Yen Nguyen Yen’s roots are in Central Vietnam although she studied in Ho Chi Minh and worked in Hanoi – covering both ends of the country! Working with the Animal Asia Foundation, Yen turned vegetarian so has her pulse on what vegetarian travellers want. She backpacked around Europe while based in Ireland and is currently living in Nepal with Pradeep and their two dogs. “Our dogs are part of our travel team and we take them trekking throughout Nepal.”

Manaslu Circuit Trek 13 Days Itinerary

12 min read

Nepal is a country of spectacular nature & a heaven for trekking lovers, which has kept me coming back for more since 2015. Having done a couple of short hikes/treks here in the past, this time I opted for a longer-duration and more challenging one. Among a variety of 2-week treks it seems difficult to make the decision. I finally narrowed it down to Annapurna Circuit & Manaslu Circuit trek. Considering how popular the Annapurna region is, and being much of an anti-fan of big crowd, I chose Manaslu Circuit in the end.

Oh, and did I mention that, unlike previous times, I have a trekking companion this time, a four-legged one to be specific! My super duper dog named Fluffy!

There were not much updated information about this trek when I was doing my research prior to the trip. So during the trek, I collected as much information as I could and am going to share with you all my itinerary & the details of my trip here.

Note: In this article I am presenting to you a detailed day-by-day itinerary of the trek I’ve done only. I’ll share more information about other aspects of this trek in different posts.

Read – Complete Guide To Manaslu Circuit Trek

Day 01 Kathmandu – Arughat – Soti Khola by local buses

Destination of the day is Soti Khola the starting point of our trek. But as there’s no direct bus between Kathmandu – Soti Khola we need to catch our bus to Arughat first.

Kathmandu Arughat Local Bus
Local buses at the New Bus Park

There are plenty of local buses leaving for Arughat from the New Bus Park. They leave every 30 minutes, start as early as 6 in the morning & last buses around 1 in the afternoon.

Fluffy and I started off early as we need to be at the bus station before 7 am. I booked the tickets in advance so just need to find the right bus by the time we’re there. To my surprise, the bus was quite comfortable. Or as it goes, if you keep your expectation low things will turn out just fine.

Except for a 30-min traffic jam leaving Kathmandu valley & the deteriorated, bumpy road section from Dhading, our trip was as smooth as it gets, given the road & traffic condition in Nepal. Fluffy got his own seat (and inevitable attention) on the bus. We made friends with a few other trekkers on the same bus & doing the same circuit trek.

kathmandu soti khola transport
Fluffy being an independent trekker and all

We arrived at Arughat around 1:30pm, got dropped off by a bridge crossing Budhi Gandaki River. From here, we walked a bit further to the main bazar and found the ticket counter for our next bus. The bus leaves 30 minutes later. And it was one heck of a roller coaster ride for both of us.

arughat soti khola local bus
Our local bus to Soti Khola

Poor Fluffy was constantly getting some air time while the bus speeding along rocky trail & over giant potholes! The dreadful journey ended an hour later. We finally reached our guest house in Soti Khola, dropped our backpack and stretched our sore bodies.

Fluffy deserved some freshly boiled chicken for dinner while it’s still available. From the next day onwards, he needs to survive on the canned & dried food I bring along.

Day 02 Soti Khola – Maccha Khola

As of Nov 2019, although not fully completed, the motor road had already been opened up to Maccha Khola. I talked to some Nepali trekkers who arranged a local jeep from Soti Khola to Maccha Khola to save some walking hours. It was the only jeep I saw on the road that day. I can easily foresee how in the near future the trek’s starting point can be switched to Maccha Khola instead.

Anyways, today is supposed to be a warm-up day. We eagerly set off after some chya & bread for me (And left-over chicken from last night for Fluffy). It’s quite foggy in the morning but soon clears up as we go.

soti khola to maccha khola
A foggy morning leaving Soti Khola

We followed the gentle trail overlooking the Budhi Gandaki river to its right. Caught a few glimpses of Shringi Himal (7161m) from far distance.
After a tea break midway, we crossed over the first of the many suspension bridges to come during this trek.

manaslu trek suspension bridge
Our first suspension bridge of the trek
manaslu trek road
Trail to Maccha Khola

We reached Maccha Khola in early afternoon. The hike took us less than 4 hours. Some other trekkers chose Maccha Khola as their lunch stops and continued onto the next village Khorla Beshi. I decided to stay as I was told the lodging situation is better here.

