Annapurna Circuit Trek is an outstanding adventure in the serene wilderness. The beautiful landscapes of the Annapurna region will spellbind any trekker. While the peak seasons for trekking is the Autumn and Spring, trekking the Annapurna Circuit in winter is also possible.
This stunning trek lets you explore the traditional settlements of the ethnic Gurung, Magar, and Tamang community. You will stay at the community run teahouses and consume the local meals. The beautiful green hills, vast valleys, pristine rivers, and serene waterfalls will enchant you along the trails. This spectacular trek is ideal for those who love trekking the quiet and peaceful trails in the region.
Moreover, Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA) is the largest protected area in Nepal and is home to rich flora and fauna. The awe-inspiring sunrise views from the Poon Hill viewpoint overlooking snow-capped mountains including Annapurna I-IV, Mt. Dhaulagiri, Manaslu, Annapurna South is breathtaking. This incredible adventure is one of the most popular treks in Nepal.
Furthermore, trekking in the winter season is a great challenge. Crossing the snow-covered trails along with the magnificent “Thorong La Pass (5416m)” will test you to the core. Trekking in January and February is almost impossible with high risk of accidents and injuries. Only, early December is a favourable time for trekking in the winters.
Want to know more about Annapurna Circuit in winter? Read further to know more about trekking the Annapurna Circuit in winter along with other relevant information.
Highlights of the Trip
- Crossing the majestic Thorong La Pass (5416m), the highest point of the trek
- Breathtaking mountain views of the snow-capped mountains including Mt. Annapurna, Mt. Manaslu, Mt. Dhaulagiri, and others
- Exploring the beautiful landscapes and rich flora and fauna of the Annapurna Conservation Area
- Opportunity to explore the culture, heritage, and lifestyle of the region
- Pilgrimage of the sacred Muktinath Temple
- Trekking alongside the pristine Marshyangdi River
- Observing the deepest gorge in the world, Kali Gandaki Gorge
- Awe-inspiring 360 panoramic views of the sunrise from Poon Hill viewpoint
- Dipping in the hot water spots at Tatopani after a taxing trek
- Warm hospitality of the local people
Outline Itinerary – Annapurna Circuit Trek
Day 01: Kathmandu to Bulbule
Day 02: Bulbule to Chamje
Day 03: Chyamje to Bagarchhap
Day 04: Bagarchhap to Chame
Day 05: Chame to Pisang
Day 06: Pisang to Manang
Day 07: Acclimatization day in Manang.
Day 08: Manang to Ledar
Day 09: Ledar to Pedi or High camp
Day 10: Phedi to Mukti Nath
Day 11: Mukti Nath to Jomsom Via Kagbeni.
Day 12: Drive from Jomsom to Tatopani Natural hot spring.
Day 13: Trek down to Ghorepani
Day 14: Trek to Poon Hill – trek down to Ghorepani and Nayapul – back to Pokhara.
Day 15: Back to Kathmandu.
How Difficult is Trekking the Annapurna Circuit in Winter?
Annapurna Circuit Trek passes through the majestic foothills of the Annapurna massif. The peak season for trek in the region is the Autumn and the Spring season. Trekkers who love to challenge themselves can trek in the winter months of December, January, and February as well.
The higher settlements in the region are colder with higher chance of altitude sickness. Acute mountain sickness (AMS) or altitude sickness is a major difficulty along the trek. The high altitude region has a minimal oxygen and air pressure. Some of the major symptoms of altitude sickness include headache, dizziness, nausea, tiredness, vomiting, loss of appetite, and shortness of breath.
Moreover, the severe form of altitude sickness includes High-altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), and High-altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). Descending to lower altitudes will help to ease the symptoms of altitude sickness. You should get immediate medical help if you show the symptoms of altitude sickness as it can lead to severe health problems.
The trails of this stunning trek pass through the rugged terrains of the region. Hence, the trek can get tiresome and difficult for first-time trekkers in the region. Trekkers should also train well before the trek focusing on strength, endurance, and stamina. Some cardiovascular exercises like hiking, swimming, cycling, jogging, etc will help you immensely during the trek.
