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Trekking Annapurna Base Camp—what to expect, where to sleep & what to pack during Nepal's most stunning hike

A few weeks before deciding to trek through the Himalayas to Annapurna Base Camp, I stupidly watched the film Everest—big mistake. I started to think that my trek would be like the actual descent of the disastrous 1996 Everest climb where eight people lost their lives to the mountaineering tragedy. Obviously, I wasn’t trying to climb Everest, but those scenes lodged themselves inside my head and the night before my trek I was seriously freaked out. 
It turns out there was no need to worry, trekking for 10 days is definitely tough and the mountains deserve so much respect, but my adventure to Annapurna Base Camp was one of the most beautiful journeys I’ve ever taken. Walking up through pretty Nepalese villages, past waterfalls and incredible scenery daily, while being surrounded by some of the world’s highest mountains was seriously magical. 

annapurna base camp mountains nepal colourful prayer flags
Reaching the highest point of my trek, Annapurna Base Camp at 4,130 meters

My preparation for the trek started in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. Before arriving in the country I hadn’t booked a single thing, I arrived from Calcutta, India, (where I'd been travelling for the previous two months) with only lightweight summer clothing, converse and flip-flops. I used Kathmandu as my base to collect some of the items I’d need for trekking. Shopkeepers around town helped advise me what to buy and most shops sell knock-off trekking gear, sometimes you can pick up second-hand items; a good way to save money and minimise waste. I bought a fleece jacket, a waterproof and a smaller rucksack in Kathmandu and then picked up some walking boots, thick socks and gloves once I arrived in Pokhara (the town where I started my trek). The company I trekked with hired me a down jacket (essential for when you reach the higher, colder points) waterproof trousers (which I didn’t actually wear) and a sleeping bag.

I arrived in Pokhara after taking a bus from Kathmandu, (the journey takes around eight hours), and found 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking - a company owned and run by women – the next day. As I was travelling solo I decided to trek with two guides, but looking back, two guides was a little excessive, although I did have fun with Danu and Robina, the two Nepalese women I spent the next 10 days with. The price for my trek was £400, which included two guides, their accommodation, my trekking permit and a night at 3 Sisters Guesthouse once I arrived back in Pokhara. I paid for my bed each night directly to the guesthouse owners in the Himalayas, this cost between £3-£4 per day.

What to pack for the Annapurna Base Camp trek?

The lighter your bag the better as you’ll be carrying it with you for the whole journey, I took the items mentioned above – walking boots, thick socks, gloves, fleece, sleeping bag, waterproof and down jackets – plus trainers, a hoodie, walking trousers, t-shirts, towel, silk sleeping bag liner, pyjamas, wash-bag, first aid kit, a few fizzy drinks, some granola bars and money (Nepalese rupees). 

Where to sleep?

Unlike the Everest Base camp trek, where you have to camp in a tent for some of the nights, there are villages dotted throughout the countryside for most of the way on this trek and it’s in these villages that you sleep and eat each night. Guesthouses are basic offering small rooms with a couple of single beds inside (sometimes shared if the route is busy) and there's usually an outside, shared toilet. Some places provide hot water for a shower, which you can pay extra to use. 

Although the guesthouses are super simple, the surrounding scenes are incredibly beautiful, I remember lying on my bed in the village of Sinuwa, with the door open, feeling so in awe of the mountains that lay before me. My guides sorted out where we were sleeping each night, sometimes booking ahead when they knew a particular place would be busy, I liked the ease of not having to worry about finding a place or whether there would be room once I’d arrived. Occasionally, I would share with another female trekker, mostly as we got closer to base camp and beds became sparser. 

snow capped peaks of the himalayas with bright blue sky nepal
Guest houses may be basic but the views are unrivalled

Each guesthouse has a short menu providing evening meals like vegetable curries, some kind of pasta dish or daal baaht - a typical Nepalese meal consisting of lentils and rice. Breakfast is usually eggs and toast or porridge, you pay for these meals as you go, in cash.

What to expect when trekking to Annapurna Base Camp?

Early starts and seven to eight hours of walking a day, although some of the days at the beginning and end of the trek were a little less than this. If I was walking solo, as opposed to joining a 10-day planned trek with guides, I think I could have completed the trek in seven or eight days rather than ten and if I were to go back to Nepal I would consider trekking alone now I know it can be done. For my first time in the mountains, it was great to have company though, and I also learnt a lot about what it’s like to grow up in Nepal, the culture and history of the country and interesting facts about the route along the way.

On day one I was driven from Pokhara to the start point of the trek and the place to pick up my trekking permit, Nayapul. My guides sorted the permit for me so the process was super easy. We walked for a few hours on the first day before sleeping in the village of Hile, then trekked onto Ghorepani  - a small village at 2,874 meters – the next. From here we woke at 4.30am to reach the summit of Poon Hill in time for sunrise, the scenery all around here is absolutely beautiful and well worth the early start. After Poon Hill we descended, ate breakfast and continued walking for another five hours to Tadapani. 

trees and mountains misty day poon hill
Views from Poon Hill on day three

On day four, my legs started to ache but the walk was full of amazing sights, I met cute fluffy Himalayan mountain puppies, ate tree tomatoes, saw langur monkeys and heard the cackle of a local bird called the laughing thrush. Sinuwa, as mentioned above was one of my favourite stopping points, I stayed here for two nights, once on the way up and again on the way back down, both times the views astounded me. The village of Deurali was my last stop going up, before reaching Annapurna Base Camp at 4,130 meters on day six, I rewarded myself with a hot chocolate and Mars bar once I arrived. Reaching the highest point was pretty emotional, Annapurna Base Camp is covered with Tibetan prayer flags and small stone memorials to people who have died, climbing in the area. I felt relieved and happy I had reached our highest point, but also exhausted and a little sad, thinking about the people who had died. I spent one night at base camp sharing a room with a Brazilian girl who had completed the trek solo. We woke before sunrise to catch the sun rising behind the mountains before finally turning one peak the brightest shade of gold. 

sun illuminating annapurna mountain at sunrise
Waking up to this view; sunrise at base camp 

Going down, that same day I walked for eight hours back to Sinuwa and by the time I arrived some of my toenails were bleeding, and blisters had formed on my soles, but it didn’t matter, I was so happy to have reached Annapurna Base Camp and see that incredible sunrise. The distance covered on the last two days got less and less and we soothed our aching legs in the hot springs near Jhinu Danda. The last village of our trek on day nine was the ancient and beautiful village of Ghandruk, which felt like stepping back in time. I slept at a comfortable lodge with hot showers, called Trekkers Inn and spent the day eating, drinking and checking out a fascinating little museum, happy that the trek was nearing its endpoint. 

Annapurna Base Camp is one of the most incredible treks I’ve ever done, it is hard at points, but seriously rewarding and provides a great introduction to the majestic Himalayas. The scenery is perfection, providing daily sights that will astonish and mesmerise, I’m desperate to go back.

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