I know, I know… what?!
Don’t get me wrong, no one can argue that Everest Base Camp isn’t the most famous or historically-mentioned. After all, bringing yourself to the base of the world’s tallest mountain is nothing less than iconic, no questions asked.
But still, when I came home after a month of trekking Nepal’s two most famous routes back to back, when people asked me what my favorite was, my answer was and is always ABC.
Why ABC Beats EBC
Bridge crossing on ABC trail
If you’re surprised, join the club. When I packed my bags for Nepal, I fully expected to love both treks, but deep down, it was Everest that I wanted to see. Everest that I expected to be the star of the show. If you’re interested in hearing more about our adventure to EBC, you can read that story here, but for now I want to throw the spotlight on Annapurna, and the ways she absolutely stole my heart.
1. The Jungle
Growing up in the United States, I’ve always wanted to see a jungle. Here’s the thing, in India, people use the word ‘jungle’ interchangeably with ‘forest.’ In the States though, we just say forest, because that’s all we have - pines, oaks, birches, but when we think a jungle, we think of the Rainforest and scenes from ‘Jungle Book.’ I had always dreamed of being surrounded in the thick, tropical undergrowth of a humid, vine-filled jungle, but had never been close to one in my life.
Jungles of ABC
From the first footstep, I could tell there was something special about the trail to Annapurna. I saw my first banana tree, staring at this strange-looking plant until someone pointed out the vine of fruit hanging down from the center. Palm trees mingled with waterfalls, ferns, thick moss, bamboo shoots crisscrossing overhead, delicate but wildly colorful flowers blooming alongside the trail and the thickest, greenest undergrowth I’ve ever seen. Sometimes, when the trees, and vines and bamboo all seemed to coordinate, it felt like we were trekking through a green tunnel, with only splashes of sunlight making it through.
Banana trees found along the trail
The trail to Everest Base Camp also had beautiful forests in the lower valleys, but the region is much drier overall, and that limits the flora and fauna. In comparison, Annapurna’s trail brought with it a sense of freshness that couldn’t go unnoticed.
If budget is a concern for you, then this is another key point. Annapurna Base Camp, when compared to Everest Base Camp, is much more friendly to trekkers who are very price conscious. The reason is three-fold: location, transportation cost and duration.
In terms of transport, getting to the trailhead of ABC is much less expensive because it can be reached by road. You can book a fairly cheap bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara, and from there hire a shared cab to Nayapul, the start of the trail. For EBC, on the other hand, the trail begins in Lukla, a village with no road connectivity that is only accessible by flight. For SAARC members, that round-trip flight is roughly 17,000 INR and 24,000 INR for other foreigners.
The location of EBC also increases costs. For the teahouses where you stay along the way, the only way to get supplies (like the food you eat), is via a flight to Kathmandu, and then have porters carry it up on their backs. The further up you hike, the further from Lukla you get, the longer the trip is for the porters and the more lodges need to pay them. By the time your reach the upper lodges, like Gorakshep and Lobuche, the price of boiled eggs on the menu skyrockets to 500 NPR and cooked package of Maggi is 660 NPR. Since Annapurna’s trailhead is highly accessible by road, the transport of the items is less costly, and the less-remote lodge locations (4 days maximum from the trailhead) means a much more pocket-friendly menu.
Loges growing flowers
The last of course, is the length of the trek. On most standard itineraries, ABC takes about 7 days to complete, while EBC takes around 12 days. Obviously, if you’re paying nightly for your lodge stay and three times a day for food, EBC will almost double your expenditures. Of course, it’s 100% worth visiting EBC, this trip just takes a little more financial planning before you head out.
Oh man, I fell in love with this little city. Allow me to explain.
Pokhara is the nearest city to the beginning of the ABC trek. From there, you need to take a short cab ride to the village where the trail starts, and off you go - if you can convince yourself to leave Pokhara, that is.
Somehow, this city has managed to feel like a beach-side resort. Pokhara is nestled among mountains beside Phewa Lake, and feels like you’ve gone on a trip to Goa. Little boats are available for rent, and we couldn’t resist taking one out, rowing out to the middle where we could see the temples on the mountains above and the bamboo shacks that line the shore selling cold happy hour beers and barbecued corn and chicken.
Rowing a boat on Phew Lake in Pokhara
People paraglide off of nearby mountains out over the lake, ride the ferris wheel at the fairground, attend concerts at the lakeside festivals that often occur, shop the little lanes of Nepalese souvenirs, get massages at the trekkers’ spas and hide out in the nooks of neighborhood coffee shops.
Needless to say, I did not want to leave.
4. Jhinu Hot Springs
It’s like ABC knew it would become a famous trail one day and said, “Hmm, what can I do to help these, sore, tired people who have walked all this way to see me?”
And the Jhinu Hot Springs were born. Hallelujah.
I suggest taking the Jhinu route on your way back from ABC, although you can technically pass through this village on your way up as well. Balanced perfectly on a little outcropping of a larger mountain ridge, Jhinu is the last village you stay in before you hike your way back to civilization, literally the perfect grand finale to an amazingly beautiful week.
Jhinu Hot Springs
We had talked about it for days, after all, we had hiked nearly 60km up and down rigorous terrain, and we were ready to relax our muscles for a change. We had barely arrived at Jhinu before we threw on our swimsuits and went sprinting down to the river, easing our way down into the steam.
It was absolute perfection.
Bottom line, whether you go for EBC or ABC, you’re going to be tired, there will be good days and bad, things that annoy you and those that bring you joy, but both will be a remarkable adventure.
Annapurna just happened to be my favorite, and now you know why.