Everest and Annapurna. Maybe these names mean nothing to you, or maybe you’ve heard of them before throughout your research for adventures. Everest and Annapurna are both names of 8000 meter peaks located in Nepal. They are also the names of the regions for trekking where these towering mountains are located.
It’s no doubt that the Everest and Annapurna regions of Nepal are the two of the most popular spots for trekkers, and there’s plenty of reasons why. These areas hold world class trekking, climbing, not to mention jaw-dropping views and beautiful scenery. However, trying to pick exactly which area to go for your adventure (assuming you don’t have the time for both), is often a big decision for trekkers.
I have been fortunate enough to visit Nepal twice now and have completed three separate treks that include both of these amazing regions. I have loved each experience immensely but each region is definitely unique and has its own pros and cons. If you’ve stumbled across this blog post in your search for insight into these regions, I hope what is written below will help you with your decision. Based on my experience, I have broken up these regions into six different categories and compared the similarities and differences. This is where I’d like to mention that this is strictly based on my personal experiences. No two experiences are alike, and people will surely have differing views than mine. However, after doing each trek and taking the time to reflect deeply, my thoughts below are my perceptions and thoughts and I hope they can help you in making your decision. Nepal is one of my favourite places in the entire world and both trekking areas are full of magic and beauty. No matter where you go, you will not be disappointed.
Ok, let’s get this one over with first as I know its often a huge thing people consider when traveling. Nepal is a relatively affordable country to travel to in my opinion, however, once you factor in the costs of flights, visas, perhaps a guiding company and porters, teahouses, food, etc., it can all add up. I will be writing costs in terms of Nepal rupees, so for your reference roughly 80 rupees equals one dollar CAD at the moment.
No matter which region you choose to go to, you have to get to Nepal first so that cost doesn’t really change with each trek. However, once you are in Kathmandu and ready to head out, that is where the costs start to change, and in my opinion there is a big difference with each region.
Right off the bat I will say that going trekking in the Everest region will cost you more money. From Kathmandu, most people take the flight to Lukla which is a few hundred dollars US. You can opt of this and walk in, however, it adds quite a bit of time to your trek which not everyone has. The flight is exciting, perhaps scary for some, but to me it’s all part of the adventure.
If you are trekking with a company, you will have paid for your trekking costs up front usually in one all-inclusive fee. However, to break it down for you solo trekkers, I would say once you are on the trail I would budget spending roughly 3000-3500 rupees per day for food and lodging.
Whether you are on your own or with a company, typically wifi and charging your devices costs extra. For wifi, you can pay anywhere from 500-700 rupees for 1gb to use for 24 hours at that teahouse alone, or you can purchase a 10gb internet card from any teahouse for roughly 2000-2300 rupees, and that is good for use anywhere in the Everest region. When it comes to charging devices each teahouse is slightly different, but I would expect anywhere from 500 rupees for a single charge, to 300 rupees an hour to charge your electronics.
This region on the other hand is much more budget friendly. Same as Everest, if you are going wth a company your cost will be paid up front, however, if you are on your own I would expect to budget roughly 2000 rupees a day for food and lodging. Some days we spent a little more, some days a bit less, but it all balanced out to roughly that amount in the end.
In terms of transportation, getting to the Annapurna region was cheap. We took a van to Besi Sahar from Kathmandu which cost 700 rupees. From Besi Sahar, we took a jeep to our first town on the circuit which cost about 1200 rupees. At the end of the circuit, we took a bus from our end town to Pokhara for 600 rupees, and once we decided to leave Pokhara our bus back to Kathmandu cost us about 800 rupees.
Unlike the Everest region, most of the wifi we encountered was free, or at worst cost 100 rupees for unlimited use at that teahouse. As for charging devices, most charging was free as well or at most also cost 100 rupees.
A common question people ask about trekking in Nepal is how difficult it is. Personally speaking, I will say its not easy not matter which region you choose. Both areas offer routes hundreds of kilometres long, and both places can also take you to elevations over 5000m just by trekking. Hiking for days (or weeks) on end is difficult, and the higher you go also makes it more of a challenge.
I personally found this region to be harder trekking BUT I must add that when I did the Annapurna Circuit I was previously acclimatized from being in the Everest region before hand. This definitely factors in to how easy I found it, so keep that in mind as you read on.
The first day on the trail, whether you are trekking to EBC (Everest Base Camp) or elsewhere, is easy in my opinion as you actually drop a little in elevation. The next few days after that however, are either very uphill or very downhill. There seems to be little in-between. As you get higher in elevation however, the trail seems to ease off and be more consistent and in this sense both regions are similar.
The classic EBC trail is about 130 km long, however there are many other variations you can do and still get to base camp (which I recommend). One of these includes the three passes trek, which is roughly 160+km. While these distances are much shorter than the full Annapurna Circuit, I personally found it more challenging as you spend more days at higher elevations. Due to this, your daily trekking distances aren’t necessarily long. A general rule of thumb is to increase your sleeping elevation by no more than 500m or so per day, so that doesn’t mean trekking too far each day depending on the elevation gain of the trail for that particular day.
