Annapurna Base Camp vs Annapurna circuit - Tidy Himalaya

Annapurna Base Camp Vs Annapurna Circuit – Which One to Choose?

Are you itching for trekking in Nepal but can’t decide between the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) and Annapurna Circuit treks?

To start with, you can actually combine both the Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) treks into a “Complete” Annapurna Circuit Trek. The Annapurna Circuit trek takes you around the entire Annapurna Massif. 

However, most people don’t do this unless they have a lot of time. Typically, trekkers choose either the ABC trek or variations of the Annapurna Circuit.

These days, many opt for the shorter Half Annapurna Circuit, also known as the Mini Annapurna Circuit, which ends at Jomsom. Jomsom has an airport for flights to Pokhara.

In contrast, the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) trek, also known as the Annapurna Sanctuary trek, leads you directly to the base camp where climbing expeditions begin their ascent to the Annapurna summit (8091 m), giving you an up-close experience of the majestic Annapurna range.

Here are the main treks in Annapurna:

All of these are incredible, that offers stunning views, unique cultural experiences, and unforgettable memories.

Let’s dive into the details of Annapurna Base Camp vs Annapurna Circuit to help you make the best choice for your trekking adventure!

Annapurna Base Camp Trek: The Quick and Close-Up Experience

annapurna-base-camp-vs-annapurna-circuit

Duration: 7-12 days
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Max Elevation: 4,130 meters (13,550 feet)
Best Time to Visit: March to May and September to November

The Annapurna Base Camp trek is a relatively shorter trek that takes you right to the heart of the Annapurna massif. Starting from Nayapul, the trek passes through charming villages, terraced fields, and dense forests, leading you to the base camp of one of the world’s highest mountains. The trail offers stunning views of Annapurna South, Hiunchuli, Machapuchare (Fishtail), and other peaks.

Highlights:

  •  Imagine standing right at the base of towering peaks like Annapurna I and Machapuchare. The views are absolutely breathtaking!
  •  You’ll walk through lush green forests, bamboo thickets, and alpine meadows. Each day brings a new scenery that’s a treat for the eyes.
  • The trail takes you through Gurung and Magar villages where you can experience their rich culture and hospitality. Staying in traditional teahouses and interacting with the locals adds a unique charm to the trek.
  • After a long day of trekking, there’s nothing better than soaking in the natural hot springs at Jhinu Danda. It’s the perfect way to relax your tired muscles.

Route Details:

  • Starting Point: Nayapul
  • Major Stops: Ghandruk, Chhomrong, Bamboo, Deurali, Machapuchare Base Camp (MBC)
  • End Point: Nayapul

Who Should Choose ABC Trek?

The ABC trek is perfect if you’re short on time but still want a full Himalayan trekking experience. It’s moderately challenging, so it’s great for those looking for a trek with significant altitude gain and stunning scenery.

→ Recommended Read: Beginners Guide to Everest Base Camp Trek

Annapurna Circuit Trek: The Long and Diverse Journey

Photo of Annapurna Circuit Trek for Annapurna Circuit trek vs Annapurna Base Camp trek

Duration: 14-21 days
Difficulty Level: Moderate to Difficult
Altitude: 5,416 meters (17,769 feet) at Thorong La Pass
Best Time to Trek: March to May and September to November

The Annapurna Circuit is a longer and more varied trek that circumnavigates the Annapurna range. Starting from Besisahar, the trek follows the Marsyangdi River, passing through diverse climatic zones and cultural regions. The trail crosses the challenging Thorong La Pass and descends into the Kali Gandaki Valley, one of the world’s deepest gorges.

Highlights:

  • Get ready for jaw-dropping views of Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu, and Tilicho Peak. The panorama here is nothing short of spectacular.
  • The Annapurna Circuit trek has it all—from subtropical forests and terraced fields to arid high-altitude deserts. It’s like walking through different worlds every day.
  • You’ll meet a variety of people, including the Manang, Thakali, and Gurung communities. The ancient monasteries, prayer flags, and mani walls are testament to the rich Buddhist traditions in the region.
  • Don’t miss the sacred Muktinath Temple, a pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Buddhists. And those hot springs at Tatopani? They’re a perfect way to unwind.

Route Details:

  • Starting Point: Besisahar
  • Major Stops: Manang, Thorong Phedi, Thorong La Pass, Muktinath, Jomsom, Tatopani
  • End Point: Birethanti or Nayapul

 

Who Should Choose Annapurna Circuit Trek?

If you have more time and want a comprehensive trekking experience, the Annapurna Circuit is for you. It’s ideal for those who enjoy high-altitude trekking and want to experience a wide range of landscapes and cultures.

Annapurna Base Camp vs Annapurna Circuit

View of annapurna during annapurna circuit trek

Annapurna Base Camp vs Annapurna Circuit Duration and Distance:

  • ABC Trek:
    Shorter, typically 7-12 days, covering around 110 km.

