|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – March 2009
Nepal's Annapurna Circuit can't compete with the world's best treks for lavish huts, extreme solitude, and sumptuous cuisine. So why is it still number one? Let us count the reasons.
Fly into Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport and spend at least a day or two in the city–sightseeing, getting your trekking permit, and shopping for supplies. Book a Kathmandu hotel in advance, and confirm it offers a free shuttle from the airport. The best for trekkers is Kathmandu Guest House ($8-$120 per night, ktmgh.com/kgh).
October is the most popular, thanks to reliably pleasant weather (80°F and humid at 2,000 feet; 20°F and dry at 17,000 feet) and clear skies. Rhododendron forests bloom in spring, but weather is wetter and leeches are a nuisance at lower elevations.
Map and Books
The best trail guide is Annapurna Trekking Map and Complete Guide, by Partha S. Banerjee (Milestone Guidebooks, $10); it can be found at every bookstore in Kathmandu. Use Trails Illustrated map Annapurna #3003 (natgeomaps.com, $17) and Nepal (Lonely Planet, $25) for pre-trip planning.
Every trekker needs a permit ($25), but no reservations are necessary. Just pick one up in Kathmandu at the Annapurna Conservation Area Project office on Tridevi Marg (open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily). ntnc.org.np/trekking.php
The trek starts in Besisahar (catch a bus at Kathmandu's Gongabu Bus Park; they leave regularly) and ends in Pokhara (return on a Greenline Tours bus, greenline.com.np).
Cost (Less Airfare & Rental Car) DIY: Less than $500 // Guided: $1,000-$1,499
Cheap and Easy
Annapurna's teahouses beat the huts on other classic treks in terms of convenience, cost, and local color. Teahouses charge about $12 per day for a room and meals, and they're never more than three hours apart, making is easy to keep a flexible itinerary. But that's not to say there aren't rules. Here are six: Choose a teahouse before 3 p.m. to beat large guided groups to the nicest places; choose a smaller one for better meal service; take showers immediately after arriving (most hot water is solar heated); order breakfast before going to bed to speed your morning departure; and bring a padlock for your room and a ground pad for the beds, which may be foam, straw, or just blankets.