As I said earlier, I found this trek to be easier but a huge factor in that was probably my prior acclimatization. The first few days seemed more steady in terms of ups and downs, but the distances are much longer since you are at a lower elevation to start. Overall, I found the trail to be very consistent. Yes there are steep parts and big downhills without a doubt, but mainly I found it to be nice and gradual increases and declines.
The Annapurna Circuit is roughly 200km depending on where you start and end your trek. It wasn’t uncommon for us to hike 15-20km a day for days in a row. There are less days spent at higher elevations than the Everest region, so with the exception of a week or so you are less concerned about your elevation gain in a day, making you able to trek further and cover more ground.
Unlike the Everest region, should you find yourself struggling, injured, or sick, there is a road for a huge chunk of the circuit. This can be avoided (for the most part) while trekking, however, it is good to keep in mind in case the worst happens. If you twist an ankle, or get altitude sickness, you just need to get to the nearest town near the road and from there you can catch a jeep back down. In the Everest region, your only way down besides walking is by donkey or helicopter. Not every place in the Annapurna region is right near the road, so keep that in mind, but it was nice to know that if something happened we had easier access to options to bail down safely.
The difference in climates between the two regions was huge for me. Again, I will start by noting that I visited the Everest region in April and the Annapurna region in May, which may account for slight variation in temperature, but overall I do believe there is a big difference between the two regions.
I’ll be blunt, I think the Everest region is cold. Cold. Cold. Cold. This year was especially a cold and snowy spring, but even when I was in the area two years during a warmer than normal spring, I still found it cold. The first few days can be quite nice during the day time and especially with the sun (make sure to wear your sunscreen!), but after that the rest of the trek is fairly consistent and chilly. There were a handful of nights my water bottle froze inside my bedroom in the teahouse, just for a frame of reference.
With the cold and higher elevations, the climate is quite dry. Dry skin, dry throat, and extremely chapped lips are the norm. The higher you get the wind also gets quite strong and can have a bite. All of this being said, its a good idea to be prepared for the cold and hopefully you get lucky and it’s warmer than I am describing.
As I said previously, for the Annapurna circuit you start at a much lower elevation. With this fact, I found the first few days on the trail for me to be incredibly hot. The area you start in has quite a lush, tropical feel to it. Green trees, lots of plant life, and endless waterfalls. Hiking in my t-shirt and rolled up pants, I sweat like I’ve never sweat before. On the other side of things, once you are over the pass and descend back down to 3800m, it’s basically like you have crossed into the desert. Everything is dry, dusty, brown and makes you feel like you are in the mountains in California. The temperature picks back up and you will quickly want to shed your layers from the pass.
As you get higher, obviously it does get colder but I still never found it quite as cold as the Everest region. I brought my huge belay jacket (which I wore most days in the evening in the Everest region), and I probably could have gotten away without it in the Annapurna area. I did wear it though since I brought it. Just like the Everest region, it gets quite windy here but I found the wind to be much stronger gusts in this area.
It may be a combination of the dry landscape in areas, warmer weather, and also the road, but I found this area to be incredibly dusty. My clothes were covered in dust and dirt from day one, and the awesome sock tan line I got on day one only turned out to be layers and layers of dust. Since returning, my clothes have been washed but I am pretty sure they are still stained with all the dirt they got covered in. Maybe its time to get some new trekking clothes…
Another big question I get asked, which is impossible to answer, is which area is more beautiful to trek in. Both areas are so stunning. I mean, you’re in the Himalayas! However, although I may not be able to give a distinct answer to that question, I will attempt to describe the views and scenery how I perceived them and experienced them.
While trekking in the Everest region, you spend more time in alpine areas. The first few days have beautiful forests and the odd waterfall, but the majority of the trip is spent up at higher elevation. To me, the mountains themselves had a much closer and dramatic feel to them in this area. You feel their presence towering over you. It is humbling, striking, and some of the most beautiful views I have ever witnessed in my life. The landscape is harsh, yet stunning. With endless giant peaks and glacial views, your eyes and soul will be full.
The thing I loved about the scenery in the Annapurna area is how diverse it is. Unlike the Everest region, you have roughly equal time at higher and lower elevations it seems. The trek starts with lush vegetation, waterfalls, and a very tropical vibe. Eventually, that gives way to the alpine, however in my opinion the mountains felt further away. They were beautiful, but the valley is big and although the mountains are massive and stunning, they didn’t feel as close to me. As you make your descent over the pass on the trek, that landscape very quickly changes to something resembling a desert. One minute you’re at a snowy and cold 5400m, and the next you’re back to 3800m and its brown, dry, and dusty. I loved getting to experience so many different landscapes, temperatures, and such a variety of scenery.
