Annapurna Range is roughly shaped as horseshoe; Circuit follows perimeter on the outside, while ABC goes straight to the middle through horseshoe inside. There is no link between the two 'somewhere in the middle'. Following map, lifted from here
, illustrates this:
[Horseshoe, angled to the right ~40 degrees. Circuit is dotted green line; ABC trek is thinner red line. Circuit start/end points are indicated with green rectangles -- Besisahar right and Birethanti left. Red dots are villages where you can overnight in one of the 'lodges'. Only link between the two is at Ghodepani / Poon Hill (center left), or at the very end of CCW Circuit loop at Birethanti. Birethanti is also the usual ABC trek start
Circuit looks big, and at one point it took 3 weeks to complete. Not so anymore as roads are getting built deeper and deeper. Nowdays it is possible to drive all the way to Manang at east side and Muktinath at west side. This effectively reduces number of walking days to only 3 -- if one would decide to drive what was possible and have no altitude / acclimatization issues. I even heard of MTB races across Thorang La -- hard to believe! All this has insanely commercialized once iconic wilderness trek; This was one of reasons I decided to do it now while there is still something left.
Area is also insanely busy in prime trekking season -- October / November. Solitude and room in lodges is not easy to come by. So I picked December when crowds are largely gone. Yes it is significantly colder, but living in Canada I figured this was not something I could not live with; clear air for crisp photos was another incentive. If you are willing to rough it a bit, I'd recommend this strategy as I had whole thing most of the days entirely to myself!
There are little route-finding issues. Way is obvious and also marked with red/white squares painted on rock. I still suggest getting a map, but wait till you are in Nepal -- selection in either Kathmandu or Pokhara is excellent, and cost of such map is ~5USD only. Due to above mentioned road construction, and point where you start / end trek there are choices; at several points "low" routes stay on the road, while "high" routes are trails, and although longer, much more scenic and highly recommended. In hindsight 2 out of 3 best days I had on Circuit were Pisang to Manang high route and Muktinath to Jomson high route!
ABC is different, and roads have not reached that far so you have to walk. Main issue with ABC trail are stairs; constant up and down staircase for large part which tires you, and real trail starts only not long before Macchapuchre base camp! Leeches are presumably danger as well if you go in rainy season, but I had no such issues in December.
My trek went as follows:
Day 1) Kathmandu - Dharapani drive (bus + jeep). Start hiking at 1900m elevation (critical decision that helped me acclimatize; most trekkers nowdays will start walking from Chame at 2600m or even higher)
Day 2) Dharapani - Chame
Day 3) Chame - Pisang
Day 4) Pisang - Manang
Day 5) Rest Day in Manang (3600m)
Day 6) Manang to Yak Kharka
Days 6 and 7 were planned for side trip to Tilicho lake. This photo, lifted from Shutterstock, made me drool & make plans to go there:
It never happened due to snow storm forecast, but I'd likely not have such view as in December lake is already frozen. For these kind of colors and conditions I was told one has to visit Tilicho in September/October.
Day 7) Yak Kharka to Thorang Pedi
Day 8) Thorang Pedi -- Thorang La crossing -- Muktinath
Day 9) Muktinath - Jomson
Day 10) Jomsom - Pokhara
I planned to fly from Jomson, but above mentioned snow storm ruined this & I had to take local bus. In hindsight this was the crux of the trek. 10 hrs on ultra rough road, bouncing all the way with crummy seats - and already tired from previous days. If you can, fly from Jomsom; it is worth avoiding the hassle.
Day 11,12) Rest Days in Pokhara
Day 13) Bus Pokhara to Birethanti then hike to Hile
Day 14) Hile to Ghorepani
Day 15) Poon Hill Sunrise then Ghorepani to Tadapani
Day 16) Tadapani to Sinuwa
Day 17) Sinuwa to Deurali
Day 18) Deurali to ABC
Day 19) ABC to Sinuwa
Day 20) Sinuwa to Jhinu Danda
Day 21) Jhinu Danda to Siwai then Bus to Pokhara
Day 22) Pokhara to Kathmandu on a "Tourist" Bus (more on that later)
There were also 2 extra days in Kathmandu on start and 1 extra day at the end bringing full count to 25 (excluding arrival / departure days). For this 30 day Nepal Visa was necessary & it cost me 50 USD.