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Thinking of trekking around the Nepalese Annapurna circuit? Not really too sure what to expect? Well happy days, you’ve found the right page! Here’s the FULL Annapurna circuit day by day with a bucket load of photos.
If, like myself you’re a bit of a novice when it comes to multi day, high altitude treks then check out the post I’ve written on trekking the Annapurna circuit on a budget first. Here you’ll find out everything you need to know about the logistics of getting it done.
If you’re a bit more of a hiking veteran and want to see what the trail’s like then continue reading.
How this article is laid out.
I’ve written this article to give you a brief insight in what to expect on the Annapurna circuit trek day by day. I say brief, in all fairness it’s pretty long but remember this is an 18-day trek. I couldn’t possibly include everything.
Here’s a run down of how it’s laid out:
- Heading – Which day it is and what villages/towns we are walking between with their respective altitudes.
- Step counter info – Information according to Agne’s step counter (Basic one). Distance walked is the actual distance we walked not always quite on route/the quickest way. Calories burned does not take into account that we laden with 10-12kg backpacks and walking up mountains. I guess you could double this. Time taken does not include, biscuit breaks etc its the actual time we spent physically walking.
- Maps.me altitude info – part of a screenshot from the maps.me app that should give you an idea of how steep each part of the trek are.
- A little narration – Personal views of the trail in general. And of course some stunning landscape photography.
- Difficulty rating – Just our opinion of the highs and lows of each day.
Day 1 – Kathmandu to Bhulbhule (840m) by bus
When starting the Annapurna circuit the first thing you need to decide is where you’ll start. We started from Bulbhule which is pretty much the beginning of the circuit.
With that decided, we booked our bus tickets and taxi to the bus station through our hostel reception. In this case that was the Beehive hostel. Bus tickets including taxi cost 1000 rupees.
The taxi picked us up at 6am for the short (10 minute) drive to the bus station. Once at the bus station, it became quickly apparent that this wasn’t going to be as straight forward as we had hoped.
We had one local chap telling us that he was getting on the same bus as us and that we should stay with him. Not so convinced we went in search of other information. This led us to a boy, I say boy as he was only 16 at best, saying that we should stay with him.
Our bus was due to leave in the next 5 minutes and we were still sat in the bus station with absolutely no idea which was our bus. Then the “boy” told us to follow him, dubiously we followed.
Out of the bus station and about 1.5km later we arrived at our bus, hopefully!
This was the right bus and the “boy” was the bus conductor. The journey from Kathmandu to Bulbhule is roughly 190km and should take in the region of 6 hours.
All was well. Me, Agne, 3 other people and guy with 3 baby goats were rattling on to Bhulbhule at a untollerably slow pace. Having spent the last 8 months travelling Asia we were used to the slow pace of the buses and understand that’s just the way it is. Sit back, relax and know you’ll be there for a while is the only way to get through it.
After a few hours the bus stopped for lunch and toilet break. On the menu was either dal bat or you guessed it dal bat. 350 rupees and refillable. Not too bad.
Back on the road and a hour later the bus stopped in some random town. Due to our bus only carrying 6 people and 3 goats the driver had decided to meet up with another bus and told us to get on it.
No more empty bus, this one was like being back in India. 7 of us sat on the rear 5 seat bench backpacks on laps. Walkway crammed with about 25 people, 4 hanging out of the door, bhangra blasting and stopping at every bus stop on route. Gotta be honest it’s not great!
At roughly 4pm the bus stops again. Again, you’ve guessed it, another change. But we were so close.
We were told to go across the road and register as we have started the circuit and the come back and get on a different bus.
This time the driver asked us to pay another 200 rupees each. obviously we weren’t happy about this as we had already paid to Bulbhule. After much debating we admitted defeat and agreed to pay 100 each.
Another hour down a piece of “road” that resembled the offroad section of a rally-cross track on our 3rd bus of the day and we’d done it! we’d reached Bhulbhule!
187km in 12.5 hours equates to 14.96kph…. Shocking!!
Toughness rating: A solid 7. Just a nightmare start to finish really.
Day 2 – Bhulbhule (840m) to Syange (1100m)
Actual walked distance: 17.2km Calories burned: 956 Time taken: 4h 21m
With the nightmare of yesterday put behind us, today was a new day and really, the first day of the Annapurna circuit.
