Annapurna Circuit - Best Time to Go

by Kshaunish Jaini

For those of you considering an Annapurna trek, we’re going to look at when is the best time to go and what kind of weather to expect in Annapurna. In the north of Nepal lie the Himalayas, a range of some of of the world’s tallest mountains. Within these is the Annapurna massif, which boasts 13 peaks over 7000m, 16 over 6000m and Annapurna I - the 10th tallest mountain in the world, at over 8000m. The region is full of trekking opportunities offering excellent mountain views, bringing in thousands of visitors a year. The two most popular trails there are the Annapurna Base Camp trek and the world-renowned Annapurna Circuit , although there are many other great routes in the region.

Annapurna Weather

The Annapurna is located in a rain shadow, the surroundings sheltered by the shield of Himalayas around it. This means although there is bad weather, even in monsoon season and winter it’s often possible to hike the trails in the area all year round. However, mountains by their nature can bring unpredictable weather especially once you get to high altitudes, when sudden changes can occur. You should always be prepared for any type of weather even in peak season ( See the recommended packing list for Annapurna ). Most of the Annapurna treks venture up high passes and valleys, where you can experience unpredicted rains and even snow at the highest points. You should bring appropriate clothing for any conditions. Bad weather can cause sections of routes to be closed, particularly in winter and monsoon season at bottlenecks like the Thorong La Pass on the Annapurna Circuit, and the final leg up to Annapurna Base Camp which is prone to avalanches.

Annapurna Circuit Weather Forecast

Sunlight breaking through the clouds in Annapurna

Sunlight breaking through the clouds in Annapurna. Photo by Davide

Annapurna Seasons

From June to September the monsoons start, bringing a lot of rainfall. The southern areas around Pokhara and Annapurna Base Camp get plenty of rain, but are usually still trekkable - however visibility can be poor with lots of clouds. In the northern regions though around the top of the Annapurna Circuit, it’s much drier. October to November is peak season with the warmest and clearest weather for all of the treks. December to March is winter, with very cold nights (dropping below zero at night in places) and with snowfall at high altitudes. However trekking is still possible, although clouds often obscure mountain views they are interspersed with clear days. The spring months of April and May are warm and clear, good trekking months. It can get hazy during this time, affecting views. At lower altitudes it can become very hot and humid, and especially hot in the Mustang region in the north of the Annapurna Circuit.

Annapurna Blizzard

In 2014 a major trekking disaster occurred in Nepal when the tail end of a cyclone passing through the country caused a sudden and powerful blizzard, causing multiple deaths on high Himalayan trekking routes. On the Annapurna circuit, 21 trekkers died around the Thorong La Pass, the highest point of the route at over 5000m. This was in October at the height of peak season, when weather is usually good. Authorities were blamed for not responding or getting word about the impending storm to the region fast enough. But many of the trekkers were also young, not experienced in dealing with severe conditions and were not properly equipped for poor weather. Since then, the Nepalese government has vowed to have a weather warning system in place on major trek routes and built a number of extra shelters at the highest points. It’s vital that if you will be trekking through very high altitude areas you are prepared for extreme weather - bring warm clothing and check weather conditions before entering them. If you don’t feel comfortable in pushing onwards then wait. In the 2014 incident, some of the guides and porters accompanying the ill-fated groups told them it was fine to continue up the pass when it started snowing. Use your own judgement and do not take unnecessary risks - the conditions can change within an hour at those heights.

Annapurna Circuit Best Time to Go

When deciding when to do an Annapurna trek, you need to take into consideration two factors: weather and visitor numbers. If you are after the best views and weather then go in peak season - but visitor numbers are very high. It’s quieter and cheaper in winter and the rainy months, but your views won’t be as consistent. Still, there are plenty of clear days even at these times so many trekkers prefer to go then.

