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The Annapurna Circuit is a backpacking tour around one of the most imposing mountain ranges on Earth, The Annapurna Massif.
This trek is part of Nepal’s history, etched as firmly in the cultural landscape as the 8,000-meter summit of Annapurna is erected on its physical one.
For centuries, people have walked these valleys and slopes to visit relatives and ceremonial sites in the shadow of the mountains.
The age-old route became a global classic almost instantly when first opened to the international public in 1977, and endures as one of the world’s most renowned foot journeys.
A generation of trekkers from around the planet have joined the Nepalese in pilgrimage to these heavenly peaks, and their timeless allure pulls just as strongly on today’s intrepid wanderers. Beginning in Besisahar, climbing through precipitous gorges to the highlands at Thorung La Pass (5416m elev.), and ending in Pokhara, the Circuit covers an impressive spectrum of natural and cultural environments.
From the dense, steamy forest of the lower elevations—through pine-forested uplands and high grasslands, to the barren tundra of the alpine, and back down.
You will experience the Hindu villages of the foothills where rice terraces and banana plantations quilt the hillsides.
You will hike to the Buddhist communities of the plateau, to drink homemade yak-milk tea and turn traditional prayer wheels against a postcard-perfect Himalayan backdrop.
Along the way you will stay in traditional teahouses, where the affordable price of a night’s stay includes meals, a bed, and friendly host company. The general route from Besisahar to Pokhara is much the same as it’s always been, but it’s a living trail that changes with the development of the region over time.
The 20+ days of roadless hiking are a thing of the past, as motor roads encroach up the valleys, but for the locals these are a welcome contribution to trade between towns, building on the economy that trekking has brought to the region, and further supporting livelihoods. Today, the traditional route is typically followed in about 17 days, and alternate routes that parallel the roads (Natural Annapurna Trekking Trails) still allow for a nearly roadless journey throughout. Doing the Annapurna Circuit requires two separate permits (Annapurna Conservation Area Project [ACAP] and Trekkers’ Information Management Systems [TIMS]) which you should buy in Kathmandu upon arrival in Nepal.
A guide is not required for the trek, but many are available.
You can hire a guide, porter, porter-guide, or some combination depending on the services you prefer.
If you want to follow the Natural Annapurna Trekking Trails (NATT) rather than the more obvious roads, a guide is definitely recommended, though self-guiding publications for the NATT are available as well. An advantage of the road system is allowing various itineraries and modes of travel.
You can abbreviate the Circuit to travel only the remaining roadless stretch from Manang to Muktinath.
Another option is to ride mountain bikes on the road sections (popular on the downhill beginning in Muktinath or Jomsom).
Side trips, like those to Ice Lake or Tilicho Lake, can extend the roadless days and scenery you get to experience. Note: The track as mapped follows a generic version of the Circuit, utilizing both roads and trails based on which is more direct.
The track ends at the highway in Nayapul, rather than continuing to Pokhara, because most trekkers travel by transit to Pokhara from there. Sources: https://wikitravel.org/en/Annapurna_Circuit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annapurna_Circuit https://www.johnnyfd.com/2018/03/annapurna-circuit-trek-nepal.html https://msabelli.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/the-mountain-people-of-nepal-culture-in-the-annapurna-circuit-annapurna-nepal/ http://www.nepal-dia.de/Trekking_the_Annapurna_Circuit_with_the_new_NATT_trails_111017.pdf