With bellies full of porridge and tea, backpacks on we set off without a clue what to expect.
One thing that we didn’t expect was for every other local we met to be offering us “10 grams for 500” no thanks mate “ok 400, real good quality himalayan ganja”.
Anyways, back to the route. It starts off pretty flat with just a gentle incline for the first 5km.
The second 5km is a little more challenging with an overall ascent of 470m this was our first taste of what was in store for us.
After the slow ascent up plenty of switchbacks the last 5 or so km starts with a steep decent and then it’s pretty much up and down all the way to Syange.
Once we crossed over the Marsyangdi river into Syange we’d had enough and decided to call it a day. We stayed at the Hotel Indigo just right of the bridge above.
100 rupees for a room, wifi, gas shower and seating by the rivers edge. Not too bad.
Toughness rating: 5 – A bit of up and down but nothing too strenuous.
Day 3 – Syange (1100m) to Tal (1700m)
Actual walked distance: 15.8km Calories burned: 986 Time taken: 4h 58m
Today we woke up with the odd ache and pain from the first days hike. Guess that’s to be expected. Another bowl of porridge and off we went for the second round.
Leaving Syange, the first 2km is all gravel jeep trail, pretty flat with the odd slight incline.
After 2km you have a choice of switchback jeep trail or very steep walking route. After yesterday we already despise switchbacks so opted for the steep trail.
Once you reach the top it’s back to jeep trail until you reach a point where the trail is marked up a hill on the left. We went that way but it seemed pretty pointless as about 1 km down the trail, it joins back up with the jeep trail we left.
Soon after crossing the bridge into Chamje we were met by a hellish 1 hour climb. We stopped in Sattle at around 11.30 for a dinner of potato curry and rice.
After Sattle it was the usual up and down for a couple of km before another steep climb with many, many step before it flattened out as we entered Tal.
Tal is a beautiful little settlement nestled between mountains alongside a stunning turquoise river.
In Tal we stayed at the Father and Sons guesthouse. 100 rupees for a nice room with bathroom, free wifi, hot shower and nice roof terrace.
Toughness rating: 6 – Fair bit of ascent and descent.
Day 4 – Tal (1700m) to Chame (2670m)
Actual walked distance: 27.1km Calories burned: 1590 Time taken: 7h 41m
Today was Christmas day. While most people are sat at home with their family eating turkey and pretending to like the mother in law’s Brussel sprouts we were walking and we were walking far.
The first part of day 4 was nice and flat. A beautiful walk along side the river but we knew it wouldn’t last.
Not long at all, within 2km of the start the nice flat trail had once again turned to the steps of hell. Up and down on steps for 1 hour until we reached the bridge at Dharapani.
Another stop for permit check at Dharapani. Then it was back onto the jeep road for a few km and a nice easy 300 ascent into Danaqu where we stopped for lunch at Hotel Snowland, roughly 12 noon.
Hotel Snowland was a pretty apt name as this is the first point where things were staying frozen all day and not just the night time.
After Danaqu there’s a long steep switchback climb on the jeep trail until you get halfway up the hill and then according to the map there is a shortcut. A trail that cuts through the switchbacks.
By now you’ve probably realised that me and Agne don’t like switchbacks so we went for the shortcut that took us through some fairly dense forest.
After about 45 minutes we were still trekking through the dense forest. This didn’t seem right. The shortcut was only supposed to be about 1.5km and we were making good time. We pushed on a bit further, the foot prints disappeared, the trail looked less and less trodden and still no end to the forest.
We found a “comfy” rock, the map was out as was the maps.me phone app. Should we risk it and carry on or should play it safe and turn back!?
After 10 minutes of sitting on said comfy rock and 5 biscuits later we were in agreement, we were going to press on. I already had it all planned out. We had sleeping bags rated to minus -20, there was lots of dry wood around and we had plenty of biscuits. What could possibly go wrong!?
So what happened???
So glad we winged it. literally 25m from the comfy rock was the bridge to Timang. Now, Timang was marked on the map and it was in the right direction. Praise the lord! (not that I’m in the slightest bit religious).