After lunch, with lots of time to kill before the night falls, I took Fluffy exploring around the village, chit chatting to locals with my broken Nepali.

Our room in the guest house was basic but had a private bathroom with hot shower – a luxury compared to the situation over the remaining days of our trek.

Day 03 Maccha Khola – Jagat

We started around 7:30 am. The walk today is longer with more ups & downs, which I still find relatively easy. For Fluffy it’s no sweat. This boy has endless energy to burn! It took us about 7 hours including lunch, tea breaks & lots of photo breaks.

manaslu trail river
Leaving Maccha Khola

We came across many beautiful waterfalls en route. And an interesting Buddha portrait on a rock wall.

buddha portrait manaslu circuit trek
Buddha face on a rock wall

About an hour and a half into the trail, we reached Tatopani, which means hot water in Nepali. There’s a natural hot spring upon entrance to the village. While I am daydreaming about a hot bath, Fluffy stays as far as possible. This boy has never been a fan of water, be it hot or cold!

We continued to Dobhan, our lunch stop for the day. I start appreciating Dal Bhat more and more into the trek given how much energy the body consumed over long walks.

manaslu cantilever bridge
Fluffy posing in front of a bridge anchored to the rocky cliff after leaving Yaru Bagar

I met a German couple on their way back. They couldn’t continue the trek due to food poisoning  caused by a kati roll they had before leaving Kathmandu. So guys, be careful with the street food, it might cost you the trip you have long planned for or in some cases it can be worse.

mules in manaslu trek
Mules on their way to work

Finally we reached Jagat mid afternoon. The village is the entrance to Manaslu Conservation Area where you need to register your entry permits at check post. Jagat is a very pretty village with traditional stone walled houses nestling neatly next to each other. Fluffy made lots of local furry friends here. But he cared more about food today. Time for dinner and heading to bed early, we need to be prepared for another long walking day tomorrow.

Day 04 Jagat – Dyang

We set off early around 6:45 am. Today we crossed even more suspension bridges with spectacular waterfall backdrops.

waterfall manaslu
Caught a rainbow waterfall on our way

On some sections of the trail, the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake can still be seen through existing landslides and hazards. It’s even more dangerous when every once in a while a herd of mules passes through. We were told to steer clear of the cliff edge in such situation. There were unfortunate incidents in the past where trekkers got kicked off the cliff by the mules and ended up losing their life. So you really need to watch out!

manaslu trail logistics
Dangerous trail

The second half of the walk today after Ekle Bhatti was a pleasant and stunning one, taking us through verdant green pine forest overlooking the turquoise blue water of the Budhi Gandaki river. The trail separates after reaching Gampul. To the right is to the next village Lokpa for those heading towards Tsum valley. We continued straight, saving Tsum valley for next time. I met a few trekkers who were back from Tsum and continued onto the full circuit, who said the trip was totally worth an extra 7 days.

dog and trekkers manaslu
Fluffy enjoying his freedom on the trail
manaslu trek difficulty
Beautiful pine forest

The winding trail took us through a cool and relaxing bamboo forest before reaching Dyang around 4pm. A bit weary but we soon cheered up upon checking in our cute little room in the newly built wooden lodge.

manaslu crop harvesting
A local man near Dyang

The best part is we are the only guests in this lodge!! I bet this hardly happens on the Annapurna Circuit trail! I got to experience local hospitality at its best. They got too excited over the fact that I am trekking with my dog. The lodge owner pampered me with the best local food available in the kitchen. Fluffy got some fresh chicken meat! It’s the owner daughter’s birthday too so we all celebrated and danced together, excluding Fluffy, who was too busy and happy with the chicken to give a fluff! It’s a full moon and starry sky. What a happy night!

