Annapurna Base Camp has been a mecca for trekkers all the time. Either you are a beginner in the world of trekking or an aficionado for whom mountains are the second home, Annapurna region never ceases to lure the hungry feet of all sorts. And everyone knows the reason why – Annapurna Base Camp Trek is one of most rewarding treks in the Himalayas yet one of the easiest one! However, one should not be duped by the word “Easy”. There are certain things you need to know about Annapurna Base Camp Trek to make this adventure “a lifetime experience”.
There are three ways of doing trekking in Annapurna region– GAP, TH and Fully organized camping trek (FOT). The most popular are GAP and TH. GAP comes with Guide, Accommodation and Porter; whereas TH (teahouse) includes Guide, Accommodation, Porter and all meals. As the Annapurna region has adequate accommodation facility, FOT is not recommended. There is also a choice of travelling independently, but it’s not recommended considering the remoteness of the region.
Annapurna Base Camp Trek is rated as “Moderate to fairly challenging”. The trek goes through villages, rolling hills, forested area and then right into high mountain landscape leading to Annapurna South Base Camp (4130m), the highest point of the trek. It involves approx 6-8 hours trekking along rocky ridges. No previous experience is required, you should be moderately fit, used to some regular exercise and enjoy walking in the high altitude conditions.
Best Time to Travel
The best seasons to trek to Annapurna region is Autumn (from mid-September till November end), and Spring (from the beginning of March until mid-May). Temperatures will drop considerably as you trek higher every day. Travelling during winter (from December to February) is also possible but the temperature will be harsh and higher places will have heavy snow. Those who don’t like crowded trails and can bear extreme weather conditions can trek during this time. During monsoon (from mid May to mid-September), the weather is cloudy resulting in very poor visibility.
*March, April, October and November are the most popular and favored months for traveling.
The Gurungs form the largest group in the Annapurna region. They come from Tibeto Burmese stock. They inhabit the higher northern slopes of the Annapurna, Lamjung,Chuli and hills around Ganesh Himal. A large number of Gurung men serve in the British and Indian armies. The immediate vicinity of Pokhara is largely populated by Chettris and Brahmins. The Magars inhabit the lower trail between Baglung and Dana. They live high on the steep ridges along the tributaries of the Kali Gandaki. Another ethnic group of this region is the Thakalis. Known throughout the country as accomplished hoteliers and skilled traders, they are noted for their aggressive trading spirit. Baragaun Bhotiya, Lopa, Manages also inhabit in the region towards the northest of Annapurna region.
Climate, Flora & Fauna
The climate in the Annapurna region varies from subtropical to alpine. The southern slopes of the area has the highest rainfall rate in the country- 3000mm per year, whereas the northern slopes lying in the rain shadow has the lowest rate – less than 300mm per year. The difference in the climatic conditions in this region is responsible for its varied flora and fauna.The Southern lowlands are lush with subtropical forests consisting of chirpine and alder. In the Northern highlands temperate forests of oaks, rhododendron, fir, and blue pine are found. The wet regions yield a variety of bamboo species. The higher altitude further North give rise to forests of birch, blue pine and juniper trees. The area is also rich in wildlife. There are around four hundred and seventy-four species of birds, and around a hundred species of mammals. The Annapurna region serves as an excellent habitat for rare and endangered mammals like the snow leopard, musk deer, blue sheep, red panda and many of Nepal’s brilliantly plumaged pheasants.
The trail on Annapurna Base Camp does not go too high i.e. not above 4130m, so chances of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) are very low. Though Altitude Sickness has the potential to affect all travelers from 2500m and higher, itinerary should be planned in such a way that you make very gradual ascent, spending some days at a low elevation to build necessary acclimatization before walking up to Annapurna South Base Camp at 4130m (the highest point on this trek). If you have ever suffered from altitude sickness, or have a heart or breathing complaint, consult your doctor about your suitability for trekking in high altitude areas before planning the trip.
