Everest base camp or Annapurna base camp? It’s the decision every trekker has to make eventually before coming to Nepal. Trek to the base camp of the world’s highest mountain or trek to the sanctuary of gods? Both are the world’s greatest treks and most travellers end up trekking both in the end.
Annapurna Base Camp
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The gateway to the Everest region is Tenzing Hillary Airport, Lukla. It takes 40-45 mins of spectacular flight from Kathmandu airport to reach Lukla 2,800m/9187ft. During the peak season, there are more than 35 flights in one day. Grab a seat on the left side of the plane from Kathmandu to Lukla and the right side from Lukla to Kathmandu for views of the Himalayas from your seat. However, if you prefer a classic route and want to avoid the flight then you can drive to Jiri or Phaplu and start your Everest Base Camp Trek.
The starting point of Annapurna is Pokhara, the city of lakes situated 200 km SW of Kathmandu. To reach Pokhara, you can take either a 15-20 mins flight or a 6-7 hrs drive from Kathmandu. There are daily tourist buses departing for Pokhara from Kathmandu. Pokhara is also an ideal place to chill and is a hub for outdoor activities (Paragliding, Zip flyer, Rafting, Bungy Jump, Mt. Biking)
Everest region offers massive views of mountains all the way. If you want to be immersed in the mountains, then this is your place. Besides Mt. Everest, you will get views of Lhotse (the 4th highest mountain in the world), Nuptse, Ama Dablam, Thamserku, etc. From Kalapathar you can get panoramic views of the highest mountains in the world. This trip takes you through Sherpa land reaching amazing high-altitude scenery: the great monastery at Thyangboche, views of Ama Dablam, Everest and other grand Himalayan peaks
Annapurna offers much variety of scenery as compared with Everest with high mountains, low fertile lands, Petite thatched roofed villages, and Rhododendron forest. A great trek into Himalayan journeys of a unique kind as you enter into the inner chambers of the legendary Annapurnas. Hereabouts, massive mountains such as Annapurna 1, Annapurna South, Gangapurna and Machhapuchhre, surround the original geographic amphitheatre known as the Sanctuary of the Annapurna, a feast for the eyes that beholds nature at its zenith.
Everest Base Camp
The Everest base camp trek requires at least 14 days to complete, including international arrival and departure. The trek starts at an elevation of 2800m at Lukla and reaches up to an elevation of 5364m at the base camp. You will need to keep at least 2 acclimatization days at Namche and Dingboche for better chances of reaching the base camp. Many do the trek in 17 days itinerary keeping at least 1 free day in Kathmandu. Keeping one free day in Kathmandu is highly recommended as the Lukla flights are often delayed and cancelled due to poor weather.
Annapurna Base Camp
Annapurna base camp trek can be done in 10 days with international arrival and departure included. The trek reaches up to an elevation of 4130m and starts from Pokhara. The approach to Pokhara and the trek starting point are accessible by both air and land. The chances of Pokhara flights being cancelled are very slim as compared to Lukla. However, delays are frequent and we recommend staying a night in Pokhara before the trek. A standard itinerary of Annapurna base camp will be of 12 days keeping a free day in Kathmandu after the trek.
Trekking to Everest Base Camp is physically strenuous in terms of its high altitude. The maximum altitude is 5,545m/18,193ft at Kalapathar and you will need to sleep at a higher altitude at Gorekshep 5,140m/16,865ft. You will reach the elevation of 3,450m/11,319ft on Day 2 of the trek so make sure your itinerary is devised well-keeping plenty of rest and acclimatization. Trek to Everest Base Camp involves daily trekking of approximately 7 – 8 hours along rocky ridges of high Himalayan peaks. Trekking in Everest doesn’t require previous experience but one should be moderately fit and have the ability to enjoy walking and adapting to high altitude conditions
Moderate to fairly challenging. The trail is not difficult in a way that would tire your limbs. You’d enjoy the trip because you will be trampling through numerous pretty villages along the way. Annapurna is also less touristy and crowded than Everest. Maximum altitude is 4130m/13550ft at Annapurna Base Camp and on a daily basis, you can expect to be walking for about 5 – 6 hours. The perfect setting for an introduction to moderate & challenging trekking in Nepal. Activity level is fairly easy but does expect ups and downs as well for there will be hills to climb as well and the well-known ‘Nepali flat’ – a little bit up and a little bit down.
People and Culture
Sherpas live in the upper regions of Solu Khumbu. They emigrated from Tibet about 600 years ago. The Khumbu/Everest region has provided a strong group of able-bodied, hardy and fearless Sherpa guides. Sherpas practise Tibetan Buddhism, which is also known as Lama Buddhism.
The most prominent ethnic groups in the Annapurna region are the Gurung and Thakali. The famous Gurkha Soldiers hail from this region and most likely you will get to walk through their villages.
Both treks have their own unique experiences and they both deserve to be included in a list of the world’s greatest treks. If you are looking for a more adventurous trip into the high altitude, then Everest is your place but if you are looking for a moderate and diverse trip then head to Annapurna.
If you got time and energy we’d highly recommend visiting both regions.