Annapurna Circuit Trek without a guide? Yes, it’s possible.
Annapurna Circuit Trek is one of the most popular and scenic trekking trails not only in Nepal, but in the world. This trail, as its name suggests, goes almost all the way around the entire Annapurna massif. In June 2016 we with Una hiked this trail. In 18 days we walked all the way from Besi Sahar to Beni. And we did it without a guide, a porter or any tour agency.
16 days we were walking, but 2 we took free. One to acclimatize better, another one to have a rest because I was feeling sick. As we had enough time we spent 3 days in Pokhara and in total about a week in Kathmandu.
When planning your trip to Nepal and your Annapurna Circuit Trek, I recommend you to count in at least 4 more days. 2 at the beginning and 2 at the end. Because it can take up to 12 – 14 hours to get from Kathmandu to Besi Sahar. And at least the same as much time you will need to get back to Kathmandu after finishing a trek around Annapurna massif.
Getting a trekking permit and TIMS
It is possible to get a trekking permit and TIMS (Trekkers’ Information Management System) card on the same day, when you arrive to Kathmandu. Before applying for a trekking permit in Nepal you need to know, which trek are you going to do.
There are many different treks in Nepal. They are in different parts of the country. And in each part of the country there is a different trekking permit needed. Prices vary as well.
For Annapurna Circuit Trek you will need to obtain Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP)
We got it from Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu. Paying a little bit extra it’s possible to obtain it from almost any trekking agency in Kathmandu. And there are also few other places, where you can get it (check it on the website of NTNC).
And then you need TIMS card. It is possible to get it at the same place – office of Nepal Tourism Board.
Each one of them cost us 2000 NPR (about 18 EUR/20 USD).
What is necessary to get a permit?
To get ACAP and TIMS you need to have a travel insurance (we took World Nomads Explorer package), 3 passport photo size photos, as well as you need to know when and where are you starting, more or less your route and when and where are you planning to finish your trek.
Important fact about the insurance – if you plan to do a whole Annapurna Circuit Trek, which means also crossing Thorung La pass at 5416 meters above sea level, then you need an insurance, which covers activities at such a high altitude as well. Mostly you don’t have it in a standard offer. That’s the reason, why we choose World Nomads.
Step by step. You go to the Nepal Tourist Board office. Fill the forms. Give photos. Pay money. Get your trekking permit and TIMS. In total it took us only about 1 hour.
Our route – Annapurna Circuit Trek
We started hiking Annapurna circuit trek from Besi Sahar, and finished in Beni.
Getting from Kathmandu to Besi Sahar
To get from Kathmandu to Besi Sahar we took a local bus. Bus station in Kathmandu is about 2 kilometers North of Thamel. Thamel is most popular district of Kathmandu among foreigners and it’s also an area where all the trekking stores are located. Note that it’s a pretty long ride and there could be only one bus per day.
And most probably it leaves early. Our bus left Kathmandu at 6:30 AM. Better buy a ticket one day in advance.
One way ticket cost us 450 NPR each (about 4 EUR/4,5 USD). And ride was about 10 hours long.
Another option is to take a tourist bus going to Pokhara. Get out at Dumre, not reaching Pokhara. And then to take a local bus to Besi Sahar or further. Tourist bus is only slightly more expensive, but much more comfortable. To get a ticket go to any of tour agencies.
Our route, day by day
Besi Sahar – Ngadi – Ghermu Phant (shortly before Syange) – Tal – Danakyu – Chame – Upper Pisang – Manang – one more day in Manang – Siri Kharka – Ledar – Thorung Phedi – Muktinath – Jomsom – one more day in Jomsom – Larjung – Ghasa – Tatopani – Beni.
Getting from Beni to Pokhara (and Kathmandu)
From Beni to Pokhara we took a jeep. It’s approximately 80 kilometer ride, which takes about 3 hours. And it cost us 400 NPR each (about 3,5 EUR / 4 USD).
On our last day we walked all the way from Tatopani to Beni. It was already afternoon when we reached Beni. And we didn’t know if there will be any more buses going to Pokhara today. So we just walked to bus station and asked for a bus to Pokhara. Man sold us tickets and asked to wait for half an hour. Later we found out that it will be a jeep ride. Ok!
Tilicho lake – most popular side trail of Annapurna Circuit
We also planned to go to Tilicho lake, which is one of the world’s highest lakes and most popular side trail of Annapurna circuit trek. But because of fresh landslide at one point we decided that it’s too dangerous and turned around.
Our plan there was as following – trek from Manang to Siri Kharka, eat lunch, leave half of our stuff there, and continue to Tilicho base camp. Spend a night in hotel at Tilicho base camp. Wake up at 5 AM, take only water and camera and trek to Tilicho lake. Return to Tilicho base camp after 5-6 hours for a lunch. Trek back to Siri Kharka. Continue to Ledar on the next day.
Another option: Annapurna Circuit Trek in 2 weeks or less
Having only about 2 weeks you can do something like Tal – Danakyu – Chame – Upper Pisang – Manang – Ledar – Thorung Phedi – Muktinath – Jomsom by foot, and rest by jeep or bus. From Jomsom it’s also possible to fly to Pokhara.