Day 05 Dyang – Namrung

Since we are making our way up, it’s getting colder and colder day by day. But the body heats up quickly once you’re on the move.

village in manaslu trek
A small group of settlements along our trail

After leaving Dyang, the trails gradually ascends to Rana, then Bihi Phedi village. We were among the early birds on the trail but there are even earlier mules! Fluffy learned his lesson today. He got too close and kicked by an annoyed mule. Poor boy became extremely cautious to these animals ever since.

view of manaslu
Mountain view on the way

I had the most tasty Dal Baht for lunch under the warm sun in a beautiful teahouse garden in Ghap. It took 3 and a half hour from Dyang to Ghap. Fluffy received a red-carpet welcome by a group of school children when entering the village. That’s the cutest thing! Everybody thinks he’s a fox!

dal bhat in Gap
Dal Bhat 24 power

From Gap, it’s another 3 hours till Namrung. And it was a fantastic hike. We pass through beautiful Buddhist prayers-encrypted mani walls and had such a romantic walk through the jungle. Autumn was blossoming. The colors were amazing. Not sure if Fluffy appreciated the beauty but he surely enjoyed his freedom in the wild nature.

mani wall manaslu circuit
A mani wall
budi gandaki manaslu
Beautiful autumn
flower manaslu
Colors of autumn

Namrung appears in sight after a long continuous climb, with a bonus dangerous edge walk at the end. At the village entrance point, a big gate to the ‘fancy’ Nubri Four Season Resort stands strikingly out, with a bakery stall at the front. Quite pricey but only few can resist the temptation at this point! I am obviously not among those few!

As soon as we checked in our room, Fluffy automatically switched to a resting mode. The long walk has finally taken its toll on both of us.

dog trekking in bimthang
Fluffy can barely keep his eyes open

Day 06 Namrung – Lho

Leaving Namrung, the trail peacefully leads through golden millet terrace fields in between picturesque villages. Local villagers happily smiled at us, looking so beautiful in their traditional Tibetan styled dresses. It felt like a dream, until Fluffy’s encounter with an aggressive local dog reminded me of reality!

manaslu valley
Golden millet fields
paddy field manaslu
A peaceful village

The trails starts ascending to Lihi, then Shyo village. We took a break by the roadside to refresh ourselves with water & snacks/treats. Fluffy was invited by a local man to his house for lunch!

manaslu teahouse
On our way to the next village Lihi
chorten manaslu
A Chorten standing in front of Shyo village

The autumn display of the sal & oak forests was amazing as we leave Shyo heading towards Lho. The beautiful white peaks make a perfect background for those patterning of colors.

Autumn display
Stunning colors of autumn

We reached Lho around 1pm.

lho village manaslu
Reaching Lho
manaslu local village
Fluffy resting his paws on a pile of millet straw while some curious villagers looked on.

Apples still grow at this altitude. It’s the end of the season already but I was lucky enough to get some. Super tasty!!

Our accommodation for tonight is a pretty wooden cottage. I noticed many new wooden lodges cropping up along the trail. The Manaslu Circuit trek is getting popular.

teahouse in lho manaslu
Our cute little cottage in Lho

Interestingly enough, I found out that it costs as cheap as NPR 500 to get a permit for chopping down any tree in the forest. The costly part is to get them sawed into planks and brought back to construction site.

manaslu local people
A local boy in Lho

After lunch, we hiked up Lho Monastery, from where we got a majestic view of Manaslu.

manaslu sunrise
World’s 8th highest mountain

Day 07 Lho – Shyala – Sama Gaun

It’s another short distance day but we must take it slow due to the high altitude. It takes approx. 2 hours to Shyala following some moss-covered paths along the crystal clear stream under the pine forest. Manaslu stays in sight most of the time. We had such amazing weather.

manaslu from lho
Manaslu from another angle

At Shyala we got a panoramic view of the mountain range. It’s just getting more and more stunning as we go.

