It’s been almost a month now since I returned from Nepal and I still feel like piece of me stayed there left behind, unwilling to go back to the western world, waiting, until I come back again. I must say that Annapurna circuit disappointed me, but just a little. I think I was spoiled by the spectacular scenery in the Everest region from last year when I did the Three passes trek and spent most of the time in an altitude around 4000 meters, where the mountain views are just utterly breathtaking.
I think weather played a big part this time. Every day, from around 11am, strong winds started to blow and due to relatively dry environment, haze started to form and blocked the mountain views around us. I remember one day in Manang, where there was raining and partially snowing at night and the sky next day was just crystal clear. The memories I have from that day are one of the nicest of the whole trek.
So next time I’m gonna go in autumn, most probably. It’s definitely worth the wait.
Moneywise the Annapurna circuit (2 weeks) has cost me almost the same as Three passes (almost 3 weeks) and I think it was mostly my fault, because I should have booked everything through an agency, and not through the guide alone. Lesson learned☺️
Generally speaking, you really don’t need a guide there, nor porter. All the trails are clearly marked and even if you were lost by some accident, locals are more than willing to help you get back on track. The only downside of not having a guide is the risk of getting an altitude sickness while nobody is around to help you (as I described in my post here, while we were crossing Thorong La pass). So that’s the risk everyone without a guide must accept.
Oh and regarding porters – the whole Everest region was swarming with them and trekkers that carried their own bags were seen very rarely. Which is the exact opposite of Annapurna. I felt like the biggest pussy in the world when I had a porter to carry my bag. Really. So if you are in a relively good condition, just push yourself a bit more and do it without a porter. You will be much more proud of yourself that you carried everything all alone and your overall fitness level will increase as well, as a nice side effect 😉
How much money should you bring to the trek? If you are paying all of your meals and accomodation, 20 USD per day is the comfortable minimum. I forgot to bring enough cash and had to operate with 15 USD per day, which was ok during the first few day where the altitude wasn’t that high. But the higher you go, the higher the prices of course.
Accommodation works differently in Annapurna region as well. Around Everest, guest houses are offering nights for free or for as little as 1 USD per night, as long as you buy dinner at the guesthouse you are staying. This doesn’t work around Annapurna, however. ACAP (Annapurna Conservation Area Project) changed the rules in order to create a fair environment for all guesthouses around. Every village area had predefined (ACAP approved) prices for food and accommodation so at the beginning, one could pay only around 150 rupees per night/per room, while in Thorong Pedi for example (village right before the pass), price for one night could get up to 500 rupees.
The same applies for food and drinks. The range for black tea was 30-150 rupees per cup, and for vegetarian dal bhat from 300-800 rupees (a Snickers bar might even cost 500 rupees when close to the pass!).
I found the Annapurna circuit trek a little bit less physically demanding than Three passes. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because I trained for half marathon for 8 weeks right before the trek, or because there was only one pass to cross, or maybe because we went up gradually and not starting at almost 3000m, or maybe because I still had some acclimatization left in me from last time, I don’t know. Maybe it was a combination of all above.
Transportation is another topic. Depending on where you want to start your trek, there are many transportation means available for you and it’s really up to you what you will decide for. From Kathmandu you can take a bus (AC, no AC, for locals, for tourists and price is always negotiable.. you can even pay only 100 rupees but be prepared for a nightmarish kinda ride), jeep (shared or just for yourself – price can get up to 500 USD per car so sharing is much better), taxi is also possible but it’s even more expensive. You can even rent a bike. And in the mountains? If there is a road available, busses and jeeps are always running. Further away if you feel sick or tired, you can hire a donkey, horse, yak, bike… One time I felt like I can’t go any further and was thinking to hire a bike. There was still 10-15km ahead of me and they asked 25 USD for the ride but I decided to walk instead because I felt a bit better after lunch 😃 So that’s all I know about the prices.
It’s very obvious that this trek is the most famous one in the world and Nepal is trying really hard to make it even more accessible than it already is – you can take a jeep and ride up to Manang without any problems. But that doesn’t really impress me, I’m a fan of unspoilt nature without any obvious marks of civilization. I don’t need to have a hot shower and nonstop internet access all day every day. It’s pretty cool to be just with yourself or with other people without the disruption of social media, electronics and all those 21st century inventions (with exception of Kindle😜). And honestly, that is very hard to find around Annapurna. But if you prefer some level of comfort and you feel uneasy to go offline for several days, Annapurna circuit is the right choice for you 😉