Manaslu Circuit Trek Overview
Gaining in popularity by the year and dubbed by many "The New Annapurna" in terms of its overall appeal, the remote Manaslu Circuit Trek remains largely true to its reputation as an outstanding wilderness experience even as tea houses along the trail have made the hike easier in recent years from the perspective of basic food and accommodation needs along the way. Manaslu Circuit Trek remains far less crowded than some of the better-known routes through the Himalayas while offering all the classic aspects of a great trek, from cascading rivers and precipitous trails to stunning views and subtropical forests, glorious mountain scenery, and a gradual ascent to a breath-snatching high pass, and a host of side trips and add-ons that have the scope to turn the experience into an epic journey.
Skirting by the ice-cold waters of the Budhi Gandaki River to its source below Larkya La Pass (5106 meters)—and frequently crossing over the river on a slew of seemingly hair-raising suspension bridges that are sturdy enough for entire mule teams to use—the trek provides fascinating insights into the traditional cultures of the Gurung, Tamang, and Tibetan people living in peaceful coexistence within the valley's confines.
Reigning supreme over the entire region is the majestic Manaslu (8163 meters) and its striking twin peaks, skirted by glacial valleys, pine forests, and the scenic backdrop of the Ganesh Himal range. The trek essentially circles much of the mountain’s circumference until it crests Larkya La and drops into the neighboring valley of Marsyangdi, descending from there through the rock-strewn upper slopes and scenic alpine meadows to Dharapani, the modern trailhead for the Annapurna Circuit.
Getting to the Trailhead
Because the road extension is further than Soti Khola, the Manaslu Circuit Trek commences at Machha Khola after a 9-hour bus ride (150 kilometers) from Kathmandu, rather than staying in Soti Khola and walking on the road the next day. The trek proceeds steadily through densely forested paths and along the banks of the Budhi Gandaki, rarely straying far from the river’s torrid waters. After a few days, the trail veers at Jagat to the north-west and begins a steady climb to higher altitudes, leaving behind the tree line and winding up through picturesque mountain villages such as Namrung, Sama Gaon, and Samdo, with designated rest days at the latter two that allow for exciting excursions to Manaslu Base Camp, Pungen Gompa, and the ancient route to Tibet via Rui La Pass, 4998 meters. Larkya Pass is a mere two days of further hiking from Samdo, after which the trail descends to its conclusion at Dharapani, with the opportunity to pick up the Annapurna route there or visit the incomparable hidden valley of Nar Phu that branches off the trail.
The beauty of the Manaslu Circuit is that, aside from being one of the premium hikes in Nepal, it allows for more rewarding options than just about any other trek. One potential choice is to get even further off the beaten trail by choosing to take the upper Manaslu route, a scenically spectacular and rarely-taken path across the mountain. Another detour is the pathway to the magical Tsum Valley, long locked away from public view and only opened on a restricted basis in recent years. Or you could simply choose to forego the passage up and over Larkya La altogether and focus purely on the delights of Tsum Valley Buddhist culture and its famed monasteries.
The choices are yours, but whichever direction you choose to take, the staff at Nepal Trekking Experts is standing by to give you all the assistance necessary to get you on the path to Manaslu—it’s home territory for most of them, and we take great pride in showing off the area to the best of our abilities.
How difficult is the Manaslu Circuit Trek?
The Manaslu Trek isn't mountain climbing, and it requires no special training or prior experience either. We have successfully organized people ranging in age from 8 to 75. This trek is suitable for beginners, individuals, and family groups. While the landscape is rugged with numerous landslide areas, long-distance hiking, uneven trails, and crossing over the 5106-meter Larkya La, you may encounter difficulties. However, you will gradually build muscle and adapt to the terrain. Because the trek begins at 930 m above Machhakhola, you will gain elevation gradually, which will aid in acclimatization. This is why we recommend trekking, hiking, jogging, gym, cardio, and other physical activities regularly before visiting Nepal. In fact, the Manaslu Circuit Trek is not easy but doable and rewarding.
What is the best time to trek Manaslu?
Nepal has two periods of the year that are considered ideal for trekking: the spring season, which runs from March through May, and the autumn season, which runs from September through November. These two windows of opportunity offer fine weather for trekking, the best conditions and ideal circumstances for making it over the higher passes, a clear sky almost every day, smooth flights and transportation, and better odds for finding trekking partners.
For more information, please feel free to visit our detailed blog the best season to go to Nepal or contact our staff to discuss the multitude of options.
What are the required trekking permit and cost for the Manaslu Circuit Trek?
Trekkers required three different permits, such as:
- Manaslu Special (available from Nepal Immigration in Kathmandu and Pokhara) - It costs $100 from September to November for the first seven days plus $15 for each additional day, and $75 from December to August for the first seven days plus $10 per additional day per person. Also, a minimum of two people and a licensed guide is mandatory to obtain the Manaslu Circuit Trekking permit.
- Manaslu Conservation Area Project (MCAP) (Nepal Tourism Board, Kathmandu, and Pokhara) - It costs 3000 Nepali rupees per person, which can be obtained from the Tourism Board in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
- Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) (Nepal Tourism Board, Kathmandu, and Pokhara) - Also, it costs 3000 Nepali rupees per person, which can be obtained from the Tourism Board in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
For further details, go through the Nepal Trekking Permits and Fees Blog.