They’re the two most popular trekking regions of Nepal: the Annapurna Circuit and Everest Base Camp. Many first-time visitors to Nepal have a hard time deciding between the two. They do offer very different experiences, in terms of landscape, culture, accommodation, logistics, and accessibility. Plus, each has distinct advantages—as well as a few disadvantages. So, which one should you choose? Read on to weigh your options.
The Annapurna Circuit offers some of the most magnificent mountain views in the Nepal Himalaya. Climb from pretty rice terraces through narrow gorges to the stunning Manang Valley, surrounded by some of the highest Himalayan peaks. There’s the option of making a side-trip to the high-altitude Tilicho Lake, should you want a greater challenge. Cross the Thorong La Pass at 5,416 metres to Mustang, where you’ll find the medieval villages of the Kali Gandaki Gorge. The people living in this remote and mountainous region have a rich and colourful culture. This trek is available as Manang to Mustang (flying out of Jomsom airport), Annapurna Circuit returning via Poon Hill or the entire Annapurna Circuit including Annapurna Base Camp.
A disadvantage of the Annapurna Circuit is that in recent years, roads have been developed throughout the region, bringing vehicles to an area that was once free of them. While this has opened up opportunities for locals, it’s not always great news for trekkers, who would usually prefer to trek on serene footpaths rather than dusty roads! But, it’s also not difficult to avoid the roads by taking alternative paths. Plus, the development of the roads has meant the Annapurna Circuit can be done in fewer days, as there are faster ways in and out than there had been previously.
A shorter alternative in the Annapurna Himalaya is…
This spectacular short trek takes you right into the Annapurna Sanctuary, traversing a variety of terrain, from rice terraces to glaciers. Very few treks bring you so close to the base of the Annapurna and Fishtail Mountains in such a short time. Start from Pokhara and climbs through rice terraces and interesting Gurung villages before entering a narrow valley wedged between Annapurna South and Fishtail. Reach Machapuchhare Base Camp and continue the short distance to Annapurna Base Camp (4,200 m.) Annapurna Base Camp (4,130 m.) is spectacular, surrounded by the mighty peaks of Annapurna I (8,091 m.), Annapurna South (7,219 m.), Machapuchhre (6,993 m.) and Hiunchuli (6,441 m.). This incredible trek can be combined with the Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna Panorama treks.
The Everest Base Camp trek not only offers breath-taking scenery but unique Sherpa culture. Trekkers can visit ancient monasteries and villages along the way. Walk through the Sherpa town of Namche Bazaar and visit the famous Tengboche Monastery before heading to Everest Base Camp. It passes through the Sagarmatha National Park, one of Nepal’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The natural beauty, fascinating culture and a personal sense of achievement, as well as warm Nepali hospitality, makes the Everest Base Camp trek one of the world’s most unforgettable treks.
Spend the first couple of days trekking to Namche Bazaar, where you must stop for at least a day to acclimatise. Continue to Lobuche (4,930 m.) and onwards to Everest Base Camp (5,364 m.). Climb Kala Patthar (5,546 m.;) for staggering views of the world's highest mountain.
Getting to Everest Base Camp from Kathmandu first requires a flight to Lukla. While this is an exciting trip, it can be a bit of a negative because flights are very often delayed or cancelled due to the weather. It’s always necessary to leave some buffer days around international flight departures from Kathmandu so you don’t miss your flight! In contrast, the Annapurna Himalaya are only a short drive from Pokhara.
The Everest Base Camp trek, however, is far from the only trekking option in the area. If you’re seeking a greater challenge, or want to avoid the busiest trails, check out one of the following options instead: