I was asked by Rajesh, a good friend and the manager of Nepal Trekking Experts, to come up with the top 10 reasons why you should do the Manaslu Circuit Trek. Already out of breath just thinking about the altitude, and then more so when remembering the alluring culture and the resilient people I got to spend precious time with on the way. I said I would give it a go.
Whilst there are many reasons why people should seriously consider the Manaslu Circuit Trek, I thought ten reasons was a lot without repeating myself. It certainly is a wonderful trek, with just about everything. Manaslu is a restricted area to limit the number of trekkers to the region; this helps greatly in preserving the essence of both the natural and cultural beauty. The following conditions apply: I have provided a detailed breakdown of permit costs at the end of this blog.
- Manaslu Circuit Trek
- Manaslu-Tsum Valley Trek
- Tsum Valley Trekking
- Manaslu Circuit Alternative Route
- Manaslu Circuit Upper Route
Ten Reasons to Hike the Manaslu Circuit Trek
To Be Away from the Crowds
The Manaslu Circuit Trek takes you far away from the crowds, on a wilderness trail so neatly secluded and hidden well from the ravages of over-commercialization. It is not a trek for the "weak of heart", nor do you have to have six packs in your legs to enjoy it.
Manaslu is both a magical and alluring journey, made for fit trekkers who want a more intimate and unique experience of these glorious mountains. The trek will almost definitely test the comfort zone at times; however, any pain is more than compensated by arguably the most outstanding views anywhere in the Himalayas.
A Mountain View to Die For
Well, hopefully not. A good agency will always make sure you acclimatize properly, with rest days tailored into your itinerary to minimize the risk of any altitude problems. Get ready for a feast of magical experiences, with close encounters and intimate reflections upon these majestic snow-clad peaks—peaks only the Himalayas can conjure up. There are some breathtaking views much of the way; Mt. Manaslu (8163m), Himal Chuli (7,893 m), Shringi (7,187 m), Ngadi Chuli (7,871 m), and Ganesh Himal (7422m) all play their part at some stage, along with sweeping vistas of the Annapurna range.
A Diverse Journey
On a trail that begins at around 600 meters and reaches its highest point at 5160 meters, it is hardly surprising that the Manaslu Circuit Trek is a very varied one. The scenery along the way provides the very best of what Nepal has to offer. To begin, the trail winds through the lush subtropical jungle at lower elevations, with forests of rhododendrons, oaks, pines, and junipers. Rushing rivers, rice paddies, and cascading waterfalls all add to the rich early few days, with a fantastic deep gorge to negotiate. As you move higher, the air gets thinner and the terrain gets rougher. When you leave the lush green landscape behind, you are met with dry, rocky, and arid conditions. The high, cold, and challenging upper region leading up to the Larke La is both testing and challenging in the midst of an almost surreal landscape.
People of the Region
If this is your first journey to Nepal, I’ll wager most of you are thinking of mountains, mountains, and more mountains, and why not? After all, they don’t get any bigger or better. I would also make a bet that when you finally return home, perhaps sat around a cozy fire, the spirit and heart of the Nepalese people will certainly play a big role when you recount your experiences.
The region sits on the border with Tibet, where the ancient culture, carved over many lifetimes, basically remains intact. Medieval would be a good word to use when describing the people of the region. The trek takes you back to a respectful time when life was hard yet somehow more pure and simple. Manaslu shares much of this, with its culture and history tied very much to the neighboring territory of Tibet. Buddhism oozes from the earth here, with many monasteries, prayer walls, prayer wheels, and colorful prayer flags all set within a mosaic of ornate mountain architecture. The very bond that is likely to keep the region intact, at least for the foreseeable future.
A trail rich in biodiversity
The Manaslu Region provides a rich and diverse habitat to a range of rare animals. While not confined only to this region, many of these animals are not found in most other areas of Nepal. The elusive Snow Leopard, Red Panda, Himalayan Black Bear, Serow, Himalayan Tahr, Ghoral, Barking Deer, and Wild Boar all make their homes here. Danfe, Nepal’s beautiful national bird, resides at lower altitudes.
Trek part of the Great Himalayan Trail
The Manaslu Circuit Trek is one of the most dramatic parts of "The Great Himalaya Trail," a single long-distance trekking trail of around 1700 km running (no pun intended) from the east of Nepal to the west.
A Little Bit of Historical Heaven
The trail goes very close to a beyul, meaning a hidden valley reminiscent of paradise, which can only be reached with enormous hardship, often encompassing hundreds of square kilometers. Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, was an 8th-century Buddhist master who blessed the region as a refuge, one of only four in Asia.