Not being sure if you can make it across Thorung La pass (hardest part of Annapurna circuit trek, 5416 meters above sea level) or without ambitions to do it, you can also start trekking at Besi Sahar and walk as far as you comfortably can. Its about 7-10 days untill the pass and views starting from day 2-3 are spectacular. And then you can take a jeep from Manang back to the starting point, from where you can take a bus to Kathmandu.
Annapurna circuit trek in monsoon season
Best time of the year to hike Annapurna circuit trek is from the middle of March to May, and from September to November. Summer is monsoon season, when it can be very cloudy and rain a lot. But in winter it can get very cold. We knew that, but then we read, that most of Annapurna circuit trek sits within a so called rain shadow and rain there shouldn’t be a problem, not in June at least.
We decided to give it a try. We started to hike on 29th of May and finished on 15th of June.
During this whole period of time we had rain only 4 or 5 times. For almost all our first day, for few hours on the second day and afterwards only at nights at the very end of our trek. So mostly it was either sunny or sunny in the morning and cloudy for the rest of the day. Not bad at all.
We also knew, that there are way less tourists during off season. What we didn’t expect is that there are barely any tourists during this time of the year on Annapurna circuit trek. For the first and last 3-4 days we always were the only guests at the hotel, and there always were like 5 or 8 hotels to choose from.
Starting from Manang and until Muktinath we saw in total only about 25 other hikers.
Planning a budget for Annapurna circuit trek
Basically your only expenses are accommodation, food and drinking water.
Starting from the second day we used almost only tap water, purified with water purification tablets, that we bought in Kathmandu. Thus every liter of water cost us less than 3 NPR. While at the shops and restaurants in the mountains it costs starting from 50 – 100 NPR at lower altitudes and close to 200 NPR or something like 1,8 EUR/2 USD for 1 liter of water at higher altitudes.
Annapurna Circuit Trek food costs
100 NPR equals to something like 0,9 EUR/1 USD.
Like with water the higher you are, the pricier everything is. Few examples. Bar of Snickers or Mars in the mountains costs about 150 – 200 NPR. Bottle of beer – about 400 NRP. 1 liter pot of ginger – lemon – honey tea (the most of expensive tea) costs about 600 – 1200 NPR. 1 cup of black tea – 40 – 90 NPR. But once you are near the Thorung La pass even cup of hot water costs like 70 NPR, but pot of hot water – about 300 NPR.
Cheapest meals on the trek are soups (150 – 350 NPR) and fried and boiled eggs (150 – 300 NPR). But anything more filling like pasta, dal bhat, momo, burgers and sandwiches costs between 350 and 600 NPR.
Accommodation on Annapurna Circuit Trek isn’t expensive
Think about something like 100 – 300 NPR for a single room or bed in a dorm and 300 – 500 NPR for a double room with private or shared bathroom. Taking a hot shower may cost you extra 50 – 200 NPR. At some places they have solar shower, which usually is for free. Ask about it!
For 5 days we didn’t pay anything for accommodation. There is such a possibility as well. In these situations they usually ask you to have all the meals at their restaurant, which in my opinion is a fair deal.
Until Manang WiFi was available at almost all the hotels and there was electricity for most of the time. Afterwards there was no more internet until Muktinath. In Siri Kharka there was no electricity. In Ledar we didn’t have running water. But next hot shower after Manang we got at Muktinath.
How much money should you take with you?
From our experience, if you are traveling as a couple, 3000 NPR per day (for a couple) is sufficient for all the basics and some snacks. If you are traveling solo, better take 2000 NPR in cash with you for every day you plan to spend in the mountains.
Or – at least take enough cash to last you until Jomsom, where there is an ATM and Currency Exchange booth near the airport. In any case better take also some 100 – 200 USD or EUR in cash with you as well, in case ATM isn’t working or it’s not accepting your bank card.
Planning a budget don’t forget to count in TIMS (2000 NPR), trekking permit (2000 NPR), travel insurance (we paid about 100 EUR / 110 USD per person), getting to starting point and back (about 1500 – 2000 NPR in total) and what you will spend on snacks, medicine and probably some trekking equipment when preparing for the trek.
Now you are ready for Annapurna circuit trek
Yes, you can do it!
If you have any experience of planning a trip for yourself or someone else. If you have some experience of booking a hotel room. If you aren’t very shy. If you can walk 15 – 20 kilometers per day. Then you definitely can do it all by yourself.
Just bring a map of the route (you can buy one in Kathmandu for 300 – 500 NPR) and you are set! In fact, even a sheet of paper with a list of towns, that you will be going through, works perfect here. Because all the route of Annapurna circuit trek is well marked with red arrows and red – white signs.
There are guest houses, cafes and restaurants like every 5 – 10 kilometers. And there is always someone whom to ask – hey, is this town in this or that direction? It’s not a problem also in off season, when there aren’t almost any foreigners, because you can always approach locals.
What equipement is necessary? How to pack light? Read our article – Trekking Annapurna Circuit – Full Packing & Equipment List.
For more photos check out this gallery on our Facebook page!
If you have any questions about traveling in Nepal, contact us!
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Author: Kaspars Misins
Kaspars is a long term traveler and travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they are traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On WeAreFromLatvia.com they share their experience and things learned along the way.