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The Perfect Circle: Hiking the Annapurna Circuit

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.

The Annapurna Circuit

Beat the masses to the best views and coolest teahouses with the author’s 17-day itinerary.

Do It
From the trailhead at Besisahar, hike north four rocky miles to Bhulebhule (1) and the guesthouses. The next day, continue north six miles to Bahundanda (a perfect lunch stop) and then 6.5 rolling miles to Jagat (2). From there, hike 11 miles (and 2,000 feet) up to often-foggy 6,265-foot Dharapani (3), where the first teahouse on the right–Tashi Dalek–has a balcony view of the thundering Dana Khola waterfall. The fourth day covers 10.2 easy miles to Chame (4) and views of the Lamjung Himal and 26,040-foot Annapurna II. From here, head 10 miles to Pisang (5), where ambitious hikers can take the lesser-traveled “high route” to Manang; it’s a rugged two-day, 10-mile alternative to the standard one-day, 9.4-mile route, and worth it to break from the pack for a day. In Manang (11,610 feet), stay an extra day to acclimatize (and eat well at its surprisingly good bakeries). Hike three hours round-trip to turquoise Gangapurna Lake on your rest day. From Manang, there’s an optional expert-only traverse to Tilicho Lake (A) and 16,800-foot Meso Kanto pass (B); the detour is a shortcut to Jomsom, but most trekkers (the author included) choose the easier, classic route over Thorung La.

annapurna map

From Manang, climb 5.6 miles to 13,185-foot Yak Kharka (6), then five miles to Thorung Phedi (14,530 feet). Sleep there before ascending 17,768-foot Thorung La on day 10. Descend 5,628 feet to Muktinath (7) and stay at Hotel Bob Marley–as funky as it sounds. The next day, drop to Kagbeni (8) in the Kali Gandaki Valley. Trek 11.3 miles downstream to Tukuche (9) (passing an ATM in Jomsom!). Stay next in Ghasa (10) (an easy 11 miles) and get a dawn start for the 11.4-mile hike to Tatopani, where early arrivals get rooms in Dualagiri Lodge–famous for its yak steaks and nearby hot springs. Then gear up for your last big push: From Tatopani, it’s a grueling 5,150-foot climb over 10 miles to Ghorepani. The next morning, start hiking at 5 a.m. to ascend 10,460-foot Poon Hill (11) and watch sunrise over the whole Annapurna range. Final day: Descend 10 miles to 3,510-foot Naya Pul and get a bus or taxi to Pokhara. Got an extra week? Turn north in Birethanti for a 53-mile round-trip trek into Annapurna Sanctuary, where you’ll enter a glacial basin surrounded by 11 20,000-foot peaks.

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