Annapurna Base Camp Trek

Annapurna Base Camp vs Annapurna Circuit: Which Trek is Right for You?

Confused between the Annapurna Base Camp Trek and the Annapurna Circuit Trek? Refer to our blog as we present the ultimate showdown highlighting the differences between these iconic journeys.

Annapurna Base Camp vs Annapurna Circuit: Which Trek is Right for You?

The Annapurna region in Nepal is the true testament to the grandeur of nature as it offers the perfect blend of awe-inspiring view of some of the tallest mountains of Nepal along with the rich tapestry of cultures.

A delight for intrepid trekkers, this region houses two of the most popular trekking routes in the world: the Annapurna Base Camp trek and the Annapurna Circuit trek.

Both treks weave their ways across several landscapes, scenery, flora and fauna, Himalayan culture, painting your canvas with vibrant hues of colorful panoramas of blooming flowers while being set against the stunning view of the towering snow-capped peaks.

While both these treks are a representation of the stunning Annapurna region, each one presents a different facet of the area. Therefore, in this blog we delve into the nuances of each of these trekking routes to find out which one will conquer your heart.

Read on as we go on a detailed exploration of the stark differences between these two treks and find your next trekking adventure.

What is the difference between Annapurna Base Camp and Circuit?

While the Annapurna Base Camp trek takes you to the foothill of the Annapurna massif, the Annapurna circuit unfolds a different facet of the region while circumnavigating the Annapurna range.

Refer to the table below for a brief overview of the comparison between the Annapurna Base Camp trek and the Annapurna Circuit trek:

AspectAnnapurna Base Camp TrekAnnapurna Circuit Trek
LocationKaski district, at the foot of Modi Khola valleyCentral Nepal in the Annapurna Conservational Area, along the Marshyangdi river valley
Highest PointAnnapurna Base Camp at 4,130 mThorong La Pass at 5,416 m
LengthApproximately 110 kmsApproximately 160-210 kms
DifficultySteep ascents and descents with stone stairsGradual ascents and descents with well-built and marked trails
CulturesGurungs, Magars, Thakalis, LobaGurungs, Thakalis, and Manangis with Tibetan influence
SeasonsSpring and Autumn. Open all year roundSpring and Autumn. Open all year round
AccessibilityInner parts have less access to transportationAccess to road, well-facilitated and modern lodging with other amenities
Trekker’s TrafficMost crowded trek after Everest, given the shorter distance and durationCrowded due to good facilities and no restriction
MountainsAnnapurna I, Annapurna II, Annapurna III, South Annapurna, Machhapuchhre, Hiuchuli, Singu Chuli, etc.Annapurna I, Annapurna II Manaslu, Dhaulagiri I,

Treks at a Glance

Annapurna Base Camp Trek

Taking you to the heart of the Annapurna range, the Annapurna Base Camp trek is a breathtaking odyssey in the Himalayas of Nepal. This trek traverses through the rhododendron, bamboo, and pine forests and culminates at the Annapurna Base Camp.

A trekker at Annapurna Base Camp
A trekker at Annapurna Base Camp

This mesmerizing trek provides you with an unmatched experience as it takes you along the Annapurna Sanctuary where an amphitheater of nature’s grandeur unfolds as you get surrounded by the ring of snowcapped and towering peaks.

Hailed for its moderate difficulty given the comparatively less elevation, this trek is a popular choice among trekking enthusiasts and novice trekkers alike.

Annapurna Circuit Trek

Contrasting with the ABC trek, the Annapurna Circuit trek is a journey looping around the 10th highest peak in the world- Annapurna I at 8091 m (26,545 ft). This trek provides a more elaborate exploration of the Annapurna region.

Traversing across the Marhsyangdi valley, this trek starts in either Besisahar or Syange depending on the itinerary and ends in Pokhara as it crosses the Kali Gandaki gorge. However, the dirt road on the trek has made transportation access up to Manang so the trekkers have the option to further shorten the trek.

Posing for photo at Thorong La Pass
Posing for photo at Thorong La Pass

This trek winds through a variety of climatic zones as it crosses the challenging Thorong La Pass while indulging in the Tibetan-influenced Mustang region.

