Daniel Dawson
Aug 04, 2022

Sprawling over 7,600 square kilometres (almost 3,000 square miles), the Annapurna Conservation Area is the largest protected area in Nepal and the South Asian country’s most popular trekking destination.

More than one-third of all trekkers destined for Nepal travel from Kathmandu to Pokhara and on to the conservation area, which features more than a half-dozen routes and boasts stunning views of some of the country’s most iconic peaks, including the eponymous Annapurna.

These treks come in all lengths and elevations, from straightforward and easy outings that last a few days to epic multi-week expeditions circumnavigating the mighty Annapurna massif.

There are many reasons to head to Annapurna Conservation Area for a trekking expedition: stunning views of lush green valleys and snow-capped mountains, exploring traditional villages and meeting local people and experiencing that indescribable feeling that comes with exploring something new are just a few. 

Check out five top trekking destinations in the Annapurna Conservation Area below and begin planning your next expedition today!

Annapurna Base Camp Trek

Trekking to ABC. Photo: Alpine Ramble.

The Annapurna Base Camp Trek, known simply as the ABC Trek or sometimes as the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, is the most popular trekking route in the conservation area. 

Starting from Nayapul at 1,430 metres, trekkers will spend 1 to 2 weeks winding their way through the foothills of the Annapurna massif en route to its base camp at 4,130 metres.

Along the way, trekkers will see why so many people consider the ABC trek to be Nepal’s most beautiful. 

Keep reading: The Essential Annapurna Base Camp Trekking Guide

As they go, trekkers will enjoy a sublime sunrise from the summit of Poonhill, traverse the world's deepest gorge, explore thick red and purple rhododendron forests, experience base camp life and meet mountaineers headed to the summit of one of the world's fourteen 8000ers, and soak in the Jhinu-Danda hot springs before returning to Pokhara. 

While no technical mountaineering experience is required to complete the trek, adventurers must be fit enough to hike an average of 4 to 6 hours each day and gain about 2,600 metres (8,500 feet) during the expedition.

Quick info:

  • Starting point: Nayapul
  • Length: 110 km (70 miles)
  • Max altitude: 4,130 m (13,550 ft)
  • Duration: 10 to 14 days
  • Best period: September to May
  • Average price: $1,200/person

Annapurna Circuit Trek

Crossing the Thorong La Pass. Photo: The Mountain Company.

While the Annapurna Base Camp trek – also known as the Annapurna Round Trek – may be the region's most popular, the lengthier Annapurna Circuit Trek is certainly not far behind.

Crossing two different river valleys in north-central Nepal, the scenic trek circumnavigates the Annapurna massif, reaching its highest point at Thorung La Pass and skirting the edge of the Tibetan plateau.

Along the way, trekkers will pass through paddy fields and temperate and subtropical rainforests. Adventurers will also see various waterfalls and awe-inspiring cliffs interspersing panoramic views of some of the world’s highest mountains.

While the views are one of the main reasons to circumnavigate the Annapurna massif, trekkers will also have the chance to visit traditional villages and get an authentic and up-close look at the culture of Tibetan Buddhism. In the end, there is also the chance to unwind in natural hot springs.

While no technical mountaineering abilities are required on the Annapurna Circuit Trek, a high level of physical fitness is required. Adventurers should expect to hike anywhere from 4 to 8 hours each day with significant elevation gains. 

Overall, trekkers will make many ascents and descents throughout the trek, with the lowest elevation at roughly 600 metres (1,970 feet) above sea level and a maximum elevation of 5,416 metres (17,769 feet).

Quick info:

  • Starting point: Besisahar
  • Length: 160 to 230 km (100 to 145 mi)
  • Max altitude: 5,416 m (17,769 ft)
  • Duration: 8 to 25 days
  • Best period: March to May, September to December
  • Average price: $1,400/person

Mardi Himal Trek

Stunning views along the Mardi Himal Trek. Photo: Heaven Himalaya.

Situated on the southeastern flank of the Annapurna massif, Mardi Himal is a rugged and dramatic peak that stands about 5,587 metres (18,330 feet).

For outdoor adventurers seeking out some of Nepal’s most stunning views, the Mardi Himal Base Camp Trek is an enticing option.

