For the past month, we talked about the Everest Base camp, how one could reach there, the fitness levels required, the best routes to take, the major attractions, and if taking the Gokyo-Ri trek is worth the extra distance and time. We were also able to close almost all our treks to EBC, and the response was so overwhelming that we had to add a couple of other trek groups too. Now, we are excited about the Annapurna treks.
Nevertheless, we are very happy about it, and we started this blog with a big thank you to you all for making it possible. One query that kept coming up when we discussed the EBC trek was about fitness. What if someone isn’t as fit enough and yet wants to explore the beauty of the Himalayan region? Well, yes, and the answer lies in the Annapurna Base Camp and Annapurna Circuit Treks.
While we will be discussing these treks in other blogs of ours, let us first try and compare both of them so that you can decide which one would suit your needs better. In all honesty, we love both the treks and beauty-wise, they both have their pluses which cannot be ignored.
Now you tell us, can you pick a favorite between Rajma Chawal and Chhole Bhature or say Hindustani or Carnatic music? Both categories are amazing; hence, given the dilemma, we have prepared a comparative list for you. We will discuss the routes, the elevation, and the highlights, and then you can take your pick! Confused still? Go for one this year and another one next. Life isn’t that short, and you can go on as many adventures as you want! So, without any further ado, let’s discuss!
The Routes to ACT and ABC
The trail is usually one of the biggest deciding factors when choosing a trek. Once you have reached the summit or your destination, it is all beauty and happiness. But, when you are on the route, putting in those steps and losing energy, the situation isn’t as happy for everyone. Anyway, when we talk about ACT and ABC treks, the duration for both stretches for about a fortnight.
So, if the duration was a deciding factor, you can throw it out of the window because it won’t matter. Both the treks i.e. the ACT as well as ABC have the same starting point i.e Pokhara. As a matter of fact, almost all the Annapurna Region treks start from here only. The ACT trek, though, gets slightly more strenuous over time. This is because the trekking trail of the ABC trek comes after passing through the famous Sherpa and Gurung villages such as Ghorepani, Dovan, and Deurali.
The Annapurna Circuit Trek instead takes you to high mountain passes and the famed Muktinath temple. So while most of the terrain for ACT will be full of high passes and steep slopes, ABC trek is more through alpine settlements.
1. The ACT Route
The ACT route is full of waterfalls and pine forests. This lush trek turns to arid slopes as soon as you reach Manang, which makes for a beautiful site. The terrain becomes a bit tough post Manang as one is required to make a steep ascent across the grasslands and past the juniper trees. A day is usually allocated in Manang for the much-needed acclimatisation. A glacial lake is nearby, which you can visit if you want. This glacial lake, also known as the Gangapurna Lake, is just half an hour away from Manang and will give you legit Pangong lake vibes!
2. The ABC Route
The ABC trek route is comparatively easier, with its first leg covered in a drive. After that, you come across several waterfalls, and the initial few kilometres would be an uphill trek through the forests. After that, there will be a sharp ascent to Poon Hill. About 3,209 m (10,528 ft) above sea level. The grasslands here are just like the African Savannah- they are just too long- so much that you may get lost in them (just kidding- don’t get scared). Followed by this, there would be a rapid descent of roughly 900m and one final ascent to the base camp that comes after crossing a huge ice field.
The Altitude: ACT vs. ABC Trek
We had talked about AMS quite a lot in our EBC treks. The same holds here as well. Not everyone can get acclimated to higher altitudes, given how the air density gets thin there. Plus, the terrain is tougher and rougher at higher altitudes, which can also become a pain point. Hence, the elevation or the altitude of the destination becomes a major deciding factor for most people. With this in mind, we will compare the altitude of both these treks. The Annapurna Circuit trek takes you to an elevation of 5,416 m (17,770 ft), while the Annapurna Base Camp Trek ends at an elevation of roughly 4,200 m (13779 ft).
This makes a difference of approximately 1219 m which is quite a lot by any given standards. Now, while you can still see some greenery at 3209.5 m, at 5,416.3 m, it’s all barren lands, glaciers, and snowy cliffs. So, depending upon the final view that you would want to take, you can take your pick here. In our opinion, while the ABC Trek is well suited for people with moderate fitness who haven’t trained a lot, the ACT will require dedicated terrain training and a way above-average fitness level to complete.
The Major Attractions: ACT VS ABC Trek
Now that the physical aspects of both the treks have been discussed let us look at the major highlights that both of these treks hold for us. While some of our readers may have already decided which trek to take by the time they reach here, we would still insist that you read what is coming next.
1. The Native Villages on ABC Trek
If you choose to take the ABC trek, you will come across multiple local villages, which will give you a window into the varied culture of this region. One major highlight is the Ghorepani village** which is situated on a high pass above the Kali Gandaki river gorge. This village offers a stunning view of the Annapurna and the Dhaulagiri range. You may also choose to climb to Poon Hill, where you can catch a mesmerising view of not just the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri but also Manaslu. Plus, unlike what you’d expect from such heights, the region has tall alpine grasses (specific to the summer season) that add to the beauty of the scenery like anything. Next on the route comes the Hinku Cave, an intriguing place in its might, and the beautiful Deurali Village, where you can stop for some locally flavored tea. In addition, the terrain is full of coniferous forests of fir and pine, followed by brown, almost barren slopes. A relatively easier trek and terrain generally, you don’t have to think twice before picking up the ABC Trek. ** Ghorepani village can also be seen on the ACT route
2. The Changing Terrain: Highlight of the ACT
Now while the ABC trek is fairly easy to traverse, the changing, sort of unpredictable terrain forms the biggest highlight of the Annapurna Circuit Trek. When you start your trek driving from Kathmandu, you can see heavily forested areas full of deciduous vegetation. The pine trees start showing up near the Jagat area, and this cover keeps getting dense as one moves towards the Dharapani region. Once you reach Chame and traverse through what remains of the pine forests, you go on for a steep climb on the ridge via the alpine grasslands. Further, as you close towards Manang, the terrain changes again and becomes rocky and loose with barely any trees or cover. The biggest highlight of this terrain is the Thorong La- the highest mountain pass in Nepal. While the climb is difficult, we can tell you that it will be worth your while. PS: The ACT Trek also includes another flight from Jomsom to Kathmandu, which flies directly over the Himalayas, thus giving you a breathtaking view of the region.
3. The Spiritual Angle: A plus for ACT again
The Annapurna Circuit Trek allows you to visit Muktinath- a small pagoda-style temple considered sacred by Buddhists and Hindus. The temple also has multiple natural springs around it where you can bathe. With trees all around and a shallow pool on both sides with a view of snow-covered mountain peaks, this temple is a major tourist attraction too.
The Time to Decide: ACT vs. ABC Trek
So dear Nomads! This was it from our side about which of the treks you should pick. Ideally, if you are physically fit and work out fairly regularly, you can go for the Annapurna Circuit Trek directly. Once you have enjoyed the terrain’s views and challenges, you can return for the Annapurna Base Camp trek in another couple of months as a refresher. For those who want to trek more for enjoyment and would want it to be comparatively easy and breezy, suggest you go for the Annapurna Base Camp trek first. Then, if you feel like and have done adequate training, you can return for the Annapurna Circuit Trek. At the end of the day, it is the Annapurna peak that matters, and we can assure you that no matter which treks you take, this Massif will blow your mind!