Tag Archives: AnnapurnaCircuit

Annapurna Circuit: Roads, Jeeps, and Cheaters.

Very few people walk the Annapurna Circuit as a real, complete circuit. To do so would require a pretty harsh (and arguably not too exciting) couple of days of road walking on either end of the trek to and from Pokhara. However, as the jeep road gets longer, the section of the trek that people choose to actually, well, trek is getting shorter.

Traditionally, most hikers started from Besisahar, spent about 5-10 days ascending to Thorung La, then descend through Muktinath to Nayapul, often with a stop at Poon Hill on the way.

Now, an increasingly large chunk of trekkers bypass the first few villages entirely, taking jeeps to Chame, currently the last stop on the jeep road. Obviously, this has a huge impact on the trekking villages before Chame, who have long relied on a steady stream of trekkers to provide their income.

We started in Besisahar, and spent our first night in Bahundanda, a gorgeous town, perched at the top of one of the first significant climbs of the trek. Bahundanda has amazing panoramic views of the valley and a handful of great guesthouses, yet, as the owner of our guesthouse told us, the number of visitors to the village has dropped dramatically in the past few years, leaving lodge owners saddled with unprofitable businesses, and no real options to improve their circumstances.

Admittedly, there are a few (not insignificant) benefits to the road. Villagers have easier, much quicker access to hospitals now, and – in theory, at least – the road has opened up trade between villagers and nearby larger cities. That said, the overwhelming sentiment (from villagers, porters, and seasoned AC trekkers) seems to be that the road was constructed by the government with its own interests at heart, and with little thought to the significant consequences it would have on tourism in the area.

Even ignoring the impact on the local economy entirely, there are some pretty compelling selfish reasons to do the whole thing. For me, one of the most fascinating things about the circuit was the transition —  for the first few days, you’re tucked away in a deep valley, following a river through villages, passing crowds of school kids. On day three or so, the views really kick in. The track climbs out of the valley, and quickly you’re surrounded by dramatic mountain vistas on all sides.

Now, it would be a little hard to argue that the first few days are as stunning as those proceeding, but, as Ahimsa said, skipping the initial sections is kind of like ‘skipping foreplay, and just sticking it in.’

Plus, trekkers really have no excuse for skipping this section. We found the jeep roads pretty pleasant to walk on for the most part, and, if you want to avoid them, NATT has created an amazing set of alternative trails. Using these, the time you have to spend on the roads is extremely short.

Lastly (but not leastly), I firmly believe that if you skip the first part, you are a big, fat cheater*. Yep, if I see you wearing a ‘Annapurna Circuit’ t-shirt and find out that you only started in Chame, I will do my best to spill something on it.

Not convinced? Here’s what we would have missed, if we’d jeeped into Chame and out of Jomsom:

Bahundanda

The view from our guesthouse in Bahundanda

Day 2 views

Day 2 views

Riverbed just past Jomsom

Riverbed just past Jomsom

The garden at our guesthouse in Tatopani

The garden at our guesthouse in Tatopani

On the way to Tatopani

On the way to Tatopani

*(I’m half kidding, but mostly not.)

Yeti Hikes: How Expensive is the Annapurna Circuit?

Nepal has two “big” hikes–the Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Circuit.  (And lots of other, probably more worthwhile and certainly less touristy choices.)  With some of the best mountain views in the world, great chances to meet trekkers from around the world, plentiful and delicious food, and comfortable beds each night, these treks have earned their status as world-class.  But although they are on many hikers all-time wish lists, for the average person a trek to Nepal can seem rather expensive and overall unattainable.

Some costs are unavoidable.  You’ll need to have boots, fleeces, noncotton shirts, and a backpack.  Airfare is what it is (though you can fly from London or LA to India for less than 600 bucks).  Once you are in Nepal, though, it’s cheap as chips.  And the hiking is cheaper than that! (Yes, even cheaper than chips.)

Handy Signs Abound

Handy Signs Abound

And if you relied on the internet for checking prices, you’d be forgiven for believing the Annapurna Circuit costs the equivalent of Sierra Leone’s yearly budget.

How much does it cost to hike Annapurna?

World Expeditions charges $2890 for 24 days in Nepal.

The bandits at REI charge you $3000 to hike the shorter Sanctuary Trek for a total of 14 days.

EXPLORE seems like a relative bargain with charges of $1980 for three weeks

These places aren’t cherry-picked; it’s pretty much $2000-3000 dollars to hike the Circuit if you book from abroad.  (Which, for a variety of reasons, you should never do.)

AC Day 1

Early Days

Even the indy route seems scary–these guys are pretty indicative—17 days (with porter and guide) cost them $1455.  (Tangent alert: Stay tuned for another post why hiring porters is an asshole move.)

It’s Much Cheaper than this.

As mentioned above, you need airfare and hiking equipment (which, if you don’t have, can be purchased cheaply in Kathmandu or Pokhara.)  And then you have to buy the permits.

It costs 40 dollars for your ACAP permit and TIMS card.  (ACAP is still, despite a recent government takeover, largely a good organization.  Click the link for more on how they affect the region.)  TIMS is less so—you are paying a subsidy to the trekking agencies who threw a fit at how many trekkers were going alone.  But what are you going to do?  It costs 20 bucks or more to get into some American National Parks.

100 rupees = approx $1 USD

100 rupees = approx $1 USD

The bus from Pokhara, depending on how well you negotiate, should be about 6 dollars.  It will be cheaper coming back, as you are much closer to Pokhara at the end.

And then there are your daily expenses.  These include breakfast, lunch, dinner, room, drinks and snacks.  Also included are things like toilet paper, band-aids, wipes, moisturizer creme, etc.  Ours varied (prices increase as you climb higher.)  On our best day, they were as low as $18.20 (total) and our most expensive day cost $34.15.  We didn’t really limit ourselves on tea, sodas, or meals, but we didn’t drink any beer on the trek.  (Caffeine and alcohol aren’t recommended when climbing that high.)

In total, for 14 days of hiking for food, accommodation and various sundries we spent $341.89.

Add in transportation to and from the trailheads, and the ACAP and TIMS permit, and our total cost was $444 dollars.

For those not great at math, that’s $222 each.  $111 per week.  Just over $15 dollars a day.  Not the cheapest you could live for, by any means, but a far cry from REI’s rates of $214 per day.

annapurna 2

The payoff

In other words, if you’ve dreamed of hiking in the world’s highest mountains, eating lentils 3 times a day, riding a Yak, or spotting a Yeti, don’t let the costs stop you.  Cheaper than chips is cheap indeed.