The Challenging Larkya La
Ganja La is the longest Himalayan pass in Nepal, dividing the region of Manaslu and the Annapurna Region. Be prepared for a four- to five-hour slow and steady lung-testing ascent, sometimes on difficult glacial moraine. There is a lot to keep you company on the way, with the impressive Larke Glacier and four frozen lakes as you make your way up to the pass. There are also some stunning views of Cho Danda and Larke Peak as you go. The conditions for crossing the pass vary greatly, depending on the time of year. In spring and autumn, the conditions are generally favorable. In winter, it is obviously a lot colder, with the pass susceptible to closure due to snow. Larkya La is not technically difficult, but a good degree of stamina certainly goes a long way to making it easier. The descent from the pass follows the top of the moraine to the west and makes a set of steep, rough switchbacks over the moraine before descending more gently on loose gravel to a grassy area at 4,450m and often down to Bhimthang to rest up and overnight after a long day.
Precious Gems Along the Way
Serang Gumba is a small piece of natural beauty standing at the foot of Shringi Himal. It is well worth a visit to Serang as the valley surrounding Serang is considered to be one of the four beyuls (hidden valleys often encompassing hundreds of square kilometers, which Padmasambhava blessed as refuges). They describe valleys reminiscent of paradise (which can only be reached with enormous hardship; see Wikipedia) hidden among the Himalayas of Asia as identified by Guru Padmasambhava. Also, he is supposed to have meditated here. The Shringi Himal, situated behind the gumba, is a blissful mountain with great religious significance. The gumba is also a Lama school where students study during the warmer months, then migrate to Kathmandu during the harsh winter.
Samagaun—Birendra Tal (Lake)—Manaslu Base Camp
Birendra Lake, named after the late King Birendra of Nepal, is a beautiful glacial turquoise lake formed from the melting ice at the foot of the Manaslu glacier. While not directly on the trail, it is an easy side trip that takes around forty minutes from the village of Samagaon (3520m). Samagaon itself is a very old Tibetan village with a monastery and numerous chortens. The village acts as the base camp of Mt. Manaslu (8163m). As the majority of itineraries set aside a rest day here for acclimatization purposes, a trip to the lake is well worthwhile. Watch out for the many yaks and dzopkyos who like to keep you company on the way.
Hinang Gompa and Himalchuli Base Camp 4020 m
As the Manaslu Circuit Trek route goes through the settlement of Lihi Phedi, a walk to Hinang Gompa is well worth an excursion. It takes around an hour from Lihi village as you make your way up the Hinang Khola and then on to the large Hinang Gompa. The monks at the monastery are very welcoming, and they are only too willing to share their culture with you. It is possible to stay overnight here with a basic room and basic food. Carrying on from the monastery up to a hill ridge, there is a spectacular mountain view. If you go further, you can visit the Hinang Glacier; if you do this, it is best to take your guide with you.
A brief view of Comfort on the Way
Few lodges have internet access, but access is not always the best. Do not expect pizzas and chocolate cake on the way. You are trekking on a trail way off the beaten track, very different from the comforts provided by many of the lower-altitude Annapurna treks. Lodges (while improving) are basic, serving primarily healthy local produce and local fare. Also, it is a good idea to bring your own sleeping bag, as you cannot guarantee the quality of the bedding provided by the lodges. Toilet facilities (again, improving) are basic, and hot showers are a luxury (in this case, a bucket or two of hot water). Having said this, it is often the basics that draw both the locals and trekkers alike together to fully appreciate their surroundings. Stay safe and have a wonderful time in the mystical classroom of culture! Happy Travels!
Permit information and costs for the Manaslu Trek
The Government of Nepal has declared the Manaslu Region (between Jagat and Dharapani) a restricted area to control tourism in the region. As a result, independent trekkers are not allowed to travel in Manaslu, and all trekkers are subject to obtaining a special entry permit. The government rules also state there must be a minimum of two trekkers in a group, accompanied by a local guide. Additionally, your permit must be processed through a registered agency. Freelance guides cannot issue the necessary permits for the Manaslu Circuit.
Three different permits are required for the trek, and an additional one for Tsum Valley Trekking should you decide to combine the two treks into one big one!
A Manaslu Circuit Trekking permit is required from Jagat until you cross Sama Gaun. Once you cross the village of Sama, you need another entry permit (ACAP)! The price for the Manaslu Restricted Area Permit depends on the number of days you spend between Jagat and Dharapani. The last checkpoint for the restricted area permit is at Sama Gaun.
- September to November: USD 100 per person for the first seven days and an additional USD 15 per person per day from the eighth day onward.
- December to August: USD 75 per person for the first seven days and an additional USD 10 per person per day from the eighth day onward.
- Manaslu Conservation Area is Rs 3000, and Annapurna Conservation Area is Rs 3000 per person.
Moreover, to get into the details, you can visit our specific blog, Nepal Trekking Permits and Fees.