After Timang the road flattened out with the odd little climb here and there for the last few km to Chame. Another checkpoint in Koto. I’m not going to lie, these were becoming a bit of a pain in the ass by this point.
Exhausted, we arrived at 5pm.
In all honesty I can’t remember where we stayed but we got free room, free wifi and there was a log fire in the common room. Also, this was our first introduction to the misery that is the hot bucket shower as all the pipes for the gas showers were frozen solid.
Toughness rating: 7 – Mainly because we got lost and 27km with 12kg backpacks and a fair few climbs we were knackered. Merry Christmas!
Day 5 – Chame (2670m) to Upper Pisang (3300m)
Actual walked distance: 17.7km Calories burned: 1042 Time taken: 5h
Absolutely destroyed from yesterdays long way round to Chame I’m glad to report the road to Upper Pisang was a fair bit easier.
The first 2km on this section was on the whole, quite flat with no disastrous hills to climb. After 2km and all the way to Dhikur Pokhari there’s just a slight climb.
Between Chame and Dhikur Pokhari there isn’t anywhere to get some lunch apart from an expensive looking farmhouse so get a good breakfast before you leave.
After diner, the trail takes you through a stunning valley with amazing views.
The last part of the trail to Upper Pisang takes you on a bit of a climb but nothing too hard. All in all, an enjoyable day walking.
We stayed at Hotel Sweet Home. 300 rupees a room with outside gas shower, wifi and limited electricity.
Only downside is that the place is made out of wooden studs and chipboard. Freezing at night and you could hear a pin drop in the next room.
Toughness rating: 3 – Nothing too strenuous, stunning views.
Day 6 – Upper pisang (3300m) to Manang (3540m)
Actual walked distance: 25.5km Calories burned: 1501 Time taken: 7h 13m
This is where you have two choices. The high road or the low road…
We highly recommend the high road through Ghyaru. Go this way and you’ll see some of, if not the best views on the whole Annapurna circuit.
The first 3.5km is nothing to worry about. Then you’ll go across a small bridge until you arrive at the foot of what we call the “zigzag of misery!”.
400m up in just 1.6km. That’s a 1:4 incline. Probably the steepest bit of the whole Annapurna circuit. Luckily, 75% of the way up there is a small café where you can stop for a “Nepali price” tea for 40 rupees. She also offered us some home grown herbs to ease the pain.
Once you arrive at Ghyaru you’ve done the hard part. From here on out its all about much easier walking and jaw dropping views.
By the time we got near Manang, the snow clouds were on the horizon and the temperature plummeted.
Toughness rating: 8 – Mainly due to the “zigzag of misery” and we walked 25km.
Day 7 – Rest day in Manang (3540m)
Once you get to Manang, it is strongly advised that you spend two nights here to let your body acclimatise to the altitude. After 7 days of solid walking that was fine by us.
Also, it is recommended not to ascend more than 500m per day from here on out.
By the time we made it to Manang we were extremely tired and hungry. We had grand plans to walk around and find the best accommodation seen as we had two nights to stay here. We went to 2 and settled on Yeti Guesthouse.
It wasn’t too bad, 200 per room with bathroom and wifi. If you stay here ask for room 308 as it has 3 window walls with the middle being South facing meaning you get sun all day long. Might not sound like a big deal but when it’s -10 in the shade….
Toughness rating: 0 – Furthest we walked was 20m to the dining room.
Day 8 – Manang (3540) to Yak Kharka (4050m)
Actual walked distance: 10.9km Calories burned: 704 Time taken: 3h 39m
Early mornings are starting to be very cold now. With less distance to walk everyday it’s worth thinking about setting off once the sun is well and truly up.
In winter, and at this altitude a lot of the teahouses and restaurants are closed. We couldn’t find anywhere between Manang and Yak Kharka for lunch. Thank god for biscuits in the backpack.
The first 5km is a little bit of a climb and then the second 5km is quite flat and relaxed. With that said, the altitude was starting to take its toll. Even a slight incline was like going up steps.
We paid 300 per night and the kitchen closed at 6pm without telling us. There wasn’t any sockets in the room, no showers anywhere and they were charging 200 rupees for wifi.
Toughness rating: 6 – The altitude is making everything hard now.
