Annapurna Base Camp trek aka Annapurna Sanctuary trek or ABC trek
The trek to Annapurna Base Camp is a superb one that gets you right into the heart of the mountains in a relatively short space of time. The journey up to the high glacial basin known as the Sanctuary after leaving the Himalaya Hotel (day 5 on this itinerary) is magnificent and the Sanctuary itself will leave you speechless (assuming clear views of the surrounding mountains!). Furthermore, as long as you don’t mind a bit of snow and the cold, it is possible to undertake this walk anytime during the regular trekking season (October to May), which is not always the case with other popular treks (Around Annapurna circuit, Everest Base Camp and the trek through the Langtang Valley for example).
Annapurna Base Camp trek summary
Day 1: Phedi to Dhampus (3hrs walking)
Day 2: Dhampus to Landruk (6/7hrs walking)
Day 3: Landruk to Chhomrong (5/6 hrs walking)
Day 4: Chhomrong to Himalaya Hotel (6hrs walking)
Day 5: Himalaya to Machhapuchhre Base Camp (5/6hrs walking)
Day 6: Machhapuchhre Base Camp to Annapurna Base Camp (2/3hrs walking)
Day 7: Annapurna Base Camp to Doban (7hrs walking)
Day 8: Doban to Chhomrong (5hrs walking)
Day 9: Chhomrong to Ghandruk (5hrs walking)
Day 10: Ghandruk to Naya Pul (and return to Pokhara) (4hrs walking)
Annapurna Base Camp trekking route
Annapurna Base Camp trek in detail
Day 1 Phedi to Dhampus (trekking time 3 hours)
It takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour to reach Phedi from Pokhara by either car or local bus. There are no prizes for guessing that the first part of this trek is straight up (to Gawane) and takes about 1 hour. It is a tough introduction but after this section is complete the trail levels out somewhat and it isn’t until the last 20 minutes or so (just before reaching Dhampus), that you need to climb again. It is quite feasible to keep trekking as far as Pothana (1.5 hours) but equally this is the first day of the trek and on average most trekkers do not start actually walking until around 10am so it is best to have a short day and overnight in Dhampus.
Accommodation in Dhampus
Dhampus is split into two sections with Ker & Downey’s Basanta Lodge situated right in the middle. Ker & Downey own a handful of upscale trekking lodges in this region and aside from Basanta Lodge, the best lodges are definitely on the far side of the village, beyond Basanta. I stayed at the Dhaulagiri View Hotel, which has twelve twin-bedded spacious carpeted rooms with clean sheets and towels and hot running water. The attached bathrooms are basic but clean and have a bath tub as well as a shower. Because the property is slightly elevated, there are superb mountain views. There is also a pleasant outdoor area and a restaurant that serves very acceptable meals.
There are a couple of suitable camping spots with onsite toilets close to Kaze Lodge and Ker & Downey’s Basanta Lodge.
Day 2 Dhampus to Landruk (trekking time 6-7 hours)
A relatively easy walk with much of the route being on fairly even ground for most of the day. There is one notable section of steps down that lasts for about 30 minutes between Pothana and Derauli. The route takes you through Pothana, Derauli, Bhadi Kharka and Tolka before eventually arriving at Landruk and the views along the route are generally of villages, valleys and terraces rather than of the mountains.
Accommodation in Landruk
There are no lodges in Landruk, only teahouses. Out of the handful of teahouses located in the village, the Hotel Hungry Eye is the most pleasant. Rooms are basic (two beds and a small table and that is pretty much your lot) and bedding is not provided which means that a sleeping bag is essential. There is one shared shower and two shared toilets: all are clean and the shower I took was sufficiently warm.
The campsite at the Lali Gurans Guest House is flat and spacious and the one at the Annapurna Hotel is also good with plenty of space.
Day 3 Landruk to Chhomrong (trekking time 5-6 hours)
The first hour this morning is on relatively even ground and follows the river. This is followed by a stiff climb of about 30 minutes to New Bridge where it is possible to stop for a rest. After a little bit more uphill, it’s a further 50 minutes of walking to reach Jhinu Danda, a pleasant village with excellent views of the mountains.
Jhinu Danda between Landruk and Chhomrong
This is a good place to stop for lunch. The last 30 minutes to Jhinu Danda (1700 metres) involves a relatively stiff climb but this is nothing compared to the 1.5 hour ascent to Chhomrong that comes next. The long slog up never seems to end but eventually you will reach Chhomrong (2200 metres), which is a reasonably big village with some incredible views of the mountains and a good place to stay. Today’s trek is certainly the toughest of the three days so far.
