The Annapurna region boasts the most number of treks in Nepal (over 15). After all, it is the largest trekking region in Nepal. Most of the region is protected and falls under the purview of the Annapurna Conservation Area Project – Nepal’s first conservation area which was established in 1986. The Annapurna region covers an area of 7,629 sq. km and is home to over 100,000 inhabitants of various ethnic groups. Multiple flora and fauna species are found here: 1,226 flowering plants, 105 mammals, 518 birds, 40 reptiles and 23 amphibians. The Kali Gandaki gorge – the world’s deepest river gorge – and Tilicho lake – the world’s highest altitude fresh-water lake – are also located in the Annapurna region.
Why do so many trekkers visit the Annapurna region?:
In its heydays, before the pandemic, over a 100,000 trekkers hiked in the hills of the Annapurnas. In 2022, 65,712 trekkers visited the Annapurna region. And in 2023, 44,350 trekkers have visited the Annapurna region and is in course to meet the pre-pandemic numbers. Regardless, this is definitely a lot more than those who trekked in the Everest region. (see trekker number chart at the end of this article). There are two main reasons why so many trekkers visit the Annapurna region:
- ACCESS to the Annapurna region is very convenient. One can reach Pokhara, where most Annapurna treks either begin or end, by bus and/or by plane. The Annapurna Circuit begins near Besi-Sahar which has lots of public/private transportation. So unlike Everest treks which is mostly accessed by planes, treks in the Annapurna region are not as much affected by the vagaries of weather.
- SIZE The Annapurna region is the largest trekking region in Nepal. At 7,629 sq. km., it is six times larger than the Sagarmatha National Park in the Everest region. And there are more than 15 options for trekking the Annapurna region (see chart below). These treks range from a couple days to over a month and from an altitude of 1,000 meters to over 5,000 meters.
Some popular treks in the Annapurna region:
The Annapurna Circuit Trek:
The Annapurna Circuit Trek was rated among the world’s 10 best treks for many years. After a dirt road to Manang was built, the allure of the Annapurna Circuit Trek decreased. And Lonely Planet has now crowned the Everest Base Camp Trek as the world’s best trek. The classic Annapurna Circuit Trek took 28 days to complete; now it takes between 10 to 15 days to complete depending on where you begin/end.
Regardless, a significant number of adventure seekers still trek the Annapurna Circuit route. There were 18,439 trekkers in 2022 and 10,427 up to June 2023. Instead of driving all the way to Manang, it is best to drive to either Dharapani or Chame and walk towards Manang. This allows for better acclimatization. It is again important to spend a couple days in Manang before continuing towards the Thorung La pass. After crossing the pass, one can either end the trek with a flight out of Jomsom or drive/walk out towards Pokhara.
The Annapurna Base Camp Trek:
The Annapurna Base Camp Trek or the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek is another great short trek in the Annapurna region. A road has also been built on the southern side of the Annapurna range thus reducing the number of days of all the treks in the region. One can take a jeep to the river just below Jhinu village and hike up to Chomrong the same day. It is then 3 to 4 days of trekking to Annapurna Base Camp and another 2 to 3 days back.
The Ghorepani Trek:
The Ghorepani/Poon Hill Trek is a great trek especially if you only have a few days. This allows you to experience trekking in Nepal with good views of the mountains. One can now drive all the way to the iconic Gurung village of Ghandruk. Begin trekking for a couple days through the thick rhododendron and oak forests of Tadapani and Ghorepani. At Ghorepani, you would hike up to Poon Hill which is a great vantage point for views of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri range. The trek ends at the road-head above Ulleri where the dirt road ends. Most trekkers combine the Annapurna Base Camp Trek and the Ghorepani trek.
The Upper Mustang Trek:
A dirt road has reached Lo Manthang, the capital of the Upper Mustang region. And quite a few visitors drive there instead of hiking. It is about a 6-hour drive to Lo Manthang from Kagbeni. Regardless, we continue to run the Upper Mustang Trek. On the approach, the trail to Drakmar and the Lo la pass from Ghar Gompa to Lo Manthang does not have roads. Similarly, on the return to Kagbeni, there are no roads on the trail east of the Kali Gandaki river. The trails from Dri to Muktinath is still as iconic.
Other treks in the Annapurna area:
Other popular treks in the Annapurna region include the Khopra ridge trek, the Mardi Himal trek, the Nar-Phu trek and the Jomsom trek.
Total trekkers in the Annapurna region:
Below is a chart showing total number of trekkers in the Annapurna region in 2022 and for the period January to June in 2023.