The high altitude region gets quite cold with heavy snowfalls in the region. The snowfall adds to the difficulty level of trekking the Annapurna Circuit in winter. There is moderate to extreme level of snowfall which can add adventure along the trail. However, heavy snowfall is dangerous and can increase the risk factor of the trek. You should carry a trekking pole and wear trekking shoes with crampons during the trek.
Weather Along the Annapurna Circuit in Winter
The region in Winter months from December to February remains quite cold with freezing temperatures. The weather conditions also vary with altitudes along the trail. The lower altitude regions and settlements are warmer than the settlements in the higher altitudes.
The temperature ranges around -5 degrees Celsius in the highest points of the trek. The temperature can drop around -11 degrees Celsius in January and -13 degrees Celsius in February. The lower altitude settlements are relatively warmer and comfortable to trek around.
Another important aspect of the trek in winter is heavy snowfall that turns the region into a winter wonderland. However, this makes the trail get blocked with thick snow and slippery trails. January and February are almost impossible to trek in the region. Hence, trekking in early December is an ideal time to trek in winters.
Food and Accommodations During the Trek
The months of December, January, and February are the offseason in the region. Hence, the trails are mostly empty and so are the tea houses and lodges in the region. You can also get these accommodation facilities at a bargain price.
Teahouses and lodges provide a cozy atmosphere in the Annapurna Circuit in winter. There are heaters and hot waters facilities at an added cost in some of the accommodations. You will get a twin bedroom, a blanket, and a pillow. Some tea houses also offer wifi and charging facilities to trekkers.
Moreover, you will get served “Dal Bhat” for lunch and dinner along the trail which is a staple dish in the region. The typical Nepali dish consists of steamed white rice, dal (pulses), lentils, spinach, gundruk, vegetables, and meat. The nutritious diet consists of high calories that will provide you with enough energy for the trek.
Furthermore, there are some snacks like momo, pasta, chow mein, chop suey, Macaroni, and others. For breakfast, you will get served bread, toast, eggs, porridge, and others. You will also drink tea, coffee, hot lemon, and other beverages around the region. Trekkers can also carry snacks like protein bars, chocolate bars, granola bars, and others to munch on during the trek.
Pros and Cons of Trekking the Annapurna Circuit in Winter
This outstanding trek in the Annapurna region provides you with the breathtaking views of the snow-capped mountains. The stable weather conditions is the highlight of the trek in winter. Trekkers will also trek in sunny conditions with no clouds and overcast conditions.
Moreover, the incredible snowy hills and mountains will enchant you along the trail. Also, the trails are peaceful with fewer trekkers when compared to the peak season. You can also get the winter discounts and other offers along the teahouses. There are few advantages among many challenges in the Annapurna Circuit Trek in winter.
On the other hand, there are various disadvantages of trekking the Annapurna Circuit in winter. The extreme cold condition is the main challenge of the trek. The temperature in the region can drop below -10 degrees Celsius in peak winter conditions. The trails can get covered in deep snow and hence blocked due to heavy snowfalls.
Also, there are risks of avalanches in the region. Thus, trekkers should check the weather conditions before the start of the trek. Thorong la Pass gets covered in ice-filled tracks and is incredibly difficult to cross in the winters. There are fewer tea houses and lodges along the trail. You need to carry food supplies in case of any emergencies.
Overall, trekking the Annapurna Circuit in winter has very few advantages and is mostly challenging. Hence, it is generally not recommended to trek in the winters except for early parts of December.
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Things to Consider During the Trek
Some of the things you should consider for the trek are as follows:
Guide and porters
Guides and porters are essential for the trek. The remote trails of the trek is a challenge for even the most experienced trekkers. Hence, there is a chance of getting lost along the trails. A guide will help you immensely during the trek as they are your best companion. The Annapurna Circuit guides also help you with emergencies like accidents and injuries.
Moreover, porters help you in carrying the luggage along the trail. The porters can carry around 15 kgs of weight with ease. Besides that, there are porter-guides in the region that work both as porters and guides in the region. These are cost effective options for budget trekkers or backpackers.
You should stay hydrated while trekking majestic landscapes of the region. Drinking water is essential in the high altitude treks as they provide enough oxygen in your body and help you tackle altitude sickness with ease.
