Whether you choose the trek to Everest Base Camp or the trek to Annapurna Base Camp, you are in for a feast of delights that only Nepal can provide. Mystical, mysterious mountains and truly wonderful people & their cultures to leave you with lifetime memories.
Annapurna Base Camp Trek or Everest Base Camp Trek
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We often get inquiries asking what we would recommend, a trek to Everest Base Camp, or Annapurna Base Camp and could we provide some information on the respective merits of both regions. Perhaps the major difference is, in the Everest Region the vast majority of trekkers have one goal Everest itself. In the Annapurna Region there is more variety and whilst Annapurna Base Camp is way up there as the destination to go to, it is not the only one. It is a difficult question to answer as both provide some fabulous days in the Himalayas.
Rather than come down on one side or the other, here are some broader facts about the two regions and trekking options, highlighting in a little more detail the E.B.C. Trek and A.B.C. Trek. Whatever option you choose, you are treated with a region full of Biodiversity, fantastic mountain people, and mountain scenery unmatched anywhere on the planet.
The Everest Region:
The majority of people who visit Nepal would like to see Mount Everest at least once whilst they are here, many take the easy option with a mountain flight from Kathmandu. However, for those who prefer to make their encounter with Everest much more rewarding, there is only one way to fully appreciate the experience. Go trek there to witness in person the last earthly rung on the stairway to the heavens.
A few facts about the region:
The Sagarmatha (native name for Mt. Everest) National Park is situated 137 km northeast of Kathmandu. The region covering an area of 1148 sq km has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site since 1979. The landscape in the region varies from alpine-like in the southerly regions, becoming a lot harsher and rugged dissected by deep gorges higher up the trail. Elevations range from 2845m in the south to 8848 meters on the summit of Everest in the north on the border with Tibet. The area has several rare animal species residing in the region. The snow leopard, Himalayan Black Bear and the lesser panda are among the many species found in the Sagarmatha National Park along with over 120 species of birds. On average 35,000 tourists visit the region each year. Around 10,000 Sherpa people live in the Khumbu Valley, many in villages and seasonal settlements situated along the main tourist trails.
Best Times to Visit:
While trekking is possible here the whole year round, the best times to visit are from March to mid-May and from September to mid-November. April and early May for nature, with the trees bursting into bloom, rhododendrons, in particular, add a spectacular blaze of colour to the lush landscape. September to Early November is also good and the most popular, with the skies clear, providing fantastic mountain views. In the winter it is very cold and snow on the upper trail may make it difficult to travel higher than Tengboche. Many of the lodges are also closed above this altitude. Summers are wet with clouds and poor visibility, really not ideal trekking conditions unless you have no option.
The most direct trek to Everest Base Camp
A trek to Everest Base Camp for many is a dream they have always had, for some it might be part of a bucket list of things they want to do, and for others, it just happens!.
Famous for its spectacular mountains and the warmth and friendliness of its iconic Sherpas, it is not surprising the Everest region is one of the most popular destinations for trekking in Nepal. Most treks nowadays begin with a flight into the mountain airstrip of Lukla. The trail is full of surprises, through an exceptional area of dramatic mountains, glaciers, and deep valleys, dominated of course by the mighty Mount Everest (8,848 m). The direct route up to Everest Base Camp provides some fantastic mountain vistas within the rich mountain Sherpa culture you travel through.
There are a variety of good lodges to rest up over a hot meal at the end of the day. Higher up the trail, north of Tengboche the scenery changes dramatically, from lush forests during the early stages of the trek onto mainly composed rugged terrain, as you head up in the thinning air towards base camp. The higher you go the more basic the accommodation, which is a strange way adds to the overall experience.
The final Destination Kala Patthar:
Kala Patthar is a fantastic point to view Mount Everest. It is only when you are standing there; you fully appreciate what the journey has been about and what you have achieved, as you look out onto a dramatic 360-degree panoramic view. The mighty Mt Everest and the surrounding mountains of Mt. Pumori, Mt. Lingtren, Mt. Khumbetse, Mt. Nuptse, Mt. Lhotse, and Mt. Ama Dablam seem as if they are reaching out to touch you.