school kids manaslu
Local kids in Shyala

From today we shared the trail with runners from the Manaslu Mountain Race. Fluffy was competing with them at some legs! I have no doubt he can easily win the race.

manaslu trail run
Fluffy wanted to join the Manaslu Trail Race
entrance to samagaun
A local man on this way to work

After another one and a half hour walk, it’s a gentle descent to a flat area with vast yak pastures on both sides before we enter Sama Gaun at midday.

view of sama gaun
Way to Sama Gaun
monk in sama gaun
Cuteness overload

There’s a large Buddhist gompa with prayer wheels at the entrance of the village. Sama Gaun is a huge settlement with lots of facilities compared to the previous villages we’ve been to. We’re going to stay here 2 nights for acclimatization.

sama gaun manaslu circuit
Sama Gaun
sama gaun manaslu
Prayer wheels at the entrance to Sama Gaun

Such a relief getting rid of the backpack, we happily headed for Birendra lake after lunch. It’s a one hour hike and you’ll reach this stunning glacial lake. The scenery on the way is nothing short of impressive. Fluffy was excited the whole time until he realized I was taking him to the water! He still reluctantly followed me though. We had some alone time contemplating about life by the lake.

horse ride manaslu
This horse just stepped straight out of a fairytale
birendra lake sama gaun
Fluffy in front of Birendra lake
birendra lake manaslu circuit
The beautiful Birendra lake

There are two options to choose for the following acclimatization day: Manaslu Base Camp or Pungen Gompa. The runners are heading to Base Camp so I chose the Gompa.

Day 08 Sama Gaun acclimatization day

local villagers manaslu
Curious local looking at Fluffy

It’s a chilly day. I wish I had Fluffy’s coat at this altitude. We had our breakfast, packed some small lunch and headed off. We walked back the same trail we entered yesterday till there’s a wooden board suggesting direction to the Gompa to the right.

way to pungen gumpa
It’s a steep rocky climb
trail up monastery
A strenuous walk

It’s a majority of steep climbs, passing through some landslides before reaching a large open plateau at the end. It took us two and a half hour including the drama of Fluffy chasing after a mountain goat and then me chasing after him.

goat manaslu
Fluffy spotted this poor baby goat & started chasing after him

It got quite cloudy when we reached the Gompa. We even got some snow. The mountains looked so close, as if they are just a few steps away. It’s a great side trip.

pungen monastery manaslu
Pungen Gompa
way to pungen monastery
On our way back from the Gompa

We made it back to Sama Gaun in early afternoon and took our time exploring the village. Fluffy wanted to befriend some yaks but they were not interested.

yak head pungen
A yak’s head

Day 09 Sama Gaun – Samdo

The air is getting thinner by day so I tried to maintain a slow steady speed. After a beautiful sunrise on our guesthouse’s roof top & full breakfast, we left for Samdo. I tried to tell Fluffy the peak behind him is the world’s 8th highest but he’s not that impressed.

dog and manaslu peak
Fluffy in front of Manaslu peak

We continued the beautiful rocky trail, crossing yak pastures, mani walls and some small settlements on the way.

After crossing a wooden bridge, we climbed up a steep hill ridge and continued walking a bit further till Samdo came to sight.

Crossing a wooden bridge
chorten in samdo
A chorten at the entrance to Samdo

The walk today took only 3 and a half hour. In the afternoon we climbed up the nearby hills for further acclimatization.

samdo village
Samdo village

Day 10 Samdo – Dharmashala

Some trekkers spend another acclimatization day in Samdo but I decided to continue.

trail to dharmashala
The trail leaving Samdo

Today’s walk is a a bit longer and harder. The trail starts showing some icy patches in early morning.

uphill to dharmashala
Any climb can be a challenge at this altitude

It’s another beautiful clear weather day. Fluffy got so excited when he spotted some blue sheep from far distance. I’m not sure if he would ever return if I let him off leash at this moment.

blue sheep on way to dharmashala
Blue sheep from afar

Altitude is clearly taking its toll as we make the climb and keep running out of breath. We reached Dharmashala after 4 hours.

