Trekking Annapurna Base Camp: A Complete Guide
The trek to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) has several obvious perks. Besides being an absolutely stunning journey through the best that the Himalayas have to offer and good name recognition when you tell people you pulled off one of Nepal’s most famous hikes, it also is an excellent stepping stone to Everest Base Camp. Interested in the adventure of a lifetime? Read on for an all-you-need-to-know guide of the ABC trek.
Photos Courtesy of Abhishaik Sud
The adventure to ABC starting from and returning to Kathmandu takes 11 days, and you cover 95km during that time trekking. The maximum altitude is 13,549ft (4,130m) at the Base Camp itself. The trailhead begins at Nayapul via an overnight at Pokhara, a day’s drive from Kathmandu, after which you trek to Birethanti for an official permit check-in.
While it’s not quite as strenuous as compared to EBC, ABC is still a high-altitude, extensive trek rated as a moderate-plus difficulty level. Ideally, anyone attempting this trek should have prior experience to at least an altitude of 3,700 meters and know about campsite basics, ascending and descending on mountain trails and the basics of high altitude acclimatization process- not to mention excellent physical fitness. If you’d like a resource on how to best physically prepare for this trek, check out our pre-trek exercise regimen. While the teahouses sell many essential items along the way, do be sure also to pack all essential items (find the packing list for that here).
A word about permits…
We’ll get the boring stuff out of the way first. The trek to Annapurna Base Camp requires a permit for the park itself (2,000 NPR for foreigners and 200 NPR for SAARC nationals) and a TIMS permit.
SAARC stands for South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, and all countries part of this group (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) qualify for this reduced permit price. So trekking ABC for Indians or anyone else in this group would incur a permit cost of 200 NPR plus the TIMS permit cost.
Most permits can be obtained (and additional questions answered) at the Nepal Tourism Board Office in Kathmandu. If this doesn’t sound like something you’re interested in, any tour operator will handle these matters should you choose to trek with them.
Go Solo or with a Group?
Speaking of tour operators, ABC is unique in that it is both doable solo or with an organized trekking group. Since the trail is well-marked and frequently traveled, one can easily make due on this trek self-sufficiently, provided that they do the right amount of research beforehand. Directional signs along the way point to villages lying ahead, and while there are multiple routes that can be taken to ABC, if you know which villages lie along the way you’ve chosen, you’ll always know which way to turn. If in doubt, the trail is dotted with friendly, locally-owned teahouses ready to serve you some hot cuisine, chai or give directions.
These teahouses also provide lodging for the night, and so this takes the burden off of a solo trekker of packing and carrying extensive equipment and rations. While this is entirely doable, we recommend to newer trekkers to employ the help of a tour operator.
While odds are you’ll be fine, it’s when things don’t go as planned that joining a scheduled trekking batch becomes helpful. If they are a legitimate tour operator, like Bikat Adventures, their guides have the medical training, rescue knowledge, and navigation skills to make sure your trek doesn’t get derailed if you run into a sticky situation. Another perk of going with an organized group is that all lodging negotiations at the teahouses and nitty-gritty permit business will be completely taken care of from their end.
Views along the way…
The trails of ABC itself are full of wonders, from prayer flag-adorned suspension bridges and lush forests to the chance to see rural Nepali village life, and of course, massive views of snowcapped peaks once you break the treeline, including Machhapuchhre, Annapurna South, Annapurna III, Annapurna I, Gangapurna and Hiunchuli.
Of course no journey to ABC would be complete however, without exploring Pokhara, the city where you stay before your first trekking day and after your last. The city is built on and around Lake Phewa, with an elegant 2-story pagoda situated on an island in the center. Pokhara is a gold mine for adventurers, boasting local cuisines, yoga centers, the International Mountain Museum, Mahendra Cave, an underground waterfall (Davis Falls), monasteries and whatever else lays waiting to be found.
But enough from us. Quit reading about this unforgettable adventure and do it.