Everything about the Annapurna Base Camp Trekking Region

Imagine you are in the middle of the Colosseum and the walls are not 150 but 10,000 feet high and are made of rock, ice and snow. There you have it, that is what it is like to be at the Annapurna Base Camp. We think the base camp should be marked with a “Caution: Jaw Drop Ahead” sign at least during the full moons. And it has an approach to match. The trail goes through the heartland of the Gurungs who make a sizeable portion of the fearsome Gurkhas. It might come as a bit of a surprise to find them so friendly and peaceful, but look around; who wouldn’t be happy in such a tranquil landscape? If you are lucky, you might even get to see an audacious honey hunt in a precarious cliff side. The trail also passes through the most rewarding hawk watch site in Nepal and the rhododendrons are something to write home about. In short, you will love it!!

Welcome to the Sanctuary of Gods and Titans!!!

Best of Annapurna Base Camp Trekking Region

Sure, ABC trek is all about that lust for the mountains. But there’s so much more than the obvious mountains throughout the ABC trek that should keep your eyes wide open and feet on your toes. Although you can see the individual place cards in the relevant places, through this page we are trying to provide you with the highlights of the ABC trek; things you wouldn’t want to miss out on. Along with the mountains you will be accompanied by the cheerful Gurungs, lush vegetation and himalayan creatures. Here are some of the stuffs that will make your ABC trek worthwhile:

  1. Annapurna Base Camp during Full Moon

    The base camp is your ultimate prize for choosing this trek and every aching limbs will shout “It’s worth it!” once you reach the colosseum of mountains. You will be surrounded by these huge giants and you might find it hard to keep your mouth shut. Jaw drops are a common sight here. And on top of that if you plan a perfect trek to reach ABC during a full moon, that might just be the best decision you have made. The mountains glow up powered by the moon and will not let you sleep for you will want to stare at these sparkling giants the whole night!

  2. Chhomrong mother’s group’s cultural program

    The whole of Chomrong is run by the Mother’s group and if you want to experience Gurung culture to the fullest then you are at the right place. Here in this quiet hinterland, away from the gaze of bureaucrats, it is the mother’s group that sets the rules. They mobilize the kids to clean the village and collect money to maintain the trails. They have also been instrumental not only in the success but also in the formation of the Annapurna Conservation Area. Their evening cultural programs cum fundraiser is a popular evening activity among the trekkers who stay in this village.

  3. Watching Hawk migration from Australian Camp

    ABC here refers to the Australian Base Camp as opposed to the more famous Annapurna Base Camp. From late October to November, upto 500 raptors mostly eagles migrate westward each day. And if the mountain weather has taken a turn for the worse, you will have these birds fly at eye level. Get yourself a good camera and click away! However, don’t forget to live the moment.

  4. Mountain view from Poon Hill

    The view from the top of Poon Hill is just amazing! This 1.5 hour side trip from Ghorepani will you take you to the doorway of the mountains and you will be able to view multiple mountain ranges from that single spot. All the big players: Dhaulagiri, Annapurna to name some will be posing just for you to breath in the panoramic view. Poonhill side trip is definitely rewarding and we suggest you not to miss this. We repeat, Do not miss this side trip!

  5. Ghandruk

    Ghandruk is a beautiful and a clean Gurung village with picturesque Gurung homes waiting to welcome you to their village. Slate roofed houses beside paddy fields with beautiful mountain views in the background lend a certain character to the village that is at the same time majestic and homely. It’s a perfect village to rest and breathe in the fresh air and rejuvenate yourself for the trek ahead. You could even dress up like a Gurung in this lovely village if you want to take back some lovely memories back home.

