The most common question we get asked by travellers interested in a trek in Nepal is: should I go to Annapurna or Everest? So here it is – our guide to which one you should choose for your next trekking adventure.
Of course it’s not an easy question to answer, as each experience is brilliant, so we’d say try both! But if you are short of time, and have to choose one, we have some pointers to help make your decision a little easier.
Trekking to Everest Base Camp is something many aspire to and to say the feeling of achievement once you reach it is rewarding is an understatement. The Annapurna, on the other hand, can offer trekkers more diverse scenery, insights into village life and treks at generally lower altitudes... with a stunning mountain backdrop.
The easiest way to compare the two is to look at a few different aspects of what each region has to offer:
When Hillary and Tenzing were successful in getting to the summit, the only way was to walk from Kathmandu as no road went anywhere near this part of the world. These days there’s a spectacular flight to the tiny airstrip of Lukla, perched on a hillside. The views on the way in (and out) are spectacular, and worth the trip alone.
The gateway to the Annapurnas is the funky town of Pokhara, situated on the shores of Phewa Lake. A laid back atmosphere makes for a pleasant way to spend a few days before or after a trek. Pokhara can be reached by bus or via a short flight from Kathmandu.
The towering mountains of the Everest region are unrivalled anywhere in the world for their majesty and sheer size. When getting close to Base Camp or the Gokyo Lakes, you are literally surrounded by the mountains – they tower above you and their stark beauty takes your breath away. If you want to be immersed in the mountains, then this is the place to be.
A trek in the Annapurna region generally starts in the fertile lower foothills of the Himalayas and you can expect to trek through terraced rice fields, then oak and rhododendron forest as you ascend. If you’re in the Annapurna region in April, the rhododendron trees will be in bloom – they are simply beautiful. The mountains form a spectacular backdrop, as do the lush terraces, dense jungle and farming communities. When you get in amongst them, the mountains are spectacular. The sacred mountain Machapuchare, or ‘Fish Tail’, is the most iconic image of the region. Of course the imposing 8000m giant, Dhaulagiri, is equally impressive also.
The main goal of most trekkers to the Everest region is to reach Everest Base Camp, where the majority of climbing expeditions base themselves for their May ascent of the mountain. However, there is more to this region. The Gokyo Lakes area is well worth the detour, as are some of the lesser trekked ‘high passes’ such as Cho La. If you’re looking for a spot of mountaineering, Island Peak is a challenge with some truly mind blowing views from the summit of some of the world’s biggest mountains.
Up, down, up, down, and a little up. The foothills of the Himalaya are never simple – A to B always has some ups and downs! While the Everest area, by its nature, funnels trekkers up the Khumbu Valley, the Annapurna region offers a wider array of trekking routes. You can choose a short, easy trek that doesn’t exceed 2000m altitude (Annapurna Mountains & Wildlife) or head above the rice fields and jungles and get up close to some of Nepal’s most beautiful mountains in a more challenging trek (Annapurna’s Holy Lakes & Glaciers).
Traditionally populated with the Sherpa people and Buddhist monasteries, there is a strong sense of spirituality in the Everest region. The Sherpa village of Namche Bazaar is a meeting place for Tibetan traders to vend their wares to the Nepalese. In fact ‘Sherpa’ means ‘East people’ as the Sherpa people migrated from Tibet several hundred years ago. If you are trekking in late March or April, it is possible that you’ll come across teams headed for their bid to climb Mt Everest.
There are many permanently settled villages in the Annapurnas and in the lower foothills, farming communities predominate. One of the main groups you’ll encounter is the Gurung people, particularly in the village of Ghandruk. It is also highly likely that you’ll walk through villages that are home to the famous Gurkha soldiers, who hail from the area. Insights into Hinduism and Animism bring the communities to life.
As we said, it’s the most common question that we are asked by potential trekkers – ‘Everest or Annapurnas?’ It’s also the reason that I have been back to Nepal nine times and still can’t decide which one I prefer. If you’ve got the time (and the energy!) then I’d recommend a visit to both regions to decide for yourself. Put simply, in the Everest area you’ll generally be trekking at a higher altitude, with less vegetation, more dramatic ‘up close’ mountain scenery, Sherpa/Buddhist culture and a focus on Mt Everest. In the Annapurnas, you tend to make your way through diverse, changing flora, see more ‘village life’ while enjoying the really beautiful Annapurna range. And as I said, the rhododendrons in April are a sight to behold.
About the Author
Paddy Scott is our Online Marketing Manager and has been travelling to Nepal since he was seven. He has been a leader for several treks in both the Annapurna and Everest region, and wishes he could be back there right now!
Would you rather trek the Everest or Annapurna region? Do you have any Himalaya trekking tips? Please join in the conversation in the comments section below.