Accommodation in Chhomrong
Again there are no lodges in Chhomrong but there is a good teahouse called Hotel Excellent View. The teahouse has twenty-one rooms, three of which have attached bathroom with cold running water. There is a communal shower (with plenty of hot water), a pleasant outdoor seating area and a warm dining room that serves better than average meals. As teahouses go, it’s a good one and I would recommend it. All told, there are about fifteen teahouses in the proximity of Chhomrong. Note that Jhinu Danda also has a pleasant place to stay. It is basic but clean and set in nice grounds with excellent views of the mountains. It could be an option if you don’t fancy tackling the climb to Chhomrong until the following day.
There are several campsites dotted throughout Chhomrong, with the best one being located just below the Hotel Excellent View tea house. Keep in mind that this particular campsite is close to the village basketball court and so not that peaceful in the late afternoon when the daily game commences. Equally, it’s quite good fun to watch and possibly get involved!
An alternative is a more remote campsite above the Hotel Excellent View but it requires a further 20 minutes stiff climb to get there. It is a beautiful spot and looks out over the mountains in one direction and towards the valley in the other. There is a water supply but I couldn’t see any facilities for cooking.
Day 4 Chhomrong to Himalaya Hotel (trekking time 6 hours)
You really feel as if you are getting closer to the mountains today. The morning starts with a short walk down through the back side of Chhomrong which is followed by a gradual climb up to the village of Sinuwa. This is a good place to stop for a break and from here you walk in and out of subtropical forest as far as Bamboo, a tiny village where most trekkers stop for lunch. With Bamboo at an altitude of 2300m and Himalaya situated at 2873m above sea level, you don’t have to be a genius to work out that the next section of today’s trek involves plenty of up. Again, the path passes through subtropical forest and depending on the time of year, you might hit the snow line.
Himalayan sunrise, Chhomrong
Accommodation in Himalaya Hotel
Contrary to what its name suggests, Himalaya Hotel is the name given to this remote village and actually has four teahouses to choose from. They are all more or less the same standard (basic) and offer identical menus/prices for food and drinks. A hot shower is available.
There is a reasonably sized campsite located just behind the teahouses. It has a small area for cooking plus a toilet block.
Himalaya Teahouse, Himalaya Hotel
Day 5 Himalaya to Machhapuchhre Base Camp (trekking time 5 to 6 hours)
This is a fantastic day of trekking. After leaving Himalaya Hotel, it’s a matter of following the trail up and down (Nepali flat) until you reach Deurali. This takes about 2 hours and Deurali is a good place to stop for a rest.
Himalaya Hotel to Machhapuchhre Base Camp
There are great views of the valley ahead just after leaving Deurali and then the path descends and follows the course of the Modi Khola river up the valley for most of the remainder of the day. If you are lucky with the weather you will have a fantastic view of Machhapuchhre (Fishtail Mountain) to your right while you are walking up the valley.
Machhapuchhre Base Camp
Accommodation in Machhapuchhre Base Camp
There are five basic teahouses at Machhapuchhre Base Camp. All of them have excellent views of Machhapuchhre, Tharpu Chuli and the valley that leads up to Annapurna Base Camp. Hot showers are not available.
Decent campsites are located on the ridge just above the teahouses.
Machhapuchhre Base Camp
Machhapuchhre Base Camp teahouse
Day 6 Machhapuchhre Base Camp to Annapurna Base Camp (trekking time 2-3 hours)
It is necessary to climb 430m in elevation in order to reach Annapurna Base Camp and depending on the time of year you will either be trekking through deep snow or pleasant meadows covered in pretty flowers. Regardless of the terrain, it’s a reasonably hard slog up the valley. It is recommended to walk this section in the morning when the views are at their finest. The afternoon often brings cloud cover.
Machhapuchhre Base Camp to Annapurna Base Camp
It is difficult to put into words just how incredible Annapurna Base Camp actually is. You are standing in a natural amphitheatre with 360 degree panoramic views of some of the greatest peaks in the world, including Annapurna I (8091m) and Annapurna South (7219m). The views are beyond stunning and ample reward for the past few days of trekking.
Trekking from Annapurna Base Camp back to Machhapuchhre Base Camp
Accommodation at Annapurna Base Camp
There are four teahouses at Annapurna Base Camp. They are all fairly basic but, considering the remoteness of the location, the food served up at meal times is very good. Hot showers are not available.
There is a campsite located close to the teahouses that has a cooking area and toilet facilities.
Annapurna Base Camp
Day 7 Annapurna Base Camp to Doban (trekking time 7 hours)
Rising early and watching the sun come up from behind the mountains is a magical experience that you won’t forget in a hurry. If there is snow on the ground, the journey back down to Machhapuchhre Base Camp can be little tricky underfoot but apart from that it is a fairly straightforward trek back along the same route on which you came up. Located at 2505m above sea level, Doban is much warmer than where you’ve just come from and is very pleasant.
