As time passes by and traveling becomes more accessible to everyone, more people visit the majestic Himalayas of Nepal. Most people that visit Nepal head take the most popular treks like the Everest Base Camp trek or the Annapurna Base Camp Trek or some less strenuous treks that can be done independently like the Poon Hill Trek. However, if you ever did one of these treks, you know how crowded these trails get and how this can negatively affect the whole experience. Fortunately, there are still some less frequented trails in Nepal. One of them is the Manaslu Circuit Trek. The word Manaslu means “The Spirit Mountain” in Nepali and if you get to this remote, serene trail, you’ll understand why Nepali people chose this particular name for this majestic mountain…
Why Manaslu Circuit Trek?
Firstly, it’s a lot less crowded as some of the most famous treks in Nepal while the scenery is just as beautiful. The Government opened this trek for the public in 1992 and has since been open only to trekking operators, so it can’t be done independently.
Secondly, trekking the Manaslu Circuit Trek will show you the diversity of Nepal; you’ll trek from the subtropical jungle to some of the snowiest, coldest, and most challenging passes in the Himalayas.
Thirdly, even though you can only access this trail with a tour agency, it’s still budget-friendly. The trailhead is reachable overland and you won’t have to pay for a domestic flight and there are a lot of teahouses along the route, so you don’t have to bring your own tents and food. However, there are still some things you need to know before packing. For more information, check out my ultimate Nepal packing list.
Finally, the Manaslu region is restricted in attempts to preserve the natural resources of the region and its cultural heritage. Hence, this trek offers the perfect mix of Nepal’s rich cultural heritage and the mesmerizing beauty of the Himalayas. Since the trail is located near the border with Tibet, you can encounter some unique ethnic groups, hear different dialects, and explore one of the most beautiful parts of Nepal.
The cost of trekking the Manaslu circuit depends on the duration of your trip as different tour operators provide different packages but all of them vary between 14 and 18 days. If you’re confident that you can cover a lot of ground in a day, I suggest you choose a tour operator that provides the shortest tours. The main costs related to this journey are the permits, accommodation, food, and of course the cost of hiring a guide. The region is restricted and if you want to trek the Manaslu Circuit, you need to have a guide with you, according to local regulations. Since the route is less frequented and more isolated, this trek is a bit more expensive than the Annapurna Circuit Trek.
To sum up, here’s a rough estimate of all the costs related to the Manaslu Circuit Trek.
- Between $20 and $30 per day for hiring a guide
- You’ll need between $120 and $170 for permits, depending on the season you’re visiting and the duration of your stay
- Prepare between $5 and $9 per day for accommodation
- The average meal will cost you between $2.5 and $5
Manaslu Circuit Trek Difficulty
The Manaslu Circuit Trek is rated as a challenging trek. This means that you don’t need any previous trekking/climbing experience but you need to be physically and mentally prepared for the trip. The highest point of the trek is the Larkya La Pass at 5,160 meters.
Would you like to explore more not-so-popular but majestic trekking routes in Nepal? Check out my guide to Nar Phu Valley.
The weather and best time to visit
The starting point of this trek is at 700 meters above sea level while the highest point is at 5,160 meters. This means that in a few days of trekking, you’ll experience significant differences in the weather. In the first days of the trek, the weather will be warm (unless you’re visiting in the winter) and it will get colder as you reach higher elevations. Additionally, the climate conditions vary depending on which time of the year you’re visiting. The monsoon season is between June and August and the winter lasts from December till March. The monsoon season is too hot, humid, and oftentimes rainy while the winter is too cold. Hence, the best time to do this trek is either April/May before the monsoon starts or September/October after the monsoon season is over.
Manaslu is a restricted region and if you want to visit, you’ll need three different permits. The first one is the Manaslu Rap Permit. You need this permit for exploring the area between Jagat and Sama Gaun. This permit costs $70 for 7 days and an additional $10 for every next day. If you’re visiting between December and August, the cost of the permit is $50 for the first 7 days and $7 per day for every next day.