It’s no secret the Everest region is busy. I mean even Everest, the mountain itself, has traffic jams. With the reputation of crowds, a lot of people opt for quieter regions to trek in. Here is my personal thoughts and experience of the situation in regards to people for each region.
Off the bat, I’ll admit the Everest region lives up to its reputation as being crowded and busy. HOWEVER, there are ways to get off of the main EBC trail and as soon as you do that, the crowds instantly drop in numbers and it’s almost quiet. The first few days on the trail are the same for everyone regardless of which route you decide to take. So yes, the crowds will be there and I will tell you right now its annoying and mildly overwhelming. If you can handle it for a few days though, all you need to do is get to day 4 and then you have options to branch off.
I highly recommend trying the three passes trek, or even doing two of the passes. This option not only gets you off the main EBC trail (*cough, no crowds), but it also means you get to see Gokyo which is one of the most beautiful places I have been. Throughout the three passes trek you will have time where you intersect with the main, busy trail, however the number of days you are not on the busy trail is greater than the number of days you are. This trek is a great option to have less people around, plus it includes high passes which are stunning and a great challenge. Should your heart desire, there are also small little scrambles you can do to get you up higher as well (Gokyo Ri, Chukkung Ri, etc.). If you do this trek, you can still check out EBC as well.
Amongst the people, I found this area to be that of an older crowd. I am not saying there are not young people, or that everyone is old, but it seemed to consist more of middle aged individuals. I personally preferred this, as with this crowd came a more mellow vibe among trekkers in the teahouses.
There are also lots of groups on the Everest trail and I would say the majority of people had guides and porters. Again, theres always exceptions. I have gone without and with a guide, but I have never had a porter. Some people opt for one or the other.
I would definitely say there are less people on the Annapurna trail than the Everest region, but I was also told the time I was there was quiet. For both regions, the high seasons are spring and fall. So, if you visit during these times, the odds of busier trails are high.
Since there is a road throughout a good chunk of the Annapurna Circuit, the first few days definitely had zero crowds whatsoever, even sometimes zero people. A lot of people are eager to get higher quickly for various reasons (time, money, etc), so they opt to take a jeep and start their trek at a higher elevation. This means that a lot of the lower sections of the trail have much less people on them. As you get higher, there will definitely be more people.
The crowd in this region felt much younger to me, and the teahouses were more lively and bustling (people playing music, singing, etc). Also, I felt that more people were trekking independently. People still had guides and porters, but whereas in the Everest region I would say its an 80/20 ratio for people being guided to trekking independently, it almost felt like the flip scenario in the Annapurna region. This may have just been the crowd that was there at the time I was, but it was my experience.
The culture in Nepal is beautiful, to put it simply. It’s one of my favourite things about trekking there. The culture in both regions is fairly similar, but I will still touch on it anyways. Their beliefs are beautiful, and the people are absolutely what make the experience as special as it is.
First off, like I said, the people are amazing. Period. Nepali are such a kind, caring, and beautiful population. The teahouse hosts are always kind and eager to help. If you have questions, or just want to engage in amazing conversations and learn some local knowledge, talk to the people. The teahouses in the Everest region are very comfortable. A lot of the buildings are newer to accommodate the ever increasing number of trekkers. The food is good and is similar at each place you stay. While trekking on the trail you will see prayer flags everywhere, prayer wheels, incredible rock carvings with “om mani paddle hum”, and stupas. This tie in of culture amidst nature is what I personally love about Nepal and believe makes it so unique and special.
As is with the Everest region, the people here are so kind and hardworking. The teahouses are great and have everything you need. The food is similar as well to that in the Everest region. Should you find yourself in Marpha towards the end of your trek, treat yourself to an apple pie or crumble. You won’t regret it.
A lot of the buildings here are older. Some buildings and towns have been completely abandoned. It’s pretty interesting to see and has such an eerie feel as you pass through. The teahouses are often colourful and have a really cute appearance.
This region has the same culture, however, my personal experience was that it was a bit less present. Less stupas and prayer wheels, etc. Nonetheless, it is still there and it’s still as beautiful and magical as ever. Every morning as you leave your town, you can be sure you’ll smell the juniper and incense burning.
As I hope is obvious in the above writing, no matter which area you choose to visit and trek through for your time in Nepal, you will not be disappointed. To me, Nepal is one of the most special places I’ve ever been. The combination of incredible scenery, beautiful and present culture, and amazing people makes it an experience you will never forget. It is a place you will likely find yourself returning to time and time again. With this being the case, you may just end up like me and be fortunate enough to visit each region and (hopefully) one day even more places in the country. I hope the above helps you if you’re in the planning stages of making your first trip to Nepal. Don’t hesitate to contact me with questions, as I absolutely love getting to share about my Himalayan experiences. Namaste!