Day 9 – Yak Kharka (4050m) to Thorung Pedi (4525m)
Actual walked distance: 8.42km Calories burned: 545 Time taken: 2h 50m
As you can see from the altitude graph above the walk from Yak Kharka to Thorung Pedi is an even ascent over 7km apart from the odd dip here and there.
Again, with less oxygen everyday gets a little harder but with that said the views are always worth it.
We stayed at Thorung base camp and paid 200 per room. The room was very basic, the toilet was dirty, no water in the bucket to flush the toilet, no electric, no shower, they were charging 200 rupees for wifi and there were 25 people huddled round a single log burner.
Not great but hardly spoilt for choice at this point in the trek.
Toughness rating: 7 – Breathing is like having a balloon attached to your mouth.
Day 10 – Thorung Pedi (4525m) to Ranipauwa (3700m)
Actual walked distance: 23.9km Calories burned: 1489 Time taken: 7h 28m
Today is the day – After 9 days of hiking longer than we have ever hiked before we are finally here, start of the Thorung La pass.
Today was also New Years Eve. While most people are planning the biggest party of the year we were instead going to hike over the highest mountain pass in the world….
We climbed out of our freezing cold beds at 6am. The sun still not up, I’m pretty sure I don’t need to tell you that it was F**KING FREEZING!!
Already dressed as it was too cold the night before to get undressed for bed all we had to do was put our boots big coats on and were off for breakfast.
From the room to dining room in record time, our hearts sank when the log burner was stone cold! What are they playing at!?
The first 1.2km to the high camp is another terrible switchback with an ascent of 350m. We arrived at the high camp at 8.15am, feet still like blocks of ice praying the sun would soon be over the top of the mountain and give us some heat.
First milestone down we found another comfy rock to have a breather. At this point we were overtaken by an Australian man in SHORTS. Crazy b….. He informed us that he had done the Annapurna circuit twice before and the hard part was over.
That crazy lying b…. Yes the switch back had finished but the hill was constant and the air thinner and thinner.
From the high camp it was 4.1km and another 550m up. Around 5200m above sea level I started to feel bad. Headache, nausea and generally wobbling all over the place. I guess this is what altitude sickness feels like.
Once again sat on a comfy rock, this time we were passed by a man who must have been knocking 70. His 9th time over the pass. He quickly realise I wasn’t so good and advised us that maybe we should turn back.
Not while I’ve still got a hole in my arse. With just another 200m to ascend I’d rather crawl across the pass on my face than turn back and attempt it again tomorrow.
Altitude sickness pill down the hatch and we pressed on.
Well we made it! I must be honest, we were a little underwhelmed….
I don’t know what we were expecting but it was just a load of prayer flags on the top of a hill with a mountain either side.
Mandatory photo done. Get me down this mountain to where the air is….
Once you get to the pass it’s a solid descent 9km and 1750 down to Ranipauwa. At first, all is well nice smoothish gravel trail. Then it turns to steep snow and ice covered switchback. Progress was slow but the air thick.
We arrived at Ranipauwa at 4pm and stayed at “The path of dreams hotel”. Free room, gas heater, cheap food and wifi. Not the worst place we’d stayed.
Toughness rating: 10 – Physically the hardest day of my life. Ever seen “total recall”? When Arnold gets pushed out of the airlock on mars…. I feel your pain arnie!
Day 11 – Ranipauwa (3700m) to Jomsom (2720m)
Actual walked distance: 19.23km Calories burned: 1067 Time taken: 4h 51m
After the pain of yesterday had subsided a little we were feeling overwhelmingly pleased with ourselves. We’ve walked across the highest mountain pass in the world. We’d progressed from complete rookie to mere amateurs in the hiking world and it felt good.
After a little lie-in (8.30) we set off at 9.30am in the direction of Jahrakot. One thing we noticed was that there are souvenir shops everywhere. Guess you’ve done the hard bit now time for us tourists to fill our backpacks with handcrafts to remember the journey.
After Jahrakot once again you have the choice of route. Follow the tarmac road or head into the valley on the trail. Both, the road and trail follow the same heading and run pretty much parallel.
The first bit of tarmac we had seen in nearly 2 weeks, we were using it! In all fairness without a doubt it was the right decision. Just like the section from Upper Pisang to Manang this choice to use the high road gave the best views.