Things to be careful about in the Annapurna Base Camp Region

  1. Acute Mountain Sickness

    Would you get in an airliner if you knew that it has a broken cabin pressurization system? That’s just utterly stupid right? In spite of the obvious, every year Himalayan Rescue Association Manang aid post sees a steady stream of people who manage to pull off something similar. Their reward? Helicopter ride to a hospital in Kathmandu and chance to exchange love letters with an insurance company.Just like cruising at 10,000 meters requires cabin pressurization, walking to above 5,000 meters requires a spacesuit, or more realistically acclimatization, your body’s very own cabin pressurization system. We don’t want that broken now, do we?
    So, unless you have the genes of the extinct Denisovans, which give Sherpas their unmatched capacity at high altitudes, you are better off taking it slow along with the use of preventive medication. We will get into the details, but for now let us give into some statistical fear mongering: 40-50% people get sick with altitude illness upon trekking to 4,000m in Nepal; about eight out of a hundred thousand people die of altitude related illnesses every year in Nepal and despite the availability of rescue services, the number is increasing.

  2. Himalayan Cough

    As you go higher, you will cough that much more and at times the coughing can get so violent that it hurts like hell. Surprising as it might sound, there is no consensus on the cause or treatment of this problem. Bronchial irritation due to cold dry air perhaps has something to do with it. Breathing through the mouth is also thought to exacerbate the situation. The best way to avoid this cough is to breathe humidified air by using a mask of some sort. A buff is great for this purpose and a handkerchief will do just fine. Just make sure it isn’t too tight. Also, make sure to dress warmly and remember to protect your neck and head from the cold. Candies or cough drops will help.

  3. Avalanches

    December, January and February receives a substantial amount of snowfall in the mountains of Nepal. From March, the snow begins melting and in aftermath it tumbles down as ricer or avalanches. Generally they fallin small bits which don’t bother trekking routes but there are unfortunate times when bigger chunk fall unexpectedly which may cause a serious harm to the trekkers. We have witness such accidents in past which also have taken lives of many trekkers. Specially the section between Bamboo to MBC, there are some slides which have taken lives of many trekkers before. Mostly the accidents are the caused by lack of information. So consult trekking offices, check weather reports and Chhomrong also is the best place to collect information on the route.

When to go to Annapurna Base Camp Region?

Annapurna Base Camp Region in January/February (Winter)

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Annapurna Base Camp Region in March/April (Spring)

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How to get to Annapurna Base Camp?

To get to Annapurna Base Camp region, your first destination is Pokhara. You can fly to Pokhara, drive to Pokhara or even walk if that is what you prefer. There are various channel of transportation with wider range of availability which will take you to Pokhara.Ahead of it, the trek starts either from Nayapul, Phedi, Ghandruk or Kande. Though it is also possible to take a jeep to Landruk while you do ABC to skip a day, it is really not recommended at all. Mostly because you miss hell lot of views before that.

Getting to Pokhara

As written before, getting to Pokhara is like eating a piece of cake. USD 102-106 will take you there in 25 minutes via air or if you want to see the lay of the land, there are tourist bus services that depart from Jamal near Thamel at 7am sharp everyday. It will set you back NPR 700 (~USD 7) and takes 7-8 hours.
There are various airlines that ply the air between the cities with Buddha Air having the most comfortable experience and awesome safety record. Other airlines that work this section are Yeti Airlines, Tara Airlines and Simrik Air. If you can, try to get a seat on the rightmost side, so you get to see the mountains.
Also, there are various grades of buses available, from the upscale Green Line buses to more modest affairs. There is even a super deluxe bus service that started recently and is selling at NPR 2,500 (~USD 25). They depart from Durbar Marg near Thamel and boast a 48 inch television screen and air conditioning.
There are also micro buses that will take you to Pokhara from Kalanki for NPR 500 (~USD 5). However, micro buses in Nepal is not everybody’s cup of tea. While tourist buses can take up to 8 hours, micros do it in 6-7. Do the math and the risk analysis!!

Getting to Nayapul

The most popular way is the easiest and for a new comer the most cost-effective one too, given that you will be spending a lot of effort if you decide not to take a taxi. Taxis from Pokhara to Nayapul cost about NPR 2,000 (USD 20).
Alternately, there are buses to Kushma and Beni, that leave from the Baglung Bus Stop. They are much cheaper and will get you there.