The next permit you need is the Manaslu Conservation Area Project Permit (MCAP). You need this permit to explore the Manaslu Conservation Area. This permit costs $30 per person and you need a printed photograph.
Finally, the last permit you need for this trek is the ACAP permit. You need this permit for exploring the area between Dharapani and Beshi Sahar. Similarly like the previous permit, the ACAP permit costs $30 per person and you need to carry a photograph with you.
Getting to the trailhead
The Manaslu Circuit Trek starts 120 kilometers away from Kathmandu. Reaching Soti Khola or Aarughat Bazaar (the two most common starting points) takes around 5-6 hours by jeep and 7-8 hours by public bus. Either way, you don’t have to take an expensive flight to reach and you can save a lot on transportation, compared to other popular treks.
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The Manaslu Circuit trek has 11 major stops that have several tea houses for travelers that pass by the area. There are 7 guest houses in Sama Gaun, 5 guest houses in Soti Khola and Bimthang, 4 in Maccha Khola, Jagat, and Lho, 3 in Deng, Namrung, and Samdo, 2 of them in Dharmasala, and several different guest houses in the last stop Dharapani. Most of these tea houses provide basic conditions; shared toilets, heating only available in the dining area, and rooms that have only beds (most of the time). All tea houses have their own restaurants that serve mostly Nepali food but you can also find a few that serve (overpriced) continental food. Wi-Fi is available in most tea houses (for most of the year) but is relatively slow. That’s why it’s probably a good idea to get your local SIM card. If you are planning to get a SIM card, go for Nepal Telecom. In this region, their coverage is far better than rival Ncell.
Manaslu Circuit Trek Highlights
- The drive from Kathmandu to Arughat is one of the most scenic drives in Nepal. You get to see Kathmandu from above and see how the capital becomes smaller and smaller as you get deeper into the Himalayas.
- You’ll get to see amazing views of some of the highest mountaintops in the Himalayas, including Himalchuli (7,893m), Shringi(7,187m), NgadiChuli (7,879m), and of course- Manaslu (8163m) which is the eighth-highest mountaintop in the world.
- As mentioned above, Manaslu is one of the most remote parts of Nepal but also a region with a rich and very unique culture. The friendly locals and the rich local culture which is a mix of Nepalese and Tibetan elements is always an extra reason to visit.
- Passing the Larkya La Pass is without a doubt the highlight of the trek. It’s the highest point of the Manaslu Circuit Trek and the best viewpoint in the region.
- Seeing the abundant wildlife of Manaslu, including Agali (Blue Sheep), Tahr (Mountain Goat), Himalayan Marmots, the highest living mammal in the world- Pika, and, if you are lucky you might even come across a snow leopard.
1st Day: Kathmandu to Soti Khola (700 meters)
It’s best to start your tour from Kathmandu. You’ll need to take a jeep or a bus to Arughat and trek from Arughat to Soti Khola and spend the first night here.
2nd Day: Soti Khola to Maccha Khola (900 meters)
Prepare for a day of strenuous trekking. The route from Soti Khola to Maccha Khola is quite rocky and narrow. It will be difficult but the stunning views of the surrounding countryside will keep you going. The route leads through Sal Forest and passes by many different waterfalls, towering cliffs, and endless stretches of greenery. Needless to say, you will end your first day with some amazing pictures, and even more amazing memories.
3rd Day: Maccha Khola to Jagat (1340 meters)
The third day brings another exciting adventure. The route to Jagat follows the road on the bank of the Buri Gandaki River through the forests. In sections of this trail, you can come across a lot of Gray langurs and monkeys. If you want to take a shortcut, you can save up to three hours if you cross the wooden bridge at the exit of Yaruphant on the left side of the river. Not too far lies the village of Jagat. Here, you need to present your permits and after that, you’re officially in the restricted region.