Everest Base Camp Outline Itinerary with approximately walking distance and time:
Day 1: Arrival in Kathmandu. Preparation for the trek.
Day 2: Fly from Kathmandu to Lukla (Straight line Flight Distance: 138 km). Start trekking to Phakding (2,610m).
Walking: 8 km/ 4 hours)
Day 3: Trek from Phakding to Namche Bazaar (3,441m).
Walking: 12 km /7 hours
Day 4: Acclimatization day at Namche Bazaar: Hike up to the Everest View Hotel. Walking: 4 km /4 hours.
Day 5: Trek from Namche Bazaar to Tengboche (3,860m)
Walking: 10 km/6 hours
Day 6: Trek from Tengboche to Dingboche (4,410m)
Walking: 12 km /6 hours
Day 7: Acclimatization day in Dingboche. Hike up to Nagarjun Hill.
Walking 4 km/ 4 hours
Day 8: Trek from Dingboche to Lobuche (4,910m)
Walking: 12 km /6 hours
Day 9: Trek from Lobuche to Gorakshep (5,180m) to Everest Base Camp (5364m) and back to Gorakshep
Walking: 15 km/ 8 hours)
Day 10: Trek from Gorakshep to Kalapatthar (5,545m) and then down to Pheriche (4,280m), Walking: 18 km/8 hours
Day 11: Trek back from Pheriche to Namche Bazaar
Walking: 19 km / 8 hours
Day 12: Trek from Namche Bazaar to at Lukla
Walking: 20 km /7 hours
Day 13: Fly back to Kathmandu
Day 14: Departure from Kathmandu
More Remote and Challenging Options to Reach Everest Base Camp
Everest Base Camp via the Gokyo Lakes:
If you are wanting a more remote and challenging trek that will test your stamina look no further, A trek to Everest Base Camp via the Gokyo Lakes by crossing Chola Pass is certainly up there with the best. The trek provides absolutely stunning mountain views through the best mountain scenery in the world. The trail is a lot less busy so you have more time to soak it all up. It’s a beautiful trek for the sheer natural beauty of your surroundings within a varied and dramatic landscape.
The Three Passes Trek to Everest Base Camp:
This trek is up there with the best in the world, taking you remotely and far away on what is a very demanding trail. You need to be fit with a good degree of stamina. The trek covers much of the Everest region on a circular route from Lukla to Lukla. On the way you cross the three high passes of this region – Renjo La, Cho La, and Kongma La – each of these is over 5,000m. One of these alone would be a fearless challenge. There are some long days on the trail, nine hours on occasions but the rewards are numerous with some of the best mountain views in Nepal or in the world for that matter.
Read our previous blog: Everest base camp trekking routes
Not enough Time or fancy easier options to View Mount Everest;
The Everest Panorama View Trek:
If you are short on time or you don’t energy to trek all the way to Everest Base Camp, this is a perfect introduction to the Everest region. You get to experience some stunning views of Mount Everest along with many of the other great peaks on a trail rich in biodiversity; you also have an opportunity to learn more about the unique history, culture, and traditions of the friendly and gracious Sherpa people.
Pikey Peak Trek:
Pikey Peak lies south of the main Kumbu Everest trekking region. The view of Mount Everest from Pikey Peak is said to be the best to be had, a statement is borne out by none other than Sir Edmund Hillary himself. You hike on a trail through authentic Sherpa villages and get an opportunity to visit ancient monasteries and experience the best of Sherpa culture with some wonderful laid-back days on the trail away from the crowds.
See this too Everest base camp expectation vs reality
The Annapurna Region:
The Annapurna region is a National Park of extreme beauty, it is the most widely visited trekking region in Nepal. There are many treks to choose from for all levels of fitness, and the trek to Annapurna Base Camp is one of the best choices. Some of these treks follow the ancient salt trade route between Nepal and Tibet that cuts through The Kali Gandaki Gorge (the deepest in the world.) There are well-established trading and trekking lodges and tea houses in the region and there are good road and air links with Kathmandu. The region is situated north of the beautiful lake town of Pokhara, situated 200 km to the west of Kathmandu. Pokhara is either a six-hour road trip or a flight from Kathmandu that takes around 20 minutes.