Accommodation in Doban
There are three lodges at Doban. I stayed at the Doban Guesthouse which had six rooms and was perfectly acceptable. It had a good hot shower and a reasonable menu although I didn’t think the food was as good as it had been at other places along the trek. Accommodation in Doban is superior to that in Bamboo, which is another hour further on.
There is a reasonable campsite just beside the Doban Guesthouse, which has a separate cooking area and toilet block.
Day 8 Doban to Chhomrong (trekking time 5 hours)
You return via the same trail on which you came up. However, going down is a lot harder on the knees and furthermore reversing ‘the short walk down through the back side of Chhomrong’, as described on Day 4, is an absolute killer and the ascent to the village never seems to end. This is a relatively short trekking day and a good opportunity to take a hot shower and relax before commencing the final stages of the trek.
Day 9 Chhomrong to Ghandruk (trekking time 5 hours)
The day starts with a stiff climb up and out of the village before heading down a dusty trail to the river. After crossing the river, it’s a long haul up for about 1½ hours to the top of the ridge. Ghandruk is clearly visible in the distance and from the ridge it is an agreeable 45 minute walk to the village itself. Ghandruk is a pleasant, albeit rather touristy village with superb views of the Annapurna range. Gangapurna, Annapurna South, Annapurna III and Machhapuchhre (Fishtail) can all be seen on a clear day.
Accommodation in Ghandruk
Ghandruk presents a dilemma when it comes to accommodation. The new part of the village has the best lodgings in town but is modern looking and has no character. The old part of the village on the other hand, oozes with charm and has great views of the mountains but the standard of accommodation is nowhere near as good. Reasonable places to stay include the Gurung Cottage and the Annapurna Hotel, both of which are located in the new part of the village.
Snowlands Lodge (also in the new part of the village) is the best place to pitch a tent. You can also stay at Snowlands but three out of the four rooms are possibly the smallest rooms I have ever seen. The other is a dormitory.
Day 10 Ghandruk to Naya Pul (and return to Pokhara) (trekking time 4 hours)
I didn’t cover this part of the trek as I continued to Tadapani and on to Ghorepani as part of the Annapurna Foothills trek but from what I understand, is a relatively easy walk down via the village of Kimche and also Syauli Bazaar to the junction at Birethanti. From there it is a short walk to Naya Pul, from where you can pick up transport back to Pokhara.
Alternative routes on the Annapurna Base Camp trek
Between Chhomrong and the Sanctuary it is not possible to vary the route, it’s a straight in and out, but it is feasible to combine this trek with the latter half of the Annapurna Foothills trek. To do this, head from Chhromrong to Tadapani and then on to Ghorepani, Tikedhunga/Hille and eventually to Naya Pul.
For those with a lot more energy and time, it is also possible to combine the Annapurna Base Camp trek with the Annapurna Circuit trek. To do this, you would need to follow the Annapurna Circuit as far as Ghorepani and then head towards Chhomrong, from where you can pick up the trail to the Sanctuary.
And for those with a mega amount of energy and time, it is possible to combine the Annapurna Base Camp trek with the Annapurna Circuit AND the trek to Upper Mustang. That would be a seriously good trek!
Opinion on the Annapurna Base Camp trek
This is a fantastic trek and easier than I expected. Normally getting that close to the mountains requires a lot more effort than you need to put in to see them on this trek. The only negative, in my opinion, is the fact that the route between Chhromrong and base camp cannot be varied but there is very little anyone can do about that and if you want to get close to some VERY big mountains in a relatively short period of time, then this is the trek for you.
Note, there can be a risk of altitude sickness on this trek as you go up from 827m (Pokhara) to 4130m (Annapurna Base Camp) in just 6 days but the risk can be minimised by spending the night at both Machhapuchhre Base Camp and Annapurna Base Camp. It is possible to reduce the risk further by sleeping only at Machhapuchhre Base Camp (3700m) and visiting Annapurna Base Camp as a day trip. Some trekkers even choose to sleep in Deurali (3100m) and visit from there. Keep in mind that if you do decide on either of these last two options, you will miss out on seeing sunrise at base camp which, for me, was the highlight of the trek.
Disclaimer. This trek was undertaken a few years back and hence information about the splendour or otherwise of teahouses and camping sites may be slightly out of date. The Annapurna region suffered only minor damage during the devastating earthquake of April 2015 and the trekking routes were largely unaffected. I have checked with travel-industry colleagues in Nepal and incorporated their updates but if you come across new information please feel free to update me. All such contributions will be duly acknowledged. Mark