Getting to Phedi

Getting to Phedi is not a quest. In Fact, the same bus which would’ve taken you to Nayapul can also drop you in Phedi. Phedi is only 14.3 km away from Baglung Bus Station in Pokhara. If you want a taxi, it should take you around USD 8.

Getting to Kande

Just below Australian Camp, Kande is a small village stationed along side of the Pokhara- Baglung Highway. In the distance of 31 KM, the price tag if you want to take a taxi is usually around ( USD 15-17).
Alternatively, there are bushes leaving for Baglung every hour. They will drop you in Kande for (USD 2)

Routes in the Annapurna Base Camp Region

Annapurna Base Camp Trek

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Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek

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Mardi Himal Trek

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Annapurna Dhaulagiri Community Trek

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Khopra Ridge Trek

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How much does a package to Annapurna Base Camp cost?

There is no straight answer to this question. The whole trekking industry has so many layers of middlemen, such varied service level, and so much cost cutting that giving a straight answer to a simple question is really difficult. Hence, we will simplify the whole thing and break down the cost into individual services.

Non-Trek Costs

Trek Costs for trekking in the Annapurna Basecamp Region

How fit do I need to be to do the Annapurna Base Camp Trek

Packing list for the Annapurna Base Camp Trek

What are the Permits Required for trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

What to expect on a trek to Annapurna Base Camp?

Accommodation in Annapurna Base Camp Region

Food and Water in Annapurna Base Camp Region

Electricity in Annapurna Base Camp Region

Internet in Annapurna Base Camp Region

Annapurna Base Camp Region- Landscape and Nature

Geology of the Annapurna Base Camp region

Orogenic subductions within the beddings lead to an upthrusting of the gneiss butte. Concurrently, the spreading of the flow cleavage and dike swarms deeper in the rift produces more thrust making the bed rock.
Okay, that made absolutely no sense. But now that we have your attention, let’s get down to business. Geology can be stimulating.
As the story goes, all the land we stand on are but icebergs floating in an ocean of molten rock and move at the whim of its currents. One such current, brought the Indian and Eurasian plates in a collision course. As these continents collided the Indian plate slipped under the Eurasian plate, thus lifting it and giving birth to what is now the highest mountain range on earth. This process which started about the time the last dinosaurs walked the earth continues to the present day with Annapurna still rising. The recent earthquakes in Nepal are testaments for these great forces at work under your feet. While earthquakes invite massive human tragedy, they are but as natural as the mountains that you see from Poon Hill.
The growing mountains are perhaps also the reason why the settlement that seems 15 minutes away, takes an hour to reach!!

Climate of the Annapurna Base Camp region

As the Himalayas continue their journey to the sky, they have the power not only to impress a traveller’s soul, but also to dictate the climate of a subcontinent. The annual burst of monsoon that hits the Indian subcontinent would have been nowhere near as dramatic if not for the Himalayas. As moisture laden wind from the Bay of Bengal rushes towards the north in its journey to Tibet, it is forced to hike up the Himalayas, sweating out almost all of its moisture content along the southern slopes leaving Tibet high and dry.

If you come here during the spring (Mar-Apr), you will see how the day starts nice and clear and gets progressively windier and cloudier, leading frequently to afternoon showers. This to and fro goes on for around a month, until the monsoon bursts in its full glory around mid-June.

While much of trekking comes to a grinding halt, the Annapurna Sanctuary is busy welcoming a new cycle of life. Wild flowers have been peeking their head out since spring in eager anticipation of the monsoon and are now out in droves. It is a shame however that there are few around to admire this spectacle of color and fragrance. As the land rejuvenates, the Himalayan Tahr is busy tending to it’s newborn and the Himalayan Monal is busy displaying to prospective mates. They make the best of this period of plenty which ends in September along with the rains. While trekking into the Annapurna Base Camp during the monsoon is possible, it depends very much on whether the many bridges along the way are all intact. Also remember that the area around Pokhara receives the most amount of rainfall in Nepal because of the abrupt change in altitude from about 800 m at Pokhara to above 8,000 meters at Annapurna I. As such, the rain bearing clouds are not lifted up gradually but abruptly, hence discharging the water they carry over a smaller area. If you plan to trek to Annapurna Base Camp during the monsoon, make sure to make a lot of phone calls to assess the ground situation.

