Angelica Cruz, Annapurna Sanctuary Trek

Trekking the Himalayas in Nepal can sound intimidating. Many think that it is an experience accessible only to seasoned climbers or those who can afford to use expensive trekking companies; however, with enough research and planning, you can absolutely trek in the Himalayas independently – and on a budget.

One way to do so is to take advantage of Nepal’s teahouse treks. These are cheaper excursions where trekkers are provided with meals and overnight accommodation in local “teahouses”. One of the more well-known is the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek – a ten-day journey launched from Pokhara with the Annapurna Base Camp as one of its highlights.

“With enough research and planning, you can absolutely trek in the Himalayas independently – and on a budget.”

My friend and I did this trek in November, 2011 just in time to welcome my 26th birthday. The experience was one of the best of my life. The route was challenging, yet easy to navigate; the landscapes were stunningly beautiful. And it was affordable! I highly recommend the trek and hope that the following questions/answers will help you plan for and enjoy the adventure on your own.

Do I need a guide?

Not necessarily. The Annapurna Sanctuary Trek is pretty straightforward and you will meet other trekkers to journey with along the way. Buy a map and guidebook to understand the route and learn how long it takes to go from one village to another. You definitely want to plan your day in order to avoid trekking once night time falls.

Anapurna Base Camp.
View from the Annapurna Base Camp.

What permits do I need?

Get a TIMS card and a trekking permit at the Nepal Tourism Board office in Kathmandu or Pokhara. Carry these at all times during the trek. Some of the villages you’ll be passing through will have checkpoints.

What kind of gear do I need?

This really depends on the time of the year you’ll be trekking; regardless, you’ll need basic trekking clothes for daytime and warm clothes for nighttime as the temperature can drop close to zero degrees. Layering is key. Recommendations include:

Most of these items can be bought or rented in Kathmandu/Pokhara at a rather inexpensive price. Remember to only pack necessities since you will be carrying the gear yourself.

Landruk Annapurna Sanctuary.
Morning view of the rice terraces.

What is the daily cost of trekking?

Teahouse trekking is surprisingly cheap, priced at approximately USD15-25 per day. This fee includes accommodation and 3 meals/day. Accommodation is basic but certainly sufficient to provide safe shelter for the night: rooms are constructed from thin timber and wooden beds with foam mattresses and thick blankets are provided (I still recommend bringing a sleeping bag for the cold nights!). Shared toilets, often squat-style, are outside. A hot shower (often just two buckets of warm water) is available at an additional cost.

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The teahouses serve basic western food (pancakes, sandwiches, spaghetti, and pizza), rice meals (like dal bhat (steamed rice and lentil soup)), Chinese-style fried rice, and traditional Nepalese momos (dumplings filled with meat/vegetables).  Cold and hot drinks such as coffee, tea, soda, and beer are also available.

Himal Qu Annapurna Sanctuary.
Himal Qu

What does a typical day look like? Do I have to be fit to do it?

The Annapurna Sanctuary Trek is not difficult altitude-wise, but can be physically strenuous. A typical day involves an early wake up and 4 to 6 hours of trekking with small breaks in between (i.e.: lunch in the middle of the day in a local village). Trekking usually ends around 5 or 6pm and it is not rare for trekkers to be in bed by 8 or 9pm.

On some days, you will be making 800-meter ascents. Be aware of the symptoms of acute mountain sickness, which occurs when you climb to a high altitude quickly, not giving your body enough time to adjust to the lower levels of oxygen (normally at elevations above 2400 meters). Symptoms include shortness of breath, lightheadedness, dizziness, fatigue, and lack of appetite. If you encounter these symptoms, head to a lower altitude and try to relax. As soon as the morning comes, get out in the sun; this really helps blood circulation. Bring Diamox for precaution, take lots of garlic soup, and always rehydrate!

The best way to prepare for the trek is to engage in some basic training beforehand. Running or other cardio exercises are particularly useful to help build stamina.

  • Jacqueline

    What a fantastic guide! Have always wanted to go trekking in Nepal — this is just the additional motivation I need. What stunning images… Sounds like a great experience. Thanks for sharing!

  • Great Info and nice Pictures ! Annapurna region is one of the best trekking destination in Nepal. There are so many other surrounding trekking route around Annapurna. Here is the list http://www.uniquetreks.com/nepal/trekking_in_nepal/annapurna_region/trekking_in_annapurna_region.php

  • Nice information as well as photos keep it up keep loving Nepal which means
    N= NEVER
    E=ENDS
    p=PEACE
    A=AND
    L=LOVE
    CHEERS

  • Judith Rigney

    Thanks for sharing your adventure and photos. I am planning a trip to the Annapurna Region, Mar 2016 and trying to decide on a route. Do you have a map of your route, and the villages along the way? Thanks, Judi

  • Thanks for the info. My plans for the hike to abc schedule April 2016. my intention is to commence from Peldi right up to the abc and return by same trail. Need your advice .Thanks.

  • pragusta

    ahh,this is what i need..thanks for that information.

  • Cuci

    Thanks for this informative and very inspiring article. Marking my golden year this 2016 and would want to do this. Hope you dont mind, but may i ask for more info/referrals for the route, contacts of lodging places or suppliers ? Is mid May a good time to do it Thnaks again.

  • Fabulous blog! My husband and I are a bit older than you (in our 50s) and are considering doing an independent trek in the Annapurna region. As I have difficulty carrying a heavy backpack, although my husband does not, I have thought about hiring or buying a mule for the trek. Do you know anything about this option?

    • dipesh joshi

      definitely hire a porter. Dont think they are carrying your bagpacks, with $10-$15 for a day they will be happy to do it and helps their pocket for their kids and families, have a great trip.

  • Eng Hoe

    Thanks for sharing. Great tips and pics. My daughter (21 years old) and I (57 years old) are going on the ABC trek from 4-14 March next month. We are planning to do it like you – without a guide. I have been reading up from the internet, but I still have several questions. I would be very grateful if you can help me with some information. Could you email me please? I would truly appreciate it. Thank you.

  • Laksitha

    i”m also planing on a trek to ABC. But i have a limited budget which is enough to cover costs related to the trek. I find it bit difficult to have money to be used in case of a Heli-Evacuation. (Approx – $7500) .Does your insurance company pay directly to the helicopter operator in such cases. Or do you carry enough money for that. Which insurance policy you had.Pls advice.

    • Your insurance company cover the Evacuation and it will directly transfer to the helicopter agency. On that case there must be a trusted person or company who can immediately connect with helicopter agency to make quick evacuation. Try to use http://www.worldnomads.com/Travel-Insurance‎

  • Thank you so much! At the moment I am planning my Nepal tracking trip and your article has helped immensely ^_^

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  • Jayson

    Thanks for the info. I am planning to trek up the ABC circuit on March. Do you think 6N 7D is enough?

    Thanks!

  • Thanks for this informative and very inspiring article. Great tips and pics. there are many more things to do in Nepal like Hiking/Trekking, climbing and much more treks and trips. Visit at http://himalayadestination.com/

  • Wow. Sounds really great! Is there a map of the trek you describe? And another question: Are there a lot of exposed paths? (Means: less than 1,5m next to me it will descend harshly? Thanks!

  • Cecelia

    Your article is super helpful for planning my trip next September! How long does it take to get the TIMS card and trekking permit? And how did you choose which trail to trek? Thanks again for sharing!