Featuring a wide range of landscapes, comfortable accommodations, and famous temples, this infamous trek circumnavigates the Annapurna massif in all its glory.

Trekking Route and Distance

Annapurna Base Camp Trek

Navigating through the foothills of the Annapurna range, the ABC trek begins at the foot of Modi Khola valley in Birethanti in the Kaski district of Nepal. Although Pokhara valley is the gateway to the trek, the official on foot journey starts in Birethanti.

Enveloped by stunning towering peaks, the trekking route makes its way along Ulleri, Ghorepani, Tadapani, Chhomrong, Deurali, Bamboo, Dovan, Machhapuchhre Base Camp, and finally Annapurna Base Camp.

Trekking trail of Annapurna Base Camp with tea houses
A view of Deurali Village enroute Annapurna Base Camp Trek

Unlike the Annapurna Circuit trek, the ABC trek requires you to retrace your steps back along the same route from the base camp traversing across Bamboo and Chhomrong, followed by Jhinu and concluding at Syauli Bazaar.

The 95-110 kms (about 68.35 mi) long trekking route takes around 9 days to cover and provides you an opportunity to witness the panoramic sunrise from Poon Hill and delve into the Gurung culture of the region.

Annapurna Circuit Trek

Commencing in Besisahar in the Lamjung district, the Annapurna Circuit trek encompasses a wider section of the Annapurna region. Not only does it go around Mt. Annapurna, but it also takes you through diverse landscapes throughout the route.

The Annapurna Circuit trek starts at Syange and follows a route including Tal, Pisang, Manang, Thorong La pass, Muktinath, and descends from a different path following Jomsom, Tatopani, Ghorepani, and eventually concludes in Tikhedhunga.

Trekkers crossing suspension bridge, Annapurna Circuit
Trekkers crossing suspension bridge, Annapurna Circuit

This elaborate exploration of the Annapurna Conservational Area meanders along the stunning mountainous landscapes of Manang and Mustang.

Depending on the route chosen and the side trips, this entire trek covers approximately 200 kms (about 124.27 mi) and spans over 18-21 days (about 3 weeks).

Altitude and Acclimatization

Annapurna Base Camp Trek

When it comes to altitude, the ABC trek is considered a comparatively less challenging adventure as it takes you up to the highest elevation of 4,130 meters at the Annapurna Base Camp.

This undulating trek is full of highs and lows and covers an altitude difference of 3091 meters starting from Birethanti (1,039 m) over the period of about 9 days. The ABC trek lies among the lower elevation treks in Nepal.

A group of trekkers enjoying the stunning sunrise at Poonhill during the early morning on the Annapurna Base Camp trek.
A group of trekkers enjoying the stunning sunrise at Poonhill during the early morning on the Annapurna Base Camp trek.

Therefore, acclimatization is not really necessary as your body adapts to the changes quite easily. On top of that, the hike to Poon Hill (3,210 m) acts as a built-in acclimatization hike and prepares your body for the not so challenging base camp.

Annapurna Circuit Trek

The Annapurna Circuit presents you with a challenging feat when it comes to altitude. Presenting a difficult ascent profile, this trek covers a significant altitude difference of 4,316 meters (14,160 ft) within a matter of about 20 days.

The starting point of this trek is in Syange at about 1100 m (3608.92 ft) and the highest point is at the dramatic Thorong La pass at 5,416 meters (17,769 ft) which makes you at high risk of altitude sickness.

Acclimatization hike during Annapurna Circuit Trek
Acclimatization hike during Annapurna Circuit Trek

Therefore, to prevent altitude sickness, it is crucial that you take appropriate steps for acclimatization. Set aside at least a day of rest at Manang or a nearby location to allow your body to adapt.

As you acclimatize, a hike up to Gangapurna glacial lake is recommended. If you have good physical strength, combining your trek with Tilicho Lake is even better, both for acclimatization and an elaborate experience.

Permits and Accessibility

Both the Annapurna Base Camp trek and the Annapurna Circuit trek require the same permits as they are located in the Annapurna region.

