So you’ve decided you want to visit Nepal. Tick. You want to take on a life-changing trek. Tick. You want a challenge but also awe-inspiring scenery. Tick. You want amazing food, local culture and history. Double tick. Do you trek the Annapurna or Everest Base Camp (EBC) trail? Error: answer unknown.
Fear not inspired adventurers! We’re here to rescue you with our guide to choosing which trail is right for you. The main thing to take away from this guide? Both trails are absolutely stunning and your life will be irrevocably changed no matter what you decide.
Are you ready? Let’s get to it!
How easy is it to get to?
If planes and runways aren’t your thing, this factor alone might make your decision that much easier. The only way to get there? A spectacular (albeit tinsy bit scary) flight to the tiny airstrip of Lukla. The mountain views are incredible … just don’t look down.
To get to the Annapurna region is easy. You can either choose to travel by bus or via a short flight from Kathmandu (no tiny airstrips required – winning!) to Pokhara, the gateway to Annapurna.
What's the trekking terrain like and how difficult is it?
In short, the EBC trek is definitely more of a challenge than the Annapurna circuit. Why? The biggest factor is altitude. By day 2 on the EBC trek, you are at 3,420 feet above sea level. You reach this altitude on day 6 on the Annapurna circuit. Trekking is much harder at higher altitude because the density of the air decreases, which means less oxygen is available.
There are also a bunch of ascents on the EBC trek, whereas the Annapurna circuit sees you trekking on flatter stretches that don’t leave you gasping for breath. However in saying that, what goes up must come down and on the EBC trek, you come back down the way you came. On the Annapurna circuit, you start and finish in two different places which potentially means more variety in terrain and scenery.
What's your scene?
For incredible mountain vistas where you pinch yourself because you can’t believe the views are real, you can’t go past trekking to EBC. And, if you’re hiking in the dry seasons (the best time to hike), it’s possible you will catch a glimpse of the mighty Mount Everest on your second or third day of your trek. On the Everest trek, your days are spent at higher altitudes and therefore you are constantly surrounded by massive glacial mountains for most of the trek.
On the Annapurna circuit, the scenery is certainly much greener and more varied as you trek from emerald rice terraces to a high glacial pass and on to the arid landscape of the Tibetan plateau. Basically, if it’s huge, imposing and stunning mountains you’re after … the Everest trek is the one for you, but you’ll pay for it with aching thighs and calves. But if you’re after something a little flatter, greener and lush, consider the Annapurna circuit.
The extras: communities, accommodation, food and price
As you trek to Everest Base Camp you can certainly feel an unwavering pull of spirituality. Tibetan traders often visit the village of Namche Bazaar, as they’ve done for centuries. The Annapurna circuit will take you through various rural settlements where small farming communities reside. Whilst religion is still present here, there is more of a ‘local’ flavour than what you’ll find trekking to EBC.
Accommodation is pretty similar along both trails, however, the biggest difference is the bathrooms. Lodges on the Everest route more often than not contain a shared indoor bathroom, whereas on the Annapurna circuit you’re looking at pitch-black bathroom trips into the woods. Western toilets are the norm on the Everest Base Camp trek, while you might only come across one or two on the Annapurna circuit.
There also isn’t much of a difference between the food you eat on either treks. However, you’re more likely to get more veggies on the Annapurna circuit.
There are a few reasons why the EBC trek costs more than Annapurna. 1) Higher elevations 2) It’s a bit more “luxurious” (well, as luxurious as you can get on a mountain) and 3) Everest just has a bigger brand name. Everything about Annapurna is more affordable, including food and transportation to and from the starting point.
It really depends on the season but as a general rule of thumb, the EBC trek is usually much more crowded and large groups are common. The Annapurna circuit generally features hikers in pairs or small groups and is not nearly as busy.
So there you have it! Hopefully our guide has made it a little bit easier to decide which trek you should choose but as we said, no matter what, a trip to Nepal will be life-changing in so many ways and you can’t go wrong with either trek. Good luck!