Here is a monthly breakdown of what to expect, to help you decide when you might want to trek.

clear weather Annapurna

Annapurna in November. The photographer experienced lucky weather, having such visibility all day long is not that common after the monsoon. Photo by Jean-Marie

Annapurna November

October > November

Peak season and Autumn in Nepal. The most popular time of year to trek in the Annapurnas, when visitors flood into the region. These months see the best weather of the year, with consistently clear skies and views. Nighttime skies are clear and bright, great for star-watching. Rainfall is only occasional with sunny days for the majority of the time. Temperatures are moderate and it can get even quite hot during the day, although still drop to zero at night at high altitude. Greenery is luscious and abundant after the monsoon season. However the huge numbers of trekkers in the region mean that trails are busy and tea house accommodation on the routes fill up very fast - meaning it’s usually necessary to book well in advance. It’s also the most expensive time to trek.

Annapurna Winter

December > March

Winter. Temperatures drop, although in daytime it’s warm enough to trek with decent clothing. At night and early morning it gets cold, night temperatures fall to sub-zero at higher altitudes (even as low as -15 degrees celsius at Annapurna Base Camp). The Thorong La Pass on the Annapurna Circuit and other high altitudes like Annapurna Base Camp see snowfall and can at times may closed for safety. Winter clothing is essential and a winter/4 season sleeping bag if your accommodation doesn’t provide blankets. Teahouses on the trails remain open for business. Although views can be covered by clouds, there are still clear days meaning trekking can be worthwhile. There is occasional rain. The start of spring around March>April, sees the rhododendron forests in the southern parts of the trails spring into bloom making for an attractive landscape, but the period is also prone to avalanches which can block off higher paths. Trails are very quiet during these months and prices are cheaper although you may pay a bit extra for heating and boiling water at accommodations.

Annapurna Weather in April

April > May

The second peak season. Spring continues for a green landscape and the rhododendrons continue to be in bloom. Skies are clear although hazy days and low cloud are frequent which can hinder views. Temperatures begin cool and get gradually warmer, even hot at times, but still fall very low at night. By the end of May it can start to get hot and humid on lower trails as monsoon season approaches. Rainfall is scattered but becomes more frequent, sometimes seeing storms towards the monsoon. This is quite a busy time of year for visitors but not as crazy as the October/November crowds and prices rise accordingly.

Annapurna August

Annapurna June

This is a powerful monument to one of the past climbers that had died on the mountain. Picture taken in June by Adam

June > September

Monsoon season. Lots of rainfall (70% of the year’s precipitation occurs during these months) and heavy rains or storms from time to time. It rains much more in the southern parts of the Annapurnas including on the Annapurna Base Camp trek. Around Mustang at the top of the Annapurna Circuit it is much drier, being more protected by the mountains’  rain-shadow and so it’s much more advisable to trek in this region during the monsoon. Trails become muddy and can be slippery. Some paths can be closed due to mudslides, avalanches or bad weather. Clouds often block views, but on the plus side much of the flora in the area blooms making, the nature vibrant. This is a quiet trekking period with few people on the trails, accommodation remains open though and prices will drop. This is the worst time of year to trek but people still manage to have good experiences, especially in the north.

Annapurna Circuit Best Time

So as you can see, you can really do an Annapurna Trek at any time. If you book in advance and don’t mind the crowds then October/November is the best time to go and when you’re pretty much guaranteed to get good weather with great mountain views. September/December tend to be decent too, just try and book later on once you have finalized the routes you want to trek and have a better idea of the weather conditions.

Taken during one of the best times to trek the Annapurna Circuit

Taken during one of the best times to trek the Annapurna Circuit. Photo by Jonny

After October/November, April/May is the next best option, with decent weather and views with lower number of trekkers, but it might be advisable to stick with treks which go to higher altitudes giving you more chance to beat the haze and cloud with your views.

Trekking in the winter months of December>March can give you mixed results, but the chance for clear days make it worth the cold. Be aware about the starting points like Jomsom and places like Thorong La Pass and Annapurna Base Camp being closed from snows - it might be better to stick to lower level treks or at least have a backup plan if you are heading to those locations.

Trekking in the monsoon of June>September is a gamble and you will probably get wet and not get many good views due to cloud. Head to the north if possible around Jomsom/Mustang or do the Annapurna Circuit which passes through that region, where there’s much less rain. People do trek during monsoon and some still have a great time - so don’t completely write it off.

Planning the Annapurna Trek

We hope you found this article useful in deciding when to head to the Annapurnas. Why not check out our other articles, with lots of advice and tips for planning an Annapurna trek . See you in the teahouses!

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