dharmashala
Finally we reached Dharmashala

There’s no local inhabitants in Dharmashala, only some people from other villages who came to run the lodging and restaurant business. The accommodation choice is very limited with each room being shared by at least 4 people. Those who are not early & lucky enough to get a room have no choice but sleeping in tents.

tents in dharmashala
Lodging situation in Dharmashala

We continue hiking up in the afternoon to pass the time & get our bodies used to the high altitude.

trekker and dog in dharmashala
Us enjoying the view

It’s freezing cold & very windy when the night falls. The dining room is always packed so Fluffy & I secured our spot in the warm kitchen the whole time. Tomorrow we need to start at 4am to make sure we cross the pass in good weather.

Day 11 Dharmashala – Larke Pass – Bimthang

It looks like the weather is generally favorable around this time of the year so some groups decide not to start until 6am. I just want to be on the safe side so we started at 4 as planned. It’s a real challenge walking in the dark, on slippery trail and under such bitter cold conditions. But we pulled it through.

way to larke pass
It’s a freezing cold morning!
dead yak on larke pass
Yak skeleton after the pass

We made it to the pass around 8. The view was fantastic with majestic mountain surrounds. I think Fluffy didn’t want to leave now that he’s back to his natural habitat.

trekker and dog on larke pass
Fluffy and I on Larke Pass!
annapurna range
Annapurna range viewed from Larke pass

Once the pass is behind us, it’s constant descent with no settlement in between until our tea break 3 hours later. Then it’s an extra hour till Bimthang – our long awaited stop for the day.

way to Bimthang
Constant descent till Bimthang
bimthang
Bimthang village

Day 12 Bimthang – Dharapani

It’s another long downhill day which first brought us to the bank of Milky River – Dudh Khola a short while after leaving Bimthang.

dhuh khola leaving bimthang
Dhuh Khola

The trail later winds through beautiful shady forests, with a variety of flora and fauna. I keep looking back for the mountains before they soon go out of sight. It has been an amazing trek and the nature’s beauty is just astounding.

wooden bridge manaslu
Fluffy enjoying his jungle walk
on way to surki
It’s hard saying goodbye to the mountains..

We had our lunch stop in Surki then moved on. There were some parts of the trail which looked like they were washed over by flood water, leaving tangled vegetation, tree trunks & debris exposed. Fluffy had his first encounter with some cheeky langurs on the way. We passed though some villages: Gowa, Tilche, Thonche and finally Dharapani after almost 9 hour walk.

Lunch in Surki
Our lunch stop in Surki
sheep near surki
A herd of sheep crossing our trail

Dharapani is quite busy as it’s the meeting point of two treks Annapurna and Manaslu. Time to get some fresh chicken for Fluffy and a big dinner for myself.

Day 13 Dharapani – Beshi Sahar – Kathmandu

We found some fellow trekkers to share a private jeep to Beshi Sahar the night before. First I need to check us out at the Annapurna conservation check post. Then we’re good to go. The jeep was what’s called a typical mountain drive in Nepal – super bumpy and dangerous. We passed through the beautiful village of Tal set against a waterfall backdrop. Fluffy constantly pops his head out the window. I bet he prefer it on the trail.

annapurna conservation checkpost
ACAP check post before leaving Dharapani
jeep to besir sahar
Our jeep to Besir Sahar

We reached Beshi Sahar after three hours. After lunch we hopped on to the next micro bus to a long-awaited hot shower and comfortable bed in Kathmandu!!

We’ve had an amazing journey and I don’t think the pictures could do this land justice. You must experience it with your own eyes.

I hope you enjoy the read and get the chance to do this trek before it gets flocked with tourists soon.

Yen Nguyen Yen’s roots are in Central Vietnam although she studied in Ho Chi Minh and worked in Hanoi – covering both ends of the country! Working with the Animal Asia Foundation, Yen turned vegetarian so has her pulse on what vegetarian travellers want. She backpacked around Europe while based in Ireland and is currently living in Nepal with Pradeep and their two dogs. “Our dogs are part of our travel team and we take them trekking throughout Nepal.”

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