To embark on these treks, the trekkers must have ACAP (Annapurna Conservational Area Permit) and TIMS (Trekkers Information Management System) permit. Also, you require a guide to go on these treks as solo trekking has been banned in Nepal, although not strictly regulated.

As far as accessibility is concerned, the Annapurna Circuit, despite being a more challenging and longer route, features route for vehicles unlike the ABC trek. A transportation route runs parallel to the trekking trail up to the deeper aspects of the trek.

Therefore, transportation is available at disposal on the Annapurna Circuit trek to all the regions except the area between Manang and Muktinath. Thus, the Annapurna Circuit trek is more accessible as compared to the ABC trek.

Accommodation and Suitability

In terms of accommodation, both the Annapurna Circuit trek and the Annapurna Base Camp trek feature similar options. Despite having differences in other aspects, both these treks share the same thread of warm Nepalese hospitality.

The primary accommodation on both the treks are teahouses with basic facilities. While the quality of accommodation is better at the lower altitudes, the teahouses start getting devoid of familiar comforts as you reach deeper into the trek.

However, given the better access to roads, the Annapurna Circuit features slightly better standard than the ABC trek. While on the circuit, you can expect private rooms with attached bathrooms which might not be the case on the ABC trek.

Tea houses at Annapurna Base Camp
Tea houses at Annapurna Base Camp

When it comes to suitability, both treks have their own forte, and it depends on your preferences as a trekker. If you are short on time or a beginner in trekking, ABC is the more suitable one for you.

However, if you prefer a more detailed experience full of exposure then the Annapurna Circuit trek has an upper hand in terms of suitability. The journey in between these two places must be covered on foot. This remote trek lacks transportation facilities due to no road connectivity.

Difficulty and Physical Demand

Annapurna Base Camp Trek

Presenting moderate level of difficulty, the Annapurna Base Camp trek is an achievable alternative for trekking in the Annapurna region for beginners and seasoned trekkers alike.

Covering approximately 95-110 kms spread over around 9 days, the ABC trek features a mixture of well-maintained trails, uneven terrains, taxing ascents and knee-jerking descents, along with lots of stone stairs.

However, this trek is much easier as compared to the Annapurna Circuit trek as everything from the distance to the duration to the elevation is less and doable. Acclimatization doesn’t necessarily require extra time as the trek has built in opportunities for acclimatization.

Having said that, the trek is not free of challenges. It demands a moderate level of physical preparedness as you will be walking for around 6 hours on average every day. Snowfall can always be a possibility so be prepared with the appropriate gear.

Annapurna Circuit Trek

Having an upper hand in terms of difficulty, the Annapurna Circuit trek is a high-altitude challenge. It covers a longer distance of approximately 200 kms which is quite strenuous.

This trek is also tougher in terms of duration as it requires around 3 weeks to complete, with long hours of walking each day. And although it might not seem challenging at a cursory glance, 3 weeks can be pretty daunting given the extreme conditions of the trek.

Having said that, the ascents and descents are gradual unlike the Annapurna Base Camp trek with the option to shortcut the trek always being available due to the dirt road.

The biggest challenge that the Annapurna Circuit trek features over the ABC trek is conquering the Thorong La Pass at an altitude of 5,416 m (17,769 ft). The difference in altitude in both the treks is significant and it poses a higher risk of altitude sickness at the circuit.

The Annapurna Circuit trek demands proper physical preparedness with enough acclimatization to adapt with the less oxygen at higher level. One should also have good strength and stamina to be able to walk such a tremendous distance.

It is necessary to be aware of tips to prevent altitude sickness along with cardiovascular strength to walk in varied conditions and appropriate gear to tackle the challenges.

Cultural Encounters

Annapurna Base Camp Trek

Given the more concentrated route of the Annapurna Base Camp trek, the cultural enounters you will have here will be more focused. The trail features cultural communities like Gurungs, Magars, Thakalis, and Loba.

However, Gurungs and Magars are more predominant communities. You will be able to experience authentic Gurung culture in villages, especially in Gujrung and Chhomrong.

You can indulge your palate into savor in the delicious Nepali cuisine including food items like Dal Bhat, Momos, and other Gurung and Thakali staples.

