We are Elo & Max – budget and slow travelers from France. Welcome to our article on the incredible Annapurna Circuit Trek in Nepal! Max comes from the Angers region and Elo was born in Perpignan, located very close to the Spanish border. One is a biologist and the other is a psychomotor therapist. Nothing destined us to meet, but after graduation the call of travel and the desire to get out of our comfort zone was very present in both of our minds.
Each of us had the opportunity to settle in French Guiana (an overseas territory situated between Brazil and Suriname) and we seized it. We met in French Guiana and lived there for just under five years – discovering the Amazon, its rivers and cultures, before realizing that we wanted more. So we decided to take a trip around the world. Five months later, we started this long journey which has now lasted for almost nine months.
Falling in Love with Nepal on a 45-Day Trip
One country we visited was Nepal where we spent 45 days. Initially, our visa only allowed us to stay for 30 days but we decided to extend it because we felt good there. We had the chance to visit the Kathmandu Valley, Pokhara and its surrounding lakes, and of course we spent a little over two weeks doing the Annapurna Circuit Trek. Nepal is a country that has so much to offer. It’s rich in culture, and marked by spirituality and traditions.
The cuisine is also delicious and the locals are kind. But basically what attracted us to Nepal was the possibility of discovering part of the Himalayan mountains. These mythical peaks, which every hiker dreams of crossing at least once in their lifetime, are more extraordinary than you could imagine. We did the full Annapurna Circuit Trek. There are different treks in this area but we chose to do the longest and most complete one.
Taking on the Annapurna Circuit Trek
In 16 days we traveled for 250 kilometers from Besisahar to Nayapul, passing through the Thorong La Pass – a mythical pass which rises up to 5,416 meters. It was a dream for us and we are proud to have achieved it. One of the peculiarities of this trek, when done in its entirety, is that the landscapes are varied. In a few days, you go from vast plains covered with rice fields to an immense canyon strewn with magnificent waterfalls.
The vegetation changes too. We see, unfolding before our eyes, endless fields of rice paddies and other vegetation such as pine forests, orchards and apple trees. Then the more you climb altitude, the more the terrain becomes dry and arid. Little by little, the snow covers the landscape and we move forward in a white decor that is beautifully bright. We discovered the most spectacular scenery of our lives during the Annapurna Circuit Trek.
Annapurna Circuit Trek Highlight: Thorong La
The Annapurna Circuit Trek was intense and magical from start to finish. But if there is a moment that will remain forever etched in our memories, it’s when we saw the prayer flags of Thorong La. Thorong La Pass is one of the world’s greatest mountain passes. It culminates at 5,416 meters and represents the highest point of the trek. We dreamed of it during the first 10 days of the trek, of this pass, which seemed inaccessible to us.
We had seen it dozens of times in photos and imagined reaching it every day while we swallowed the kilometers. On the morning of the 11th day, we got up at 4am to begin the final ascent. After half an hour, the water in our canteens was frozen and we couldn’t feel our toes anymore. We were so cold. But at that time, it didn’t matter whether we were cold or in pain. We were realizing a dream and we didn’t want to lose a crumb of it.
Focused on the sound of our footsteps in the snow, the changing colors in the sky, with the sun which was slow to appear, the rhythm of our breathing – we felt alive. Then when (in the distance) we saw these garlands of colored flags flying in the wind, the emotion overwhelmed us. We shed tears of joy when we reached this mythical sign. An indescribable feeling of pride took hold of us during that moment. We had succeeded.
Staying at Tea Houses Along the Way
Throughout the trek there are these amazing tea houses. These are types of lodges offered to trekkers by Nepalese locals. We left our tent in Pokhara to save weight in our backpacks. These lodges also provide food and most have electricity (up to 4,000 meters). We had our sleeping bags which came in handy when we passed a certain altitude. It’s possible to rent sleeping bags in places like Pokhara or Kathmandu if you didn’t bring any.
If you don’t get too cold, the blankets offered in the lodges are enough. The lodges are great and beat the campsites, since they aren’t developed. We rarely met any hikers who were traveling with their own tents on the Annapurna Circuit Trek. Some of them negotiated with the lodge owners to set up their tents in the lodge courtyards in order to use amenities, but it still cost them the same amount as if they had just paid for a room.
A Popular Trek that Inspires Many People
We had the chance to meet a few other trekkers during our Annapurna Circuit Trek. We became friends with some of them. Every year many travelers choose to do this trek to discover the Annapurnas for the first time, and they come from a variety of nationalities and countries: France, Germany, Italy, England, Russia, Israel, India, Nepal and more. We also met some hikers accompanied by guides and their Napelese sherpas (porters).
Biggest Challenge of the Annapurna Circuit Trek
The most challenging aspect of the Annapurna Circuit Trek is its length. From a technical point of view, there is no need for special skills. However, you must be in good physical condition and have stamina. Everything else is a matter of mindset. There are no ice walls to climb or passages requiring special equipment. But traveling for about 250 kilometers with thousands of meters of elevation gain in 16 days requires you to push yourself.
You must also take into account the high altitude. Beyond 3,500 meters, the key is to listen to your body and go at your own pace. The body can run out of oxygen quickly, so it’s necessary to slow down and stay well hydrated to avoid mountain sickness. Going slowly, taking breaks and drinking lots of water are the little things that allowed us to take advantage of this trek and not suffer from the lack of oxygen linked to the higher altitudes.
Tips for the Annapurna Circuit Trek
We can’t say we prepared specifically for this trek. The longest one we did before was a five day trek in the Pyrenees (two years ago). However, we left to travel last March. When we arrived in Nepal, we had been walking every day for seven months with our bags. We also did short hikes on this trip. This allowed us to gain endurance and not encounter any difficulties. That said, we met travelers less prepared than us who finished the trek.
A trek of such magnitude requires preparation. It’s important to know your limits, listen to your body and not push yourself too hard. We said it before but the key is to go at your own pace, no matter how many days it takes. It’s also important to be well equipped. Good shoes seem to be essential, as well as warm clothes for the highest altitudes. We carried bags of about 10 kilograms each. It’s possible to have recourse to a sherpa to help you.
A sherpa is essentially a Nepalese person who is accustomed to doing this kind of trek. They accompany you throughout the trek and carry your belongings. Above all, do not hesitate to seek advice from the locals you will meet throughout the trek. They know the Annapurna area better than anyone and can tell you about any deviations – if the path isn’t passable, for example. Trust yourself and go. You will be surprised at what you can do.