you want to chance.
Annapurna Base Camp to Bamboo
Day 11: Trek from Annapurna Base Camp to Bamboo
Elevation: 2,310m/7,578ft Hiking Time: 6-7 hours
Bamboo to Jhinu Danda
Day 12: Today you’ll hike from Bamboo to Jhinu Danda. When you arrive at Jhinu Danda, you’ll have the option of hiking down about 20 minutes to the local hot springs. I recommend wearing closed-toed shoes to hike down, as the steps are quite slippery. Additionally, there are a ton of leeches (ah!), especially during/after the rainy season. We had to pull quite a few leeches off of our feet.
Elevation: 1,780m/5,839ft Hiking Time: 5-6 hours
Jhinu Danda to Pothana
Day 13: Trek from Jhinu Danda to Pothana
Elevation: 1,890/6,200ft Hiking Time: 5-6 hours
Pothana to Phedi
Day 14: The final day is a relatively easy downhill trek from Pothana to Phedi. Once you arrive in Phedi, it is about an hour drive to reach Pokhara, which is only about 11 miles away.
Elevation: 820m/2,690ft Hiking Time: 3-4 hour
All of the photos in the blog post have been edited using my Lightroom Presets! Now on sale!
Pokhara to Kathmandu
Day 15: Drive from Pokhara to Kathmandu
Elevation: 1,300m/4,264ft Hiking Time: 6-7 hours
Day 16: This is the final day of the tour. If you’re continuing your trip in Nepal then check out a full Nepal itinerary here. Or perhaps you are continuing to one of the nearby countries of India or Sri Lanka.
Accommodation on the Annapurna Base Camp Trek
The accommodation along the trek was so much better than we were expecting. We had read what was presumably an outdated guide online, and were prepared to take only two bucket showers throughout the two week trek. Imagine our surprise when we arrived at our first guest house with comfy beds and a shower with running water!
The accommodations along the route are basic, however they provide all of the necessary functions. Make sure to pack a flashlight, since most of the bathrooms are separate from the bedrooms, so you’ll have to head outside.
It is not possible to book the teahouses online, so they are often first come first serve. One of the perks of traveling with a guide is that they can call ahead to reserve a room for you.
Food on the Annapurna Base Camp Trek
If you are trekking to Annapurna Base Camp with Adventure Mountain Expeditions then all food with be included in your package. Most tea houses serve an assortment of rice and dahl, egg dishes, and soups.
Due to the obvious fact that we were up in the mountains, many of the dishes aired on the side of being very greasy. While the food was by no means bad, it was a bit heavy and tough on the stomach. I recommend packing a few extra snacks to eat throughout!
Altitude Sickness on the Annapurna Base Camp Trek
Mild forms of altitude sickness are extremely common on the Annapurna Base Camp trek. This is caused by the decrease in oxygen available at higher elevations. It is important that you understand the symptoms, and recognize when it is important to get additional help. There are three different types or altitude sickness. Mild altitude sickness, or acute mountain sickness (AMS), is the most mild form. For more people, mild altitude sickness feels similar to a hangover, which symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and fatigue. This is the most common form. However, it affects people to a varying degree. Personally, I am strongly affected by altitude sickness, and even the slightest increase in altitude affects my body.
I highly recommend that you listen to your body, ascending slowly, and descending when necessary. Altitude sickness symptoms can come on quickly, and can be fatal if you don’t descend to an area with more oxygen. Anyone planning to hike to Annapurna Base Camp should care Diamox, a prescription medication known to treat AMS.
Here you can find more information on altitude sickness.
Booking Travel Insurance for the Trek
You absolutely 100% should book travel insurance if you are planning to complete the Annapurna Base Camp trek, or any other hike in the region. In fact, most tour operators require you to purchase trip coverage that includes a helicopter evacuation. This is in case you are injured or experience severe altitude sickness while on the hike. While I always felt super safe on the trek, there are some tricky spots that require you to cross over makeshift bridges or walk along steep edges.
I have always used World Nomads for travel insurance and have been super happy. They offer affordable rates for great international travel coverage.
What to Pack for the Trek
What to pack when hiking to Annapurna Base Camp is probably one of the trickiest parts since the climate throughout the hike varies so much as you ascend and descend in altitude! There were days when I started the morning in a blizzard with a full on winter jacket, and by the end of the day I was hiking in a tank top below the hot sun.
- 3-4 tops (tank top, long sleeves, etc). Avoid cotton when possible. Patagonia sells some great technical shirts for both men and women. I also sported 1 of the HeatTech shirts from Uniqlo.
- Rain jacket + a winter jacket
- 2 thick sweaters/sweatshirts, 1 to hike in and 1 to sleep in
- Long pants (there are a ton of bugs so I don’t recommend hiking in shorts – I personally love my Columbia Women’s Convertible Pant)
- A clean pair of clothes to sleep in
- Face and body wipes
- First aid essentials (bandaids, antibacterial, antihistamine, anti-diarrhea, Diamox, etc)
- Menstrual cup (for ladies, this is an absolute must! Using a menstrual cup, both traveling and at home, has been a game changer for me.)
- Proper hiking boots Columbia Women’s Waterproof Hiking Boot
- Hiking socks (I recommend packing at least 3 pairs)
- A winter hat + a buff
- Swim suit (we visited a hot spring!!)
- Flip flops (the bathroom floors aren’t always the cleanest)
- A flashlight/headlamp
- A waterproof bag or Ziploc baggies for your valuables
- Extra snacks (nuts, protein bars, cans of tuna)
- Rehydration powder (I recommend Hydralyte!)
- Evening activities: playing cards, notebook, Kindle Paperwhite
- A reusable water bottle (I recommend carrying at least two Vapur Foldable Water Bottles)
- A small backpack (if a porter will be assisting in carrying your large pack)
- Hiking poles
Local Life on the Annapurna Base Camp Trek
One of the absolute highlights of the Annapurna Base Camp trek is getting to experience the local mountain life. Each of the tea houses along the trek are run by different families. These are families who are open to share their food, their home, and their incredible culture with you. You will get a feel for what life in the mountains is truly like, with a glimpse into the true lives of the locals living in these areas.
Why the Annapurna Base Camp Trek?
What makes hiking to Annapurna Base Camp so great? First starters it is an extremely diverse trek! Over the course of the hike you will find yourself in sunny fields, muggy jungles, and amidst the snow-capped mountains. There were so many moments through the trip when I was truly in awe of the incredible views around me!
Do you love hiking? Why not check out my guide to hiking in Patagonia!
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