    If you have a limited amount of time, the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) trek is an excellent choice. This trek typically takes 7-12 days to complete, making it perfect if you only have about 10 days available. You’ll cover around 110 km, experiencing stunning landscapes and reaching the base camp of one of the world’s highest mountains.

  • Annapurna Circuit:

    The Annapurna Circuit trek is renowned for being longer and more demanding. Completing the entire iconic route traditionally takes around 18-21 days. However, with the development of roads in the region, most trekkers no longer walk the entire distance on foot. In theory, you could complete the Annapurna Circuit trek in 9 days now, but this would mean spending 4 days looking at the mountains through a jeep window and significantly increasing your risk of altitude sickness.

 

ABC vs Annapurna Circuit Altitude:

  • ABC Trek:
    The highest point of the Annapurna Base Camp trek is, as its name indicates, the base camp itself at 4,130 meters.

    At 4,130 meters, you get the thrill of high-altitude trekking without pushing into the extreme heights. Altitude sickness tends to be a bigger issue above 4,500 meters, so the Annapurna Base Camp trek stays comfortably within a safer range for most trekkers. This makes it a fantastic option if you want an exciting trek without the added stress of severe altitude.

  • Annapurna Circuit:
    Now, if you’re looking for something that really tests your limits, the Annapurna Circuit trek might be calling your name. The highest point here is Thorong La Pass at a whopping 5,416 meters. To put it in perspective, this altitude is almost on par with the Everest Base Camp trek, which peaks at 5,364 meters. So, if you’re craving an Everest-like experience, the Annapurna Circuit is a fantastic choice. But be ready for the challenges that come with it—thinner air, tougher climbs, and a higher risk of altitude sickness.

 

Annapurna Base Camp vs Annapurna Circuit Scenery:

  • ABC Trek:

    On the other hand, the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) trek is perfect for those who want to get up close and personal with the magnificent Annapurna Range. This trek offers unbeatable views of Annapurna South, Annapurna I, Hiunchuli, Gangapurna, and the iconic Machapuchare (Fishtail). Machapuchare, with its distinctive shape, is one of the most striking mountains you’ll ever see. The main peak, Annapurna I, standing at 8,091 meters, is prominently visible throughout the ABC trek, offering unparalleled vistas that are hard to beat. If you’re worried about altitude sickness, you can avoid spending the night above 4,000 meters by starting your hike from Machapuchare Base Camp to Annapurna Base Camp early in the morning and returning the same day, taking in the stunning views before the clouds roll in. And just like on the Annapurna Circuit, you can end your trek by relaxing in natural hot springs—this time at Jhinu Danda—providing a perfect end to your adventure.

  • Annapurna Circuit:

    The Annapurna Circuit trek is often hailed as one of the most beautiful treks in the world, and for good reason. This journey offers an incredible variety of landscapes that will take your breath away. Picture yourself starting in lush green forests, surrounded by the serenity of nature, before moving on to jaw-dropping views of the Annapurna range. You’ll see peaks like Annapurna II, Annapurna III, Annapurna IV, Gangapurna, Tilicho Peak, and Pisang Peak up close. As you trek further, the landscape dramatically shifts to the arid deserts of the Lower Mustang region. The highlight of the trek is the Thorong La Pass, standing at a mighty 5,416 meters, offering stunning panoramic views that make every step worth it. This route takes you through remote and unique areas, including the world’s deepest gorge and beautiful apple orchards, encircling the Annapurna Massif and passing by other towering giants like Manaslu and Dhaulagiri. After such an epic adventure, there’s nothing better than soaking in the natural hot springs at Tatopani, relaxing your muscles and soaking in the beauty of your surroundings.

 

Annapurna Base Camp vs Annapurna Circuit Difficulty:

  • ABC Trek:

    The Annapurna Base Camp trek is considered easier, reaching a maximum altitude of 4,130 meters. Generally, altitude becomes a significant issue above 4,500 meters, where it’s much colder and the risk of altitude sickness increases.

    If you’re worried about altitude sickness, you can avoid spending the night above 4,000 meters on the ABC trek. A practical strategy is to hike from Machapuchare Base Camp to Annapurna Base Camp in the morning and return the same day. Start early, as it often gets cloudy in the afternoon. This approach allows you to enjoy the stunning views without the risk of high-altitude overnight stays.

  • Annapurna Circuit:

    The Annapurna Circuit trek is often considered more difficult than the Annapurna Base Camp trek. It’s longer and more strenuous, primarily due to the Thorong La Pass, which sits at 5,416 meters, and requires a few nights spent above 4,000 meters.

    Crossing Thorong La Pass is a significant challenge. To avoid strong winds, trekkers start early in the morning, with some setting off as early as 4 am. Personally, starting at 6 am worked well for me. The ascent is steep and rocky, and if it snowed the night before, the trail can be tricky to navigate. However, during the main trekking season, the trail is well-marked and well-trodden, making it hard to get lost. As you climb higher, the air gets thinner, making breathing and walking more difficult. The descent can take several hours and is tough on the knees.