Consult your doctor at least 2 months prior to your trip. Let your doctor know about the area you are travelling to. It is especially important if you have ever suffered from altitude sickness, or have a heart or breathing complaint. If you are travelling with a travel agency, normally your team carries a medical kit with standard prescribed medicines along with a users’ manual which you can use upon your own risk. It’s better to carry your own personal first aid kit.
As vaccination requirements change frequently, we suggest you to consult your doctor at least 2 months prior to the beginning of your trip. We recommend protection against malaria, tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis and polio.
Your travel insurance must cover cancellation, medical expenses, helicopter evacuation and emergency repatriation if you are trekking in Nepal.
In case of a serious sickness or a casualty (which we hope won’t happen), helicopter rescue and evacuation is available. Since you are entirely liable for all the expenses incurred in evacuation please make sure that it is covered by your insurance before assigning for it or be prepared to pay on your own after getting back to Kathmandu.
During trek your main luggage will be carried by porters or pack animals (usually yaks or cross breeds). You simply carry a day pack with water bottle, camera, sun-screen, spare jacket, etc. – a small load that allows full enjoyment of the trek. A trek bag is ideal for your main luggage, plus a small lockable bag for anything that you do not need during your trek which you can leave at hotel’s locker room/safe deposit box in Kathmandu.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on this. Just be rational on your choice. You need walking boots, sleeping bag (4 seasons/ -20C rated), waterproof jacket and trousers, fleece jacket, warm hat and gloves, sunglasses, water bottle, sun-screen, day pack etc.
As geographical variation is very wide, you should go with layering style. While trekking in Annapurna region during the day at lower altitudes, lightweight trekking trousers and T-shirts are recommended. It’s always a good idea to carry a waterproof jacket and some warmer clothing with you as mountain weather is notoriously unpredictable. For the cold nights, thermal underwear, a warm fleece jacket and even a down jacket will help to keep you warm. Good shoes are of great importance.
*If you book with a travel company, they will provide you a complete list of gears and clothing.
In Nepal’s domestic airlines the weight allowance is 15 Kgs. Excess weight is chargeable about USD 1.5 or more per Kilo depending on sectors.
You will find plenty of modest tea houses along the trekking trail. You can stay in single rooms where possible, but often you may have to share. Rooms are basic, normally just a bed with a pillow and blankets. So a sense of adventure is required. In Kathmandu and Pokhara, you can find a wide range of star rated hotels.
Food and Water
You can find a considerable variety of Nepali and Western food as well as drinks (coffee, tea, milk, soft drinks, and beer) along the Annapurna Base Camp trail. You can also buy bottled water in local lodges and shops. However, it’s a sensible thing to bring water purification pills. Also, make sure that your day pack is well stocked with snacks, chocolates and bars.
You can either take a 30 minutes’ scenic flight or drive (6/7 hours) to Pokhara. From Pokhara, you have to drive to Nayapool (approx. 2 hours), the starting point of the trek.
You can expect to spend around 2500-3000 Rupees a day for your basic food and snacks (excluding accommodation and transportation as they vary widely depending on the level of service). Tips are appreciated by your support team after the trip. The amount depends on your budget and appreciation of their work. You can allocate 5- 10 % of the total tour cost as tips.
There are a plenty of telephone facilities in the Annapurna region. Cell phones work throughout the trail.. However, keep in mind that it can’t be as smooth as in lowlands. If it is important for you to keep in contact with your family or others, you can get a rental satellite phone.
Money exchange is not a problem in Kathmandu and Pokhara. You can find many local certified moneychangers. But same can’t be expected during trek. So, make sure that you have enough local money during your trek. Card payment (Visa, MasterCard, JCB and American Express) is also widely accepted in tourist- class hotels, restaurants and shops in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Travelling is not just about what you get, it is also about what you leave. Try to leave positive impact behind. Respect the mountains, its fragile environment and the local culture. Choose the responsible service providers only. Go through “Dos and Donts in Nepal” thoroughly before travelling to Nepal.
All the best for your adventure in Annapurna!!