Come September, the blanket of cloud clears up. It is now time for the mountains to wake up from their slumbers. Against the backdrop of clear blue skies, they are now at their best. The temperature is also amazing until November which makes for the peak trekking season.
By December, winter is in full swing. However for the well-prepared, winter is no barrier with the added advantage of less people and more wildlife. Be prepared for occasional heavy snow during this time though. Also since the maximum altitude attained for this trek is just above 4,000 meters (13,500 ft), winters are actually very doable.

While, the above scenario is more or less true, there have been some trends that seem here to stay. The most notable of these is increased precipitation in the period before and after the monsoon. While only time will tell if the trend is here to stay, it is better to assume so and plan accordingly. Climate change impacts everyone everywhere.

Physiography of the Annapurna Base Camp region

The Himalaya is directly responsible for the bursting of the monsoon, and the monsoon is responsible for lending the Himalayas its dramatic architecture. If it weren’t for the monsoon, the Himalayas would be a rather shapeless rounded mass.

The annual dump of snow, ice and water that arrives with the monsoon sculpts the Himalayas to sharply chiselled peaks and deep river valleys. The erosion starts near the mountain peaks where ice abrades the mountain side into armchair shaped cirques, creating sharp ridges and pyramidal peaks as can be seen in the case of Machhapuchhre.
Also note that the mountains Annapurna South and Machhapuchhre which receive the brunt of the precipitation. They have a certain ‘personality’ to them unlike mountains that are further north and hence in the rainshadow. Seen from the Annapurna Base Camp, the mighty Annapurna itself is a rather shapeless mound.

Not all ice flow is so slow though and you will definitely hear or perhaps even see an avalanche during your trek. However, don’t lose your sleep over it, while there are certain avalanche gullies along the trek route that you need to be careful of, avalanches are very rare. More people get hurt from Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) than avalanches despite the fact that AMS is entirely preventable.

Lower down the frozen mass somewhat stabilizes to form the glacier proper which continues the erosive work though less dramatically. As you walk up to the viewpoint above Annapurna Base Camp, you will perhaps see the amazing eroding work of the South Annapurna Glacier.

Beyond glaciers, streams not only continue the eroding work of the glaciers but also speed it up. Steep-walled V-shaped valleys and the generally claustrophobic landscape before Deurali are testaments to the rapid erosion that rivers are capable of. As a matter of fact the Modi River that you will be following during the trek has one of the steepest gradients. Hence, the Annapurna Base Camp Trek has one of the most claustrophobic approach.

This interplay of land and water is perhaps the single most important force not only in creating the phantasmagorical shapes of the Annapurnas but also in creating a substrate for all life forms here for without the glaciers and rivers there would be no soil and without soil there would be no life forms.

Mountains of the Annapurna Base Camp region

Mountains in the Annapurnas are served in many flavors. There are of course the high peaks, and then there are the tough, the easy going, the photogenic and the sacred.

While the issue is a bit contentious, Machhapuchhre is seen by many as a very holy mountain and is hence off limits to climbing expeditions. The closest climbers can get to this mountain is Mardi Himal which is little more than a minor promontory at the end of its southern arm.
The high peaks of the region include Dhaulagiri I 8167 m, Annapurna I 8091 m, Annapurna III 7555 m and Annapurna South 7219 m. Of these, Annapurna was actually the first eight thousander to be knocked off but is by no means easy. It actually has the highest fatality rate of all the Himalaya mountains.

Among the beauties, the first name that comes to mind is Machhapuchhre with its ever changing and yet alluringly proportional outline. Annapurna South comes a distant second when it comes to beauty in this region.