Annapurna Circuit Trek

The Annapurna Circuit trek will expose you to a much diverse experience even in terms of culture given the longer distance. However, the region lacks authenticity when it comes to presenting the true essence of the Himalayas.

Buddhist stupa in Manang
Buddhist stupa in Manang

This is all thanks to the indulgence of the locals in the tourism business. Still, deeper into the trail cultural experiences do exist.

You will go through a wider range of ethnic groups including Gurungs, Thakalis, Chhetris, and Manangis. You will also be able to indulge in the somewhat Tibetan culture as the area is highly influenced by Tibetan and Buddhist traditions.

The Annapurna Circuit trek features countless monasteries along with Hindu shrines such as Muktinath.

Scenery and Landscapes

Annapurna Base Camp Trek

The journey along the ABC trek is a unique tandem of panoramic bliss and captivating hues of beautiful forests providing a glimpse into the symphony of nature’s beauty.

Starting with rhododendron forests blanketing the lower part of the trail followed by thickets of bamboo and pine, the trail ascends through quaint villages.

While at it, the trail also offers you to behold the iconic sunrise from one of the best sunrise viewing points at Poon Hill.

Stunning views of giant Himalayan peaks surround you giving you one of the most intense mountain experiences in the world. The trek also gives you an intimate perspective of the iconic Machhapuchhre (Fishtail Mountain) as you reach the Machhapuchhre Base Camp.

Views around the Annapurna Base Camp
Views around the Annapurna Base Camp

Surrounded by the ring of eleven of Nepal’s major peaks, the glacial basin at the Annapurna Sanctuary provides you with the colosseum of panoramas.

As you are at the foot of the Annapurna Massif, breathtaking vistas of the entire Annapurna range, Hiuchuli, Machhapuchhre, Singu Chuli, Tharpu Chuli (Tent Peak), Glacier Dome, etc unfold amidst you providing you a world class view.

Annapurna Circuit Trek

A more elaborate trek exploring the entire Annapurna region, the Annapurna Circuit trek features a journey through diverse terrains and a broader spectrum of landscapes.

From lush forests, lowlands, terraced farms, dense forests in the beginning, the trek eventually transforms to barren landscapes like high-altitude deserts, and glacial delights as the trail ascends to higher altitudes.

Humde Village with Stunning view of Annapurna III
Humde Village with Stunning view of Annapurna III

Covered with prayer flags, monasteries, and mani walls, the trail gives you a traditional Tibetan experience, especially in the Manang valley accompanied by the desert landscapes.

This trek features beautiful views of Annapurna II, Manaslu, Dhaulagiri I, and other surrounding peaks along with glacial delight as you go to the Gangapurna glacial lake. When you reach the higher parts of the trek, breathtaking views of Annapurna I also become visible.

Choosing between ABC trek and Annapurna Circuit trek

Even after the detailed analysis of the differences between these two trekking routes, choosing one among the two can be daunting. At the end of the day, both these treks take you on a journey along the beautiful Annapurna region.

However, you can refer to the tips below to make your choice easier:

  • If you are someone running short on time or have a limited time frame, the 9-12 days long Annapurna Base Camp trek is the better option for you as opposed to the 18-21 days long Annapurna Circuit trek.
  • If you have no experience of trekking, the Annapurna Circuit trek might be a bit challenging for you. Starting with the comparatively easier trek like ABC trek can be easier on your physical and mental health. However, if you have prepared well, the Annapurna Circuit is also an achievable feat.
  • Lastly, your preference is the deciding factor for you. If you are seeking an elaborate adventure and want to experience a kaleidoscope of landscapes in the Himalayas, go for the Annapurna Circuit trek. However, if you want to experience a more peaceful exploration while being in the heart of the Himalayas, opt for the Annapurna Base camp trek.


Presenting the Annapurna region in all its might, both the ABC trek and the Annapurna Circuit trek have their own set of allure and challenges. The better choice for you completely depends on your expectations from the trek.

If you are still in a dilemma about which adventure to embark on and have enough time on your hands, you can also combine both these treks and enjoy the world class Himalayan views along with the thrill of crossing the high-altitude pass in the Himalayas.

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