Moreover, you can carry a hot water thermos with you along the trek so that you can drink water whenever necessary. Since the tap water is not suitable for drinking, you should boil the water before drinking or use water purification tablets.
Annapurna Circuit in winter requires proper packing and preparation. The right amount and quality of trekking gear will ensure a safe and comfortable trekking experience. Some of the trekking gear required for the trek include trekking pants, trekking jackets, windcheaters, full sleeve shirts, waterproof trekking shirts, down jacket, winter hat, thermals, trekking boots, and others.
The altitude sickness can hit even the most experienced of trekkers. Proper acclimatization and hydration are essential to tackle altitude sickness in the region. Trekkers should also walk gently at a steady pace since walking fast can increase the risk of altitude sickness.
Some of the symptoms of altitude sickness include headache, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, shortness of breath, and others. If not treated with immediacy it can turn fatal hence, necessary treatment and even evacuation if necessary.
This stunning trek requires a basic level of fitness among trekkers. You will need to walk for around 4-7 hours every day during the trek covering around 160km to 230km by foot. You will need to climb the majestic Thorong La pass (5,416m) through Thorong Phedi (4,540m). The 45 minutes climb tests you to the core.
Thus, you will need to train with the aim of trekking around 7 hours a day. You can perform some fitness training exercises ahead of the trek. You will also need to prepare for the altitude sickness in this high altitude trek. Trekkers need to walk gently with proper acclimatization, and regular hydration during the trek to avoid altitude sickness.
Trekking the Annapurna Circuit in winter requires proper travel insurance. The trails of this trek pass through the rugged and remote landscapes of the region. Hence, accidents and injuries are quite common in the region. Travel insurance that covers flight delays, accidents, injuries, loss of luggage, theft, and evacuations are essential during the trek.
Training Routine for Trekking Annapurna Circuit in Winter
Trekkers need to go through a basic training routine two to three months or at least two weeks before the trek. The training regime will help you gain strength, stamina, endurance, and mental fitness.
The physical training routine will help you gain strength, stamina, endurance, and also increase your fitness levels. You should practice hiking in the hills so that you can trek around 5-6 hours daily in the rugged terrains of the region.
Moreover, you will also gain muscles in the shoulder, arm, and back. Besides that, trekkers should also have a regular diet rich in carbohydrates and protein. Overall, physical training is an essential part of the trek.
Mental preparation is another essential aspect of the trek. You should prepare yourself by taking practice hikes in the region. You can also consult with veteran trekkers who have trekked these landscapes before and conduct some research on your own. Hence, mental preparation will help you immensely during the trek.
Cardiovascular training includes aerobic exercises that help in increasing the oxygen levels in your body. These exercises include cycling, running, jogging, hiking, and others. You will benefit a lot from these exercises and will also help you tackle altitude sickness in the high altitude trek. Moreover, you will gain flexibility and reduce muscle strain and injuries.
Permits for the Trek
You will need two permits for this trek. These permits are available in the Nepal Tourism Board’s office in Kathmandu and Pokhara. The two permits are the Annapurna Conservation Area Project Permit (ACAP) and Trekker Information Management System Card (TIMS). The cost of an ACAP permit is NRS 3,000 for foreigners.
Trekker Information Management System Card (TIMS) card is another essential for the trekker’s safety. There are checkpoints along the trail where you need to show these permit cards. If any trekker in the region goes missing, these identification cards will help to locate the trekker.
For SAARC nationals, the TIMS Card fee is NRS 300 per pax, if you trek in a group and NRS 600 if you are a Free Individual Trekker. For foreign trekkers, the TIMS card fees are NRS 1000 per pax for Group Trekkers and NRS 2000 per pax for Free Individual Trekkers.
Essential Tips for the Trek
- You should Diamox tablets which help to tackle altitude sickness along the trail.
- You should not travel without a guide in Winters. The heavy snowfall in the region can turn out to be challenging for trekkers in the region.
- You should check the weather forecast before the start of the trek.
- You should pre-book all the accommodation facilities.
- Proper acclimatization and hydration is essential along the trail.