The region has many spectacular mountains of over 8000 meters and the extremes of elevation here are not found anywhere else in Nepal. Many different plants and animals are found in the region. There are a lot of Oak, Bamboo, and Rhododendron forests in the south, whereas high alpine meadows and windswept plateaus are mainly dominant in the northern regions that border Tibet. The Grey Languor monkey and a variety of cats and rodents are found at lower levels, the elusive Snow Leopard, and The Himalayan Black Bear inhabit the higher altitudes (4500mtrs and above). Over 400 species of birds have been recorded in the region.
Treks in the Region:
Like the Mount Everest region, there are many treks to choose from each offering its own charm and unique experiences. The trails are such that you are often able to combine treks into a longer route. The longest of these would be the full trek around the Annapurna Circuit and on to Annapurna Base Camp, a classic trail that has it all.
Brief Outline of this trek:
With the new road network nowadays on either side of the high Pass at Thorung La (5416m), you have choices regarding the number of days you want to spend on this particular trail, from approx 12 days to approx 18 days. This is a fantastic trek; you get to experience the delights of the Marshangdi Valley with its rich Buddhist culture and also the challenging crossing of the Thorang La on your way to the pilgrimage town of Muktinath. Head on down the trail from here (by foot or jeep to Tatopani) and on to Ghorepani. Stay overnight at Ghorepani and do the hike up for a stunning sunrise over both the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Ranges at Pun Hill. From there, a wonderful journey up into the Annapurna Sanctuary and Annapurna Base Camp, for something very special as laid out in the latter stages of the A.B.C. trail below from Ghorepani onwards.
The classic Annapurna Base Camp Trek:
The majority of the treks in the Annapurna Region begin with a one-hour drive to Nayapul, the trail road head. The first two days are spent on a trail through mainly rhododendron forest with small villages on the way. On reaching Ghorepani, it is a must that you make the pilgrimage to Poon Hill for dawn over the Himalayas, a magical experience as the rising sun lights up Dhaulagiri I, Annapurna South, Annapurna I, Fish-tailed Machhapuchhre, and Langtang range. You then head out on the A.B.C. trail reaching the lovely village of Chhomrong in two days. This is the last established village on the trail; your overnight stops onwards from here are in settlements built to cater for Trekkers.
The trail then moves east towards the Modi Khola river valley, formed from the meltwater from the peaks and glaciers above. As you move above Chhomrong, the trail gets stiffer with the vegetation changing; the tree line gives way to bamboo and dwarf scrubs on the way to the Annapurna Sanctuary where the peaks are beginning to reveal themselves at this stage. There is a hike up to Machhapuchhre Base Camp and later a stiff two hours hike up to Annapurna Base Camp.
Annapurna Base Camp is Annapurna’s answer to Kala Patthar in the Everest Region. It is a huge ice-clad amphitheater situated at an altitude of 4130 m. It is a surreal experience just standing there with the mountains towering vertically above you. Annapurna I (8091 m), Annapurna III (7937m), Annapurna IV (7 525m), Gangapurna (7455m), and Machhapuchhre (6993m) magic. You then need to retrace your steps for 3 days.
Another bonus on this trek is the night spent at the natural hot springs at Jhinu Danda where you can soothe and relax tired muscles. From here you have choices, take a short trek down to the new road and drive back to Pokhara, or trek along the river for a day back to Nayapul and pick up your transport there.
Annapurna Base Camp Outline Itinerary with approximately walking distance and time:
Day 1: Kathmandu Airport Pickup and Transfer to Hotel (1345 meters) and Preparation for the trek.
Day 2: Kathmandu to Pokhara (827 m),
distance Traveled: 201 km by Bus (6-7 hours drive) or
by flight: 30 min.