As far as tough mountains are concerned, Annapurna is the ultimate in terms of difficulty. As put so aptly by Dodo Kopold, “People say that Annapurna is dangerous from the north, dangerous and difficult from the northwest, and steep, dangerous, and difficult from the south.” The fatality-to-summit ratio here stands at a whooping 32%.

If you are feeling a little bit more adventurous than the Base Camp, you might consider scrambling to Mardi Himal or perhaps even Tharpu Chuli (Tent Peak). However, do not get too carried away by the word scrambling as they require extra permits and some mountaineering skills.

Plants and Flowers of the Annapurna Base Camp region

The lower part of trek around Phedi, Kande and Birethanti is dominated by subtropical forests of Chilaune (Schima wallichii) and Chestnut (Castanopsis indica). Along ravines in this altitude range are found the Himalayan Alder (Alnus nepalensis) while in the drier slopes once can often see Chir Pine (Pinus roxburghii). This kind of forest is usually found till about 2,000 meters. Above that till about 3,000 meters are the mixed forest of Rhododendron, Oaks (Quercus sps.) and Cane Bamboo (Arundinaria sps). Silver Fir (Abies spectabilis), Blue Pine (Pinus wallichiana) dominate the landscape after that. Finally before the alpine shrubland we have forests of Himalayan Birch (Betula utilis).
A quick fun fact about plants in this region is that the most common tree you will see along the trek is the Tree Rhododendron, the national flower of Nepal. Since they bloom in early spring, there is no better time to undertake this trek.

Wildlife of the Annapurna Base Camp region

In the stage that plants create, animals from the humble bee to the regal Snow Leopard flourish. This area also has the unique distinction of having all six species of Himalayan pheasants: Himalayan Monal, Blood Pheasant, Satyr Tragopan, Koklass Pheasant, Kalij Pheasant and the Cheer Pheasant.

In areas north of Deurali (below MBC) are found the Himalayan Tahrs. The trail to Tent Peak Base Camp is said to be a great spot for Tahrs. Lower down in the thickets around Bamboo is one of the best places to find the Himalayan Serow. These lush forests are also one of the few places in Nepal where the Clouded Leopard has been reported.

Other than these superstars are more common animals such as the Yellow-throated Marten, Orange-bellied Himalayan Squirrel, Large Indian Civet and the Barking Deer.
However, please note that wildlife here are rather wary and as such encounters are rather rare and fleeting.

One of the smallest of the animals in this area however deserve a special mention, the Himalayan Giant Honeybee (Apis laboriosa). These are the world’s largest honeybees and spend their summers in honeycombs in precarious overhangs and their winters under rocks at lower altitudes. While badass these guys are, they are no match to the Gurung honey hunters who brave the precarious cliffs and the bees themselves. A hunt like this is an epic example of the risks human beings are willing to take in order to get a taste of honey.

Environmental Issues in the Annapurna Base Camp region

Annapurna Base Camp region- Culture and People

Etiquette in the Annapurna Base Camp region

As they say, “When in Rome, do the Romans”, here are a few Dos and Don’ts for the Annapurna Base Camp region.

  1. Nepalese mules and yaks find it disrespectful if you stand streamside rather than mountainside when they pass. Always keep to the mountainside when passing the loaded beasts.
  2. Nepalese porters carry a rather heavy load and bent double, their vision is usually limited to the ground beneath their feet. Be patient if you find yourself at the slow pace of one. Overtake them only when there is ample space.
  3. Keep Mani walls and chortens to your right when you pass them. And it goes without saying, they shouldn’t be climbed or defaced, and under no circumstances should you remove the tablets.
  4. Household fires are sacred, your cigarette butt isn’t. Don’t mix them.
  5. The wrinkled faces of the old and the chubby faces of the young might not always appreciate photographic intrusions. Please ask before taking pictures.
  6. Be grateful that unlike other parts of the world you are allowed into the most sacred places of worship here. Don’t extend the privilege by taking pictures indiscriminately inside gompas. Always ask first.
  7. Under no circumstances must you give money to begging children. Candies and chocolates are okay as long as you buy them dental insurance.
  8. There are dustbins all along the trail. Use them. Batteries and sanitary pads must be packed out.
  9. Use the restrooms that are provided. Do not defecate near a water source. Bury or better burn used toilet papers.
  10. Avoid mineral water. The lifespan of a plastic bottle is longer than the age of the mountains that you see.
  11. Do not bargain in lodges. Prices are very reasonable.
  12. Toplessness and nudity are acceptable only within the sheets.

