In 2014, my wife and I did the Annapurna Base Camp Trekking. We were so enthralled by landscapes, people, colours and light that we had to return to Nepal and to attempt the Annapurna Circuit. We were thrilled but also anxious about trekking over 5,416 m altitude (the target altitude on day 11 of the trek), whilst at home in Germany we live just at 45 masl.
We booked a package containing two porters and one guide (all English speaking), accommodation and meals, and transportation with Breakfree Adventures. Breakfree Adventures was recommended by my companys office in Kathmandu. After the sudden and tragic events at the circuit in October 2014, we did not wish to do any compromises with the company organising the trek (the readers may recall that a cyclone over India caused heavy snowfall in the Himalaya and trapped trekkers at and around the Thorong-La Pass; it was a sad tragedy and the news went around the world). Our intention was to go with an absolute professional company and experienced and English speaking guide. We checked various sources of customer reviews, including Trip Advisor and all feedback on Breakfree Adventures read impressively positive. Hence, we decided to test Breakfree Adventures. The correspondence was quick and informative. Rates were competitive, and when eventually planning the programme and trekking schedule, Breakfree Adventures was very flexible and included all our suggestions. And indeed we were not disappointed. Guide and porters were professional, very kind and polite, and extremely attentive throughout the trek. We could not have made a better choice. The accommodation arranged was always top range of the guest houses; the budget for food was generous and we were taken well care of from the first day until the last day. We have no hesitation to recommend Breakfree Adventures as a trekking tour operator and organizer for any such tours in Nepal.
As most trekkers, we did the Circuit anti-clockwise. We started on Nov 23 for a 14-day tour inclusive travel from Kathmandu to Besi Sahar (by vehicle) and return travel from Jomsom to Pokhara and the day thereafter from Pokhara to Kathmandu (both by air). The trekking itineraries of the Circuit are all similar but the breath-taking part of the Annapurna Circuit definitely starts in Upper Pisang with beautiful vistas of the mountain range and the valley (Annapurna II is just opposite). Photographers can live out all passion and take beautiful night and early morning shots of the Annapurna range (ideal before sunrise). Note, Upper Pisang is definitely worth staying a 2nd day. There is much to see and to discover. The Himalaya Hotel (just below the monastery in Upper Pisang) is a very commendable choice to stay. The views from their balcony and dining room are spectacular.
Another stop to remember was Brakha, which is just about 30 trekking minutes before Manang. No question, Manang is a must town to visit and most trekkers stay in Manang. But our reason for staying in Brakha and not in Manang was the easier access and ascent to the Ice Lake (a climb of 1,200 altitude meters) and on the other side of the valley the reach of the Milerepa Cave and the Glacier Viewpoint. When staying in Brakha, an excellent choice to stay is the Himalayan Lodge, a superb guest house with comfortable rooms (toilet and bathroom attached to the rooms) and an exquisite cuisine with surprising international flair. It out-rated all guest houses we stayed before during the trek.
Yak Kharka is another perfect spot for night photographers. It is just one night before Thorung Pedi and Thorong-La Pass next morning. I took a series of good shots of the Milky Way before midnight (a tripot is a must). The lower mountain range in Yak Kharka is a fantastic foreground for astrophotography and the clarity during the night was fantastic (early December).
Overall the Annapurna Circuit is doubtless one of the world’s most spectacular treks and we will long remember the days. If you have the time, take a rest day at the Fishtail Lodge in Pokhara, a superb hotel on an island in the Phewa Lake and near the main commerce street in Pokhara. It is a beautiful spot to find the sense of time again after having lost it during the trek.