Just over 5km from Jahrakot the hiking trail re-joins the road we had walked down and then soon after bears left towards Ekle Bahatti 3.5km away.
The route to Ekle Bahatti takes you past the picturesque town of Kagbeni situated alongside a narrow part of the Kali Gandaki river. Kagbeni is a popular town for pilgrims as the Kali Gandaki river is surrounded by Jurassic “Blue Lias” rock, in which sacred fossils can be found. It’s the same type of rock that can be found in Lyme Regis, Dorset.
We were told by a few people that this town is a nice place to stay if we had time but we wanted to reach Jomson, we moved on.
After stopping at the very small village of Elke Bahatti for some lunch we headed onto the jeep trail for the final leg to Jomson.
The jeep trail is adjacent to the widest river bed we’d ever seen. Completely flat and surrounded by mountains this makes for one seriously windy road. It is relentless!
Jomson being the biggest town for quite some distance it is pretty well equipped with plenty of accommodation, airstrip, cash machines, buses etc. A lot of people finish their trek here. It’s around 9 hours to Pokhara from Jomsom on the bus.
We did think about leaving from here but after the bus ride from hell on the first day…. 9 hours could easily be 18! We chose to walk on for another 6 days…
All this luxury comes at a price. Accommodation and food here is not cheap at all. Well by Annapurna circuit prices anyway.
The first place we went to wanted 1500 rupees for a room. So be sure to shop around and be prepared to spend 500.
Toughness rating: 3 – Fairly easy day, just the icy wind in your face for the last couple of hours was no fun.
Day 12 – Jomsom (2720m) to Larjung (2550m)
Actual walked distance: 19.1km Calories burned:1080 Time taken: 5h
People always say a good breakfast sets you up for the day. This was not that day! We splashed out for a full set breakfast. tea was like milky water, toast has been marginally scared with a match and the scrambled eggs can only be described as some porridge like substance with hard grey bits doused in sugar. 700 rupees… Bargain!!
Hey ho, that’s life! 9.30am we departed Jomson. Just as we were leaving the hotel owner pointed to the smallest cloud we’d ever seen and said “it looks like snow, stay another night!?”
The first part of the trail was down on the jeep road until we turned left onto the hiking route which took us through Marpha. Soon after we crossed a bridge that took us through Chairo and then a beautiful pine forest to Tukuche.
After the stunning pine forest we decided that we would cross another extremely long cable bridge. At this point the weather had turned and the wind was howling. Not the nicest conditions for crossing this bridge. If I’m honest we were crapping it a bit, Agne ran all the way across.
Was the hotel owner right!? was it going to snow???
Once again the wind made visibility terrible and once again we went the wrong way. Luckily, we realised before we went to far and only had to walk back about 1km.
The plan was to walk to Kobang but on arrival there was nowhere open to stay with this being low season and a little off the main route.
Another 0.5km up the road is a village called Larjung, where to our relief there was one lodge open. The Larjung Lodge, 200 rupees per room with free wifi and cheap food.
Toughness rating: 4 – Beautiful route, just cold and windy.
Day 13 – Larjung (2550m) to Ghansa (2030m)
Actual walked distance: 18.5km Calories burned: 1066 Time taken: 5h
Today was our favourite days walking of the whole Annapurna circuit. Beautiful views, nice trail and slightly down hill. Living the dream!
The route we had planned to take was blocked by JCB’s repairing the road after a rock slide. After speaking with the hotel manager we were advised to cross the river bed and follow the trail on the other side. So that’s what we did.
Once across the river, the trail cuts its way through 5km of pine forest to Kokhethanti.
Later down the route we were supposed to cross the river but two cable bridges were smashed to pieces by rockslides. The long way round it is then….
Entering Ghansa, another check post to show permits. We stayed at the Old Mustang Guesthouse. 200 rupees per room, cold shower, nice food but the wifi was terrible.
Toughness rating: 2 – All round easy day.
Day 14 – Ghansa (2030m) to Tatopani (1190m)
Actual walked distance: 18.5km Calories burned: 1070 Time taken: 5h 5m
Rockslide after rockslide…. It was about 30 minutes before we hit the first on and had to backtrack to the jeep trail as the hiking trail was completely gone.