History of the Annapurna Base Camp region

The Gurungs are as much a part of the Annapurnas as are the mountains themselves. While the migration route of the Gurungs isn’t entirely clear, the tentative outline is that the Gurungs along with other related ethnic groups, Magars, Tamangs, Thakalis and the Rais, came to the Himalayas during the Tibetan emperor Songtsen Gampo’s expansion in the 7th century. In all likelihood they came through Burma and then spread westwards.
Since, these Tibeto-Burman people came before Buddhism had a strong base in Tibet, their religion reflect the animistic pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet. Also for a very long time they depended on animal husbandry and trade, pointing to their Tibetan origin. It was only after sometime in the nineteenth century that the Gurungs started to occupy the low valleys for farming.
This version of their history is however challenged by people who wish to show a higher affinity between the Gurungs and the Hindu culture. They claim that there are two types of Gurungs the ‘four caste’ ones and the ‘sixteen caste’ ones. As is claimed by proponents of this theory, the ‘four caste’ ones came from India and have a higher status than the ‘sixteen caste’ Gurungs that came from Tibet.
For a larger part of the past few centuries, the Gurungs have lived in close proximity to the Hindu rulers of Kaski and Gorkha. As such, there has been an active movement even from within the Gurungs themselves to get rid of their Tibetan lineage and side with the Hindu ruling class.

Livelihood in the Annapurna Base Camp region

The Gurungs have traditionally depended upon high altitude animal husbandry and some long-distance trade. As most pastoralists, the Gurungs would also depend heavily on hunting and gathering. This is still evident in their unrivalled skills as marksmen and honey hunters. This would serve them well later.
It was only later that the Gurungs started to occupy the low valleys and started farming. You wouldn’t think so looking at the size of the terraces at Ghandruk and Dhampus, but all of that was accomplished in a few centuries. That is how hardy these guys were.
Their hardiness has also served them well in the British Army and other armed forces abroad where select ethnic groups from Nepal including the Gurungs are recruited. It is a matter of much prestige in the Gurung community to be recruited into the Brigade of the Gurkhas primarily because that has traditionally been the way a Gurung family can go beyond subsistence. Along with the British Army, the Gurungs are also recruited into the Indian Army, Singapore Police and the Sultanate of Brunei.
However, since the Gurungs are well integrated into the mainstream Hindu culture, they also have representation in the commerce and bureaucracy of Nepal.

Religion of the Annapurna Base Camp region

Originally lacking a religion with an overarching philosophical framework, the Gurungs have been a rather impressionable lot when it comes to religion. While they still have vestiges from their original animistic ‘religion’ like their shamanistic priests, ‘poju’ and ‘klebri’ and also some form of nature worship, they are also heavily influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism.

For example, during the anniversary of the Buddha’s enlightenment, there are various ceremonies and even parades. On the Hindu side of things, the Gurungs celebrate not only the major festivals like Dashain and Tihar but also minor ones like the various Sankranthi (month beginnings) and Ram Navami (celebration of Lord Ram).

Recently, Gurungs have also been converting to Christianity, the new kid in the block, as is evident by the church at Dhampus among other rural Gurung settlements.

In some way the religion of the Gurung represents all the major political changes that have occurred in Nepal since each change has had an impact on the belief of the Gurungs. That they lack a coherent religion the way we understand it, is also evident in the general scarcity of large imposing places for worship that is so characteristic of all religions. Looked at in another way, they worship nature.

Festivals of the Annapurna Base Camp region

Folklore of the Annapurna Base Camp region

People associated with the Everest Region