Trekking Annapurna

When I first started planning my RTW trip, I’d never given a second thought to visiting Nepal, and had never even heard of the Annapurna range. Early in my process though, I met Mike and Anne Howard of HoneyTrek, who couldn’t speak highly enough of the tiny Asian nation. While I caught a lot of flack from fellow travelers for booking an organized tour with Intrepid to trek the Annapurna Sanctuary – a range of mountains in the country’s west – it didn’t change any of the scenery. And best of all, my boyfriend got to join me and celebrate his birthday with two weeks of hiking, hot springs, and teahouse stays. Tag along by clicking through the photos below.

Tips for trekking in the Annapurna Sanctuary

Practice on the stair master. My trek training was just taking long walks. At the advice of Intrepid, I thought as long as I could stay on my feet for four to six hours, I’d be okay. And I mostly was. But the Annapurna Sanctuary trek involves a lot of up and down. Much of the path is straight flagstone steps with many steep climbs and descents. If doing it again, I’d spend less time just walking in  my training and more time on the stairs. Pack light! There are many porters who get overloaded – it’s dangerous and irresponsible. Intrepid ensures no porter carries more than the legal limit, but less is always better. A few must-haves you don’t want to leave out: a headlamp for finding the bathroom at night, a SteriPen and water bottle to purify tap water and reduce waste, silk thermals for chilly nights at altitude, and cough drops. You can get a kind of decongestant on the trail, but no lozenges. Take the opportunity to detox. Drinking alcohol and eating meat make your ascent harder to adjust to. We kept a vegetarian diet and avoided alcohol until the trek was over. We had enough trouble hanging onto our health at altitude. No sense in making it more difficult. I couldn’t believe it when I saw folks drinking and smoking cigarettes up in the mountains. Withdraw all the cash you need for your trek in advance, but change it back to US dollars before you leave. Apparently, it is illegal to take Nepali rupees out of the country. Whoops! I didn’t get in any trouble with the law, but I am now in the quandary of having cash that no one will exchange. For the love of all that is holy, observe basic trail etiquette. Let people know verbally if you’d like to pass them, particularly on narrow paths. On the trail’s many suspension bridges, match the step and pace of the person in front of you. And always greet folks you encounter with a friendly ‘Namaste.’

Not sure about going solo? I trekked with an organized group and had a blast. What was your first multi-day trek? Tell me in the comments!

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  1. I didn’t trek Annapurna but I did do a very hard hike in Peru and I agree with all your advice. I brought with me purifying pills for the water instead of a purifying pen. The headlamp was a savior for night loo trips and I seemed to be the only one in the group to actually have one. You definitely need to train before such a long and demanding hike to avoid accidents and prepare your body.

    1. Guess we’re about to trade! Peru is next for me. Hopefully Nepal will be next for you. You’re absolutely right about the headlamp. That is a must have.

  2. These are tips to be used any hike. always train, always eat right, always pack light, and never push people off cliffs on narrow passages 😛 hopefully you can get out and do more trekking soon 🙂

    1. True, many of these can be used on any trek. I guess I should update this to include information specific to Nepal?

  3. Thanks for this really informative post – I’ve not really considered Nepal myself either (I mean, it sounds great, but there are so many other places to visit!) but you make it sound worth a second look. Not too sure I’m fit enough though, haha! I don’t understand people who turn their noses up at companies like Intrepid: as you say, you get a reputable local guide who gives you unique experiences while making sure that the health and safety of everyone is a priority.

    Oh, and your photos are amazing!! ?

    1. I was convinced I would wind up having to be airlifted out the second day! I do think I could have been fitter, but ultimately it was okay. The first week was challenging but largely went without a hitch. As we really got up into the higher altitudes though, Boyfriend got sick which meant I first couldn’t get enough sleep because of his coughing all night and then of course I caught whatever he had. So the descent was really rough on us both. But I think that could have happened regardless of our fitness.

  4. Oh WOW! This looks and sounds epic! I would love to do something like this! Absolutely gorgeous photos! This just landed on my bucket list =) NAMASTE!

    1. Thanks Lacey! Yeah, this entire trip could have been titled “Things I Didn’t Know I Needed on My Bucket List”.

  5. Why would you get flak for booking a tour with Intrepid? I booked with a tour to go around Morocco this winter and no one said anything to me about it. Your photos look amazing! I also appreciate the tip about practicing on stairs before doing a trek like this one.

    1. Haters gonna hate. There were a few well-meaning people who wanted to encourage me that this trek is possible to undertake independently. And I’m sure it is. (Boyfriend actually said at the end that if we were to do it again, he’d rather go just the two of us so we could choose our own pace.) But this was my first real trek and my first time in Asia. I totally stand by booking a group tour and was very happy with Intrepid.

  6. I had never done an actual multi-day trekking but I guess it would be super cool and it would mean pushing yourself to the limits both physically and mentally. I admire you for having the guts to do this without any preliminary training and to have proven to yourself that you can do whatever you set your mind to! And the view sure was worth it!

    1. I wouldn’t say no preliminary training. I definitely made an effort in the months leading up to my trek to spend long periods of time on my feet, to spend long periods of time walking with my backpack, and to take stairs more frequently. I definitely did not just swan into Nepal and trek for two weeks! I just didn’t do as much stair training as I could have done, and I didn’t go to a gym or see a personal trainer.

    1. Exactly. Plus, another big perk was it meant meeting people who were on a more typical vacation. There were a lot of people celebrating milestone birthdays and anniversaries. It was a great reminder to me of how special travel is.

  7. Thanks for the lozenges tip… am packing for my trip in the coming days. And hoping there’s still enough time to take the stairs advice (2 weeks)!

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