Not too long later the same thing happened, too many big boulders uphill to try and cross this scree slope. Just too dangerous, plus it went on so far we couldn’t see the trail.
Back onto the jeep trail until we found a decent bridge and could see the trail on the other side was still intact.
The trail was up and down until we got to the sleepy town of Thareswara, where the trail levelled off somewhat.
Plenty of angry buffalo around here. We actually got caught up in a stampede! I say stampede, what I actually mean is 3 buffalo running full charge towards us. A little scary. Don’t trust a buffalo!!
A recent rockslide occurring on the only road to Jonsom left buses and cars stuck halfway. We watched the people get off the bus and start hiking.
As the day went on it was like descending further and further into spring.
Toughness rating: 5 – Setbacks with rockslides and a fiar bit of gradient.
Day 15 – Rest day at Tatopani (1190m)
Researching what was to come over the next couple of days we decided to have a day off. Tatopani was warm and fairly cheap.
The first night we stayed at the Baba Lodge, the room was crap but the food was good and cheap.
On the second day we decided to see what the famous Tatopani hot springs were all about. What a load of crap! It was a locals bath. Walled in and made out of concrete, it was pretty grim and there was only one pool of about 3mx3m with any water in it.
Nothing at all like the hot springs in Pai.
Do yourself a favour and don’t bother.
The second night we decided to get out of the crappy room and change hotel. We moved up the path about 100m to Hotel Himalaya. The food here was terrible and more expensive. We were charged 50 rupees for a hot shower and 100 rupees for wifi. There weren’t even any blankets in the room. -2 at night and no blankets, terrible!
The only saving grace…. The gardens were a nice place to relax in the sunshine and drink masala tea.
Toughness rating: 0 – Sitting around and drinking masala tea ain’t exactly hard….
Day 16 – Tatopani (1190m) to Chitre (2390m)
Actual walked distance: 18.1km Calories burned: 1137 Time taken: 5h 47m
What to say about today!? That’s it I’m buying a bungalow!!
Nothing much to say about today other than I never want to climb another step for the rest of my life!
Some nice views in parts but the steps just took over the day completely.
Toughness rating: 8 – Thighs in pain after climbing literally thousands of steps.
Day 17 – Chitre (2390m) to Ghorepani (2820m)
Actual walked distance: 6km Calories burned: 388 Time taken: 2h
Today we planned to do the relatively short hike to Ghorepani find somewhere to dump the bags and then onto Poonhill. Poonhill is coined as “one of the best viewpoints in the world”.
By the time we got to Ghorepani the weather was terrible. Completely grey and snowing on and off. Pointless going to Poonhill in weather like this.
We spent the rest of the day either huddled around the log burner or in bed. Once again it was properly cold!
We stayed at the Fishtale Lodge. 400 rupees for a room with bathroom and gas shower although all the pipes were frozen solid. The food was good if a little expensive but they had the log burner fired up all day so at least we weren’t cold.
Toughness rating: 5 – Although it was quite a short hike it was incredibly steep.
Day 18 – Ghorepani (2820m) to Birethani (1025m)
Actual walked distance: 21.6km Calories burned: 1253 Time taken: 6h
Even though we woke up to beautiful deep blue skies once again. We decided that we had had enough of trekking and being cold so we skipped Poonhill and descended to the finish line.
We set off at 9am while the trail was still full of snow and ice with one thing on our minds. Get down this mountain and finish the Annapurna circuit. 18 days was more than enough for us!
The trek to Poonhill is very popular. We were staggered at the amount of people hiking up to “one of the best viewpoints in the world.”
Without a doubt we did feel awfully sorry for them as going down was hard enough but going up must have been near impossible.
One thing for sure, due to the mass amount of tourists everything is expensive here…
Toughness rating: 8 – going down is just as hard as going up.
Day 19 – catching the bus to Pokhara
After 18 days hiking with just 2 days off I’ve never been so glad to see the inside of a bus.
120 rupees and 4 hours later we were in Pokhara eating everything!!!
That’s it! I hope we haven’t put you off taking on the whole Annapurna circuit. It’s certainly has it’s ups and downs, quite literally but its 100% worth it!
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