 

ABC vs Annapurna Circuit Permits Required:

Both Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna Base Camp treks require the same permits:

  • Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP): NPR 3,000 (approximately USD 25)
  • Trekkers’ Information Management System (TIMS) Card: NPR 2,000 (approximately USD 17)

Make sure to arrange these permits before starting your trek. They can be obtained in Kathmandu or Pokhara.

Annapurna Base Camp vs Annapurna Circuit Cost:

The Annapurna Base Camp trek is generally less expensive due to its shorter duration and lower transportation costs. You can expect to spend between USD $1,190 for the ABC trek with the Tidy Himalaya. 

In contrast, the Annapurna Circuit trek, being longer and potentially involving more expensive transportation options like jeep rides, can cost with USD $1,460 with Tidy Himalaya.

How to Prepare for Both Treks?

Fitness Level
Both Annapurna Base Camp vs Annapurna Circuit treks require a good level of physical fitness. Regular cardio, strength training, and practice hikes can help you prepare.

Acclimatization
For the Annapurna Circuit, acclimatization is crucial due to the high altitudes. Plan your trek with rest days to adjust to the elevation and avoid altitude sickness.

Gear and Equipment
Ensure you have proper trekking gear, including sturdy boots, warm clothing, a good backpack, and trekking poles. It’s also essential to carry a first-aid kit and adequate water purification methods. 

Which One To Choose Annapurna Base Camp Trek or Annapurna Circuit Trek?

When deciding between the Annapurna Base Camp trek and the Annapurna Circuit, it’s important to consider factors like your fitness level, how much time you have, and your previous experience with trekking.

  • Choose Annapurna Base Camp Trek if:
    • You have limited time (7-12 days).
    • You prefer a moderate trekking challenge.
    • You want to experience the unique Annapurna Sanctuary setting.
    • You are looking for a trek that offers a mix of natural beauty and cultural experiences without the need for extensive high-altitude trekking.
  • Choose Annapurna Circuit Trek if:
    • You have more time (15-20 days).
    • You are ready for a more challenging and diverse trek that includes high-altitude passes.
    • You seek a broader cultural experience and varied landscapes, from lush forests to arid desert-like regions.
    • You want to experience the thrill of crossing the Throng La Pass.

Ready for Your Himalayan Adventure?

Look no further than Tidy Himalaya, a leading travel agency in Nepal

With experienced guides, personalized itineraries, and a strong commitment to safety, Tidy Himalaya ensures you have the best trekking experience possible.

Whether you’re eyeing the breathtaking Annapurna Base Camp or the diverse Annapurna Circuit, Tidy Himalaya has you covered for all the treks in Annapurna Region. Don’t wait—start planning your unforgettable adventure with Tidy Himalaya today! Check out our amazing Nepal trekking packages!

FAQs:

The best time to trek Annapurna Base Camp vs Annapurna Circuit is during the pre-monsoon (spring) season from March to May and the post-monsoon (autumn) season from September to November. These periods offer stable weather, clear skies, and pleasant temperatures.

Due to its length, varied terrain, and high altitudes, the Annapurna Circuit trek requires a good level of physical fitness. Regular cardiovascular and strength training and hiking experience are essential to prepare for this challenging trek.

The most challenging part of the Annapurna Circuit is crossing the Throng La Pass at 5,416 meters. The high altitude, steep ascent, and potential for extreme weather conditions make it a demanding trek section. Proper acclimatization and preparation are essential to navigate this pass safely.

Yes, combining both treks into one itinerary is possible, but it would require a significant amount of time and excellent physical fitness. A common combined route includes starting with the Annapurna Circuit and then diverting to Annapurna Base Camp. This extended trek can take 25-30 days, depending on your pace and acclimatization needs.

The highest altitude reached during the Annapurna Circuit trek is at the Throng La Pass, which is 5,416 meters (17,769 feet). This high point offers spectacular views but poses a significant challenge due to the thin air and potential for altitude sickness.

Both ABC and Annapurna Circuit trek offer teahouses and lodges with basic amenities. The Annapurna Circuit has more varied accommodation options due to its longer route.

 

Trekkers can enjoy a mix of local Nepali dishes (like dal bhat) and international cuisine (such as pasta, pancakes, and soups) at teahouses along both routes.

 

The longer duration and higher demand for food and accommodation make the Annapurna Circuit generally more expensive than the ABC trek.

Sujan Manandhar

Sujan Manandhar has built a remarkable career in Himalayan adventure since 2008. With over 16 years of experience, he is dedicated to offering travelers personalized, authentic, and unforgettable journeys in the Himalayas. Sujan's love for the mountains began when he worked as a porter, gaining deep insight into the trekking terrain. Motivated by a passion for sharing Nepal's unique experiences, he founded his own company, focusing on trekking, climbing, and adventure tours. His commitment to excellence led him to become a certified trekking guide, imparting his extensive knowledge and enthusiasm for the region to many visitors.
View All Articles