- You should not consume alcohol as it can cause dehydration which can further lead to altitude sickness.
- You should walk gently along the trail with regular breaks and rest.
Packing list for the Annapurna Circuit Trek
The packing list for the months of December, January, and February are as follows:
- Trekking boots
- Woolen gloves
- Thermal Underwear
- Pair of Sandals
- Waterproof trekking pants
- Warm winter hat
- Down jacket
- Full Sleeve shirts
- Umbrella/ Raincoat
- Toilet Paper
- Lip Balm
- Tooth paste
- Tooth brush
- Face towel
- Sanitary pads/ Tampons
- Diamox tablets
- Water purification tablets
- Mosquito repellent
- Antibacterial sanitizer
- Sleeping Bag
- Power banks
- Extra batteries
- Solar chargers
- Annapurna circuit Map
- Books or Kindle
- Playing Cards
- Travel permits
- Travel insurance
The Final Say
The Annapurna Circuit Trek is an incredible adventure in the pristine landscapes of the Annapurna region. Trekking the Annapurna Circuit in winter is quite challenging. The Thorong la Pass gets covered in thick snow which makes it difficult to cross. Therefore, it is almost impossible to trek later parts of the winter season.
Besides that, there are various risks of injuries, accidents, and delays in January and February. Overall, trekking the Annapurna Circuit in winter is not recommended to trekkers except for some for early December. The peak seasons provide a more comfortable and safe experience.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the highest point of the trek?
The highest point of the trek is the Thorong La pass (5,416m).
How many hours of walk is essential for the trek?
5-6 hours of trek is essential while taking the Annapurna circuit in winter. The trek hours also depend upon the duration of the trek.
How hard is trekking the Annapurna circuit in winter?
The Annapurna circuit trek in winter is relatively challenging. The extreme cold conditions including heavy snowfall make the trails slippery and difficult to pass. Altitude sickness and rugged terrains of the region are some of the factors that make the trail difficult in winter.
How to cope with altitude sickness along the trail?
Altitude sickness is one of the biggest problems of trekking the Annapurna circuit in winter. Acclimatization along with proper hydration is essential for the trek altitude sickness.
You should not ascend more than 600m in altitude and also trek at a slow but steady pace. Drinking at least 5 liters of water a day will help you avoid altitude sickness along the trail. Diamox tablets are also popular among trekkers to tackle altitude sickness.
How much money does the trekking adventure require?
An average of around $25 per day is essential for the trekking adventure. The food and accommodation take around $2 – $3 per bed and charging, hot water showers will cost you extra. If you are a frugal spender, you can reduce the cost from $25 to around $20.
Is the porter or guide needed for the Trek?
The trek of Annapurna Circuit in winter must include a guide or a porter. Since, you will be trekking in winter which is an off-season, you will face a lot of challenges. Therefore, you should always hire a porter of a guide along the trek in winter.
What is the tipping cost for the guide and the porter?
One should tip around $5 per day for a professional travel guide and $2 to $4 per day for porters. Group trekkers should tip around $10 per day for a professional guide and $5 per day for porters.
How are the accommodation facilities in the Annapurna circuit trek in winter?
In the offseason, tea houses and the lodges in the region remain mostly empty. You can get the best accommodations and other facilities at a bargain price.
Can you recharge phones, cameras, and other electronic batteries?
Yes, you can charge your phone, camera, and other electronic batteries along the trail. Besides that, you can also carry solar chargers or power banks along the trail.
How safe is Nepal for women travelers?
Nepal is quite safe for women travelers in the region. However, you should dress conservatively and avoid shorts and sleeveless as far as possible. Female trekkers should not travel alone and in the dark and always hire the guide and the porter after a proper background check.
Do I need travel insurance for the trek?
Travel insurance is an essential part of the high altitude trek. The higher altitude trek is a challenging adventure with a high chance of altitude sickness. A good travel insurance will cover you from any flight delays, accidents, injuries, evacuations, and others. Trekkers must ensure to get travel insurance that covers the altitude of 4000m and above at all times.
What is the visa cost for Nepal?
The visa cost for foreigners is $30, $50, and $125 for 15-day, 30-day, and 90-day respectively.
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