Raving about the wonders of the Annapurna Circuit trek is like saying the Grateful Dead is your new favorite band. People roll their eyes at your lack of imagination. The central Nepal trek is so well-known that it’s almost cliché. Travelers have been praising the 128-mile route, which circles Nepal’s heaven-high Annapurna range, as the holy grail of trekking since it was first opened to foreigners in the early 1980s. Sure, there are treks that are more rugged or more remote, huts that are more luxe, pilgrimage sites that are more holy, wildlife that’s more exotic, and even scenery–sacrilege!–that’s more beautiful.
But could another trail step up and swipe Annapurna’s crown? Nope. After hiking the circuit myself in the fall of 2008, with my wife Emily on our honeymoon, I must join the chorus of Annapurna groupies. Four decades after it opened, the circuit is as captivating as ever. Here are five reasons why Annapurna should be your next major trek (and a detailed guide to help you plan your trip).