Day 3: Drive to Nayapul (40km, 1.30 hour) and trek to Ulleri (1920m),
Walking: 15 km /5 hrs
Day 4: Ulleri to Ghorepani (2860 m),
Walking: 10.5 km/ 5 to 6 hours
Day 5: Ghorepani to Poon Hill and Tadapani (2610 meters)
Walking: 9Km/ 6-7 hour
Day 6: Tadapani to Chomrong (2170m)
Walking: 10 km / 5 hour
Day 7: Chomrong to Himalaya (2900 m)
Walking: 10 km/ 6 hours)
Day 8: Himalaya to Annapurna Base Camp (4130 m)
Walking: 13km/ 7 hours
Day 9: Annapurna Base Camp to Bamboo (2310 m)
Walking: 17 km/7 hours
Day 10: Bamboo to Jhinu Hot Spring (1780 m)
Walking: 12 km/ 6 hours
Day 11: Jhinu Hot Spring to Nayapul and drive to Pokhara (827m)
Walking: 13 km/5 hours and driving 1.30 hours
Day 12: Drive/Fly Back to Kathmandu
Distance: 201 km, 6/7 hours driving or flight: 30 minutes
Day 13: Departure from Nepal
If you don’t have a lot of time:
The Short Annapurna Base Camp trek:
The Short Annapurna Base Camp trek is a great option to consider if you are looking for the same classic mountain experience of the longer A.B.C. trail especially if your time is short. With new roads being laid in the region, it is now possible to trek to Annapurna Base Camp without spoiling anything of the base camp experience. This Annapurna Short Trek cuts at least a day off the journey from Pokhara, and up to three days if you do not make a visit to Pun Hill on the way.
Best times to visit Annapurna Base Camp (4130m):
As the altitude is around 1200 meters lower than Everest Base Camp (5364m), the trekking season is extended somewhat in February, March, April, and May, and post-monsoon late September, October, November, and December are all possible times to fully enjoy the experience.
How difficult are the treks to E.B.C. and A.B.C.
It depends, If your idea of exercise is a five-minute walk to your local shop, both treks are likely to be extremely difficult for you. If on the other hand you are reasonably fit with a good degree of stamina and the will to get there, a trek either to E.B.C. or A.B.C. whilst challenging should be well within your reach. Let’s break them down. Do I have a preference? Yes, I would do both.
Altitude: (Acute Mountain Sickness)
There is a greater risk on the E.B.C. trek as the maximum height made is Kala Patthar ( 5545m). A.B.C. on the other hand stands at an altitude of (4130m). To avoid any problems, It is very important to build in acclimatization days as you go.
Two rest days are highly recommended for the Everest Base Camp Trek (normally Namche Bazaar and Dingboche). The Annapurna Base Camp trail being around 1200 meters lower does not present the same problem, even so, it is very important to take your time on the ascent. Most people will suffer some effect of high altitude, light-headedness perhaps, and loss of appetite. If these symptoms persist, the solution is to descend a minimum of 500 meters and rest up for a day.
Trails and accommodation:
Both trails are well established and in general very good, the same applies to the accommodation with good Wi-Fi provision. Like most treks in Nepal, the higher you go the more basic the conditions. Neither trek requires any technical climbing skills, although on the Everest trek there are tougher moraine and icy conditions in thinning air to negotiate.
How many days on the trail:
The regular Everest Base Camp Trek takes a minimum of 10/11 days to complete, starting and returning to the mountain airstrip of Lukla. If you want to be safe, there is no other option to do this trek quicker. Whereas, there are options to vary your route to A.B.C. The Nayapul to Nayapul trek via Ghandruk takes five days to base camp and three days back. I have mentioned other options to A.B.C. earlier in this blog. Days on the trail, expect anything from 4 to 8 hours a day on both trails which will vary in difficulty.
Whether you choose the trek to Everest Base Camp or the trek to Annapurna base camp, you are in for a feast of delights that only Nepal can provide. Mystical, mysterious mountains and truly wonderful people to leave you with lifetime memories. The best piece of advice I can give is, if you have time, extend your trip by varying your trek in both regions. Via the Gokyo lakes would be a good one for E.B.C. and certainly take in Poon Hill in the Annapurna Region. You will not be disappointed.
Happy Trails from us all at Nepal Gateway Trekking.