From villages and jungles to mountain ranges and hot springs, the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek offers a variety of scenic terrains. It'll test you physically and mentally, but you'll be rewarded with spectacular views.
We trekked mid-February at the end of the winter season. But the best seasons to go are autumn (September - November) and Spring (March to May) where the weather is warm and sunny, offering beautiful clear views. Granted, it'll be busier during these times.
We started in Pokhara and did clockwise circuit up to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) and back to Pokhara in nine days. We also hired a guide, Min Bahadur, from Nepal Mountain Trekkers for $30 USD/day.
Day 1: Pokhara - Nayapul - Tikhedhunga (5.5 hours)
We started in Pokhara and took a 1.5 hour taxi ride to Nayapul for 2000 NPR. You'll notice from the moment you leave the car, the air is cooler here than in the city. From here, we started our trek to Annapurna Base Camp. Keep an eye out for two registration points to check-in: TIMS and ACAP.
This was our easiest day since we went through villages along relatively flat terrain, with some uphill and downhill. This area will be the cheapest place during the trek, so if you forgot anything, pick it up here. Ahem, chocolate.
Laxi Guesthouse, Tikhedhunga (1540m)
Since we were the only guests at the hotel, it was super nice having the whole place to ourselves. They only have one washroom and shower in the hotel. So our guide told us that during the busy seasons, the lines can get pretty long.
The altitude is low here, so it wasn't too cold when were there. No sleeping bag needed here!
- Hot Showers: 100 NPR
- Battery Charge: 100 NPR
- Double Room: 500 NPR
- Mineral water: 90 NPR
Day 2: Tikhedhunga - Ghorepani (6 hours)
Get ready for a longer day. It started with a tough uphill climb that takes about two hours to reach the town of Ulleri at the top of the hill. Don't be surprised to see mountain dogs guiding your way and school children running down the hill in nothing but slippers.
We stopped for lunch in Banthani Village at Fishtail Viewpoint Restaurant/Guesthouse where we finally got to see the peaks of Annapurna South and the Fishtail, which is a really refreshing sight. They offer water refills for 70 NPR.
From here, it's uphill and downhill though the jungles with small waterfalls along the way. Once you reach Ghorepani, there's another permit checkpoint.
Hotel See You Lodge & Restaurant, Ghorepani (2870m)
This is a popular town to stop in because of Poon Hill, so it was a little crowded when we were there. So, it's a great way to meet other trekkers. It's a little chilly here since the altitude is higher, so this is where we broke out our sleeping bags. Luckily, there's a fire going on in the common room in the evening.
Take a walk around the town. We ended up getting a selfie with a horse!
- Double Room with washroom - 600 NPR
- Double Room - 300 NPR
- Single Room - 200 NPR
- WIFI - 100 NPR
- Boiled water - 90 NPR
Day 3: Poon Hill, Ghorepani - Tadapani (7 hours)
Sunrise at Poon Hill (3210m)
Get ready for an early start. How early you leave depends on what time the sun rises that day. Our guesthouse offered us free tea in the morning, so it was a nice way to wake up. Make sure to have a headlamp, since you'll start your hike in darkness. There's also an entrance fee of 50 NPR/person that goes to the conservation of Poon Hill.
It's a high altitude climb, so don't be discouraged if you get winded. We definitely did. It's just stairs all the way up, but you'll see amazing views of the mountain ranges as the sun rises. Once you reach the top, take as many photos as you can. It'll get hazy once the sun fully rises. It took us about two hours round-trip.
Ghorepani - Tadapani
After breakfast, our trek continued with an uphill climb, roughly to the same height as Poon Hill. It slowly goes downhill after that through a jungle. Keep an eye out for langur monkeys since one peed on our guide. Those sneaky monkeys!
We ended up stopping for lunch in Deurali.
Hotel Magnificent, Tadapani (2600m)
It's one of the newer hotels, so our guide wanted to try it out. There's only one communal washroom with poor lighting, so having a headlamp is really useful here. It's not as chilly here since you're at lower altitude, but there's a fire in the common room anyways.
The town here is beautiful. You can see the mountains far off in the distance. If it's clear out, it's worth it to wake up to see the sunrise.
- Hot showers are outside - 150 NPR
- WIFI - 200 NPR
- Double Room - 400 NPR
- Bottled Water - 120 NPR
Day 4: Tadapani - Chomrong (4 hours)
This was a short day, but our body was pretty beat up by this point. This day was really scenic since we trekked through plains and farm terraces, with mountains bordering us. It was actually a pretty interesting day, since many water buffalos, cows and oxen relax on the same path, blocking it. Just be careful they don't kick you off the trail!
Fishtail Lodge and Restaurant, Chomrong (2100m)
Located in upper Chomrong, this lodge has two communal washrooms to share. The common room is in the building across from the rooms.
- Double room - 300 NPR
- Free Showers
- Water - 70 NPR
Day 5: Chomrong - Himalaya (7 hours)
We had good weather up until this day when all hell broke loose. We somehow managed to experience rain, hail and sun in one day. We also decided against bringing our rain jacket on this trek to save space, which we now learned was a horrible idea. BRING YOUR RAIN JACKETS!