Despite how short it is compared to other popular treks in the region, the Mardi Himal Trek is surprisingly remote. The trek features several different starting points, depending on the available time. The fastest trekkers can complete it in as little as 4 days, with more leisurely trekkers capable of taking 1.5 weeks. 

Along the way, trekkers will explore the undulating foothills of the Himalayas and get to see some local flora and fauna. Adventurers will also cross traditional mountain terraced landscapes, enjoying stunning views of some of the most iconic peaks in the region.

After visiting the base camp and some of the nearby mountain lakes, trekkers will have the option to soak in the Jhinu-Danda hot springs on the way back to civilisation.

Unlike some of the aforementioned expeditions, the Mardi Himal Base Camp Trek is less physically demanding. However, trekkers should expect to walk for 4 to 6 hours per day with steady but not overwhelming elevation gains. 

Quick info:

  • Starting point: Phedi, Deurali or Deurali
  • Length: 40 to 50 km (25 to 30 miles)
  • Max altitude: 4,500 m (14,800 ft)
  • Duration: 9 days
  • Best period: April, October to November
  • Average price: $770/person

Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek

Watching the sunrise from the top of Poon Hill. Photo: Sherpa Expedition and Trekking.

Also known as the Annapurna Panorama Trek, the Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek is the perfect option for trekking novices to head out on their first big adventure while enjoying sweeping views of the Annapurna Conservation Area.

Situated slightly southwest of the Annapurna massif, Poon Hill is a modest hill that offers stunning views of 11 incredible peaks on and around the massif and Dhaulagiri. The highlight of the trip is getting up before dawn on ‘summit day’ to watch the sunrise over the Annapurna massif.

Due to the ease of access, low level of trekking difficulty and short time span required to do the trek, it is immensely popular with visitors who cannot carve out 2 or more weeks to spend on an adventure. 

Trekking to Poon Hill is also a popular first stop on the Annapurna Base Camp Trek, helping trekkers acclimatise and preparing them for the stunning views that lay ahead. 

Of the treks in the Annapurna Conservation Area, the Poon Hill trek has the lowest level of physical difficulty and no technical difficulty. Expeditioners should be prepared to walk 5 hours or less each day, with only very modest elevation gains.

Quick info:

  • Starting point: Birethanti, Nayapul, Phedi
  • Length: 40 to 50 km (25 to 30 miles)
  • Max altitude: 3,210 m (10,530 ft)
  • Duration: 4 to 10 days
  • Best period: March, September to November
  • Average price: $700/person

Tilicho Base Camp Trek

Stunning views over Tilicho Lake. Photo: Everest Expeditions Nepal.

Situated in the shadow of Tilicho Peak, the eponymous lake is one of the highest in the world. Fed by the glacial run-off from the Annapurna massif, the lake and nearby base camp quickly became popular trekking destinations.

The Tilicho Base Camp Trek route follows a similar route to the Annapurna Circuit Trek, taking a short detour after Manang to hike southwest to the lake and visit the base camp. 

From here, most trekkers continue to Jomson and fly back to Pokhara. However, the hardiest trekkers may opt to continue the circuit, which takes a bit longer.

Keep reading: Five Popular High-Altitude Lake Treks in Nepal

As a result, many of the expedition’s highlights are similar, including the chance to see and cross through a vast array of diverse landscapes boasting unparalleled views of the Annapurna massif, Manaslu and many others. 

Along with the stunning views, trekkers also enjoy the chance to experience the unique Tibetan culture found in this part of Nepal, visiting traditional villagers and local Buddhist temples.

However, the Tilicho Base Camp Trek also boasts the same physical challenges as the Annapurna Circuit Trek, with long days of steady walking and plenty of steep elevation gain.

Quick info:

  • Starting point: Besisahar or Chamje
  • Length: 160 to 230 km (100 to 145 mi)
  • Max altitude: 5,416 m (17,769 ft)
  • Duration: 18 days
  • Best period: March to May, September to December
  • Average price: $1,600/person

Trek the Annapurna Conservation Area

Whether you take on a short and sweet Poon Hill trek or put yourself to the test on the Annapurna Circuit Trek, Nepal’s largest conservation area has something for everyone.

Compare prices, trips and read verified reviews on ExpedReview for free. It’s never too early to start planning your next mountaineering adventure!

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