Best time to visit the Annapurna Circuit

Best time to visit the Annapurna Circuit


TEMPERATURE & RAINFALL

It’s possible to trek the Annapurna Circuit for most of the year, just avoid the Jun-Sep monsoon season when rivers flood and landslides occur. Autumn (Sep-Nov) brings clear skies, plus the bugs and dust have been washed away by the rains. Spring (Feb-mid April) has warmer, longer days, with the rhododendrons blooming in full-throttle, but lower altitudes can be hazy in May. You can also trek in winter. Snow often blocks the Thorong La pass, building delay or a detour into a trek, but Nov-Dec are wonderfully quiet. Do wrap up, though; temperatures are crisp by day and below freezing at night.

Is an Annapurna Circuit trek for you?


Responsible Travel recommends

Do trek the Annapurna Circuit if…


… you like to know what you’re doing. You’re here to walk, everyday, but there’s something wonderfully relaxing about this being the sole agenda. Trekking steadily, marveling at the extraordinary views and discovering new levels of stamina as you go becomes a relaxing daily ritual.
… you want to combine trekking with incredible culture. You pass through villages, your porters will be from surrounding communities and you’ll be staying in teahouses owned by people who have lived in the region their whole lives, making a trek a fantastic opportunity to learn about Himalayan life.
… your mind is as fit as your body. Mental toughness is as important as physical. To complete the circuit, you must be comfortable with the idea of trekking for up to seven hours a day, for 18 days. That’s over two weeks when all you do each day is pull on your hiking boots and a walk, but while the activity remains the same, just like you, the scenery doesn’t stand still.

Don’t trek the Annapurna Circuit if…


… you’re impatient. The higher you climb, the slower you’ll be and peak season trekking jams are not unheard of. Remember that tackling the Annapurna Circuit is about appreciation and endurance; don’t rush from point to point!
… you like creature comforts. Some teahouses offer electric power and apple pies, but conditions are generally basic. Be happy to embrace local cuisine (typically rice and lentils), slumber in a sleeping bag and wrap up! Teahouses don’t have central heating.
… you get out of breath running for the bus. Trekking is hard on your knees and your lungs, so you’ll need a good level of fitness. Do some hill walking at home first, to break in your body and your boots.
… you’re happier going solo. Although it’s possible to trek independently, going with a small group, accompanied by a knowledgeable, local guide, will bring the landscape and culture to life. Your guide will also keep you safe, helping you acclimatise to altitude and assessing route safety at all times.
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Health and Safety


Stay safe on the Annapurna Circuit

Many people hike the Annapurna Circuit independently, and while the trail is well-established, it’s not a route to take lightly. It can vary from paved path to rough, dry terrain, and climbs to 5,416m at the Thorung La. At this height, there’s a strong risk of altitude sickness, so it’s essential to spend time acclimatising below the pass, as you ascend and typically by spending an extra day in Manang. An experienced guide will control your ascent progress and watch the weather, too.

Snows can block the pass, or worse. In October 2014, Nepal’s worst ever trekking disaster occurred when a toxic mix of ill-equipped guides and porters and blizzard conditions lead to 39 people dying and 384 needing rescue. During the monsoon season, the greatest threat is mud slides as a result of the torrential rains, which have caused fatalities in the past. Again, experienced tour leaders and local guides will know the warning signs.

Nepal is prone to earth tremors; however, major earthquakes like the one in April 2015 are rare and the Annapurna Circuit was not affected. For up-to-date advice, visit the government’s FCO Nepal travel advice website

Annapurna Circuit trekking advice


TIPS FROM OUR FRIENDS IN NEPAL



Danny Bell, from our leading Nepal trekking supplier Exodus, has this advice for those taking on the Annapurna Circuit.

Fuelling your trek tip


“The region’s not known for its cuisine – that’s not what you come for! – and generally food options at the teahouses are quite limited. International dishes like chicken chow mein and pasta are served alongside the local rice and lentils – dhal bat. The food is safe, filling and really nice, though, and there’s enough variation to get by on.”

Packing tips


“You will need layers to keep warm at higher altitudes, but you don’t need to bring clean clothes for every day. You can wash your underwear as you go plus as you get towards higher altitude it’s cooler so you’re not sweating as much. Basically, without being too grotty, I’d say you don’t need to change socks every day. When they can walk by themselves, then you might consider it!”

Fitness tips


“Crossing the Thorong La pass is a long day, but otherwise there’s nothing too challenging about this route, although the cumulative effect of trekking for three weeks can take its toll, so you do need a level of fitness and stamina. Everyone in my group coped. A lot had done a bit of cardiac fitness training before which was sensible.”

Insights on small group trekking


“During the first week you stick together as a group, with the guide controlling how far and fast you go so you acclimatise safely to the altitude. It’s a good way to get to know everyone, but it can become a bit of a mule train. Once the chief guide gets to know your fitness levels he may let you go ahead a bit at your own pace, but always with an assistant guide.”

Annapurna Circuit trekking advice


TIPS FROM OUR FRIENDS IN NEPAL

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Annapurna Circuit travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday – and the space inside your suitcase.
“This is a great walk and each day somehow managed to be better than the last. The most memorable part was coming down the western side of Thorong La pass in the sunshine after starting the climb up to it by moonlight in sub-zero temperatures. I’d recommend buying a walking pole for the steep descents if you don't have one. They are cheap everywhere en-route.” – Ian Pollitt

“The trekking was absolutely amazing! The views each day were breathtaking and the scenery changed by day. We went from lush green paddy fields to rocky morane and isolation to desert – it was awesome. The local people really are the friendliest people in the whole of Asia. We thoroughly enjoyed every minute! If you're thinking about it - don't. Just do it!” – Lindsey Bunn

“The Thorong La pass is the highlight. At 5,416 meters above sea level, lots of attention is given to ensure trekkers are properly acclimated in the days prior. Making it to the crossing is marked with much jubilation, and a flurry of photos. There's a strong sense of accomplishment, and it's literally downhill from there! Your feet do take a beating. Bring a sufficient amount of medical supplies for foot-related injuries, blisters in particular. The hot springs at Tatopani provide relief, but it's towards the end of the trek.” – Edgar Ampil

“Mid-late Feb was a great time to go. In the 17 days I must have seen no more than 30 trekkers, including some who had turned back beyond Manang due to the depth of snow and the pass being blocked. Fortunately, the Gods were with us as we got through in deep snow but glorious sunshine.” – Len Davison
Photo credits: [Fuelling your trek tip: Rick McCharles] [Insights on small group trekking: Alan Turkus] [Insights on small group trekking: Alan Turkus] [Tip1: Possible] [Tip2: Jerome Bon] [Helpdesk: travelwayoflife]

Written by: Joanna Simmons
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