Everest or Annapurna
Everest or Annapurna Trekking? If I could I’d spend half a year in each. But I can’t leave my business to spend 12 months immersed in yaks and mountains. And like most visitors to Nepal I only have time to explore one of the famous trekking regions in Nepal.
But that’s not useful advice to anyone planning their first visit to Nepal. Instead, here are some questions to ask yourself when choosing between Everest and Annapurna.
How Many Days Do You Have / Plan For a Trek in Nepal?
Some Nepal visitors are ardent trekkers, lured by the inimitability of a long hike in the mountains. Other visitors want to explore a wider impression of Nepal, beyond simply snowy peaks and rarified altitudes.
The Everest region requires time. A standard Everest Base Camp trek involves 12 days of walking, and that’s pretty much the shortest possible hike without zooming around in a chartered helicopter. In such a remote region there are countless variations if you have 12 – 25 days dedicated for trekking.
The Annapurna region also has its long hikes but stands out as a destination for those with less time. An Annapurna Base Camp trek can be done in eight days, although there are superb options to extend. Poon Hill requires four or five days. A high-altitude airport in Jomson creates eight-day Annapurna Circuit Trek options. It means that if you have less than 12 days for trekking, Annapurna is the obvious choice.
Do You Like Trekking? Have You Experienced Trekking Before?
Enthusiastic hikers view Nepal as the ultimate destination. Other people visit Nepal and want to experience the wonder of Himalayan trekking and Nepal’s premier attraction. Then there are some people who want to go trekking for fear of missing out, even though they don’t really like walking anywhere at home.
Annapurna has a wider variety of landscapes and altitudes, making it a very good starting point if you haven’t been on a multi-day trek before. It doesn’t require the same commitment to preparation and altitude. Think of the region as a gateway to Himalayan trekking, an easier starting point if you want to experience the mountains and their solitude.
The Everest region takes you much higher and for most of any trek you’ll be amid extremely remote wilderness. The purists usually prefer it and the panorama of high mountains is unrivalled. Think of this region as it truly is: the highest mountains on the planet.
Why Do You Want to Go Trekking? What Do You Want to Experience?
Do you want to connect with the mountains or do you want to conquer something? Has Himalayan trekking been long on the bucket list or have you never owned hiking shoes?
Everybody’s motives are different. If it’s the bucket list then remember that there are countless routes and peaks other than Everest Base Camp. EBC may be the most famous goal for a Nepalese trek but it’s far from the highest point you can walk to, and it’s the journey not the destination you’ll remember. If your mission is to conquer then both Everest and Annapurna both have a number of peaks and challenging routes.
The longer you spend in the mountains the more you can be immersed. If the desire is to connect with the mountains themselves it’s hard to look beyond Everest. Annapurna provides a more continued immersion with local culture as there is a greater abundance of permanent villages.
What Are Your Expectations of Comfort?
Annapurna is the most developed trekking region in Nepal. This means a wider choice of places to stay, plus a higher quality and choice of food. Most of the treks in Annapurna are at a lower altitude compared to the Everest region, so it’s also warmer and there’s more oxygen in the air.
Comfort in the mountains is heavily linked to logistics. Annapurna is more accessible, so you are more likely to find hot water and the food you’re craving. Of course, accessibility means Annapurna is busier, which may appeal or be off-putting. While Nepal does have a handful of luxurious options, trekking anywhere is not a classically luxurious experience. However, if you’re unsure about your comfort levels, Annapurna is recommended.
For an Everest trek you must first fly to Lukla, a village that is four days walk to the nearest road. Everything in the region is transported by porters and caravans of donkeys and yaks. There’s less choice on the food menu and the price of comfort items (like a Snickers or beer) really adds up. No animals are slaughtered in this region so you really need to eat vegetarian when going beyond Namche Bazaar (a two-day walk from Lukla).
The Everest region is higher, bringing increased risks of altitude sickness: you can minimise this risk immensely when having a good guide in Everest region. Spending so many days above 4000 metres can be very tiring and many trekkers experience a slight yet continual dull headache. Higher also means colder, with the pipes freezing overnight in most villages: so even if you want a shower it’s rarely possible. For some people, all this makes Everest too much to take. For others, it’s part of the challenge, and part of you must endure to reach the most spectacular mountain panoramas.
How Good is Your Trekking Fitness?
Neither region is easier than the other. It depends on the exact trek you do: a four-day Poon Hill trek (up to 3210m) is completely different to a 22-day three passes and Island Peak summit trek (6189m). If you usually choose to take the elevator over one flight of stairs then the shorter, lower treks in Annapurna may be more suitable. If you’re running marathons and big on challenge then Everest has a greater number of options. However, both Everest and Annapurna are very accessible to novice hikers, provided you do a little preparation and training beforehand.
I Want to See the Most Famous Sights. Where Should I Go?
Everest is the most famous mountain but the greatest attraction in Nepal is the Himalayan mountain chain. You’ll see snowy peaks and find wonderful mountains whichever region you trek in.
I Want to Do Something Different. Where Should I Go?
Annapurna is the more popular trekking region but Everest Base Camp has become the most popular trek. These vast landscapes offer many unique adventures, and if you want to go off the beaten path, you can trek to a place where there is no path at all.
I Still Don’t Know Which Region
Of course you don’t. Neither do I and I’ve visited them both. Of course you still have questions as well. Which is why it’s best to speak to the real experts: i.e. the people who live and work in these remote mountain regions. It’s amazing how a short conversation can quickly signpost you in the right direction.
About: Stephen Bailey
Stephen Bailey is an award-winning travel writer and book author who swapped England for the world in 2011. His first book was published in 2008 and he spent many years editing travel supplements at Allied Newspapers. He now runs a travel marketing company, The Fat Dogs, which brings together some of the world’s most original travel writers and film makers, and he continues to search for stories that celebrate the world’s inimitability
Ask Stephen for his advice on Trekking in Everest Region
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