4th Day: Jagat to Pewa (1600 meters)
The trail from Jagat to Pewa passes through a beautiful forest filled with rhododendron and Himalayan pine. Along the way, you’ll see some very interesting “sculptures” on the river bank boulders made by the rapid mountain streams. After 5-6 hours of trekking, you’ll finally reach Pewa; a charming mountain village with only two tea houses but supposedly the best Dal Bhat in Nepal.
5th Day: Pewa to Namrung (2630 meters)
The fifth day brings one of the longest distances covered in a day. You’ll probably have to wake up at sunrise in order to complete this route before nightfall. This route will take you through a bamboo forest, several dramatic suspension bridges, and a few landslide areas, so be careful.
6th Day: Namrung to Lho (2957 meters)
The trek to Lho goes through a few small, authentic villages along the way. The Nubri people that live here have a very unique culture which is a fusion of Nepalese and Tibetan elements. Once you reach Lho, you’ll get the first sight of Manaslu, the highest mountaintop in the region (8163 meters).
7th Day: Lho to Sama Gong (3540 meters)
If you have a history of struggling with altitude sickness, it’ll probably start on this day. The route from Lho to Sama Gong isn’t long but is very steep. That’s why you should divide the trek in few shorter walks to give your body enough time to adjust. Some people use the 8th day as acclimatization day and they decide to take a side trip instead of continuing the Manaslu Circuit Trek. If you have problems with altitude sickness, I strongly suggest you do this too. And if you don’t, your next stop is…
8th Day: Sama Gong to Samdo (3865 meters)
Samdo is one of the most picturesque villages in the region. The views are truly amazing and you will come across a lot of yaks along the way. You can take your time wandering around, as this will be a slow walk due to the increased altitude difference. On the way, you’ll come across the Kani village, famous across the country for yak herding.
9th Day: A trip to the Tibetan border (5100 meters)
Even though not a part of the trek, while you’re in Samdo, it would be a shame not to make it to the Tibetian border. The viewpoint which isn’t too far from the village sits at 5100 meters and offers some spectacular views of both, Nepal and Tibet.
10th Day: Samdo to Dharamsala (4460 meters)
By now, you’re probably used to the high altitude and you’re ready for one of the hardest days of this trek. The route to the beautiful village of Dharamsala leads through rugged terrain and rocky paths but the views you’ll get at Dharamsala are absolutely worth it!
11th Day: Dharamsala – Larkya La Pass – Bimthang
The 11th (or 12th day depending on your itinerary) is the day when you reach the highest point of this trek; the Larkya La Pass. The trek can be quite challenging if you’re visiting in the winter but if the weather is fine, it’s completely doable even for beginners. Here, you’ll get some of the most spectacular views of some of the highest mountaintops in the world, including the majestic Manaslu. After a shortstop, the trek continues down to Bimthang (3590 meters) where you’ll spend the night.
12th Day: Bimthang to Tal (1700 meters)
This is the last trekking day. The journey is over. You might think climbing down is easy, but don’t underestimate it. A lot of trekkers burn out and get muscle inflammation while climbing down rather than climbing up. If you make it on time, you can spend the night in Tal and catch a bus/jeep from there in the morning. Alternatively, if you don’t make it to Tal before nightfall, you can stay in Dharapani and trek to Tal in the morning.
As I mentioned above, hiring a guide through a tour operator is a must if you want to experience the Manaslu Circuit Trek. My choice for this trek was Himalaya Hub and I recommend them to all travelers planning to explore this part of Nepal. For more information about this tour, you can contact Himalaya Hub at +9779851013032.
A few more helpful tips
If you’re looking for some healthy snacks to bring for the trip, check out this selection of dried camping food for backpacking by Wise Food Storage.
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Whether you’re trekking or climbing high altitudes, the best travel insurance you can find is World Nomads. Their claim payment process is super quick and their customer service is superb.
Did you ever visit the Manaslu region? What are your experiences? If you didn’t, would you like to visit someday? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!
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