The 14 day Manaslu circuit trek is a great alternative trek to both the Annapurna circuit and Everest base camp. Particularly as this trek sees far fewer trekkers around only a third of the number that trek the Annapurna Circuit! Yet it is the perfect balance of nature and culture.
Here the people are Tibetan Buddhist heading north to Larkya La Pass you get very close to the Tibetan border. At 5167 m Larkya La Pass is a challenge and one you have to get up basically in the middle of the night to beat. But on this day the views of Himlung (7126 m) near Tibet and Kang Guru (6981 m) and Annapurna II (7937 m) in the Annapurna range make the tough trek worthwhile. Aside from the magical mountains, glacier rivers pounding passed, and, more than likely, snow to increase the fun on the Larkya La Pass, on this trek you will pass through pine, bamboo and rhododendron forests and see many Buddhist Gompa, Mani walls and prayer flags.
In the past this trek was camping. But today newly opened teahouses in Dharamsala mean it is possible to do this trek entirely by staying in teahouses. However, as it is a ‘road less travelled’ it is still hard to find correct information on the internet about the Manaslu circuit trek. Which is why I decided to write this post.
By using this guide you can get all the information you need to know about this trek before heading out.
Manaslu Region Map
So let’s start with the trek map where exactly is the Manaslu circuit trek?
While you will need to take a printed map with you on this trek, I am providing you with a link here to a map which will give you a good idea of the region you will be trekking in.
Manaslu Circuit Trek Itinerary
The usual itinerary is 14 days from Kathmandu to Kathmandu but if you are short of time, you can also adapt it to 12 or even 10 days. In November 2019 I did Manaslu trek in 13 days.
Based on my recent experience, I recommend you take your time, going at a slow and steady pass to both ensure complete acclimatization to the altitude and to enjoy your journey. It’s likely you will not be back again or at least not for some time, so why rush the experience?
Unless you are participating in the trail race around Manaslu that is. Yes! People actually run this area as you can see on this link.
But unless you are a trail runner and let’s face it, most of us are not please see my suggested 14 days itinerary of the Manaslu Circuit Trek below:
|Day 01||Kathmandu to Soti Khola Drive|
|Day 02||Soti Khola to Maccha Khola|
|Day 03||Maccha Khola to Jagat|
|Day 04||Jagat to Deng|
|Day 05||Deng to Namrung|
|Day 06||Namrung to Lho|
|Day 07||Lho to Sama Gaun|
|Day 08||Acclimatization Day|
|Day 09||Sama Gaun to Samdo|
|Day 10||Acclimatization Day|
|Day 11||Samdo to Dharmasala|
|Day 12||Dharmasala to Bimthang|
|Day 13||Bimthang to Dharapani|
|Day 14||Dharapani to Kathmandu Drive|
Your actual trek starts at Soti Khola but first you have to get there! There is no flight available so the only option is to go by road. You can choose between the local bus (no tourist buses on this route) or private jeep.
Kathmandu To Soti Khola By Local Bus
Buses leave the Dhading bus park, near the Gongabu bus park in Kathmandu every morning BEFORE 8am. Take a local bus to Arughat, then change to another local bus or jeep to Soti Khola. It takes approximately six hours to reach Arughat then another one hour to reach Soti Khola where you will need to overnight before starting your trek the next morning.
Kathmandu To Soti Khola By Private Jeep
If you hire a private jeep it will take you approximately six hours. You will also be able to have breakfast before setting off as you jeep will collect you at your hotel.
The trek ends at Dharapani. And from here there are a few options.
From Dharapani take a local bus to Beshisahar then change bus to Kathmandu or Pokhara. Or take a private jeep back to Kathmandu or Pokhara.
From Dharapani trek to Tal or Beshisahar and take a bus or private jeep back to either Kathmandu or Pokhara.
Note: It takes approximately 11 hours to get to Kathmandu or approximately 10 hours to go to Pokhara from Dharapani.
Trekking Permits For The Manaslu Circuit Trek
A total of three permits are required for this trek! They are a Manaslu conservation area project (MCAP) permit, an Annapurna conservation area project (ACAP) permit and a Manaslu restricted area permit. Details below.
Note: You cannot trek nor obtain this permit by yourself. You have to go through a trekking agency.
Manaslu Conservation Area Project (MCAP) Permit
- USD 30 per person
- Two photographs are required
Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) Permit
- USD 30 per person
- Two photographs are required
Manaslu Restricted Area Permit
- USD 100 per person for one week from September to November
- USD 75 per person for one week from December to August
Note: Your original passport is required to obtain the restricted area permit. Your Nepal visa should be valid for permit duration.
What Is The Best Time To Trek The Manaslu Circuit Trek?
In short, the best time is from September to November. But note the restricted area permit is higher in price during this period. The next best time to trek this area is mid March to May when the trail is full of flowers. On the down side it will be a bit hot and humid at lower altitudes at this time of year.
Since altitudes on this trek range from 600 m to 5200 m and you are passing through different climate zones it is really hard to find a balance between the weather and views. So really the time of year you chose to go is very much up to you and your personal taste.
Although my favourite and recommended time is September to November, you might prefer either the autumn or even the monsoon.
But be aware during the monsoon (June to September) the weather will be hot and humid and the trails very muddy at lower altitudes. During the winter the pass will also be blocked and therefore you will have to return from Sama Gaun the same way as you went. It is also very likely that the teahouse at Dharamsala will be closed.
Extend Your Trek To Tsum Valley
If you have extra time you can add a few days onto your trip and explore the Tsum valley before heading to Manaslu. Here in the Tsum valley, a hidden valley on the eastern part of the trail, you will find more monasteries to explore and learn even more about culture of the local Tibetan like peoples! But on the down side, there is another restricted area permit to buy. Including the Tsum valley into your Manaslu circuit trek is certainly a worthwhile addition but it will cost you another 5 days of time and the permit plus all the associated costs. Please feel free to get in touch with me if you think this is something you would like to find out more about.
Food And Accommodation On The Manaslu Circuit Trek
This trek used to be a camping trek but now there are teahouses (lodges) on the route. But they remain very basic. Up to Sama Gaun the accommodation is somewhat fine, and in Samdo the accommodation is more of a homestay arrangement. In Dharamasla there are two teahouses but you may need to sleep in a tent if the teahouses are crowded. The teahouse will provide you with a tent and a mattress.
Regarding the food, in Dharamsala it is quite limited and basic but otherwise you can expect the same standard of food you would find on Annapurna or Everest treks.
If you decide to add to your trip and head to the Tsum Valley you will find food there is very limited and as most teahouses do not have a cook, your guide or porter will most likely help the owner’s family prepare meals for you. Accommodation is generally okay and probably you will spend a night in a monastery.
How Much Does It Cost To Trek The Manaslu Circuit?
This trek cannot be done independently. Therefore, with the mandatory guide, and expensive restricted area permits the cost is a bit higher than the more popular treks. However, the experience is that of a quiet trail, not frequented by thousands of trekkers each year.
For the 14 day Manaslu circuit trek packages vary from USD 900 to USD 2800 per person.