Everest Base Camp vs. Annapurna Circuit. How do you chose between these two classic treks? It will depend on what your priorities are as each offers something different. We’ve done both and have compiled a comparison to help you decide.
The highest mountain of the world, Mt. Everest, is set in the Khumbu region in northern Nepal. With stunning mountain views in almost every corner, Everest Base Camp is one of our favourite places to trek. The Annapurna Circuit is in western Nepal. It goes from lower elevations filled with jungles and rice terraces all the way up to a high alpine moraine. The villages at higher elevations have a fascinating history with flat-topped stone homes that look as they did hundreds of years ago.
1. Mountain Scenery
If mountain scenery is your main goal then Everest Base Camp (EBC) should be your choice. While both treks pass through the scenic Himalayas, the mountain views throughout the entire EBC trek far surpass those on Annapurna Circuit (AC). From start to finish, the wide Khumbu valley allows amazing Himalayan views. As with most mountains, they look different from various angles and you get to see some of this effect on this trek. Adding to the allure is the ability to see the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest.
Conversely, the Annapurna Circuit begins at lower elevations where it passes through a narrow valley offering fewer views. The mountain views don’t begin until you near the village of Manang. From there to the other side of Thorong La you are rewarded for your patience as there are spectacular views of Annapurna Massif.
Views on Everest Base Camp Trek
Views on Annapurna Circuit
Annapurna Circuit begins as low as 760 m in Besisahar and climbs to Thorong La at 5,416 m. Most of the hike is near 3,000 m. Because of this lower elevation, the hike takes you though lush walnut, bamboo and rhododendron jungles. In other areas terraced rice fields take over the scene. Because it is lower, it is much warmer, but there is a higher chance of rain and clouds.
EBC is much higher than AC. The trek starts in Lukla at 2,800 m and continues to climb to EBC at 5,380 m. By the second day you are already at 3,420 m in Namche Bazaar. In fact, you spend quite a lot of time above 5,000 m on EBC. When we did the 3 Passes Trek we spent over 2 weeks above 5,000 m. The risk of altitude sickness is greater, however it is easy to avoid by going slow and keeping hydrated.
The high elevation also means that Everest Base Camp is typically colder. Overall there is less vegetation in the region, but there are gorgeous rhododendrons around Namche Bazaar.
Vegetation on Annapurna Circuit
Vegetation on Everest Base Camp
The two treks offer different cultural experiences. The Everest region is filled with Buddhist structures. Homes in Annapurna’s villages have interesting architecture.
In the Everest region, their Tibetan Buddhist heritage is visible everywhere. Interesting chortens, mani walls and prayer wheels add to the spectacular mountain scenery. In addition, some of the monasteries in this region hold daily pujas that are open to the public. There are a couple of monasteries on the Annapurna trek, but they are smaller and don’t have large pujas, at least not that as far as we’re aware. There are Buddhist chortens in the higher regions in Annapurna, but they’re not as plentiful as on the Everest trek.
Everest Base Camp Buddhist monasteries and artefacts
Annapurna Circuit Buddhist monasteries and artefacts
Annapurna Circuit travels through unique villages such as Braga and Marpha. Their flat-topped, stone houses are built as they were hundreds of years ago. It’s like walking through a part of history.
The villages in Khumbu are not as unique and lately are more geared for trekkers than their local customs.
Annapurna Circuit villages
Everest Base Camp villages
4. Circuit vs. out and back
If you prefer a circuit trek where you don’t pass the same area twice, then Annapurna will be better for you. Although the Annapurna trek is not a complete circuit, it is circular with different beginning and ending points. Everest Base Camp uses the same trail both in and out. The solution to not having to repeat the trail on EBC is to do the Everest 3 Passes Trek. This allows you to get you off the main thoroughfare and avoid repeating certain sections.
Another thing to consider though is that Everest Base Camp is only accessible by foot. Only three days on Annapurna Circuit are away from the road.
5. Side treks
Both treks allow you to add extra days to see more amazing scenery.
If you’re going to go to Everest Base Camp, you need to strongly consider including Everest 3 Passes. The high passes take you away from the trekking highway and to less busy, breathtaking scenery. By doing the 3 Passes, the Everest trek far surpasses Annapurna in terms of views.
The extra hikes to consider when doing the Annapurna Circuit are Poon Hill and Annapurna Sanctuary. Both offer exceptional mountain views, especially at sunrise and sunset.
Everest 3 Passes
Poon Hill and Annapurna Base Camp
6. Trekking time
Trekking times for the normal routes on each trek are similar. The EBC standard route usually takes 12- 14 days. Annapurna Circuit can be completed in 10-13 days. With the road, you can do Annapurna Circuit in as little as 6 days, but you may have more problems with altitude sickness.
If you include the extra treks, both will take longer. EBC plus the 3 Passes will take 17 – 19 days. Annapurna Circuit plus Poon Hill and Annapurna Sanctuary takes 18 days.
EBC is more difficult to access, although that is changing. Currently you can take a 35 minute flight to Lukla and begin trekking on the same day. The problem with flying is that flights are often delayed or cancelled due to bad weather. Plan an extra 1 – 2 days on to your trip in case of bad weather. There are two trekking routes to EBC starting in either Jiri or Salleri. Both involve day-long bus rides and then up to a week of trekking. The Nepalese government is building a new road that will decrease this dependence on flights and multi-day approach treks.
A road allows you to drive to any starting point between Besisahar and Manang on Annapurna Circuit. It involves a long bus ride from Pokhara or Kathmandu and then a long jeep ride to your starting point. This is not an easy drive, however. The roads are very rough and are cut into the sides of the mountains. Landslides frequently delay traffic for hours.
8. When to trek
The trekking seasons are very similar for both treks, so it may not factor into your choice too much. Peak seasons are late March to mid May and late September to November.
9. Do I need a guide?
Both trips are possible to do without a guide. The trails are very easy to find and well worn. At anytime you’re not sure which way to go, there are usually plenty of locals that can point you in the right direction. If you want to hire and a guide and/or porters there are plenty of companies in Kathmandu and Pokhara offering services to both treks.
10. How Busy are the trails?
Both treks are very popular, but there are typically more trekkers in the Everest region. That combined with the fact that it is an out and back trek, means that most of these people are on the same trail. Annapurna is a little less busy, and since it is a circuit, people are continually moving forward and are more spread out.
11. Accommodation and Food
Both treks have a large number of guesthouses in all of the villages you pass through. They offer similar, basic rooms in both regions. Prices are very reasonable if you buy your meals from the guesthouse. Food choices and costs are roughly the same in both areas. As you get higher on Everest, prices increase for food and rooms.
Everest Base Camp is more expensive than Annapurna Circuit. Excluding the flight to/from Lukla, which is roughly $350 USD, accommodation and food are slightly higher on EBC. There are often fees for Wi-Fi and charging on the Everest route which may be free in Annapurna. Your expenses will amount to approximately $20/day for Annapurna and $28/day for Everest. The reason that Everest is more expensive is that there is no road access. Supplies are brought to the villages by porters, yaks or mules. (Note prices are as of November 2020)
Which ever one you chose, have fun and we can’t wait to hear about your trip!
Coming Next: Beautiful Chortens in the Himalayas
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