Luckily, there was a shop just after Chomrong that sold plastic ponchos for 100 NPR. They're basically thick garbage bags that you need to cut open and wrap around yourselves. Generally, only locals use this method, so having a guide was really helpful here.
Expect lots of stairs on this route - uphill and downhill through the jungle. Your legs are definitely going to feel it. There are also a few rickety wooden bridges here.
We ended up having lunch in Bamboo.
Himalaya Hotel and Restaurant, Himalaya (2900m)
With the altitude getting higher again, it was pretty chilly here. From here on out, there's a fire ban, so there won't be any hot showers or heating. The room had wooden walls and the floor was concrete...the same as it was outside. We actually ended up duct taping the holes in our door.
- Double Room - 300 NPR
- There are squatting washrooms outside
Day 6: Himalaya - Machapuchare Base Camp (4 hours)
This was a short and tough but very scenic hike. The terrain was pretty rocky as we walked by the river. Keep in mind, there's an avalanche risk area between Deurali and MBC. So, make sure to head out early in the morning while the temperatures are low. Just before MBC, it gets really steep. Be really careful if there's snow and ice on the trail.
The high altitude definitely takes a toll here, so take your time making your way up. You'll be rewarded with beautiful views at MBC.
Shankar Guesthouse, MBC (3700m)
This is the highest altitude we stayed at so it's really chilly here. I ended up wearing most of my clothes to sleep. The food is really expensive here too. For example, Korean instant noodles were 480 NPR and dal baht was 550 NPR.
Now that you're in the mountain range, the weather is really unpredictable. It'll go from sunny to storming in just an hour, which is what happened to us.
There are also two mountain dogs that live here who will happily greet you when you arrive. If you offer them food, they might never leave your room.
- Triple Bedroom - 300 NPR
- It ended up being -2 degrees Celsius at night.
- One squatter toilet to share.
Day 7: MBC - ABC - Sinuwa (9 hours)
Sunrise hike to Annapurna Base Camp (4130m)
Since the stormed the night before, we lucked out hard when we woke up to clear skies. It was smiles all around when we started our hike at 5 a.m. Because of the storm, the trail was covered in snow. Luckily, our guide knew where he was going. It takes about two hours up and back down to MBC.
We highly recommend doing the sunrise trek to ABC. It was absolutely breathtaking, literally. From seeing the moon and the stars above the mountains to seeing the mountain ranges made it most surreal experience we've had.
Once we made it up to the top, you'll find prayer flags surrounding the area. We took as many photos as we could, trying to beat the crowd of people waking up.
It was really cool to see helicopters circling the area dropping off adventurous skiers at the top of the mountains. Our guide surprised us with Snickers and tea to congratulate us. Also, just to get an idea of the temperature, it was -7 degrees Celsius that morning.
ABC - Sinuwa
We made our way back down to MBC for breakfast before heading back down. Since it's the same route back, it's mostly downhill from here. Make sure your knees are ready for this. Those rock stairs are not easy.
We ended up having a lunch break in Himilaya. Luckily, we made it in good time to Sinuwa, considering how long this day was.
Sinuwa Guesthouse, Sinuwa (2340m)
As you can tell from our photos, we dried our ponchos on the laundry line since it rained. It was actually really nice to be at lower altitude again since we were freezing the night before. There's no fire here, but it's not too cold. We were just happy they had a western toilet again, located at the end of the hall.
Sample prices and notes:
- Filtered water - 130 NPR
- Double room - 300 NP
Day 8: Sinuwa - Jhinu (3 hours)
This was the day we were looking forward to - the hot springs! Luckily it was a short day, since the day before was the rough. Since you're heading through Chomrong, there's going to be a lot of stairs going uphill and downhill. But after that, it'll be downhill until Jhinu.
Hotsprings Cottage and Restaurant(1700 m)
- Double room with washroom - 600 NPR
There's path to get down to the hot springs. We would suggest wearing your hiking shoes down, since it can get rocky. The trail is similar to any of the other ones. It took us about 15 minutes to get down and about 30 minutes to get back up.
Once you reach the bottom, you'll find three pools at different temperatures. Remember to wash up before you head into a pool at the outdoor showers (a pipe with hot water flowing out of it). They also have change rooms here.
The view is really nice since you're right by the river. Try to spot the monkeys in the trees. It's really relaxing here, so take your time to enjoy it.
There's an entrance fee of 50 NPR/person. There's a person watching the hot springs.
Day 9: Jhinu - Pokhara (5.5 hours)
This is the last day! You're so close to making to back to civilization with free wifi!
This day wasn't too bad since it was mostly flat terrain, with some uphill and downhill. We ended up seeing some horses along the way. Make sure to walk in front of them, because you don't want to get kicked by one. A trekker got kicked by one and broke his leg. True story.
You'll cross bridges and go through villages before reaching a winding road. You know you're close to home when you see a lot of jeeps asking if you want a ride back. This is a good option if you're feeling tired or sick.
We surprisingly got back pretty fast since it normally takes 6.5 hours. Once you reach Nayapul, make sure to check-in at the TIMS and ACAP checkpoint to say you returned safely.
We caught local bus to Pokhara for 450 NPR for three people instead of taking a taxi. It takes about two hours to get there, depending on your driver. Once we reach the town, we took a taxi to our hotel (Hotel Mandala) for 250 NPR. Home sweet home!