Manaslu Circuit Trek, located in the northwest area of the country, is a world-class journey into the Himalayas. Some consider it the best all-around trek in Nepal, and it is a great alternative to the Annapurna Circuit Trek. It is truly one of the most adventurous treks in Nepal and the fact that it is not heavily populated by other trekkers is a huge bonus. The path joins two different regions: the Manaslu region with the Annapurna region. It follows a strenuous trail that circumnavigates the magnificent Manaslu(8156m) – the 8th tallest mountain in the world. Manaslu and the surrounding jaw-dropping peaks all around us soar high above the clouds.
At the beginning of the trek, we pass through ethnically Gurung villages. Reaching higher altitude, the population is almost completely Tibetan, and a different dialect is spoken. Throughout the Manaslu Circuit Trek, we are offered brilliant hospitality. They are kind and open-hearted. Much of the allure that comes with trekking in the Himalayas goes beyond the high alpine landscapes and snow-capped peaks. The warmth of the villagers is unlike anywhere else in the world.
The trail begins from SotiKhola (700m), along with the banks of the turquoise Budi Gandaki River. The area is home to rice fields, waterfalls, and fresh air. You are sure to find water buffalo roaming around, and keep a lookout for the dozens of other mammal species including the musk deer and in the higher elevation, you may catch a glimpse of the evasive snow leopard.
From here, we climb continually north and toward higher altitudes. High in these mountains, we may share the path with yak caravans. A major highlight of the trip is the Larkya La Pass(5135m) and Manaslu Base Camp where trekkers are exposed to awe-inspiring Himalayan views. The pass is usually covered in snow, which makes it a bit more of an adventure. We are eye-to-eye with these massive peaks, which make us feel humbled to be in their presence. The majestic views of the high Himalayas, dense forests, deep gorges, and the scattered mixed and ethnic settlements is not to be missed. Two days after the pass, we arrive in Dharapani, take a two-hour drive to Besisahar, and stay for the night. The following day we say our tearful goodbyes to the mountain and return to Kathmandu.
Best Time for Manaslu Circuit Trek
The best time for the Manaslu Circuit is autumn (second half of September, October, and November) and spring (March, April, and May). September provides post-monsoon blue skies, warm weather, lush greenery, and clear Himalayan views. October and November are the most popular months for this trail, as the mountain views are best and the weather is reliably pleasant.
Spring is an equally favorable season for the Manaslu Circuit Trek. After winter, alpine flowers begin to bloom, creating vibrancy in the high meadows. Open skies allow for amazing views of snow-capped peaks. In March, rhododendrons (Nepal’s national flower) begin to bloom. April and May are also popular because of the clear skies and warm weather. Although the Manaslu Circuit Trek can be taken anytime throughout the year, spring and autumn are considered the best seasons because of the mountain views and great weather.
Difficulty of Manaslu Circuit Trek
The Manaslu Circuit (with Manaslu Base Camp and Larke La Pass) is a moderate-grade trek. Starting at an altitude of 930 meters in Soktikhola, the trail leads all the way up to 5135 meters at the Larke La Pass. The trail is remote, rocky, and steep in some sections. The most difficult parts of the trek are the altitude and the rugged inclines/declines on the trail.
The total length of the Manaslu Circuit is 177 kilometers (110 miles). Expect to walk about 15-20 km per day for about 10-12 days. The first few days are spent on a steep, narrow trail that follows the Budhi Gandaki gorge. Then, from Lho village, the trail is smoother and not as steep, but the altitude gives trekkers a challenge. The altitude gets especially challenging on the hike to Manaslu Base Camp and crossing the Larke La Pass, but if you are well-hydrated, you shouldn’t have any issues. Taking in the spectacular beauty and experiencing the kindness from the locals will make you forget about all the difficulties.
Trekking Trail on Manaslu Circuit Trek
The first section, to Tatopani, is on a newly built road that does not allow vehicles. Then, the real mountain trail begins. It’s a bit rocky until Namrung, where the trail is nice and well-maintained to Samdo. The trail to Manaslu Base Camp is pleasant for about an hour and then it gets narrow and rocky you plan on going to Pungyen Gompa, the trail is flat for a while and then uphill and rocky to the gompa. From Samdo to Dharamsala is steep up and then steep down to Bhimtang. This trek is getting more and more popular each year, so it continues to be upgraded. Overall, it is safe and well-maintained.
Permits for Manaslu Circuit Trek
Manaslu Circuit Trek is considered a restricted area, in order to regulate tourism in the area. Solo trekkers are not allowed to enter the area without proper permits. To get the restricted area permit, there must be a minimum of two people in your group and you must be accompanied by a government-licensed trekking guide. If you do not have two people, you can bypass this by paying the permit price for a second person and going alone with your guide. This trek requires 3 different permits (4 if you would like to explore the Tsum Valley as well). The permit costs depend on the number of days and in which month you are trekking.
Manaslu Restricted Area Permit (RAP)
September – November: $100 per person for a week and an additional $15 per person per day from the 8th day and onwards.
December – August: $75 per person for the first week and $10 per person per day from the 8th day and onwards.
Manaslu Conservation Area Permit (MCAP)
The cost of the MCAP is $8 for SAARC nationals and $30 for all other foreigners.
Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP)
After crossing the Larke La Pass, you enter the Annapurna Conservation Area, where it is necessary to have the ACAP permit upon reaching the Dharapani check post. The cost for ACAP is $8 for SAARC nationals and $30 for all other foreigners.